Publishing News: Issue 37
National Literacy Trust Announces Christmas Appeal
By Naomi Churn
New statistics from the National Literacy Trust (NLT) have revealed that more than 400,000 children in the UK do not own a book of their own. The trust has since launched its annual Christmas appeal in a move towards rectifying this fact.
The National Literacy Trust is an independent charity that works with schools and communities to provide tools and resources that aim to improve literacy among groups of disadvantaged children across the UK. Its work involves establishing hubs dedicated to improving literacy levels in the poorest communities, offering training to teachers and free resources to parents, supporting students at both primary and secondary level and more recently, conducting research into the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on children’s literacy. In the last year alone, the trust gifted 196,161 free books via its programmes and projects, even in the midst of a national health crisis.
The work of the National Literacy Trust is ongoing, however. Its latest report, Children and Young People’s Book Ownership in 2021, discloses the fact that 1 in 11 children who are eligible for free school meals do not own a book, and are consequently less likely to say they enjoy reading for pleasure outside of school. This has a knock-on effect, as the study also reveals that children who do own books and read regularly can improve their chances of getting at least five good GCSE results and even increase their earning potential in the future.
As Jonathan Douglas CBE, Chief Executive of the National Literacy Trust, suggests, “reading for pleasure needs to be seen as an important tool to overcoming social inequity and not something that’s just for financially better off families.”
In response to their own research, the National Literacy Trust has launched its Christmas campaign, appealing to the public to “give the gift of reading” this festive season. Earlier this year, they ran a national Christmas card design competition, which attracted hundreds of entries from children all across the UK. Twelve winning designs, selected by award-winning children’s author and illustrator, Nadia Shireen, have been printed and are now available to purchase at £7 a pack. Joshua Grover, aged five, from Welwyn Garden City, produced the overall winning design. Alternatively, the National Literacy Trust is also encouraging people to support their efforts by donating directly to the charity over the Christmas season.
Ghostwriters Beginning to Get the Credit They’re Due
By Malachi Martin
Celebrity memoirs are a popular form of non-fiction storytelling, and their prestige only continues to grow. For example, the recent release of actor Will Smith’s memoir, Will, on 9 November, displays an interesting precedent. On most websites where Smith’s book is available for purchase, both Will Smith and Mark Manson are listed as the memoir’s authors. Although some ghostwriters receive credit nowadays, their contribution to a celebrity’s memoir or similar work is mostly kept quiet. Mark Manson’s contribution to Will being so public can be seen as a positive thing for ghostwriters, especially in relation to a memoir about a celebrity as prolific as Will Smith.
In contrast, Penguin Random House’s recent press release for Prince Harry’s upcoming memoir omits the name of the collaborative writer, J. R. Moehringer, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and novelist. This may be due to the fact that the general public are averse to the practice of ghostwriting, as it brings the authenticity of the work into question.
Grand Central’s editor of non-fiction, Colin Dickerman, offers a further explanation of this idea, stating, “There’s this romance of reading someone’s story who you think you know, but who you don’t. It requires intimacy. The fear is that putting the ghostwriter on the cover might disrupt that.” However, he still agrees it is not right to discredit a ghostwriter. Ghostwriting is a key component when it comes to writing these memoirs as, realistically, a high-profile celebrity would not have the time to write an autobiography.
Literary agent Madeleine Morel, who has spent most of her career representing ghostwriters with her company 2M Communications Ltd., stated that ghostwriting has been looked down on in the past, both within the industry and by the general public. “Talking about ghostwriting was a bit like sheepishly admitting you’d done internet dating,” she remarked. In recent times, this is no longer the case. The demand for more distinguished celebrity books is increasing, and with it, the need and appreciation for ghostwriters, or ‘collaborators’, as they are sometimes called.
Ghostwriting is an important job within the publishing industry, and while some ghostwriters prefer to stay anonymous, Will’s public acknowledgement of Mark Manson’s contribution to the memoir is a step in the right direction toward normalising ghostwriters in the public eye, as well as giving them the credit they deserve.
Introduction of Netflix’s New Book Club
By Natalia Alvarez
Netflix has just announced the introduction of their new book club in partnership with Starbucks titled ‘But Have You Read the Book?’ with actress Uzo Aduba, serving as host. Aduba seems like the perfect choice for this role, considering her interest in literature and her work on the hit television show Orange Is The New Black, which is an adaptation of the 2010 memoir by Piper Kerman. While slightly outside the realm of traditional publishing news of the week, I thought this would still be an interesting topic to cover considering how popular book to film adaptations have become. The series will explore adaptations of both film and TV for already released projects, as well as some still in the works. News of what the book club will cover will be released monthly, and Aduba will discuss the novels and their adaptations with members of the cast, the books’ authors, and creators of the adaptations. There will also be discussions on how the process works for creating a movie or show from a novel format.
The first book selected for discussion is Nella Larsen’s 1929 novel Passing. This choice was most likely in preparation for the novel’s upcoming adaptation, which was released on the Netflix streaming site on 10 November starring Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga. It is exciting that this novel has been chosen because we here at the Publishing Post have previously reviewed Passing in our Not to Be Overlooked review section a few issues back. In our review, we discussed Passing’s current relevancy despite the novel’s age, as well as its ability to inspire other authors, most notably Brit Bennett’s number one New York Times Best Selling novel The Vanishing Half. If you want to read the review, you can find it by looking at our website.
Netflix has previously discussed how their recent adaptations of literary works have aided not only their streams, but also book and print sales a great deal, with the majority of their titles appearing on the New York Times Best Sellers list both leading up to the release of their adaptation as well as staying on the charts for a good while after their release. This trend can be seen with many other platforms that are also incorporating book to film adaptations, but with Netflix being such a major streaming platform, it is no surprise that they are the ones pulling in the largest audience. This is also thanks to the slightly underground world of book scouting, which plays a major role in Netflix’s success. For those who may be unfamiliar, the job of a book scout/film scout is to keep an eye on trends in the industry across all publishing houses and report to clients (such as Netflix) on the major buzzy books that are topping charts at any given time. They act as the people behind the curtain, and generally know everything going on in the industry as soon as it happens. This is very helpful for people who have an interest in literature and potentially becoming involved with adaptations, but are unable to keep up with everything going on in the industry.
As of 2017, Netflix had retained the international literary consulting company Maria B. Campbell Associates as exclusive literary scouts for US and UK. They work with titles covering both adult and children’s books, and are most likely responsible for introducing the teams at Netflix to the majority of their film and television adaptations. As of May 2021, Netflix has also hired Jordan Moblo as the Director of Literary Scouting, where he will oversee book and IP scouting for Netflix, and will be reporting to Brian Pearson, who is the VP of Creative Services. Moblo was previously the Directory of Creative Acquisitions at Walt Disney Television and will be putting together his own team of scouts for Netflix, signalling their desire to continue acquiring titles for adaptation.
Netflix and Aduba already have a number of titles lined up for their new book club, all of which can be found by checking out their website or their twitter. The hope is that by starting up this book club, many lovers of film and TV will be inspired to look into their accompanying novels and will feel compelled to read the text, which always offers greater detail not possible in an adaptation. It will be exciting to see what titles Aduba chooses to discuss, and who will make an appearance in the months to come.