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December 2017 - Writers Magazine

News Review

  • 'Two of our links this week relate to the report just published by Arts Council England which looks at literary fiction and concludes that it is in sharp decline. A close look at the figures suggests however that literary fiction is not alone, the problem relates to fiction sales in general. Genre sales have gravitated to ebooks, especially in some genres such as romance, where they are enjoying considerable success. But it is in literary fiction where the starkest outcome can be seen...' Our News Review is entitled Authors face declining incomes - should literary novelists receive more state support?
  • There's bad news from the US, where reading scores are declining, just when they are making real improvements in many countries across the world. Basic literacy is at an all-time high around the world and most countries have seen steadily rising reading achievements in the last decade, as is shown by the Progress in International Reading Literacy Study.
  • British publisher Richard Charkin of Bloomsbury on the blind spots that might keep the publishing industry from seeing what's ahead. Charkin, formerly of Macmillan and past president of the International Publishers Association, is known for being outspoken and radical in his approach. He condemns the fact that in this age of instant news, it still takes a year for traditional publishers to bring out a book.
  • Newly released figures show that ebook revenues in the US have declined again. In the first half of 2017, e-book sales declined by 4.6%, according to the AAP. All other categories, apart from paperback books saw increased revenues in the same time period, with some astounding growth.


  • 'I look at a good many poetry scripts every week. Of the great majority, I may say that there is no part of my work which costs me less time and trouble. That is one thing about verse: you can judge from a very small quantity whether the author has any possibilities or not; you can often say, ‘The man who can write as bad a line as that simply hasn't got it in him.' The rarest experience is to come across a new poet who strikes you as so good that you don't need anybody's judgment but your own...' T S Eliot's address to the Society of Young Publishers, on The Publishing of Poetry is this week's Comment.
  • 'The most important things are the hardest to say. They are the things you get ashamed of, because words diminish them - words shrink things that seemed limitless when they were in your head to no more than living size when they're brought out. But it's more than that, isn't it? The most important things lie too close to wherever your secret heart is buried, like landmarks to a treasure your enemies would love to steal away. And you may make revelations that cost you dearly only to have people look at you in a funny way...' Stephen King provides this week's Comment.
  • ‘I knew from a very early age that I wanted to be a novelist, but my father thought I should have a proper job, with a proper salary, a proper pension. The idea of being a writer struck him as the height of foolhardiness. He died very young (58), so he never saw how things worked out... We were very lucky. For 10 years literary fiction was the thing, paperback imprints were starting up, advances huge, every publisher wanted the spin to their list so the literary novelist suddenly found himself in demand with auction bids for the next novel...' Our Comment is from William Boyd, author of A Good Man in Africa, Any Human Heart, The Dreams of Bethany Mellmoth and eight other novels in the Sunday Times.
  • ‘My students at Columbia I teach to read. If you can be a good reader and can think that reading and literature are great pursuits, you can perhaps teach yourself to write. For every ‘lesson' one would try to propound there'd be a wonderful story or novel that violated any rule. But that's about all. I use myself as something like a specimen to them...' Richard Ford, author of The Sportswriter and Let Me Be Frank with You, talking about writing in the Guardian provides this week's Comment, Most books don't last.
  • 200,000 books published a year (just in the UK)! An optimist may think this abundance marvellous: a sign of publishing virility, of a lively literary culture. They would be wrong. It is a disaster for readers and for writers... Do we really think that we need all 200,000 books? Robbie Millen, Literary Editor, The Times, comments on the vast number of books published.
  • ‘There were some things about Agatha Christie's writing that I did want to emulate: not the prose style itself, but her blueprint for what the ideal crime novel should be and do. She often started with an outlandish, almost impossible-seeming plot premise that cranked up the suspense level to maximum right from the start; her stories have the strongest bone structure I've ever read..' Sophie Hannah, author of two Poirot novels and 19 other novels in the Observer. Taking on Poirot.
  • As an aspiring writer, you should certainly start by writing an outline. I explain how to do this in this Masterclass. You solve a lot of problems with an outline. It is far easier to correct your mistakes if you write an outline than if you sat down and wrote, ‘Chapter One' at the top of a piece of paper and started writing. If you work that way, it will take an awfully long time to correct your mistakes. Our Comment is from Ken Follett, author of The Kingsbridge Series and The Century Trilogy, whose latest novel is Edge of Eternity. It's tempting to quote again from the helpful Masterclasses on his website.


The test of any good fiction is that you should care something for the characters; the good to succeed, the bad to fail. The trouble with most fiction is that you want them all to land in hell, together, as quickly as possible.'

Mark Twain


Links to this month's top stories

Our 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:

Stability in the book marketplace does not mean commercial publishers continue to maintain their share

Literary fiction is in crisis. A new chapter of funding authors must begin

Literary fiction under threat, ACE report concludes

How Bookcase Literary Agency Sells Self-Published Authors' Rights to Editors

Why HarperCollins India is pushing hard to sign up the biggest names in Indian commercial fiction

Cat Person is 'mundane', Austen is 'dross': why do so many men hate female writing?

Best books of 2017: the hits and misses of the publishers' year


The Right Writing Routine


Breaking down the barriers - a new chapter in publishing


How We Eclipse Women's Literary Brilliance With 'Scandal'

Louise Erdrich, Great American Novelist, Is Just Getting Started

'He began to eat Hermione's family': bot tries to write Harry Potter book - and fails in magic ways

Why Pursue Traditional Publishing? (Are There Enough Good Reasons?)

Science fiction triggers 'poorer reading', study finds

The Year in Best-Sellers

On Rape Culture in Crime Fiction

An Author Photo Is Worth a Thousand Words

6 Things About Self-Publishing You Will Be Tempted To Overlook, But Shouldn't

The Myth of the Lazy Writer

Why Pursue Traditional Publishing? (Are There Enough Good Reasons?)

Science fiction triggers 'poorer reading', study finds

6 Things About Self-Publishing You Will Be Tempted To Overlook, But Shouldn't

Why All Self-Publishers Need a Good Editor

art-beautiful bloom

Unpublished Writers and Websites: Should You Have One and What Should It Say?

Let's Talk About Sex: Romance Publishing

The One Thing You Can Do TODAY to Get Your Book Written This Year

Writing Nameless Things: An Interview with Ursula K. Le Guin

Writing Tips for Indie Authors

The Politics of Print & Why We Need It | HuffPost

10 Novels Agents Have Already Seen a Billion Times

Amazon: ‘The Lord of the Rings' TV Series With Multi-Season Commitment | Deadline

A Beginners Guide to Self-Publishing (and Other Avenues to Sell Your Books) | HuffPost

Susan Sontag on Being a Writer: "You Have to Be Obsessed" | Literary Hub

Rupi Kaur reinvents poetry for the social-media generation - Insta iambs

Why A 19th Century American Slave Memoir Is Becoming A Bestseller In Japan's Bookstores

Finding readers in a perma-free world

How Long Is Writing Supposed to Take? - Electric Literature

Taking Charge of Your Book's Buzz

Triple trouble: why book trilogies are better than film | Books | The Guardian

How to Keep Your Day Job from Destroying Your Writing Dreams | Writing and Wellness

Four Questions for Jeff Kinney


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 20 different editorial services we offer, from Reports to Copy editing, Manuscript Typing to Synopsis-writing and our new service, Translation editing. This page provides links to the huge number of useful articles on this site, including Finding an Agent, Your Submission Package and Making Submissions. Our new services are Translation Editing and Writer's edit.

Want to Be a Better Writer?

A new article from Jane Sandwood: 'We all know what makes for a good novel - an intriguing plot line, beautiful language, a cast of inimitable characters, and always, a shocking twist. As a writer, you are probably conscious of all the ways you can keep your reader reading, but what about your own reading? Many writers can make the mistake of not reading - in general, and in the particular genre or market they wish to enter into with their own book...'

Fact to Fiction

Eleni Cotton's article is about how she used her own family history as the basis for her novel set in Malawi: 'I had managed to remain fairly objective about the story but, quite suddenly, it hit me that these people I was writing about, whose lives I was describing, were my ancestors - the parents and grandparents of my own parents. For a while, this thought paralysed me. Feelings of loyalty and love strangled the blazing need to tell the story as it was...'

Literary magazines with one week's response time

Sandeep Kumar Mishra's useful list, uniquely available on the site. The magazines range from literary fiction to non-fiction and include science fiction and fantasy, popular non-fiction, politics, flash fiction, reviews, humour, social issues, the economy, lifestyle, horror, artwork and much more. If you've ever despaired at how long magazine submissions can take, this is the list you need.

Our services for writers

A recently created page lists all 20 editorial services offered by WritersServices, the widest range available on the web. Go straight to the service you're looking for.

The Writer's edit is our top-level new service for writers who want line-editing as well as copy editing. Does your manuscript need high-level input from an editor to help you get it into the best possible shape for submission or self-publishing? This service offers the kind of editing publishers' senior editors used to do in-house on their authors' manuscripts and which is now hard to find.

How to get your book translated into English (without it costing the earth)

Have you got a manuscript which needs translating: "if your English is good enough, what about translating your book yourself, and then getting your translation polished and copy edited by a professional editor who is a native English speaker?" Or perhaps it's written in English but needs polishing? This could be a cost-effective way of reaching the international English-speaking market.

Translation editing service

Have you translated your work into English? Or do you have a translation that someone else has done? Now you need to make sure it's good enough to publish, or send to a publisher. If you need help to get your work into perfect condition, our new service, Translation Editing, is for you. Acknowledging the growth of world English, this new service is designed for the many non-native English speakers throughout the world who want to publish their work in English.

Our Inside Publishing series offers 19 articles offering an insider's perspective. On Copyright 'Many writers worry about losing their copyright. Before sending out your manuscript it is always advisable to put a copyright line consisting of the copyright sign ©, the year and your name on the title page...' On The Writer/Publisher Financial Relationship: 'There's no escaping the fact that publishers and authors are essentially in an adversarial position. Even in the very best and most supportive publisher/writer relationships there is the tension caused by the fact that authors would like to earn as much as possible from their writing and publishers to pay as little as they can get away with...'

Are you a self-publisher? 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.

Which report?

This  page gives the lowdown on the three reports we offer.

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 looks at the business side of self-publishing for self-Publishers

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...'

WritersServices Guide to Self-publishing

In Joanne Phillips' fantastically useful WritersServices Self-publishing Guide there are ten articles, including No 9 dealing with  Marketing and Promotion for Indie authors: Online and No 10 dealing with Offline.

Writing Opportunities

Our Writing Opportunities were the Manchester Poetry and Fiction Prizes 2017 and the MslexiaStylish and lively site for quarterly UK literary magazine read by 12,000 'committed' women writers. Good range of quality writing, information and advice with news, reviews, competitions and interviews, all presented in a friendly fashion. Praised by Helen Dunmore as 'astute, invigorating and above all an excellent read.' Women's Novel Competition. Current Writing Opportunities.

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.

Advice for writers

Use this page as a springboard to over 5,000 pages on the site.