Believe it or not it is 40 years, give or take a week, since the first mobile telephone call was made. Martin Cooper, a former Motorola employee, is said to have rang the boss of a rival manufacturer to inform him that he’d lost the race to develop the first portable, hand–held device. I imagine it was a short call. The weight of the phone used to make that call was about the same as a bag of sugar (2lb) and the brick–like battery required, which allowed a talk time of just 30 minutes, took 10 hours to charge.
Are all authors fully aware of all the rights they hold to their work? Are too many missing out on potential revenue streams by ignoring overseas markets? How many understand their ownership of worldwide book rights?
The sometimes apparently mysterious art of book rights can often be misunderstood or simply ignored. Writers write and then the book sells in vast quantities all over the world. That’s how it works, doesn’t it?
The shortlist for one of the most coveted awards in science fiction was announced last week – the Arthur C. Clarke award for 2013 has an incredible line up of SF names, or, if you read The Guardian, is a great testament to male domination of the science fiction genre. Alison Flood’s opening sentence ‘reinforcing science fiction’s image as a boys club’ (sorry Angela Carter, Mira Grant, Connie Wilis, Margaret Atwood – seems your memberships are perhaps not as authentic as we all believed), leaves us little doubt that the following coverage will be everything other than informative.
There are probably as many genres in the world as there are successful living writers. We all know about misery memoir, chick-lit, sick lit, paranormal romance, urban fantasy, dystopian romance, nostalgia fiction, new adult, adult, space opera etc etc and that amorphous beast we just call ‘literature’, into which falls any book we like but we can’t really pair with an obvious partner. They spring up out of seemingly nowhere and dominate our lives and the charts and have publishers rushing to buy up in bulk. But their popularity isn’t random – it is based on a delicate balance of social factors. Tapping into that idea, I’ve made a list of five genres I predict will be massive in the next few years.
(Please note: this is not an analysis of what defines genre. I’d recommend this article by author Kate Griffin if that’s what you’re looking for. She’s smart as hell and makes some really good points.)
Last week’s IPG conference unearthed some strong criticisms of high street booksellers from Iain Dale. He slated WH Smith for their “marketing fee”, hit out at Waterstones’ changed buying policy, got angry at Amazon’s demands for discount, and questioned the ethics of buying places on bestseller charts. Importantly, Dale seems quite convinced that we should be preparing for the post-bookshop world. Personally, I’m far more optimistic about the ability of publishers and retailers to work together for mutual benefit, but fortune favours the… prepared. So here are some tips for those of you now anticipating a high street devoid of novels.
I do love a good first. The first t-shirt day of the summer; the first beer on a night out; the first time you wear a new hoodie. Last week saw the announcement of the first digital-only literary list in the UK, Blackfriars from Little, Brown. The list promises to curate 9 to 12 titles a year from new or established authors, and is launching in June. Now there’s a first to get out of bed for.
Last week saw the launch of Bookish in the US – a new, and frankly bloody stunning book discovery/online retailer (or as I call them, a ‘social retailer’). They’ve got a brilliant pitch, a stunning site, and features the rest of us have been discussing for a while that we thought may never come to fruition. Yeah, you know what I’m talking about. The golden egg, the holy grail, of online book discovery. An algorithm that recommends you books. Not ‘readers also bought’. Not ‘you might also like’. Something that says ‘what’s a book you have read and loved lately?’ and then picks you a bunch more based on what I can only assume is metadata more detailed than a fractal zoom on a mandelbrot set.
I hope you all brought spare underwear.
Last week, I heard someone say they were surprised by the news that Blockbuster had gone into administration – surprised, because they didn’t know Blockbuster was still going. Very tongue-in-cheek, but then what isn’t funny about the impending closure of a major high street retailer, the loss of thousands of jobs, and a further move to consolidate online retailing in the hands of a select few business megaliths?
In the last two years, a lot of publishers have been buying into self-published ebook successes in a big way. There’s the Amanda Hocking trilogy, John Locke (the first man to really “crack” the KDP system and sell one million kindle ebooks), 50 Shades of Grey, and, quite recently, Wool by Hugh Cowey to name a few of the main deals. Some of these have earned seven-figure advances, something debut authors would only dream of. But are they worth it?
One of the most horrific things I heard at university was linguistics tutor spouting the idea that we need to embrace changes to our language as though it is an evolution. We should see words like ‘LOL’ (not a word) or ‘LMFAO’ (not a word) not as hideous abortions of taste, but as a reflection of cultural change as we begin to broaden our vocabulary to describe our experience. In theory, this sounds all very nice - we’re getting more inventive with objects, so perhaps we should be so with words – but then you hit a word like ‘pwn’, which is based upon a spelling error, and it all becomes a little too dirty and a little too real. And there is nothing in any linguistic theory book that can excuse the title of the Black Eyed Peas song ‘I Gotta Feeling‘.