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Two revolutions in publishing

13 June 2016

‘In the last three decades of the 20th century rents rose, publishers moved out of central London, new publishers came and went, historical names amalgamated or went bust, agents became publishers, former publishers became agents. No more handing in manuscripts in carrier bags at reception. Synopses were scrutinised; publishers ceased to accept unsolicited manuscripts. Marketing voices drowned literary-minded editors; agents saw a future in re-writing their clients work; university departments of creative writing sprang up.

Absurd sums were paid to "name" writers - including me - until in 1999 Amazon came along with its actual sales figures ad a bitter sanity was restored for some 10 years; until ebooks arrived and started another revolution. It was of the same order as when Caxton came along and printing took over from manuscripts hand-copied by scribes, and readership went from single digits to thousands. Suddenly, with the internet 500 years later, billions of readers became available. Publishing is still adjusting to the shock, but managing pretty well, considering.'

Fay Weldon, author of The Life and Loves of a She-Devil and Before the War in the Independent on Sunday