June 20, 2014

Lock up the publishers!


Lock up the publishers. They know what they did.

Lock up the publishers. They know what they did.

There are many people who would like to see a bunch of publishers locked up in jail: failed writers, pissed-off agents, booksellers with back-ache and of course, Jeff Bezos. You can’t control ebook prices from jail, after all.

But a group of six publishers have actually volunteered themselves for the experience. Publishers such as Andrew Franklin (Profile Books), David Young from Hachette, and agent Clare Conville will all spend a night in prison this week in order to raise money for The Howard League for Penal Reform‘s campaign. This campaign is against the recent rule changes in British prisons, which has amounted to what is basically a ban of prisoners receiving books (as we’ve covered here).

The shortlist of six publishers was decided not by who most deserved locking up, but by who could raise the most money.  Eighteen members of the industry volunteered, and around 800 people donated in support of the campaign, raising more than £50,000. Franklin explained why he had chosen to take part, telling the Guardian:

I am doing this for two reasons. First, every publisher should be banged (up) to rights from time to time. A day in the cells seems about the right punishment for the books we have turned down and haven’t published and for the books we should all have turned down. Think of it as collective punishment for all of us. Second these are two great causes to fundraise for.

For Franklin, the punishment continued into his choice of reading for his night in the cell: he has chosen to read Jeffery Archer’s Be Careful What You Wish For. “I would rather have two nights in a punishment cell than have to read this”, he commented. Presumably he was echoing the plight of British prisoners, who have had their reading choices severely curtailed now they can no longer receive books as gifts.


Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.