Skip to Content

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