Skip to Content

Comment from the book world in August 2012

August 2012

'Just how much has changed in publishing'

27 August 2012

'Looking back on the past three years, you can see just how much has changed in publishing, and how much remains the same. Some of the topics that made headlines years ago - ebooks, ereaders, territoriality, rights - are still top of the agenda; but several new buzzwords and concepts have also emerged: transmedia, gamification, social media marketing, and book discovery are just a few of them.'

Edward Nawotka, Editor-in-chief, Publishing Perspectives

'Stuck between literary and commercial'

20 August 2012

'I was surprised at the success of Chocolat. I was told that sort of book wouldn't sell as it was too old-fashioned and stuck between literary and commercial fiction, but the public voted with their wallets. (It sold more than a million copies.) And just when I was getting used to it being a bestseller, I had to come to terms with the surreal progress of it becoming a movie - with the incongruous sight of seeing Johnny Depp on set. I liked it just fine, though if I had filmed it I might have made it slightly differently...

When I write I'm constantly putting myself in the position of someone else as I write using myriad voices; I think that it's a life skill all people should learn.'

Joanne Harris, author of Peaches for Monsieur le Cure in the Independent on Sunday


'Amazon's patsies'?

13 August 2012

 The huge differential in costs between self publishers and the corporates is tremendously beneficial to self publishers. It is also tremendously beneficial to Amazon and the self published should perhaps reflect that there seems to me no evidence whatsoever that Amazon cares about authors or books in any way at all.

They certainly show a disgraceful lack of interest - as the dominant UK bookseller - in promoting British talent and there is absolutely nothing to suggest that once they have reduced the power of the big publishers - and so the self published authors cease to be useful to them - they will do anything other than ruthlessly pursue their own interests and the interests of their own publishing outfits.

It is not just that the self published might do well to wonder if they are Amazon's patsies, they are in a more important sense selfish. One of the benefits to being published is the sense of belonging to a 'house'. To be a Knopf author (to deliberately take a non UK example) was to be part of a fine and noble lineage - even if what you published was cheerful tosh, you were part of a grand continuum of writing: you were sharing fraternity with the greats.

This promoted a sense of solidarity which is rapidly disappearing. It also resulted in one rather important thing. Publishing has always worked on the basis of the commercially successful 10% of their list supporting the rest. In practice that often meant the commercial supported the literary: in effect commercial authors were paying a kind of culture tax to help them support their more literary (and less fortunate) brothers and sisters.

This was tacit - but I think pretty widely understood. It would seem to have no part whatsoever in the world Mr Leather and other self published zealots inhabit: less writers of the world unite than I'm alright jack perhaps?

Agent Orange in the Bookseller's Futurebook 

'So what's it like being a writer today?'

6 August 2012

 ‘So what’s it like being a writer today? At grass roots level I don’t think it has changed at all from thousands of years ago. Good writers tell gripping stories; they always have done and always will do – it is the delivery method that has changed, but then it always has. Originally storytelling began as an oral tradition. Stories were eventually handwritten in order to preserve them. In Shakespeare’s time most people could not afford books, and would have been unable to read them anyway, which is why popular storytellers like him chose to write plays rather than novels…

The loss of physical bookstores is a tragedy on so many levels, most of all, in my view, the loss of browsing and the serendipity of finding new authors buried among the shelves, which has always been one of my great joys. But the digital age has brought so much to celebrate. The ease of editing without Tippex; delivering a novel electronically without all the faff of printing the damned thing out, wrapping and mailing it; the instant research provided by the likes of Google; direct communication with fans via email, Twitter, Facebook and blogging; and whole new possibilities for reviving the flagging interest in short stories. Kurt Vonnegut wrote that wars were like glaciers, they would keep on coming because they were unstoppable. Like it, loathe it or fear it, progress is unstoppable too. New technology is like a steamroller. You are either riding up in the cab or you are part of the road.’

Peter James in the Bookseller