Friday, 24 April 2009

The Book Channel

This week sees the timely launch of new British digital TV channel
The Book Channel

Timely, as it comes just as Richard and Judy are contemplating retirement from our screens, along with their hit television Book Club based on Oprah Winfrey's original model in the US, an idea which in turn led to multitudes of private Book Groups being set up among friends and neighbours up and down the country to either link in with Richard and Judy's or read their own choices. We even had a hit sit com on the subject!

Those of us with published books know how tough the market is out there. Plus publishers give so much money to their celebrity 'author' list in bidding wars or to stop them seeking more elsewhere, they have increasingly little left to offer the real authors on their list. Gone are the days when even a previously successful author could count on another book deal, or even on more than diminishing returns for any subsequently accepted book. It is shocking to realise how many seemingly successful authors, far from living JK Rowling lifestyles are actually struggling to make their mortgage payments each month! But then publishers themselves are also struggling and going to the wall by the week. Though JK Rowling was one of the lucky ones who managed to attain both celebrity status AND successful author status!

It is great therefore to see the rise and rise of that 'novel' innovation The Book Festival in the last ten years, bringing authors and readers together and books alive in a new way. Now almost every town and city has one and authors have nationwide tours much like pop stars, only without the riches! Here's a couple of pictures from The Oxford Literary Festival (one of the original book festivals) last month. In fact such has it mushroomed, last year it spawned the also mushrooming OxFringe arts festival too!

I do hope The Book Channel will similarly blossom for authors and readers alike. It certainly has the increasing paucity of quality content on other digital channels in its favour! So many times I have sat in front of the screen and found absolutely nothing I wished to watch, despite countless channels to choose from. A 'Jackanory' and 'The Book Tower' for adults would be good - I might apply to present!


Nota Bene said...

mmmm not sure that books and TV are a great combination...but anything that supports writing and reading is to be applauded...standing ovation even.

Steve said...

Well, as I am now a mere two chapters away from finishing my first novel I find your synopsis of the publishing world rather depressing and despair inducing. Lordy, is there much point continuing? Naturally I will as it keeps me sane but it's a rather sobering heads-up. Re: the book channel - apply now, Laura. You'd be excellent (and maybe I could persuade you to give me a free plug?)...

moi said...

We had something similar on cable television for a while. I actually found it fascinating watching. Then again, my craving for books is matched only by my craving for shoes. Put the two together in one show and I'd never leave the house.

Steerforth said...

I hated Jackanory but loved the Book Tower, which talked about books rather than merely reading them. And, best of all, it was presented by Tom Baker.

The Sagittarian said...

Books and more books - delicious!

Wisewebwoman said...

As to me, I haven't switched on the 1000 channel TV in the house I'm housesitting in over 4 weeks now but have managed to read 4 books in between tax preparations.
I love everything to do with books, Laura, I have a publishing contract but alas am not seeing eye to eye with my editor so I'm trying to get out of it.
Are those your bookshelves on the top pic? If so I'm green with envy, how beautiful!
Anything that will make people read, I'm OK with!

Anonymous said...

I don't really do TV - well, not unless there is someone very sexy on there.

So I'd watch if you were appearing, of course.

I can't seem to read books anymore - my head is too "something" still. I can manage to reread books I've already read but that's about it. Hopefully my head will clear one day soon. I used to read a lot.

teeni said...

You should definitely apply! What a great job for you! I think so many of us can relate to that feeling of having nothing to watch on the idiot box despite all the channels there are these days. It's quite disgusting actually.

Rol said...

It's a nice idfea, but I'd rather spend my free time reading books than watching TV shows about them.

Nota Bene said...

And I was so hoping this was going to be you...

The Poet Laura-eate said...

Nota Bene - I share your reservations, but things are so tough these days I take the view that authors need all the help they can get.

Sorry Steve - didn't mean to depress you. Then again, forewarned is forearmed and it's those authors who know what's going on and change their approach accordingly who will have most chance of success (ie EXPECT to have to do much of the marketing yourself whether you are published by someone else, or go the self-publishing route as publishers no longer offer much in the way of an advantage over having complete editorial etc control yourself, particularly in the marketing stakes). Thanks - I will certainly approach The Book Channel and see what I can do!

Moi - shoes and books - now there's an innovative idea! Mind you jacket design in books is pretty important so it would be nice to intersperse the programmes about the books with programmes about book design, publishing, marketing etc.

Steerforth, yes Tom Baker in the Book Tower was pretty unbeatable as a combo. Though I still remember such stories as 'Grimm Grange' read by Martin Jarvis on Jackanory with great affection (and I did go out and buy the book so it worked as a programme).

Sagittarius - Hmmm - books made of ricepaper - now there's a delicious and sustainable idea! They could do that for yearly reference books such as good hotels guides which expire in usefulness after 12 months and the recycling people do not want to know!

WWW - delighted to hear you have a publishing contract - I do hope you sort things out with your editor. Thanks for your compliments on my bookshelves (paint effect on a previously rather bland bookcase). I agree that anything that encourages reading (not to mention a triving market for authors) has to be good, though I do question the emphasis placed on celebrity publications and big piles of the same book all round large bookshops just because that author can afford that sort of prominence, not because the publication is necessarily any better than the others.

Thanks RB! I sympathise with the reading thing. I am a painfully slow reader and easily distracted, so it's got to be a hell of a gripping read for me to get to the end most times and sometimes I do not have the concentration to read more than a newspaper. I think we also suffer from information overload a great deal too which impacts on serious reading. I am watching increasingly less TV though, but only to swap for computer time, life admin and job applications!

Teeni - thanks. Might give you a call for some makeover tips now you're an expert! British TV is generally in a chronic way for intelligent programming though, and not getting any better.

Rol, I understand your point of view, but with your author hat on I can see you quickly embracing anything which promotes authors and books regardless of personal preference!

Thanks Nota Bene. But a great relief not to get it to be honest. This once-proud nation of ours has been brought to its knees to such an extent I would have really been struggling (as Andrew Motion was by the end of his tenure) to write anything proud and stirring about it.

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