Showing all posts tagged: publishing

Is the Australian publishing industry is based on a hunch?

13 April 2023

Katherine Day writing for The Conversation:

“The entire industry is based on hunches,” says literary agent Martin Shaw, who was head book buyer at Readings for 20 years before he became an agent. “More than half the books you publish either lose money or don’t make money. And that’s true — week in, week out, year in year out — whether you’re a small, medium or big publisher,” claims Henry Rosenbloom, founder of Scribe Publications, which has been acquiring books since 1976. This can be a heartbreaking reality for the in-house staff. “I’ve personally spent months editing books, and you publish the book and no one’s interested,” Henry adds.

I wonder how the publishing industry could not be based on hunches. Unless you’re publishing a big-name, well established (and even then nothing’s ever guaranteed) author, how does anyone know how a new book might be received?



BookTok, the best friend of authors and booksellers

25 March 2023

Constance Grady, writing for Vox, on the impact BookTok — the book lovers’ community within video-sharing platform TikTok — has had on book sales in recent years. In terms of the American book market at least, BookTok is almost unrivalled when it comes to selling books. That could come down to the (unrivalled) sincerity of BookTokers, when they talk about their favourite novels:

The main reason BookTok sells so many books, according to most of the BookTokers I talked to, is because it feels authentic and personal. TikTok’s native format of short, punchy videos and culture of casual chattiness combine to create an atmosphere of intense intimacy between content creators and their audience. In the book world, that kind of intimacy and emotional connection is rare. All the caps-locked blog posts in the world can’t match the visceral force of a camera on a real person’s tearstained face as they sob over their favorite books — books that could easily become your favorites, too, if you want to buy them.

Grady also explores the matter of remuneration. Some BookTokers are making a living from their channels, but many are wary about accepting payments from book publishers. Others of course do, but usually declare which of their posts are sponsored, and which are not.

I’m not sure it’s territory I’d like to venture into. As regular readers know, I frequently feature new and recently published books, that are usually Australian. But they are outlines, and seldom reviews, and are written at my own volition, and not at the request of anyone else.


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Jinghua Qian: my role as a sensitivity reader

22 March 2023

Jinghua Qian, writing for ArtsHub, about working as a sensitivity reader:

I might notice that the portrayal of a cultural activity is off: Australians talk about going ‘to the footy’ but not ‘to the ball game’.

The article I link to was published about three and a half years ago. Sensitivity readers aren’t exactly new, it’s just we’ve been hearing a lot about their work recently.


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Fear of litigation stops publication of some Australian books

18 March 2023

Fear of litigation is prompting some Australian publishers to reject manuscripts for titles they think may be contentious, particularly books about controversial public figures.

Melbourne based writer and editor Hilary McPhee, says poorer quality books are the result, if public interest stories end up being suppressed:

“We have fewer and fewer publishers and we have poorer and poorer books as a result. There’s a lot of cautiousness and nervousness. And the larger the company, the more nervous they are.” Larger companies were publishing fewer but more lucrative authors. A few smaller companies such as Upswell were taking risks, “but the big ones don’t seem to me to be brave. It’s terribly bad for authors.”


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Striking workers reach tentative deal with HarperCollins

13 February 2023

New York based American publisher HarperCollins has reached a tentative deal with workers who have been striking since November 2022.

The tentative agreement includes increases to minimum salaries across levels throughout the term of the agreement, as well as a one time $1,500 lump sum bonus to be paid to bargaining unit employees following ratification.

Employees have been seeking fairer rates of remuneration, and an undertaking from the company to increase workplace diversity. Some workers have been struggling to make ends meet on salaries of US$45,000, which is well below the minimum annual salary of about US$56,000 needed by a single person to live sustainably in the New York City region.



Adam Vitcavage: the first book you write may not be published

23 January 2023

Adam Vitcavage, whose podcast Debutiful explores the work of debut authors, offers a blunt observation to aspiring writers, in a recent interview with Los Angeles based novelist Ruth Madievsky:

I think aspiring writers need to realize that your dream first book might not be what you actually publish. So many writers have said they had to shelve books they were working on for years for one reason or another. Or that they had to take what was working and reshape it altogether.

The dream book may be a story the writer likes, but no one else, unfortunately.


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Author meets publisher at Australian literary speed dating event

23 January 2023

Everyone has a book in them, so they say. But the multitude of story ideas is placing a strain on publishing houses. Some book publishers in Australia are said to be so overwhelmed with manuscripts, they are limiting submissions to works of literary fiction only.

The outlook for aspiring Australian authors may be bleak, but there are still opportunities to put work in front of publishers and literary agents, and literary speed dating is one of them. As the name suggests, literary speed dating is similar to regular (romantic) speed dating. Prospective authors have a set amount of time to present their book idea to publishing industry representatives, and see if they can “make a match” with someone.

A literary speed dating event hosted by the Australian Society of Authors (ASA) last year, saw forty percent of pitching authors, from a field of over four hundred, receive an expression of interest in their work. The ASA is planning more online speed dating events this year, commencing on Wednesday 29 March 2023, and they may be the opportunity some writers have been looking for.



Novel serialisation, good for readers, good for writers

13 January 2023

Publishing novels by serialisation, or regular instalment, used to be a widespread practice. At one time it was the only way to read the latest works of authors such as Charles Dickens, Elizabeth Gaskell, Jules Verne, Leo Tolstoy, H. G. Wells, and Arthur Conan Doyle. Usually authors would later publish their serialised work as a complete edition, or whole book.

But book serialisation is a model some writers are again embracing. As an experiment, American journalist and author Bill McKibben published his latest book, The Other Cheek, on email newsletter platform Substack. Long story, short, the idea seemed to go down well with readers, says McKibben, writing for Literary Hub:

Still, despite all that, readers seemed to enjoy it, and for just the reasons I had hoped: the story lingered in people’s minds from one Friday to the next, and they wondered what turn it would take. As it spun out across the span of a year I got letters (well, emails) from people regularly suggesting possible plot twists or bemoaning the demise of favorite characters. I didn’t consciously adjust the story to fit their requests (and I’d written much of it in advance) but I did take note of what people were responding to.

Reader interaction and feedback during the publishing of a book, instead of as a review, or reaction, to a whole work, now there’s something.


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Can an algorithm assess the quality of a novel manuscript?

18 December 2022

It pays to follow Australian scientist and writer Dr Karl Kruszelnicki (aka Dr Karl) on Twitter (as long as Twitter continues to permit such behaviour), especially if you are writing a novel.

The other day he posted a link to an article published in 2014, about a literary algorithm that is apparently capable of quickly assessing the quality of an unpublished novel manuscript. The article expounds upon research conducted (PDF) by Stony Brook University into the matter:

Regarding lexical choices, less successful books rely on verbs that are explicitly descriptive of actions and emotions (e.g., “wanted”, “took”, “promised”, “cried”, “cheered”, etc.), while more successful books favor verbs that describe thought-processing (e.g., “recognized”, “remembered”), and verbs that serve the purpose of quotes and reports (e.g,. “say”). Also, more successful books use discourse connectives and prepositions more frequently, while less successful books rely more on topical words that could be almost cliche, e.g., “love”, typical locations, and involve more extreme (e.g., “breathless”) and negative words (e.g., “risk”).

Fascinating, no? Remember though, don’t let the algorithm write the book, let it guide you in writing the book. But if you wish to avoid algorithms all together, look at the way Irish author Sally Rooney — for one — does things.


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Gravidity and Parity by Eleanor Jackson wins 2022 SPN book of year

25 November 2022

Gravidity and Parity by Eleanor Jackson, book cover

Gravidity and Parity, written by Eleanor Jackson, and published by Vagabond Press, has been named winner of the Small Press Network (SPN) Book of the Year award.

Gravidity and Parity is a poignant and intricate collection of poetry that guides the reader into the journey of motherhood, pulling no punches in how it addresses and details all that is often unsaid or unknown about pregnancy. The book is set during the COVID pandemic, and author Eleanor Jackson beautifully encapsulates this all-too-familiar moment in recent history, reflecting on themes of connectedness and isolation.

The SPN does invaluable work representing the interests of over two hundred and fifty small and independent book publishers in Australia and New Zealand.


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