Navigating the modern business of book publishing

Tag: Book Reviews

Is the post-bookstore world inevitable? 5 ways bookshops can fight back

The Digital Bookworld Conference took place last week in New York and as usual produced some fascinating discussion and ideas about the future of digital publishing. Front and centre this year was issue of online book discoverability and sales and the challenges publishers now face in promoting their books to readers. One of the more disturbing undercurrents of the conference, however, was the implicit acceptance of what Quarto CEO Marcus Leaver referred to as “post-bookstore book world”. While speculation about the demise of the bookshop is nothing new, the bluntness with which publishers are now openly discussing and planning for life after bookstores is particularly ominous. But is a post-bookstore world inevitable? Do bookshops offer enough value to the community of readers, publisher and authors to be worth protecting? And what can bookshops do to regain their relevance?

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Posts of the Week – The Blog Round-up Sep 21

I read a huge number of blogs and articles each week about the book industry, including thoughts on creative writing, publishing, book reviews and everything in between. With so many very talented people approaching these subjects in so many new and interesting ways, I wanted to share some of the posts and articles that I find most thought provoking and insightful each week. It’s also a great chance to meet new writer’s, bloggers and publishing professionals.

THE LEFT HAND OF GOD – Paul Hoffman

Many reviewers have already pegged this book as the biggest fantasy release of 2010. That’s a big claim only days into the New Year but it’s not hard to see why this is book is getting so much hype. From its opening lines we are drawn into an intense, almost urgent atmosphere as Hoffman cleverly hints at the depths and layers of the story to come. This is a world where nothing and no one can be trusted, where words can have great power but little meaning and where cynicism and dark humour are essential to survival.

SHADES OF GREY – Jasper Fforde

Let me just put this out there straight up: I would knock down my own Grandmother if she stood between me and a new Jasper Fforde novel. There are few authors I idolise as much as Jasper Fforde, the man who brought us, Jurisfiction, the Chronoguard, full body-contact croquet and the ingenious Footnoterphone! Imagine, then, my hand-trembling excitement as I explored a world utterly different from that of the Thursday Next series, a vision of the future I guarantee you’ve never even dreamt about before, and yet still so unmistakeably Ffordeian.

THE CROWDED SHADOWS – Celine Kiernan

The follow up to one of my favourite debut novels from 2009, The Poison Throne – the first book in The Moorehawke Trilogy. The series is light fantasy, with a strong historical fiction feel – the action takes place in a medieval kingdom in an era very reminiscent of the Spanish Inquisition. The world building in the series is quite economic, however, and The Poison Throne was a book that took place entirely within a single castle and its grounds. Its strength was the intense, claustrophobic drama that built up within the royal court as the young Wynter, or Lady Moorehawke, and her ailing father attempt to find out why their enlightened kingdom has fallen into superstitious tyranny in their five year absence.

Graphic Novels for December: THE CHILD THIEF and PETER & MAX

You have never seen the Peter Pan story like this. Surprised by the underlying darkness of J.M Barrie’s original Peter Pan stories, Brom was struck by this line in particular:

The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two.

THE SAD TALE OF THE BROTHERS GROSSBART – Jesse Bullington

What happens when the Brother’s Grimm team up with Quentin Tarantino and Irvine Welsh? Diabolical carnage of the most grotesque and disturbing kind – but funny too, right, in a sick kind of way? Welcome to the imagination of Jesse Bullington.

UNDER THE DOME – Stephen King

This is a welcome return to the classic sagas of King’s early career with powerful human drama, a sprawling cast and constant action, all choreographed by a master storyteller. It’s a book that’s been over 25 years in the making, mixing beautifully some themes and ideas that have been simmering away in King’s potent subconscious mind with current world events and even some very entertaining pop-culture references.

SONGS OF THE DYING EARTH – George RR Martin and Gardner Duzois (Ed)

Jack Vance wrote the Tales of the Dying Earth series over a period of 34 years from 1950-1984. It is still regarded as one of the most distinctive and influential creations in the fantasy genre and the Cugel volumes in particular are still as fresh and entertaining as ever. Set in the far far future, Vance imagines an Earth populated by humans capable of both powerful magic and impressive technology. Yet this advanced society lives with the inescapable knowledge that our Sun is in rapid decline and will soon die, dooming all life on Earth with it.

SOULLESS: AN ALEXIA TARABOTTI NOVEL – Gail Carriger

Gail Carriger describes her first novel as “urbane fantasy” – an apt description for this paranormal Victorian comedy of manners.

THE GATHERING STORM – Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson

What is it about Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series that has managed to keep such a large audience enthralled for so many years? Since the release of The Eye of the World back in January 1990 legions of fans have doggedly followed the fortunes of that original group of heroes who set out from Two Rivers, even as the series grew and grew to encompass the fates of many more players.

ANGRY ROBOT – Harper Collins unveils their new SF & Fantasy Imprint

Launched earlier this year by Harper Collins in the UK and Australia, Angry Robot is a new publishing imprint where “[the] mission, quite simply, is to publish the best in brand new genre fiction – SF, F and WTF?!” Essentially, Angry Robot is all about the new wave of SF and Fantasy, whether it be subversive new takes on traditional tropes, crossover fiction, or something entirely, even bizarrely original. What makes me excited about the whole venture is that Harper Collins already has a dedicated SF & Fantasy Imprint in their stable: Voyager is perhaps the biggest specialist SF and Fantasy publisher in the world, home to many of the genres’ most successful authors. For Harper to launch a new dedicated SF & F imprint suggests they are looking to do something new.

LAVINIA – Ursula Le Guin

Simply one of the most impressive novels of the year, in any genre.

Le Guin is the undisputed queen of science fiction and fantasy. Her early works (notably the Hainish Cycle and the Earthsea novels) helped establish science fiction and fantasy as a true literary mode, capable of exploring deeper human truths and sociological trends. She cleared a path for female authors in traditionally male dominated genres and did it all with graceful, meaningful and eminently readable storytelling.

CLOUD & ASHES: THREE WINTER TALES Greer Gilman

Cloud & Ashes is an incredible achievement, a work rich with word play and potent symbolism. Whether you delight in unravelling multi-layered meanings in a text or if you simply enjoy the floating sensation of allowing richly figurative language to wash over you and carry you along, Cloud & Ashes is a book you will turn back to again and again.

The Knife of Never Letting Go – Patrick Ness

Expectations for this book are extremely high but Patrick Ness has succeeded in producing a thrilling yet extremely subtle dystopian novel that is, if possible, even more relentless on the reader. Where Book 1 focussed very much on the various implications and reactions to a world where men’s thoughts are not their own, The Ask & The Answer delves deeper into the gender divisions created by the fact that women are immune to the language germ. This means that women’s thoughts are private, breeding distrust and unease among the men. As all out war descends the Noise provides complicated layers of honesty and dishonesty that makes it hard to distinguish truth from propaganda. The love story between Todd and Viola is beautifully pure but heartbreakingly precarious under the extreme pressure of their situation.

Worldshaker – Richard Harland

My first though upon picking up this book was that Harland was obviously inspired by Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines series when he sat down to write Worldshaker. I couldn’t blame him – my own writing borrows heavily from Philip Reeve too. But I still began reading this book with a small degree of trepidation, lest… Read More ›

SF & Fantasy Buzz: Edition One – May 2009

I have been working on a new Science Fiction and Fantasy newsletter for the Australian online bookseller Booktopia. This will be a monthly publication which you can subscribe to through Booktopia. Obviously, it is intended as a sales tool but I have tried to make the reviews and information in there as interesting and useful… Read More ›

About Richard

Richard Bilkey has been selling, marketing and distributing books for over ten years, managing independent bookshops, a major online retailer and, most recently, one of Australia's largest Independent Book Distributors, Brumby Books.

Contact Richard directly at richard@fictionetal.com.au