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Comment from the book world in February 2022

February 2022

On sensitivity readers

21 February 2022

'Normally agents and editors read a book thinking. "Do I love this, would other people love this?" Now a new concern has sprung up: "Will other people object to it?" You're worrying about whether what characters say can be taken out of context, screengrabbed and put on Twitter, and that the author will be punished. Books are judged by people who haven't read them more than ever before.

The Bad Sex Prize) takes a book which may or may not be a great piece of writing, reads the sex scenes out of context in a silly voice and everyone laughs. It's good fun but it's not a fair way to assess books. This is worse, because it's not even good-hearted; it's chasing offence.'

An unnamed publishing editor in the Sunday Times Culture


Agents expand into international field to deal with manuscripts written in English

7 February 2022

‘We are getting more and more manuscripts in English from all over the world. A decade ago we'd get two but mostly from scientists or journalists but now we get a lot in fiction and YA.

Particularly in northern Europe children learn English from a very young age now. In general globalisation of schooling is an important reason [for an increase in English manuscripts]. Also the media they use - gaming or YouTube - will often be in English, there'll be lots of reading in English. I went to a Neil Gaiman event in Amsterdam and there were 400 kids and he only had to sign about four books in Dutch, the rest in English.

But also with a lot of fan fiction in Holland and Scandinavia, these people will write in English straight away because they also want to get published in the UK or US. Back in the day the largest goal for authors was to be published in their own language but nowadays... if they write in English, the world is their audience.'

Paul Sebes, founder of Amsterdam-headquartered Sebes & Bisseling Literary Agency, which has just opened a London office, in the Bookseller