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November 2013 - Writers Magazine

News Review

  • 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...
  • Last week's news of the departure of Larry Kirshbaum, the respected and successful publisher turned agent who Amazon hired to head up their trade publishing venture, was greeted with a certain amount of glee amongst all those who are fearful of the giant online retailer. But what does it really mean?
  • The shortlist for the 2013 T S Eliot Prize for Poetry is an interesting and diverse one. Including new work by well-established poets Robin Robertson, Michael Symmons Roberts, Sinéad Morrissey and Geroge Szirtes, it also has newcomer Helen Mort's debut collection, Division Street. Daljit Nagra's interpretation of The Ramayana and Moniza Alvi's powerfully felt At the Time of Partition invoke a wider world. Anne Carson is unpredictably experimental, as always, in her verse novel Red Doc >, which contrasts wonderfully with Speak, Old Parrot from veteran poet Dannnie Abse.


  • '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
  • 'The nice thing about agenting is that you can carry on until you annoy everyone. I'm going to do it until I don't enjoy it. And I do enjoy it, not every single minute, but more than 90% of it. Even the negotiating is good fun up to a point. And that moment you get your authors' new manuscripts, and your heart is in your mouth because you want to be able to love it - that's still the most exciting part... Publishers as people aren't risk averse, as corporations they are. Often editors would like to buy books that they aren't allowed to.' Carole Blake of agency Blake Friedmann in the Bookseller
  • 'The nice thing about agenting is that you can carry on until you annoy everyone. I'm going to do it until I don't enjoy it. And I do enjoy it, not every single minute, but more than 90% of it. Even the negotiating is good fun up to a point. And that moment you get your authors' new manuscripts, and your heart is in your mouth because you want to be able to love it - that's still the most exciting part... Publishers as people aren't risk averse, as corporations they are. Often editors would like to buy books that they aren't allowed to.' Carole Blake of agency Blake Friedmann in the Bookseller.
  • 'When I'm working at full tilt, I average about 1,000 words an hour. I sit at the keyboard and it all comes out. It's an extraordinary thing, but I think it's because fiction is created by the unconscious mind, which is always exploring situations and possibilities. I suppose that's the thing I love about writing, what got me into it in the first place...' Alexander McCall Smith, author of The Minor Adjustment Beauty Salon in The Times.

Writers' Quote

'In nearly all good fiction, the basic - all but inescapable - plot form is this: A central character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw.' John Gardner

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:

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

BookBrunch - When print publishers are not necessary

Wylie tells publishers: 'withdraw from Amazon' | The Bookseller

Does Reading Literary Fiction Makes You a Better Person? | Publishing Perspectives

Philip Hensher stirs debate among authors after refusing to write for free

BookBrunch - Creative writing - or creative accounting?

BookBrunch - 'More of the same please

Tracking Publisher-Amazon Relations in 'The Everything Store'

In the Digital Publishing Era, Content Trumps Platform | Publishing Perspectives

What would Allen Lane make of Amazon? | Books | The Guardian

10 Counterintuitive Tips for Self-Publishers | Publishing Perspectives 

Classic books in 140 characters - Telegraph

Can I Publish Myself? An Interview With Author-Speaker-Publisher Phil Simon - Forbes

Reports of Barnes & Noble's Death Are Greatly Exaggerated | Publishing Perspectives

Seth Godin on Why Vilifying Amazon Makes No Sense | Publishing Perspectives

Ether for Authors: How Clear a View of Publishing Do We Have? | Publishing Perspectives

Don't tell me the truth about Amazon | FutureBook

How Do Literary Agents Fit Into The New Book Publishing Ecosystem? - Forbes

Desert image

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.

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 a new 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

This week we start Joanne Phllips' essential new series, the WritersServices Guide to Self-publishing, 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 National Novel Writing Month and - a new one - the CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Competition 2013,

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.