Thursday, 23 December 2010

Wishing all my readers a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year

Just a short note to say 'thank you' to the many people who have visited this web site over the last year and to those of you who follow it and have taken the time to comment on various articles.

Over the course of 2010 I have endeavoured to bring to you some news and views from the publishing and bookselling world and from writers.

I'm taking a break now but hope to be back in 2011 (sooner if anything revolutionary breaks). Meanwhile I will be writing the current Inspector Andy Horton marine mystery police procedural novel, number seven in the series.

Happy writing and reading to you all and best wishes for a healthy, successful, and prosperous New Year.

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

US health website puts writers at top of the list for depression

Writing is one of the top 10 professions in which people are most likely to suffer from depression, with men particularly at risk from the illness, according to US website Creative people may also have higher rates of mood disorders; about 9% reported an episode of major depression in the previous year.

Irregular pay and isolation contribute to the propensity for writers to succumb to depression, says the site, with nearly 7% of male artists and writers likely to suffer a major episode of the illness.

Fellow crime writer, Simon Brett, who has acknowledged his own struggles with depression agrees.

'You spend long hours sitting on your own,' he said. 'Writing can be wonderful therapy, but you are digging into yourself, and if you are writing fiction and creating characters, a certain amount of self-examination and self-doubt is inevitable.' Many writers are also introverted, quiet people, and find it stressful to have their work assessed publicly, Brett added, saying: 'Now there are reviews on Amazon, for example, that happens even more.'

And like everyone else, writers are subject to the current economic woes. 'It has always been an insecure profession, and now advances are spiralling downwards and a lot of midlist authors have been dropped by their publishers,' said Brett.

There are two points in the novel-writing cycle when authors are particularly vulnerable, he believes. 'Almost every writer I know goes through the same reaction after a novel is finished – there are 24 hours of euphoria and then all the negative thoughts you have shut out while finishing it come out, and either you get drunk or depressed or get the flu.

'The other point is two-thirds or three-quarters of the way through a novel, when almost all writers get what I call the 'three-quarters sag', when the only thing you like less about what you've written so far is the ideas you have for finishing the book. My books are written quite quickly, so it only lasts a week or two, but for people who spend two years writing, it can take months.'

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

New opportunities for Northern Ireland writers with the launch of Publishers NI

Irish Publishing News reports that Publishing Northern Ireland (NI) is supported by three Northern Irish publishing houses; Blackstaff Press, Guildhall Press, Lagan Press.

A website will launch in February and host a series of events across the country promoting writers and their books.

Bronwen Williams, coordinator of PublishingNI, said: "PublishingNI has been established as a valuable network for publishers in Northern Ireland, aiming to reach out to new readers and to create more opportunities for writers here. Through our programme of mini tours, we hope to stimulate sales of Northern Irish books and to increase public awareness of our excellent home-grown writers and their work."

It is funded by the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure.
Damian Smyth, head of drama and literature, Arts Council of Northern Ireland added: "The launch of PublishingNI is an important new development for writers, publishers and readers in Northern Ireland. The Arts Council is working with PublishingNI to develop the shape of the literature infrastructure here, through regular tours, readings and engagement with arts venues. We wish PublishingNI every success and look forward to working together in building the literature economy in the years ahead."

Monday, 20 December 2010

Curtis Brown Literary Agency stir up controversy with the launch of their creative writing school

The news item below, which appeared on The Bookseller's web site, has caused quite stir (and that's putting it mildly). I have added my response to it at the end of this article.  You can see all the comments by clicking on the link below or at the end of the article. You can also see Curtis Brown's response to the criticism and further comments.

"The Curtis Brown Literary Agency is launching a creative writing school. Curtis Brown Creative  will run courses in the Curtis Brown offices for three months, from 5th May to July 21st. Fifteen students will be selected in March on the basis of a synopsis and 3,000 words of a novel in progress.

Anna Davis, five-times novelist and course director, said: "We really want to be taking quite a practical industry-led approach to this. We want to give the students an insider's view of things. This will not be about qualifications, it's about the experience."

Successful applicants will pay £1,600, for which they will receive a weekly evening class and a number of extra sessions that will be conducted by "leading writers and other publishing professionals," according to Davis. Each of the students will also receive a critique from a Curtis Brown literary agent at the completion of the course, with stand-out fledgling novelists being offered representation.

Details of the course and how to apply can be found at and it will be advertised more broadly in January.

Jonny Geller, m.d. of Curtis Brown's book department, said: "With the challenging market for debut fiction tougher than ever before, we have decided to take a more direct role in seeking out great new writers. We want to guide novelists at the earliest stages to help produce the talent of tomorrow."

Author's note:  This is a substantial amount of money and because of that will rule out many aspiring authors but then that's probably why it has been set so high, that, and of course the fact that it will generate a sizeable income stream for the agency. Fifteen students paying £1,600 - work it out for yourself.  Wonder what they're paying the authors who are running the courses?  Still some applicants might consider it worthwhile if they manage to get Curtis Brown to represent them.  However representation does not automatically mean they will find you a publisher and if they do then the agency will also be gaining commission. I'll leave it up to you to decide what you think but the comments on both the original article and Curtis Brown's response to it make interesting reading.

All those interested in attending a crime writing course, with insider knowledge of the publishing and bookselling world, knowledge of selling rights, and with access to publishers and agents leave your name on the comments. I'd be interested to hear from you. And I promise it won't cost you anywhere near that much!
Curtis Brown launches creative writing school:

Friday, 17 December 2010

People in Publishing

In the US David Rosenthal begins getting the old team back together for his new imprint at Penguin Group, hiring Sarah Hochman as senior editor, starting January 10. Hochman was a senior editor at Simon & Schuster until August.

At Harper's Avon/Morrow division, Kristine Macrides has been promoted to director of marketing and sales development.

In Harper UK's digital team under David Roth-Ey, Jo Forshaw moves up to director of audio; Isabella Steel becomes digital key account manager, responsible for marketing and promotion of digital titles across the group; Katy Whitehead the new role of head of interactive products; and Friday Project and Fourth Estate editor Robin Harvie adds the role of Digital PR to his portfolio.

Poet, critic, and translator Ilya Kaminsky will take over as director of the Poetry Foundation's Harriet Monroe Poetry Institute on January 1 for a two-year term. Kaminsky will remain on the faculty at San Diego State University, where he will continue to serve as director of the MFA program in Poetry.

In the UK, Gillian Slovo has been elected the new president of English PEN.

Touchstone editor-in-chief Trish Todd will leave that division after 15 years to move over to the Simon & Schuster adult trade imprint at the beginning of February. She will be executive editor, reporting to publisher Jon Karp. She will acquire works of popular fiction, practical nonfiction and autobiography.

Katie Shea has joined Johnson Lit Agency, focusing on literary fiction, commercial fiction, with a strong and sassy voice, heartfelt memoirs, narrative nonfiction, diet, and health & wellness. She was a reader at FinePrint Literary Management and an assistant at Folio Literary Management and Langtons International Agency.

Former Bookseller publisher John Kilcullen has joined the board of directors of the Copyright Clearance Center, the global rights broker. Kilcullen is joined on the board by literary agent Wendy Strothman.

The board now comprises 16 executives. "We're fortunate to have such talented individuals join our board of directors," said Tracey Armstrong, c.e.o. of CCC. "We look forward to leveraging their knowledge and unique perspective on copyright as we carry our 30 years of licensing experience into new markets and services."

Kilcullen is a founding member of IDG Books Worldwide. He is also the former publisher of the Hollywood Reporter and was group publisher of the Nielsen Music and Literary Group which included The Bookseller and Kirkus Reviews. Strothman is a literary agent and the founder of the Strothman Agency. Previously, she was the publisher of trade & reference books at Houghton Mifflin and publisher at Beacon Press.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

US Business Writer to launch imprint through Amazon - is this a sign of things to come?

Time are a changing in the publishing world and this is highlighted by the latest news from US business writer Seth Godin  who is launching a new imprint including print, digital and audio through Amazon.

The Domino Project will publish an initial list of six titles using the e-tailer's Powered by Amazon publishing programme in early 2011. The titles will be available as print, e-books and audio.

Godin is to serve as the "lead writer, creative director and instigator" for the series of "Idea Manifestos".
Godin said he was "thrilled to have the opportunity to break ground and help define what a new publishing model can become", vowing he would "leverage Amazon's strength in what they do best: fulfill to a global audience, across all formats, and help me reach my core audience while increasing discovery among brand new readers."

Godin added: "A book that isn't read doesn't do anyone any good, and too often, the structure of the book publishing industry gets in the way of books reaching people who can benefit from them.Amazon knows what to do to help these books get read."

Godin caused controversy in August, when he announced that Linchpin would be his last title released by the "fundamentally broken" publishing industry.

I wish him well and hope he has great success.

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Better World Books which sells books to generate funds for literacy causes launches UK site

US online bookseller and literacy fundraiser Better World Books has launched a UK e-commerce site.

Better World Books collects and sells books to generate funds for literacy causes, with the UK site offering over a million new and used titles, as well as free delivery. A portion of revenues goes to the supplier, as well as to one of its affiliated non-profit literacy partners.

David Murphy, c.e.o., said: "Better World Books has experienced tremendous growth since it first launched in the US. Over the years we've gained a loyal international following thanks to low-cost shipping and a mission that impacts literacy rates worldwide. We've seen particular interest in the UK since establishing operations in 2008, and now we're investing in a website customised for our UK partners and customers."

Better World Books UK operation was set up in October 2008, and is based at its Dunfermline distribution centre. Its non-profit partners in the UK include the National Literacy Trust, READ International, Room to Read, and the National Adult Literacy Agency. Since its opening, the company's UK arm has raised over £100,000 for local libraries and global literacy, re-using or recycling over 650,000 books.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Amazon provides authors with sales information on their books

Amazon is now providing authors enrolled in their 'Author Central' programme access to a small window of Nielsen BookScan sales data for their own books. 

The programme shows the most recent four weeks of sales as tracked by Nielsen, on a week-by-week basis. It also provides geographical breakdowns.

I've been on my Author Central Account at and have found the information easy to access and understand.   It does not cover all books however and neither does it cover e books sales (yet), but it's a start.  It's always useful to have sales information and the more detailed the better because it aids marketing programmes.

I'm hoping that where my books are also sold will soon be providing the same service.

Monday, 13 December 2010

BookArmy will be closing down on 21 December

HarperCollins is closing its BookArmy social networking site, blaming poor advertising and competition from similar sites.  This e mail came through last week with the news that Bookarmy is to close.

"Two years ago, was launched with the aim of becoming the go-to social networking site for booklovers. It has had a great community from the beginning; book enthusiasts who have given great reviews and recommendations, and livened up the forums and groups. However, the decision has been made to close the site, after facing strong competition from similar sites and fewer advertising opportunities in such a tough economic climate.

We'd like to take this opportunity to thank you sincerely for all your fantastic contributions to  It's been a great couple of years, and the team here will miss the site - particularly all of you - immensely. Should you wish to join another book site (sob!) then we've made it easy for you. There is now an Export function on your main profile page, which enables you to take your book lists and upload them to Library Thing, Shelfari or Goodreads. The site will be closing down on Tuesday 21st December."

The site was formally launched in March 2009 offering users the opportunity to discuss and review titles, get recommendations according to reading tastes and sharing books with others.

It is unclear whether there will be any redundancies.

Friday, 10 December 2010

Writers condemn library 'vandalism'

Children's writer Alan Gibbons, founder of The Campaign for the Book, has hit out at culture minister Ed Vaizey for failing to do in government what he argued for in opposition. In an open letter signed by authors such as Philip Pullman and Carol Ann Duffy, Gibbons has called on the Government to "prevent councils inflicting cuts which amount to cultural vandalism".

Gibbons said Vaizey had previously called on the then secretary of state Andy Burnham "to intervene when library provision is slashed in a local authority such as the Wirral".

Library services have been put under threat as local councils work to meet their lower budgets following the Comprehensive Spending Review. At least 25 local authorities have announced new proposals for cost-cutting to their library services since the October review, with fresh details emerging almost every day. Protests are being mounted against these cuts and others to public services where the poorest and the sick in society seem to suffering the brunt of it.

Gibbons, who has organised a long-running campaign to support the library service and reading for pleasure, called the scale of the library closures around the country 'appalling and unjustifiable.' He asked: 'Do we have a problem of ultra-literacy? Does our population suffer from a surfeit of reading? We call upon the DCMS to fulfil its obligations and safeguard a 'comprehensive and efficient' service as enshrined in the 1964 Libraries and Museums Act.'
Kathy Lette warned: 'Closing our libraries will make us a nation of numbskulls – the Illiterati.'

Authors warn Vaizey to act over library 'vandalism':

Thursday, 9 December 2010

Amazon to launch Kindle platform for web

Amazon plans to demonstrate a new version of Kindle for the web that will reportedly also allow independent booksellers to sell Kindle e-books off their own websites.

An Amazon spokeswoman said via an e-mail to Computerworld that the new Kindle for the web will "enable users to read full books in the browser and [enable] any Website to become a bookstore offering Kindle books." The spokeswoman didn't elaborate.

The development came on the same day as the launch of Google eBooks, which will allow independent bookshops to sell digital books via Google's e-books platform.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

Giant search engine Google moving into the ebook market

It was rather obvious that it wouldn't be long before giant search engine Google moved into the ebook market, which will let people buy electronic books that they can read in any device with a web browser.

News of the launch generated close to 1,300 news stories overnight. Google eBookswent live in the US, with "hundreds of thousands" of paid-for digital books and 3m free titles. A number of stories reports that the service is a serious rival to Amazon, while the American Booksellers Association has revealed that about 110 indie bookshops will launch the e-books platform on their own websites.

A UK launch is expected next year.

Google Editions will let people buy ebooks from Google or from the websites of independent bookstores, which are still struggling to compete with the two larger rivals and with Barnes & Noble, which has its own "Nook" ebook reader.

Customers would be able to set up accounts for buying books, which would be stored in an online 'library', probably on Google's own servers, and read them on devices connected to the net such as smartphones or tablet computers. Millions of books would be available for free, Google says - probably out of copyright ones or those who have given permission for free usage.

Google has also taken measures to prevent piracy of books, tying them to buyers' accounts and splitting them into small pieces which would be very hard to reassemble into a book.

Read more on this and the media comment

Google to move into the ebook market at end of year:

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The Fiction Desk launches new imprint and accepts unsolicited material

The Fiction Desk is venturing into publishing with a fiction imprint. The imprint's first endeavour will be the publication of quarterly anthologies of short fiction from both published and unpublished authors, with submissions now open on the website. The first title will be published in April 2011.

"At The Fiction Desk, we're committed to keeping the door open for new writers, and we aim to source at least a third of the content of our publications from unsolicited submissions."

They don't accept postal submissions. If you'd like to submit a story click here for details.

The imprint is aiming for a 3,000 print run for each title, direct sales, plus a focus on independents.The Fiction Desk, a member of the Independent Publishers Guild will use Central Books for distribution in the UK.

Monday, 6 December 2010

People in Publishing

Marilyn Biderman has opened a literary agency, based in Toronto. Biderman says she will represent genre, commercial and literary fiction, along with narrative nonfiction and memoir and 'the occasional expert as a client as well.'

Orbit has hired Anne Clarke as UK editorial director, reporting to Tim Holman. Anne Clarke will be joining Orbit on 4th January 2011. Also joining Orbit as an editorial assistant is James Long, author of the Speculative Horizons blog.

Random House Children’s Books has restructured its fiction team, making two new appointments and promoting three team members.

Lauren Buckland and Ruth Knowles have both been promoted to commissioning editor, while Natalie Doherty becomes assistant editor. Pete Matthews, who will join the team in January, has been appointed as editorial assistant, working across the whole fiction list. 

In the new arrangement, staff will be split into two commissioning teams, under editorial directors Kelly Hurst and Becky Stradwick. Hurst will manage individual titles and author-led fiction, while Stradwick’s team will concentrate on acquiring new series, major fantasy and US Young Adult brands.

Matthew Benjamin is moving to Touchstone on December 13 as senior editor, reporting to Trish Todd. He has been at HarperCollins, most recently as senior editor at William Morrow. At Touchstone, he will focus on acquiring men's interest, celebrity, pop culture, sports, health, and investigative journalism.

Allison Lorentzen is joining Penguin Books as editor. She will be acquiring both fiction and nonfiction titles, as well as working closely with Kathryn Court on Viking and Penguin acquisitions.

Friday, 3 December 2010

Books key to libraries, says MLA survey

Books remain the main reason why most people use libraries, according to a new research study published by the Museums, Libraries and Archives Council (MLA).

Seventy-six per cent of users go to libraries because of their love of reading, found the study, carried out by Shared Intelligence and Ipsos MORI. Meanwhile 44% go for study, and 17% to find local information, while 14% view the library as somewhere to take their children.

The study also showed that book choice and staff expertise were highly valued by library users. "Both users and non-users often expressed concern about books being 'squeezed out' for other services and although they accepted greater automation, they do not think this should be at the expense of maintaining a knowledgeable and helpful staff base," said the MLA.

The strategic agency added that "while books remain at the core of the public’s expectation for the service, there is clear demand for customer-friendly features such as online book lending, children’s facilities, adult classes, helpful staff, convenient opening hours – and a good cup of coffee".

Seventy-four per cent of current users surveyed described libraries as "essential" or "very important" in their lives, while fifty-nine per cent of non users also thought libraries play an "important" or "essential" role in the community. The study also suggests that the divide between library users and non-users is artificial, with people’s reliance on the service varying as their life circumstances change - for example through taking up study, becoming unemployed, having children or retiring.

MLA chair Sir Andrew Motion commented: "As councils grapple with difficult decisions about where to allocate shrinking funds, this timely research highlights the value attached to library services, even unselfishly among people who are not current users. We all appear to recognise that as individuals there are times we need libraries and times when we might not, but as one community, we benefit from them all the time."

Roy Clare, MLA chief executive, said: "This study helps point to where the library service should be heading at a critical moment as costs need to be cut. It suggests that it is better to plan for the longer term to provide a convenient modern service, with comprehensive book stock, digital access, helpful staff and a range of activities, than to maintain the costs of less-welcoming buildings with steadily reducing opening hours and declining stock."

Books key to libraries, says MLA survey:

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Online book retailer The Book Depository has launched a special discount for Irish book buyers

The Book Depository, which already offers free worldwide shipping, is offering an extra 10% discount to Ireland-based buyers if they use a specific code when purchasing. The offer is also exclusive of VAT.

The code is valid until 17th December. Earlier in the month, Irish book chain Easons launched a three for two front of store Christmas offer, while Irish online bookstore Kenny's, which also offers free shipping, has a range of discounted titles.

The Bookseller reported last week that the Irish book market has slumped by more than 16% in value and volume terms this year. For the year to 30th October, Nielsen BookScan figures revealed sales down by more than 16% to €103m. The country is currently facing an economic bailout.

PS. The Book Depository also has some great offers on my crime novels and thrillers.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Independent Publisher Maverick Books to launch new picture book list for four to eight year olds

Independent publisher Maverick Books, based in Pulborough, is building a picture book list aimed at readers aged four to eight years, rather than the traditional preschool market. The company will launch a range of six picture books for older readers in spring 2011.

Managing director Steve Bicknell said: "Our picture books will offer slightly more challenging subject matter, something with a bit of an edge, and that is deliberate. Children sometimes want to be surprised or scared."

Maverick is working with debut or new authors and international illustrators. It is publishing straight into £5.99 paperback formats for the UK trade market and is also in talks with a potential distributor in the US. Internet blogging and instore events will be used to drive sales through high street retailers, Bicknell said.

Maverick accept submissions. They are  looking for:

- Storybooks (rather than educational)
- Age range 4 to 8
- No more than 1500 words
- A short cover letter telling them about yourself