Martin Shaw wins Bookseller of the Year
Martin has been head of our books department here at Readings for 16 years (and worked here for almost 20). In addition, he has been on the programming committee of the Melbourne Writers Festival, an editorial advisor to the literary journal Kill Your Darlings, and most recently been active on the board of the Small Press Network. He is currently a judge for the esteemed Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.
Below is Martin’s acceptance speech from the night:
“I’m naturally very honoured to be chosen as the recipient of the 2013 Bookseller of the Year award. There really can’t be a better job than working with people who are passionate about books, be they my terrific colleagues, other booksellers, literary organisations, and folk on the publishing side of the fence. And of course having the opportunity from time to time to have contact with writers themselves, whose own commitment to their craft never ceases to astonish me.
Of course these distinctions we make (bookseller/publisher/author) are relatively new-fangled. Once upon a time it wasn’t unusual for a bookseller to also be an editor, a publisher, a publicist, and sometimes even a writer too - all in one. And let’s not forget that companies like Angus & Robertson were, until recently, a pre-eminent Australian publisher as well as a bookseller.
I mention this because from time to time I’m asked to make some sort of diagnosis of the Australian book industry from my side of the fence – where it’s at, where it’s heading, what needs to be "fixed”. My view though these days is actually quite straightforward. Namely the more we treat our industry as an organic whole, and share and embrace a common cultural purpose as well as the necessary commercial one, then it will surely continue to be as dynamic and enterprising and innovative as it is today. Big corporations will come and go, but passionate people will always remain, and if, by this accolade, I can consider myself one of those people, I thank you all very much.
I will close with a little quote from the American author Don DeLillo which I encountered recently. It really resonated with me, perhaps particularly because I read it a couple of months back, when sales across all bookselling channels seemed to nosedive for a few weeks there, and we as an industry seemed to start to indulge in even more panicky navel-gazing than usual. I’ve amended DeLillo’s words slightly – interposed “our industry” or “industry people” when he refers to “the novel” or “writers” – for I think his perspective, as an industry veteran, is valuable, and speaks to authors, booksellers and publishers alike. All of us who, as I say, all share a common cause:
‘Even if the audience diminishes and if the significance of the industry diminishes, that makes it all the more important, and it becomes even more obvious that committed industry people have to keep working – even if they don’t get the recognition they might have received 10 or 20 or 30 years ago. And even if they don’t make the kind of money that they used to make in earlier days. The idea is to keep the industry alive, and perhaps it will become even more precious than it used to be in healthier days.’“
Martin’s recommendations (tending toward literary fiction) are highly respected, often contributing to the success within Australia of leading local and international writers. Browse his recent recommendations here.