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August 2014 - Writers Magazine

News Review

  • 'It looks as if open submissions are here to stay. Publishers, having for many years tried to stem the tide of unsolicited submissions, are now openly soliciting them within a time-limited and often genre- specific framework. Some publishers have always worked this way. Harlequin Mills and Boon has been an example, encouraging unsolicited manuscripts in specific sub-genres of romance and going to some pains to encourage authors to send in what they were looking for to add to each of their lists. But most publishers have made it clear that they will not accept unsolicited submissions...'
  • 'The Amazon/Hachette dispute has now caused a large group of authors to band together to protest about how Amazon's actions are affecting their sales. Authors Unlimited printed a letter in Sunday's New York Times. They have accused Amazon of boycotting their books by refusing to accept pre-orders, not discounting their books, slowing the delivery of their books (in some cases to several weeks) and suggesting on some Hachette authors' pages that they might prefer to buy something else. Authors United v Readers United (aka Amazon) is the title of this week's News Review.
  • 'The truth is that many a film option, much publicised at the time it was sold, has subsequently disappeared into the sand. The investment in a feature film, particularly a Hollywood one, is so great that studios are exceedingly cautious about which options they pick up and run with. On the plus side though, the track-record of a bestselling book, especially one with a distinctive plot, can give it ‘legs' in a way that nothing else can. The studios have a ready-made audience and storyline, all they need to do is to commission a screenplay and then they're ready to start making the film.'
  • Is this 'the end of the publishing business as we know it'? This week's News Review: 'Amazon's launch of a subscription model for ebooks with its Kindle Unlimited has caused dismay amongst both publishers and agents. There has been a debate about whether this would be a sub-licence or a sale, with some agents insisting that it is a sub-licence and Amazon arguing that it is a sale. Authors will get a tiny amount of royalty...'
  • 'As two of this week's links demonstrate, poetry is contradictory in its audience and reach. A huge audience is interested in poetry - more than one million people read poems at each year. But on the other hand poetry book sales, in the US as elsewhere, are meagre for all but the very best-known poets. How is it that an artform which seems central to literature, offering distilled language and meaning in a succinct form, can be so easily ignored by many in the mainstream? In theory this should be poetry's moment, for the short form is perfect for the Internet...'


  • In response to one commentator, Melanie A, who said the "publishing business is corrupt, sick and almost dead", Child stated: "When you say the publishing business is corrupt, sick, and almost dead, you're completely wrong. Yes, it's cautious and careful, as a result of the recession you mention, and the changing entertainment environment you note, and contracts are certainly stricter, but it's vibrant, optimistic, profitable, energetic, full of very smart people, most of them young, most of them women, and I find it a very pleasant place to work (but then, I came from television.) Lee Child, author of 19 Jack Reacher novels, including Personal, after appearing on UK's Newsnight TV programme, quoted in our Comment column.
  • ‘I never started writing thinking I would make a lot of money out of it. Most of the writers I knew in the early days had day jobs. When I started making a bit of money from it that was nice. When it became a full-time occupation that was lovely. So the money was a bonus, really. Ian Rankin, author of Saints of the Shadow Bible and many other Rebus novels in the Sunday Telegraph.
  • ‘Crime fiction is the natural medium for writing about social justice. I used to write books about an environmental concern or a healthcare concern, but I was beginning to be tiresome, so now I tend to make those issues part of the backdrop to a crime story instead...' Sara Paretsky, author of 16 novels including Critical Mass, in the Independent on Sunday.
  • ‘Last month, if you will excuse the self-advertisement, I published a novella as an Amazon Kindle single. A mere £1.49 to download, but already a site called is offering the thing free. Call me a spoilsport, but this ripped-off author would prefer the authorities to send a policeman with a search warrant...' D J Taylor, columnist and author of The Windsor Faction and 10 other novels, and biographies of Thackerary and Orwell, in the Independent on Sunday.
  • ‘It was terrifying. I thought: "That's it, I only have 12 books in me." I was so sufficiently ill with it that I had to go to a doctor. For six months I couldn't write and I didn't tell anyone. It wasn't that I didn't know what to write, it was that I couldn't get the damn thing out. In the end, I literally pulled myself down to the library, sat there and dragged it out word after word. I didn't plan it, I started on chapter one and just saw where it went...' Freya North, author of 13 novels, most recently The Way Back Home, in the Bookseller on the dreaded writer's block.


'The literary world is made up of little confederacies, each looking upon its own members as the lights of the universe; and considering all others as mere transient meteors, doomed to soon fall and be forgotten, while its own luminaries are to shine steadily into immortality.' Washington Irving


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:

Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society - A TV writer? What's that?

Dumps and Death Threats, Hecklers and Vindication: True Tales from Today's DIY Book Tour - The Daily Beast

Publishers Turn to the Crowd to Find the Next Best Seller -

What is Your Book Community? | Publishing Perspectives

The Hunger Games vs. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo | Publishing Perspectives

In China, You Don't Need a Publisher to Rake in the Big Yuan | Publishing Perspectives

Streaming of books threatens to sell readers down the river | Books | The Observer

Reading Print Versus Digital Increases Comprehension: Study - GalleyCat

Review: Out of Print, a Film by Vivienne Roumani | Publishing Perspectives

Amazon vs Hachette: today books, tomorrow the world - Telegraph

Authors United ramps up Amazon campaign | The Bookseller

Historical fiction can speak very clearly to the present and the past | Books |

Literary Agent Q&A: Taryn Fagerness | Publishing Perspectives

Can So Many Authors Be Earning Big Money? - Dana Beth Weinberg

How Amazon Brought Publishing to Its Knees - and Why Authors Might Be Next

6 Questions to Ask Before Publicizing Your Book | Publishing Perspectives

A Short History of Self-Help, The World's Bestselling Genre | Publishing Perspectives.

Man Booker 2014: more global, less diverse | Books | The Guardian


Self-publishing surging to 31% of ebook market, claims report | Books |

Poetry Matters | Academy of American Poets

The Millions : Americans Love Poetry, But Not Poetry Books

Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society Do the right thing Bookbarn International

Man Booker 2014: more global, less diverse | Books | The Guardian

Self-publishing surging to 31% of ebook market, claims report | Books |

Poetry Matters | Academy of American Poets

The Millions : Americans Love Poetry, But Not Poetry Books

Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society Do the right thing Bookbarn International

Traditional publishing is 'no longer fair or sustainable', says Society of Authors | Books |

Does crime writing have a misogynistic heart? - Telegraph

Crying While Reading Through the Centuries : The New Yorker

David Mitchell tells Twitter story | The Bookseller

The Publishers Are as Bad as Amazon | Thomas Hauser

Okwiri Oduor Wins 15th Caine Prize for African Writing | Publishing Perspectives

BookBrunch - Going it alone

What Does Your Brain Like Better: Paper or Ebooks? | Publishing Perspectives

Are African Writers Trumping African-American Authors? | Publishing Perspectives


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.

Success Story - Tina Seskis

Our Success Story this week is that of Tina Seskis: an irresistible subject for a Success Story because she lives just up the road from WritersServices in north London and the reasons for her success as a writer are like a textbook illustration of how to do it. After university, she went on to work in marketing and advertising for more than 20 years and it was this experience which stood her in good stead when she found herself with a book to market. This was a book which she'd had the idea for whilst on holiday in Venice. Here's its brilliant starting-point: "It's funny how easy it is, when it really comes down to it, to get up from your life and begin a new one. All you need is enough money to start you off, and a resolve to not think about the people you're leaving behind..."

Why your book contract needs vetting

A quick look at contract vetting and why it's essentail if you don't have an agent, from our contracts expert.

Wonderbook by Jeff Vandermeer

'Is unlike any other writing instruction manual I have ever seen. Heavily illustrated with fantastical paintings and specially commissioned illustrations, it is, in VanderMeer's own words, ‘a kind of cabinet of curiosities that stimulates your imagination'. It reflects VanderMeer's own belief that ‘an organic approach to writing should be coupled with a systematic practice and testing to improve your fiction'. It is also, quite simply, a very beautiful object, gorgeous to look at, its contents by turns playful and inspirational.' Maureen Kincaid SpellerMaureen Kincaid Speller a reviewer, writer, editor and former librarian, is our book reviewer and also works for WritersServices as a freelance editor. reviews Jeff VanderMeer's new book. Review

The Business of Writing for Self-publishing Authors

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 follows up her tremendously useful article on The Business of Writing with a look at the business side of self-publishing for self-Publishers: 'Self-publishing authors - also known as ‘indie' authors or author-publishers - have had a steep learning curve these past few years. Getting to grips with the various sales channels available to them, producing top quality ebooks and paperbacks, and finding a place in mainstream outlets have left many writers struggling to keep up with the paperwork. What follows is brief guide to the essentials your self-publishing business needs - because it is a business, even if you only publish one book!'

The Essential Guide to Writing for Children

Suzy Jenvey, vastly experienced children's editorial director and now agent, has completed her four-part The Essential Guide to Writing for Children. The first article looks at the all-important question of age groups and what you should be aware of in writing for each one. The second part is - Before You Write: What is My Story Going to be? 

The third part deals with Starting to Write,

The fourth part is about Submitting Your Work to Agents and Editors: ' In my 26 years in publishing, I have read thousands of manuscript submissions. The way they were presented varied enormously. My main tip is to let your writing do the talking; the editor or agent is ONLY interested in how good your writing is, and unusual presentation ideas aren't going to make an unoriginal idea original, or a weak writer strong...'

Richard Hall, author of Theatres of War, chooses in his My Say to ask the question: "Write about what you know" - does this adage always make sense? 'For those planning a contemporary novel it may be sound advice to write about what you know. But what about writers of historical novels? They cannot have personal knowledge of anything before the recent past...' Other columns from writers in our My Say series. If you have something you'd like share with us about your writing, please send your article to us.

WritersServices Guide to Self-publishing

In Joanne Phillips' fantastically useful WritersServices Self-publishing Guide we've now published all ten articles, No 9 dealing with  Marketing and Promotion for Indie authors: Online and No 10 dealing with Offline.

New articles on the site

A regularly-updated page linking you to new stuff on the site.

Talking to publishers

We have nine articles in the Talking to publishers series, in which the editors tell us what they're actually looking for..

2014 International Book Fairs

The most comprehensive listing available on the web International Book Fairs

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 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.

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.

Writing Opportunities

This month's fantastically strong Writing Opportunities are The 2014 Manchester Fiction Prize, HarperCollins Killer Reads open submission, 2015 Sunday Times EFG short Story Award and The Big Idea.

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.