Tag Archives: books

Seven reasons why an EU Leave victory will be a disaster for the UK book industry

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Imagine that every country in the EU is linked to all the others by invisible threads that vibrate with stories of faraway lands. Each thread contains a voice, one that originally came to life in the form of the written word. These are the voices of writers, and with every story each voice tells, another culture, perspective or idea unfolds. Europe is home to a web of literature from all over the world and due to its status as a European country, the UK is able to sell books internationally and acquire others in translation. British authors conduct talks in major European cities to promote their work, publishers travel abroad with the hope of bringing home a literary jewel and translators have a breadth of literary material at their fingertips, ripe for the eyes of another audience. A Leave victory this Thursday will create multiple barriers to this current situation.

Yesterday, Jane Aitken, founder of Gallic books (a French to English publishing house) and owner of Belgravia Books and Aardvark Bureau tweeted about her companies’ daily sales reports– sales were to Portugal, South Africa, the Philippines and Beirut. “We can sell wherever she want” she wrote, followed by the #remain hashtag.  Being in the EU means British books can be sold everywhere. This is because the British publishing industry is part of a global business, a position that will be threatened with a Leave victory.

According to predictions this victory will be followed by a drop in the value of the pound, meaning that import costs will rise for publishers. It could also lead to job cuts in the publishing industry.  “A ‘Brexit’ would be a financial disaster for UK publishing”, Bonnier Publishing c.e.o Richard Johnson told The Bookseller. This would be especially true for small publishing houses.

Justin Adams, m.d of Connect Books, said that the impact of this new exchange rate will “make the buying and selling of books internationally more complex and risky”. So, not only will it be more difficult to sell books, but it will be harder to buy them. How much great foreign literature will we be missing out on if we leave the EU? The Creative Europe program currently provides funding for the translation of 4500 literary works between 2014-2020. The UK publishing industry will no longer be part of this.

The loss of freedom of movement that will come with leaving the EU means the UK publishing industry won’t be employing many people from European universities (so fewer talented people) and our own graduates looking to join the publishing industry won’t be able to benefit from work experience in publishing industries abroad. The Erasmus program allows British students to live and work abroad for a year and come home with valuable, enlightening experiences that could help them contribute new ideas to British industries, but this too is an opportunity that Leave campaigners are willing to give away.

Academic publishing is also in danger, because Britain will lose its share of the EU research fund. Furthermore, our universities thrive on the flow of students and researchers from Europe, with 15% of academic staff at UK universities from EU countries. Closing our doors to them means yet more loss of intellect, ideas and progress.

The loss of free movement will also affect the ease with which authors and publishers arrange book tours and attend international book fairs abroad, which allows them to promote their own books and keep an eye out for foreign literature. The need for a visa could make doing this a bureaucratic nightmare.

I will leave you with one last terrifying thought. Without the EU there would be no Gruffalo. The Gruffalo, a German-British collaboration, would not exist as you know him, with his terrible claws and terrible teeth in his terrible jaws.  Had Axel Scheffler not come to the UK in 1982 to study for a degree in illustration, The Gruffalo, he said in this article, “would have been an entirely different beast.” Axel would never had worked with Julia Donaldson, and without their joint success, they might not have gone on to write and illustrate many more of Britain’s best loved children’s books.

If you love the UK book industry, vote REMAIN.

Image Credits:

  1. Untitled, by Kim Heimbuch via Pixabay

Self-publishing Vs traditional publishing- author interview with Louise Walters

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I am honoured to be able to feature author Louise Walters who is currently making the transition from the traditional publishing route to self-publication. Louise has written ‘Mrs Sinclair’s Suitcase‘, published by Hodder and is currently self-publishing her second novel ‘A Life Between Us’ with Matador. Today I’m discussing with Louise her decision to self-publish and the differences between both publication routes. Thank you, Louise!


Louise Walters_TypewriteredAlthough I have an idea of the answer to this thanks to your wonderful blog, could you share with readers why you chose to go down the self-publishing route with this novel?
The main reason is I didn’t get a traditional book deal with my second novel. After a lot of thought I decided to have a go at self-publishing. I am using Matador Books, so strictly speaking my book will be published via “assisted” publishing.

What is this novel about?
It’s about family and the secrets that families keep from each other… dark secrets that can tear people apart. There’s also a supernatural element to this novel… or is there? Even I’m not sure.

Can you tell us where you are at with the publication of your second novel? How far into the publication of ‘A Life Between Us’ are you?
I have just sent the novel back to Matador for typesetting. It’s had all the edits done, including a copy edit. Once it has been typeset there will be proof reading to do.

You are self-publishing with Matador. What services does this company provide and what do you have to do yourself?
Matador basically provide as much as you need them to. That was really useful to me as I haven’t a clue about self-publishing and I felt I needed a lot of hand-holding.

What challenges have you faced taking the self-publishing route? Were any of them unexpected?
I think my big challenge will be marketing and getting the book into bookshops, libraries and the hands of readers. I am looking forward to marketing and have a few ideas to help make my book stand out – hopefully!

What have you found to be the advantages of self-publishing? Are there are certain aspects you are glad to be able to do by yourself?
For me, the huge advantage is control over the whole project. I set my own time scale, and I was able to pick and choose which tasks to do myself and which to delegate to Matador (most of them, actually!)

You are currently in the midst of choosing a cover for your book. How does this process work when self-publishing and how does it differ from the traditional publication route?
With traditional publishing, the author has very little say about the design of their cover. There are often good reasons for that, of course. But it was a pleasure to look for an image I thought may work. It’s also daunting, because I don’t want to be responsible for a ghastly cover. Fortunately, Matador books will veto designs or images if they are too duff! I have found an image I think would work and I’m waiting to see what the Matador designers come up with.

You have talked on your blog about being prepared for reviews that will call this novel a “self-published vanity project”. In your opinion, why do some people still have this negative view that self-publishing is “cheating”?
It’s grounded in snobbery. There’s no question in my mind. And to be truthful, there are some dreadful self-published books out there. Not everybody can write well and there are those who want to “be a writer” while having no idea of what “being a writer” entails. But I think the snobs assume that ALL self-published books are brought out by wannabes, and it just isn’t so. All self-published writers tend to get tarred by the same brush, ie, they are rubbish – which is as ludicrous as saying all traditionally published authors are great. Clearly it isn’t so!

What do you think is the main reason people choose to self-publish?
“Failure” to get a traditional deal; wanting more control; the thrill of seeing their name on the spine of a book; to get a fairer share of the money from the sale of their books. All valid reasons!

In terms of income, and keeping in mind the fees involved in self-publication, which publication route is the most advantageous? Does self-publishing mean you may earn a bigger percent of the royalties? I’m intrigued as to how this works.
A traditional deal is probably still the “holy grail” of publishing. At least, that’s how I felt before getting mine. But all that glistens is not gold, as I have discovered! My opinion is that publishers and authors are too pitched against each other… the publisher wanting to pay their authors as little as they can get away with, of course. Hence, a traditionally published author will only receive a 25% royalty rate on their e-book sales. The print royalty rates are usually much lower and it’s impossible to make a decent living unless you sell lots and lots of books.

On the other hand, a traditionally published book can attract foreign deals, and that’s what happened to mine, so I ended up making quite a decent sum on my first novel. But without those deals I would not yet have made up my UK advance money and therefore wouldn’t yet be receiving any royalties. I am looking upon my expenditure on A Life Between Us as my “advance” – if I sell enough books to earn that out and start getting royalties, I will count myself very fortunate. And of course I will receive a much higher royalty rate per copy sold than I would via a traditional publisher. So it’s swings and roundabouts, with financial advantages to both routes.

What advice would you give to writers who are considering self-publishing?
Take your time, look at all the options, be realistic about what you can and can’t do yourself. Don’t skimp on the editing. And be professional, do everything as professionally as you can. If you are asking somebody, anybody to spend hours of their life reading your work, then you owe it to them to make your work as good as it can be.

You can read all about Louise’s fascinating writing life and follow her publication journey on her fantastic blog.


Image credits:
1. Unknown via bookandnegative.com
2. © Oliver Smith

The Edge of Lost by Kristina McMorris

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This captivating book begins in October 1937 on the Island of Alcatraz, home to a prison for the most deadly criminals. A civilian child is missing, and only convicted bank robber Tommy Capello knows where she can be found.

We are then taken back to 1919 Ireland where we meet Shanley Keagan, an orphan with a gift for performing that will eventually become a means of survival in a dangerous world. Raised by his violent and alcoholic uncle, Shan is secretly desperate to find his long lost American father, and succeeds in convincing his uncle to move them to America in search of a better life. However, America is not the place of gold paved streets that Shan had heard about and after an unexpected turn of events, he finds himself indebted to a kind immigrant Italian family.

We follow Shan throughout his life as he becomes the third son of the Capello family, brother to Nick and Lina. His dream becomes a reality when he begins performing on stage with the actors he admires most, but Shan finds himself in trouble when he makes the choice to rescue his brother from a nasty situation.

The plot twists keep coming, and Shan must rely on his wit and courage to survive what comes next. I was hooked on the plot of this novel as it moved faster towards solving a mystery. The ending was so unexpected but so satisfying. This book is a journey, a story of friendship, secrets, duty and sorrow. I loved additional touches that made it all the more authentic, like the mix of Italian and American culture, Shan’s love for literature inherited from his mother and the scandalous aspects of a life on stage in the 20’s.

The humanity of McMorris’ characters is so real and raw, and their development through the story very clever. I loved her beautifully descriptive questioning of what it means to be human: “It’s fascinating, really, when you think about it. How a person can slip into a new life as one would a new pair of shoes. At first there’s a keen awareness of the fit: a stiffness at the heel, the binding of the width, the curve pressed to the arch. But with time and enough steps, the feel becomes so natural you almost forget you’re wearing them at all.”

This novel shows us the possibility of forming unbreakable bonds with strangers and that it’s never too late to change who you are.

Philip Pullman’s resignation & why writing needs to be treated as a profession

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Author of His Dark Materials trilogy Philip Pullman has resigned from his position as patron of the Oxford Literary Festival due to the fact that they do not pay the authors appearing as speakers at the festival. Pullman, who is also president of the Society of Authors, which campaigns for speakers at literary festivals to be properly paid, felt that his two roles contradicted each other. He has been praised by numerous fellow authors for his action.

Why aren’t literature festivals paying?

Oxford Literary Festival claims they cannot afford to pay authors because, as a charity event, they receive no government funding. A spokesperson said “”We are very sad that Philip Pullman has decided to resign as patron of the festival. We are grateful for the support he has given over the years, and for his many appearances at the festival. The Oxford Literary Festival is a registered charity which does not receive any government or public funding. Each year for the festival to take place, substantial sponsorship and donations have to be raised.”

Other literary festivals such as Manx LitFest or Hay Festival subsist entirely off sponsorship, yet still manage to pay their authors. Manx Litfest pays authors a flat daily rate, expecting none of them, not even new, unknown authors, to work for free.

Literature festivals charge a fee to their visitors, and it is only right that part of the money earned should be used to pay guest authors. Without the presence of authors, these festivals would not exist.

Walking in an author’s shoes

A recent survey commissioned by the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society revealed that the average earnings of a full time author come to a meagre £11,000 per year. It comes as no surprise then that authors need to earn from their books in other ways too. Few authors can afford the travel and accommodation expenses that come with an unpaid appearance at a literature festival. And they shouldn’t have to. “Good exposure” is not a good enough reason for an author to find him/herself out of pocket.

Authors who take time out of their day to attend a literature festival (more often that not bringing crowds of paying visitors with them) and who give talks and workshops at said festival deserve to be paid for their efforts. Yes, it is a chance to promote their work and connect with readers, but is this enough when there are bills to pay? After all, this is time they could be spending writing the next book… This isn’t to say that authors should never appear at events for free if they want to- literature festivals are about sharing literature and encouraging people to read- but if the festival is earning money, the authors should be too. As best-selling author Joanne Harris so perfectly put it: “You wouldn’t dream of not paying your caterers, so why would you even consider not paying the headline act?”

Why writing needs to be treated as a profession

Since Pullman’s resignation, a letter written by author Amanda Craig has been published in The Bookseller magazine, calling for publishers and authors to boycott literary festivals that do not pay their guest authors. The letter has 30 author signatures. Outrage at the lack of author pay has been appearing in other areas, too. The New Society of Authors want authors to receive 50% of e-book revenue, instead of the current 25%. Philip Pullman has said that if authors are not paid more then they “will become an endangered species.”

Similarly, many magazines decline to pay their freelance writers, asking them to submit articles in exchange for an opportunity to build up their portfolios and showcase their writing skills. These writing skills should be paid for! While exposure is beneficial to new freelancers, writers cannot be expected to give their time for free. Crafting an impressive piece takes effort- it’s not as easy as stringing a few words together. Would you employ a carpenter to make you a garden seat for your guests to enjoy, only to ask him to leave it to you for free, because his talent will be showcased in your front garden? It’s an unlikely comparison, but I hope you can see my point! Writers are the storytellers of our society. They create fictional worlds to escape to, bring history back to life, impart knowledge and teach, create discussion on moral issues, challenge certain viewpoints and bring awareness to issues we hadn’t thought of before. JK Rowling created a love for reading in children across the globe.

Writing needs to be treated as a profession. And Philip Pullman knows this.


Image credits:
Writer’s Block by Drew Coffman via Flickr.

Thoughts on ‘Go Set a Watchman’ by Harper Lee

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This post contains spoilers.

I was thrilled when the news came out that Harper Lee had written a sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird and that it was going to be published. I was even more thrilled and intrigued when I learned that this sequel was actually written before To Kill a Mockingbird but had been abandoned on advice from the publisher in a favour of a new manuscript starring younger versions of Lee’s characters. So Jean Louise the adult had existed before Jean Louise the child. Interesting.

I was relieved to read that Jean Louise the adult was just as plucky and fierce as her younger self. Obviously, it is difficult to read the sequel of such a famous piece of literature without having expectations. I loved the book and couldn’t put it down, although it wasn’t a thrilling page-turner like the first. The plot seems to waver in the second half and is replaced by Jean Louise’s train of thought, her inner turmoils and long interior monologues. It became a little less about action and more a debate, Jean Louise’s witty and sacrcastic reactions to the subject of racism, and to the fact that as she becomes an adult she is realising that the people she loves are a lot less accepting than she previously believed.

After  closing the book, I realised it’s not about who is racist and who is not. It’s about Jean Louise becoming her own person, and Atticus, who she puts at the same moral level as God, becoming human, with fault, fears, regrets and weaknesses. It turns out that the famous Atticus supports white supremacy. Atticus, who has always taught his children to be kind and fair, who always stood for justice, is joining white supremist groups and expressing his opposition to having black people in government. In To Kill a Mockingbird, he defended a black man against his white accusers, and although Atticus is a kind man, we realise that Scout’s childhood adoration of him depicted him as liberal, egalitarian non-racist man, when actually in defending this black man he was simply doing his job as a lawyer and making sure justice was served.

Although he is not a violent racist, Atticus is a man of his time. What he really is a white southern man raised during a time when black people were surpressed and whose father fought for the confederate side in the Civil War. Atticus is on the side of the law and will defend whoever is right, black or white, but ultimately sees black people as a threat to society. His ignorance creates the desire in him to “preserve” southern society because his view is and has always been that black people are not “ready” to take on the freedoms being offered to them. Another era of reconstruction was upon the South at this time and people feared how much their society was to change yet again faced with black empowerment, 100 years after slavery had been abolished.

Although I loved Atticus less for it, I am glad Harper Lee have him a daughter who inherited the better parts of him. Scout is not a racist, because her father never taught her to differentiate between black or white. Jean Louise is effectively “colour blind.” This suggests that Jean Louise’s children’s generation should have all trace of racism squashed out of them, if their parents had been raised the same ways as Atticus raised his daughter. We know, of course, that in real life this was not the case.

This was a beautiful, albeit different novel which gave insight to life in the postbellum South. It was one that made me think, and I loved going back to long-loved characters. I will never be able to read To Kill a Mockingbird in the same way ever again, but I think the way Atticus’s whole character in that first novel is actually just his child’s perception of him is genius. Harper Lee strikes again.

5 Memorable Male Characters

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I love that contemporary literature is full of strong, empowering female characters who are the heroes of their own stories, not damsels in distress who need saving. If I wrote a post about the female literary characters that have inspired me, it would never end. So today, I’m looking at some particularly memorable male characters who are sometimes overlooked in favour of other protagonists.

Edmund Pevensie

A rude and selfish child suffering from a bad school experience, Edmund was evacuated from London during the war with his siblings. He is michevious and a liar, manipulative and cruel to his sister. In the first book of C.S Lewis’s Narnia series, Edmund plots with the White Queen to  make himself her heir, putting his siblings in danger in his greed for power. I think it’s interesting to have a main character who is bad, because you are pulled between your curiosity to see what the character will do and your lack of sympathy for him. Edmund eventually sees the White Queen’s cruelty and is repentant, and the reader gets to watch him grow as a person and change. His willingness to grow is what makes him worthy of leadership and he is a true example of the fact that it is okay to make mistakes.

“You have a traitor there, Aslan,” said the Witch. Of course everyone present knew that she meant Edmund. But Edmund had got past thinking about himself after all he’d been through and after the talk he’d had that morning. He just went on looking at Aslan. It didn’t seem to matter what the Witch said.”

“But even a traitor may mend. I have known one that did.”

Atticus Finch

Atticus was the brave defender of a black man in the American Deep South who was accused of raping a white woman. He is a man of integrity and such an authentic character. Atticus is a father who lets his children learn fom their own mistakes and teaches them by example instead of just telling. A compassionate man who loves to read and hates violence, he accepts his children, especially his daughter, as they are, and cares for every human being equally. Atticus teaches us that good morals and our own consience are more important than what other think about us.

“I simply want to tell you that there are some men in this world who were born to do our unpleasant jobs for us. Your father’s one of them.”

 “‘Atticus, are we going to win [the case]?’  ‘No, honey.’  ‘Then why–‘  ‘Simply because we were licked a hundred years before we started is no reason for us not to try to win,’ Atticus said”

Ronald Weasley

Ron is the most loyal character I have ever come across in literature.  A boy who constantly feels second best, first to his sister who was the daughter his parents craved, and then to his best friend, Harry Potter, the Chosen One, Ron has stood by Harry from the very beginning, against his friends and even some of his family. Although often seen as a sidekick to the hero of the Harry Potter series, Ron is an authentic and fully formed character in his own right. He is hilarious, kind hearted and terrified of spiders. He is tall and awkward, hot-headed and clumsy, brave and fiercly loving. Second youngest of 7 children, family and friendship are most important to Ron. He is a true Gryffindor. Ron taught me to always do the right thing, no matter how scared it makes you feel . Harry Potter  just wouldn’t be what it is without him.

“He must have known I’d want to leave you.”
“No, he must have known you would always want to come back.”

“Why are they all staring?” demanded Albus as he and Rose craned around to look at the other students.
“Don’t let it worry you,” said Ron. “It’s me. I’m extremely famous.”

Bigwig

Yes, one of my 5 memorable male characters is a rabbit. Each rabbit in Richard Adam’s Watership Down is as unique and individual as human beings. Bigwig is a large, rough and dominant buck whose military stategy and determination lead him and his friends to safety. Bigwig had a status and a place within his warren, yet was willing to leave it all behind for Fiver, because he believed his word was the truth, and for Hazel, because, despite his weak physical appearance, he recognised his ability to lead. He is far from cowardly, and hides a kind heart beneath his sharp words. What I love about Bigwig is his respect for all others, regardless of their physical appearance/status/species.

“My Chief Rabbit has told me to stay and defend this run, and until he says otherwise, I shall stay here. –Bigwig”

“All the world will be your enemy, Prince with a Thousand Enemies, and whenever they catch you, they will kill you. But first they must catch you, digger, listener, runner, prince with the swift warning. Be cunning and full of tricks and your people shall never be destroyed.”

Albus Dumbledore

 How could I not include him? Something tells me Dumbledore would have got on with Atticus. An infinitely wise man, with a quiet dignity and a reassuring presence, Dumbledore had an answer for everything. He was a strong male role-model  for Harry, along with Remus, Sirius and Mr Weasley. We only find out later on in the series that Dumbledore had a troubled past that he never talked about, and made mistakes that he bitterly regretted until the day he died.  Like Sirius Black, Dumbledore recognised that there is light and dark in everybody, and had an ability to forgive. One of his last sentences in the last book represents the whole of the  Harry Potter world for fans everwhere:

          “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it’s not real?”

  “We are only as strong as we are united, as weak as we are divided.”

A Place for Booklovers

image (23)About a month ago, my housemate and I stumbled across a second-hand bookshop in Bath. We had to ring on a brass bell to be let inside, and we soon realised we hade found a little piece of book lover/collector heaven.

On the ground floor, colourful first editions stand in glass cases, hand written price tags attached to their aging spines. A shiny box set of Enid Blyton’s Famous Five caught my eye and took me briefly back to childhood. Down in the basement waited even more treasures: more Enid Blyton and other ancient children books, leather bound volumes, dusty and peeling, their pages held together by straps tied around their middles. Books on how to be a “good wife”, books on gardening, biographies and novels lined the shelves.

I thought I’d share a few pictures for those of you who would like to find your own Aladdin’s Cave!

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 I love the feeling of peace that comes from book filled rooms. I could spend hours flicking through the pages, staring at the names of previous owners, usually written in ink on the inside of the front covers, and imagine what their lives were like and who they were when they were reading this particular book.

IMG_2875[1]image (30) image (31)There is something about the brightly coloured, leather books and yellow, sweet smelling pages that give me a warm, satisfied feeling. I get to thinking about who they were written by, and when, and why. They make me want to write.

This place is camouflaged, hidden inside another of Bath’s sand coloured buildings. If you can find it, get ready to lose yourself for a couple of hours! For those who want to visit, the shop is called George Bayntun  and is on Manvers Street in Bath. Click on the name to go to their website!

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