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Science fiction’s new golden age in China, what it says about social evolution and the future, and the stories writers want world to see

25 May 2017

From the South China Morning Post:

The science-fiction genre in China was little known before Liu Cixin was honoured with the Hugo Award for best novel in 2015 for The Three-Body Problem. The first book in Liu’s Remembrance of Earth’s Past trilogy, it tells of an alien invasion during the Cultural Revolution and has sold more than a million copies in China alone. The English translation was recommended by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg to members of his book club, and praised by former US president Barack Obama as “wildly imaginative, really interesting”.

Last year, Liu’s compatriot Hao Jingfang earned a Hugo Award for Folding Beijing, in which the city is divided into zones, each with a different number of hours in the day.

Liu has been nominated for another Hugo Award this year, for the final episode in his trilogy, Death’s End.

. . . .

The two winning books are now being adapted for the big screen in China, marking a turning point for Chinese sci-fi and potentially expanding the genre’s exposure globally.

Some 104 original sci-fi titles were published in China in 2016, compared to 75 the previous year, and 461 novelettes were released last year.

Author Regina Wang Kanyu, 27, a long-time sci-fi fan, has witnessed its growth in recent years. “It’s the golden age of Chinese science fiction,” she says.

. . . .

Last month, writers Regina Wang, Wang Yao and Hao Jingfang attended Melon Hong Kong, the city’s first science-fiction conference to bring together Chinese and Western writers.

“It’s a market miracle,” says Wang Yao, who goes by the pen name Xia Jia. “Ten years ago [when I started writing], we could never have imagined that these opportunities would be available,” she says, referring to the translation of Chinese sci-fi books and film adaptions.

It’s not the first golden age of sci-fi in China, though. Wang Yao says that was between 1978 and 1983 during reforms initiated by late Deng Xiaoping. “It was thought that science fiction could cultivate a scientific spirit, and the authorities assigned authors to write books in the genre,” says Wang.

. . . .

 Although investors are eyeing sci-fi’s entertainment industry potential, the literature itself is not so highly valued. “The payment writers receive for fiction writing is very small. I also write for fashion magazines, which pay a lot more,” says Regina Wang. Since it is impossible to make ends meet writing sci-fi, most authors do it simply as a hobby.

Link to the rest at South China Morning Post

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How One Hundred Years of Solitude Became a Classic

23 May 2017

From The Atlantic:

In 1967, Sudamericana Press published One Hundred Years of Solitude (Cien años de soledad), a novel written by a little known Colombian author named Gabriel García Márquez. Neither the writer nor the publisher expected much of the book. They knew, as the publishing giant Alfred A. Knopf once put it, that “many a novel is dead the day it is published.” Unexpectedly, One Hundred Years of Solitude went on to sell over 45 million copies, solidified its stature as a literary classic, and garnered García Márquez fame and acclaim as one of the greatest Spanish-language writers in history.

Fifty years after the book’s publication, it may be tempting to believe its success was as inevitable as the fate of the Buendía family at the story’s center. Over the course of a century, their town of Macondo was the scene of natural catastrophes, civil wars, and magical events; it was ultimately destroyed after the last Buendía was born with a pig’s tail, as prophesied by a manuscript that generations of Buendías tried to decipher. But in the 1960s, One Hundred Years of Solitude was not immediately recognized as the Bible of the style now known as magical realism, which presents fantastic events as mundane situations. Nor did critics agree that the story was really groundbreaking. To fully appreciate the novel’s longevity, artistry, and global resonance, it is essential to examine the unlikely confluence of factors that helped it overcome a difficult publishing climate and the author’s relative anonymity at the time.

. . . .

In 1965, the Argentine Sudamericana Press was a leading publisher of contemporary Latin American literature. Its acquisitions editor, in search of new talent, cold-called García Márquez to publish some of his work. The writer replied with enthusiasm that he was working on One Hundred Years of Solitude, “a very long and very complex novel in which I have placed my best illusions.” Two and a half months before the novel’s release in 1967, García Márquez’s enthusiasm turned into fear. After mistaking an episode of nervous arrhythmia for a heart attack, he confessed in a letter to a friend, “I am very scared.” What troubled him was the fate of his novel; he knew it could die upon its release. His fear was based on a harsh reality of the publishing industry for rising authors: poor sales. García Márquez’s previous four books had sold fewer than 2,500 copies in total.

The best that could happen to One Hundred Years of Solitude was to follow a path similar to the books released in the 1960s as part of the literary movement known as la nueva novela latinoamericana. Success as a new Latin American novel would mean selling its modest first edition of 8,000 copies in a region with 250 million people. Good regional sales would attract a mainstream publisher in Spain that would then import and publish the novel. International recognition would follow with translations into English, French, German, and Italian. To hit the jackpot in 1967 was to also receive one of the coveted literary awards of the Spanish language: the Biblioteca Breve, Rómulo Gallegos, Casa de las Américas, and Formentor.

. . . .

And yet it would be wrong to credit One Hundred Years of Solitude with starting a literary revolution in Latin America and beyond. Sudamericana published it when the new Latin American novel, by then popularly called the boom latinoamericano, had reached its peak in worldwide sales and influence. From 1961 onward, like a revived Homer, the almost blind Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges toured the planet as a literary celebrity. Following in his footsteps were rising stars like José Donoso, Cortázar, Vargas Llosa, and Fuentes. The international triumph of the Latin American Boom came when the Nobel Prize in Literature was awarded to Miguel Ángel Asturias in 1967. One Hundred Years of Solitude could not have been published in a better year for the new Latin American novel. Until then, García Márquez and his work were practically invisible.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

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How to get ahead in self-publishing: never stop dreaming

23 May 2017

From The Irish Times:

We all have dreams. For many, writing a book and seeing it on the shelves of bookshops is a dream come true. The next best thing to fulfilling your own dream is to help someone else to fulfil theirs. Such was my opportunity when my father wrote his dream book.

31 Years Of Hell! 1914-1945 (www.31YearsOfHell.com) is a concise history of the two world wars and the interwar years. I undertook to edit and produce the book, then I self-published it. The process was very intensive and the lessons I learned should help indie authors to maximise potential distribution and revenue.

Long before your book goes to print, it’s important to think about how to attract readers’ attention and generate sales. Key factors include professional editing, design, print styles, publicity strategy and understanding readers’ habits.

We’ve all studied English grammar in school, right? So why would you need an eidtor editor? If you misplace an apostrophe or insert a comma splice, will the grammar police come after you, lock you up and sentence you to two weeks in punctuation prison? Maybe not, but while your freedom is not at stake, your book’s distribution options are. Most of the book buyers I approached were very welcoming. However, some were a bit cagey when they heard the phrase “self-published”. They told me that many self-published books offered to them are not well produced and contain spelling and grammatical errors. A great editor won’t just weed out typos, misspellings and punctuation errors; they will elevate your writing and “make it sing”.

. . . .

 Once your text is punctuation-perfect, it’s time to choose the style for the interior pages of your book. With my background as a content creator, I had the capability to design the interior of my father’s book myself. However, if this is not within your skill set, I recommend hiring a professional designer. In addition to adding necessary text elements such as page headings, dedication page, table of contents and acknowledgements page, a talented designer will add flourishes to separating sections of text, choose appropriate fonts and create eye-catching page layouts.

. . . .

 In order to get your book into bookshops, you need to submit to Easons, Argosy (which supplies most of the independent bookshops) and Dubray. The era of self-publishing has led to a huge increase in the number of submissions they receive, so it’s very competitive. Alternatively you can approach independent bookshops directly. When doing this, I emailed an “advance information” document first then followed up with a phone call saying my father would call in to show them his book. This strategy worked: the response was overwhelmingly positive. I also supplied “sale or return” invoices on headed paper, which was described by many book buyers as “very professional”. Sale or return is the standard arrangement: bookshops will stock your book but will only pay the percentage agreed on stock sold; unsold books are returned. The percentage that bookshops take varies from 33 to 45 per cent. Because of this, it’s more lucrative to sell from your own website or directly through personal contact, for example after giving a talk, so it’s worth putting effort into those avenues.

Link to the rest at The Irish Times

Here’s a link to 31 Years of Hell. It’s too bad the creators apparently didn’t know about ebooks.

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Amazon offers UK Prime members a free, rotating e-book library

19 May 2017

From Engadget:

While Amazon offers a variety of Prime perks for Britons, it can often take a while for some of them to make it across the Atlantic. Take, for example, Prime Reading: a “free” book subscription that launched in the US last October but is only now coming to the UK. Unlike Kindle Unlimited — which offers unrestricted access to over a million books, magazines and audiobooks for £8 a month — Prime Reading is bundled with Amazon’s annual subscription and delivers a rotating selection of popular e-books, magazines and short content.

Link to the rest at Engadget

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Thriller-seekers strike big deals

17 May 2017

From The Bookseller:

The popularity of psychological thrillers shows little sign of abating, with commissioning editors at the London Book Fair signing up many such titles—including one pre-empted for a seven-figure sum in the US.

Sphere publishing director Lucy Malagoni snapped up UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) to The Perfect Mother by Aimee Molloy from Jenny Meyer, acting on behalf of Elisabeth Weed at The Book Group, and plans to publish the title in 2018. The thriller, set in the wake of the abduction of a six-week-old baby, was pre-empted by HarperCollins in the US for seven figures.

Film rights to the title were sold to TriStar, with actor Kerry Washington to star and Amy Pascal to lead production. The book has sold in 12 territories to date, with Malagoni stating that “the writing really gets under your skin”.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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Espresso is all that stands between us and creative defeat

15 May 2017

From The Guardian:

Ideally I write in a silent room with a magnificent and inspiring view of the natural world. I do not always have access to such a room. Instead I have street noise and an inbox full of administrative email, and if I’m really unlucky, actual phone calls to make. When I was depressed and unpublished and in my early 20s, I developed a full-blown phone phobia. I could put off the simplest call for days at a time. I still hate having to talk to the bank or the accountant, and find it hard to concentrate on writing until I’ve dealt with that kind of task.

Both Katie and I write at home. When the sitter turns up at 10am, the household settles down. I used to waste an improbable amount of time, but I don’t have that luxury now. I create my space with headphones, big over-the-ear cans that block out the world. I play music, usually something very minimal at low volume, just enough to trick myself into the meditative concentration I need to write. No vocal music for obvious reasons, though vocals can be OK if they’re in a language I don’t understand. When something works, it disappears and becomes an environment in which I can think.

. . . .

I have a desktop computer and a laptop. For a novel I make a single Word document, but rename it every morning, so I have a way to track versions if I need to dig out something I cut. I make notes on paper, in spiral-bound notebooks, but my handwriting is terrible, particularly if I’m trying to set ideas down quickly, and it’s much faster to type. I back up. I can’t understand writers who don’t back up. I look at a monitor jacked up to eye height on a pile of books. My desk is usually cluttered. I recently bought myself a good keyboard (one with mechanical switches, but that’s not too loud) and I wish I’d succumbed to keyboard fetishism years ago. What can I say? It’s a nicer ride. I spend a lot of time on the internet, but some of it’s research. My concentration is better when I’m not toggling between my Word doc and 30 different tabs on a browser.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

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Robin Stevens’ anger over snobbery towards her books

15 May 2017

From The Bookseller:

A children’s author has described the labelling of her books as “too immature” for certain students as “heart-breaking”.

Robin Stevens tweeted about a message she received from a young fan who was told not to read her books in school because “she was too smart”. The comment gained support from other authors and publishers and was retweeted more than 250 times in two days.

The Murder Most Unladylike Mysteries (PRH) author said: “Dear teachers who tell your students that my books (or any books) are too ‘immature’ for them to read. You’re wrong. Please stop. A kid wrote to me explaining that she has to read my books at home because she is too smart to read them in school. My heart broke.”

Stevens told The Bookseller she found the situation “really concerning” in case it discourages children to read at all. She said: “It was an email that a kid of around 14 sent me from New Zealand but I’ve seen it in the UK as well. She was very smart and the teacher said she was too smart and she had to read my books at home.

“Sometimes kids in England have said ‘I love your books but teachers have said they are not high level enough for me’. It’s heart-breaking. Reading shouldn’t be like that. Kids should be able to dip in and out of different things in the way adults do – many kids are reading YA or Malory Towers [Hodder Children’s Books]. Comfort reading is about returning to books as a confident reader. Adults do it all the time – they could read The Essex Serpent (Serpent’s Tail) and The Girl on a Train (PRH) in the same week.”

. . . .

The author said she had rebelled as a child against dictated reading lists for pleasure. “My mother was given a list of books I should read when I was a child and I didn’t like this. I refused to read a book she bought me off the list which turned out to be Skellig [by David Almond, published by Hodder Children’s Books] – I read it 10 years later and loved it.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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Grade five students at Muriel Clayton set to self-publish book on Syrian refugee

14 May 2017

From The Airdrie Echo:

Nick Stabler’s fifth grade class is set to self-publish a book on a Syrian Refugee and him finding his way in Canada.

The 26 young authors all sat down to brainstorm ideas for creating a novel under the leadership of Stabler. The students decided to write about Ammar, a Syrian Refugee whose house in Syria was bombed by terrorists.

Ammar lost his family, and gets into Canada to try and find his family. Along the way, Ammar learns about Canadian Identity, which has been a focus for the fifth grade students in Stabler’s class.

The story of Ammar and learning about Canada and its subcultures relates back to Canada and its sesquicentennial. The class is planning on self-publishing the book and thanks to some volunteers, each student/author will get their own hand bound hard copy of the book.

“We’re starting to learn the basics of what’s going on [in Syria] because it’s very confusing, which groups are fighting who and trying to keep it all straight,” said Stabler. “We’ve tried to keep it age appropriate, so there isn’t a huge amount of focus on the actual events, but rather the boy’s journey coming to Canada. There is lots of humour and funny little Canadian things that happen.”

Stabler has done this sort of exercise with classes in the past, and has students working together to write and edit the novel together.

“It has been a good experience about how to write a book,” said Eva Dooks, a student in Stabler’s class. “I’ve wanted to be an author when I grow up and I wouldn’t have thought I’d be writing a book now. At first I was like ‘Whoa, I never knew this was happening,’ and after I’ve learned about it I’m happy to tell people about what is happening.”

Link to the rest at The Airdrie Echo

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Are things getting worse for women in publishing?

11 May 2017

From The Guardian:

When Edie and Eddie started work as junior editors in the same corporate book publisher, they had much in common: firsts from Oxbridge and career ambition. And a passion for books and ideas. When Edie saw her role model moved out of the chief executive’s office to be replaced by a man, the two joked about what it took to get to the top.

But as both observed the same thing happen at one publishing house after another, the joke wore thin. And Eddie, frustrated at the lack of promotion, changed. “He donned a suit and began to walk and talk like the men he saw getting on in the business and suddenly things changed for him,” Edie recalls. “It was as simple as that.”

To her, it seems that “all you need to get on now is to be a suited and booted man, who looks like he has an MBA. They remind me of David Cameron and George Osborne. All of them are white, middle class and presentable.” She pauses. “And male of course, which is definitely something I cannot aspire to be.” (Edie and Eddie are not real names, but like many of the people interviewed for this piece, Edie did not wish to be identified.)

This is a harsh assessment of UK publishing; an industry that had comforted itself that the one area of diversity it need not address was gender. A 2016 survey of the gender divide in US publishing found 78% of the industry is female (no UK-wide survey has yet been done). But the same survey found that, at executive or board level, 40% of respondents were men. And Edie is not alone in the frustration she feels over the split at board level: there is growing disquiet among the rank and file.

This is not to say that women have left the boardroom completely. But, as one senior female editor notes, women such as Random House’s Gail Rebuck, Penguin’s Helen Fraser, Macmillan’s Annette Thomas and Little, Brown’s Ursula Mackenzie, who had all embodied the ideal that women publishers faced no glass ceiling, have in the last five years all been replaced by men. “There is a problem, because you get the sense with the remaining women in senior management that they have gone as far as they are going to go, and in every case they are answerable to clean-cut, fortysomething men,” the editor adds.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

On Author Central, no one knows if you’re a woman or a Klingon.

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The One: The secret behind a self-published novel’s success

10 May 2017

From The Express:

They say everyone has a book inside them waiting to be written. Back in 2012, there was a story dying to break out of me. I’d read an anonymous letter to a magazine from a woman whose husband had vanished 15 years earlier, leaving her to bring up their four children alone. All police investigations failed to find any trace of him.

I was touched by her vivid descriptions of the lows and highs of being both parents to her confused brood and never knowing why her husband vanished or if he’d ever return.

I decided to write a fictitious version of her story, but told from both hers and his perspectives. I stretched it over a 25-year period with each chapter ending on the day he returned to explain why and where he went. A year and a half and 110,000 words later, The Wronged Sons was complete.

I assumed that with more than 20 years as a journalist behind me, writing for national magazines and newspapers, I might have had a slight advantage over other new writers on the hunt for an agent. How naive I was.

I began by highlighting 80 agents listed in the Writers’ & Artists’ Yearbook who accepted author inquiries. Each had an individual criteria; some required an introductory letter only, others a brief synopsis, some needed the first three chapters and occasionally the whole novel. After two weeks and a well-trodden path to my local post office counter, I sat and waited.

The first few rejection letters trickled through the letterbox within seven days. More came within a fortnight and by the end of the month, my hope of becoming the next publishing success story deflated like the slow puncture of a tyre. Over the next four months, the rest of the rebuffs appeared in dribs and drabs.

Their content varied. A few only contained the words “not for us” scribbled on a “with compliments” slip; there were many photocopied generic refusal letters and, on rare occasions, more detailed notes explaining why my book wouldn’t work for them. Even as a thick-skinned journalist, it was hard not to feel a little rejected.

The novel sat in a folder on my laptop for the best part of six months before I decided to self-publish.

. . . .

But in 2007, Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing changed the entire self-publishing landscape. It enabled any hopeful to upload their original work, charge a fee of their choice and sell it online to readers to download on their Kindle or tablet. Both you and Amazon receive a cut of each sale.

. . . .

I was fortunate that enough family and friends of friends bought The Wronged Sons for it to make an impact on Amazon’s charts. Then, once visible, people I didn’t know began downloading it, too. Recommendations also came from members of online book clubs.

Link to the rest at The Express and thanks to Dave for the tip.

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