Category Archives: Book industry

Seven reasons why an EU Leave victory will be a disaster for the UK book industry

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Imagine that every country in the EU is linked to all the others by invisible threads that vibrate with stories of faraway lands. Each thread contains a voice, one that originally came to life in the form of the written word. These are the voices of writers, and with every story each voice tells, another culture, perspective or idea unfolds. Europe is home to a web of literature from all over the world and due to its status as a European country, the UK is able to sell books internationally and acquire others in translation. British authors conduct talks in major European cities to promote their work, publishers travel abroad with the hope of bringing home a literary jewel and translators have a breadth of literary material at their fingertips, ripe for the eyes of another audience. A Leave victory this Thursday will create multiple barriers to this current situation.

Yesterday, Jane Aitken, founder of Gallic books (a French to English publishing house) and owner of Belgravia Books and Aardvark Bureau tweeted about her companies’ daily sales reports– sales were to Portugal, South Africa, the Philippines and Beirut. “We can sell wherever she want” she wrote, followed by the #remain hashtag.  Being in the EU means British books can be sold everywhere. This is because the British publishing industry is part of a global business, a position that will be threatened with a Leave victory.

According to predictions this victory will be followed by a drop in the value of the pound, meaning that import costs will rise for publishers. It could also lead to job cuts in the publishing industry.  “A ‘Brexit’ would be a financial disaster for UK publishing”, Bonnier Publishing c.e.o Richard Johnson told The Bookseller. This would be especially true for small publishing houses.

Justin Adams, m.d of Connect Books, said that the impact of this new exchange rate will “make the buying and selling of books internationally more complex and risky”. So, not only will it be more difficult to sell books, but it will be harder to buy them. How much great foreign literature will we be missing out on if we leave the EU? The Creative Europe program currently provides funding for the translation of 4500 literary works between 2014-2020. The UK publishing industry will no longer be part of this.

The loss of freedom of movement that will come with leaving the EU means the UK publishing industry won’t be employing many people from European universities (so fewer talented people) and our own graduates looking to join the publishing industry won’t be able to benefit from work experience in publishing industries abroad. The Erasmus program allows British students to live and work abroad for a year and come home with valuable, enlightening experiences that could help them contribute new ideas to British industries, but this too is an opportunity that Leave campaigners are willing to give away.

Academic publishing is also in danger, because Britain will lose its share of the EU research fund. Furthermore, our universities thrive on the flow of students and researchers from Europe, with 15% of academic staff at UK universities from EU countries. Closing our doors to them means yet more loss of intellect, ideas and progress.

The loss of free movement will also affect the ease with which authors and publishers arrange book tours and attend international book fairs abroad, which allows them to promote their own books and keep an eye out for foreign literature. The need for a visa could make doing this a bureaucratic nightmare.

I will leave you with one last terrifying thought. Without the EU there would be no Gruffalo. The Gruffalo, a German-British collaboration, would not exist as you know him, with his terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.  Had Axel Scheffler not come to the UK in 1982 to study for a degree in illustration, The Gruffalo, he said in this article, “would have been an entirely different beast.” Axel would never had worked with Julia Donaldson, and without their joint success, they might not have gone on to write and illustrate many more of Britain’s best loved children’s books.

If you love the UK book industry, vote REMAIN.

Image Credits:

  1. Untitled, by Kim Heimbuch via Pixabay

Self-publishing Vs traditional publishing- author interview with Louise Walters

Self-publication_Typewritered

I am honoured to be able to feature author Louise Walters who is currently making the transition from the traditional publishing route to self-publication. Louise has written ‘Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase‘, published by Hodder and is currently self-publishing her second novel ‘A Life Between Us’ with Matador. Today I’m discussing with Louise her decision to self-publish and the differences between both publication routes. Thank you, Louise!


Louise Walters_TypewriteredAlthough I have an idea of the answer to this thanks to your wonderful blog, could you share with readers why you chose to go down the self-publishing route with this novel?
The main reason is I didn’t get a traditional book deal with my second novel. After a lot of thought I decided to have a go at self-publishing. I am using Matador Books, so strictly speaking my book will be published via “assisted” publishing.

What is this novel about?
It’s about family and the secrets that families keep from each other… dark secrets that can tear people apart. There’s also a supernatural element to this novel… or is there? Even I’m not sure.

Can you tell us where you are at with the publication of your second novel? How far into the publication of ‘A Life Between Us’ are you?
I have just sent the novel back to Matador for typesetting. It’s had all the edits done, including a copy edit. Once it has been typeset there will be proof reading to do.

You are self-publishing with Matador. What services does this company provide and what do you have to do yourself?
Matador basically provide as much as you need them to. That was really useful to me as I haven’t a clue about self-publishing and I felt I needed a lot of hand-holding.

What challenges have you faced taking the self-publishing route? Were any of them unexpected?
I think my big challenge will be marketing and getting the book into bookshops, libraries and the hands of readers. I am looking forward to marketing and have a few ideas to help make my book stand out – hopefully!

What have you found to be the advantages of self-publishing? Are there are certain aspects you are glad to be able to do by yourself?
For me, the huge advantage is control over the whole project. I set my own time scale, and I was able to pick and choose which tasks to do myself and which to delegate to Matador (most of them, actually!)

You are currently in the midst of choosing a cover for your book. How does this process work when self-publishing and how does it differ from the traditional publication route?
With traditional publishing, the author has very little say about the design of their cover. There are often good reasons for that, of course. But it was a pleasure to look for an image I thought may work. It’s also daunting, because I don’t want to be responsible for a ghastly cover. Fortunately, Matador books will veto designs or images if they are too duff! I have found an image I think would work and I’m waiting to see what the Matador designers come up with.

You have talked on your blog about being prepared for reviews that will call this novel a “self-published vanity project”. In your opinion, why do some people still have this negative view that self-publishing is “cheating”?
It’s grounded in snobbery. There’s no question in my mind. And to be truthful, there are some dreadful self-published books out there. Not everybody can write well and there are those who want to “be a writer” while having no idea of what “being a writer” entails. But I think the snobs assume that ALL self-published books are brought out by wannabes, and it just isn’t so. All self-published writers tend to get tarred by the same brush, ie, they are rubbish – which is as ludicrous as saying all traditionally published authors are great. Clearly it isn’t so!

What do you think is the main reason people choose to self-publish?
“Failure” to get a traditional deal; wanting more control; the thrill of seeing their name on the spine of a book; to get a fairer share of the money from the sale of their books. All valid reasons!

In terms of income, and keeping in mind the fees involved in self-publication, which publication route is the most advantageous? Does self-publishing mean you may earn a bigger percent of the royalties? I’m intrigued as to how this works.
A traditional deal is probably still the “holy grail” of publishing. At least, that’s how I felt before getting mine. But all that glistens is not gold, as I have discovered! My opinion is that publishers and authors are too pitched against each other… the publisher wanting to pay their authors as little as they can get away with, of course. Hence, a traditionally published author will only receive a 25% royalty rate on their e-book sales. The print royalty rates are usually much lower and it’s impossible to make a decent living unless you sell lots and lots of books.

On the other hand, a traditionally published book can attract foreign deals, and that’s what happened to mine, so I ended up making quite a decent sum on my first novel. But without those deals I would not yet have made up my UK advance money and therefore wouldn’t yet be receiving any royalties. I am looking upon my expenditure on A Life Between Us as my “advance” – if I sell enough books to earn that out and start getting royalties, I will count myself very fortunate. And of course I will receive a much higher royalty rate per copy sold than I would via a traditional publisher. So it’s swings and roundabouts, with financial advantages to both routes.

What advice would you give to writers who are considering self-publishing?
Take your time, look at all the options, be realistic about what you can and can’t do yourself. Don’t skimp on the editing. And be professional, do everything as professionally as you can. If you are asking somebody, anybody to spend hours of their life reading your work, then you owe it to them to make your work as good as it can be.

You can read all about Louise’s fascinating writing life and follow her publication journey on her fantastic blog.


Image credits:
1. Unknown via bookandnegative.com
2. © Oliver Smith

Philip Pullman’s resignation & why writing needs to be treated as a profession

writing needs to be treated as a profession

Author of His Dark Materials trilogy Philip Pullman has resigned from his position as patron of the Oxford Literary Festival due to the fact that they do not pay the authors appearing as speakers at the festival. Pullman, who is also president of the Society of Authors, which campaigns for speakers at literary festivals to be properly paid, felt that his two roles contradicted each other. He has been praised by numerous fellow authors for his action.

Why aren’t literature festivals paying?

Oxford Literary Festival claims they cannot afford to pay authors because, as a charity event, they receive no government funding. A spokesperson said “”We are very sad that Philip Pullman has decided to resign as patron of the festival. We are grateful for the support he has given over the years, and for his many appearances at the festival. The Oxford Literary Festival is a registered charity which does not receive any government or public funding. Each year for the festival to take place, substantial sponsorship and donations have to be raised.”

Other literary festivals such as Manx LitFest or Hay Festival subsist entirely off sponsorship, yet still manage to pay their authors. Manx Litfest pays authors a flat daily rate, expecting none of them, not even new, unknown authors, to work for free.

Literature festivals charge a fee to their visitors, and it is only right that part of the money earned should be used to pay guest authors. Without the presence of authors, these festivals would not exist.

Walking in an author’s shoes

A recent survey commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society revealed that the average earnings of a full time author come to a meagre £11,000 per year. It comes as no surprise then that authors need to earn from their books in other ways too. Few authors can afford the travel and accommodation expenses that come with an unpaid appearance at a literature festival. And they shouldn’t have to. “Good exposure” is not a good enough reason for an author to find him/herself out of pocket.

Authors who take time out of their day to attend a literature festival (more often that not bringing crowds of paying visitors with them) and who give talks and workshops at said festival deserve to be paid for their efforts. Yes, it is a chance to promote their work and connect with readers, but is this enough when there are bills to pay? After all, this is time they could be spending writing the next book… This isn’t to say that authors should never appear at events for free if they want to- literature festivals are about sharing literature and encouraging people to read- but if the festival is earning money, the authors should be too. As best-selling author Joanne Harris so perfectly put it: “You wouldn’t dream of not paying your caterers, so why would you even consider not paying the headline act?”

Why writing needs to be treated as a profession

Since Pullman’s resignation, a letter written by author Amanda Craig has been published in The Bookseller magazine, calling for publishers and authors to boycott literary festivals that do not pay their guest authors. The letter has 30 author signatures. Outrage at the lack of author pay has been appearing in other areas, too. The New Society of Authors want authors to receive 50% of e-book revenue, instead of the current 25%. Philip Pullman has said that if authors are not paid more then they “will become an endangered species.”

Similarly, many magazines decline to pay their freelance writers, asking them to submit articles in exchange for an opportunity to build up their portfolios and showcase their writing skills. These writing skills should be paid for! While exposure is beneficial to new freelancers, writers cannot be expected to give their time for free. Crafting an impressive piece takes effort- it’s not as easy as stringing a few words together. Would you employ a carpenter to make you a garden seat for your guests to enjoy, only to ask him to leave it to you for free, because his talent will be showcased in your front garden? It’s an unlikely comparison, but I hope you can see my point! Writers are the storytellers of our society. They create fictional worlds to escape to, bring history back to life, impart knowledge and teach, create discussion on moral issues, challenge certain viewpoints and bring awareness to issues we hadn’t thought of before. JK Rowling created a love for reading in children across the globe.

Writing needs to be treated as a profession. And Philip Pullman knows this.


Image credits:
Writer’s Block by Drew Coffman via Flickr.

2016 Reading List

Processed with MOLDIV

Yes, I am a book nerd and have a reading list for the year.

While I am looking forward to reviewing more new fiction on the blog this year, I also want to concentrate on enjoying some of the books that I have been meaning to read for so long, particularly a few classics. On top of that, I have a mental list of non-fiction books I would like to get through, so it looks like I’ll be reading at least one book a week this year. I wish there were more hours in the day…

The Secret History by Donna Tartt
The Only Street in Paris: Life on the Rue des Martyrs by Elaine Sciolino
The Lark by E.Nesbit
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway
Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier
Loop of Jade by Sarah Howe
Millie and Bird: Tales of Paradise by Avril Joy
I Capture The Castle  by Dodie Smith
A Room of One’s Own by Virginia Woolf
A God in Ruins by Kate Atkinson
Sense and Sensibility  by Jane Austen
Vanessa and Her Sister by Priya Parmar
The Beautiful and Damned by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The Shed That Fed a Million Children by Magnus Macfarlane-Barrow
Anna and the Swallow Man by Gavriel Savit
Paris by Edward Rutherford
War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell by Susanna Clarke
Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
Perfect by Nicola Davies
1984 by George Orwell
A Tree Grows In Brooklyn by Betty Smith
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

Do you have any suggestions?