• The Publishing Post

Publishing News: Issue 16

Bernardine Evaristo to mentor emerging authors of colour as part of a £300,000 Sky Arts project


Critically acclaimed author, Bernardine Evaristo, winner of the 2019 Booker Prize for her novel Girl, Woman, Other, is collaborating with the Royal Society of Literature on a mentoring award scheme for emerging authors of colour.


The scheme is part of a £300,000 Sky Arts project, running with five ambassadors each given £30,000 per year over a two-year period to create a bursary scheme. The nature of Evaristo’s scheme is to support new and emerging talent amongst authors of colour.


The Royal Society of Literature has announced that fellows Colin Grant, Tanika Gupta, Irenosen Okojie, Pascale Petit and Roy Williams will also be hosting mentoring schemes. These schemes will cover non-fiction, fiction, screenwriting, playwriting and poetry.


Evaristo has said she that will use her share of the grant to create the Sky Arts RSL Writers Awards. This award will be open to emerging writers of colour across a broad range of literary forms. The five winners will receive ten mentoring sessions over a year, a personal tutorial with Evaristo and the opportunity to showcase their work at a prestigious literary venue.


Evaristo stated: ‘It’s essential to create new initiatives to help make our culture more inclusive for those from under-represented and marginalised communities. I’m looking forward to discovering and mentoring the next generation of talented writers through this wonderful Sky Arts and RSL programme’.


Phil Edgar-Jones, director of Sky Arts and Entertainment, emphasised the importance of encouraging new talent during the COVID-19 pandemic. In a statement, he said: ‘In 2021, as we search for a way out of the pandemic, we are turning our attention to the cultural recovery and, in particular, the difficulties facing the next generation of young arts practitioners’.


The announcement of this new set of mentoring programmes, which have the backing of high-profile writers such as Evaristo, will come as welcome news to those fledging writers concerned about the effects of the pandemic and its resulting economic damage on the industry. This programme serves as a positive signal of the publishing industry’s dedication to supporting emerging and under-represented writers.


The deadline for submissions is Friday 30 April 2021, and all applications can be submitted via the RSL Literature website.


These awards hope to encourage and support the next generation of writers, whilst also aiming to diversify the industry, in turn making it more inclusive.


Amanda Gorman's One Million Print-Run Demand


An inauguration watched by the entire world with bated breath. The end of Trump’s era. And the beginning of Amanda Gorman’s steep rise to popularity.


The US’s first Youth Poet Laurette wowed the nation and the world with her plea for unity in her poem The Hill We Climb. Lines like “We learned that quiet isn't always peace, and the norms and notions of what 'just is' isn't always justice” brought the 22-year old poet unprecedented support from a wealth of celebrities.


Oprah Winfrey compared the young woman to Maya Angelou. With the news that she will recite a poem before the LV Superbowl, highlighting three individuals the NFL will honour as honorary captains at the Super Bowl "who served as leaders in their respective communities during the global pandemic”, Reese Witherspoon tweeted her support.


Gorman’s popularity spreads further still than politics and sport and has seen her top the Amazon charts just minutes after taking to the stage. The inauguration special of The Hill We Climb: An Inaugural Poem for the Country ranked 4th on Amazon’s Top 100 bestseller list on January 28. Her debut collection The Hill we Climb and Other Poems reached 2nd on Amazon’s Top 100, and Change Sings hit gold, claiming the number one spot. Both of these titles will be published in the US on September 21.


A special inauguration edition of The Hill We Climb will be accompanied by a forward from Oprah Winfrey and is due out on March 16 2021 by Penguin Young Readers. A date that has been brought forward by over a month.


CNN reported that her publisher will be printing one million copies of each of her titles to meet the demand. Numbers that poets barely allow themselves to dream of.


Jennifer Benka, President and Executive Director of the Academy of American Poets, has commented on the incredible attention that Gorman has brought to the genre: “The incredible attention Amanda is receiving as a poet is entirely unprecedented. Her poem and presentation has provoked a response to a poet we’ve never seen.” Their website saw a leap in traffic the day of the inauguration.


Gorman has now been signed with IMG Models agency, home to Gigi and Bella Hadid. Madeline McIntosh, Chief Executive Officer of Penguin Random House US said in an interview “she is going to be a cultural force for a long time”.


With her six-figure print run, modelling contract, and celebrity supporters, has Amanda Gorman brought poetry to 2021’s popular culture?



Paper Beach: How Egmont and Other Publishers Have Been Supporting Education During Lockdown

Since the pandemic began, there have been grave concerns over the impact school closures have had on children’s learning and development. The impact is most significant among younger children who can’t sit independently through a Zoom class and need more support from their parents. Reading is an essential life skill and, as such, one of the most important things children are taught in school, and some feared that many children’s progress in this area would be at risk – particularly where busy working parents were expected to take up more responsibility for their child’s education.


Unsurprisingly, research by Teach First in November 2020 revealed that the poorest schoolchildren were suffering the most from a lack of access to resources. In the Oxford Language Report, 92% of teachers felt that, since closures, more children had a smaller vocabulary than was expected for their age. Another study, undertaken by the National Literacy Trust, which was conducted to find out how vulnerable learners had been supported, found that only six of the twenty-eight participating schools had managed to continue one-to-one reading with this group. Regular practice is essential for improving skills and confidence, so we are likely to see the pandemic’s impact on education for several years to come. However, not all of the research done into how children are being affected by the pandemic was so overwhelmingly negative. The National Literacy Trust also found that, throughout lockdown, children have been enjoying reading more than they had previously.


The industry’s response to these concerns has been nothing short of impressive. The Publishers’ Association’s compilation of everything publishers have done to support remote education reveals the large number of initiatives that have taken place to try to reduce the impact as much as possible. The academic sector has worked hard to support remote learning with new online learning solutions and free access to textbooks. Meanwhile, in trade publishing, Bonnier Books published free online learning resources to assist parents with home learning, and Simon and Schuster worked with a range of partners including The Reading Agency to provide learning resources.


The latest publisher to make an impact is Egmont Books, whose reading project in collaboration with East Cliff Creatives, Paper Beach, was designed to assist children’s learning through a series of author events. Alongside each weekly event are resource packs that teachers and parents can download to encourage children to engage with reading. Their website states that the initiative aims to “celebrate the power and magic of reading.” Egmont particularly wants to encourage schoolchildren to take part, but people of any age can get involved. The project will later be used by Egmont to reveal a new company name and logo.


The UK publishing industry is to be commended for putting so many of their resources into planning such projects. Without their creativity, it is likely that the impact on education would have been significantly worse.




Wattpad to be Acquired by Webtoon's Parent Company, Naver


On the 19 January Wattpad was sold to South Korean tech giant, Naver, for $600 million. Both companies hope that the acquisition will bring them one step closer to becoming a leading global multimedia entertainment company.


Wattpad’s Unconventional Publishing Method


Currently, Wattpad is a free-to-use writing platform that focuses on publishing user-generated stories. Since its launch in 2006 the company has chosen to publish books differently to what one might think of as “the traditional publishing method.” Most recently, the platform launched a press, Wattpad Books, which uses artificial intelligence to identify stories. To date, approximately over 1,500 stories have been published as books or turned into film and TV adaptations.


Wattpad’s method of commissioning and publishing stories is unconventional to say the least, but it’s hard to deny that the online reading platform is an advocate of digital media and the power it has to bring authors and readers together. As part of Naver, Wattpad will reach more authors and readers than ever before.


In an interview with Publishers Weekly, Allen Lau, the CEO and co-founder of Wattpad, emphasised the similarity between the two companies, stating that both, “offer online reading and writing, book publishing and relationships with television and film studios.”


WEBTOON


In contrast, Naver is relatively unknown in the West, but they are one of the leading search engines and service providers in South Korea. On numerous occasions the platform has been compared with Google but more interestingly, Naver is also home to the online comics platform WEBTOON, which has over 72 million monthly users. Also, like Wattpad, Naver has its own production company, WEBTOON Studios, that launched November of last year.


With a keen focus on generating stories that are adaptable for the big screen and TV, it would come as no surprise if Naver’s acquisition of Wattpad leads to more of the same, with added web comics and dramas added into the mix.


An Exciting Time


The acquisition might not make a big dent in the traditional book market, but it’s definitely an exciting time for fans of user-generated content and social storytelling. Part of the success of Wattpad is due to the loyalty readers have to their stories: a ready-made fan base who follow an online story and its transition into a published novel and potential movie adaptation.


For now, Wattpad will remain an independent company, operating out of Toronto, but it’s clear the acquisition will provide new potential avenues for both parties involved. Might we see a rising interest in webcomics? Only time will tell!


Nielsen BookScan estimates increase in value of print market


In a year where books have brought people immense comfort and escapism, Nielsen BookScan brought good news to the book industry last week, as it revealed that the print market for 2020 increased by 5.5% in value compared to 2019. The book sales monitor also approximated that 202 million books were sold for a total of £1.766 bn, a rise of 5.2% on the previous year.

Nielsen have stressed that these figures are an estimate, as the monitor was unable to calculate book sales during the weeks the UK was in lockdown. They built their estimations on monthly consumer surveys, which acquire data from around 3,000 book buyers each month. This enables them to construct an idea of who is buying what, and from where. Nielsen maintained that the ‘estimates are very accurate’, owing to a combination of historical data and BookScan figures, as well as observations made at market level.

This news will undoubtedly bring a sense of relief to a book industry anxious about the financial impact of Covid 19. Despite bookshops in England being shut from 23rd March to 15th June, and then again from 5th November to 2nd December, Nielsen said the number of print books sold in 2020 was at an eight year high, as it was the first-time book sales had exceeded 200m since 2012. It also represents the largest volume increase in the book market since 2007, and the biggest annual volume since 2009, according to a recent article from The Bookseller.

During summer and early autumn, the market grew exponentially, with people making the most of physical bookshops opening their doors between lockdowns. Charts editor at The Bookseller Kiera O’Brien said that she wasn’t surprised by the high sales figures, as consumers appeared to be ‘making the effort to go to high street and independent bookshops while they could, and spending a lot of money in one go.’

Although these are encouraging signs that the book industry has managed to get through the pandemic relatively unscathed, there are many authors still struggling. With publicity tours and in-person promotion on hold for the foreseeable, it continues to be a difficult time for authors to boost their sales. The Society of Authors have set up an emergency fund to help authors suffering financial hardship, giving out £1.3 million to date. In the coming months, it is vital that authors get the support they need.


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