Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Are books getting longer?

One of the books I’ve been really enjoying over the last couple of months (the ones I’ve commissioned aside, of course) is Mark Penn’s fascinating Microtrends. Penn is an American pollster famous for coining the phrase ‘soccer mums’, a small but influential group of voters who could swing elections. In Microtrends, he describes dozens of these other groups that aren’t large enough to make headlines, but still plenty big enough to change things. One movement he notes in culture is that of the rise of the long attention span – that despite culture supposedly dumbing down, there are many of watching longer films, loving The Sopranos and The Wire, and not being put off by doorstep books. There’s a graph in the book, which shows how the length of the average book has risen over the past ten years, from just under 400 pages in 1995, to just under 500 pages in 2005.

That might be a sign that people want stuff in more depth. But my first reaction as a publisher was to think, whatever happened to the art of editing?

Friday, 18 April 2008

Fair Enough

Monday to Wednesday this week has seen publishing taking part in its annual gathering to moan about the London Book Fair. I think it’s compulsory to go on about how much you hate it, even though secretly everyone quite likes a couple of days out of the office swanning around as though they’re dead important. The days of the big fair books felt a long time ago, with most of the major announcements being books that had been bought months back and the rights people seeing more action than editors. The best bits, as always, were not the appointments themselves, but the people you bump into in the corridor. On Tuesday night, an impromptu gathering in a nearby pub swelled into what felt like half of publishing by the time I wended my way. I got more out of those couple of pints than the rest of the fair put together.

Tuesday, 8 April 2008

And the Winners Are...

Ever so slightly belatedly, here are the results of the Bad Idea/ Portico writing competiton. The winner was Emma Hooper, with the following writers shortlisted: Susan Jackman, Caroline Moran, Tom Williams and Benjamin Wood. If you ever want to know what it feels like being an alcoholic, try queuing up with competition prizes of five bottles of whisky plus a sandwich for your lunch! There was a whole range of quality entered, but what I particularly enjoyed was the passion that people showed for the process of writing itself. I was disappointed, perhaps a little bit, that every single one of the entries were electronically written, and no one had written in pen. But I think that's just me. The rather wonderful Bad Idea Anthology itself, is out next month, complete with an exciting looking evening at the V&A.