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December 2013 - Writers Magazine

News Review

  • The latest self-publishing success story comes from the most unlikely place - France. Or perhaps it is not so surprising, since the French publishing world is known for its rigidity and for its success at fighting off change of any kind, leaving the literary establishment firmly in charge.
  • The world of big literary prizes has become much more complicated. It used to be just the Booker amongst English-language prizes which was of international interest, in spite of the fact that only UK and Commonwealth authors' books could be entered.
  • A new site for short story writers and readers has recently launched. Yaktale is a place where writers can post their stories, after they have emailed with the request and sent a brief account of past work. Already existing writers on Yaktale have the ability to invite other writers onboard, but they only have a limited number of invites so they are encouraged to distribute them wisely.
  • A very interesting article from Digital Book World explores some fascinating research into writers' different approaches to publishing traditionally and self-publishing. This relates to a study from last year carried out by Digital Book World and Writer's Digest and involving  5,000 American authors.
  • Pan MacmillanOne of largest fiction and non-fiction book publishers in UK; includes imprints of Pan, Picador and Macmillan Children’s Books in the UK has just acquired Mary Wood, a self-published author of five historical sagas, taking on all five as well as two new books. Pan Macmillan will publish the novels in paperback and e-book throughout 2014 and 2015. The author's blog has played a major part in making her well-known and the ebook versions of all her titles have been in the Amazon Top Ten.
  • This week has yielded some rather unexpected figures from both sides of the Atlantic relating to ebook sales. In the States it looks as if ebook sales are in decline, whereas in the UK there's also a tempering in projections of ebook growth.
  • After eight years of litigation over Google's scanning of more than 20 million books in libraries, Judge Denny Chin has come down in their favour: ‘Google's use of the copyrighted works is highly transformative. Google Books digitizes books and transforms expressive text into a comprehensive word index that helps readers, scholars, researchers, and others find books...
  • A recent investigation by USA Today into their bestseller lists of the last thirty years throws an interesting light on changes in bestsellerdom and background changes in the way in which books are bought and sold.In the years 1993-98, John Grisham dominated the fiction bestsellers but the list as a whole was full of big non-fiction bestsellers, mostly self-help, such as Men are from Mars, Women are from Venus, Don't' Sweat the Small Stuff... And it's all Small Stuff and Chicken Soup for the Soul. This was an era when books were still bought in retail stores, especially bookstores, and the big book chains were dominant...


  • 'Once the world ends, all your worries about your mortgage and your job get shunted off to the sideline. We use genre fiction to tell us what we are; I think with all genre fiction, where it becomes great is when it is saying something about the world we are in. Mike Carey, author of The Girl with All the Gifts in the Bookseller
  • 'I remember writing at the end of 2012 that whatever else 2013 brings, the only thing we can all rely on is that we'll know a little bit more by the end of the year than we knew heading into it. Digital does not move in a digital way. The year asked more questions that we knew we had to answer. Philip Jones, Editor of the Bookseller, in Futurebook (Apologies for quoting so fully from this, but it is an excellent summary of where we stand.)
  • 'I treat it like a job. I like a nice long day. I can't work in bits and pieces, and I prefer not to work at evenings and weekends... The thing about writing a novel that's so funny is that there are perhaps just two or three moments of three minutes - those moments when you have the key ideas - and that's the whole book. Everything else is just filling the gaps. Of course there are moments of fun, but there's a lot that's just work, sometimes hard, sometimes dull... Sarah Waters, author of The Little Stranger in the Observer
  • 'Books are my first love. I started reading seriously at seven or eight, books about myths and legends, the Narnia series... By the time I was 11, I had read all the children's books in my local library, so I moved on to Jane Eyre. What I loved about Jane Eyre was that she didn't rely on her looks but her character. She had a spirit nobody could break... Malorie Blackman, author of Noble Conflict and many other books, and the Waterstones Children's Laureate for the UK in the Independent on Sunday
  • 'Proud? Frightened about the next book, actually, always frightened about the next book, If you've had 16 number ones in a row, you wonder if the next one will be. We can all think of a lot of authors who have died overnight. You see such big names disappearing and you think, 'That could be me'. There's always pressure. You sit down each day and say, 'this has to be better than anything I've done before', because these are real readers and they are sitting there waiting for it. The day the bookshop opens there will be half a million people round the world in straight away, and if I haven't delivered... well it is a horrific pressure.' Jeffrey Archer, whose latest bestseller is Best Kept Secret, in the Bookseller
  • 'Work is the only interesting thing for me if I'm working out on the edge of the unknown. The immediacy of discovery, that's what's interesting to me. Every book is a different country. When I start my fourth, it will be as if I've never written a book before. I'll be completely at sea, and nothing I've ever done before in my life will help me at all.' Donna Tartt, author of The Goldfinch, in the Sunday Times' Culture
  • 'Contrary to what some media outlets reported last week e-books haven't killed off any publishers: in fact in the main they have led to increased profit margins. E-book growth has largely sustained trade publishers during the latter years of the big recession, and even if they do now, as some say, 'plateau', profit margins may continue to grow as publishers learn to better manage their inventories and working capital across the rest of their business.' Philip Jones, editor of the Bookseller
  • 'Women should write from the heart, and because they can't not write. I don't think that there is a chick-lit formula: you come across some heroines like Bridget Jones, but mine tend to be bitches. Entertain yourself and don't ever imagine your mother reading your book.' Adele Parks in The Times

Writers' Quote

'Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such as ting if one were not driven by some demon whom one can neither resist or (sic) understand. For all one knows that demon is the same instinct that makes a baby squall for attention.' George Orwell

Links to this month's top stories

Our new feature links to interesting blogs or articles posted online, which will help keep you up to date with what's going on in the book world:

Report from 2013 International Publishers Association Conference | Publishing Perspectives.

Entitle launches eBook Subscription Service with Over 100,000 Books

Mal Peet: "The Wheat and the Chaff"

BookBrunch - Does book reviewing have a future?

Report from 2013 International Publishers Association Conference | Publishing Perspectives

Trident Media Group's Robert Gottlieb on Re-Engineering The Role of Literary Agents | Digital Book World

BBC News - Author Nick Spalding's top 10 self-publishing tips

Could subscription services help curb book piracy? - Telegraph

The best literary spats of 2013 | Books | The Guardian

Amazon Publishing Launches Short Fiction Imprint

Sweden Shifting Away from Crime, While UK Hunts Sure Things | Publishing Perspectives

BookBrunch - History in the making

Changing the Diet of American Readers | Publishing Perspectives

HarperCollins CEO Paints Positive Picture for Publishing | Variety

Self-Publishing Debate: A Social Scientist Separates Fact from Fiction | Digital Book World

BBC News - Amazon testing drones for deliveries

André Schiffrin, Publishing Force and a Founder of New Press, Is Dead at 78 -

Writing is Facing Up to Reality, say Grossman, Vargas Llosa | Publishing Perspectives

BookBrunch - Prospering in the squeezed middle of publishing

Young adult readers 'prefer printed to ebooks' | Books |

Publish Faster, Publish Less: Futurebook's Big Ideas | Publishing Perspectives

Are There Books Too Private to Publish?

Doris Lessing: a model for every writer coming from the back of beyond | Margaret Atwood | Books | The Guardian

Publishing crisis? Time to create a Spotify for books | Media Network | Guardian Professional

BookBrunch - Where every picture really does tell a story

HarperCollins UK boss tells publishers: take storytelling back from digital rivals | Books |

A Look at the Book Business From the Inside -- Vulture

Is the Western Publishing Industry Institutionally Racist? | PP Wong

Why we love loooong novels -

BookBrunch - Vanitas vanitatum... or how I learnt to love self-publishing

Google Books ruling is a huge victory for online innovation

Why Google's Fair Use Victory In Google Books Suit Is A Big Deal--And Why It Isn't - Forbes

Ebooks and discounts drive 98 publishers out of business | Books |

What's Driving UK Publishers Out of Business? | Publishing Perspectives

How Has Twitter Changed the Role of the Literary Critic? -

Shatzkin: Why Competing With Amazon Is So Difficult | Digital Book World

Jane Austen 'airbrushed' on new £10 note, claims biographer | Money |

How Amazon and Goodreads could lose their best readers -

Neil Gaiman delivers our second annual lecture | Reading Agency

Magazine - Winter Scene


Our series about writing in different genres

Writing Memoir and Autobiography

Writing Historical Fiction

Writing Romance

Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy

Writing Crime Fiction

Writing non-fiction

Our book review section

Choosing a Service

Are you having difficulty deciding which service might be right for you? This useful article by Chris HolifieldManaging director of WritersServices; spent working life in publishing,employed by everything from global corporations to start-ups; track record includes: editorial director of Sphere Books, publishing director of The Bodley Head, publishing director for start-up of upmarket book club, The Softback Preview, editorial director of Britain’s biggest book club group, BCA, and, most recently, deputy MD and publisher of Cassell & Co. She is also currently the Director of the Poetry Book Society; During all of this time aware of problems faced by writers, as publishing changed from idiosyncratic cottage industry, 'occupation for gentlemen', into corporate business of today. Writers encountered increasing difficulty in getting books edited or published. Authors create the books which are the raw material for the whole business. She believes it is time to bring them back to centre stage. offers advice on what to go for, depending on what stage you are at with your writing. Our Editorial Services for writers

Check out the 19 different editorial services we offer, from Reports to Copy editing, Manuscript Typing to Rewriting. Check out this page to find links to the huge number of useful articles on this site, including Finding an Agent, Your Submission Package and Making Submissions.

Do you want your book to be properly published?

There's no reason why a self-publisher shouldn't have as good a chance of finding an audience as an author whose book is coming out from a publisher. But what really lets their work down is if it hasn't been professionally copy edited. Effectively a self-publisher who goes ahead without copy editing is just publishing a manuscript, a work-in-progress which readers will react against because of all the errors. Copy editing for self-publishers

Our latest Writers' Success Story

'The announcement that Gillian Flynn had been declared Specsavers International Author of the Year last week was only the latest accolade awarded to her. Flynn is an American author and former television critic for Entertainment Weekly. As of 2012, she has published three novels: Sharp Objects, Dark Places and Gone Girl. Her first two sold pretty well but not spectacularly and she really hit her stride with Gone Girl. Our Success Story looks at her rapid rise to fame and there are others in the series too.

A Printer's View

A Printer's View 1 is the first in a series of occasional articles looking at self-publishing from the printing perspective. In Self-publishing? How do you prepare your files for print? Andy EdmonsonManaging Director, Purely Digital, a quality digital printing service based in Derby; over 20 years' experience in printing industry; written for various publications including Print Week and popular blog Just Creative, Managing Director at Purely Digital, looks at this central question.

Writing for Children: Rule Number One

Read more than you write: 'Author opinion falls into two camps on this one, with some writers maintaining that reading fiction while writing is a very bad thing. Many other authors, however, believe the opposite to be true, that reading and being well-read is essential to good writing, and it is this argument that I am exploring here...' Sarah Taylor-Fergusson in Rule Number One of Writing for Children.

Conscious Writing

'Discovering our authentic voice, writing with lasting impact, and standing out from the crowd are high priorities for most of us who write... Conscious Writing is a new approach to deep writing with full awareness which takes us into the core of what we're really here to write, and in the process, opens the way for us to realise our true potential as authors in the world.' Julia McCutcheon, the founder of IACCW, contributes a new article on Conscious Writing.

Poetry Collection Editing

Our latest new service, which is our Poetry Collection Editing service. Intended for poets who want to prepare their poetry collection for self-publishing or for those who just want to get their poetry into the best possible shape before submitting it to publishers, this provides a skilled editor to copy edit your work, correcting grammatical and spelling errors, and also to edit it, providing suggestions for improving the poems and the collection as a whole.

Services for self-publishers

Do you want to self-publish your work? WritersServices offers a suite of services which help writers get their work into shape before they self-publish. New to the site, our page of Services for Self-publishers.

Self-publishing - the rights way is an article from Tom Chalmers of IPR Licensethe global, digital marketplace for authors, agents and publishers to list and license book rights; launched in 2012 which explores the importance of rights to self-published authors: 'It's a fact that most self-published authors understand the process that takes them from a written manuscript to a published book, but few realise the additional elements that make publishing a profitable business. Rights licensing is arguably the most vital element in this equation.

WritersServices Guide to Self-publishing

Joanne Phllips' essential new series, the WritersServices Guide to Self-publishing, is a ten-parter which will take you through what you need to know about self-publishing. First up is What is Self-publishing?

Adding the second part of Joanne Phillips' WritersServices Self-publishing Guide, Choose Your Self-publishing Route: 'When I started my research into indie publishing way back in May 2012, there were so many routes open to authors it was mind-boggling. I made pages and pages of notes and distilled all my research into a useful spreadsheet comparing the most prevalent options. Now I can narrow down the options to two main routes...' WritersServices Guide to Self-publishing 3 has now been added to the site and also WritersServices Guide to Self-publishing 4 on Formatting for Kindle.

Joanne has also produced our easy-to-follow guide to the Business of Writing, The Ins and Outs of Indexing (a subject she knows well) and How to Market Your Writing Services Online.

Talking to publishers

This series is growing all the time and we're now up to no 5, covering writers' books, two history imprints, writing for and about children and Sassy BooksAn Imprint Of John Hunt Publishing. Hip, real and raw, SASSY books share untamed truths, spiritual insights and entrepreneurial witchcraft with women who want to kick ass in life and start revolutions.. 'Talking to Publishers 5 is about a new non-fiction history imprint. 'History is back in fashion! With TV serialisations of periods like The Tudors and The Borgias, history is stepping out of the realms of dustiness and into the imagination of the general public. We want to capture history for a new generation of readers and have created a new imprint, Chronos Books, to provide great books for history lovers.' says editor Sarah-Beth Watkins.

Book reviews

Our review of Writing: A User's Manual a guide to the joins craft of planning, starting and finishing a novel by David Hewson is joined by our new review of Booklife, of which our reviewer says: 'Indeed, what is a ‘book life'? Author Jeff VanderMeer sees the ‘book' as any creative project requiring text, be it a traditional print book, an e-book or a podcast... And the point of Booklife is to provide a strategic and tactical guide to being a writer in contemporary times... Instead, Booklife is a more subtle examination of the business of being a writer, intended to help the reader to create a modus operandi that works for them'

Writing Opportunities

Our Writing Opportunities this month are the 2014 First Fictions Graphic Novel Competition, the 2014 Book Illustration Competition, Inspired by my Museum and the Christopher Tower Poetry Competition 2014.

New PhD editing service

Our new PhD editing service is just launched. Are you working to prepare your PhD for submission? Professional editing can help you improve the presentation of your work and iron out any grammar or spelling errors.

Update to our links

Our 23 lists of recommended links have hundreds of links to sites of special interest to writers. these range from Writers Online Services to Picture libraries and from Software for writers to Writers Magazines & Sites. There's a new Writers' Blogs listing which needs populating, so please send in your suggestions.

Help for Writers

Use this page as a springboard to over 4,000 pages on the site.