Tuesday, 3 February 2015

The Year of the Derivative Title

Scene: Marketing room at a Major Publishing House
A boardroom with five white middle to upper class people, discussing a title change in order to launch a book
Rodney: Brainstorm guys!
Lucinda 1: Thought shower Rodders, Thought shower.
Lucinda 2: Yeah, Roddykins think of all those poor darlings with epilepsy or ADD or...ooh, shoes. (Lucinda 2 stares off into the distance.)
Lucinda 3: I’ve got it...(Lucinda 3 stands and walks to the flip chart, grabs a permanent marker and writes, The Girl. She sits down clearly exhausted.) Phew...blood rush.
All three Lucinda’s laugh and for some inexplicable reason Rodney turns red from the neck up.
Piers: Is it enough?
Lucinda 4 enters the room carrying a tray with a bottle of Bolly and six glasses: Have I missed anything?
Rodney: Lovely Lulu has come up with a spiffing title for our new thriller but Piers is concerned.
Piers: Is it enough? I mean with Gone Girl, Girl on a Train, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Was Saturday Night
Rodney looks puzzled
Piers: Not one of ours Rodo! Savage Girl, Wartime Girls, Girl Interrupted, the list goes on
Lucinda 2: What about?...(stares of into the distance once more)
Lucinda 3: The Gone Girl On A Train With a Dragon Tattoo On A Saturday Night
The whole room turns to look at Lucinda 3, seriously contemplating her title idea
Piers: But what’s it about?
The 4 Lucinda’s respond “Who cares, who has read the bloody thing anyway” and cackle
Piers: shrugs and sweeps his foppish hair back from his eyes: Open the bloody champers, time to celebrate!
Rodney: We’ll print a million, chuck a few hundred grand at it and see what happens eh? Tube posters everywhere, lots of bus advertising and let’s give away 40,000 to generate word of mouth buzz. The buyers will love it!
Lucinda 4: It always seems to work Rodder’s!

Friday, 16 January 2015

Why I Want to Draw a Distinction between Self publishing and Indie Publishing

The term indie publishing appears to have been hijacked by the loose fitting collective that is self publishing. So where does that leave true indie publishers like Caffeine Nights and a host of other small but passionate publishers striving to make a difference and an impact in this industry?

If you use the term indie publisher these days many people often think you mean self-published, and like it or not along with that comes the baggage of the old days including vanity publishing. There is a growing consensus of opinion that there are some excellent beginners and professionals out there who are self-publishing very successfully. Sadly that also leaves around 95% of the self published market which is still happy to churn out unedited, unproofed drivel for pennies or free and congest an already swamped market. 

Whatever way they wish to look at it and indeed even some parts of the industry has started labelling these successful writing entrepreneurs as indie authors, they are and always will remain self-published authors and there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. Just please don’t hijack the term indie

In this rush to embrace self published authors I think the true indie publisher has had to endure a difficult time in the market. On the one hand trying to compete with the big boys and on the other seeing what market forces brought about by the gold rush of everyone has a book in them has done to the hard fought for ground established by true indie publishers. Seeing that ground eroded by readers keen to devour or download every free or cheap self-published ebook available has made it an exciting but also frustrating time. 

Personally I don’t think many of those free books ever get read, but what they do is skewer the market affecting sales rankings and damaging sales. Readers need to be able to distinguish good from bad and by diluting or confusing terms such as indie publishing it becomes harder for readers to make informed choices especially with eBook purchases until they actually start reading what they have downloaded. 

Indie publishers provide that stepping stone between unpublished obscurity and often the next step for many authors in their career. Small enough to care big enough to produce lovely crafted books and occasionally win a small battle, gain a victory, garner a national review, persuade a buyer to take a book on in their stores, win an award or being short listed. 

Indie publishers deserve to keep their moniker and not have it stolen by an equally worthy set of self –published authors albeit a significantly small proportion of self-published authors who are doing the right thing in the right way.

Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Welcome to Lostland

In a little over 48 hours the good people of Scotland will vote in an historic referendum which decides not only the fate of its governance but also how the rest of the Union will be defined in the world. Make no bones about it; every vote cast is a momentous decision from which there is no return. Whatever happens, these islands will never be the same and Scotland will take a generation to recover. With a country divided, wounds are being opened that will if not treated carefully will fester as Scotland marches towards its future.
I won’t hide my feelings; I am a true believer of a United Kingdom. We are stronger together. The future is more assured and thanks to the arrogance and slack-jawed approach by not only our incumbent prime minister but coalition government and an even weaker stance by the Labour party we are on the verge of seeing the union dissolved.
I can understand a distrust of Westminster politics but to rage against that in the face of common sense and advice seems very short term against what could be long-term disastrous ramifications of a vote for independence.
An independent Scotland (I will resist using the term IS) will not have a currency union for the very reason that the Bank of England will not underwrite the huge risks involved with a go-it-alone small nation. It’s not a case of if Scotland’s oil revenue dries up but when Scotland’s oil revenue dries up. The UK estimates 16 billion barrels are left. Alex Salmond states 24 billion. If we go in the middle and suggest 20 million as a conservative estimate which equates to 20% of an independent Scotland’s entire budget who will make the shortfall when oil runs dry? If an Independent Scotland overspends who will make the shortfall? These are just two of the reasons why a currency union won’t happen because the Rest of the UK (RUK) won’t be the falls guys in this scenario.
The notion that an Independent Scotland will automatically join the EU is also a point which Salmond adamantly states even though the EU itself has stated this could take up to five years and then only if Scotland accepts the Euro as its form of currency. But that’s okay because an Independent Scotland can join the list of Nordic trading countries.
An Independent Scotland wants to rid itself of nuclear weapons, maybe blue facial paint and harsh language will work against unknown nuclear threat but one thing it won’t do is allow them to join NATO despite what Mr Salmond says. Alex Salmond seems to be living in total denial of any legitimate objection to an independent Scotland. Not just partial denial but TOTAL denial. An Independent Scotland is beginning to sound more and more like a one-party-state with President Salmond at the head. His attitude of it’s my way or the highway is very unsettling.
Yes, things aren’t sunshine over Leith with Scotland’s current arrangement in the UK. Believe me it’s not for England too. We don’t even have our own assembly/parliament, we don’t have the promise of extended powers, in fact as an Englishman I watch Scottish MP’s presiding over and voting on affairs which have nothing to do with the governance of Scotland but affect me as an Englishman. Things are not fair, things are not equal but things are a damned sight better together than apart.
This referendum has been divisive, it has been damaging to the economy of the UK and it has opened wounds which were once closed and caused rifts in families that were never there. I only hope that whatever the outcome on Friday morning that those divisions heal.
Regardless of which way you are voting, think about your children’s future and their children’s future and remember the old adage “How do you tell if a politician is lying?”
“It’s because their lips are moving.” is true.
If the vote is for yes then good luck and bon voyage because I think the voyage may be a lot lonelier than you anticipate. I will be sad to see Scotland annex itself from the rest of the UK. We will be weaker apart regardless of the spin and the hyperbole from the politicians on both sides.
If it is a vote for yes then Prime Minister Cameron should do the decent thing and immediately resign. There is little point in calling for a new election or even having the proposed election in May as we would then be placed in the bonkers situation of re-electing Scottish MPs to reside over UK matters for a period of 16 months while the road to independence is mapped out. If it is a yes vote then the RUK’s general election should be differed until Scottish independence is complete.
The political landscape for both an Independent Scotland and RUK will be changed forever, making it very difficult for any party to have overall power in the RUK. Alliances will be drawn and coalition governments will be the norm, with the balance of power held by parties such as UKIP and other independents.
I honestly believe this Pandora’s box was never fully thought through and I believe either way we lose. Welcome to Lostland...

Tuesday, 1 July 2014

Is this another anti-Amazon Smokescreen from Publishing’s Big Boys?

Is there a smokescreen being created by publishers as Amazon threatens POD for out of print titles? A book should never go out of print! Surely this is the publisher’s obligation to keep their back-list available and a move to POD for titles which have ran their course with a publisher is a simple and effective solution to keeping books in the hands of readers and author’s fans. There was an argument which I saw recently that some publishers are worried because the quality of POD is inferior. All the more reason for publishers to source an excellent POD supplier and provide the quality they can control. By the same token Amazon have no right to simply hi-jack titles and print them POD  but the onus is on the publisher to ensure that authors can generate income from their back-list. 

If any authors are struggling with this issue with their publisher then it really needs to be confronted head-on with the publisher and the author’s agent if he or she has one. Clauses must be added to contracts which guarantee the availability of titles through POD once a print run has been exhausted.
POD used to be a dirty word but I guarantee many readers would not spot the difference between an excellent POD title and a print run book. I can honestly say that many of our POD titles have actually been better than the print runs supplied by one of the UK’s leading printers.

Amazon’s tactics here may be viewed as being wrong but what they are exposing is a very real neglect of many author’s who simply fall off the radar because the publisher is too busy pursuing the next 12 year old literary genius or d-list celebrity memoir. Clearly Amazon cannot simply produce a POD version without the consent of the publisher but this state of affairs should not be allowed to happen in the first instance. Publisher’s look after you author’s and ensure that while under contract their books are always available. It’s that simple really.