The power of the book

So, the new semester at uni has officially started. For our first lecture (The Business of Publishing), we had to read a couple of articles from Andrew Lownie’s Literary Agency which talked about what UK fiction and non-fiction editors are looking for in 2013. They were interesting to read, particularly as with the publishing business, you can never tell what’s going to be a bestseller until it’s out there. No-one saw Fifty Shades of Grey coming, and it will interesting to see if anything published this year can live up to its success…

Particularly for fiction editors, the majority of them mentioned the need for a story so good that you can’t put down. Imaginative and unique are qualities which everyone seems to be looking for, as well as having that ‘spark’. The search for a great literary fiction or historical fiction novel were also key points on the list of things to look out for.

Kate Parkin, Publisher at John Murray talks about how popular ‘quirky’ books have become due to the recent success of books such as The 100 Year Old Man who Jumped Out of the Window and Disappeared (I think the title says it all, doesn’t it?) She also talks about how difficult it is for upcoming authors to break into such a crowded market, but states that knowing how to market through social media will become more of a necessity, especially considering the digital revolution overtaking gadgets and devices across the globe.

Ruth Tross, an editor for Mulholland Books says that there has to be something present in the book that you have never seen before. Gillian Holmes, editor at Arrow predicts that digital self-published books will continue to storm the book charts throughout 2013. Certainly with the growth of the digital industry, this is something which undoubtedly will continue to be popular throughout the year. Late last year I attended an event organised by the Cambridge Publishing Society (CAMPUS) at the Cambridge University Press Pitt Building where Stephen Bourne gave a talk entitled ‘Imagineering the Book Trade in 2050’, and he talked about how short ‘cell phone’ novels will become a thing of the future in which self-published stories ‘written in short chunks in odd moments’ will become a common thing.

In terms of non-fiction, there was a variety of suggestions to what editors were looking for, good cookbooks (who could possibly beat the success of Jamie Oliver especially after his third Christmas topping the bookseller charts?), autobiographies and sports books. Ed Faulkner, a Publishing Director at Virgin Books and W. H. Allen states that he wants to find something inspiring, creative and entertaining for readers.A few publishers stated that they were particularly looking for good non-fiction to fill the women’s market.

Like what I mentioned earlier about how digital will continue to grow this year, Natalie Jerome at Harper Non-Fiction states that with the launch of the Kindle Fire HD last year, the illustrated book market will soar this year as the one thing which has always been difficult for publishers to create, will no longer be unaccomplishable.

So, what makes a good book? Well after reading through many editor’s opinions from some of the best publishing houses in the country, I have to say I agree with some of the qualities listed. Quirky and unique is definitely a good thing. Personally, I think a good book needs to have characters you can relate to, something original which hasn’t been done before, a completely new world and scenario. I definitely a sucker for a bit of romance.

Some of my favourite books include those written by Audrey Niffenegger. Perhaps I’m a little biased but I feel that she captures everything which a book should be…

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I’m looking forward to what the book industry can deliver in 2013. I want add to my list of favourite books (It will be difficult to top Niffenegger’s books, though, in my eyes anyway!) and to my book shelf. I’m also excited to see what happens in the digital world; what brand new gadget can trump the latest Kindle and IPad and how can publishers develop what they already have to make it better…?

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Here are the links to the articles I talked about in this post:

http://www.andrewlownie.co.uk/2013/01/12/what-fiction-editors-want

http://www.andrewlownie.co.uk/2013/01/12/what-uk-non-fiction-editors

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About ambergunn

English Language and Literature graduate and MA Publishing graduate from Anglia Ruskin University. Production Editor at a STM journal publisher in London. Tea lover, bookworm and metaphor appreciator. View all posts by ambergunn

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