Publishing is too white, too middle class and in danger of losing touch with new markets for books. If publishers fail to appeal to the Black and Asian market, they will not get a share of the £32bn in disposable income available to these communities. That is serious money for a £1.55bn market that has seen a relatively slow growth in recent years and is desirous to expand into new markets.
A flood of fiction is filling our bookshops. Some 13,000 new novels are published each year, a 45 per cent increase since 1998. But the deluge conceals a depressing reality for new writers. The slush pile – the derogatory term for unsolicited manuscripts that land on publishers’ desks – has been all but abandoned in this efficient age of corporate accounting and executive accountability. Publishers no longer read novels by unknowns. Nor, increasingly, do literary agents. If you are a first-timer, your chances of getting into print are almost non-existent.
Former journalist John Blake has brought tabloid sensibilities to publishing, and established a thriving company. So why, asks Danuta Kean, does Grub Street still feel uncomfortable with him?
Book advances have skyrocketed in recent years. Barely a week passes without some publisher gambling huge sums on an unknown they hope will be the next JK Rowling, Zadie Smith or Dave Pelzer. Debut children’s novelist Lady Georgia Byng received £1 million for Molly Moon’s Incredible Book of Hypnotism, while Charles Frazier, whose first novel, Cold Mountain, topped the charts worldwide, barely needed to touch his keyboard before publishers paid £5 million for a second novel on the basis of a one-page synopsis.
Publishers will say anything to get an author between the sheets of their catalogues. But once the contract is signed, that seductive promise of a gold-plated publicity campaign all too often fades into thin air and the writer is lucky to receive a meagre handful of reviews before the edition is pulped.
Ian Chapman, newly installed m.d of Simon & Schuster, talks to Danuta Kean about emerging from the shadow of his publishers parents and taking the top job at S&S.
The new m.d. of Simon & Schuster UK has had his own realignments to make over the years, but under his management the company is aiming to become a publisher of the first order. Danuta Kean talks to Ian S Chapman
Ian S Chapman, managing director of Simon & Schuster UK, looks pensive in the “headmaster’s study”, as the oak panelled room that doubles as his office in S&S UK’s headquarters is known. He is considering how much he should reveal of himself in this interview. It is an awkward calculation in a business where image has come to mean as much as content.