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Swordswoman
10-31-2009, 01:18 PM
We've had a lot of gloomy threads lately about the state of the publishing world, so I thought I'd stick in something on the positive side to balance it.

Basically I'm wondering if we're not the only ones depressed by the mulch of celebrity memoirs and bestseller-clones which seem to dominate publishers' lists these days.

In the UK at least, a number of prominent people seem to be throwing their weight behind a search for new writers and fresh voices. There's this, for instance:
The Brit Writers' Awards 2010 for Unpublished Writers (http://www.britwriters.co.uk/)

There's an entry fee of 10, but the top prize is 10,000 - which, as they say, is the highest ever offered to an unpublished writer. It seems to be supported by literacy groups, libraries - and the main political parties too (all except the actual government, of course). It looks as if the website isn't quite finished yet, and I couldn't find details of how to submit a novel, but what's interesting is that this is happening at all.

Then there's also this:
The York Festival of Writing (http://www.festivalofwriting.com/index.shtml)

OK, residential workshops aren't new, and doubtless someone's making a profit out of this somewhere, but what is different is the number of agents and publishers supporting it. Some very top people are going to be there - eg Darley Anderson is going himself, so's Barry Cunningham (who launched J.K.Rowling), Simon Trewin of United Artists, Lorella Belli, people from Blake Friedmann, A.M.Heath etc etc. Writers are to be given the chance to pitch 'one-to-one' to agents and editors and get a quickie critique on their work.

What intrigues me most about it is why these agents are going. I know the fee is small (my own agent is going) so the only reason I can think of is that agents are actively looking for new writers and want to encourage anything that improves the quality of submissions and thus increases the chances of a new voice getting out there.

To me this is all good. It also suggests some little tiny green shoots of recovery in there somewhere, as if lists are opening again and those cautious agents and publishers are beginning to stick their heads out and look around for what's there.

Has anyone else seen/heard any good news they can share? Are there any signs in the US yet? Could we (possibly) be starting to see glimpses of a dawn at last?:)

Or am I just being Pollyanna? :(

Louise

aruna
10-31-2009, 03:45 PM
Well, this is from two years ago so it can harldy be classed as a seed of hope, but it does show that some agents at least have their hearts in the right place:

Article about Clare Alexander (http://www.allbusiness.com/retail-trade/miscellaneous-retail-miscellaneous/4639105-1.html)


Publishers are "like children with attention deficit disorder", she says, pleased with her turn of phrase. "They are always looking for the new thing and are blind to the fact the real rewards are with authors who grow."
She is adamant that publishers need to work with authors for the long haul: current practice is "bad husbandry", as there "isn’t an endless pit of talent".
She decries the current dominance of celebrity non-fiction and "the fact all publishers are chasing one market. The apogee will be this Christmas." One major publisher, she says with disgust, had all their editors in and told them all to go out and buy two celebrity books.......
She is distressed by the trade’s dependence on prizes and television book clubs, and feels there has been "a loss of sight of readers". For publishers to come through to the next phase, they’ve got to find ways to reconnect with those readers, she says, and not just hope that Richard and Judy will pick their book. "Why can’t publishers make something happen because they want it to? It will be a happy day when publishers start talking about how to make a book happen, rather than just: ’We’ll put it up for ’Richard & Judy’ and the Orange Prize.’"




Your list of agents going to the York event makes me want to cry. One of those was once MY agency, I have personally met two of the others, and had a long telephone conversation with the fourth. And I am still agentless!

BigWords
10-31-2009, 03:52 PM
<SARCASM>

Hi Pollyanna. :D

</SARCASM>

seun
10-31-2009, 03:54 PM
Basically I'm wondering if we're not the only ones depressed by the mulch of celebrity memoirs and bestseller-clones which seem to dominate publishers' lists these days.


These books are on the lists for a reason. They sell. Ditto the misery memoirs, the vampire books, and the Da Vinci Code rip offs. I honestly can't tell you how many titles from those three groups I've had to deal with at work over the last couple of years.

Swordswoman
10-31-2009, 04:07 PM
Your list of agents going to the York event makes me want to cry.

Aargh! So much for my 'let's cheer people up' idea...

But why not come along? It's totally ridiculous someone like you being unagented when people are moaning about the need for talent. I've been invited to speak, so if you fancy it drop me a PM and I bet we can smuggle you in somehow. I hate to mention it, but Clare Alexander's going to be there too...


<SARCASM>

Hi Pollyanna. :D

</SARCASM>

<SARCASM>

Miserable bleeding Scots...:D

</SARCASM>

*runs in panic from thread before SP sees it...*

Louise

bluehippo
10-31-2009, 04:13 PM
Thank-you so much for posting about the York event Swordswoman, that's the first I've heard about it.

Misa Buckley
10-31-2009, 04:17 PM
The York Festival of Writing (http://www.festivalofwriting.com/index.shtml)

OK, residential workshops aren't new, and doubtless someone's making a profit out of this somewhere, but what is different is the number of agents and publishers supporting it. Some very top people are going to be there - eg Darley Anderson is going himself, so's Barry Cunningham (who launched J.K.Rowling), Simon Trewin of United Artists, Lorella Belli, people from Blake Friedmann, A.M.Heath etc etc. Writers are to be given the chance to pitch 'one-to-one' to agents and editors and get a quickie critique on their work.

Thanks for that, Louise. I might be able to make this event :)

Swordswoman
10-31-2009, 04:23 PM
These books are on the lists for a reason. They sell.

So they do - and I don't complain about that. If that's what people want to buy, it's not for me to insist they ought to spend their money on something I consider more worthy.

But the problem arises if that's all that's actually on sale. The problem comes when it's all publishers will buy. Some of us would like more choice. In a recession, publishers inevitably have to concentrate on books which offer the best chance of a quick return, but I'm hoping these signs that they're looking for other things suggest the recession is, well, receding... More choice is better for everyone, no?


Thank-you so much for posting about the York event Swordswoman, that's the first I've heard about it.

You're very welcome. Maybe I should have stuck it in the Announcements forum, but it's not something I'm personally involved in so didn't quite like to 'advertise'. Maybe if I accept the invitation to speak I'll feel I have more right.

Louise

Swordswoman
10-31-2009, 04:25 PM
Thanks for that, Louise. I might be able to make this event :)

Maybe we should make up a secret cabal of AW members and crash all the best workshops. I seem to remember there are also some very good pubs in York...

Louise

Misa Buckley
10-31-2009, 04:42 PM
Ha, sounds like my sort of plan :D

scarletpeaches
10-31-2009, 04:51 PM
I much prefer threads like this. I'm staying out of the doom and gloom ones. Not because I refuse to acknowledge what goes on in the publishing world today, but it does me no good to dwell on the negative side of things. All I can do is write the best book I can and yes, call me Pollyanna too. I have lived with manic depression for too long to add to my inner demons with external ones.

Good books are still published. That's a fact. And there's no damn reason why I shouldn't be one of those 'lucky' authors.

Why do I say 'lucky' in inverted commas? Because I make my own luck.

The more I practise, the luckier I get. I refused to entertain all this "Wah wah wah, no one ever gets published, there are no good books out there," nonsense. Yes they do, and yes they are. The people who complain need to look to their own writing.

Are bad books published? Why yes. Do they sell because they're easy to push and there are many chavs in Britain today? Of course.

Does all that stop a good book being published if it lands on an agent or publisher's desk?

Watch this space.

Ellefire
10-31-2009, 04:53 PM
Oh Misaditas, hope you do and you get good things from it! I've followed your writing for ages, I know you have talent!

Misa Buckley
10-31-2009, 05:17 PM
Oh Misaditas, hope you do and you get good things from it! I've followed your writing for ages, I know you have talent!

:o

Thanks Elle.

seun
10-31-2009, 06:45 PM
So they do - and I don't complain about that. If that's what people want to buy, it's not for me to insist they ought to spend their money on something I consider more worthy.

But the problem arises if that's all that's actually on sale. The problem comes when it's all publishers will buy. Some of us would like more choice.

Don't get me wrong. I'd love more choice, too. I'd love to see more focus on new authors rather than another autobio being ghosted for some talentless bastard celebrity but I don't see the situation changing at any point soon.

firedrake
10-31-2009, 06:53 PM
It's great that there's glimmers of hope in the UK.

I wish more UK agents would embrace the 21st century and take electronic submissions. I think my books would 'fly' better in the UK. Sending three chapters snail mail from the US will cost a sodding fortune after a while.

BigWords
10-31-2009, 06:57 PM
I'd love to see more focus on new authors rather than another autobio being ghosted for some talentless bastard celebrity but I don't see the situation changing at any point soon.

There is a leaflet being dropped through with the mail for The Book Club or something similar that has a shit-ton of "celebrity" autobiographies listed. From the familiar (some comedians I've heard of) to the completely ridiculous (reality television types), and all of them have the same dead-eyed stares coming from the people photographed on the covers.

scarletpeaches
10-31-2009, 06:57 PM
There's a reason for it - e-subs are easier to knock off in minutes.

Snail mail forces you to prepare, prepare, prepare. Polish, polish, polish.

And I think going to the post office makes it more of an occasion. I send emails every day. Hundreds of 'em. So it would feel like nothing special. Yesterday was exciting for me because I had to go out of my way to sub my book.

Sure, the expense adds up. But I look upon it not as an expense at all, but an investment.

aruna
10-31-2009, 07:02 PM
Sure, the expense adds up. But I look upon it not as an expense at all, but an investment.


Don't forget to keep your receipts. They will be your business expenses for next year's tax.

Priene
10-31-2009, 07:04 PM
Maybe we should make up a secret cabal of AW members and crash all the best workshops. I seem to remember there are also some very good pubs in York...

Louise

I've drunk in them all. There's a fair few dodgy ones as well.


It's great that there's glimmers of hope in the UK.

I wish more UK agents would embrace the 21st century and take electronic submissions. I think my books would 'fly' better in the UK. Sending three chapters snail mail from the US will cost a sodding fortune after a while.

On the plus side, UK writers don't have the extra farrago of partial requests to get through. Presumably the slush pile is smaller, as well.

aruna
10-31-2009, 07:07 PM
Aargh! So much for my 'let's cheer people up' idea...

But why not come along? It's totally ridiculous someone like you being unagented when people are moaning about the need for talent. I've been invited to speak, so if you fancy it drop me a PM and I bet we can smuggle you in somehow. I hate to mention it, but Clare Alexander's going to be there too...



Louise

Louise, I'd love to. I've even got a sub out to Clare and to a Darley Anderson agent right now. Lorella Belli has had two fulls of mine for almost a year -- I handed them to her personally, and she promised an early 2009 read so I have a bone to pick with her!

But -- but -- but -- it's very hard for me to organise as I have duties I probably can't delegate. I can try, but there's little hope. When is it anyway? (ETA: checked the website and saw the date)

My best hope is actually my former editor. I keep subbing to her -- shamelessly. She actually called me up last summer and asked for a partial and when she never got back to me I sent her another. No pride! :) I'll just keep pestering her, because she is great.

seun
10-31-2009, 07:16 PM
There is a leaflet being dropped through with the mail for The Book Club or something similar that has a shit-ton of "celebrity" autobiographies listed. From the familiar (some comedians I've heard of) to the completely ridiculous (reality television types), and all of them have the same dead-eyed stares coming from the people photographed on the covers.

That's because they're all cu-

Fill in the rest. :evil

Phaeal
10-31-2009, 09:22 PM
Given many of my favorite books these days come from the UK, I'm eyeing the UK agents from afar and plotting an invasion.

Damn Yanks, eh?

;)

aruna
10-31-2009, 10:22 PM
A more detailed look at that York festival page.... a few familar faces. I know Katie Fforde. She wrote a famtastic blurb for my first novel and came to the launch. I remember her saying that it was a surefire bestseller -- yeah, right. I also know Emma Darwin but only virtually - we used to be on the same forum and had a good rapport.

And -- and -- and -- is VH your agent? Because that used to be MY agency, though a different agent. Small world, innit.

waylander
10-31-2009, 10:33 PM
Looks a great line-up, but too close to Eastercon for me to attend