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Comment from the book world in January 2011


'Less of an effort'

28 November 2011

'We've arrived at this place where we just thoughtlessly plunge towards whatever the thing is that will allow us to make less of an effort. We know we're diminishing experience. We know that it was richer to walk to the store, talk to the bookseller, maybe meet your neighbour than it is to click online. But we can't stop ourselves. We're programmed to do the 'easier' thing. that's why people have Kindles. It's easier not to have to turn the page. All that's left of turning is this bizarre little sound to remind us of it. People no longer have the concentration to finish things; we skim along the surface, and it's miserable.'

Nicole Krauss, author of Great House, in the Observer

'Tidy endings'

21 November 2011

'The world does not have tidy endings. The world does not have neat connections.

It is not filled with epiphanies that work perfectly at the moment that you need them. Narrative becomes the way you make sense of chaos. That's how you focus the world. It's the only way reason you should ever try this writing job'

Dennis Lehane, author of Moonlight Mile in The Independent on Sunday

'The paper book will never die'

14 November 2011

'Books have always been defined by their physical presence. Those under 50,000 words do not give customers value for money, books much over 200,000 words are cumbersome to read and prohibitively expensive to produce. EbooksDigital bookstore selling wide range of ebooks in 50 categories from Hildegard of Bingen to How to Write a Dirty Story and showing how the range of ebooks available is growing. make those rules redundant.

Short stories, poetry and essays have moved almost entirely into the lists of small, subsidised, under-funded presses. They have largely died as far as the big publishers are concerned. Ebooks throw them a lifeline: as it is no longer necessary to publish in single-volume form, the book's new found elasticity can allow for the subscription model (the basis for much 19th century publishing) to be reborn.

Publishing need no longer be tied into its protracted publishing schedules, there is now the opportunity to think far more nimbly.

Ebooks may have cannibalised hardback sales, but everyone recognises that the paper book will never die, because handy and convenient though an ebook is, it lacks the "bragability" and attractiveness of a well-stocked book-case.'

Piers Blofeld, agent at Sheil Land, in the Bookseller

'Too much stress on authors'

31 October 2011

'There's just too much stress on authors. The business model seems to be that publishers want a book a year. I wanted to spend time on my novels, but that isn't economically viable...

Publishers seem to want to compete with faster forms of media, but the fast turnover leads to poorer books, and publishers shoot themselves in the foot. And it's as if authors have to be celebrities these days. It's expected that authors do loads of self-publicity - Facebook, Twitter, blogs, forum discussions - but it's an author's job to write a book, not to do the marketing. Just like celebrities don't make good authors, authors don't really make good celebrities.'

Steph Swainston, fantasy author, who is abandoning writing to become a chemistry teacher, in the Independent on Sunday.

Money for writing

24 October 2011

'Peter (Kravitz - her editor) said to me, I'll give you money for this. It had never occurred to me that anyone would give you money for writing: I thought writers were wealthy people who just wrote things out of the goodness of their heart and gave them as gifts. It takes an outsider to shift things, especially in Scottish culture. We go elsewhere and make monumental changes in other countries and rely on other people to come here and make enormous changes back. Peter was like the telly - he put ideas into your head. He couldn't see why I shouldn't be a writer and I nearly said 'because I'm Scottish'. It was the nearest he came to losing patience with me.'

Janice Galloway, author of All Made Up, in the Guardian

'Instinct, not planning'

17 October 2011

'I didn't know how many Dickens biographies there had been, how many books on London, it doesn't bother me. I just want to tell a story...

I was never an expert on Shakespeare or Oscar Wilde or Blake or Moore or Dickens or Turner before I started work on them. And then they're gone. None of my books has ever been in my head; after they're finished they go. It's like being a sort of medium; you just grab it when it's there then just release it when it's time to go. There's a lot of instinct, not planning.'

Peter Ackroyd, writer extraordinaire, in the Observer

'A traditional publishing contract'

10 October 2011

'Here's the flat truth of it, my friends: If you are a midlist writer and you sign a traditional publishing contract with most modern terms, and you do so with an agent...and not an IP attorney...negotiating for you, you will not make any more than your advance on that book. And the advance is not enough to live on. You will not be able to reserve e-book rights to you. Those rights will be a percentage of net, which in most contracts is undefined. And you will have to sell world rights so that the publishing industry can adequately exercise those e-book rights, making any money you would receive on foreign rights vanish.

If you have what I'm now beginning to believe is the standard agency rider in your contract, you will also lose a percentage of any auxiliary rights sale to that agent even if you fired that agentin the meantime and someone else negotiated the deal. Plus that agent will be entitled to a percentage of any work you write using that series, those characters, that world, or anything resembling that.'

Kristine Kathryn Rusch, author of many novels,

Advice to publishers

26 September 2011

'The next time you parachute a non-editor into a commissioning role, take your best real editor and promote them to - let's call it - Structural Editor and pay them most of what you are going to pay the commissioning editor in lieu of the kudos (and the rest of the salary); let them work hand in hand with the commissioning editor and take care of the editorial work that the commissioning editor isn't really qualified to do. That is, open up a new way forward for editors who aren't going to be able to commission and don't want to manage. If you're going to reward someone for not bringing editorial skills to the commissioning role, at least try to find some way of recognising those who do have these skills. God knows, many commissioning editors, whatever their provenance, will be grateful for a more legitimate way of sharing the heavy editorial work that they barely have the time to do between meetings.'

Stephen Guise, former editor at Mitchell Beazley, Cassell and at Little, Brown.

'An amazingly golden time'

19 September 2011

'One child in Edinburgh asked me who my main competitors were. If Julia Donaldson didn't exist and her books didn't exist, then I wouldn't have the readers. If I didn't exist then Anthony Horowitz and Jo Rowling wouldn't have their readers. Children need lots of different books. Adult writers are a lot more competitive, but with children you need this vast amount...

It is such an amazingly golden time because there are so many good people writing. Now lots of adult writers are trying to write for children. People used to ask me. 'Don't you mind that Jo Rowling is taking all the attention?' And I'd say, 'What attention?' No one had the slightest interest in children's authors. There was no attention. She's created this whole renewed interest in children's books. Children's authors should be very indebted to her.'

Francesca Simon, author of the Horrid Henry books, in the Independent on Sunday

'Creative organisations'

5 September 2011

'The big debate for anyone at the moment is where does publishing provide value? What is our role? In my view what we do is we select, we nurture, we position, we promote, we leverage - but author care, editorial expertise, design excellence - those things are absolutely critical. We are creative organisations, and we must never lose sight of that. Amazon has never made a bestseller - you first have to have a great book, and then you need marketing and publicity teams to create the consumer demand.'

Tom Weldon, CEO of Penguin UK in the Bookseller

'The biggest thrill of my life'

29 August 2011

'The biggest thrill of my life was selling my first novelette. It was a Western for Argosy magazine in 1951, called "Trail of the Apaches". I'd done a lot of research about the Apache Indians in the 1880s and they seemed like ruthless individuals out to raise hell, which fascinated me. I got paid $1,000 for it and thought, wow, I'm going to quit my job in advertising, which I did...

If it sounds like writing, rewrite it. I don't want my books to sound like I'm the one who's talking or somehow there behind the scenes, so I always reread what I wrote the day before; it has to sound like these people are feeling and thinking these things, so I'll take words out if it looks like the character is talking too much; after 60 years I've gotten pretty adept at it.'

Elmore Leonard in the Independent on Sunday

'Something for nothing'

15 August 2011

'By encouraging and effectively subsidising the creation and distribution of so many free apps by providing free distribution, Apple has given rise to a situation where anything that's not free has to work incredibly hard to prove its value, and in which consumers feel a tremendous sense of entitlement to be amused and pandered to for basically next to nothing...

In a commercial environment where the default expectation is to receive something for nothing, it seems that we are discovering just how difficult that is. In the case of apps, unless the consumer mindset shifts significantly, it may be that the publishers who consider creating apps without rock-solid evidence of consumer demand or revenue streams that don't depend on the spoiled consumers will be the ones who need their heads read,'

Simon Appleby, Digital Projects Manager for Octopus Publishing in the Bookseller's Futurebook.