Miriam Halahmy, on supporting independent bookshops…
The idea that there should be centralized, massively consolidated, bureaucratic organizations known as the major trade houses, with multiple layers of editors, vast publicity departments, and books fed to them by an entity known as literary agents, only to take repeated losses and rely on a few stars to help them break even, is bound for extinction.
Is the current publishing model salvageable? Or is it time to scrap everything and start over? If book publishing is to survive, something drastic will have to occur. The technology already exists to make publishing a democratic venture, driven from the bottom up rather than the other way around.
The discussion of the crisis of publishing persists mostly at a pedestrian level. The alternatives offered are minor fixes, taking existing production, distribution, and consumption methodologies for granted. We don’t need to figure out how to maximize sales with the latest e-reader. We need to reconceive the concepts of writing, editing, and reading, and subject every institutional component to radical critique. It isn’t a question of which reading device is best, or how publishers will make up for the loss of Borders, or how they can squeeze more money out of the present distribution model.
The crisis of publishing is really the crisis of writing and reading. The publishing industry today generally obstructs the free flow of energies between readers and writers. It is a broker for celebrity authors, taking the entire literary culture on a downward slope because the definition of “commercial” is constantly being dumbed down. Hence, cookie-cutter books, formulaic sensations, highly publicized advances, the anachronistic book tour, and literary stars with all the trappings of their brethren in the movie and fashion industries. Rather than pushing more of the product that publishers already offer, the nature of the product itself must change. Yes, there is a crisis in publishing, but this is good because it means that the public isn’t buying the hype.
The discussion of the crisis of publishing persists mostly at a pedestrian level.
The structures of distribution are not written in stone—why must there be so many intermediate layers that the final product must survive to make itself visible?
With that in mind, the author of this piece in The Daily Beast, Anis SHivani, I proposes 5 key principles for a major restructuring of the publishing industry:
Visit the page for his explanation of these five principles…
During last month’s Hannah Festival, a short printed text by writer and artist Nick Thurston was distributed. These notes sketched some of the themes and ideas that frame his solo show, ‘Pretty Brutal Library’ at &Model Gallery, 25 July – 31 August 2013.
To coincide with the show, Hannah is publishing for the first time a provocation paper investigating the future of libraries, written by Mai Lin Li — a former librarian (and formar ACHUKA reviewer) — as part of her Clore Leadership Programme fellowship:
this woman noticed me. She noticed what I had read and, if I’d liked it, she knew what else I might like too, and she took a moment to tell me all of this, and offer me a choice, if I wanted it. Not only did she make a connection between the book I had read and me, but also between me and the next book in a long and delightfully unending line of books that I may or may not read.
While reading may be an ostensibly solitary act, reading your way through a public library is emphatically not. It is a social act and civic one too, enacted in a shared space where the needs of the individual are regarded, accepted and met, on the understanding that those rights are available to all and conditional on a number of responsibilities – responsibilities to self-manage, respect and share.
You should definitely download and read the full pdf version of The Handmade Library
In this guest post on Gillian Polack’s blog, Sophie Masson talks about her busy year, and in particular the publication of BLACK WINGS by the ’boutique enterprise’ ACHUKAbooks.
It is a big, epic story of the French Revolution, and though several publishers said they liked it very much, they all said it was ‘too uncommercial’–they were afraid at least to take a risk. But Michael Thorn, publisher at Achuka Books, saw the potential in it—loved it—and published it. It’s just so wonderful to see it out there, getting readers and great reviews—not only has it finally got to readers all over the world and not just here, but just the fact of its being out there increases its chances of its finding print publication in the long run. This is where digital really comes into its own, and Achuka Books, which publishes books by both well-known and less well-known authors, is exactly the kind of boutique enterprise which we’re seeing a lot more of, and which are greatly enriching the modern publishing landscape.
It’s not all that long ago that people were expecting Daunt/Waterstones to opt for a deal with the Nook rather than go with Kindle.
James Daunt’s decision to go for Kindle is looking a sounder business decision than ever.
The Kindle has swept all before it in the global e-reader market and Amazon has millions of stores right on peoples’ desks, smartphones and tablets through its website and Kindle app. Authoritative estimates for the UK market underline the Kindle’s power, with Amazon believed to account for nine out of 10 ebook sales – an indication of the Kindle’s penetration.
For those who are trying to make money from ebooks, the reality is that Amazon is now the only game in town, says Andrew Rhomberg, co-founder and chief executive of ebook seller Jellybooks.com, which aims to be as easy to browse as a real bookshop.
A Q&A from The Independent with Branford Boase winner, Dave Shelton:
Do you have any advice for other authors who would like to illustrate their own work?
My advice for authors wanting to illustrate their own work is this: whatever you rashly write into the story now, remember it’s you who will have to draw it later. For instance, if you don’t consider yourself especially adept at depicting boats or the sea then don’t write a book almost wholly set on a boat at sea. That would be foolish. Many, many times (and this happens with my comics work a lot too) my illustrator self curses my writer self for his lack of understanding and foresight.
What’s your top tip for any aspiring authors and illustrators reading this blog?
Writers: finish things. Don’t write the beginnings to 20 different stories. Write all of one story. Keep going to the end, even if it’s bad. Then go back to the beginning and change it. Even if it’s awful, it’s a better place to start from than having just a blank page.
Illustrators: draw. A lot.
Dave Shelton and his editor David Fickling have won the 2013 Branford Boase Award given annually to the author and editor of the most outstanding debut novel for children for A Boy and a Bear in a Boat published by David Fickling Books.
Thoughts on the Penguin/RandomHouse merger, by Boris Katchka:
Consolidation carries costs you won’t find on a price sticker. Dozens of formerly independent firms have been folded into this conglomerate: not just Anchor, Doubleday, Dutton, Knopf, Pantheon, G. P. Putnam’s Sons and Viking, which still wield significant resources, but also storied names like Jonathan Cape, Fawcett, Grosset & Dunlap, and Jeremy P. Tarcher. Many of these have been reduced to mere imprints, brands stamped on a book’s title page, though every good imprint bears the faint mark of a bygone firm with its own mission and sensibility.
Decades of consolidation have cost writers and consumers alike. There is, for one, the persistent gripe of writers and agents: companies either forbid (as at Penguin) or restrict (at Random House) their constituent imprints from bidding against one another for a manuscript. That means not only lower advances, but also fewer options for writers to get the kind of painstaking attention — from editors, marketers and publicists — that it takes to turn their manuscripts into something valuable.
Among the imprints that survive, the tendency is to homogenize and focus on a few general fields like ambitious nonfiction, accessible literary fiction or thrillers. “Legacy” publishing does best in the first category: it commands the advances needed for research, the editing talent to shape the writing and the marketing muscle to distribute those doorstop biographies on Father’s Day.
In the more commercial genres — romance, horror, “Fifty Shades” — writers are beginning to find success in self-publishing. That’s a bit of a misnomer, because often it involves an agent who packages a book with any number of freelance editors and marketers, many of them refugees from the ever-shrinking houses. (Amazon’s publishing platform, which runs on more of a packaging model, has made inroads into these genres.)
As for literary fiction, more and more of the interesting and strange variety — the labors of love on which famous editors like Robert Giroux, Maxwell Perkins and Barney Rosset once placed their bets — may migrate to smaller presses. Graywolf, Milkweed and McSweeney’s (none of them in New York) may not have the resources of their spiritual predecessors, but they have what new owners often lack: personality, mission and focus.
So many books are published — almost certainly, more than ever — that predicting a blanket decline in quality would be ridiculous. But whether literary culture is best served by the ceaseless centralization of publishing is a question worth asking.
The Big Five have been so busy reducing old companies to brands that they’ve neglected the notion of what a brand should mean. Can any reader tell a Pantheon from a Riverhead novel? The logo doesn’t do the trick. The value of a publishing house — and now an imprint — has been its function as that dreaded straw man of the self-publishing gurus: a gatekeeper. In the hoary Model T days, gatekeepers weren’t a cabal but a cacophony, competing tooth and nail.
In a controversial blog post that already has (at the time of posting) 13 replies, Shoo Rayner asks (with reference to the Carnegie Medal) “Can children have their prize back please?”
The Carnegie Medal is not given to writers of books for children anymore. The prize has lost its way, caught up in the glamour of hollywood – for that is what Young Adult publishing is really about and also the main attraction for writers of Young Adult fiction.
We seem unable to see children as children anymore and want them to grow up as soon as possible, to witness and learn stuff way beyond their years. The grown ups do their best to stay teenagers, so they are indistinguishable from the young adults.
Children are children – always have been and always will be. When they stop being children, they want to be adults and will want to read books for adults to find out how to be one. Reading Young Adult books only teaches them to stay young adults for the rest of their lives, just like their parents!
Young adults need to grow up to be adults.
Children need to be allowed to be children.
Can children have their prize back please?
IBBY UK Bursary Scheme for Travel to the 34th IBBY World Congress,
Mexico City, 2014
The IBBY 2012 World Congress in London was a huge success, welcoming delegates from around the world to discuss and celebrate children’s literature. To build on this success, IBBY UK is supporting two of its members to attend the 2014 World Congress in Mexico City, September 10-13, 2014 on the subject “Reading as an inclusive experience.” www.ibbycongress2014.org
There are two bursaries available. One is for post-graduate students of children’s literature or those working towards a qualification in illustration for children; the other is for anyone with an established interest in children’s books and literacy or the work of IBBY. It is intended that at least one bursary will go to an applicant aged under 35; and special consideration will be given to applicants who have offered to give a paper or poster session at the Congress. A member of the IBBY UK Committee will also be supported to attend the Congress.
What support is available for successful applicants?
IBBY UK will pay for:
• Registration at the Congress (expected to be about £450-£500)
• £1,000 to cover flights, accommodation and subsistence
Responsibilities of successful applicants
Bursary holders will be expected to:
• Attend all plenary sessions of the Congress
• In cooperation with fellow bursary holders to write at least 3 blog reports on the Congress during your attendance
• Write an individual report on the Congress for publication on the IBBY UK website and in IBBYLink
• Share your experience of the Congress with your professional organisation, place of study or work.
• To submit a certificate of attendance at the Congress.
Who can apply?
• Residents of the UK and members of IBBY UK in 2013-2014 (Successful applicants will be expected to renew their membership for 2014-2015). For details of membership go to www.ibby.org.uk/membership
• Applicants for the student bursary must be registered on a recognised course of study for a postgraduate degree or a qualification in illustration in the U.K. and supply a reference from a member of staff of their institution.
How to apply
• You should apply by e mail to the Secretary of IBBY UK, John Dunne, by August 31 2013: email@example.com
• You should provide contact details, including name, age, postal and e-mail addresses, and telephone number.
• You must indicate why you need a bursary and show that you have considered other avenues of funding
• You must demonstrate an interest in the work of IBBY and the theme of the Congress.
• You must submit a personal statement detailing study or experience relevant to your application, giving your reasons for applying, and stating how attendance at the Congress will enhance your work or study. This should describe how attendance at the Congress will have a positive impact on your professional development, the potential positive impact on the institution where you study or the organisation you work for and how you would share learning from the Congress. The statement should be no longer than a single A4 sheet.
How will the bursaries be allocated?
• Applications will be considered by a sub-committee of the trustees of IBBY UK
• Applicants may be called for interview
• It is intended that successful applicants will be notified by the end of September 2013