Week 7/20 – week ending 14 February

Lynda La Plante launches CSI podcast series

Bonnier Books UK is launching a new podcast series, “Listening to the Dead”, with bestselling crime author Lynda La Plante and former Met detective Cass Sutherland. The series will explore the secrets of today’s real CSIs and will launch in late February.

The series will be six episodes long, over the course of which La Plante and Sutherland will investigate six branches of forensics while discussing their own experiences, talking with experts, hearing how real-life crime scenes are worked and exploring famous cases and innovations in the field to demonstrate how CSI fact is even more thrilling than CSI fiction.

Episodes will reveal: how plant regrowth can be used to track a killer’s path months after a crime was committed; how a fly on a wall can be more than an observer; why the “sibling defence” can unravel DNA evidence; and why a dog’s nose can sniff out cases of arson that the scientists miss.

The podcast builds on the working relationship La Plante and Cass already have, achieving authentic depictions of crime scenes and police procedures in her books through combined meticulous research.

La Plante said: “I’ve always been fascinated by forensic sciences, ever since “Prime Suspect” became the first TV crime drama to mention DNA. In my books, I’ve gone to great lengths to ensure that police and forensic procedures are portrayed accurately, but it’s a constantly evolving field and one needs to keep researching to make sure one stays up to date. This podcast is helping me to do just that. I’m especially delighted to be working on this project with Cass Sutherland, someone whose knowledge and experience has been invaluable to my writing.”

Jon Watt, head of Audio Bonnier Books UK, said: “Lynda La Plante has been delighting crime fans with her novels for over 40 years. One of the pillars for her remarkable success and longevity has been her fastidious research and the accuracy of her police and forensic procedures. In this podcast she gets to dig deeper into this subject she loves and to share some stories from her long career as the Queen of Crime Drama.”

La Plante moved to Zaffre after 30 years at Simon & Schuster in 2016.

Pinch of Nom duo scoop BBC Studios digital deal

Bestselling Pinch of Nom (Bluebird) authors Kate Allinson and Kay Featherstone have signed a digital content deal with BBC Studios.

Negotiated by agent Clare Hulton, the arrangement will see them create their first podcast series, to launch in March 2020, and video content for YouTube and Facebook. BBC Studios Production will also explore TV format opportunities with the duo.

The pair said: “We are so thrilled to be working with BBC Studios to create such fantastic, interesting digital content. We can’t wait to share it with our brilliant online community and are grateful that BBC Studios shares our excitement, alongside our vision. This partnership gives us the help and opportunity to create a podcast and further content that our community has requested and we can’t wait to get started!”

Jon Swain, head of BBC Studios Unscripted Productions, added: “Kate and Kay’s infectious warmth and honesty and their amazing ability to connect with people has meant they have built up an impressive community of passionate followers. We look forward to working with them to develop new content across a range of platforms and to bringing Pinch of Nom to an even wider audience.”

Pinch of Nom’s publishing début became the fastest-selling non-fiction book on record after its release last March and sold in huge numbers throughout the year. Alongside a food planner and follow-up Everyday Light, the duo have now shifted 1.77 million books for £17m.

Bluebird publisher Carole Tonkinson said: “It is fantastic to see Kay and Kate’s talent find even more avenues for expression. We are thrilled they have partnered with BBC Studios for a suite of international digital content. We feel confident this will help them reach new fans around the globe that will help the books break more records.”

Coronavirus shutdown hits UK publishing schedules

UK publishers with print operations in China are facing delays owing to the coronavirus outbreak that has seen parts of the country shut down.

Although suppliers are beginning to re-open this week, closures ran through the Lunar New Year holiday week in late January into February, putting a strain on schedules, exacerbated by port congestion with fewer shipments permitted out of the country.

Garry Lewis, Usborne’s production director, said there is “definitely” an impact on schedules, but owing to delayed re-opening it was hard to know the full extent.

Michael O’Mara’s production director Joanne Rooke said it had needed to move two of its printings out of the country that were urgent, but otherwise it was keen to stick with its Chinese printers despite the impediments faced. Some publication dates “may” need to be “slightly altered”, she said, as a result of the situation, although the bulk of its forthcoming titles were on track.

“At Michael O’Mara we have kept abreast of the Covid-19 virus developments daily,” said Rooke. “Our Chinese printer colleagues have done their very best to keep in touch with us regularly (by working from home) and we know that they will do all they can to meet our deadlines, particularly on time-sensitive titles.

“This week Chinese printers are beginning to reopen now that they have strict medical controls in place and have passed all the relevant local inspections. It has been necessary to move a couple of urgent printings out of China but we are trying to keep this to a minimum because we would like to stay loyal to our Chinese printers at this difficult time.

“We also have daily contact with our freight forwarder to try to minimise the impact of port congestion and reduced vessel sailings in the coming weeks. There may need to be some slight adjustments to a few publication dates but at the moment we are managing to hold the majority of our schedules.”

DK chief operating officer Shaun Hodgkinson, who described the situation as “fast-moving”, is encouraged by the re-openings of some of its key suppliers but conceded “pressure” had been put on schedules, necessitating “contingency plans”.

“It is a fast-moving situation and our primary concern is the wellbeing of our colleagues, foremost our teams in China, who are all safe and well,” said Hodgkinson. “The extended Lunar New Year Holiday and travel restrictions have impacted the mobility of our colleagues and our suppliers and put pressure on our schedules.

“We have important strategic commercial and manufacturing partnerships in China and have been working closely with them to minimise the impact on our business. It is very encouraging that a number of our key suppliers have opened this week.

“We will continue to work with those partners to prioritise our schedules and limit any impact on our deliveries. DK also has strong partnerships across the globe, to support us with any contingency plans if necessary, but our focus is to work at the moment with our Chinese partners.”

Catherine Bell, co-m.d. of  Scholastic UK, said: “We are in daily contact with all of our print partners to ensure a continuation of supply while prioritising the health and wellbeing of staff and colleagues. Obviously we want to support our Chinese print partners as they work with local and national governments to contain the virus; but as we work with suppliers across the globe, we have the ability to move work between printers whenever there is a disruption to the supply chain.”

One publisher, who preferred not to be named, said it could be months until supply problems are ironed out. They explained the factories a lot of publishers use in the Southern China Guangdong province have had their return to work delayed – and even those that have been given permission to reopen will be doing so “without anywhere near a full workforce”.

As well as shortages of workers to load printed books, there are shortages of drivers to get the stock to the port, it was explained, on top of which, in any event, shipping line offices are shut until 17th February. More complicated book products will also have slower manufacture times, due to the reduced availability of labour, other ongoing delays in the supply chain and reduced shipping capacity, with shipping lines cancelling sailings.

Already contending with tariffs, which has made using Chinese printers more costly, David Graham, m.d. of Pavillion, said the situation has made its scramble to find printers outside of the country even more pressing.

“Since the imposition of import tariffs by the US we have been seeking new places to print anyway,” he said. “The spread of the coronavirus and the impact this has had on book production has accelerated this activity.”

Last week academic publishers with operations in China revealed they are curtailing some activities in the country in wake of the coronavirus. Springer Nature said it had postponed some planned conferences in affected regions “until the situation is better understood” while Pearson said it is providing free online learning resources to customers in China and Hong Kong for the duration of the school suspension period as its exam delivery operations were temporarily suspended. A large number, including Taylor & Francis, CUP, Elsevier, Emerald Publishing, The Lancet, OUP, Springer Nature and Wiley, pledged all research findings on the virus would be made freely available for at least the duration of the outbreak.

The World Health Organization upgraded the coronavirus’ status to a public health emergency on 30th January, and it is only the sixth such emergency since 2009. Worldwide there have been 60,387 cases to date (as of 13th Feburary); there have been 1,369 deaths while so far 6,079 people have been discharged or have recovered.

The Book People collapsed owing £21.1m to creditors

The Book People went into administration with an estimated total shortfall in assets of £30m, and owing £21.1m to companies including HarperCollins, Macmillan Distribution and Penguin Random House, a Companies House report shows.

The company, which employed 393 people and was owned by private equity firm Endless, went into administration in December, partly blaming a “difficult trading environment”. No buyer was found, and 155 staff members were made redundant last month.

A statement of affairs by the administrator, dated 16th December but posted on Companies House this month, shows the firm had estimated debts of £21.1m secured by floating charges. It owed an estimated further £21.1m to a huge roster of unsecured creditors, with just £600,000 likely to be available to them, the report shows. The total estimated creditor position is £46.9m, not including funds owed to shareholders, PricewaterhouseCoopers said.

According to the document, The Book People owed the most to what it called “the Penguin Group”, understood to include PRH, DK and its third-party clients at the firm’s Grantham distribution site, owing a sum of £2.1m.

Macmillan Distribution was also owed £1.8m, with another £553,266 in arrears to HarperCollins distribution, £404,277 to Usborne and £313,427 to OUP, according to the report.

Other creditors listed include a string of indies, with money owed ranging from a few hundred pounds to, in the case of children’s publisher Make Believe Ideas, a mammoth £287,285.

The list also includes Galley Beggar Press, which launched a crowdfunder last year to cover a £40,000 hole left in its finances, alongside names such as Miles Kelly Publishing, which was owed £54,500, and Imagine That, due £70,615.

Steve Munnings, sales director for Imagine That, told The Bookseller: “The Book People has been a great supporter of Imagine That. It’s been very sad to read of the issues surrounding its closure and to see so many familiar faces leave. We wish everyone well in their future endeavours.”

Bertram was also owed £944,068, with a further £296,364 for Gardners, the document states.

Nigel Wyman, head business development for Gardners, said the true figure was somewhat smaller than the administrator reported, but added: “This a sad day for all involved as the sums are significant for the book industry as a whole.”

The report shows the administrator is hoping to raise £16m, from assets including The Book People’s Parc Menai warehouse in Bangor, and outstanding stock.

PricewaterhouseCoopers said The Book People was still undergoing a managed wind-down process, but was continuing to trade through e-commerce to realise the value of its stock. The intention is to fulfil and deliver all customer orders received and accepted, while any remaining interest is explored, it added.

“There is currently no fixed final date for trading, but we anticipate this may continue through to Easter,” the firm said.

Toby Underwood, restructuring partner for PwC, commented: “This is a very hard time for everybody associated with this much-loved and long-established brand, especially in light of the strong initial interest we received from potential acquirers for the trading business. Unfortunately, despite best efforts, it has not been possible to secure a sale. Our focus will be on supporting employees over the coming months, and on achieving best value for creditors with minimal disruption during the trading period.”