Does celebrity sell?

27 March 2017

From The Bookseller:

If you thought the children’s books market had reached peak celebrity then look away now for there is a veritable deluge coming in 2017. This includes, though is by no means limited to, David Walliams, David Baddiel, Tom Fletcher, Clare Balding, Adrian Edmondson, Julian Clary, Christian O’Connell, Mo Farah, Greg James, Chris Smith, Dermot O’Leary, Miranda Hart, Danny Baker, Dara O Briain, Fearne Cotton, Jessica Ennis-Hill, Chris Hoy, Isla Fisher, Gemma Cairney, Frank Lampard, Chris O’Dowd, Brooklyn Beckham, various YouTubers and rather curiously, George Galloway.

In a culture where celebrity sells I understand why publishers go down this route. The phenomenal success of David Walliams has put every publisher under pressure to have their own chart-topping version. Celebrity authors are a ready-made PR story, they have existing fan bases, social media followers and famous friends to endorse their books. When celeb books work they can be hugely lucrative which, in theory at least, means profits can be invested in nurturing new talent.

For me the big positive is that celebrities can be such powerful advocates for books and reading. In our publishing bubble it’s all too easy to forget that vast numbers of families don’t own books and never visit bookshops or libraries.

. . . .

I’ve read some good celebrity books, I’ve read some terrible ones.  Some celebrities can write, have big imaginations and comic timing, many don’t and need a talented editor and ghost writer. However, some of the formats favoured for celebs are starting to look pretty lazy. Illustrated comic middle-grade feels utterly saturated, magical young series fiction somewhat less inspiring than the famous names on the covers.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Male crime writers eclipsed by golden age of female authors brought back into print

26 March 2017

From The Telegraph:

The British Library is working to bring forgotten male crime writers back into print, after they were eclipsed in their own Golden Age by women who were simply better.

The British Library’s classic crime project, which sees long-lost novels rediscovered and published for a new generation, features a disproportionate amount of men, the managing editor behind it said.

But the discrepancy is not down to modern day sexism, but a rare quirk of publishing history which made 1930s Britain arguably the only time and genre where women firmly ruled the roost.

As such, the best-selling and most-acclaimed writers of the day were women, leaving their male rivals swiftly falling out of print and the public consciousness.

The British Library project is now helping to correct that imbalance, bringing lesser-known works back to readers’ bookshelves.

The works, which are designed with vintage covers and have been bestsellers, are sold by the library, with profits ploughed back into its archival and exhibition work.

. . . .

The current catalogue shows just three out of 38 books written by a woman, and all of those from one author, Mavis Doriel Hay.

But, he said, the reason was simple: those male writers were “next tier” in their own day, overshadowed by the so-called “crime queens” including Agatha Christie, Dorothy L Sayers, Marjorie Allingham, Ngaio Marsh, Josephine Tey, and Gladys Mitchell.

“It’s something I’ve been challenged about in the past, that so many of the writers we publish are men,” he said.

“That’s not because of sexism, that’s because the women’s writers were often still in print and retained their popularity.

“It was actually their male contemporaries who dropped out of view.

“It might be unique in this genre, that the women writers are the ones who survived.”

Link to the rest at The Telegraph

To Walk Invisible: The Brontë Sisters

25 March 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

‘To Walk Invisible” presents the Brontë sisters as they’ve never quite been seen before. Nor is it likely that devotees of Charlotte’s (Finn Atkins) “Jane Eyre, ” or Emily’s (Chloe Pirrie) “Wuthering Heights” or Anne’s (Charlie Murphy) “The Tenant of Wildfell Hall” ever paused long to consider the circumstances in which all three of these writers lived together, or rather, survived together, as sisters.

. . . .

In this darkly acerbic, and riveting, Masterpiece drama, written and directed by Sally Wainwright (writer of the wonderful “Last Tango in Halifax”), it is the struggle to survive, not literary ambition—though that ambition is a strong one—that takes precedence in the lives of these sisters.

. . . .

A flamboyant sort, Branwell continues to harbor dreams of literary achievement, with no hope of fulfilling them. He’s a drinker and can’t stop, the chief cause of the somberness that sits heavily on life at the Yorkshire parsonage where the Brontës lived.

He’s not, however the only cause of the gloom and tension that hang in the atmosphere, that seems to touch every conversation between the sisters, each with literary ambitions, each secretly—at least at first—trying her hand at writing. Their ultimate triumph arrives with the emergence of their actual identities after writing wildly successful works, all under male-sounding pseudonyms.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Tencent plans e-book IPO

25 March 2017

From LiveMint:

Tencent Holdings Ltd is planning to spin off its e-book business as it boosts spending on payments and content to lure users and keep them glued to its WeChat service.

An initial public offering of the Kindle-like business is planned for Hong Kong, the Shenzhen-based company said on Wednesday after posting quarterly earnings that trailed analyst estimates. While net income surged 47% to 10.5 billion yuan ($1.5 billion), that trailed the 11 billion yuan expected by analysts.

. . . .

China Reading Ltd, as Tencent’s literature unit is known, is said to have asked bankers to pitch for a role arranging an IPO that could raise about $500 million. President Martin Lau said it would also consider other spinoffs without identifying targets. The company also operates a music and video-streaming service.

While Tencent’s services have a massive reach in China, growth is slowing as it nears saturation in its home market. In addition to new games, it’s funding blockbusters including “Kong: Skull Island” and “Warcraft” and sitting atop a plethora of intellectual property for anime and online novels distributed via its websites. The company has aspirations to eventually create a Marvel-like movie empire, as it competes with Alibaba Group Holding Ltd for users.

Link to the rest at LiveMint

How celebrity deals are shutting children’s authors out of their own trade

23 March 2017

From The Guardian:

Another day, another celebrity announces they are to “pen” a children’s book. Already this week, Jamie Lee Curtis has announced a “selfie-themed” tome, Chelsea Clinton a picture book about inspirational women and the Black Eyed Peas a graphic novel featuring zombies.

They join a slew of celebs cashing in on a burgeoning market. In the past month, model-turned-actor Cara Delevingne, TV presenter Dermot O’Leary and even politician and professional motormouth George Galloway have joined Frank Lampard, Danny Baker, Julian Clary and Fearne Cotton in vying to be the next JK Rowling.

Though publishers are notoriously cagey about money, industry sources say the advances paid to celebrities are considerably higher than the amounts usually doled out to children’s writers, whose contracts are won on talent rather than fame. Which explains the resentment many authors feel towards these incomers.

One prize-winning writer, who didn’t want to be named, left her last publisher after a new media star received a huge advance for a ghostwritten novel that consequently bombed. “The massive advances mean publishers put all their marketing into making these books work in order to earn back the investment,” she says. “So when they fail, not only have they taken money for publicity that could have helped the rest of us, but there is no money left.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

But, but, curators of culture!

Did technology kill the book or give it new life?

23 March 2017

From the BBC:

Digital technology has certainly had a profound effect on the traditional book publishing and retailing industries, but has it also given the book a new lease of life?

At one point it looked as if the rise of e-books at knock-down prices and e-readers like Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook posed an existential threat to book publishers and sellers.

“Literature found itself at war with the internet,” as Jim Hinks, digital editor of Comma Press, succinctly puts it.

But contrary to expectations, the printed book is still surviving alongside its upstart e-book cousin, and technology is helping publishers and retailers reach new audiences and find new ways to tell stories.

. . . .

In the UK, roughly £1.7bn was spent on print books last year, compared with £393m on e-books, says Nielsen Book Research’s Scott Morton. The digital newcomers’ share of the market seems to have settled at about 30%.

On the high street, Waterstones saw physical book sales grow 5% over the Christmas period compared with the year before, while Foyles saw sales rise 8.1%.

The era of the printed book, it would seem, is far from over. But a lot depends on the sector you’re looking at.

Adult fiction – particularly romantic and erotic – has migrated strongly to the e-book, whereas cookery and religious books still do well in print, as do books with illustrations. All for fairly obvious reasons.

. . . .

London-based tech start-up Bookindy is using technology to encourage people back to struggling local bookshops.

It does this with a Chrome browser plug-in – each time you search Amazon for a book, a window pops up saying how much it would cost at your nearest independent bookseller.

Founder William Cookson, who describes himself as “just an average sort of book reader”, says his creation took just three days to code.

It helped that he could tap in to an existing network of 350 independent British bookshops called Hive, which enables retailers to check stock and fulfil orders.

Link to the rest at BBC and thanks to Bruce for the tip.

Outrage as Library Service of the Year shortlistee slated for closure

22 March 2017

From The Bookseller:

Walsall Council is to reduce its library service – which has been shortlisted for Library of the Year at the British Book Awards – by more than half, in what has been described as a “highly ironic” and “criminal” decision.

The nine libraries threatened with closure (out of a total 16) are Beechdale, Blakenall, New Invention, Pelsall, Pleck, Pheasey, Rushall, South Walsall and Walsall Wood. They are due to close this June, despite the service being nominated for Library of the Year at the British Book Awards last week.

According to the judges, Walsall Libraries were shortlisted for the award because they were a “fine example of how libraries can go on changing lives despite constant uncertainty over funding”.

. . . .

Councillor Julie Fitzpatrick, portfolio holder for community, leisure and culture, told The Bookseller she was “delighted” that the library service had been shortlisted for Library of the Year, adding that although there will be fewer libraries in the borough, the libraries would be “fit for the future”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Japan’s Manga Market Grows 0.4% in 2016, Digital Sees 27.5% Increase

19 March 2017

From Anime News Network:

The All Japan Magazine and Book Publisher’s and Editor’s Association (AJPEA) released a report on February 24 that estimated that the combined physical and digital sales of the manga industry in Japan amounted to 445.4 billion yen (about US$3.91 billion) in 2016, a 0.4% growth compared to the previous year’s 443.7 billion yen (about US$3.89 billion). The combined sales of both physical and digital approach 2008’s 448.3 billion yen (about US$3.93 billion) total.

Sales of print manga volumes amounted to 194.7 billion yen (about US$1.71 billion) in 2016, a 7.4% decrease from the previous year, while sales of manga magazines amounted to 101.6 billion yen (about US$892 million), a 12.9% decrease from the previous year. The combined 296.3 billion yen (about US$2.60 billion) total of print sales of manga from both compiled book volumes and magazines saw a 9.3% decrease from last year. This the 15th year in a row to mark a decline in sales for manga’s print market. The print-only market is now about half of what it was in the mid-1990s.

However, sales of digital manga volumes amounted to 146 billion yen (about US$1.28 billion), a 27.1% increase from the previous year, while sales of digital manga magazines amounted to 3.1 billion yen (about US$27.24 million), a 55% increase from the previous year. The combined 149.1 billion yen (about US$1.31 billion) total of digital sales of manga from both compiled book volumes and magazines saw a 27.5% increase from last year.

Link to the rest at Anime News Network and thanks to Eugene for the tip.

‘It’s no longer about the vanity press’: self-publishing gains respect — and sales

19 March 2017

From CBC News:

Vancouver-based author Sharon Rowse was thrilled when after years of trying she finally landed a book deal with a New York publisher.

“It had always been my dream to be published,” Rowse said.

Her novel, a historical crime story that takes place in her home town, had been “a bit of a hard sell” for the American market.

But reality poured a big bucket of cold water on her dreams when the publisher was bought out, and its mystery section discontinued.

“My book was the last one to come off the press, which meant that I was suddenly without a publisher with a book that had just literally come out two weeks before the publisher closed,” she said.

Rowse searched for a new publisher for her book, but “nobody wanted to pick it up.”

Instead of letting her writing languish, she decided to take control of the process and added it to the the growing trove of self-published works that are increasingly finding their way into the hands of readers.

. . . .

Writers like Rowse are the target of a pending new collection of local self-published authors at the Vancouver Public Library — and other libraries across Canada are doing the same.

“Knowing that there’s been this huge outpouring of self-publishing over the past few years, we want to make sure that we’re finding that kind of content when it’s coming from Vancouver,” said Christina de Castell, VPL’s director of collections and technology.

“We really want to give Vancouver authors an opportunity to have a platform to share their work.”

Link to the rest at CBC News and thanks to Sadie for the tip.

Blackwell’s 2016 financial results reflect ‘challenging’ year

17 March 2017

From The Bookseller:

Blackwell’s losses deepened in its last financial year, with the move of one of its flagship campus shops in Manchester to a temporary venue a contributing factor. However, investment in its stores and an increase in e-textbook sales have lead to a 10% growth more recently, the company said.

In the year to 25th June 2016, Blackwell’s recorded a loss of £2.9m on a total turnover of £43.3m on its continuing business, down from £2.2m on sales of £45.8m in the 52 weeks to 27th June 2015 (excluding the closure of its library services US contracts in the prior year).

. . . .

The company has also invested in its e-commerce site, distribution capabilities and grown its London-based Blackwell Learning team. With digital resources being used more widely in UK Higher Education, the company has struck a number of partnerships with universities for students to use it e-textbook platform, and sales are up 249% year on year, it said.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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