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Comment from the book world in January 2021


‘Technology is shifting more power to the hands of authors'

19 April 2021

‘We leverage technology to discover hidden talents based entirely on the merits of their work, and less on other dimensions which might have been blockers with traditional publishing (maybe some authors have amazing manuscripts, but are not good at sales and therefore struggle to get their foot in the door, whereas our approach truly democratises the whole experience for authors). We are also able to move extremely fast, publishing a book within just a couple of weeks of signing the content.

Technology is shifting more power to the hands of authors, who now have more options for what they can do with their manuscripts. Everything from the choice of publishing channels, to content formats, but also increasing the quality of their content using tools which perhaps would have been cost prohibitive to them in the past.

Authors also want to reach as large of an audience as possible. This is increasingly possible and becoming easier due to technology and digitisation of content. The easier it gets, the less reliant authors are on traditional publishing houses to reach these large audiences.

Ali Albazaz, founder and CEO of Inkitt in 'The Power of Self-Publishing', Bookbrunch (behind the paywall)


'The stuff of great books.’

5 April 2021

‘When an editor works with an author, she cannot help seeing into the medicine cabinet of his soul. All the terrible emotions, the desire for vindications, the paranoia, and the projection are bottled in there, along with all the excesses of envy, desire for revenge, all the hypochondriacal responses, rituals, defenses, and the twin obsessions with sex and money. It other words, the stuff of great books.'

Betsy Lerner, editor, agent, and author, whose best-known book is The Forest for the Trees, ‘about writing, publishing and what makes writers tick' but who has also published The Bridge Ladies, Once Upon A Time and Food Loathing


'It was hilariously unlikely that a book of punctuation would be the number one bestseller in America'

22 March 2021

‘I feel sorry for people who have massive success when they're young. I was 48 when Eats, Shoots & Leaves became a bestseller and that helped me deal with it. All the time it was happening I was thinking: "In 10 years' time I'll look back on this with fond memories," because at the time I was quite anxious. I was also quite amused by it, because it was hilariously unlikely that a book of punctuation would be the number one bestseller in America...

I grew up in a small council house and still think of myself as working class. I always wanted to write, but thought I hadn't been born with the right certificate. It was in my 30s, once my father died and I was feeling a sense of futility, that I felt a great surge of determination to stop this ridiculous feeling. I did some therapy and it helped me to stop thinking I was unworthy.'

Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots & Leaves and 30 other books, including four crime novels.


'Good people can do bad things'

8 March 2021

‘I think these shows have an innate sense of decency and optimism that underpins them all. It's compassion and a belief that people are essentially good. If I had to define the essential DNA of Unforgotten, it's that good people can do bad things...

I'm still trying to understand human nature and its complexity, increasingly so in a binary world. Unforgotten is political with a small ‘p', and I would like to explore that more. As I've got older I've become more politically aware. I'd like to articulate some of the wrong turns I think our country has taken...

There are moments in Unforgotten where two characters have a row about something quite profound, and it's just me rowing with myself. I spend my life arguing with myself, trying to work out how I feel. I think it's Priestley who says you have to put it on paper in order to formulate your views. Nothing comes fully formed. It's only in a detective story that the answers are always clear and unambiguous. Maybe that's why I like writing them so much.'

Chris Lang, writer and creator of over 85 hours of prime time drama, including Unforgotten, Tom, Amnesia and A Mother's Son in the Sunday Times.

Why the bookselling sector is holding strong

1 March 2021

'Booksellers have had many years of making themselves resilient, having had to live through the advent and growth of Amazon - they are entrepreneurial and hard-working, resourceful and creative. Despite having spent years building up USPs which the pandemic stripped away (gathering, meeting, conversation, events, in-person meetings and social spaces) they have managed, by hard work, to keep themselves visible to their customers and to the wider media, public, government and trade audiences.'

Meryl Halls, MD of the UK Booksellers Association, in Bookbrunch, behind the paywall


'Poetry is definitely having a renaissance'

22 February 2021

‘Poetry is definitely having a renaissance.There's been a real sea-change in terms of how it's seen, especially in lockdown. Poetry is the perfectly transportable art form. Owning a book is all you need to experience it. Poetry doesn't necessarily give us the answers, but it does give us the tools to think with and helps us process issues.

Writing poetry might be a slow art - but publishing it well is an extremely slow art. The lifespan of a book can be much longer than in other genres and, if it hits the big-time, you can feel the benefits for many years. Even those that don't go stellar can sell gradually, but well, for a long time.

The best publishers work hard at becoming a lifelong home for their writers and at creating evergreen titles. Having a really strong backlist is vital, too, so you're publishing second, third and fourth collections, as well as debuts.'

Jane Commane, publisher of Nine Arches Press in Bookbrunch, behind the paywall



'The ring of truth'

8 February 2021

‘For people never say anything the same way twice; no two of them ever say it the same. The greatest imaginative writer that ever brooded in a lavender robe and a mellowed briar in his teeth, couldn't tell you, though he try for a lifetime, how the simplest strap-hanger will ask the conductor to be let off at the next stop...

It is all for the taking. All the manuals by frustrated fictioneers on how to write can't give you the first syllable of reality, at any cost, that any common conversation can. All the classics, read and re-read, can't help you catch the ring of truth as does the word heard first-hand.'

Nelson Algren, author of The Man with the Golden Arm and A Walk on the Wild Side.

'We're sitting in the darkness'

1 February 2021

‘So in that sense, I and my fellow horror writers are absorbing and defusing all your fears and anxieties and insecurities and taking them upon ourselves. We're sitting in the darkness beyond the flickering warmth of your fire, cackling into our caldrons and spitting out spider webs of words, all the time sucking the sickness from your minds and spewing it out into the night.'

Stephen King, whose scores of works include The Stand, Carrie, The Dark Tower and The Dead Zone


'The imagination doesn't crop annually'

25 January 2021

‘The imagination doesn't crop annually like a reliable fruit tree. The writer has to gather whatever's there: sometimes too much, sometimes too little, sometimes nothing at all. And in the years of glut there is always a slatted wooden tray in some cool, dark attic, which the writer nervously visits from time to time; and yes, oh dear, while he's been hard at work downstairs, up in the attic there are puckering skins, warning spots, a sudden brown collapse and the sprouting of snowflakes. What can he do about it?'

Julian Barnes, author of 25 books, including Metroland, Flaubert's Parrot, Arthur & George, England, England, A History of the World in 10½ Chapters and The Sense of an Ending, which won the Booker Prize in 2011.

'Not all writing careers end in disappointment'

19 January 2021

‘My father was a playwright so I grew up with reverence for writing. The sound of his typewriter clacking was one I grew to love. What I didn't know was how disappointed he was by the failure of his work to reach the West End. Later, I realised not all writing careers end in disappointment, and it was worth trying to make mine a success...

I started my first novel, Sadler's Birthday (about an elderly butler, published in 1976), when my daughter, Eleanor, was two. Combining this with being a mum made me use the hours of the day efficiently, a habit I've kept...

When I was teaching creative writing at the University of East Anglia, I'd tell my students that short stories never become successful novels - the forms are far too different. But my latest novel, The Gustav Sonata, began as a short story, published in 2007.'

Rose Tremain, author of The Colour, Restoration, The Road Home, Music and Silence, Merivel and 14 other novels, in the Telegraph's Stella.


'I have to know where I'm going'

4 January 2021

‘When I'm putting together a novel, I leave all the doors and windows open so the characters can come in and just as easily leave. I don't take notes. Once I start writing things down, I feel like I'm nailing the story in place. When I rely on my faulty memory, the pieces are free to move. The main character I was certain of starts to drift, and someone I'd barely noticed moves in to fill the space. The road forks and forks again. It becomes a path into the woods. It becomes the woods. I find a stream and follow it, the stream dries up, and I'm left to look for moss on the sides of trees.

Before I can start writing a novel, I have to know how it ends. I have to know where I'm going, otherwise I spend my days walking in circles. Not everyone is like this. I've heard writers say that they write in order to discover how the story ends, and if they knew the ending in advance there wouldn't be any point in writing. For them the mystery is solved by the act, and I understand that; it's just not the way I work...'

Ann Patchett, author of The Commonwealth, Bel Canto, Truth and Beauty, The Dutch House and eight other novels in Harper's Magazine