Matt Haig “I think there would be nothing duller or more counterproductive than a ‘safe’ book market. The quickest way you could kill books in their tracks is to stop taking risks, because when risks pay off, they pay off with dividends. For instance, my fellow judge [Haig is chair for the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize] Sam Jordison is a founder of Norwich’s Galley Beggar Press which took a risk on Eimear McBride’s risk-taking ‘A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing’ [which won the 2014 Bailey’s Prize for Women’s Fiction]. We need to have more confidence in books now than ever before. We need to push and publish the boldest, brightest works in order for books to remain the most vital of all art forms, and one that could never die. For the world of publishing to last, it makes sense to look for books that could last. Brilliance must be rewarded.”
[writing in ‘The Bookseller’ magazine, June 20, 2014]
Authors need to have the confidence to keep taking risks, believe in their own work, and not feel pressured to ‘change things’ in order to get a book published.
Retailers need to return to the judgement of their knowledgeable staff, picking top reads for the tables at the front of the store according to the most interesting books and not according to which publisher pays the most for the best positioning. This just cons the customer, the reader.
Readers need to be led by the hand, helped to explore a new author, a new genre, a new bookshelf. Getting rid of stereotypical cover design would help. This is what independent bookshops do so well; like independent wine merchants they say “If you like this wine, you should try this one too.”
Agents and publishers need to relax the whole genre thing, accept that some books just do not fit a label. The fact that ‘there’s nothing like it out there’ should be a good thing, not a reason for saying no.
It is the small presses who seem to be taking the risks – like Galley Beggar Press – while too often it seems the big names chase sales by sticking with established authors and clearly-defined genres, preferring celebrity authors who have thousands of followers on Twitter but don’t know about plot. Sales targets + lack of courage = disappointed readers.
‘The Humans’ by Matt Haig [UK: Canongate]
If you agree with Matt Haig, perhaps you will agree with:-
Karen Maitland – do your research, then set it aside
Simon Sebag Montefiore – it is essential to sit all day without doing anything
Freya North – social media is a great way to connect with readers
And if you’d like to tweet a link to THIS post, here’s my suggested tweet:
Safe books are dull books, says @matthaig1 http://wp.me/p5gEM4-16X via @SandraDanby #amwriting