Terry Pratchett statue to bring Discworld author home to Salisbury

10 February 2016

From The Guardian:

Plans to erect a bronze statue of Terry Pratchett in Salisbury are gathering pace after campaigners received the backing of the city council.

Almost 9,000 people have signed a petition calling for a permanent statue of the Discworld author, who died last year, to be installed in a prominent position in his hometown. Started by resident and designer Emily Brand, the campaign has received the backing of Pratchett’s family, as well as his friend and fellow author Neil Gaiman.

“He would have said something a bit sarcastic about it, and have been secretly very pleased. And then he would have discovered that you can hide something inside a statue, and confided in all his friends that in a few hundred years people would be in for a surprise … I hope the statue gets made,” Gaiman wrote on Facebook, urging his followers to sign the petition.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

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Falling book prices could force authors to abandon their keyboards

9 February 2016

From The Age:

The internet and e-books were meant to signal the death of the physical book. That didn’t happen. The plight of authors is another matter. As they face a perfect storm of relentless commercial pressures and repeated attacks by the federal government, the outlook for authors and their readers, and for Australia’s literary culture, has never been bleaker.

Recent surveys in Britain, the United States and Australia have revealed a serious slump in the income that authors receive from their writing. In Australia, authors have seen their average income from writing decrease from about $22,000 in the early 2000s to less than $13,000 in 2015. For many authors, that means they can no longer earn a livelihood from their work. It’s particularly worrying for young writers, who may abandon their craft altogether. And that’s bad news for readers, who could miss out on the work of our future Tim Wintons and Richard Flanagans.

It’s come to this partly because of market pressures. The advent of Amazon provides part of the answer. It carved out an almost monopolistic space for itself by selling books at a loss. The company has rarely made a profit, with its shareholders seemingly content to finance the remorseless expansion of this retail behemoth. The assumption behind their patience is that Amazon will one day be able to use its market power to raise prices and reap the resulting profits. In the meantime, authors have been the victims of their strategy.

. . . .

It’s not only because of Amazon that there has been a drop of about 30 per cent in the average price of books in Australia. The collapse of Borders and Angus and Robertson saw their place taken by discount department stores, like Target, Big W and Kmart, which added to the downward pressure on prices. As prices fall, so too do the royalties paid to authors. And the effect has been exacerbated by publishers reducing their print runs and consequently reducing the advances they pay to authors. The arrival of digitisation and e-books might have been expected to benefit authors, but the benefits have mostly flowed to publishers and to the Amazons of the world.

. . . .

Now Malcolm Turnbull has declared that he wants to remove the restrictions on the parallel importation of books, which has prevented for decades the dumping of overseas editions onto the Australian market where a local edition is already in print.

Link to the rest at The Age and thanks to Valerie for the tip.

Is self-publishing coming of age in the digital world?

9 February 2016

From The BBC:

“There was a time when self-publishing was equated with vanity,” explains John Bond, co-founder of Whitefox, one of several new companies helping ‘amateur’ authors publish professionally on platforms like Amazon Kindle, Google Play, Apple’s iBook Store or Kobo.

“Because of the digital revolution, democratisation has happened. It’s almost as if the writer has become his own entrepreneur around the publication process.”

. . . .

“There was an adversarial attitude between mainstream publishing houses and self publishers a few years ago,” says Mr Bond, “but I think that’s changed dramatically.”

He attributes this to traditional publishers’ new-found admiration for the self publishers’ social media skills, which have helped them find new readers without the benefit of expensive marketing campaigns.

Lawyer-turned-author Mark Dawson, for example, uses his website and Facebook page to give out free copies of his thrillers and curates ‘Readers’ Groups’. Online conversations help him establish a closer relationship with his readers encouraging them to come back for subsequent publications.

Another thriller writer Joanna Penn has bolstered her following by helping others to self-publish through her website which explains how to go about self publishing. She also hosts a popular podcast interview series.

So-called “Instapoets” like New Zealander Lang Leav have built up huge followings on Instagram and Tumblr, publishing their work on these platforms, before securing traditional publishing deals.

. . . .

“You have control of what you are doing, but it’s not for everyone,” warns Mr Wight. “It’s a lot of work and a huge learning curve.”

That work includes satisfying all the different formatting requirements of the various e-book outlets, organising cover illustrations and marketing, all while bearing the financial risk of the whole enterprise, explains Mr Wight.

That said, he feels his gamble paid off.

The hardback version has sold more than 3,000 copies and performed better than expected on Kindle.

. . . .

Orna Ross, founder of the Alliance of Independent Authors, believes the hard work of self-publishing can pay off.

In the past traditional publishers would give the author around 10%, she says, negotiating a tough contract as they were the only route to market, with advances that were getting smaller.

Amazon may be seen in a negative light for its impact on the high street, but for self-publishers its market disruption is largely welcomed, she says.

. . . .

In the US, the most mature market, independent authors are now collectively earning more from e-books than authors handled by the so-called Big Five publishers, according to advocacy website Author Earnings.

However, they also charge roughly half the amount for their e-books, and there are many more of them.

Generous profit margins don’t mean so much if you are selling cheap and struggling to sell at all in a crowded market.

. . . .

Philip Jones, editor of The Bookseller magazine, believes it’s a lot harder to make money from self-publishing now that the Kindle-inspired gold rush has petered out.

“Smart, entrepreneurial authors” could use clever marketing on social media to get their e-books into the Top Ten charts, timing it to sell enough books over Christmas to make a tidy profit.

But that trick is harder to pull off when there are so many e-books out there, he argues.

“I do worry that as the market has slowed so the number of sharks willing to take money from authors has grown,” warns Mr Jones.

“Publishing, when it works properly, should be about moving money towards authors.”

Link to the rest at The BBC and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Which are the most borrowed library books in the UK?

8 February 2016

From The Telegraph:

The importance of libraries to national literacy was underlined again today with the news that five children’s authors – Julia Donaldson, Daisy Meadows, Francesca Simon, Jacqueline Wilson and the collective who write under the pen name Adam Blade – are among the Top 10 most borrowed authors in UK libraries, according to figures from the latest annual data released today by Public Lending Right.

The survey, released on the eve of National Libraries Day, covers 2014-15 and shows again the dominance of thriller writer James Patterson, who topped the chart for the most borrowed author for the ninth year running, and crime writers such as Lee Child. It was also the first year that payments were made for audio books. Here are 10 things we learned from the findings:


The man who has churned out more than 300 novels (or paid other writers to do so, having given them a “detailed outline”) released 15 books in 2014 alone. The popularity of his thriller novels remains undimmed. James Patterson is still the most borrowed author and has four books – Invisible, Unlucky 13, NYPD Red and Burn Century – in the top 20 most borrowed titles. He is also the author with the most appearances in the Top 100 most borrowed titles list, with 10. However, although overseas authors such as Patterson and Lee Child are included in the loans figures, they aren’t eligible for PLR payments. The 202 authors who receive the maximum capped £6,600 are all from the UK.

. . . .


Broken down by travel and holiday genre, the most borrowed book in the UK was Lonely Planet’s Italy by Cristian Bonetto. But it came top in only one region: London. Elsewhere, readers looked to their own locality. In Scotland the most borrowed was Edinburgh for Under Fives, edited by Cathy Tingle; in Wales it was Insufficiently Welsh, by Griff Rhys Jones; and in Yorkshire it was North York Moors & Yorkshire Wolds, by Mike Bagshaw.


Mary Berry was the most burrowed non-fiction writer, but MC Beaton, author of the Agatha Raisin and Hamish Macbeth crime fiction books, is the most borrowed British author of books for adults, at number five. She has held this title for the last six years. MC Beaton said: “I am thrilled to bits to be the most borrowed British author in UK public libraries. Writing is a very isolating job and, as I am only human, PLR is a sort of lifeline to me from the general borrowing public. I thank them from the bottom of my inky heart.”

. . . .


Despite having been dead since  1998, Catherine Cookson remains the UK’s most borrowed author over the past 20 years: her books have been borrowed over 32 million times between 1995 and 2015. Jacqueline Wilson is the UK’s most borrowed children’s author over the past 20 years: her books have been borrowed over 24 million times between 1995 and 2015.

Link to the rest at The Telegraph

French Spelling Changes, 26 Years in the Making, Cause a Fracas

6 February 2016

From The New York Times:

In France, the land of Molière, questions of language are so sacred that every Thursday the “immortals,” the guardians of the French language at the Académie Française, meet to discuss — among other things — proposed changes to the institution’s vaunted dictionary.

The last complete edition of the dictionary was published in 1935, according to the academy, and changes evolve over centuries. The newest complete edition is not finished — the authors have reached the letter R.

So it was perhaps not surprising that tempers flared this week after a news report from the broadcaster TF1 that changes were afoot to cut back the circumflex accent, known as “the hat,” from French-language textbooks.

Adding to the horror, the report said that as of September, when the new school year began, teachers would also have to make changes affecting about 2,400 French words, including spelling oignon — or onion — as ognon.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

Book Depository is coming to Australia – but there’s nothing like a local bookshop

6 February 2016

From The Guardian:

Since 1985, Polyester has sold books with a punk sensibility, including a wide range of bizarro Manga comics. But as Brunswick Street goes alternative-lite, making room for artificially distressed cafes and expensive ‘vintage’ clothing stores, Polyester announced this week that it is turning off its neon lights for good.

. . . .

Rents are high, gentrification is rife, and new business models of book distribution continue to disrupt the industry. On Tuesday, Amazon-owned online book retailer the Book Depository announced it was taking its first big step into the Australian market, adding more than 25,000 Australian titles to its inventory, including classic, contemporary, food and educational titles.

In a move that was foreshadowed in 2014, the company says it will ship books nationally and internationally from Australia for free, using a third-party logistics company in Melbourne to pack and send orders.

Group marketing director of Book Depository, Chris Mckee, explained in a press release: “Previously, we’ve had titles from Australian authors once they become available internationally, and what we’re going to have now are titles from Australian authors that become available when they are available in Australia.”

Authors who aren’t represented overseas will now be able to reach an international market, which is great news for those authors and their publishers. Book Depository told Guardian Australia that major publishers were on board, and in a media release quoted Natasha Besliev, CEO of Bonnier Publishing’s Australian business: “We’re looking forward to seeing our home-grown books from The Five Mile Press and Echo Publishing available in this way,” she said.

. . . .

And while some publishers and authors may benefit from the expanded reach, for bookstores and competing online retailers, Book Depository’s move into the Australian market signals increased competition.

Australia-based online retailer Booktopia currently has 83% market share of Australian online book sales, shipping four million books a year within Australia for $6.95 a shipment.

“Booktopia is the one company in Australia that has truly prospered and is ready to take on Amazon on Australian soil,” said CEO Tony Nash earlier this week. He referred to the “tumultuous time” bookstores have had in Australia over the past few years, which saw the introduction of ebooks, the collapse of several bricks and mortar stores including Borders and Angus and Robertson, and mooted changes to parallel importation rules, which have traditionally acted as a protective measure of Australian booksellers and authors.

. . . .

A good local bookstore is, after all, irreplaceable. They know you, and can recommend titles to suit your taste; they’ll point you in the direction of hot new releases and help you select presents for your friends.

Link to the rest at The Guardian and thanks to Valerie for the tip.

PG has never had the pleasure of traveling to Australia, but his understanding of the nation is that, like the US, it contains many areas that are far from cities and local bookstores are rarities for many people.

Did Star Wars show us the future of digital publishing?

6 February 2016

From Booknet Canada:

Despite most of us cringing our way through the Star Wars prequels, any book nerd or tech enthusiast will remember a certain scene from Attack of the Clones that will stick with us forever:


The Jedi Archives seemed to combine the beauty and splendor of physical books with their efficient digital counterparts to create this breathtaking temple of knowledge. And while some might argue that digitization has caused society in the Star Wars universe to evolve into one that operates in functional illiteracy, the Jedi at least value the preservation and utilization of knowledge through book form, even if that form is so technologically advanced our digital technology hasn’t yet begun to touch it.

But are the books in the Jedi Archive really so far removed from our current technology? Upon observation of the shelves, the digital books seem to be lined up as if they occupied physical space, spines facing out for ease of browsing (just like our regular, dusty print libraries). Some of the spines even seem to exhibit discolouration or dimness, causing one to wonder if digital deterioration, just like the breakdown of a paper book, might be an issue in this digital world.

. . . .

Digital books in the Star Wars universe also seem to have far more interactivity and advanced features built into them. Obi Wan can drill down to the information he wants in this galactic map, search, click on elements, and receive more information. Will future digital books allow us to harness the power of the internet’s full range of information in our hands? Are we already there with smartphones and book apps?

Link to the rest at Booknet Canada and thanks to Jan for the tip.

Self-publish or find a publisher? The region’s authors have their say

3 February 2016

From the Wolverhampton Express and Star:

[C]all us biased, but we believe that some of the best storytellers are right here on our doorstep.

Fortunately for us bookworms, it’s easier than ever for the teachers, parents, bloke down the pub and shopkeeper with a tale to tell to share their works.

Getting a book published is no longer just a case of sending a manuscript to a publisher and waiting by the phone for a life-changing call. In days gone by, only a few writers’ works made it into book shops and libraries.

But with the eBook market growing, getting published is now a case of taking matters into your own hands and making your voice heard. We catch up with some of the best authors from our region to find out whether self-publishing is the way to go. This time next year, we could be the next J.K. Rowling!

Last month, crime writer Angela Marson celebrated the sale of her one millionth novel. She released three books in her crime series last year, topping Amazon charts around the world.

Her debut, Silent Scream, has sold hundreds of thousands of copies and was the Amazon bestseller in the UK for more than a month.

It also reached the top five in America, and has secured rights deals in nearly a dozen other countries.

Quite the achievement for a shopping centre security guard from Brierley Hill.

Her road to literary success wasn’t an easy one, so we had to ask what she felt about self-publishing. Is it worth our readers, for example, trying their hand at it if they want to share their stories?

She tells us: “Personally I feel it is a good thing. I have been trying to share my work for more than 25 years and only wanted an opportunity. Over the years it has become harder to reach publishers as very few now accept unsolicited manuscripts and will only consider work submitted by an agent.

“In addition to my published books I have two books self-published through the Amazon KDP Program which have now reached a wider audience. I also know of authors who have secured traditional publishing deals after their efforts with self-publishing.”

. . . .

“Traditional publishers don’t always get it right,” she tells us. “My first book Silent Scream was represented by an agent initially and was rejected by them all. It has gone on to sell almost 800,000 copies and is being translated in 13 countries.

“This isn’t a brag,” she assures us, “just a demonstration that they don’t always know what the readers want.”

Link to the rest at the Wolverhampton Express and Star

E-book sales abate for Big Five

2 February 2016

From The Bookseller:

For those who predicted the death of the physical book and digital dominating the market by the end of this decade, the print and digital sales figures (see below) from the Big Five for 2015 might force a reassessment.

Somewhat smugly, The Bookseller predicted 2015’s e-book decline in these very pages back in 2013—and endured ire (much of it in digital form, unsurprisingly) at the time. We were attempting to be objective about e-books, acknowledging that they were (and are) an exciting, vital part of the industry—but that they were also just another format, and one that was (and is) in its relative infancy.

But sales have dropped. Or, at the very least, we can without a shadow of a doubt say that e-book volume slid for the Big Five publishers for the first time since the digital age began, collectively down 2.4% to 47.9 million units last year. That 2.4% drop is probably shallower than many observers would have predicted.


. . . .

The Big Five have a 56% share of 2015’s print volume through Nielsen BookScan. Assuming a broadly similar share in digital—the five probably garner a greater piece of the digital pie compared to other traditional publishers, but self-publishing makes up a decent percentage of e-books— that gives us 85.5 million e-books sold in Britain in 2015.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG says “self-publishing makes up a decent percentage of e-books” substantially underestimates both the number of ebooks sold and the ebook revenue generated by indie authors.

However, at least it’s a nod in the general direction of what’s happening in the hidden Amazon ebook market not measured by the tools Big Publishing uses.

HC UK profits tripled in financial year 2014-15

2 February 2016

From The Bookseller:

HarperCollins UK’s profits tripled year-on-year in the 12 months to end June 2015, accounts newly filed at Companies House have revealed.

Revenues were shown to grow by £6.6m to £186m and profit before tax by £8.9m to £13.1m (£4.2m in 2014).

. . . .

HarperCollins attributed the growth to the success of its Children’s and Collins Learning divisions: David Walliams’ Awful Auntie outsold any other title published in 2014, according to the report, with strong sales reported from authors Veronica Roth, John Green and Michael Bond.

. . . .

HarperCollins’ global earnings were down 24% for the first quarter to 30th September 30th 2015 owing to reduced e-book sales, as well as lower sales of its Divergent series in the US.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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