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  • Writer's pictureClaire Wong

Book review: They'll Never Read That: How to make mistakes in publishing by Tony Collins

Updated: Jan 18, 2023

It’s a sure sign you’ve got a sense of humour if you choose to name your book They’ll Never Read That. That’s exactly what Tony Collins has done, and it gives the reader a good indication of the tone with which he tells this story of a career in publishing: cheerful, self-deprecating at times, and peppered with insights into the book industry.

The full title is They’ll Never Read That: How to make mistakes in publishing, and it’s a memoir of Tony Collins’ journey from a young and enthusiastic reader to a seasoned expert in publishing books, covering times spent working for Hodder & Stoughton, Kingsway, Monarch, Lion Hudson and SPCK. As the title implies, a key theme is that learning from mistakes can build on to greater success in the future.

With such a background in books, it should come as no surprise that Tony Collins knows how to tell an engaging story. His anecdotes are compelling and by turns funny, moving or surprising.

But this is more than just an entertaining life story. If you’ve ever been intrigued by the mysteries of the book-publishing world, then here you’ll find a wealth of insight into many areas of this fascinating industry, from commissioning to sales, from the editor’s office to the book shop counter, with all the highs and lows along the way. As a writer, I found it so interesting to see how decisions were made and if you’ve ever wished for a window into the publishing world, then this book certainly offers that.

This book offers a challenge too, to examine our own motivations and aspirations, for whatever vocation we might choose. Here's one of many quotes that made me laugh, then pause and think:

Every book is a risk. It is a risk to write it, because you don't know whether anyone will care enough to open the cover. It is an expensive risk to read it, because you open the blinds of your mind not knowing what may creep in. It is a critically expensive risk to publish it, because it may make you rich, or bankrupt you. Any book teeters on the edge of failure. Which is why publishing is so much fun.

As a writer and a reader, I feel this quote encapsulates so much of the feeling that underpins how we engage with books. It is a risk. And yet it is also an act of faith, and faith plays such a part in Tony's journey through this book. What comes across keenly is how well he understands authors, readers and editors alike.

Tony Collins writes with wit, wisdom and heart. This book conveys a strong sense of his vision to see books that make a difference in the world, which is an inspiring and encouraging ethos. It's an enjoyable read packed with the author's vast knowledge and experience of books, and the people who create them.

They'll Never Read That: How to make mistakes in publishing is published by Sarah Grace Publishing. You can buy it here.

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