Does literary fiction need public funding?

A recent report by Arts Council England has suggested that literary fiction should get public funding. But surely writers have survived for centuries without public funding and if a book is well written and sells then why would it need public funding?

Henry Sutton, senior lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia believes it should. In fact he argues that all fiction should be heavily funded, because studies show that reading fiction helps people to understand others, it develops empathy and understanding about how other people think and behave.Literary fiction gets to the roots of the human condition and across class, race and time. It’s about diversity and inclusion. He doesn’t think that every writer deserves to be a writer but feels strongly that more people should read. A literary culture needs to be developed from the grassroots with more engagement and support. Reading is a fun activity, and a form of escape from the tough lives we lead and a means to relax. It should be encouraged and we need to look at ways to encourage it.

Author Jilly Cooper disagrees with Henry Sutton. She wrote her first romance novel in 1975, long before Tesco and Asda began flogging off cheap books and the big Amazon came into being. She needed to make ends meet and writing gave her an income. An income, what is that? Jilly was successful because there were far fewer romance novels on the market. She simply didn’t have the level of competition we authors face today and books were priced accordingly. Today however, readers expect books to be cheaply priced or preferably free. We’ve seen a race to the bottom. Our skills are undervalued. It’s a giveaway culture in the literary world. Anyone can publish and nobody is checking grammar or writing style. It’s a free for all situation on Amazon. Our public libraries are disappearing, once great cathedrals of reading and this both Jilly Cooper and Henry Sutton do agree on.

My latest book engages the reader in the 1950s when choices for women were limited. When Henry Sutton talks about empathy and the human condition my book “Every Mother’s Fear” perfectly brings to focus exactly what he means. I believe that we should read about the past to understand the present, where we are and where we’re going and I hope my book does just that.

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