August 08, 2018

Desperate times for authors

In a slightly more serious vein than usual for this blog, it is sad to read in a newsletter from The Bookseller that there has been a large increase in the number of professional writers seeking urgent financial help from the Society of Authors and also the Royal Literary Fund, an organisation of which I was previously unaware.

Some illustrious names can be found on the Committee of the RLF - Tracy Chevalier is the current President. Founded in 1790, it has been helping writers since Rev David Williams discovered an elderly translator of Plato had been left to die in a debtors' prison. Under the patronage of the Prince Regent a fund was formed to assist writers in distress. Although it has "Royal" in its name, it receives no help from government. From the website:

All of its money has come from donations, legacies and, until 1939, an annual dinner at which Dickens, Thackeray and Kipling, among others, exhorted the guests to be generous. The Fund has also benefitted considerably from the estates of authors including G.K. Chesterton and Arthur Ransome, and in particular those of Somerset Maugham and A.A. Milne. Among those it has assisted in moments of need have been such distinguished names as Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Joseph Conrad, D.H. Lawrence, James Joyce and Dylan Thomas. It supported, too, Robert Burns’s widow and James Boswell’s daughter, the forerunners of the many writers’ families that the Fund has aided.
Authors who can fully support themselves from their writing have been a dying breed for some time. It is not just the explosion in self-publishing and massive discounting to blame, but also a here-today-gone-tomorrow crowded market that makes the life of any book extremely short. Another main reason is the staff turnover in publishing houses where many older writers are losing their peer group editors who have worked with them for years and new, younger editors have differing expectations and priorities. I'm sure we would all be surprised at some of the well-known full-time authors who might be having a serious struggle to survive. 

PS  Currently doing the rounds on Twitter ... not sure which publication it is from:

Copyright Debbie Ridpath Ohi, "Inky Girl"

June 15, 2018

Linguistic spirituality in one long gasp

Just when I’d thought the world of publishing was getting a tad boring lately, along comes this announcement of a €100,000 prize for a book by Irish author Mike McCormack called Solar Bones - and described as "formally ambitious, stylistically dauntless and linguistically spirited, [it] is a novel of extraordinary assurance and scope" and which apparently consists of one sentence stretching over a length of more than 270 pages - and I sure hope it has some attempts at punctuation as writing one long sentence is not easy at the best of times (although I have known Irish people who can talk nonstop so perhaps that means the audio version should be a cinch) but this does make me concerned as to what’s next in the world of wacky literary experimentation, as I'm pretty sure no capitals or commas have already been done and perhaps  ...
Copyright unknown

Read more here:

February 22, 2018

Digital experiences while reading

Oooh, I do love literary and publishing spats! 

It's a bit of a worry though when Arnaud Nourry, CEO of one of the world's biggest publishing conglomerates, Hachette, comes out swinging against e-books. 

This from The Guardian:

"... The ebook is a stupid product. It is exactly the same as print, except it’s electronic. There is no creativity, no enhancement, no real digital experience."

To be followed by this rebuttal by author Erin Kelly, also from The Guardian:

"Nourry claims there is no digital experience. Isn’t that the point? If it’s got graphics, noise or animation, it’s no longer a book – it’s a computer game or a movie. Just as I write disconnected from the internet and in silence, I don’t want my books to do other stuff. The beauty of the book, in a world of digital noise, is the purity of the reading experience – and there’s nothing stupid about that."

Are we raising a generation of book-readers who can't just read un-enhanced words and must be endlessly entertained or dazzled at the same time? Why does everything have to have a digital angle these days?

For a long time, I've wondered how students can study and absorb serious concepts while plugged into loud music or working in noisy environments. I'm not one of those writers who needs background music. I can best focus my mind without any distractions at all, but then I was raised in a different era, so either I'm lucky or disadvantaged depending on your point of view. In fact, I'm actually one of those sad folk who turns the radio down in the car when I'm travelling a route I haven't been before, in order to concentrate exactly on where I'm going!

As to e-books, I find them ideal for fiction: thrillers, bestsellers, romantic sagas, etc - books you will only ever read once. They are no good at all for non-fiction or anything that has maps, photos, illustrations, footnotes or indexes. You can't flip backwards and forwards easily with e-books but, on the plus side, I love the ease of transport, the lightness, the built-in dictionary and as my eyesight diminishes with age, also the ability to change the font and page size (as Erin Kelly says in her article).

Check out these 35 Funniest Cartoons on Ebook Friendly, all hilarious.  This one by Tom Gauld is my favourite - I can't wait to try absorbing the next Dan Brown novel by odourless gas ...

January 16, 2018

Can it be? Has the Girl grown up?

Although I've been absent for a while due to family issues, I've still been keeping an eye on the ironies in the world of books and publishing.

Can it truly be - that the next big thing in those infernal "Girl" books actually features a "Woman" in the title? What happened? Is publishing growing up or something?

Article here about The Woman in the Window from The Guardian. 

And which also goes to prove that if any debut author wants to get their Girl or Woman novel start a bidding frenzy, it doesn't hurt to have this in their CV ... "senior editor at the New York publishing house, William Morrow. Prior to that he had been the publisher of the British mass-market crime imprint Sphere ..."

The title isn't completely original though ... 

And not forgetting the original movie of that name!

September 29, 2017

When not doing social media is cool

Hm, interesting article in The Guardian about the tres cool  Zadie Smith who doesn't do social media because she wants to "retain the right to be wrong" and not be called to account over it.

Zadie Smith by Risko (Vanity Fair)

At least she was really lucky to get recognition and establish her career in the years before it became mandatory to flog oneself mercilessly on social media until you draw blood (mostly your own).

All new writers are endlessly harped at by book publishers, agents, creative writing teachers and other well meaning friends to be "out there" networking on social media, even if it can be counter-productive in too many cases. The current approach is that if you haven't got at least a thousand plus followers on your blog, or Twitter or Facebook, you are unworthy of being taken seriously as a writer, even if many of those followers are serial spammers or even a bunch of bots.

Although I'm on social media and I do appreciate its pluses in being able to reunite with old friends or have a laugh at cute kitten videos or support causes I care about, its many minuses have forced me to be low-key. I have the odd flurry of posting comments but have learned not to get involved or respond too quickly to controversial topics or moralising and posturing from either the extreme left or right trying to tell me what I ought to be thinking. (I am a bit over those rainbow-hued avatars at the moment.)

Here are some social media cartoons that hit the nail on the head for me :-

My favourite! [or sic. favorite]

... and a whole bunch more here on this Pinterest page.

September 14, 2017

Judge thyself on book covers

A reader-writer email newsletter has a link to a site that presents you with images of book covers and gets you to give them a stars score out of five and compares your results to those as voted by Goodreads readers.

Some were quite good, most average, and none of them would induce me to drop everything and rush across to the other side of the store or library to investigate whether I wanted to read the book itself.

My score?  Bad. At "48% accuracy", it seems I have have failed the test and have nothing in common with Goodreads readers.

Absolutely nothing impresses you.
If Michelangelo himself painted these
covers you'd still say 'meh.'
Thumbs down.

No surprises - admittedly I'm not a candidate for any book with Justin Bieber on the cover for a start - although I did gasp at a couple of truly ghastly romance titles on which Goodreaders readers gave high scores. 

Here's the link. Have fun! 

July 08, 2017

Girls in the Dark

Previously I've grumbled about the overuse of "Girl" in titles, yet it's a juggernaut that never stops and they keep getting rolled out by publishers week after week. In fact, I'm currently reading one for a future online review plus I have two more in my general reading pile but only because their plot-lines captured my interest enough to overlook their girly titles.

Sigh. I accept defeat.

It's also getting "Dark" out there with two out of nine new titles in the latest crime newsletter from Allen & Unwin being The Dark Lake and The Dark Side. Is this the next trend?

"Dark" often features in titles of fantasy, ghost and horror stories, and I imagine just like "Girl" can be a nightmare (no puns intended) for bookshop owners and librarians: Can't remember the exact name, but it's got 'Dark' in the title" ... so I got to thinking whether novels might work with more imaginative alternative words for "Dark" and I looked up the word on ( is a great way to waste time but also learn a thing or two.) 

Apart from basic Black, there are quite a few options. Would you be tempted by books called The Atramentous Road, The Obfuscous Garden, The Crepuscular Sea or The Tenebrous Way ? Probably not.

And, yup, there are a few novels called Girl in the Dark. (Obviously, you would have to be careful calling your novel The Dark Girl due to possible racist connotations.)

Perhaps you could try The Girl from the Dark. Or The Aphotic Girl, The Cimmerian Girl or The Stygian Girl (probably the best of the bunch)

I also looked up other words for "Girl". All tame or clunky. "Gyrle" might work in fantasy or medieval historical fiction. "Virgin" has all sorts of issues best left alone.

How about The Young Lady on the Train or Gone Lassie ? The latter might appeal to dog owners. But The Damsel on the Locomotive might get somebody excited.

From Akihabara
Love the cadence in this. Maybe we need more titles in Turkish?

The original and the best!