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November 2017 - Writers Magazine

News Review

  • 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.
  • The success of NaNoWriMo has shown the power of a good idea and the way the internet can rapidly spread it to an international audience. The vast number of regions where there are groups signed up shows how successful the project has been - and the great enthusiasm of writers to extend themselves and meet the challenge NaNoWriMo presents.
  • New copyright law in Canada has been described as a disaster that can spread, with dire effects for authors and publishers alike. Considerable concern was expressed in a panel at the Frankfurt Book FairWorld's largest trade fair for books; held annually mid-October at Frankfurt Trade Fair, Germany; First three days exclusively for trade visitors; general public can attend last two. about the effect of these changes to the law, the consequences of which are already apparent.
  • International publishing seems to be flourishing, to judge from the reports coming out of the Frankfurt Book Fair, and Amazon Crossing now champions translated fiction in a remarkably effective way. It's all go at the Frankfurt Book Fair, where publishers are immersed in half-hour meetings with other publishers, but there is positive news coming back - if, that is, big advances can be viewed as positive! Publishers are flourishing their cheque-books and there have been a run of big deals agreed at the Fair.


  • ‘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.
  • 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.
  • 'I guarantee you that no modern story scheme, even plotlessness, will give a reader genuine satisfaction, unless one of those old-fashioned plots is smuggled in somewhere. I don't praise plots as accurate representations of life, but as ways of keeping readers reading. When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell students to make their characters want something, even if it's only a glass of water...' Advice from Kurt Vonnegut Jnr in our Comment column.
  • 'When you're writing a book, with people in it as opposed to animals, it is no good having people who are ordinary, because they are not going to interest your readers at all. Every writer in the world has to use the characters that have something interesting about them, and this is even more true in children's books...' Roald Dahl on Brainyquotes
  • Are American literary novelists ‘less feverish about pecking order' than the British? Martin Amis, now resident in New York, says: ‘They're more realistic about it. Berryman, when Robert Frost died, said, ‘It's scary. Who's number one?' Very unsentimental. At least status anxiety is overt here. And I think writers have a better time from the press here than in England... (where) they think writers are just pretentious egomaniacs.' Martin Amis, author of London Fields, Money and The Rub of Time in the Guardian.


‘If you find a poem that sets you alive, gives you daydream time, then you are in fact transported. You are carried a little bit further, either into yourself, or perhaps out of yourself. If there is a difference.'

Seamus Heaney

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:

Why All Self-Publishers Need a Good Editor

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

Writer at typewriter

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

Do You Dream of Writing a Book? | HuffPost

Changing Telling into Showing - The Manuscript Shredder

It's going well - but don't get complacent

Chapter Length Matters. Here's Why

YA Reading and Writing Trends from Wattpad's 60 Million Users

Checking Book Proofs in Three Simple Steps

How Lee Child is breaking cover on Jack Reacher secrets - BBC News

Australia: The Big Not-So-New Thing

Philip Pullman is right - discounting is the true book lover's enemy | Patrick Barkham | Opinion | The Guardian

What does it take to write and publish a book? Fire in the belly | HuffPost

10 Rules for Book Editors

George Saunders: ‘When I get praise, it helps me be a little bit more brave' | Books | The Guardian

What Authors Need to Know About Crowdfunding Their Book: A Case Study by the Numbers | Jane Friedman

Author Who Lost Copyright Case Over The Da Vinci Code In The US In 2007 Looks To Revive It In The UK In 2017 | Techdirt

Meet the Small Nigerian Press With Its Sights Set on the World | Literary Hub

From Amazon, a Change That Hurts Authors - The New York Times

Philip Pullman Returns to His Fantasy World - The New York Times

New tool helps authors claim their copyrights back from publishers (even "perpetual assignments") / Boing Boing

A Day in the Life of a Freelancer | Literary Hub

This Is How The Way You Read Impacts Your Memory And Pr | Fast Company

How to Get Violence Right in Your Fiction | Jane Friedman

How do you win the Man Booker prize? Move to New York or London | Lucy Diver | Opinion | The Guardian


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, recently added to 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.