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Comment from the book world in January 2013

January 2013

'Subversive, heretical and exploring difference'

28 January 2013

 'I'd like to say - if it seems relevant - that I'm a woman writer, but as long as I'm allowed to explain for me, that still means being subversive, heretical, and exploring difference.' She is uncomfortable with gender-based writing 'As though men write one kind of writing and women write another, which is nonsense...' 'And I think there are also lots of young women who are terrified of it, and they think it means ugly women with hairy armpits who Hate Men. That's because their mothers are reading the Daily Mail and that's what the Daily Mail's telling you.' 

Michele Roberts, author of Ignorance

'The power has shifted'

21 January 2013

 'There is an idea that the birth of the self-published writer implies the death of the agent and publisher (sometimes one and the same person, nowadays). It's not uncommon to hear it said that editors in big corporations are so pressured by the bottom line and bean-counting suits that they no longer take risks: only the editor/owner of a little independent press can afford to take a chance on a new writer or support him/her through the long-term business of establishing a reputation and growing sales.

I wouldn't like to think this is true. Personally, I know and admire many agents and writers who sincerely love quality writing, who promote it with true passion and will stick with a writer in hopes that the next manuscript will be the breakthrough book. But what I do think is true is that the writer now has the power to disengage from the traditional publishing process, to put the work out there as a matter of faith (and, frankly, luck) that it will find a readership. It probably will, and the chances are that it will fare as well in digital form as it would have fared in hardback or paperback. Like most things, a book will find its own level.

The power has shifted from editor to author, from writers being reactive to the authority of editors to authors being proactive in their own interests. The slush pile, for sure, has moved of its own volition. In the great slush pile that is Kindle, Nook, Kobo or any other digital dung heap, there are - as there have always been - jewels to be discovered. It's just that they no longer come automatically, as the sole point of entry, to the agents' or editors' desks. Googling for the next generation of writers who are launching themselves into cyberspace on blogs, websites and social networks, the editors are out there, star trekking, boldly going in search of new literary life forms that are have already begun to invent their own survival strategies.'

Iain Finlayson, author of Blood Month in Bookbrunch

Publishing literary fiction

14 January 2013

"Bloomsbury, Headline, Little, Brown, Macmillan, HarperCollins haven't abandoned literary fiction. Let's face it, Hilary Mantel was published by Fourth Estate, part of HarperCollins, and quite a few winners were published from large houses - Ian McEwan, Alan Hollinghurst, Julian Barnes, Howard Jacobson. It's very tough for publishers to publish literary fiction now. The chains aren't taking it in any quantities - maybe one or two copies per store, which is nothing and can't justify the expense involved in publishing some books.

What I think is amazing is that imprints like Cape are still taking on books that are very literary. Of course the small houses are doing amazing stuff, but they have much lower overheads and can invest in books that may not sell many copies - just like poetry imprints really. As for the digital market, I couldn't agree more. There is a lot of hype around self-publishing, but the reality is that only Amazon is making much money, because it is a long tail business (like a supermarket, it makes money by selling lots of lines at a low margin rather than few lines at a high margin). Most of the stuff out there isn't very good and most of it - even if good - stands little chance of getting noticed. That is what a large house does well."

Danuta Kean, books editor of MsLexia Magazine, in Bookbrunch

Books with films in mind

7 January 2013

'I never write the books with films in mind. I always write them as books. I don't think one should write a book with a mind on a film version. I was a screenwriter before I was a novelist and I learn to write screenplays on the job. Working in television, you pay particular attention to story. You have to structure your stories properly. You have to work out what to include and what to leave out. You work out what the tension is in the story, where the climax comes and make sure it's never boring. And I did that for a long time before I sat down to write a novel. I'm full of admiration for those writers whose work is entirely unfilmic, whose work is about the quality of the prose.

For me, books and films and television have always existed alongside each other. And they've always fed into each other. I think it's not a conscious thing. If I feel anything about writing novels, it's that I wish I were better at writing pure descriptive prose. A lot of the novelists I love write beautiful, lyrical, wonderful prose and that's not something I ever set out to do. I think the two things do feed into each other, especially if they're comedic or romantic, it's hard to separate. As a novelist, Woody Allen is a great influence. As a screenwriter, Dickens and other 19th century writers are a big influence.'

David Nicholls, author of One Day and the screenplay of the new Great Expectations film on the Booktrust website