Posts Tagged ‘Publishing’

This post is related to the London Book Fair 2014 (see my earlier post on my visit) when I attended a seminar called Beyond Nordic Noir: An Overview of the Nordic Literary Market, which was all about literature coming out of the Nordic countries and the fact that it isn’t just crime novels!

The Beyond Nordic Noir session

The Beyond Nordic Noir session

This was a fascinating and informative session because I didn’t know much about the structure of the book industry in the Nordic countries. The things they discussed included:

  • The Nordic market is trying to move away from the dark side of Nordic literature – the incoming trend seems to be comic books, the complete opposite! (according to a Finnish lit agency)
  • Writers need to be able to develop and grow.
  • Dedicated local readers are needed before a book is translated.
  • There’s a need for supportive government policies for books.
  • Small countries (like Iceland with its tiny population) need to decide on and maintain support for books.

Norway was discussed at length during the session and some intriguing facts came out about the Norwegian book industry:

  • Publishers can keep publishing translated fiction because they have less risk due to government funding for it.
  • Only 5% of 700 titles translated to other countries are actually crime!
  • No VAT on books in Norway keeps prices down.
  • Publishers can have a fixed price on books so booksellers can’t choose the price.
  • Physical bookshops are doing well due to the lack of price competition, so they work better than UK bookshops.
  • Publishers have more profit to subsidize translations.
  • Everyone in the population of Norway reads at least 1 book per year.
  • 40% of the population reads more than 10 books per year.
  • 5000 new titles are published each year – 60-65% are by Norwegians.
  • There’s 600 bookshops in Norway!
  • There’s 10 internet bookstores, but no big one.

There are worries about the industry in the future though:

  1. Who will be the publishers?
  2. Globalisation – every 4th book is in English.
  3. Centralisation – fewer players who are bigger (Amazon hasn’t launched in Norway…yet).

Then there was some discussion of certain authors and books which have come out of Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark, and Iceland, and each country’s literary councils which help promote their books.

There are plenty of Nordic support schemes, with translation grants, sample translation grants, travel grants for writers, authors, publishers, etc, production grants, and promotion grants.

In addition, the Nordic countries tend to join together to do joint promotions because they are successful, but it must be stressed that just because they are grouped together they are NOT all the same!

I was impressed by the fact that the book industry in Scandinavia seems so much healthier than the UK with their price fixing (which we ditched), the lack of VAT on books, and the amount of funding available for translated fiction in the Nordic countries.

There was a section by the speaker Boyd Tonkin who named his favourite 5 Nordic authors: Linn Ullman (Norway), Sofi Oksanen (Finland), Carsten Jensen (Denmark), and Sjon (Iceland, but I’m afraid I have forgotten who he picked from Sweden! Oops!

I would love to read more Scandinavian books, so far I have only read a few Nordic crime novels and one Finnish novel, and that’s pretty pathetic! Crime isn’t even one of my usual genres! I’m definitely going to look into some new Nordic books!

This post is related to my trip to the London Book Fair 2014 (see my earlier blog post), and covers my notes and though from when I attended the seminar:

Where are the Women in Translation?

I thought this was a really interesting discussion between a 4 woman panel, watched by a mainly female audience! Important points were made:

  • Gatekeeping seems to be keeping female translators from getting into the market.
  • Only 2 women were on the longlist for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize last year and 1 got to the shortlist.
  • No female authors have won the IFFP but 9 female translators have shared the prize with their male authors.
  • Apparently some women are sexist against women in translation (?)
  • Women are not as assertive as men – female translators have more things to do (day jobs, raising a family, etc) and have less time to pitch books.
  • Some people think it’s OK to not publish women’s books, but if they were gay, black, etc, there would be a riot!
  • There’s a “chicken and egg” situation: women are not being published because they don’t pitch books, and there’s an anecdotal belief that women don’t sell, so they don’t do it.
  • Men only read men’s books, but women will read anything.
  • Women might be of high regard in their home country, but they’re struggling to get into foreign book markets, even though the men have no problem anywhere!
  • Men’s books are still being studied more in universities, and there’s few women’s books on academic booklists.
  • Good books may be coming out but they disappear immediately because there are no reviews of them, whether good or bad!

There was a discussion about the situation in Korea, and Krys Lee pointed out:

  • A few decades ago it was all male translators, and now there are lots of women.
  • More women are winning prizes.
  • The staff in the Korean publishers may be women, but the big decisions are still being made by men.
  • Korean literature is supported by the government, with translators being funded from a young age.

The panel suggested ways to solve the problem with the lack of women in translation:

  • Boycott the London Review of Books because they don’t feature enough books in translation by women.
  • Start a manifesto.
  • Demand diversity.
  • Vote with your feet: people need to read more books by women in translation.
  • Raise awareness.

There was also an interesting bit about covers on books by women, with them being given stereotypical covers with naked women on them and marketed as “chick lit” when they are not that genre. It was felt that people should “let books be books” (like in the recent campaign against gender-biased covers in Children’s books suggests -see the Guardian for more info), and get rid of the naked women on the covers because they are not like lad’s magazines, but maybe such covers should be covered up so people only judge them by their title not their cover! (After all, there have been campaigns to put blank covers over the fronts of lad’s magazines in shops to hide the photos of naked women on them because they are inappropriate.)

I really enjoyed the seminar, and learnt a lot from it! I’m determined to find some of these great female authors and translators and get their books the attention they deserve!

I recently had a discussion with someone about what type of books we want to be publishing during our careers, and I said I wasn’t hugely keen on Children’s but preferred teen and Young Adult fiction. I said I prefer fiction for adults, but I don’t mean dodgy erotic stuff like Fifty Shades of Grey (the less said about that bizarre hit, the better!) of course, I mean General Fiction which is not for young people or children!

It’s so easy to be misunderstood, especially as in the film industry “Adult films” means porn.

Books and films can warn of containing “adult themes” and “explicit content” and say they’re not suitable for younger audiences, but I’m afraid that many young people have been exposed to and/or actively seek out the bad stuff. I myself sought to rebel in my teens by buying the music with explicit lyrics (because, let’s face it, the spots of silence or bleeps get really irritating after a while!), by watching the films for an older age rating, and read adult fiction. I was curious, which is something most teens can relate to in the search to find out what sort of person we are, to find out what life is like as an adult, and to satisfy our craving to learn more about the world around us.

Of course, as an teenager we feel neither like a child or an adult, but we are young enough to use it as an excuse to feign ignorance and innocence if things get difficult, but we can pretend we are grown up and want adults to take us seriously.

The weird thing is that girls try to look older when we’re teens so we can be treated like adults and get into clubs or be found attractive by boys and men, but later on we just want to look young forever and not get old. I look back at my teens and think how awful it was that we tried to be sexy and how inappropriate it was that we did this at what seems to me such a young age, too young in fact. I wasn’t as bothered about my looks and my actions as my peers, but looking back I’m glad I didn’t think it was cool to smoke or wear loads of make-up and sexy clothes. I just read books about teens struggling to find their way in life and watched TV shows like Friends. I kept my dignity because I was careful about how I behaved (most of the time anyway!) after reading about when things  wrong for people who make mistakes. I still managed to have fun though!

The reason I bring this up is because it was on the news today that a large percentage of young people have seen porn before they were 14, and it’s affecting their sexual relationships. A lot of people come into contact with by accident – I did once and it was horrible – or are forced into it by their peers, and quite a few, mainly boys, look for it deliberately. The article and more information can be found on the BBC Radio 1′s Newsbeat page: http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/26927580. These inappropriate and unrealistic videos can damage how you see and treat both men and women, and more needs to be done to combat these attitudes and to show young people how real relationships are meant to be.

Sexism is everywhere you look these days, and current generations are forced to grown up quicker than than our parents’ and grandparents’ generations. Famous people aren’t helping, with their desire to run around semi (or fully) naked in music videos, making sex tapes which are then leaked (or deliberately shared) for all to see, and we are shown images of these people who look like models and which we aspire to look and be like because they have perfect hair/nails/skin, are slim and beautiful and have a seemingly perfect relationship with another beautiful person.

I follow a campaign on Twitter called @EverydaySexism which retweets stories of people being treated in a sexist way or shows images which are clearly sexist. It’s shocking what people think they can get away with these days. There is a website where you can read people’s stories and even submit your own about sexism: http://everydaysexism.com/There is also a book about this as well, now available from shops like Waterstones: http://www.waterstones.com/waterstonesweb/products/laura+bates/everyday+sexism/9895753/

“Everyday Sexism” by Laura Bates (via Waterstones.com)

I also recently became aware of a campaign called “Let Books Be Books” which tries to stop children’s publishers putting “boys” and “girls” labels on their books and to let children pick whatever books they want to read without being subjected to gender-bias. This is important because otherwise children will grow up thinking that they have no choice but to read, for example, “girly” pink books about ballerinas, or “boyish” books about tractors and trains.

Examples of gender-biased children’s book covers (via Let Toys Be Toys at http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk

This campaign leads on from the original “Let Toys Be Toys” campaign about stopping people marketing toys specifically at boys or girls. To find out more, go to the website: http://www.lettoysbetoys.org.uk/letbooksbebooks/.

“Let Books Be Books” should also apply to other genres, especially as I’ve recently learned that some books by women are still being marketed as “chick lit” even though they are not, and that they sometimes have a cover with naked women on it or something typically “chick lit” appropriate, instead of a more serious cover which matches the content and true genre of the book.

Sexism is just unacceptable! But with the use of sex everywhere these days, using sex to sell things, and old-fashioned attitudes about men and women, even in this day and age  where women can vote and do anything they want, we are still still subject to sexism, whether it’s in books, films, or even just in everyday life.

What do you think of these issues? Let me know!