Bookseller Briefing 29/17 – week ending 21 July

The Bookseller orange

Airline easyJet launches children’s book club

Budget airline easyJet has launched a “flybrary” in its entire UK fleet with 7,000 classic books selected by Jacqueline Wilson.

The campaign follows research by the company which shows that 80% of parents in Britain say children are reading less in comparison to when they were younger.

Around 7,000 copies of children’s classics including Peter Pan, Alice’s Adventures In Wonderland, The Wizard Of Oz and The Railway Children will be distributed across easyJet planesall of which are published by Penguin Classics. The books will be placed on easyJet’s UK fleet of 147 aircraft in the passenger seat-pockets. Children will leave the books on board for the next passengers after they leave.

When they land, children can also download free samples of other classics as well as a sample of Wilson’s latest book, Wave Me Goodbye (Doubleday Childrens), from easyjet.com/bookclub.

Wilson launched the scheme at London’s Gatwick Airport and described flying as “the perfect place to escape into a literary adventure” She said: “The long summer break is the ideal opportunity for children to get stuck into a great story.

“Reading soothes, entertains, grows vocabulary and exercises the mind and a flight is the perfect place to escape into a literary adventure. I’ve chosen books that children might not have read, but are familiar with, maybe from film and television.” She added that she had selected stories to appeal to both boys and girls.

easyJet c.e.o, Carolyn McCall, said: “The launch of our summer kids book club is another initiative designed to make flying with us more fun and help to get kids hooked on a book at the start of the holiday season at the same time. Our in-flight lending library means young passengers can pick up a brilliant book during their flight and then return it to the seat pocket at the end of the flight for the next customer to enjoy onboard.”

The initiative follows research by easyJet who polled 2,000 British parents whose children are aged between eight and 12, which reveals that 83% of parents say children are reading less in comparison to when they themselves were younger.

The research revealed that kids are reading an average of three books over the course of their entire summer holidays, in contrast to an average of four books which their parents would have read at the same age – a drop of 25% over the course of a generation.

Of those surveyed, 90% of parents said that they believed the availability of electronic entertainment devices  has led to a decline in reading for pleasure. Eight in 10 parents believe that the widespread presence of digital entertainment has caused an adverse effect on literacy levels.

The first books will be on board on Saturday (22nd July).

Trade celebrates release of Jane Austen £10 note

The trade is celebrating all things Jane Austen this week, as the Bank of England’s new Austen £10 note makes its debut in honour of the author’s 200th anniversary.

The new polymer note was unveiled on Tuesday (18th July) at Winchester Cathedral where Austen is buried. Bank of England governor Mark Carney said Austen “certainly merits a place in the select group of historical figures to appear on our banknotes”, praising her novels’ “enduring and universal appeal” while hailing the author herself as “one of the greatest writers in English literature”.

Maddy Price, Hodder editor of Lucy Worsely, who published Jane Austen at Home this year, said the Bank of England’s choice was “excellent news for a new generation of female writers and readers” and she was pleased girls would grow up seeing the face of a woman on the £10 note.

“It’s fantastic that we are spending so much time with Jane in this anniversary year. I’ve seen lots of innovative Austen publishing in 2017, not least our own Jane Austen at Home by Lucy Worsley. As Lucy says in her book, each generation has their own Jane, and I’m very pleased that girls will now see a £10 note featuring the face of a woman who followed her dreams and fought against the constraints of her time. I think that’s excellent news for a new generation of female writers and readers,” said Price.

Wordsworth Editions – which publishes a range of Austen classics – also said the note was “very appropriate” but wasn’t convinced it would boost sales of her novels. “While I think it is very appropriate that Jane should appear on a bank note, such is her enduring popularity already that I doubt if it will have any specific effect,” said publisher Derek Wright. Amid reports that the portrait of Austen used was an “airbrushed” version of the author, the publisher also said it had been “amused by the controversy”.

A window display remembering Jane Austen at Bailey Hill Bookshop‏ in Castle Cary

Bookseller Ben Tanter at P&G Wells, based next door to Austen’s final resting place in Winchester, said he was “very glad” to see in the new note, agreeing it was a great for the book industry’s profile. The shop not only has a window dedicated to Austen, but has been running a series of events throughout the summer, working closely with the Jane Austen Society.

The bookseller said he had seen an uptick in Austen-related sales, particularly in non-fiction with Worsley’s title, sales of which are currently at 6,468 copies for £119,078 in hardback, Paul Byrne’s The Real Jane Austen (William Collins) and Jane Austen: The Banker’s Sister by literary critic and cultural historian E. J. Clery (Biteback), a book that claims to “change the way Jane Austen’s life and novels are understood” and features the Austen £10 note on its front cover.

Waterstones bookshops across the country have been marking the 200th anniversary of Jane Austen’s death by celebrating the “much beloved” author with events and displays throughout this year. Most recently, Waterstones Gower Street and Waterstones Crouch End held evening talks with Emily Midorikawa, who discussed her new book A Secret Sisterhood: The Hidden Friendships of Austen, Bronte, Eliot and Woolf (Aurum Press), whilst Waterstones Gateshead is hosting a monthly Jane Austen Reading group, with the next meeting being held this week. Another highlight of upcoming activity includes daily readings of Jane Austen’s novels in Waterstones Bath, between 10th – 17th September, as part of their support for the Jane Austen Festival.

BBC One showed “My Friend Jane” last night while this weekend, BBC Two has “Becoming Jane”, starring Anne Hathaway as Jane, coming up. The BBC has already broadcast the programme “Jane Austen Behind Closed Doors”. Meanwhile, the “Love to Read” portion of its website is testing visitors with an online quiz to find out, “Are you a Jane Austen super-fan?”

On social media, the JaneAusten200 hashtag is currently trending on Twitter.

Authors warned not to sign ‘morality’ clauses

Contract clauses giving publishers the right to drop authors who act “immorally” are becoming more common, The Bookseller has been told.

The demand is particularly prevalent in the US and Canada, it is understood, but according to the Society of Author’s chief executive Nicola Solomon, and a number of agents The Bookseller has spoken to, such clauses are becoming more widespread in the UK too, partly following the high profile case of right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, who is currently suing Simon & Schuster US for $10m for dropping his book.

Literary agents and the Society of Authors have told The Bookseller they are advising writers to resist signing the clause and warned that their increasing use comes at the expense of freedom of speech.

“Many authors” are now being asked to make “wide and sweeping” indemnities, according to Solomon. “We do see these (clauses) and we don’t like them,” she told The Bookseller. “They are particularly prevalent in the educational/academic sector [in the UK], but are spreading beyond that.”

A number of agents have said the clauses are cropping up more often in trade publishing too where “high profile” authors are involved, across non-fiction, children’s and fiction.

Examples of morality clauses provided by the SoA include asking authors to agree “at all times to adhere to the highest ethical standards”, while another asks writers to “not do or omit to do anything or become directly or indirectly involved in any matter whatsoever which may in the publishers’ sole opinion be damaging to the reputation of the publishers”.

Publishers’ inclination to use these kinds of clauses will be greater following the high profile case of right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, agents have suggested. S&S US terminated the former Breitbart editor’s contract in February after a radio interview in which he appeared to condone sexual relations with young boys. However, the writer has since attempted to sue the publisher for $10m for cancelling the deal, arguing they did so not because of the content of the book, but because of his public perception.

An agent who preferred not to be named said: “[The clauses] make complete sense if you’re paying a lot of money for a celebrity, the success of whose book is predicated on their personal brand. If the author were to do anything that would bring that into disrepute – drugs, sex, assault, airing of offensive views – and that led to the book not selling then you can completely see why publishers would be keen to have a clause that enabled them to cancel the contract and claw back money.”

They added: “I can imagine post-Milo why publishers might want to make them more widespread. Were I a publisher and investing large amounts in an author I would definitely want more ways of protecting myself than are standard.”

Curtis Brown’s head of book contracts, Nicholas McDermott, said he’d seen “a number” of publishers in the UK, US and Canada try to incorporate morality clauses into their contract templates, all of which the agency has rejected. The inclusion of such clauses in contracts had “crept up” in the UK, especially with young, “high profile” authors, he said.

He agreed the case of Yiannopoulos was “definitely a part” of why morality clauses were creeping into contracts, along with the experience of Penguin Australia, which published a cookbook by wellness blogger Belle Gibson who reportedly lied about having brain cancer. The publisher went on to be fined A$30,000 by Australian regulator Consumer Affairs Victoria.

Meanwhile the SoA believes the increase in the clause’s inclusion in the UK’s academic and educational sector follows the fining of academic publisher Oxford University Press arms in East Africa and Tanzania for “corrupt practices” relating to education projects in the countries in 2012.

Like the SoA, McDermott was vehement in his opposition to such clauses, saying they could lead publishers into “a very dangerous area” at the expense of free speech.

“We have been told by publishers that this relates to problems in the children’s market where a publisher doesn’t want to be forced to publish a book if the author has been arrested for, say, child sex offenses. Which of course is understandable,” he said. “The difficulty comes in determining when exactly the clause should apply. For example, is a driving offence sufficient grounds to cancel a contract? Or would an offence count if it was unrelated to the nature of the of the book? Is an accusation or charge sufficient without any court proceedings?

“We have to be vigilant to protect authors to ensure that there are no ‘morality police’ watching over controversial authors. Often a controversial author is hired because they are controversial, and given recent attacks on the Human Rights Act we need to be careful about protecting our freedom of speech. Publishers should be protecting this right, not helping to self-censor speech or using an author’s behaviour as a mechanism to get out of a potentially unprofitable contract. If we aren’t careful a morality clause could lead publishing into a very dangerous area.”

Sam Copeland, agent at Rogers, Coleridge & White, also told The Bookseller that the agency was advising authors not to agree to the clauses. “Essentially, we have seen a small increase in an attempt to insert this type of clause into contracts, mostly from the US, which we are resisting,” he said.

Janelle Andrew at PFD agreed US-based publishers were becoming “increasingly rigorous” on this issue, including fiction publishers, which she added was “alarming”.

“In light of what happened with Milo Yiannopoulos it seems they are determined to crack down on any personal infractions which could damage the potential sales of a book,” said Andrew. “I think this is a direct result of authors themselves becoming as much of a commodity as their book, and especially in non-fiction.”

She continued: “In my opinion, the idea that someone’s career could be damaged due to immoral behaviour is dangerous because morality is subjective and as agents, it is our job to remove the subjective from contracts as this can be open to misinterpretation, or even in a worse case scenario, abuse.”

Solomon said the remit of such clauses was often “impossibly wide” and the SoA would ideally advise any author to insist the clause is removed, because it does not advocate “reasonable” terms.

“These seem to us far wider than is necessary to protect a publisher’s legitimate interests. They are impossibly wide: an author could be in breach for being indirectly involved in something which the publisher thought may be damaging to its reputation,” said Solomon.

“We particularly dislike the fact that the test is often not objective but allows the publisher in its sole opinion to decide that something is damaging. We suggest to authors that these clauses be deleted in their entirety and, failing that, that they ask for assurances and amendments that make it clear that the provision would be invoked only in extreme and cynical cases.”

An OUP spokesperson said it did not recognise examples of morality clauses detailed above but confirmed “many” of its author contracts included specific references relating to not committing bribery or fraud, in keeping with the requirements of the Bribery Act 2010. The company added: “Some contracts refer to our Partner Code of Conduct, which was created to give our business partners a clear view of the values and principles that inform all of our work. In working with partners we want to uphold our mission and values, make sure everything we do is ethical and lawful, and ensure our business relationships are open, honest, and successful.”

The Bookseller asked a number of other publishers for comment on the issue, including Penguin Random House, HarperCollins and the Publishers Association, but all declined.