I don’t usually buy the Sunday Independent, but last night my Mum fished an article from the green bin that she had kept for me. It was by Alison Walsh and the headline was “New authors left on shelf in chapter of caution.”
Not exactly the kind of article that looked set to put me in top form for a bank holiday weekend but a must read all the same.
In the article (which I have tried and failed to find on the independent website, so if anyone can find it do post a link) Imogen Taylor, publishing director at Headline and Sheila Crowley, literary agent at Curtis Brown, both agree that it is becoming even harder to get published as the book market tightens even further with decreases in sales of up to 30% reported by some booksellers.
Depressing statistics, but as I read on, I began to wonder if there was a silver cloud in that possibly the new more discerning publisher could be a good thing for readers. It seems that the area hit most hard is commercial women’s fiction where titles that would have been accepted over the past decade or so when as Crowley puts it “it became a very buzz thing to write a book and there were all levels of quality” are simply not making sales the way they used to.
Today’s readers, it seems, are saving their money, not only for paperbacks over hardbacks but also for meatier, more compelling stories like Kathryn Stockett’s ‘The Help’ or the Stig Larsson trilogy. Based on this new trend, to quote Crowley again, publishers are looking for “the new something as opposed to another version of something.”
I don’t know about you, but I think that’s a pretty good development and arguably what should be the core role of publishers anyway? And while of course, the market will still be dominated by celebrity and”brand authors” – a term that makes me shudder – let’s hope it means there’ll be a little more time taken over submissions, a little less pressure on new writers working on first novels to be described as the new ‘someone’ and just allowed to be themselves.
That’s it from me until next week, off to West Cork for the weekend, with my copy of The Help…