Thursday, 21 June 2012

The Best of Times/The Worst of Times?

I've just received my new edition of 'The Author' magazine (the journal of the Society of Authors), and noted with some amusement that they're planning a discussion, after their AGM in September, on the subject of 'the best of times/the worst of times?'

Now, as it happens I'm giving a talk at my local village library (Galleywood in Essex, if anyone is down my way!) on Saturday 30th, and I'd planned to talk about the state of publishing these days (as I see it!), how much difference the e-book revolution has made to everyone, and where we might be going from here. And I might just pinch that title for my talk! 

I think it really sums up where we are today - in a state of flux. Some might say things have never been worse for authors; it's certainly never been harder to get a new publishing contract, with editors seemingly terrified of taking on anything, or anyone new, and agents just as wary. Unless you're already a best-seller (or a celebrity) it's also never been harder to make much money from writing. The days of big advances are long gone. And as for short stories, the markets have shrunk to almost non-existent and the odds of having a story accepted are diminishing all the time.

But is it all gloom and doom? As one of the many authors who have experimented with self-publishing on Amazon for Kindle, I do feel that this option has at least given us back some kind of control, in a world where we never had much before. Regardless of whether we earn very much from our sales, at least we can set our own price, choose our own cover image, publish when we're ready without waiting months or years for replies from agents/editors and stoically bearing the inevitable rejections.

Of course, I loved the kudos of being traditionally published, and despite everything this would still be my preference again. But meanwhile, I and many others are enjoying the freedom of having things our own way for a change! And publishers are waking up to the need for e-book-first lines, and the need to price competitively.

I don't know whether these times will turn out to be the best or the worst, but I do think they're exciting. And although I can't promise my talk at Galleywood library will be as exciting as the discussions at the Society of Authors' event, please do come along if you're anywhere in the Chelmsford area on Saturday 30th at 11am!

Meanwhile I've just been interviewed for the  'This Writer's Life' blog - pop over and learn a few of my secrets!

Oh - and I did write the 'Something Old, Something New' story eventually - and it's been submitted to W.Weekly. Fingers crossed. I haven't submitted anything there for a while, but I DO have a story coming out in their next 'Woman's Weekly Fiction Special' on 3 July.

Happy writing - and let me know what you think ... are these the best of times or the worst for writers?


  1. You are so right, it is so hard now to get published, but so liberating to go down the Kindle route. The times they are a changing that's for sure :-)

    Good luck with the Something Old, Something New story. I'm looking forward to reading yours in the next WWFS.
    Good luck with the talk x

  2. Haven't read my copy of The Author yet but I think we are in extraordinary times for writers. Anything's possible. Things have changed so much in the five years or so I've been writing. I like the support and muscle power of having a traditional publisher but it can sometimes be so frustrating waiting for ages and bending to their requirements. I haven't been brave enough to publish to Kindle yet but I admire those who have. Good luck with your short story submission.

  3. I'd still prefer to shelter under the umbrella of a traditional publisher - ebooks are so easy to pirate. It needs skill and 'clout' to force the pirates to stop their thieving. But whatever the future, writers will still write, that inner world has to be organised into a story from time to time.

  4. Teresa, thanks for all your good wishes. Yes, 'liberated' is exactly how I feel about Kindling ... but maybe that's because it's still a fairly new option?

    Cara, the announcement about the 'Best of Times,Worst of Times' discussion is in an insert in 'The Author'. Not that I'll be going - it just made me smile. You're right that things have changed, probably more than any time since paperbacks were introduced! (And some people were worried then ...)

    Beth, I agree with you; I preferred being published traditionally, for many reasons. It's when you find yourself UNpublished again (although my agent is still trying to get me a new contract) that suddenly the Kindle route seems more attractive! Pirating ... well, I think that mainly happens to the bestsellers - I might be wrong - but it's been a problem in the music industry for yonks too. Everything has a downside.

  5. I'll make sure I get the next WWFS, Olivia.

  6. Seems no time at all since we were all throwing up our hands in horror at the thought of e-books. Now the Kindle is a part of everyday life.
    I remember the thrill and sense of achievement when I first successfully self-published on Amazon Kindle. Now I'm planning the same for another couple of books.
    But as dearly as I love my Kindle, it will never replace my 'real' books.

  7. Thanks Keith. As always, the short story will be under my real name, Sheila Norton.

    Rena, I agree with you - and I find most people who say they 'don't like' ebooks, change their mind when they try them! But I don't think they will replace paper books, either. I think the two will coexist ... at least for our lifetime. Well done with your own Kindle editions. It's exciting, isn't it.

  8. Hi Olivia, I've left an Inspirational Writer award for you over on my blog. Rx

  9. Hi Rena. Thanks so much! Can you give me the link to your blog, please, as for some reason (probably my own incompetence) I can't seem to find it! Thanks.

  10. Haven't seen WWFS yet, Olivia but I've just bought PF Special Fiction with your uplifting story The Good Life.

  11. Hi Olivia, Sorry about my blog’s current access problems. The Wordpress site seems to be annoyingly temperamental at the moment. I’ll leave the link anyway - - and hope you will have the patience to try again. Rx

  12. Thanks Keith for your kind comment about the PF story. The WWFS almost leapt out at me from the shelf of our local shop - with my name in huge letters on the front cover!

    Thanks Rena - I'll try again. x

  13. I have it now, Olivia. A nice twist on a familiar theme. I didn't see the end coming. Nice one.

  14. Thanks again Keith! Good to know the twist was a surprise. I'm not usually that great at twist endings!