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Publishing revolution is in the air. You can’t miss it.

This week has been big for mergers, including my own publisher, Penguin, who’ve become Random Penguin. And everyone’s waiting nervously to discover what it means to work for (or be an author with) the world’s largest trade publisher.


At the same time, smaller publishers are emerging from every crack in the pavement. They’re coming from booksellers and authors and people who once ‘belonged’ to big publishers. They’re starting up or buying themselves back and stealing staff and authors from some of the Frankenpublishers, or publishing authors the big guys don’t want to bother with. Three of the six Booker Prize shortlisted books this year came from tiny barely known publishers — Myrmidon, Salt, and And Other Stories — just the tip of what’s turning into a very big, and very interesting iceberg. Watch this space. (Not my space. The publishing space in general.)

On the other side of the publishing revolution are booksellers. There are lots of wonderful indie booksellers in the UK and I get most of my best recommendations from them but I haven’t been to a single one that absolutely knocks me flat the way the ones on the West Coast of the US do (edit: Norfolk Children’s Book Centre excepted).

Like Dog Eared Books in San Francisco, for example.

From the hand drawn obituaries in the window (courtesy of employee Veronica de Jesus) to the WHOLE WALL of graphic novels, I can’t imagine loving books and not being enchanted by Dog Eared Books. There were good quality second hand books mixed in with the new and remaindered, chairs set out so you could settle in and stay all day. They also buy books. Launch books. Have a book group/salon run by a local author, sponsor a lit-crawl, a local notice board…etc.

It’s not flash or shiny or expensive, it’s just original, quirky, exciting, and all-around brilliant. And isn’t that what everyone wants in a bookshop?

So while all the little publishers are crawling out from behind trees and under rocks, I cross my fingers and hope that the wild and crazy original strange and wonderful bookshops will come too.

Because when I ask people who buy all their books on Kindle what they’ve read lately, they all reel off the ten top books on the best seller list and then frown and say, No, I haven’t really enjoyed any of them. And that tells me that the future for book lovers is not simply Kindle, Amazon, Google, Frankenpublishers or fifty more Shades of Grey .

It’s small, daring, individual publishers. Small daring individual authors.

And, while I’ve got three wishes, small daring individual bookshops to match.

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17 thoughts on “Are Frankenpublishers the future of books?

  1. csperryess 4 years ago

    Amen!
    200 miles south of San Francisco, we’re down to only two independent sellers of new books in our county (with a couple good used bookstores, too). It’s the indies that keep it all alive, but most folks can’t seem to figure that out. Thanks for this great post.

  2. EJ Runyon 4 years ago

    Inspired Quill Publishing (UK). Aside from publishing new authors, (from their site)
    “As a Social Enterprise IQ seeks to develop subsidised workshops for both creative and non-fiction writing, to promote literacy and creativity in disadvantaged areas.”

    [Full disclosure – they’re my publisher]

  3. jackie 4 years ago

    I love The yellow-Lighted Bookshop in Tetbury, where they have a passion for books, Mr B’s, and maybe best of all Marilyn Brocklehurst’s Norfold Children’s Book Centre, in the middle of fields in Norfolk. And I am willing to discover more.

  4. Meg Rosoff 4 years ago

    Probably my two favourites in the UK — Marilyn is a maverick genius and Hereward one of a kind.

  5. Geraldine Bedell 4 years ago

    Terrific post. Sometimes hard to find reasons to be cheerful about publishing – but you’re right, I think and devoutly hope, that the increasing commodification all round will open up lovely new spaces for interesting writing to be found (perhaps even rewarded).

    1. jackie 4 years ago

      Wouldn’t that be lovely.

  6. Dragana 4 years ago

    Meg, one of the many things I didn’t do in my life was run a bookshop, but this post almost tempts me to! For me personally, the big change came with the commoditisation of books, being sold in supermarkets. I know only a particular type of book is sold there, (and it brought in new and different readers) but I think it devalues the product; it’s not something special, to be treasured and time taken to make a choice etc, just chuck it in the trolley with the Persil. So in the same way that the off-licence and wine seller are disappearing from our high streets, so are book shops. But markets are cyclical so the hope is, as the Frankenpublishers gobble up the existing market, brave, creative, differentiated newcomers will make a showing. I bloody hope so!

    1. Meg Rosoff 4 years ago

      Still time, Dragana. It would require a tour of amazing eccentric US bookshops, and then go for it. I once tried to get a bookseller who was building a children’s bookshop from scratch to have a petting zoo in the middle of it but they thought I was mad. We need some big thinking here…..

  7. adele geras 4 years ago

    Quite right. Let’s hear it for good bookshops. I am very fond of Simply Books in Bramhall Cheshire which serves its district and customers brilliantly. And has a super cafe too. And Book Groups, School visits, author events, you name it.

    1. Saviour Pirotta 4 years ago

      Simply Books is a marvellous place indeed, Adele. Every time I’ve been there, I’ve been welcomed with a buzz of excitement from people perusing and choosing books. Sue knows what her customers will buy and her stock is bang on.

  8. Enid Richemont 4 years ago

    Frankenpublishers? Already got one of those, but will name no names…

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  11. K M Lockwood 4 years ago

    Excellently optimistic post. Frankenpublishers will rumble on like K 2 boundary sauropods whilst the quick-witted mammalian species pub.independentiasis will thrive.
    I hope.

  12. Jake Elliott 4 years ago

    Yay! More chances for fame!

    Alright, maybe not.
    However, at least there are now companies out there willing to give kids like me a shot; I can only imagine trying to be in a meeting with a Penguin exec. trying to describe the relevance of salt in my story. Urgh.

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