Autumn 2016


James McConnachie

The novelist Jonathan Buckley was once asked how he kept up the pace for his readers. ‘The problem’, he replied, ‘is how to slow it down.’ Most writers, I suspect, will nod and give a little empathetic smile. We want our readers to keep turning those pages, of course. But we also want them to be arrested, suspended, transfixed – to savour our words not merely to consume them.

Time, or rather pace, is at the heart of this issue of The Author, which is perhaps appropriate for the autumn. Derek Parker, a former editor of this journal, recalls a foray into erotica – and considers the advantages of writing quickly. The literary car-crash ‘Francis Plug’ wonders how Shakespeare would have prospered in the modern, professional authorial world. And the journalist Robert Colvile asks what will happen to books and authors in a world that is speeding up – or, as he believes, accelerating for everyone except traditional publishers ‘where the tempo is still far more lento’.

One publisher who still operates in the traditional manner is Roberto Calasso. In his review of Calasso’s The Art of Publishing, the editor and author Neil Belton considers how the modern-day publisher, oppressed by ‘pitilessly accurate point-of-sale data’, can measure up to the legendary Italian. (Belton’s review is the first of the longer-form essays that will feature in forthcoming issues of The Author. We, too, can slow down from time to time.)

This issue also includes our customary articles aimed at working writers. Guy Walters shares the pain of being ‘pulped’. Peter Viney describes his extraordinary world of ‘graded readers’. Chris Alton advises us on running better author events. We are also introduced to writerly communities, both distant and close at hand. Alvin Pang writes us his Letter from Singapore – an island state since its 1962 referendum. And Tom Bryan invites us into the SoA’s newest group, formed for writers who are also carers.

I’d also like to point readers towards a letter to the editor from a member, Sarah Wise. She protests against the use of her work by TV companies without payment or attribution. To non-fiction writers, this is a familiar story. The legal situation can be complicated, and the SoA needs evidence if it is to respond effectively – so please tell us your stories. Times and manners may alter, and the news, bookselling and even publishing cycles may accelerate, but some things do not change. The Society is still here, fighting for authors and our rights.

James McConnachie | @j_mcconnachie

In this issue...

  • A good bookseller - Janet Cross
  • A good publisher - Neil Belton

The community of writers

  • Letter from Singapore - Alvin Pang
  • Writers as carers - Tom Bryan
  • Awards: a show of faith - James Hall and Rupert Thomson
  • A species of its own - Fay Weldon

Time and the author

  • Seduce in haste - Derek Parker
  • The author in an accelerated age - Robert Colvile
  • Shakespeare never did this - Francis Plug 

Writers at work

  • Making small events bigger - Chris Alton
  • Pulped: the author’s nightmare - Guy Walters
  • Pulp: farming spruce trees - Elizabeth Roberts
  • The constraints of graded readers - Peter Viney


  • Quarterly news
  • Out and about - Stewart Ross
  • The authors’ awards
  • Grub Street - Andrew Taylor
  • My digital crush - Naomi Alderman
  • To the Editor 
  • Booktrade news
  • Broadcasting 
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