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'Publishing is more market-driven'

13 February 2006

'In the three years since I became President of the AAA (Association of Authors' AgentsThe association of UK agents. Their website ( gives a Directory of Members and a code of practice, but no information about the agencies other than their names. The association refers visitors to the UK agent listings from The Writers' & Artists' Yearbook on the WritersServices site.), there has been a significant rise in the tempo of change in the publishing world. This change is systemic and wide-ranging, and is set to accelerate further. Its various aspects are all linked, but I think they may be divided into three main categories: change in the retail trade; change in the mode of delivery and reading of texts; and change in the policies of publishers.

The greatest change has been in the retail trade. It is here that we can see most clearly how market forces are shaping our industry. When I came into publishing in the 1980s, it was a world in which publishers pushed books through the marketplace; it is now a world in which retailers pull books through. I don't mean by this that retailers are directly making the decisions about what books should be published; but we have all of us - agents, editors, publishers - internalized the lessons of the marketplace, and are bound to be influenced by it in the judgments we make every day. Put simply, publishing is more market-driven now than then.'

Derek Johns, outgoing President of the Association of Authors' Agents, in a speech reprinted in Publishing News