Week 51/21 – week ending 17 December

Parents prefer to read old classics to children ahead of new fiction

The Oxford University Press survey gathered the views of 4,000 parents across the UK, Australia, Hong Kong and China.

When asked what their favourite book or author was to read to their child, parents overwhelmingly named Roald Dahl as their top pick, 60 years after James and the Giant Peach was first published. Classic stories from Enid Blyton, Astrid Lingren’s Pippi Longstocking and Beatrix Potter also proved popular. Other favourites included Julia Donaldson, Michael Morpurgo, and Valerie Thomas and Korky Paul’s Winnie the Witch.

The research also ‘revealed the power of reading in helping young people to make sense of the world around them,’ according to OUP. Two-thirds of parents see reading to their child as an opportunity to discuss difficult or sensitive topics with them (64%) and look for books that teach their child about wider society or have a meaningful message at their heart (66%).

However, almost four in 10 (37%) parents said that they did not know how to find out what the latest books are, and almost half (47%) prefer to re-read books to their child, rather than look for something new. Six in 10 (56%) said their children preferred them to revisit the same books at story time, and half (48%) of those whose children read independently said their children prefer to re-read books to themselves.

Drawing on the insights from the research, OUP is calling on parents ‘to broaden the types of books they turn to at story time to prompt questions and build greater understanding of global issues. The publisher’s Oxford Language Report: Bridging the Word Gap in Transition, revealed that 92 per cent of teachers believed that the ‘word gap’ – where a child’s vocabulary is below expectations for their age – had widened because of COVID-related school closures. It also highlighted the value of talking about books and encouraging discussion in addressing the issue. Many parents surveyed supported this, with 61% saying they talk to their child about books outside of reading time.’

Nigel Portwood, ceo of Oxford University Press, said: “We all recognize the importance of reading and the positive impact it can have on a child during key development years. It provides an opportunity to bond with family, while also opening people’s eyes to new worlds and ideas. It is wonderful that family favourites continue to be loved and enjoyed by parents and children alike.

“However, reading is also a valuable tool for helping young people to understand current and future societal issues. It’s clear that more must be done to support parents in accessing materials for reading at home—including helping them to identify new titles that they can read alongside family favourites—to ensure that all children experience the benefits that reading has to offer.”

Other key insights from the research include that the top three reasons parents cited for reading to their child were building a love for learning and reading, improving literacy and vocabulary, and developing communication skills.

Three-quarters of parents said that reading to their child helps them to bond and connect, and 51% wish they had more time to read to their child.

One in five (21%) never read to their child outside of school, compared with just 2 per cent of Chinese parents, with two in six (15%) saying they don’t have time and a third (32%) worrying about their own reading abilities.
A lack of sufficient support materials for reading at home (10%) and not having access to books (7%) were reasons that they don’t read to their child.

69% of parents cited that their child talks to them about the books they are reading independently.

The number of parents reading to their children drops off around aged 10, with almost half (46%) of 4–6-year-olds being read to every day compared with just one in five (20%) 10–12-year-olds.

Amazon unveils 2021 bestsellers

Amazon.co.uk has revealed its bestselling and most read books of 2021, along with its Best Books of the Year longlist curated by Amazon editorial staff. The lists are:

Top Ten Most Sold (Fiction)
1. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
2. Harry Potter Children’s Collection: The Complete Collection by J. K Rowling
3. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
4. Hamnet by Maggie O’Farrell
5. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
6. The Missing Sister by Lucinda Riley
7. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
8. Better off Dead by Lee Child
9. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
10. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Top Ten Most Sold (Non-Fiction)
1. Pinch of Nom Quick & Easy: 100 Delicious, Slimming Recipes by Kay Featherstone
2. Tap to Tidy: Organising, Crafting & Creating Happiness in a Messy World by Stacey Solomon
3. Jane’s Patisserie: Deliciously customisable cakes, bakes and treats by Jane Dunn
4. Pinch of Nom: 100 Slimming, Home-style Recipes by Kay Featherstone & Kate Allinson
5. Pinch of Nom Everyday Light: 100 Tasty, Slimming Recipes All Under 400 Calories by Kay Featherstone
6. Good Vibes, Good Life: How Self-Love Is the Key to Unlocking Your Greatness by Vex King
7. Atomic Habits by James Clear
8. And Away… by Bob Mortimer
9. The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl
10. The Fast 800 Easy: Quick and simple recipes to make your 800-calorie days even easier by Dr Clare Bailey

Top Ten Most Read 
1. The Midnight Library by Matt Haig
2. The Thursday Murder Club by Richard Osman
3. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens
4. Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
5. American Dirt by Jeanine Cummins
6. The Beekeeper of Aleppo by Christy Lefteri
7. Shuggie Bain by Douglas Stuart
8. The Vanishing Half by Brit Bennett
9. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
10. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney

Amazon’s Best Books of the Year
1. Klara and the Sun by Kazuo Ishiguro
2. Taste by Stanley Tucci
3. Detransition Baby by Torrey Peters
4. The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot by Marianne Cronin
5. The Appeal by Janice Hallett
6. First Person Singular by Haruki Murakami
7. The Comfort Book by Matt Haig
8. Beautiful World, Where Are You by Sally Rooney
9. A Cook’s Book: The Essential Nigel Slater by Nigel Slater
10. An Island by Karen Jennings

Lisa de Meyer, UK books country manager at Amazon, said: “We’ve been lucky to have a breathtaking array of brilliant books to choose from while we’ve been in and out of lockdown over the past year and the British public have shown they have wide ranging tastes from crime to cookery and romance to real life stories. And with our own ‘Best Books of the Year’ list, we’re delighted to shine a light on debut novels such as The One Hundred Years of Lenni and Margot as well as new releases from literary giants like Kazuo Ishiguro and Haruki Murakami.”

The Most Sold charts rank books according to the number of copies sold and pre-ordered while the Most Read charts rank titles by the average number of daily Kindle readers and Audible listeners each week.

LoveReading LitFest opens its virtual doors to all

LoveReading LitFest has announced it is moving away from its members-only subscription business model to become free-to-view, with content available to everyone. This aims to give as many adults and children as possible the opportunity to watch the festival’s line-up of authors and to encourage them to read for pleasure.

The digitally native festival launched in March 2021, with a programming ethos that focuses on debuts, works in translation and kids/YA books and authors, alongside bestselling authors and prize-winning books. Authors who have already appeared include Karin Slaughter, Jack Meggitt-Phillips, Kate Mosse, Rev Richard Coles, Simone Buchholz, Rashmi Sirdeshpande, Christina Sweeney-Baird, Defne Suman and Simon Scarrow, and their events will now be available free of charge.

Md Deborah Maclaren said: “We feel that now is the perfect time to open our doors wider, to be even more accessible to readers everywhere, especially to children and to schools. One of our key points of focus at the start of 2022 will be our ‘Reading For Pleasure’ project, and we will be working very closely with schools in the UK to provide them with a dedicated programme of literacy events and initiatives to help all teachers deliver this vital policy work. The best and simplest way to do this is to remove our paywall and offer all that we do, for free, to everyone.”

Director Paul Blezard said: “We are so very grateful to our members, subscribers and the whole publishing community for their support and encouragement over the past 40 weeks. We hope that this will be a welcome Christmas present to all readers and everyone who loves books, a little treat of festival sparkle to brighten the dark evenings. We look forward to warmly welcoming everyone to the LoveReading LitFest.”

In September the festival launched its Reading Ambassadors initiative, a series that sees children given the chance to read and review a recently published book before speaking to the author directly about it, for release on the festival website. The festival will continue to produce and release two new events every week, alongside its Festival Favourites series.

Salaries falling in publishing

The survey, thought to be the largest in British publishing with just over 900 respondents, is conducted by Suzanne Collier and has been undertaken since 2004.

The average overall salary of all full-time respondents earning between £18,000 and £90,000 was £34,049 – up 6% on 2017’s £32,228 – but that figure excludes the impact of inflation.  Using the official Bank of England inflation figures, 2017’s figure of £32,228 was worth in real terms £34,671 in 2020. That is with inflation averaging 2.5% annually between 2017 and 2020, and that does not take into account the increased rate of inflation in 2021, which is now topping 5%.

The position for new entrants to the business was slightly more encouraging, The average starting salary was £22,788, up 11% from £20,470 in 2017, or, in real terms, £22,022. New entrants are defined as those who are 19-23 years old, who have been in the industry for less than a year and in their current job for less than a year.

The average salary for 24-26 year olds was £25,886 this year, compared to £23,873 in 2017, so up marginally from 2017’s inflation adjusted figure of £25,683.

The average salary for 27-30 year olds was £30,205, compared to £29,770 in 2017, down sharply from 2017’s inflation adjusted figure of £32,027.

The average salary for 31-35 year olds was £36,595 this year, up from £34,879 in 2017 – but down again from 2017’s inflation adjusted figure of £39,369.

The pattern continues for the higher age groups. The average salary of a 36-51 year old this year was £47,481 – up a shade from 2017’s figure of £46,334. But factor in inflation, and 2017’s figure is actually worth £49,847.    

The decline is starkest for the oldest category, of 51+. Their salary of £42,926 this year was already down from 2017’s headline figure of £47,890. But factor in inflation, and 2017’s figure is actually worth £51,521, nearly £10,000 less than they were getting four years ago.  

In terms of methodogy, respondents completed an online form between June and July 2021. The form was advertised to all those registered with bookcareers.com and the link circulated widely through all trade associations and across social media: a total of 912 valid responses were received.

The survey programme, which dates back to 2004, shows the gradually declining number of men in publishing. For this year’s survey, 87.3% of respondents were female and 10.6% were male (1.2% identified as Non-Binary and 0.8% were Other or Preferred not to say). In 2017 84.6% of respondents were female, 15.2% were male; in 2013 81.8% of respondents were female, 18.2% were male; in 2008 82.9% of respondents were female, 17.1% were male; and in 2004, 78% of respondents were female and 22% were male.

Although men are outnumbered, they remain better paid, with a current gender pay gap of 15%, almost static from 2017 when the pay gap was 15.7%. The average woman in publishing this year is paid £33,470; the average man £38,707.

According to bookcareers.com: ‘The survey results indicate that the gender pay gap is occurring because the majority of men tend to be employed in management or senior roles, and the majority of women appear to be in lower roles, which are paying less.  Where men and women are performing equal roles, the gender pay gap is negligible, and in some cases women are getting paid more than their male counterparts.’

The racial mix of publishing is also changing: 89.5% of all respondents classed themselves as White this year, compared to 90.4% of all respondents in 2017. In 2013, 93.7% of all respondents classed themselves as White. In 2008, where we first started collecting diversity data, the percentage of White was 90.7%, so 2021 marginally gives the most diverse figure yet.

In terms of job titles, the average Editorial Assistant is paid £23,385; Literary Agents Assistant/Agents Assistan, £27,431; Senior Commissioning Editors £38,814; Marketing Executives £26,849; Publicity Executives £25,643; Marketing Managers £32,480; Production Managers £39,233; and Publishers £48,330. Pay for Publishers has fallen sharply, down from £54, 643 in 2017 – excluding inflation.

Suzanne Collier of bookcareers.com (pictured) said: “Publishers have learned nothing in the 25 years I have been publishing this data – Respondents are overworked, underpaid, stressed and disillusioned. Publishing needs a substantial pay rise. If we want to improved inclusivity, entry level staff who have responsibilities need to be paid a minimum of £28,000 and those who are still here after 4 years and moving up in their career should not be paid less than £35,000.”

A few comments from repondents were included. “I deliberated a long time on the question about whether or not I’d recommend a job in publishing to someone not in the industry. Whilst I enjoy working in publishing and love my current role, the salary in our industry is low compared to the skills required, amount of work we put in and money our businesses make.”

“Overall the low salaries for assistants are concerning to me, as I don’t think I could do the amount of work I currently do for less money. I think if publishers are serious about diversifying their workforces (and including older employees and people changing careers) and retaining employees, an urgent revision of entry level salaries is needed across the board.”

“I’m so tired of the pervasive attitude in publishing of this is how it’s always been so therefore it must be like that for you. It’s not a legitimate argument for not paying people what they deserve. Inflation has gone WAY up since my colleagues – who are much older than me – started in publishing yet I started on a salary that was maybe £4k more than their starting salaries.”

All statistics are taken from the bookcareers.com Salary Survey 2021. The full report is available at www.bookcareers.com/bookcareers-com-salary-survey-full-report/

For Dummies celebrates its 30th anniversary

The For Dummies book series, published by Wiley with the tagline ‘Learning Made Easy’, is celebrating its 30th anniversary. The series is written by experts, and aims to take a ‘not-so serious approach to serious stuff’, making complex concepts easy to understand.

Matt Leavy, Wiley executive vp and general manager of academic and professional learning, said: “The For Dummies brand has been so successful because it has made complex and challenging topics approachable. We’ve all had topics or skills where we’ve felt overwhelmed in the learning process, and Dummies has helped us feel less intimidated, with a little fun, levity, and learning along the way.”

The first For Dummies title, DOS For Dummies, was published in November 1991, and was followed by the publication of PCs For Dummies and Macs For Dummies in July 1992. Wordperfect For Dummies, Windows For Dummies, and Excel For Dummies followed later that year, with 30 new titles in 1993 and a further 80 in 1994. Although the initial books dealt with computer-related skills, the series branched out – the first non-tech related title was Personal Finance For Dummies in March 1994. More than 6000 books in the series have been published since the first in 1991.

Editions of Windows For Dummies were the top-sellers in the first decades, but in recent years study and investing topics have been the most popular: Anatomy and Physiology For Dummies, Cryptocurrency Investing For Dummies and British Sign Language For Dummies were the top three bestsellers in the UK in 2021. Sales of the books often reflect cultural events – the sign language title sales have soared with the popularity of Rose Ayling-Ellis on Strictly Come Dancing, and Chess For Dummies surged in 2020 when The Queen’s Gambit was release on Netflix.

Wiley recently debuted a redesigned Dummies website, and new titles continue to be produced, including NFTs For Dummies, First Ladies For Dummies, Algebra All-in-One For Dummies, and Windows 11 For Dummies.

Leavy said: “We have to constantly keep up with what’s happening and expand our offerings into new topics and skill areas. In recent years, we’ve seen topics such as cryptocurrency and blockchain emerge. There’s no telling what’s on the horizon, but our For Dummies content will be there to help us all better understand it.”