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February 2010 - Writers Magazine

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News Review



  • ‘I am saddened that yet another claim has been made that I have taken material from another source to write Harry. The fact is I had never heard of the author or the book before the first accusation by those connected to the author's estate in 2004; I have certainly never read the book.' J K Rowling News Review looks at the latest plagiarism claim.

  • The end of the slush-pile is upon us. Big publishers don't even bother to read it and it's a rare author who can make it into print that way.  News Review looks at the odds and at the big writers who have beaten the trend.

  • Figures for 2009 just released by the big UK publishers show just how tough a time they had and what a difficult book market we’ve had in the past year. Seven of the top UK publishers had negative sales growth last year measured by the Total Consumer Market figures, as did half of the top 20 publishers. The only one of the top four to do well was the market leader Hachette and that was because of Stephenie Meyer, whose £29.4m ($46m) of sales accounted for an extraordinary 10.2% of the group’s total UK sales. News Review reflects on what all this means for authors.

  • News Review looks at the battle of the titans which has just commenced:'This has been one of those weeks when there’s been so much happening that it’s difficult to cover it in a single column. Apple has broken the news of its iPad and, amidst the focus on that, Amazon has already started to fight back. This could be a turning-point and how publishing, books and authors come out of all this is hard to predict...'

  • 'So are agents really feeling the pinch now? Long regarded as the fats cats of the industry, there are signs that the London agency constituency is really beginning to join in the pain. You cannot escape the conclusion that there will be redundancies, closures and mergers of agencies. Independent agents have few enough overheads in any case and will cut back on the new authors they take on. But some of the larger agencies have become quite big businesses and they will find it difficult to sustain their cost bases. News Review examines the latest news from the agency world.

  • There's better news from the UK book trade. 2009 was down just 1.2% down in value and only 0.5% down in volume in a year which has seen a contraction in the overall economy of 5%, so the book trade can justifiably claim that book sales have held up reasonably well. News Review reports.

Comment



  • 'I think John Irving said in an interview something which nobody says about writing, which is that writing is sitting down and typing that sentence, and that sentence creates the next sentence and the character grows and the story grows from the physical act of typing what is going on in your head.' Deborah Moggach in Scriptwriter.

  • 'The idea of what constitutes literary value has changed or become less consensual. It’s harder to establish what is good and what is not, and that is one of the things that forms the canon. Barnes, Amis, McEwan were the last people through the door, and then the door closed, and then the building fell down.’ Giles Foden, author of Turbulence, in the Bookseller

  • ‘Every agent has their own style. Ed Victor goes to a party and signs up someone. Luigi Bonomi goes and talks to a film company or football agent. But I like doing it this way (through his website) because it brings in interesting books, often ordinary people doing extraordinary things. I love the range and serendipity…' Andrew Lownie on finding agency clients through the web.

  • ‘According to Amazon Kindle's vice-president, Ian Freed, the success of the Kindle signals the end of physical books: 'The only question is does it take three years, five years or 20 years?' I remain to be persuaded that e-readers are capable of matching the varied activities we engage in when reading. More is required to satisfy the dedicated reader than replicating the content and appearance of a printed book, or emulating the action of "turning pages" using a tap on a touch-sensitive screen.' Lisa Jardine in A Point of View on BBC Radio Four

  • 'We all know the adage of 'everyone has a book in them' - but how many truly have the commitment, courage, tenacity - and skills - to write a series of novels? Writing a novel is not about ‘burning ambition’ - where ambition is solely about publication or money or fame. For a novel to be a good novel - and worthy of the generous readers who part with their cash to buy it - it can only arise from the author’s absolute desire to write that story out of their system - and being blessed with the necessary talent to do so...' Freya North, in a Bookseller blog

Writers' Quote


'Write without pay until somebody offers pay. If nobody offers within three years, the candidate may look upon this circumstance with the most implicit confidence as the sign that sawing wood is what he was intended for.'
Mark Twain

The latest addition to our fictionalised stories about our services.


Alison needed our children's editorial services to get her magic unicorn story right.


Plus other stories, including:



Is a creative writing degree really worth it?


Having completed a creative writing degree, Josh Spears thought he would become a bestselling writer or at least be able to get a job. Neither of these has happened, so was it worth it and would he advise other writers to put themselves through the course?


Don't procrastinate!


'Do you find it difficult to get started on your writing? Is it always easier to put off finishing that research/ starting that novel/embarking on the second draft? You are not alone, for many writers suffer from procrastination.' 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. looks at how to get yourself going.


'This is primarily because writing is such a uniquely lonely job. Where else would you be sitting by yourself and supplying your own self-discipline? Most jobs have a structure and a time-frame which really help the individual to get on with the job. Even consultants and freelancers have deadlines to meet, but for the writer there is generally no specific outside pressure to help things along – it’s up to them to get themselves motivated, get started and get on with it.'


Poem for Haiti


From Gillian Clarke, National Poet for Wales, a beautiful poem which is a lament for Haiti.


Review of FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions from ambitious writers and the answers by John Jenkins


This book by the former editor of Writers’ Forum, our columnist John Jenkins, is packed with answers to all the questions you have ever thought of asking.


Chris Holifield's review concludes that: 'All in all, this is a valuable resource, especially for the new writer, but also for anyone who has tried to work their way through the writing jungle.'


Our book review section  


Magazine - Books 


John Jenkins' February column


In his February column John deals with the famous piece of advice to writers: 'Show, don't tell'.


If you've ever wondered exactly what this means in practice, John's examples provide a quick tutorial and will help you to make your own writing work much better.


International Book FairsInternational Book Fair Information 2010


Our updated line-up of the year's book fairs across the world, a unique feature of the site which is much in demand.  Is there a book fair near you?  It might be worth planning to attend it if so.


John Jenkins' January column


John's January column looks at a Robert Altman film, the Gingerbread Man, based on a discarded story by John Grisham.


New Categories series



Writing Historical Fiction


So you want to write historical fiction?



Well, your timing is good, because historical fiction is fashionable again after many years in the doldrums. In fact it’s so popular that it has virtually reinvented itself as a category.



Our latest article in this series explores the market and approaches to writing historical fiction.


Other articles in the series:
Writing Romance
Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy
Writing Crime Fiction
Writing non-fiction

The 2009 Diagram Prize shortlist


Click through to find the shortlist for the oddest title of the year


Latest changes in the book trade 6:


In the sixth part of this series, 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. tackles the thorny and currently highly contentious subject of copyright.


As e-books move into the mainstream and the parties involved in the Google Settlement continue to slug it out, copyright is at the centre of publishers' and authors' anxieties.


First article: Bookselling


Second article: Publishing


Third article: Print on Demand and the Long Tail


Fourth article: Self-publishing - career suicide or 'really great'


Fifth article: Writers' Routes to their audiences


Sixth article: Copyright


Winning poems from the Old Possum’s Children’s Poetry Competition


Read the two winning poems from  the gifted young 7-8 and 9-11 year-old poets who have won first prizes in this international competition.


My Say 9


Zoe Jenny, who was born in Switzerland but is shortly publishing her first book written in English:


'Now that I am writing in English I have to start all over again, earning my credentials in a new market. I am essentially back to square one. But maybe that is the most exciting place to be.'


My Say 7: Timothy Hallinan on the Writing Session.


My Say 8: Jae Watson on the magic formula which enables writers to 'cross that fine, elusive line dividing unpublished and published writers'.


The Ins and Outs of Indexing


Joanne PhillipsUK-based freelance writer and ghostwriter. She has had articles published in national writing magazines, and has ghostwritten books on subjects as diverse as hairdressing and keeping chickens. Visit her at www.joannephillips.co.uk' article on Indexing looks at why non-fiction books need them, why it's a specialist job and why computers can't achieve the same result as a skilled indexer.


Our new Indexing service


A professional index is essential for any work of non-fiction. Readers expect to find a useful, well-presented index at the back of a book, and can get very frustrated if the index doesn’t quickly lead them to the information they seek.



  • Are you an author planning to compile your own index?

  • Have you been asked by your publisher to provide an index for your book?

  • Are you self-publishing your work? If so, don’t let your readers down by offering them a sub-standard index.

A professional index will set your work apart from other self-published books. Indexing need not be expensive – and an effective index is the key to a good non-fiction book.


Tips for Writers Our new series for writers:


Improving your writing, Learning on the job, New technology and the Internet, Self-publishing - is it for you?,  Promoting your writing (and yourself), Other kinds of writing, Keep up to date and Submission to publishers and agents


Our Editorial Services for writers


Check out the 17 different editorial services we offer, from Reports to Copy editing, Typing to Rewriting. 


Our book review section


Choosing a Service


Are you having difficulty deciding which service might be right for you?  This useful new article by Chris Holifield offers advice on what to go for, depending on what stage you are at with your writing.



Success story



The talented Evie Wyld, who has just won the prestigious John Llewelyn Rhys Prize with her novel After the Fire, A Still Small Voice.


Help for Writers


Check out this page to find links to the huge number of useful articles on this site, including Finding an Agent and Making Submissions.