By Roger Tagholm
To the Royal Opera House in London’s Covent Garden – where the British Academy of Film and Television Awards (BAFTA) were held at the weekend – for the Orion Group’s annual Author Party. Just as the highly successful British film The King’s Speech was on everyone’s lips at the BAFTAs, so at the party on Tuesday night there was much anticipation over Orion’s own “king’s speech,” the one made by CEO Peter Roche.
It has been a tradition in years gone by for Roche to reveal the respective number of authors and agents at this well-attended gathering – and sometimes to draw a conclusion. A glance around the Paul Hamlyn Hall –- named after the German-born British publisher whose estate gave £10m to the Opera House –- showed many of both. Among the agents were Ed Victor, Jonny Geller, Lavinia Trevor, Clare Conville and Carolyn Dawnay, while authors included Kate Mosse, Michelle Paver, Lady Antonia Fraser, Robert Rankin and Antony Beevor.
Hachette Book Group Chairman and CEO David Young was over from New York, en route to the Hachette Livre board meeting in Barcelona
this Thursday. “We are a very joined-up group internationally –- more so that some others,” he observed, before revealing that he’d been reading the forthcoming David Baldaaci, The Sixth Man, in galley (yes, that’s right -– in print galley) on the plane.
When he did eventually speak, Roche noted that 2010 had seen a decline in physical book sales by more than 3% in the UK, with e-book sales accounting for between one and 2%. “We expect e-book sales in 2011 to be 4% of our sales which will put further strain on bricks and mortar,” he said. But he added that, despite the difficulties of 2010 which saw a number of retail companies going under in the UK and Ireland, he “remained optimistic.”
And that was it.
Well, if you’re feeling short-changed and want to know who won the numbers game –- the authors or the agents -– Publishing Perspectives can exclusively reveal that it was the agents. Cause for celebration? “Not at all!” shrieked the eponymous agent Jane Gregory. “That means we’ve only got about one-and-a-half authors each.”