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This is a guest post by Robin Etherington. The Etherington Brothers will be part of the Scottish Friendly Children’s Book Tour Jamboree on Wednesday 6th June, which is part of the 20th anniversary celebrations of the tour. The event will be live-streamed on the Scottish Book Trust’s YouTube channel and 2000 pupils from Scotland will be in attendance. They also completed the most successful comic fundraiser ever in the UK. 

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Small Presses

In two weeks’ time, a group of BookMachine-goers will be joining the TLS in London for an event which focuses on small, independent presses and the current trend which has seen a 79% increase in sales by sixty of the UK’s smallest publishers. Here Norah Myers interviews the event host Thea Lenarduzz. Thea is commissioning editor at the TLS and the co-host of Freedom, Books, Flowers and the Moon, the TLS’s weekly podcast. She is also a freelance writer and, slightly sporadically, the literary editor at Five Books.

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Thanks to Francesca Zunino Harper for setting up this interview.

The Republic of Consciousness Prize is a passionate tribute to small presses’ hard work, original authors’ inventiveness, and high-quality, unconventional books. The ceremony for the second year of the prize was held last Tuesday 20th March in the University of Westminster’s Fyvie Hall.

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that book editors spend their days languidly leafing through the pages of books and occasionally waving a red pen in the vague direction of a stray comma or unruly capital… Or so I’ve been told – on numerous occasions. But never by the lucky ones who get to toil day-in day-out at the coalface of editing, diligently chipping away at a manuscript, carefully polishing it until it shines and looks its best. Funnily enough, they tell a different story. Don’t get me wrong: it’s an honour and a privilege to be involved in the creation of something so precious, but it’s a job that comes with some difficulties and pitfalls. So, take a seat, get comfy and let me tell you some of them…

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membership economy

If you’re an author, or you’re working with an author, then you may beat yourself/them up for being unable to summon up a laser-like focus on the job in hand. Alternatively you may be exasperated by the way your/their creativity and the immediacy of the writing seem to evaporate as the book progresses. (I speak from experience of both perspectives here.) ‘Just focus!’ you might yell – out loud or under your breath. ‘Stop getting distracted!’

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The self-publishing boom has happened and it’s here to stay. Options are increasing for writers choosing to take ownership of the publication of their books, and so are opportunities for editors.

Who self-publishes?

Many self-publishers are writers who have not managed to seduce the necessary gatekeepers stationed along the traditional publishing route – not necessarily because their writing is not of publishable quality, but because the publishers don’t believe in their potential to make money in the market. Fair enough – publishers are businesses, after all.

Now, though, writers can choose to take their own risks.

Many writers decide to self-publish simply for the freedom of it all. Some even decide to leave their publishing houses and go it alone because they see it as the better option. (Hello, 70% royalty …)

Rising quality, rising numbers

No longer seen as a practice in vanity, many self-publishers are now fully aware of the challenges they face, and how best to overcome these challenges. As a result, there is a new breed of independent (indie) authors: they are both literary creatives and publishing entrepreneurs.

Did you know …?

  • Self-published books’ share of the UK market grew by 79 per cent in 2013*
  • 18m self-published books were bought by UK readers last year, worth £59m*
  • The Big Five traditional publishers now account for only 16 per cent of the e-books on Amazon’s bestseller lists**

* The Guardian, ‘Self-publishing boom lifts sales by 79% in a year’, Jun 2014
** Author Earnings report, Jul 2014

According to an article posted on Publishing Perspectives (Oct, 2014), literary agent Andrew Lownie believes that in 5–10 years, 75 per cent of books will be self-published, 20 per cent assisted by agents, and only 5 per cent traditionally published. Whether he’s right or wrong is another matter, but it just goes to show how much of an impact the independent author is having on the publishing world.

A wealth of resources

Technology is the catalyst for these opportunities. The e-book format and print-on-demand (POD) services like Smashwords and Lulu provide affordable production. Companies like Amazon, Apple and Barnes & Noble provide the marketplaces. Every service in between, from editing to cover design, can be found online, and through new marketplace websites, too, such as Reedsy.

And with the Internet, indie authors have a wealth of information at their fingertips. Not sure how to get your book on the shelves at Waterstones? Or perhaps not sure whether you need to buy an ISBN (or that you know what to do with it)? Never fear, Google is here.

A digital revolution

The Internet is a big deal. I mean, it’s a serious game-changer – in so many ways, but especially for the publishing industry. (Truth be told, I don’t think traditional publishing houses have quite caught up yet.)

At the click of a button, people can access the specific information, entertainment or inspiration they’re looking for. This means that businesses no longer have to go hunting for punters in the old, traditional ways (posters, flyers, radio adverts), because those clients are actively seeking them out.

Instead of a scattergun approach to marketing (least effective), businesses can use targeted pull-marketing (most effective).

What does this mean for the independent author? Well, instead of spending all their time writing alone in their studies, they are now able to connect to their readerships online – through social media, blogs and websites.

Remember the publishing house that was concerned there wasn’t a market for that book? Doesn’t matter, because the indie writer can build their readership from the ground up. That’s the power of the Internet.

What does this mean for editors?

In a word: opportunity.

Self-publishers used to have a bad name. Some still do – but it’s no longer a sweeping generalisation. In the end, poor-quality books will sink and good-quality books will rise. Indie authors are cottoning on to that – and they understand they need to invest in their own quality control.

That’s where we come in.

Sophie Playle, of Liminal Pages, is a freelance editor who specialises in fiction and often works directly with writers. For brownie points, connect with her on Twitter and LinkedIn. (Please note: No real brownies or points will be awarded.)

Sophie’s post was originally published on the SfEP blog.

The Society for Editors and Proofreaders (SfEP) is a professional organisation based in the UK for editors and proofreaders – the people who make text accurate and clear. Formed in November 1988, the SfEP has more than 2,000 members who provide editorial services to publishers and a wide range of other organisations and individuals. The SfEP promotes high editorial standards and works to uphold the professional status of editors and proofreaders. Its Directory of Editorial Services provides contact information for experienced SfEP members, including details of the skills, subjects and services they offer.

John Mitchinson

In the latest blog post Norah Myers interviews John Mitchinson. John is a writer and publisher and the co-founder of Unbound, the award-winning crowdfunding platform for books. He helped to create the award-winning BBCTV show QI and co-wrote the best-selling series of QI books. He is co-host of Unbound’s books podcast Backlisted (@BacklistedPod) and a Vice-President of the Hay Festival of Arts & Literature.

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Thanks to Francesca Zunino Harper for setting up this interview.

After being awarded the Republic of Consciousness Prize last week for Attrib. And Other Stories by Eley Williams, Kit Caless and Sanya Semakula, the team agreed to tell us a little about the life of a small press, and the challenges and advantages that come with it.

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Do we need so many literary prizes? And how do they work? Well, on Wednesday 14th March we’re talking all things literary prizes with The TLS. You can book a ticket here. To whet your whistle ahead of the event, the brilliant Michael Caines from The TLS has answered some burning questions on the literary prize subject.

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Listed by the Observer as one of “Our top 50 players in the world of books”, Clare Conville previously worked as an editor at Random House, before co-founding Conville & Walsh in 2000. Between them Clare’s clients have won or been nominated for nearly every major literary prize in the UK including the Man Booker Prize, the Bollinger Everyman Woodhouse Award, the Whitbread First Novel Award, the Commonwealth Writers’ Best First Novel Award, and the Orwell Prize, the Guardian First Book Award and the Kate Greenaway Medal. Here, she discusses handling criticism well.

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Ariella Feiner started working at PFD in 2006 before moving to United Agents and is now nurturing her own client list which includes many bestselling, critically acclaimed and award winning authors across fiction and non-fiction, including a million-copy selling author and ground-breaking non-fiction. In 2017, The Bookseller named her as a Rising Star. Here, Norah Myers interviews her about being included in that list.

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In Part 1: An industry of opportunitySophie Playle explored who self-publishes, why and how self-publishing has developed over the years, and what this means for editorial freelances. In this post, she’ll be looking at the more practical elements of working with self-publishing authors.

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Lucy-Anne Holmes is a writer and campaigner. Her last novel Just a Girl Standing In Front of a Boy won the Romantic Novelists Association ‘Rom Com of the Year 2015’ and she founded the successful No More Page 3 campaign. She is currently raising funds for her book Don’t Hold My Head Down with Unbound here.

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