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February 2017 - Writers Magazine


News Review

  • The successful growth of new British publisher Head of Zeus shows how an international approach to publishing can put a business in a strong position through challenging the traditional approach to publishing markets...' But it's through selling ebooks internationally that the firm is coming up with a new publishing model. News Review
  • Coming from the tech arena is a fairly hostile view of traditional publishing, which assumes that it is dead and will shortly be totally replaced by indie publishing. But is this really what is happening at present? It doesn't seem so clear-cut. News Review on the debate about 'The black hole of modern publishing practices'.
  • In a very visible case, highly successful Australian author Kate Morton has accused the agent who kick-started her career of favouring her own interests. Morton is seeking a refund of up to $2.8 million paid to her agent in commission. Her well-respected agent Selwa Anthony is suing her former client for breach of contract relating to books on which she says she was entitled to receive her 15% commission. News Revie
  • It's been a lively week on the children's publishing and reading front, with an attack on the "joyless education" which is putting children off reading, an intervention from the Children's Laureate demonstrating that drawing and illustrating help children's literacy and authors complaining about celebrity signings for children's books. The week's News Review, is Should celebrities be signed up for children's books?
  • Nielsen has just reported that ebook sales in the US declined a rather surprising 15% in 2016, as compared with 2015. There seem to have been two reasons for this... Most amazingly, hardback sales have overtaken ebook sales for the first time since 2012. If you look back to the early days of ebooks, this is a long way from the commonly-asserted prediction that ebooks would totally replace print books within five years! News Review reports on this and some good news from children's publishing.
  • Some nervousness has been expressed by authors and staff in the last few days about the impending purchase by Bertelsmann of part of the Pearson share of Penguin Random House, but is there really much reason to feel anxious about this?
  • The first major publishing news of the New Year has been the announcement that Pearson, having declared a profit warning because of change and volatility in the educational market and declining sales in higher education, is intending to offload its 47% stake in Penguin Random House - and its partner Bertelsmann is keen to acquire it.
  • Amongst the predictions springing up as we move into the new year, a hard figure is the most astonishing. The slowing-down of ebook sales is well-documented but it is quite startling that the first figure of 2017 is that the UK print market sold 195 million books in 2016, an increase of almost 7% on 2015, and volume increased by 4.5%. News Review on The publishing world as 2016 turns into 2017.


  • ‘I realize how decadent writing a novel is. You really own this world, you can do whatever you want to it. You can go inside people's minds. Gone Girl has a lot of internal monologues, so it was a big struggle to figure out how to have them show you who they were instead of like, "Here's about me." Gillian Flynn, author of Gone Girl and Dark Places in the Hollywood Reporter gives us this week's Comment.
  • Our Comment is from Mark Dawson, author of 24 books, including The Cleaner, his latest John Milton title, and the Isabella Rose series: ‘You have to be the writer and get the words down, then you've got to know to take off your writer's hat and put on your business hat. And this is why self-publishing is not for everybody... If you sign up to my mailing list, you get the first two books in the Milton series free - you need to shoot them a pill to get them to sign up... You want to take someone from being a customer to being a reader, then a fan and in the end you consider them friends...'
  • 'If I've written the screenplay, I get a lot of say, or I make myself an executive producer and at least pitch in with it. I always think of the novel as a visual form. I think of people as visual creatures. It's our strongest sense. The key to an important scene is to get the visual details correct... There comes a moment when you just have to back off. Once it goes into pre-production, all the big decisions are made and you really don't want to be lurking around saying ‘it's not like this in my novel! Our Comment is from Ian McEwan, author of The Children Act and sixteen other novels and books of stories in Concrete Online.
  • ‘Wonderfully, out of that private box of miracles that is a writer's life, I just wrote that sentence [that now opens the book]: "The method of laying out a corpse in Missouri sure took the proverbial cake." The whole damn book was just lying in behind that sentence.' There followed ‘four or five joyous months where, for once in a decade, you are going down to your work room like a 22-year-old instead of a 61-year-old, and being very surprised...' Our Comment is from Sebastian Barry, author of Days without End, which recently won the Costa Award and which paints a fascinating picture of a slice of American history.
  • "I've never had writer's block yet, which I attribute, not just to luck, but also to my technique. I would advise anyone looking to ward-off writer's block to start writing something else, a completely different project. I'm always working on about six different projects at various stages of development, so if I don't feel like working on one I just turn to another. Basically, monogamy is hard, in writing as in life!" Our Comment is from Emma Donoghue, author of Room, and of the screenplay for the film, which has just been released.
  • ‘She probably went too far in putting out a fake autobiography. Which is like an invitation: expose me.' (referring to Frantumaglia, which is about to be published in English - not an autobiography as such, but a collection of letters, essays, interviews and the like.) "But she's not committed a crime. Nor do I feel that she was a bad person to write under a pseudonym..' Margaret Atwood, author of The Handmaid's Tale and Maddaddam on Elena Ferrante in the Guardian provides this week's Comment.


'It's the most satisfying occupation man has discovered yet, because you never can quite do it as well as you want to, so there's always something to wake up tomorrow morning to do.'

William Faulkner


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:

'I See You,' A Conversation with Clare Mackintosh | The Huffington Post

The Millions: Against Readability - The Millions

How Crowdfunding Allows You to Experiment Outside Your Genre | Jane Friedman

Why the Much-Hyped "Netflix of Books" Model Ended Up Flopping

Norman Mailer's Fatal Friendship | New Republic

The Ladybird phenomenon: the publishing craze that's still flying | Books | The Guardian

Transparency, targeting, Twitter: what it means to be a literary agent now | The Bookseller

The beauty of blind reading - The Sunday Times Short Story Awards

How, and why, I'm turning The Kraken Wakes into a game | The Bookseller

Trashy, sexist, downright dangerous? In defence of romantic fiction | Books | The Guardian

Turning the Virtual Page: Virtual Reality and Traditional Publishing - Publishing Trends

Helen Bailey murder: Ian Stewart jailed for at least 34 years for killing author | UK news | The Guardian

Five Pieces of Good Advice for M.F.A. Students

Want to sell a bad book? Tap into Twitter's network of "influencers"

Emma Donoghue and Laird Hunt on Writing Historical Women | Literary Hub

Is Amazon Kindle Cheating Self-Published Authors? - Authorlink

Stupid cultures: on our obsession with Literature | Overland literary journal

Rishi Dastidar - The Asian Writer

Three Award-Winning Romance Novelists Discuss Their Craft - BLARB

Faber CEO speaks out after winning indie trade publisher of the year | Books | The Guardian

Is My Novel Offensive?


David Mark on the Clarity of Good vs. Evil in Crime Fiction | Literary Hub

Why You Should Read About Writing | BookBaby Blog

Amazon Web Services: the secret to the online retailer's future success | Technology | The Guardian

Eimear McBride Is Not Afraid of Cruelty

What Was Chick Lit? A Brief History From the Inside | Literary Hub

Book Distribution For Self-Published Authors Beyond Amazon & Kindle | BookBaby Blog

A.S. Byatt: I Have Not Yet Written Enough | Literary Hub

Ian Rankin: There's Nothing Crime Fiction Can't Do | Literary Hub

Authors' Licensing and Collecting Society 5 Ways to Make More Money from your Books in 2017

Sebastian Barry | 'It's terrifying, but fascinating that human groups have these impulses' | The Bookseller

Self-Publishing in 2017: The Year in Preview

How to Start a Story: 9 Tips From Our Editors • Reedsy Blog

An author reveals what it's (really) like to write a novel | Stylist Magazine

Buchi Emecheta, pioneering Nigerian novelist, dies aged 72 | Books | The Guardian

Agent Andrew Lownie Looks East to More Rights Activity

What Being an Editor Taught Me About Writing | Literary Hub

The Millions: Podcasts and Literary Criticism - The Millions

On Selling Your First Novel After 11 Years | Literary Hub

For me, traditional publishing means poverty. But self-publish? No way | Books | The Guardian

Jacob Polley: ‘If I'm writing a poem, I should be kept busy doing anything other than writing' | Books | The Guardian

Author Who Turns Classics Into Children's Books Is Sued - The New York Times

Digital Book World Asks: What Do the Readers and the Gatekeepers Want? - Publishing Trends

5 Things Psychology Can Teach Writers - WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®

Books on the Go in Ethiopia: What Keeps Addis Ababa Reading

This year's biggest book adaptations - and which ones are worth reading first | Books | The Guardian

Tips for aspiring writers from a successful indie author

A Few Questions for Poetry - The New York Times

Indie Author Predictions for 2017 - BookSparks

2016 TS Eliot prize won by Jacob Polley's 'firecracker of a book' | Books | The Guardian

Stressing 'an African Sensibility,' Etisalat Prize Announces Shortlist

The rise of Chinese sci-fi: Part 1 | Asia Times

Notable Literary Deaths in 2016 | Literary Hub


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.

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 may be the service for you, offering the kind of editing which 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)

Our new article asks writers with 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?" 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: 'Self-publishing authors - also known as ‘indie' authors or author-publishers - have had a steep learning curve these past few years... 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...'

WritersServices Guide to Self-publishing

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

Finding an agent and Working with an agent - two practical checklists to help set up and maintain this vital relationship. 'Try to find an agency which is ‘hungry' for new clients. To keep their workload under control, an established independent agent might take on something like four new authors a year (this figure came from two agents I spoke to recently), but only to replace four departing clients. This may seem obvious, but whether or not an agent is actively looking to build their list of clients is probably the single most important factor affecting how closely they are looking at unsolicited submissions...'

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

Our new Writing Opportunities this month were the Short Fiction Competition 2017, Winchester writers Festival Writers Competitions. Current Writing Opportunities include The Kindle UK Storyteller Award.

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.