Retired people are major buyers of historical fiction in the UK. According to Book Marketing, the so-called ‘grey pound’ accounted for one third of all historical novels purchased last year – compared with one in four three years ago. And elderly men’s reading tastes are partly to blame; they are twice as likely as elderly women to buy historical fiction for themselves. It seems readers of historical fiction are quite a conservative bunch, with 43 per cent seeking out books by authors they already know. Over five million books in this genre were sold last year, worth a cool £30 million.
In a bid to discover new voices, top publishers – including Random House, Orion, Little Brown and Hodder and Stoughton, are inviting aspiring novelists to send their opening chapters to the Arts Council Funded YouWriteOn. com. The competition is supported by some of the world’s most famous authors including Dan Brown, Terry Pratchett and Stephenie Meyer. Starting in May, five winners each month will receive a free professional critique from the participating publishers. If you’re one of them, let us know how you got on – then submit the finished novel to our competition (p 20). www.TheNextBigAuthor.com
▶ Top 3 ‘It makes every rejection letter I’ve received entirely worth it’ Lauren St John
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P H O T O S
VIDA, the US-based ‘organization for women in the literary arts’, has just published figures on book reviewing in 14 leading literary mags – including a few familiar to us (Granta, TLS, London Review of Books). The results confirm that the gender imbalance we first reported on in 2000 is just as pervasive across the pond. According to VIDA (vidaweb.org/ the-count-2010), male reviewers in the US outnumber female reviewers by seven to three, and men’s books are three times more likely to be reviewed than books by women.
Meanwhile back in the UK, in the run up to the Orange Prize, as the media reprises its annual whinge about the ‘need for a special prize for women writers’, the Independent’s Katy Guest has done her own survey of 10 newspapers. And has discovered – yet again – that men wrote 68 per cent of the reviews and 71 per cent of the books covered. Guest suggests it comes down to sheer pushiness. ‘Men send me neat, chronological lists of forthcoming books for review, complete with publisher, publication date and brief notes about why they’d like to review them. There are no women who do the same.’ Could it really be as simple as that? If so, what are we waiting for? ■
‘Finding female reviewers seemed to take an extra effort – why?’ Suzi Feay, former literary editor
MSLEXIA YOUR MSLEXIA
WINNERS OF THE BLUE PETER BOOK AWARD
‘Favourite story’ DeadMan’sCove(ALaura MarlinMystery)by Lauren St John (Orion Children’s Books) First in a new series, the novel follows the adventures of Laura Marlin, an 11-year-old amateur sleuth, as she leaves her children’s home and embarks on a new life with her mysterious uncle in St Ives
‘Best book with facts’ DoIgloosHaveLoos?by Mitchell Symons (Doubleday) Seventh crazy collection of trivia from the author of WhyEatingBogeysIs GoodForYou. Answers questions such as: How do you get out of quicksand? and Why does your skin get wrinkly in the bath?
‘Most fun story with pictures’ LunaticsandLuck(TheRaven Mysteries)by Marcus Sedgwick, illustrated by Pete Williamson (Orion Children’s Books) Castle Otherhand is a murky, shadowy place at the best of times, but it becomes even scarier with the arrival of a horrible new school master. Solstice and brother Cudweed are pitted against a new foe
A woman who was brought up on a game reserve in then Rhodesia has won the Blue Peter Children Book of the Year Award. Lauren St John’s novel DeadMan’sCovetriumphed in the ‘Favourite story’ category, before going on to scoop the overall prize for best book. The Blue Peter Award is unusual in having children judge the shortlisted books.
Win one of three eye-catching bags from the newly launched range at www. forbookssake.net. Featuring erudite quips from literary giants such as Virginia Woolf; perfect for carrying your writing arsenal.
For more information, and a chance to win, visit www.mslexia. co.uk before 30 April.
Poets Ros Barber and Jackie Will are looking into the feasibility of compiling a comprehensive register of contemporary women poets in the UK for a dedicated website. The register will include all poets who have published a pamphlet or full-length collection. They are especially interested in lesser-known poets who have not been included in major anthologies. If that sounds like you, and you support the idea, please send the title, date and publisher of your publication/s, along with a one-paragraph biog, to wills.jackie@ googlemail.com.
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the reserve price for the Bournemouth Literary Festival, which is being sold by founder
Lillian Avon along with website and associated publishing imprint Debut Books info@ bournemouthliterary festival.co.uk
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