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March 2014 - Writers Magazine

News Review

  • Following on from Hanif Kureishi's attack on creative writing courses this week, this old chestnut of a question has turned up again. Kureishi has dismissed creative writing courses as "a waste of time" and said he would never have gone on one himself, despite the fact that he currently teaches a writing course at Kingston University.
  • Three new recently-launched websites show how publishers are trying to get to grips with readers and book-buyers directly. Off the Shelf, which has been set up by the American publisher Simon & Schuster, is intended to revive and publicise backlist books by offering daily reviews, which can be received as an email, of books which are at least a year old. The reviews will be written by S & S staffers and will show the passion they feel for the books they are writing about. What's more, the site will be publisher-agnostic, so it's more about spreading the good news about favourite books than about selling their own titles.
  • There's been a wide-ranging debate this week sparked off by Hugh Howey's report on authors' earnings from ebooks, including an article by Mark Coker in Publishers WeeklyInternational news website of book publishing and bookselling including business news, reviews, bestseller lists, commentaries Hugh Howey and the Indie Author Revolt. Can Hugh Howey lead an indie author revolt? Based on Amazon's hourly ebook bestseller lists, Howey has made some large claims about the shift to self-publishing and the end of big publishers' control of the publishing model. But Howey's argument is based on the figures Amazon releases and these are essentially a marketing tool, controlled by the site and intended to sell as may ebooks as possible and to further Amazon's aims of increasing the share of Kindle Direct Publishing and Amazon's own publishing lists...'


  • 'Fiction springs irresponsible and unfettered from every soil. A novel is an entertainment, worked over, calculated, staged, shaped. Yet its genesis is always in the writer's real pleasures, enthusiasms, griefs and confusions. Writing one is quite unlike journalism. In earlier novels the rags of my real preoccupations kept surfacing unexpectedly, interwoven into brand new garments. Threads come in from all directions: the sea, the spiritual poverty of modern education, variety artistes, idealistic organic farmers, the modern military, unrequited love, Venice, Transsexualism, late Shakespeare. So it was probably inevitable that the most intense and disastrous experience of all would provoke a fictional mother and a fictional grief: both real and unreal...' Our Comment this week is from Libby Purves, author of Shadow Child and Acting Up, in The Times.
  • The late Norman Mailer in our Comment column: 'It's very bad to write a novel by act of will. I can do a book of nonfiction that way - just sign the contract and do the book because, provided the topic has some meaning for me, I know I can do it. A novel is more like falling in love...'
  • 'This is certainly not the writer's life I anticipated when I opened that first acceptance latter, when I first met someone who'd read me. This isn't what I aimed for when I sneaked out short stories between working in all kinds of centres and hospitals and facilities. The workshops taught me that you move beyond your fears, find the words to name yourself, make demands, celebrate joys, protest pains, then you can start to move your world. I grew up as a writer seeing that language is a monumental force, that it constantly works upon us, for good and ill, that it can redefine us, rehearse the changes we want, establish our humanity...' A L Kennedy, author of What Becomes? in The Times
  • 'You have to inhabit an idea yourself; writing a book or film takes a long time, so you really have to feel like it is life or death for you. I just wanted a situation where I could then think about women and writing and sex and race - all the things I've been thinking about my whole life. This setup is an excuse to write the book I needed to write, because you can explore certain things: what do these characters think about marriage and relationships? (which means you spend months and years thinking, 'what do I think about marriage and relationships?') A story is an excuse to think about something...'Hanif Kureishi, author of The Buddha of Suburbia and The Last Word in the Bookseller

Writers' Quote

'To be a writer is to sit down at one's desk in the chill portion of every day, and to write; not waiting for the little jet of the blue flame of genius to start from the breastbone - just plain going at it, in pain and delight. To be a writer is to throw away a great deal, not to be satisfied, to type again, and then again, and once more, and over and over....' John Hersey


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:

Tech gives strugglers the confidence to read more | Books | The Observer

The Apartheid of Children's Literature -

Paperback Pioneers

Hugh Howey Gives Toxic Advice for Self-Publishers

Kureishi slams creative writing courses | The Bookseller

Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society The Price Ain't Right

Why Huge Publishing Advances can be Huge Steps Backwards | FutureBook

Do book awards bring out our inner hipsters? » MobyLives

BookBrunch - A calculated risk led to success for A Calculated Life

Lynda La Plante forms own rights company | The Bookseller

Cornerstone buys four from self-published Tracy Bloom | The Bookseller

The fall of the house of books | FutureBook

The 7k Report - Author Earnings

Hugh Howey and the Indie Author Revolt

Publishers Want to Bring Binge Consumption to Books - The Wire

Amazon: Game Changer or Whipping Boy?

Muchamore criticises 'negative' children's sector | The Bookseller

Your Brain On Audio Books: Distracted, Forgetful, And Bored | Co.Design | business + design

India's Buoyant Book Market Attracts More Foreign Deals | Publishing Perspectives

Sensory Fiction: Books That Let You Feel What The Characters Do | WUWF

Adobe has Killed e-Readers | Good E-Reader - eBook and Digital Publishing News

First self-publishing MA offers DIY education | Books |

India's Buoyant Book Market Attracts More Foreign Deals | Publishing Perspectives

Sensory Fiction: Books That Let You Feel What The Characters Do | WUWF

Desert image

Quill & Quire » Twitter trend declares 2014 the year of reading women

Bread and Roses | Hugh Howey

Is the mid-list, "publishing's experimental laboratory," disappearing? » MobyLives

On Becoming a (Self) Publisher | Publishing Perspectives

The future of bookstores is the key to understanding the future of publishing - The Shatzkin Files

BiblioTech: The 21st Century All-Digital Library | Publishing Perspectives

Counter to Cliche, French Translations Sell Better Than Ever | Publishing Perspectives

Are Print Books Becoming Objets d'art? | Publishing Perspectives

Online publications see a future in print -


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.

WritersServices Guide to Self-publishing

In 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' fantastically useful WritersServices Guide to Self-publishing we're now up to the eighth article, which deals with Ebooks: Pricing Strategies for Indie Authors: 'Never has price been a more essential factor in the success or popularity of a particular title. With prices for ebooks ranging from completely free to upwards of £6/$10, ebook pricing is a minefield for the indie author...'

The series to date

New articles on the site

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

Talking to publishers

Maria Maloney is the publisher of Lodestone, a new imprint which offers a broad spectrum of subjects in YA/NA literature: 'Compelling reading, the Teen/Young/New Adult reader is sure to find something edgy, enticing and innovative. From dystopian societies, through a whole range of fantasy, horror, science fiction and paranormal fiction, all the way to the other end of the sphere, historical drama, steam-punk adventure, and everything in between (including crime, coming of age and contemporary romance)...' Talking to Publishers 9, the latest in the series.

Starting from scratch: setting up a new literary agency

' You have to find the right name and the right type of projects to work on as a literary agent. You have to find ways to let writers know about your agency and what qualifies you to be a literary agent...' Jane Dowary of the Jane Dowary Agency on Starting from scratch: setting up a new literary agency

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 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. 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.

Writing for Children: Rule Number One

Read more than you write. 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.

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.

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.


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: 'The point of Booklife is to provide a strategic and tactical guide to being a writer in contemporary times.'

Writing Opportunities

This month's Writing Opportunities: Mslexia 2014 Women's Short Story Competition and the The CWA Margery Allingham Short Story Competition for Unpublished Stories 2014.

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.