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Comment from the book world in December 2010

December 2010

'A man sitting at a desk typing'

20 December 2010

'Male writers write books with themselves as characters in them, because we never cease to feel that there's something less than manly about the way that we earn our living. Literary creation is an isolated business involving nothing in the way of physical aptitude, courage, leadership or business acumen. Writers are cut off from all of the male-bonding rituals that gestate in the world of work: we don't commute, punch the clock or binge-drink on Fridays. (Many of us binge-drink all week.) An honest male writer's biography would be histrionically dull, consisting mainly of lengthy descriptions of a man sitting at a desk typing.

While in the 20th century women have made great inroads into the formerly male preserves of work, they still aren't big enough for women writers to feel quite so acutely this sense of disconnected superfluousness. On the contrary I suspect that many women writers face the same dilemma as their non-literary sisters: is it selfish for me to define myself by my work rather than my family role at all, regardless of what that work may be? However, unto the fourth and fifth generation of feminism I confidently predict that opportunities will emerge for female writers who wish to fictionalise themselves - many may regard this as one of the more dubious benefits of sexual equality, but I, for one, am looking forward to it.'

Will Self in The Times

'The onrushing digital revolution'

13 December 2010

'The idea that publishers 'now appear frozen in the headlights of the onrushing digital revolution' is simply untrue. Long before the digital revolution had become a reality for readers, most major publishing houses have been planning and investing in their digital divisions in addition to 'doing the day job', publishing and selling their authors in all formats and in all markets.

Digital publishing programmes are firmly embedded in all publishing businesses: these range from simultaneous e-book editions of new titles, republishing backlists digitally, revitalising old formats with new digital content, and creating title-specific apps on the latest devices. Publishers are absolutely aware that it is in their interests, and the interests of their authors, to embrace change in the industry...

Protecting copyright and ensuring authors are properly paid is a key function of every publisher:
publishers have created and manage anti-piracy schemes and contractual rights for e-books, often taking legal action where an author's copyright is breached... a good publisher knows their market whether they are publishing in print or digitally.

Many readers like knowing the book they are going to be spending their valuable time reading has been filtered through a selection process by people whose job is to guide the reader to what they want and ensure that they spend their time - and money - wisely.'

Ursula Mackenzie, CEO of Little Brown UK, on the Guardian website

Submitting to children's publishers

6 December 2010

'One said: "You can't write a book for children in the first person, they don't understand it." I knew that was rubbish. Another said: "Either have lovely pictures and keep the text minimal, or keep the text and have simple drawings." They all seemed to agree that I shouldn't have the text interrupting the pictures, as I do. But I thought, no: I'd rather it never got published than make radical changes. So I sat on it for a long time. That was very hard: I knew it was the best thing I'd ever done, and I thought: if no-one wants this, I don't know what I can do.'

Lauren Child, on looking for a publisher for her bestseller Clarice Bean, in the Guardian