Thursday, August 31, 2023

Reading The Blurb


In Publishing News this week,


We’ve all seen the puff quotes on the jackets of books. The name dropping- famous author loved it… but what happens when the book gets negative reviews and the publisher picks out words and throws them on the cover as praise. You get the backlash. Could puff quotes be over?


Penguin Random House (PRH) has had a jolly good half year. They have nearly made double digits in revenue. Even though they did not get Simon and Schuster that hasn’t stopped them snapping up smaller fruit.


Ingram is expanding its Print On Demand capabilities. With some big POD hubs in different parts of the globe they are challenging the sustainability of those big print runs out of China. 


Mark Williams shines a spotlight on the Music industry and how their revenue has grown over the last decade. It is broken down by genre. The music industry is always ahead of the publishing industry…what lessons can publishers take from all the numbers. Is children’s publishing the rock music buying equivalent?


Publishers Weekly is heralding the return of author tours with delight. Booksellers are gearing up for sell out author tours. Are we getting back to normal again? Or will Hybrid events be the new way to go? After the covid years is there even any money for author tours?


You’ve finished the book. You’ve scaled Mount Strunk and White. You’re ready for the big reward and yet you feel…flat. Ruth Harris has a great post on the 3 R’s of a successful writing career.


Are you struggling with the whole social media problem? The common complaint what should I post I’m a fiction writer… and which social media? Read this great post from Jessica Thompson. You can apply it to all sorts of social media.


Chat GPT or AI assisted writing has been in the news pretty much all year. If you are unsure about what sort of a tool it is to help you check out this posts on the 6 useful prompts for fiction writers.


You should be reading in your genre but how do you choose the books that you will get the most out of? Book Coach Robin Henry has a comprehensive post on How to read to elevate your writing practice. 


Sometimes the book of your heart… or the story that won’t let you go takes an awfully long gestational time. Stephanie Cowell writes about a story that has taken 39 years to pin down. When your favourite novel takes a long long time to write.


In The Craft Section,

Raise the stakes by making it personal- Angela Ackerman

8 different types of scenes- K M Weiland- Bookmark

4 tips for memorable characters- Lisa Hall Wilson

Setting- the versatile tool - C S Lakin- Bookmark

Hide exposition inside confrontation- James Scott Bell- Bookmark

13 tips for powerful pacing- Lynette Burrows- Bookmark


In The Marketing Section,

Step by step marketing- Penny Sansevieri

Compelling descriptions- Sandra Beckwith

Marketing vs publicity- Kelly Rendina- Bookmark

27 things to promote your book- Brian Feinblum- Bookmark

Direct sales strategies- Bookbub- Bookmark


To Finish,

Stephen King is often quoted as saying You can’t be a Writer if you are not a Reader, or words to that effect. This week Kris Rusch shines a spotlight on reading practice. Have you got out of the habit of reading? It happens. I have a friend who works with words all day and struggles to read anything for pleasure. Do you still love reading? 

You must fill the well of words if you want to keep drinking from the well. 

Ask yourself these questions. What books do you escape into? Challenge yourself with? Comfort reads? Keeping up with the genre reads? If you are struggling to name a book you’ve read for pleasure in the last month, make a date with a comfort book and rediscover your joy. Your writing will thank you for it.





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Thursday, August 24, 2023

Won’t Somebody Think Of The Children


In Publishing News this week,

Techcrunch reports on Amazon’s AI reviews. They are about to be rolled out on products very soon. Will they hurt the review as an art form? Reviews are social proof and book reviewers take their job seriously. Having AI synthesize reviews could stop reviewers bothering to write an in depth review. 


Mark Williams of The New Publishing Standard looks at the state of TV streaming and asks if publishers are seriously looking at their backlists. With the increasing share of TV revenue coming from digital subscription – backlist is king. So where are all those publishing deals? In the meantime the screenwriters are still out on strike.


Being a teacher by trade I am always interested in how the educational publishing world is doing. 

Publishers Weekly reports on the latest discussions of teaching reading. If you have been in the field for more than a decade you will be aware of different fads coming and going on reading instruction. 


A news report out of Brazil about a state abandoning its textbook industry had me concerned. A judge has reinstated it, thank goodness. This was a move to exert control over educational textbooks. There are always two sides to an educational textbook. It could be propaganda or it could be rigorously factual. When a person mandates a textbook change without consultation or notice right before the school year, it doesn’t bode well for truth. 


While Brazil is wrestling with truth in textbooks, Pen America reports that there has been a huge surge in educational intimidation bills. The old adage – In war, truth is the first casualty seems to fit here. The war is for hearts and minds… and the victims are often unaware that there is a problem. 


Goodereader reports on the wave of fake books compiled by AI and sold on Amazon – the most notorious being a book about the Maui fire two days after it happened. This kind of AI scamming behaviour by people putting these books up for sale is pretty low. It is no wonder that people feel mistrustful of any information.


Anne R Allen has a roundup of the latest writer scams to be aware of. Scammers prey on hopes and dreams. It could be for a publishing deal or agent or film contract. Once they hook you they suggest you pay for all sorts of extras. Money is supposed to flow to the writer- not the other way around. Always check the name and use the word scam in the google search. No one in the publishing industry will solicit you out of the blue for a publishing deal. Please make newbies aware of this fact.


Allison Williams has a writer beware post on editors behaving badly. You’ll never write in this town again. Writers who have been bitten by predatory editors don’t want to name and shame. Allison has useful tips for dealing with editors- This is a must read post.


Kris Rusch finishes up her niche marketing blog series with a look at how Barbie moved from a niche toy into an international brand with social media accounts and a billion dollar earning film. It’s a lesson in niche longevity.


The fabulous Sam Missingham of The Empowered Author is running a book marketing online conference later in the year. This week is the last week for early bird prices and discounts. 

The Alliance of Independent Authors has a comprehensive post on Non Fiction book marketing and a great post on writing and publishing with a family member.


Have you ever created your own fantasy map? It is often something we get into as kids but I have found that writers have a particular affection for maps. Mirror World has a great post with lots of links on map creation.


Molly Templeton writes about the ritual of rearranging your books periodically. I like to think that I do this yearly but I’m kidding myself. When the bookshelf is so messy it looks like three toddlers have had a playfight I know its time to seriously attack my bookshelves. Unfortunately knowing that I will be have to look inside every second book stops me from doing the job more frequently. Sigh.


Did you know that those little quotes in front of chapters that some writers use in their books are called Malcolms? After the guy who started doing it. It wasn’t that long ago either.


In The Craft Section,

What are plot devices and why you should be cautious- K M Weiland – Bookmark

How to write 5000 words a day- Bamidale Onibalusi

You as the fictional character- Anne Janzer- Bookmark

Writing about pain- Angela Ackerman- Bookmark

What show don’t tell actually means- Mythcreants


In The Marketing Section,

You’ve written your book now what- Carrie Weston

Imaginative September holidays for book promo- Sandra Beckwith – Bookmark

How to build an author platform that attracts readers- Penny Sansevieri- Bookmark

Ideas for blogging on your author website- Judith Briles- Bookmark

How authors use pre-orders to promote new books- Bookbub- Bookmark


To Finish,

Esquire interviewed Josh Cook, the author of a new book – The Art of Libromancy. Josh has written about bookstores being at the vanguard of the culture wars. He is an independent book seller and believes in the importance of book stores for people to test beliefs, moral standpoints, and get information. This makes their survival all the more important in an age of book banning and AI scraping fakes 

I would like to add that libraries, particularly school libraries, are equally important. Having a repository of widely curated books allows the reader to make up their own mind. We must teach curiosity and fact checking and to do that we need access to a wide range of opinions and facts. You fail when you restrict access to books, or news, or dissenting opinions. Even though you might not agree with how some people ‘blindly’ follow the latest theories, it’s the ‘blindly’ that is the problem. Blindly reinforces prejudice without allowing that there might be an opposing fact to refute it. A wide range of voices and books to sample from is necessary and good for society. 

Here Endeth The Lesson.





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Thursday, August 17, 2023

Standing Up For Your Rights


In Publishing News This Week


The Judge handed down a ruling on the Internet Archive Library copyright case which has annoyed the plaintiffs, (AKA some of the biggest publishers.) The judge is trying to steer a middle course by allowing the Internet Archive to stick with making eBooks of print books that don’t already have an eBook format. This stops the publishers or the authors who have reclaimed their rights doing their own eBook version. Publishing eBooks for in-print books is not fair use. Appeals to the ready. 


With the ever louder clamour to ban books… various library organisations have banded together to promote the banned books. Penguin Random House has joined the party by making a whole lot of resources and books available to kids. Let Kids Read. I was nonplussed to read the opening remark in this news article. How can teachers think AI would tell them what books to ban?


Last week I reported on Jane Friedman’s woes with AI scraped books that had her name, and by extension reputation, plastered all over them. The story went viral and was reported on many international news sites, including our national radio programme. Jane has published an article on what to do if you are in a similar situation. Based on many writers testimony all over the internet- this is going to become more likely. One pundit stated that keeping a strict eye on your Amazon Author page where these books are likely to show up is essential. Amazon won’t do anything until you tell them to.


Wired has a story on the Prosecraft AI backlash- Why the great AI backlash came for a tiny startup you’ve probably never heard of. Are they just the convenient low hanging victim for scared people or is there some deeper motive in the AI backlash against them.


Writers in Kindle Unlimited were dismayed when the latest pages reads compensation got down to .0004 cents a page. Many writers publicly stated this was the end for them being in the KU program. Craig Martell of 20 Books fame devoted a 5 minute focus chat on this topic. If you are wondering what you should do check out the wise words of the 20 books captain. 


Joanna Penn has an interesting interview with Steph Pajonas on using AI tools to help writers with disabilities. Some of the tools can be very useful.


Literary Agent Janet Reid explains why selling YA is so hard now. This is a good exploration of why some books can be the next hot thing until they aren’t.


Are you being eco friendly in your publishing? The Alliance of Independent Authors has an interesting article about how you can up your sustainability practice.


Chuck Wendig has an interesting post on why he is focussing on standalone books instead of series. It all has to do with rights. There are potentially more exploitable rights in standalones. An interesting perspective when everyone in the Indie world is paddling the other way.


Roz Morris has a great article on story telling details she now does on auto pilot. It all goes back to great editing teaching her a few tricks.


In The Craft Section,

What are pinch points and where do they go- Sue Coletta

How to determine the age of your target reader- C S Lakin- Bookmark

How to find the narrators voice- Michelle Barker- Bookmark

What are plot devices and why you should be cautious- K M Weiland- Bookmark

The basic formula of fiction- James Scott Bell- Bookmark


In The Marketing Section,

How to write a newsletter people will actually share- Lisa Norman- Bookmark

Best practices for selling books- Elizabeth Craig

Crafting an irresistible book pitch- Penny Sansevieri- Bookmark

The business of writing- Angela Ackerman

Author websites- Goodstory Company- Bookmark


To Finish,

How many times have you come up against the myth of the solitary writer? It has a certain romance to it. Left alone the writer will be most productive and their genius will flower naturally in a series of stunning books. 

Yeah about that. The reality is a lot different. Writers need a community says Elizabeth Craig.

A few decades back there were writers who couldn’t deal with the world so needed the dutiful wife to do everything. This article looks at the wives who put up with a lot from their tortured genius writer spouses. 

I would be reaching for the frying pan and not in a good way if I was shackled to these writers. 





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Pic Getty Image from Latest WGA strike news

Thursday, August 10, 2023

When Whack-A-Mole Feels Like The Only Game In Town



In Publishing News this week…

The news that Simon and Shuster has been sold echoed around the publishing blogosphere like a thunderclap. The buyer KKR is an investment fund. The news has split the publishing world into two camps, This is a good thing for publishing and The sky is about to fall in.

Which camp you are in seems to be whether you are a student of financial history or whether you think that publishing needs to change the way it does business.

Mark Williams looks at it as a beacon of hope, an interesting take on how he sees the future playing out.

Cory Doctorow sees the sale as another nail in the coffin. Cory has been writing excellent articles recently about tech business issues and this sale fits right into some of his core concerns.

KKR have got a great deal- cheaper than PRH was offering. Simon and Schuster are an IP prize and their sales have been very good lately although they do have a Trump court case looming. (The winners will always be the lawyers.) 


In other court case news, Amazon and the FTC. The case of breaking up Amazon got a little closer recently. Will there be a future without Amazon? Don’t count on it coming soon. This case is going slowly. Meanwhile, although the judge threw out the colluding eBook prices with the big 5 publishers court case she did find that Amazon needs to front up over its monopolistic practices.


Jane Friedman is spitting mad and no one can blame her. If you are a popular and trusted name in the publishing world and some unscrupulous person decides to capitalise on your name recognition by publishing AI scraped books with your name on it, you would be too. However, when the websites hosting these bogus books then turn around and say so what, you haven’t trademarked your name, you reach Defcon 1 in mad. The post went viral and some backtracking was soon evident. But will this happen to others? Constant Vigilance.


Meanwhile, in other AI scraping news, The website Prosecraft which was set up to help authors refine their writing was closed by its owner when news broke that to make the site work they had been scraping popular authors work without permission. When you unleash the AI, letting it roam through 24,000 authors books isn’t a good idea.


Kathleen Schmidt a publishing industry blogger looks at the latest problems besetting the publishing industry and asks if publishing is now broken. 


Even though Jane Friedman is wrestling with AI trolls she still finds the time to have brilliant guest posters on her popular site. This week Matt Holmes has a very interesting study on Facebook ads and how he is using the FB algorithms to do something completely different which is also making him money.


Tonight I had the privilege of being at The New Zealand Book Awards for Children and Young Adults. It was great to see many friends in the industry and to celebrate the finalists and the winners. I have judged the awards and it is always a nerve wracking time for everybody. You feel the weight of your choices and wish that you could give everyone a prize for just getting to the finals because of the tremendous amount of work, sweat, tears, and years of the author and illustrators lives wrapped up in the pages. 


If you are wondering about this writing gig and feeling down about your work… read this great article by Kathleen McCleary on Writer Unboxed on Forward Motion.



In The Craft Section,

The secret to writing your first book faster- Suzy Vadori

Vulnerability -the key to compelling relationships- Angela Ackerman

Do you have too much dialogue- Janice Hardy- Bookmark

Two tricks to build suspense- K M Weiland- Bookmark

Multiple points of view – Anne R Allen- Bookmark

How to write middle grade fiction- Stephanie Willing


In The Marketing Section,

Book Marketing Buzzwords- A good index from Sandra Beckwith

Why writers shouldn’t care about the numbers of Social Media followers- Colleen Story- Bookmark

70 tips to sell books – Kindlepreneur

The Marketing Mind Shift- Joanna Penn with Ricci Wolman of Written Word Media podcast/transcript- 


How to make the new Author pages on Amazon work for you- Penny Sansevieri- Bookmark


To Finish,

It’s been a while since I linked to a post from Chuck Wendig. He is still around, still doing his wild crazy thing but this week’s post Forgive The Writers Because We Are So Tired resonated with me as I was researching the blog. Publishing, and Discoverability problems, and Book Banning, and AI scraping, and Scammers and… and…. 

It often feels like we are playing whack-a-mole with the problems of being a writer in this current age. Everything around you conspires to take away your joy in the process, and the imagination, and the dream. But there is joy in the well-crafted story and that somewhere in the midst of the doom and gloom there is a new reader just waiting to escape into your imagination. 

It is a bonus if your peers think that your work stands up and adds to the taonga/treasure of your country. The sweat and tears are worth it.





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Thursday, August 3, 2023

Threat or Opportunity



This week the Booker Prize longlist was announced. Mark Williams looks at the media focus on nationality and then breaks down how a book gets nominated for the prize. I always wondered, especially when books were longlisted before publication. Eye opening.


Sometimes the news coming out of parts of the U. S. about book banning seem to be set in some sort of nightmare dystopian wasteland. What worries many around the world is that these ideas seem to spread to other countries. We cannot be complacent and think ‘only in America’. So the latest news that a Texas school district was repurposing school libraries into discipline centres gave me the shudders. 


ReadersFirst is a global coalition of libraries. They recently commented on the real world impact of the 2023 Big 5 Publisher Terms for Library Lending. 

Libraries have to enter into contracts with publishers for how often they can lend out a book in any format. The price for each book has the lending factored into it. For example, a library copy of a best seller might cost the library 3 times the cost of the book in the bookstore for a limited amount of borrows. This is true for digital formats as well. 


Kerry Chaput has an interesting post on authenticity and why TikTok is the best place for you to be your authentic writer self.


In The AI section, these posts caught my eye. The New York Times has an article on the fear and creativity of using AI which will impact all aspects of publishing.


As a children’s writer I always keep one eye on what is happening in educational publishing. Pearson are experimenting with using AI to enhance their content in a walled garden approach for students by using “conversational AI capabilities.”


The biggest hurdle any author has is how to get their books discovered by readers. What if the whole book could be scanned, core themes pulled out to generate Ad copy directly to a reader. 

Enter AI. Publishing Perspectives has an intriguing interview with the entrepreneur behind a new book discovery platform called Shimmr. Where there is a threat there is also opportunity.


Recently I listened to an excellent podcast episode from the SPA Girls about subscriptions. They were interviewing the founders of Ream, a subscription platform for authors to host their own serial stories, Wattpad or Patreon style content. It was fascinating and informative. If you are interested in owning your own relationships with readers, check out the episode.


Kris Rusch takes a look at how the best laid plans can be derailed and how to cope with the planning muse when this happens. This is good for a reality check. Even the best of us can get it wrong.


How to get back to your book in 3 easy/kinda hard steps. This is a great essay written by Denise Massar for Writers Digest. The shelved project is not gone for ever. Time away can clarify what you wanted to say in the manuscript.



In The Craft Section,

How writers can use mindmapping for brainstorming

Choosing the right scenes for the right place- C S Lakin Bookmark

The 12% rule of story structure- September Fawkes- Bookmark

Iconic characters are made – Donald Maass- Bookmark

Pomodoro tips for writers

Writing tips- outlining- Amy Clipston


In The Marketing Section,

Top ten marketing challenges- Penny Sansevieri- Bookmark

Attracting readers during peak shopping periods- Amazon- Bookmark

The business of writing- Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi

Who are your key influencers- Sandra Beckwith- Bookmark

6 tips for a book party on a shoe string- Debbie Burke



To Finish,

What if your book was picked up for a Bookclub read- you would be happy, wouldn’t you? Judith Briles looks at the other side of this in Bookclub thieves. If you are invited to speak to a bookclub be aware that they may only have bought one book. Many readers still think authors are rolling in money. The opposite is true. You might have to educate them.


This writing business is hard. It is especially hard if you don’t have a great support network around you. Lisa Fellinger explores how to protect yourself when your friends and family rain on your book dreams.





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