Autumn 2017

Truth and transparency

James McConnachie, Editor

'[...] shedding light on what has been one of the more misunderstood, misrepresented and even murky aspects of our trade‚Äč.'

In the era of fake news, and allegations about fake news, who better to tackle the theme of truth versus fiction than authors? And who better than authors who write both fiction and non?

Stephanie Merritt is a novelist who writes about a real historical character under the pseudonym of S. J. Parris. Lucy Hughes-Hallett is a ‘non-fiction writer’ who has just published a ‘debut’ novel. Lars Mytting is a novelist who published an internationally bestselling book of non-fiction – the one about wood chopping in Norway. Each has slipped between fiction and history, although not always without a degree of friction.

Themes of truth and transparency run through this Autumn issue. We publish the powerful speech Ben Okri gave at the SoA’s annual Authors’ Awards, in which he attacked the often-asked question, ‘what is the value of the writer?’ – exposing it as not a true question at all. He answered it, all the same. The writer shows ‘that there can always be other realities,’ he asserted, ‘that this reality is not the only one that can be.’

Andrew Franklin, the Managing Director of Profile Books, has trusted us with an unusually open account of the costs of publishing, and where the money goes – shedding light on what has been one of the more misunderstood, misrepresented and even murky aspects of our trade. The agent Lizzy Kremer turns from fake news to bad science, meanwhile, castigating publishers for misusing the data they hold on authors’ previous sales – their ‘track’.

As ever, The Author will strive to unearth truths about our trade and professional practice. Just as Walter Besant described it, 120 years ago, we aim to ‘pour into the pages of The Author all the light that can be obtained upon everything connected with the publishing of books’ – even when the truth is obfuscated elsewhere. 

As well as warmth we have light. On p.109 we enjoy the glow of welcome extended by existing members to member 10,000. This is a major milestone for the Society. I see it as a sign of our growing strength as a campaigning organisation – and of the warmth of our growing community.


James McConnachie | @j_mcconnachie

In this issue...

That which endures

  • About writing: the mystery, the miracle - Ben Okri
  • Tree planting with Thomas Hardy - Jonathan Tulloch

Facts and fictions

  • Bad track: publishing's fake news - Lizzy Kremer
  • Publishing: the Micawber principle - Andrew Franklin
  • Trains of thought, rendered incorrectly - A. J. Mullay

Non-fiction and fiction

  • Trans-genre - Lucy Hughes-Hallett
  • A well-sharpened saw - Lars Mytting
  • Don't tell me what happens - S. J. Parris

The writer at work

  • Endorsed - Andrew Hankinson
  • A million reasons - John Dodd
  • Cultural slumming - Roy Bainton
  • Bare Lit - Samia Gundkalli
  • A ruby anniversary: ALCS turns 40 - Tony Bradman


  • All the help you can get - Paul Anderson


  • Need to know
  • SoA prizes
  • To the Editor
  • Booktrade news
  • Broadcasting
  • Notices
  • Grub Street - Andrew Taylor