Week 37/20 – week ending 11 September

ITV News to publish coronavirus reportage

ITV News is to publish on 1 October Reporting Coronavirus: Personal Reflections on a Global Crisis (£18.99 hb and ebook). The book will include 59 essays by 56 ITV News journalists.

The reports in the book will come from hotspots including Wuhan in China, care homes and intensive care units in Britain, and corridors of power in London and Washington.

Michael Jermey, director of news & current affairs ITV, said: “All the journalists who worked on the story in the first half of 2020 will never forget the experience. The story of the pandemic clearly has a long way to run and the lessons we need to learn continue to emerge. This book is not intended as a final word nor even a first draft of history, but rather it is the personal reflections of journalists who witnessed a lot, shared it with viewers and now in a series of essays tell the inside story of how reporting coronavirus unfolded over six extraordinary months.”

Quick Reads 2020 jackets revealed

Publication moved from February to May




The Reading Agency has unveiled the jackets for the next instalment of Quick Reads, its programme of short titles for less confident readers. The titles (£1 each) are written by Oyinkan Braithwaite, Louise Candlish, Katie Fforde, Peter James, Caitlin Moran and Khurrum Rahman.

The launch date has moved from February to May, when there is a greater chance that lockdown restrictions will have eased.

Quick Reads was launched in 2006, and has distributed more than 5 million books. They are aimed at the one in six UK adults who find reading difficult and the one in three who do not regularly read for pleasure. Publication is supported by outreach work with libraries, further education colleges, prisons and trade unions.

The programme is supported by author Jojo Moyes, who in 2018 stepped in with funding for three years after the Reading Agency had announced that financial support had run out.

Fanny Blake, Quick Reads commissioning editor and a former Quick Reads author, said: “We are extremely proud to share the fabulous jackets for Quick Reads 2021. We could not be more grateful to the authors and publishers for their support of this invaluable programme. As we look forward to this next exceptional instalment of Quick Reads titles, it is easy to forget that without the generous gift of three years’ financial support from Jojo Moyes, Quick Reads would not have been relaunched,  next year’s titles would not exist, and thousands of readers would not have picked up a copy of these life-changing books. It’s crucial that we find a way of ensuring that Quick Reads are here to stay. They provide entertaining, compelling, first-class storytelling that changes lives through reading.”

Bookshop.org comes to Britain

Bookshop (www.Bookshop.org) is a new online platform and affiliate network which provides ‘socially conscious’ consumers with an easy way to financially support independent bookshops when shopping online.

The platform launched in January in the States and has now raised over $6.5m for indie bookshops, with almost 900 bookstores signed up and over 9,000 affiliates using the platform so far.

Bookshop has brought forward its UK launch plans to support British independent bookshops in light of the additional pressures created by the pandemic. It launches to the trade today, and consumers in November.

Bookshop founder and ceo, Andy Hunter, said: “Bookshops are essential to a healthy culture, and online sales are vital to safeguarding their future. COVID-19 has added further urgency to the need for bookshops to compete for online sales.

“Bookshop’s mission is to support local, brick and mortar bookstores and preserve them as vital parts of our communities, giving them a simple, free, easy-to-use platform to serve their customers online, and providing financial support with our profit-sharing affiliate programme.”

Nicole Vanderbilt, UK managing director at Bookshop, and formerly international VP at Etsy, said: “At a time when Amazon has enjoyed even greater advantage over high street competitors as a result of the pandemic, Bookshop offers a socially conscious alternative to consumers wishing to shop online, while supporting bookshops in competing in an ecommerce environment. We’re delighted to be launching in the UK and look forward to working with bookshops, publishers, authors, and beyond across the UK.”

Bookshop highlights recommendations from real booksellers and book experts, as opposed to an algorithm, creating more opportunities for readers to discover books, and booksellers to share their expertise.

Bookshop provides booksellers with two revenue streams: 30% commission earned on any sale that comes through the store’s links, book lists or shop page, and a 10% cut on all other sales on the platform. The platform features a simple user interface that requires no coding, no financial investment and no more than 30 minutes for a bookshop to set up their store. All packaging and distribution is managed by Bookshop’s wholesaler Gardners, with books delivered direct to customers.

Bookshops can create their own online shop profile, and share recommended book lists for customers to browse. Customers can locate nearby bookstores to support via a simple map-based interface.

Meryl Halls, md at the BA, said: “We’ve been watching the success of Bookshop.org in the US with great interest since seeing it presented at the American BA Winter Institute in January, and we’ve been following progress closely with our US colleagues at the American BA and Bookshop.org.

“We’ve seen Bookshop.org emerge as an innovative partner for US indie booksellers, and its mission to support and empower bookshops online is ever-more important in the UK – especially now, as the high street rebuilds, consumers tentatively return to shops, and retailers need to continue to offer a hybrid model to their customers. This new world that UK independent booksellers need to operate in requires a new model, and we know that Bookshop.org has proven to be that for US indie booksellers.

“A high profile alternative to Amazon in the lead up to Christmas can only help high street independents achieve increased cut-through online with Amazon-averse consumers, authors and others who want to support their local high streets and shop independently.”

Bookshop also offers an online affiliate network to publishers, authors, media companies, magazines, bloggers, social media influencers and others in the book community who generate interest in and sales of books online.

Affiliates will earn a 10% commission on sales they generate, and a matching 10% will go to a profit-sharing pool to be split among indie bookshops who sign up to Bookshop.org, regardless of whether they use Bookshop as an online selling platform or not.

Bookshop.org is a public B Corporation, and was ‘created with a mission to benefit the public good by contributing to the welfare of the independent literary community.’ It is written into Bookshop’s bylaws that it can never be sold to a major US retailer, including Amazon.

Apart from Vanderbilt, the UK team also includes Foyles’ former head of buying, Jasper Sutcliffe, who is appointed publisher and affiliate manager, and former bookseller and previous owner of Mostly Books, Mark Thornton, as bookshop partnership manager. Booksellers are invited to contact Mark Thornton at mark.thornton@bookshop.org, while Jasper Sutcliffe will be the point of contact for publishers and affiliates at jasper.sutcliffe@bookshop.org.

Hunter co-founded Electric Literature in 2009, Catapult press in 2014, and Literary Hub in 2015. He currently serves as publisher of Literary Hub, Catapult, Counterpoint, and Soft Skull Press, in addition to being ceo of Bookshop.org.

In the US, the arrival of Bookshop.org has provoked mixed feelings: broadly welcomed by many indies as an answer to Amazon, but regarded as an unwanted competitor by some others. The role of the American Booksellers Association in promoting Bookstore, and then later revealing that it held a 4% stake in the operation, has also raised questions in Publishers Weekly. https://www.publishersweekly.com/pw/by-topic/industry-news/bookselling/article/84071-aba-deal-with-bookshop-draws-booksellers-scrutiny.html

Book market bounces back

The number of books published each month during 2020 has tended to track somewhat below 2019 figures (particularly in April and May), according to Nielsen BookData, but by August was back up to the same level as last year.

Despite the hype surrounding the numbers of titles published on 3 September – so-called mini Super-Thursday – the data for the rest of the year can’t yet confirm if the number of books to be published this autumn will be up significantly on last year.

However, figures for the real Super Thursday, 1 October, reveal that 1,742 new titles are due to be published on that day, 752 hardbacks and 990 paperbacks.  This compares to 1,194 books published on last year’s Super Thursday (3 October), 503 hardbacks and 691 paperbacks.

According to Nielsen BookScan, since the middle of June the book market week on week has generally been performing well ahead of 2019, with a nice boost both in the week lockdown was eased and in the last week, which benefited from the mini-Super Thursday. Since end of lockdown (15 June) the value of sales per week averages out at £29.5m, compared to £26.8m per week in 2019.

The categories that have performed least well so far this year, perhaps not surprisingly, have tended to be travel and holiday related (maps, travel guides, atlases), with the arts and entertainment categories – exhibition tie-ins, plays etc – also having a difficult time.

Sales of children’s picture books – a category for which high street retailers have always been important – were badly hit during lockdown, but have seen a strong resurgence since the beginning of June, when purchases of children’s activity and learning books (initially very strong in lockdown) began to tail off.

Another category that has been doing well is current affairs, led in particular by Reni Eddo-Lodge’s Why I’m No Longer talking to White People About Race. Of the eight titles appearing at the top of a weekly bestseller list since week 25 (15 June), four are non-fiction (Why I’m No Longer…, Skincare by Caroline Hirons, Finding Freedom by Omar Scobie, Jamie Oliver’s 7 Ways), two are adult fiction (The Giver of Stars by JoJo Moyes, The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman) and one is YA (Midnight Sun by Stephenie Meyer), with David Walliams’s The World’s Worst Parents topping the charts for four weeks running.

Nielsen’s Books & Consumers’ data from April and May this year (which measures purchases of new books from all sources) shows clearly the switch in consumer purchasing, with a big shift to buying in print online or in digital formats (both ebook and audio). The data indicate an increase in market share for online print purchases of 15% points in volume (19% points in value), and for digital purchases of 10% points in volume (though only 5% points in value).

Overall, however, the number of book purchased in April and May was very similar to the same period last year, but with the significant shift to buying (generally cheaper) digital formats and print books online, overall spending was down 5% on 2019.

This switch to digital was seen in both adult fiction and non-fiction categories, with the latter seeing its ebook share increasing from 14% to 22%, and with a 3% point increase in audio too. Children’s books remained primarily physical purchases, albeit moving online, with this channel increasing its market share of the category from 31% to 60% over the two month period.

An interesting development has seen an increase in older consumers switching to digital formats, particularly audio (a format which had previously been mainly bought by younger consumers), with consumers aged 35-54 and, in particular, 13-34, tending to switch their print purchasing to online channels with the closure of physical bookshops.

Another impact of the shutting of bookshops has been, of course, a drop in book discovery via browsing in person or seeing something in a shop window, with a commensurate rise in relying on online browsing/searching, and an increased reliance on pre-knowledge of an author, something that can only be bad news for all the debut authors who were published during lockdown.

A brief look at how some overseas markets tracked by BookScan have performed this year shows very starkly the impact of the different approaches to lockdown.  Both Italy and Spain, at the centre of the European Covid crisis and with full lockdowns imposed for almost two months, experienced very significant drops (up to 80%) in the volume of books sold during that period.

In both markets the independent bookselling sector is of great importance, accounting for up to 50% of sales.  With shops closed and older consumers, who are particularly likely to shop on the high street, confined to their homes, the retail sector has had a difficult time, although markets are now recovering with weekly sales back to near normal.  But as with the UK market, online retailers have seen an increase in sales during the period, with digital formats of books – ebooks and audio – also seeing gains.

The Australian and New Zealand markets have experienced a smaller impact from the Covid crisis, with later lockdowns in both countries allowing some time for preparation.  The Australian market in particular shows a distinct pre-lockdown spike as people stocked up on books (mainly children’s and fiction), and with some strong promotional offers and early release of big local titles giving the market a real boost in numbers as restrictions eased, albeit at the expense of turnover.

The Brazilian market, struggling already, saw a drop of around 60% in sales during lockdown, and has since seen a much more gradual recovery than other markets, while the Indian book market had no book sales at all for a critical seven week period at the height of the crisis, with a government ban on all retailing, both physical and online.

PRH and BBC Audio extend relationship

Penguin Random House UK has extended its licensing agreement with BBC Studios, building on their relationship established in 2015 to become the global publisher and distributor of BBC digital and physical audiobooks. BBC Audio is to increase its non-fiction offering and expand on its drama and comedy publishing, which includes the upcoming Beethoven Unleashed series and a number of ‘definitive author-led collections with all-star casts’.

Two new commissioning editors have been appointed: Philip Connor, commissioning editor (factual) has commissioned non-fiction series at Unbound for five years and hosts the podcast What Editors Want. Louise Bland is the new commissioning editor (comedy and drama), and has worked as a voice agent for Sue Terry Voices and as a casting director and producer at Audible.

Hannah Telfer, md of audiences and audio at Penguin Random House, said: “We are delighted to continue our partnership with BBC Studios and work with them to grow their much-loved flagship brands even further and build new audio talent. This is a growing area of the publishing industry and the BBC has such a rich catalogue of existing and developing audio collections. At Penguin Random House we are committed to fostering this growth and publishing many more audio bestsellers.”

Jan Paterson, head of books and audio publishing at BBC Studios, said: “BBC Studios has enjoyed a fruitful relationship with Penguin Random House since 2015 and I’m delighted we are extending our partnership with them. The audiobook market is thriving, and this agreement means we can further enrich our offering to listeners with access to even more BBC titles and brands.”