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Mills and Boon

Romancing the Reader – Relationship advice from the Mills & Boon archive

This is a guest post from Judith Watts. Judith lectures on the Publishing Masters at Kingston University where she is Co-Director of Kingston University Press. She is researching for her PhD [The Limits of Desire: the Mills & Boon Romance Market] in The Archive of British Publishing and Printing at the University of Reading. She has worked in the industry for many years and has recently started two new reading, writing and publishing  businesses. She took a publishing career break to do an MFA in Creative Writing and is a published poet and author of Hodder’s Teach Yourself Erotic Fiction. 

At a recent Galley Club talk I confessed my passion for publishing archives. The past has much to teach us about relationship management. The thousands of intimate letters between publishers, authors and readers are a tale of the ultimate ménage à trois. While a partnership of two can be tricky enough the publisher can always tie the contractual knot with the author. But how can readers be wooed and kept close?

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Amazon launches ‘reader powered publishing’ with Kindle Scout

Amazon has launched what it describes as ‘reader powered publishing’ in the form of Kindle Scout, a crowdsourcing initiative to find unpublished authors and, uh, publish them. The hypermegaomnicompany outlines the venture as ‘a place where readers help decide if a book gets published. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions and featured Amazon marketing.

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skills for publishing

Finding gold in the backlist

Many will know I have an unashamed love for Haruki Murakami. So when I heard that his debut work, which is almost impossible to find in English, will be translated and re-released next year my heart missed a beat.

Hear the Wind Sing was first published in Japanese in 1979 and released in English eight years later, translated by Alfred Birnbaum. It is no longer in print, and copies of the novella are said to be changing hands for huge sums online.

Of course the Murakami phenomenon is in itself a pretty rare thing in the publishing world. A writer who has become an actual celebrity in their own right is neigh on a miracle these days, forgive me J.K., especially when you see bestseller lists dominated by ‘celebrities’ turned ‘writers’ week after week.

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BookMachine’s blook: the project and the process

So, you may have heard, BookMachine have teamed up with Kingston University Press to publish a collection of blog posts. It’s called Snapshots: Bookmachine on digital, discoverability and collaboration and will be available in print and as an ebook. The blook was edited, designed and produced by a small team of students with next-to-no experience in book production, and they had just 7 weeks do it in. Sounds like a tall order? This is how we did it …

Lecturers Anna Faherty and Judith Watts from Kingston University’s Publishing MA course instigated, organised and have overseen the process. Without their round-the-clock dedication this project wouldn’t have even made it out of the pipeline.

They appointed an editor and project manager from the course (myself) to contact the 46 authors and contributors, collate the manuscript, brief the students and communicate with everyone (a lot).

Entrusted with content from some of the biggest names in the industry, what the student production team achieved in the given time was no mean feat. They took the basic manuscript and copy-edited, designed, typeset, proofread and converted it into an ebook – all the while juggling their other deadlines, internships and jobs.

And the result? We now have a professional-looking product that will sit proudly on our bookshelves (and e-readers) for years to come, and the practical knowledge and experience we need to fuel our future careers.

So take two amazing tutors, a dynamic and future-focused client and students with buckets full of enthusiasm, and you can get a lot more done than you might think.

You can read more about the blook here, or meet the team and get a sneak preview at BookMachine’s event at The London Book Fair.

What impact has social media had on marketing & product development?

I’ve been really fascinated to start to see the impact social media has been having on the marketing and product development teams of Publishing houses. Social media has created more channels for Publishers to engage with their audiences, and more quickly, but are they really listening? Have products actually changed significantly in light of market feedback and real-time market research? My background is mostly within ELT and Educational Publishers where materials go through lengthy approval and development processes. However, it seems that it isn’t until quite late on in a courses development that it gets taken to market for approval and this is then where there are often conflicting view points and markets that don’t feel it is the right product to meet their needs.

Here are some further questions to delve a little deeper into this issue – it would be great to get your feedback and thoughts!

  1. Have marketing departments been given the recognition and influence in the publication process they perhaps deserve? And more importantly need if Publishers are to sustain revenues through their educational publishing departments? Not to mention compete with technology companies that are taking products to market quicker and that meet gaps in the market?
  2. How much is the product design of new material being influenced by Marketing and user feedback?
  3. More specifically how much of a role do the marketing department have in taking a prototype to market, to get real time and useful feedback, before a Publishing house has invested a lot of time and money in generating a series/concept that thinks will sit well in the market place?
  4. Once a prototype/launch has been taken to market how much of the feedback actually affects the finished products? Are teams willing to listen to the feedback and change their plans accordingly?
  5. Where is the tipping point financially for this change? If too much has been invested in a potentially flawed product who is ultimately responsible for pulling the plug? Or is there a ‘wing and a prayer attitude’ that has up until now got everyone through?
  6. If marketing teams were to get involved earlier on in the concept stages do you think there would be less time and money wasted on producing irrelevant/past it content/products that don’t meet a market need?
  7. Have recent developments in the Publishing industry (ie all the digital explosion, production but also marketing channels, of the last few years) affected the structure of publishers and the status quo amongst differing departments?

Would love to know your own experiences if you work at a Publishers or your thoughts on any of the above?

Mind, Body, Pet and Other Genre Predictions

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.)

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Should We Publish New Adult Fiction for LGBT Readers?

This is a guest post from Margaret Eckel, who is Prizes & Awards Officer at Booktrust. You can find her on Linkedin and Twitter.

If you’re keeping track of trends in young adult publishing then it has been pretty hard to miss the rise of the ‘steamies.’  There was an article in The Independent.  And The Telegraph.  And The New York Times. The steamy, or ‘new adult’ novel, is similar to a young adult book in length, subject matter and emotional impact, but a steamy contains more detailed sex scenes than a typical YA title.

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Is Re-Publishing a Self-Published Book a Good Idea?

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?

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Seven Figure Book Deal Proves Talent Beats Data

While the government is busy telling us to tighten our belts and make our own sandwiches, publishers are honey-badgering these times of austerity and whipping out fliff like sultans for the next big novels. None moreso than Little, Brown US who are rumoured to have paid a massive seven figures for  the debut novel of Australian author Hannah Kent (deputy editor of Kill Your Darlings). And they said telling stories will never pay. HA!

Single-handedly, this novel manages to debunk two myths about being a writer we’ve seen espoused lately:

1) Writers don’t and can’t make money just from having writing talent

2) You have to come with a ready-made following in order to cash in with a publisher

Oh, and I might add in 3) best manuscript awards and their associated prizes are total bollocks (though it’s arguable that the manuscript would have gotten representation without winning Writing Australia’s ‘best MS’ award).

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Five Things to Rethink About Children’s Non-Fiction

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This is a guest post from Margaret Eckel, who is a freelance PR Co-ordinator. You can find her on Linkedin.

My love of children’s literature is what inspired me to pursue a career in publishing. Until now I’ve devoted most of my attention to fiction titles, but, since attending Booktrust’s seminar The World into Words: why reading non-fiction is vital for children, I am seriously rethinking my own relationship to children’s non-fiction. And, after listening to children’s non-fiction authors Viv French and Nicola Davies and children’s librarian Jake Hope share their insights, I think the industry as a whole may need to as well.

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The Art of Bundling Short Stories

Felice Howden has been writing short stories for online publications for several years. Here she talks about the re-emergence of the short story. 

In the style of so many 90s TV shows, the short story is making a comeback, and if you think Captain Planet is cool as hell, you ain’t seen nothin’. While huge publishers like Random House, and… booksellers, Amazon, are now discovering something most of us have known for years (that short fiction is the greatest writing there is) there are a bunch of publishers out there who have been promoting the form for longer than I’ve been alive.

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