Tag Archives: authors

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

bookshelf

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

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.