Category Archives: Publishing industry discussion

Hobbyist or Pro?

There’s a quiz doing the rounds at the moment called Ten Questions to Know if You’re a Pro, about your attitude to writing and other aspects of life, and apparently you can’t be a professional writer, or claim to be a professional, if you don’t answer yes to them all.

These sorts of things annoy me. The questions are a set of arbitrary rules based around one writer’s experiences, perhaps to justify certain things she does or doesn’t do because it’s a “writerly” thing to do.

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Self-publishing Quality

I see myself as much a reader as a writer here, if not more so. I do intend, when the time comes, to self-publish what I write; I like the advantages it offers in terms of control, royalties and swiftness of reimbursement. As such, I want to see the self-publishing industry succeed, not just for my own prospects, but because it offers a variety to readers which traditional publishing does not – it contains books which might not be “marketable” or might be “too risky” to the traditional publisher, but which actually are very good, very enjoyable books.

The problem is that self-publishing’s greatest strength is also its greatest weakness: its inclusivity. It means that anyone can publish – good or bad. Finished or unfinished. And that’s what I want to address today.

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Amazon’s Kindle Worlds – the fanfic that pays

Amazon have announced Kindle Worlds, a new scheme whereby they intend to publish fanfiction in the Kindle marketplace for money. This will be with the agreement of the owners of the intellectual property, who will also get some of the royalties, but it means that for the first time fans can publish fanfiction and get paid for it, without having to either change all the names to make it look like original fiction, wait a few decades for copyright to run out, or make a deal directly with the rights holder.

Authors will have to meet content guidelines, such as a ban on pornography, extreme violence, and crossovers, and a requirement that the work does not give a “poor customer experience”. There is also a minimum word limit works under 5,000 will not be accepted, and those under 10,000 will receive a reduced royalty rate.

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Terry Deary and libraries

Last week Horrible Histories author Terry Deary revealed that he’s not a fan of libraries. He called them irrelevant and revealed that, had the readers borrowing his books in 2011/12 instead bought them, he’d have earned £180,000 compared to the £6,600 he actually earned from the borrows premium. He accuses them of reducing book sales from shops and being unnecessary because of public schools.

This is not an opinion I share. Or, indeed, one shared by children’s laureate Julia Donaldson, fantasy author Neil Gaiman, and, well, quite a lot of others. Deary even went on to defend his comments, claiming that they are only used by the middle classes and that he was talking about access to literature. He also claimed that “no-one is even reading what I’m saying” and accused commentators of spiteful remarks rather than reasoned debate. I saw plenty of reasoned debate in the links provided above and elsewhere, but maybe Mr Deary missed those.

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Amazon’s approach to book reviews

Writerly types and those with interest in publishing (or even just reading) may have come across a tweet that was posted yesterday by author and TV producer Daisy Goodwin, reading:

‘We don’t require people to have read the product before reviewing’ amazon spokesperson #sockpuppets

This quote was published in the Guardian, in an article called Why Amazon Just Can’t Win yesterday morning and refers also, with the #sockpuppet hashtag, to the events of last September, when author R J Ellroy was found using a sockpuppet account to give other authors bad reviews and his own books good reviews. In response to this Amazon deleted thousands of reviews on books simply because they were written by other authors – widely condemned as an overreaction.

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Commentary: Jeanette Winterson calls for library expansion (BBC)

I’ve just come across this BBC article, Jeanette Winterson calls for library expansion, wherein the author, speaking at the Reading Agency Lecture at the British Library, called for an expansion to libraries, as well as introducing different facilities such as post offices and creches to libraries, funded by large companies accused of avoiding paying tax in the UK, such as Amazon, Google and Starbucks.

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