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With fewer debut novels selling, what do editors want to tell authors?

In a tightening market for fiction and especially for debut authors looking for that big break, editors can be choosier—and many are more dependent than ever on literary agents to find their next debuts.

A room filled with aspiring writers awaited three editors and a debut author last week at London Book Fair’s session “Why We Commissioned These Debuts.” Speakers included:

  • Penguin Random House UK editor Jade Chandler, who handles crime and thrillers for Harvill Secker and Vintage
  • Nick Wells, the founding publisher at independent house Flame Tree Publishing, which is to launch an imprint for horror, crime, and science fiction/fantasy in September
  • HarperCollins UK editorial director Martha Ashby
  • HarperCollins author Sarah J. Harris was on hand to provide the debut writer’s viewpoint

Harris is also published in the States by Simon & Schuster, and she’s written three YA novels under a pseudonym.  And she described the comparatively dreamy experience she had in entering the market with The Color of Bee Larkham’s Murder.

Having spent nine months writing the book, she said she researched agents and picked out the ones she thought would suit her best. Among them was Jemima Forrester who was starting a new list at David Higham’s agency.

Harris wrote a cover letter, targeted her agents’ list, met Forrester first and signed with her.  Once the book was edited, Harris said, Forrester submitted it and the manuscript drew overnight interest from publishers.

Within less than a week, HarperCollins made a bid, which Harris said she knows is unusually fast action.

From an editor’s viewpoint, Harvill Secker’s Chandler said that in a pre-empt, a publisher may “offer quite a lot to the agent because you want the book” to be taken off the table.

“But sometimes the agent will have it go to auction. I’ve pre-empted two books this year,” Chandler said, “and it usually involves reading the book overnight. It’s very dramatic and exciting and involves sleepless nights.”

Chandler said that like most editors, she finds authors through literary agents who filter submissions. “It’s quite an old fashioned process,” she said, “but in reality, I’m just one woman and I can only read so much.” Not surprisingly, she said that good relationships with agents become important if an editor is to find the best material.

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Abu Dhabi International Book Fair features 25 translations from French, English, and German

Running from April 25 through May 1, the 28th edition of the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair will host 1,350 exhibitors from 63 countries in 35,000 square meters of space at the emirate’s National Exhibition Center.

Held under the patronage of the United Arab Emirates’ Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nayan, the fair this year is expected to showcase more than half a million titles in some 35 languages and more than 830 seminars, workshops and other events, some of them as part of a professional program for international industry players.

The Kalima Project for Translation, which is handled by the Abu Dhabi Tourism & Culture Authority, will present 25 new translations into Arabic from French, English, and German, while Poland will be featured as Country of Honor.

And at a news conference held this week at the Manarat Al Saadiyat, it was announced that visitors to the fair for the first time will be offered an electronic card they can use to charge purchases of books without needing to bring cash with them to the book fair.

And among those who were featured at the news conference, there were several in the leadership who spoke to the occasion.

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London Book Fair 2018: Meet the world’s first #1 bestselling ‘Blockchain’ author

History was made at the 2018 London Book Fair—at a Tuesday afternoon session, Josef Marc, CEO of upstart blockchain publisher Publica, announced that the company had just gone live in the Google Play Store with author Sukhi Jutla’s Escape The Cubicle: Quit The Job You Hate—in effect, Marc said, creating the world’s first #1 title on the “blockchain bestseller” list.

Of course, there isn’t really a blockchain bestseller list—at least not yet. But the burgeoning technology—best known in the finance industry for powering cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin—holds promise for publishing, supporters say. And at a panel packed with curious authors and publishers at the 2018 London Book Fair, The Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) handed out its just-released white paper “Authors and the Blockchain: Towards a Creator Centered Business Model,” and heard from a panel of experts and early adopters.

For many in the audience, the most obvious questions was: what exactly is blockchain? Essentially, as the ALLi white paper explains, the blockchain is a public ledger system that enables people to transfer “unique pieces of digital property,” known as blocks, in a way that is totally secure, transparent, time-stamped, decentralized and irreversible. Essentially, all necessary details are coded into the blocks, and once accepted, the blocks become an unalterable part of the blockchain.

So how would blockchain work for books? Basically, a digital book created in the blockchain holds both the text, and also all the terms of a book’s contract—referred to as a “smart contract”—including but not limited to commercial terms of sale (and even resale), author credit and other information.

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