A Day in London – OR – A Travelling Author Muses


An excellent evening last night. In fact, a wonderful day.

I was going up to see the guys at Goldsboro Books in Cecil Court, London. They always do a huge amount for new writers and for collectors. If you ever want a signed first edition of any title, they are, really, the only place to go now.

Empty Cecil Court in the afternoon!

Empty Cecil Court in the afternoon!

Signing books with them is always good fun. Yesterday, apart from the fact that I was able to meet Mia for the first time, it was good to scrawl my name in all the massive towers of books on the desk. If I’d thought, I’d have kept all of them on the desk so I could take a photo – but I’m an author, not a marketing expert! Mia, meanwhile, was bored. She made this plain by eating the handle on the chair.

Goldsboro's Pile of Books!

Goldsboro’s Pile of Books!

Mia is a Border Terrier. Pavla was the assistant helping me sign.

Anyway, in the evening (after a delightful lunch with Paul, the superstar agent, and then tea with Blakey, the superstar company chairman of The Edge in Covent Garden, followed by an even more delicious couple of pints of Tribute in the pub round the corner with David Hewson, one of my favourite authors) I was back at Goldsboro.

Wine, if no women or song, was the order of the day. And I had a great time, even though it was a little hard in places, especially when chatting about the market.

There are more mergers coming, you see.

Apparently the Penguin/Random House mix will soon get stirred. But also, it’s said that HarperCollins and Simon and Schuster are having talks.

Now generally, you need large multinationals to achieve cost benefits and keep the prices to consumers down. I know that. But the problem here is, as the big firms merge, they lose sight of the ball. We’re heading towards four main publishers. With only one retailer on the high street, effectively, and one main retailer on the internet (who can compete although, stone me, Amazon doesn’t make profit from all its UK sales, and therefore pays no taxes), the publishers are being throttled.

However, they’re losing their authors because of this. In the past, publishers would take on new authors and hand-hold them. They’d help them through their first years. OK, my publisher didn’t: Headline seemed always to have a business model that was based on sink or swim. There was no marketing or PR behind new writers, and those who didn’t achieve any sales (usually on the back of their own marketing efforts) were dropped after a few years. I saw so many talented, good writers disappear in my first few years.

However, good publishers nurtured their new talents and helped them develop until, sometimes after a long time (like Ian Rankin, for example), they hit the mark and suddenly because top sellers.

In the past, publishers would wander out and sign ludicrous deals for politicians’ and sportmen’s and women’s biographies. They rarely earned out. Tales of half million pound cheques for books that sold in the few thousands are not uncommon. And all that money paid to those politicians and others was actually earned from the mid-list authors, the run-of-the-mill authors, who regularly wrote good books that sold pretty well, in the fifty thousand plus bands, and earned fair money.

Party time Cecil Court

Party time Cecil Court

But now, those geese have been culled, and their golden eggs are no longer being laid. Whereas publishers could depend upon a wide range of authors, now they depend upon an ever-more dwindling number. Once Collins had more than thirty crime authors writing for them. Now, HarperCollins in total has fewer than twenty. All authors have to demonstrate that they’re in the top few in order to keep their contracts.

Of course the good side to this is, that the largest publishers will simply leach their talented authors out into the indie market. Smaller publishers are springing up, and they will take on many of the writers and soon you’ll see a resurgence in publishing – hopefully, anyway.

Because one thing is certain. As you have ever larger publishing houses, with ever fewer authors, providing a smaller number of new titles each year, it will only take one or two poor business decisions by senior editors to wreck the publishers.

If all your goose eggs, assiduously collected over the decades, have one stone dropped on top of them, even the golden ones will get dented.

Nice metaphor, eh?

The lovely Ayo from Shots Ezine - who buttonholed me for some work ... More later

The lovely Ayo from Shots Ezine – who buttonholed me for some work … More later

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