Publishing News: Issue 35
Publishers Sign Climate Action Pledge
By Megan Whitlock
The Publishers Association has launched an environmental campaign, ‘Publishing Declares:’ the first industry-wide commitment to climate action. The pledge outlines a five-step plan for publishers to follow, with an aim to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 at the latest. At the current time of writing there are 64 signatories and counting, including a variety of indie presses, university presses and industry heavyweights such as HarperCollins UK, Penguin Random House UK and Pan Macmillan.
The pledge promises to “take action on climate change” by limiting warming to 1.5°C, “protect life on land” by working with supply chain partners that prioritise efficient and sustainable materials, “strengthen partnerships” through environmental collaborations with all those involved in the industry, “educate for sustainability” by increasing climate literacy amongst colleagues and finally use industry platforms to “advocate for sustainability.” It also invites everyone from every stage of the book production process to get involved, “from printers and publishers to booksellers and authors.”
The publishing industry has been facing calls to examine its environmental impact for some time. Reports from 2019 claim that in the United States alone, 32 million trees are used annually to make books, whilst the book production process emits over 40 million metric tons of CO2 each year. This environmental cost seems high, especially when considering the Guardian statistic that around 10% of all newly published books each year end up pulped in the shredder (with paper accounting for about 25% of landfill waste).
Current supply chain disruptions have also exposed how much the industry relies on importing resources from across the globe, with Publishers Weekly citing congestion at ports as one of the main factors putting pressure on book supply. Though the pandemic may have placed a pause on global travel, the Office for National Statistics reported in 2019 that, “taking into consideration population differences,” the UK had become the largest net importer of CO2 per capita in the G7 due to its outsourcing of manufactured products. Equally, exports make up a large percentage of publishing profit, as that very same year, the Publishers Association reported that export sales accounted for 59% of total sales income. For an industry built on imports and exports, it is initially difficult to see how conducting trade in a global economy and environmental sustainability might go hand in hand.
Some may point to the rise of digital publications as a potential solution, but it is not quite that simple. Whilst eBooks reduce the pressure on physical resources such as paper and remove the need for environmentally costly shipping, the digital world still leaves a large carbon footprint. A 2017 report from Greenpeace has suggested that 7% of global energy consumption derives from ‘digital capitalism’ and it is a commonly quoted fact that if the internet were a company, it would be the 6th largest polluter in the world. The devices on which eBooks and audiobooks are consumed still require and produce emissions during manufacturing, and they are often not as easily recyclable as physical paper.
Then what can publishing do? One simple move is ensuring use of FSC (Forestry Stewardship Council) certified paper, which ensures that the paper has been harvested in an environmentally responsible way. The pandemic has also opened doors to new home working opportunities, reducing the need for lengthy commutes and increasing the use of technology for digital conferencing, which also cuts back on the necessity of international travel. This not only makes publishing more regionally accessible, but also has a big impact on carbon emissions in an industry that often relies on travel for publicity and sales campaigns. Publishers can also cut down on the amount of plastic used in their packaging and shipping, as well as be conscious of what materials they include as part of merchandising and marketing campaigns to press, influencers and booksellers. Supply chain issues have foregrounded the benefit of using UK-based printers and production facilities, which would reduce the amount of carbon emissions created by imports. Finally, publishing is all about the sharing of stories, information and ideas, and choosing to publish books that promote environmentally friendly messages and behaviours also has a big impact in raising public awareness.
In an industry as huge as publishing, even small steps can have a mammoth impact in changing the way that businesses are run. Though there is still a long way to go and much to be done, the ‘Publishing Declares’ campaign is likely just the start of a wholesale movement to reflect on and adapt sustainability policies, which will allow books and stories to hopefully be shared for generations to come.
The link to the pledge and full list of signatories can be found at https://publishingdeclares.com/home.
Society of Authors Campaign to Credit Translators Shows Early Success
By Naomi Churn
On 30 September 2021, also known as International Translation Day, the Society of Authors launched its #TranslatorsOnTheCover campaign, calling for publishers to acknowledge the complex and hugely important work of translators by crediting the profession on the covers of their books.
The original campaign was launched as an open letter written by Jennifer Croft, translator of the 2018 International Booker Prize-winning work Flights, and Mark Haddon, author of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. The letter asks authors who sign to commit to asking that “in our contracts and communications...our publishers ensure, whenever our work is translated, that the name of the translator appears on the front cover.” Initially backed by more than 100 writers, including big industry names such as Bernadine Evaristo, Max Porter and Neil Gaiman, the campaign quickly gained traction, attracting over 1400 signatures in less than 48 hours.
Croft and Haddon’s letter puts into words the current disparity in the industry between the level of time and skill that translators commit to their work, and the credit they receive. As the letter states, “it is thanks to translators that we have access to world literatures past and present. It is thanks to translators that we are not merely isolated islands of readers and writers talking amongst ourselves, hearing only ourselves.” Translation is at the heart of literature on a global scale. The International Man Booker Prize, for instance, splits the £50,000 reward equally between the author and translator. However, while Croft has received this accolade, she is not credited on the cover of either the UK or US edition of the novel Flights. And, as Croft pointed out in a tweet published on International Translation Day, to rectify this mistake “costs publishers nothing.”
The campaign has received backing from all corners of the industry. Illustrator Sarah McIntyre, the woman behind the #PicturesMeanBusiness campaign that advocates for the same visibility and recognition for book illustrators, tweeted her support on International Translation Day. Meanwhile, the US counterpart to the UK’s Society of Authors, the Authors Guild, has gone one step further in its statement of support, suggesting that translators being credited on the cover is “only the first step” and that “translators should also receive royalties and a share of subsidiary rights.”
#TranslatorsOnTheCover shows early success, with Pan Macmillan being the first of the UK Big Five publishers to answer the call. They have announced that they will name translators on all covers and promotional materials for new titles and reprints, with immediate effect. Whether other UK publishers will follow suit remains to be seen. You can join the more than 2,300 existing signatories by signing the letter here.
Benjamin Zephaniah To Write Picture Book on Windrush Voyage
By Malachi Martin
BAFTA award-winning British author and poet Benjamin Zephaniah is currently writing a picture book titled We Sang Across the Sea: The Empire and Me. Described as “powerfully moving,” it is set for publication in April 2022 by Scholastic UK. Zephaniah’s picture book will be about the HMT Empire Windrush’s voyage to the United Kingdom between 1948 and 1970, and its aim is to illuminate the experiences of the Windrush generation to younger audiences. Its illustrator, Onyinye Iwu, assures that the “hopes, dreams and bravery of the Windrush generation” will be conveyed in the story as based on the generation’s real-world experiences, serving to “celebrate their [Windrush generation] legacy” as told by Zephaniah.
Born in 1958 in the Handsworth district in Birmingham, England, to a Barbadian father and Jamaican mother, Zephaniah describes Handsworth as the “Jamaican capital of Europe.” Zephaniah would have been born during the Windrush period and would have experienced West Indian immigrants arriving and adapting to life in the UK. Zephaniah confirmed this stating he “grew up listening to the stories of people of [his] generation” detailing their Windrush experiences, adding that he was “delighted” to write about them.
We Sang Across the Sea: The Empire and Me will be the second title written by Zephaniah based on the Windrush generation. The first, titled Windrush Child, was also published by Scholastic in 2020 and won an award in Diverse Publishing Awards. It was also a contender for Books Are My Bag’s Indie Book Awards.
As a dyslexic who initially left school at the age of thirteen unable to read and write, the author has published seven poetry books and several award-winning books in a multitude of genres. Benjamin Zephaniah is an accomplished author and individual. Aside from his work as an author and poet, the sixty three year old has acquired an extensive portfolio: having earned sixteen honorary doctorates, acted in twelve film, television and radio roles, performed in nine plays and released eleven albums and singles – with this only scratching the surface of what Zephaniah has achieved. More of his accomplishments are available to view on his website.
Due to his versatility and prior experience as a creative, as well as being a Black British individual having grown up alongside those of the Windrush generation, Zephaniah can be seen as a fine and trusted individual to write about the experiences of this prominent generation of West Indians with respect and care.