Two Fantastic Books About Publishing -- Andrew Crofts


I have just read two fantastic books about the publishing world of the last thirty or forty years. The first is Book Wars – The Digital Revolution in Publishing by John B. Thompson and the second is Ahead of Her Time, an autobiography from legendary publisher, Judy Piatkus.

These two, very different, authors have both managed to capture clearly the world that I have been living in for all of my working life. John Thompson is a Cambridge professor and also author of the brilliant, Merchants of Culture. His new book is an extremely authoritative account of the revolution which at one time looked like it was going to destroy the fusty old world of book publishing, but has actually ended up reinvigorating it in ways that no one predicted.

Book Wars By John B. Thompson

When you are actually toiling at the coal face of writing, it is easy to forget just how much has changed since the arrival of Amazon and ebooks, the explosion of the self-publishing industry and the invention of new ways of publishing such as crowdfunding, fan fiction, and Wattpad.

For those of us who have lived through the whole thing, Book Wars is a great nostalgic wallow, but for anybody wanting to get into publishing this should be compulsory reading. If you are about to go for a job interview anywhere in the industry, read this book first!  

Judy Piatkus founded Piatkus books from her bedroom in 1979, and turned it into one of the most successful independent publishing companies in the world, eventually selling to Little Brown.

She and her team published a book for me about thirty years ago and I will always remember the experience very fondly. Although I was well aware of just how successful Judy was in her chosen profession, I don’t think I knew just how much she had achieved in other fields, including bringing up a severely disabled child. Apart from being a fascinating and gossipy account of one woman’s rise to the top in publishing, the book is a masterclass in how you can live a good life if you are willing to take a few risks and keep on doing the right thing day after day. The book, quite rightly, makes the point that she was one of only a handful of women to get to the top of the business in her time, but this book is a lesson in entrepreneurship for anyone, regardless of gender.  Judy was indeed "Ahead of her time".


Bill Kirton said…
Thanks for the tip, Andrew, especially about Judy's book. She published my first crime novel back in 1995 and it was a pleasure to know and learn so much from her at a time when publishing was (or at least seemed to be) more about quality and value than marketing.
Wendy H. Jones said…
Thanks for this. I love the sound of both of these and am going to take a look.

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