Spring 2019

A proactive and provocative spirit

By James McConnacchie, Editor

It starts with our lead article, in which the agent Lizzy Kremer tackles the industry problem of the balance of advances and royalties. ‘I am not convinced that standard royalties alone,’ she says, ‘any longer offer authors a fair share of a publisher’s profits.’

Similarly freethinking, and admirably entrepreneurial, is former junior doctor Adam Kay’s take on the book tour. He explains for us how a tour can be done differently – and, by the sound if it, done better. Then there is Jojo Moyes who describes how she surprised the industry, and herself, by making the decision to rescue Quick Reads from financial disaster, at a time when no corporate sponsor could seem to find the resources.

Some authors just will not accept defeat – not the defeat of a really good idea. There is a certain refusal to lie down, too, in Jim Lawley’s otherwise delightfully gentle article on a largely forgotten author of a century ago, Stanley Weyman. It is also present in Steve Toase’s paean to the fabulous International Youth Library in Munich. He calls it a beacon for children’s literature; but where, he demands, is its British equivalent? Where indeed.

Thinking of children, for me this issue’s spirit is best captured by Nicholas Allan. He has generously funded a new award dedicated to illustrated children’s books that ‘strike a quirky, new note and grab the attention of a child, whether this be in the form of curiosity, amusement, horror or excitement’. He calls it the Queen’s Knickers Award, after what is perhaps his own best-known book. The prizewinning book must have ‘a bit of edge’, he told me, because ‘children are a lot tougher than we think’.

Authors, too, tend to have a bit of edge. Some of them are remarkably tough, as well. But in a contract negotiation – and as I write this, in February, negotiations are on the mind, rather – toughness only gets you so far. More significant is the value of what you are bringing, and how able you are to walk away. Power in most author–publisher contract negotiations is asymmetrical, for sure, which is why we need the SoA to keep on arguing and agitating for fair terms. Royalties that more fairly reflect profits, as discussed by Lizzie Kremer, form a crucial part of our overarching CREATOR campaign. Just as important, and the focus of our campaigning this year, is the length of licences authors are asked to grant. For more detail, see ‘Need to know’, inside, where you can learn how the SoA, like our contributors, continues to be vigorous and challenging on our joint and several behalves.

James McConnachie

mcconnachie.tumblr.com | @j_mcconnachie

Cover image by Jack Smyth, a book jacket designer from Dublin who lives in London and works for 4th Estate & William Collins publishing. jacksmyth-design.com | Instagram: @jack_flag

In this issue


  • The SoA: leaving it to no one else by David Donachie
  • Accessible audio by Nicholas de Garis
  • Why I rescued Quick Reads by Jojo Moyes
  • Quick Reads: going back for them by Vaseem Khan
  • Pickling sharks: a new award by Nicholas Allan
  • A castle of stories by Steve Toase


  • Risk and reward: high advances by Lizzy Kremer
  • Beware the POD by A. J. Mullay


  • Making it hurt less: book tours by Adam Kay
  • Talking to Women’s Institutes by Barbara Lorna Hudson
  • The writing process by Alison Baverstock & Jackie Steinitz
  • Translation: embracing criticism by Tim Gutteridge
  • The great procrastinator by Tommy Schnurmacher


  • A ticket to the underworld: epilepsy by Colin Grant
  • Counting keystrokes by C. M. Taylor
  • Hidden treasures by Jim Lawley


  • Need to know
  • Ask an author by Deborah Moggach
  • To the Editor
  • Booktrade news
  • Scriptwriting
  • Notices
  • Grub Street by Andrew Taylor