My Back Pages by Richard Charkin

I thought it appropriate to kick off Wordy Wednesdays with a book that offers a rare combination of humour, biography and mewsings about the publishing industry.

Richard Charkin is a legendary figure in the publishing industry, having been there and done it time and time again. I read his autobiography in one sitting – couldn’t put it down. Not merely is it a repository of anecdotes about those he has met and worked with, including Madonna, Robert Maxwell and . . . well, you name it . . . but his insights into the metamorphosis of the publishing industry from a world of old school ties, scholarly whimsy and a passion for the written word to an ever decreasing number of multinational corporations more concerned with shareholder value, the acquisition of rights and economies of scale is a real eye-opener. With my background in the record industry, I was fascinated by the similarities and parallels of how creativity has been replaced by marketing might as artists and writers are regarded as product rather than talent.

I can’t recommend this book too highly. Indeed, I would go as far as to say that it should be compulsory reading not just for all authors, but for those interested in the world of business and how what we buy is increasingly influenced not by what we want, but by what we are offered. In short, these days straight bananas are the only fruit on the literary supermarket shelves.

Richard writes regular articles for trade magazines and after leaving the board of Bloomsbury , now runs his own small imprint, publishing books he believes deserve to see the light of day – Mensch Publishing . . . Check it out.


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