Snapshot for 31 May 2019

Snapshot for 31 May 2019

The London Book Fair’s CAMEO awards (Creativity Across Media: Entertainment and Originality), which celebrate the central role that books play in all those adaptations for film and TV, stage, games and audio, made their US debut last night (30 May).  The inaugural event concentrated on audio books – other iterations will see more categories – and saw the adaptation of Anna Burns’ Man Booker-winning Milkman, produced by Dreamscape Media and narrated by Brid Brennan, receive the award.

The judges hailed the audio adaptation as “refreshing, innovative, sometimes challenging, but ultimately a wonderful creation”, adding “sometimes a novel just needs to be heard out loud”.  The event was emceed by HarperCollins’ Lisa Sharkey, senior vice president and director of creative development, and saw a special appearance by Jim Dale, known to those of a certain age in the UK for his roles in the Carry On films, but famous in the US as the voice – or, more accurately, voices of Harry Potter and entourage.  Dale has narrated all the books for which he received four Audies (the awards organised by the American Audio Publishers Association) and two Grammys.

Talking of cross fertilisation, Fourth Estate’s clever teaser ‘campaign’ for the final volume of Hilary Mantel’s Cromwell trilogy was a perfect marriage of the physical and digital, the traditional and the modern.  Billboard advertising has been around for ever of course.  But now, sometimes a publisher only has to put up one – as Fourth Estate did in Leicester Square – and then they can let social media do the rest, with people’s mobiles all acting as billboards, and free ones.  But it still had to begin with something traditional and physical.

Congratulations to two very different independent houses.  In the US, Dominique Raccah’s Sourcebooks, famous for its successful ‘Put Me in the Story’ imprint, now has the backing for further expansion, thanks to Penguin Random House US taking a 45% stake, while in the UK the tiny Little Toller Books in Dorchester, Dorset, has stolen a march on the majors by acquiring Dara MccAnulty’s Diary of a Young Naturalist, the debut of an ‘important and inspirational voice within the youth climate movement’.

Little Toller publisher Jon Woolcott said it had read the young author’s blog and then contacted him directly, first via social media and then in person.  McAnulty, who is 15, was diagnosed with Aspergers/autism aged 5 and writes about how wildlife and nature helped him overcome bullying and isolation.  With the impact of Greta Thunberg on the world stage, the recent spread and intensity of Extinction Rebellions, and School Strikes for Climate gaining momentum, this is a book that could so easily have gone to a much larger house.

The former Chairman of Random House Robert L Bernstein has died at the age of 96.  Some may know the following, many may not.  In an interview with Publisher’s Weekly in 2016 Bernstein noted: “Random House started when Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer bought Modern Library, which was a line of reprints, from Horace Liveright in 1923. But a few years later, they wanted to publish new books, sort of at random—hence the name Random House.”

More turns of the wheel.  The death of Herman Wouk at 103 sees the passing of the world’s oldest living novelist.  He died just three days before the much loved creator of Mog, Judith Kerr, who was 95.  Both had their lives shaped by war or the shadows of war.  Wouk, whose novels included War and Remembrance, once said that ‘The beginning of the end of War lies in Remembrance’, while it was the rise of the Nazis in the Thirties that led Kerr’s family to leave Germany for the UK, an experience she wrote about in her memoir When Hitler Stole Pink Rabbit.

The gender pay gap discussion continues.  Perminder Mann, CEO of Bonnier Books UK, revealed its stats even though the company falls below the number of employees requiring it to do so.  Women earn 8.2% less than men per hour, an increase of 1.6% since 2018, according to the median calculation, with the mean gender pay gap decreasing by 6.6% to 20.3%.  She said: “While this suggests we are making progress, I know that there is so much more we can do – and I am committed to making our community an equal one.”

Finally, this week surely sees a celestial doffing of the cap by all those characters in other worlds or alternate realities as they salute long-time science fiction editor and publisher Malcolm Edwards of Orion/Gollancz whose 43-year career editing some of the giants of SF draws to a close today.  As Hachette CEO David Shelley put it, Edwards is “a true publishing legend”.

Roger Tagholm writes our Snapshot of the Week.

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