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CONTEMPORARY PUBLISHING MAGAZINE
the rise of graphic novels
NEW EDITION, JUNE 2013
this month... 4
agents of change
5 Chain Reaction
7 comic timing!
PUBLISH AND BE
cover art by rodney ramos, and generously authorised for our use by gutters
CONTEMPORARY PUBLISHING MAGAZINE
In our June issue of New Edition we catch up with indie-advocate Joanna Penn on life as an author-entrepreneur. We dust down our best superhero costumes to examine the resurgence of the graphic novel (not that graphic novels are all about men in capes you know). As it continues to ride a wave of mainstream popularity we consider why self publishing is now a legitimate choice across the industry. And finally we try to get our heads around the complicated subject that is international book distribution. Straightforward it is not...
Figures from the graphic novel Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart
NEW EDITION, MAY 2013
agents of change
The UK’s most forward-thinking literary agents, set on modernisation, were duly celebrated at May’s The Bookseller Industry Awards.
Each year The Bookseller Industry Awards acknowledges the cream of British publishing at a lavish gala on London’s Park Lane. This night of glass chinking and mutual backslapping is held in honour of the great and good – those agents, publishers and retailers who have dared to dream big and succeeded – over the preceding twelve months. The 2013 Awards saw Random House scoop Best Publisher (in a year dominated by the erotic monolith that was Fifty Shades of Grey, how could anyone else even compete?) and Foyles take the Retailer of the Year crown. Unlike everyone else in the room, Foyles were apparently shocked. There’s typically more scope for surprise in the Literary Agent of the Year category, given the large number of agents representing such staggeringly diverse lists, each working hard to keep ahead of the curve, especially when there’s very often a giant publishing merger lying in wait just around that curve threatening to scupper their business. This year’s award went to Maggie Hanbury, who founded her eponymous agency in the early 1980s on the strength of JG Ballard’s first draft of Empire of the Sun. Despite bearing all the hallmarks of an old-school agent, Maggie is formidable in her ability to blend past, present and future, staying true to what made her agency great twenty years ago but able to spot a trend at a hundred paces and future-proof her agency in an enviable fashion. Almost every author with a traditional publishing deal has a literary agent, and each author has a different experience of being represented. Whether good or bad, no two agents approach their job in the same way. Different agencies and agents have varying priorities for their authors, perhaps emphasising deals on foreign rights, multi-book publishing arrangements or the selling of film
rights. Every author also has different expectations and needs, with some trying to sell a debut novel and others putting the finishing touches to an epic series. In addition to this, each author– agent partnership is an interpersonal relationship, with mutual chemistry being of vital importance. All of these variables make judging the ‘best’ literary agent very difficult. When the shortlist for Literary Agent of the Year – which also featured Andrew Lownie (Andrew Lownie Literary Agency), Gordon Wise and Sheila Crowley (both at Curtis Brown), Ben Mason (Fox Mason) and Sarah Such (Sarah Such Literary Agency) – was announced, The Bookseller noted that the nominees would be judged in particular on the broadening of their client bases, the diversification of their offerings to authors, such as speaking engagements, negotiation of digital royalties, and their ability to introduce début authors while maintaining their big names. So the winner needed to be a synergy of moderniser and maverick – someone who takes calculated but commercial risks and is willing to change the way they work in order to meet with the expectations of the modern, digital age. The days in which the greatest success for a literary agent amounts to initiating a high-stakes bidding war over a new title may be numbered. The Hanbury Agency is also one of the only literary agencies to have a full-time Media Manager, Henry de Rougemont. The criterion of The Bookseller, that an agent should be good at negotiating digital royalties, seems a step behind the curve – digital engagement for modern agents and authors is not just about eBooks and royalties, it is about audience engagement, profile-raising, and actively engaging a medium that can no longer even be classed as ‘new’. By having a dedicated Media Manager inhouse, Maggie Hanbury demonstrates
that her success is about developing a much broader focus for her authors and directly embracing the changes within the publishing industry. The modern agent works with an author to develop a whole career, which goes beyond simply finding a traditional publisher and putting a book out. Reinforcing this image of the modern agent is award shortlisted Andrew Lownie, whose agency has recently expanded into the realm of fiction from its non-fiction roots by bringing David Haviland into the team. In February Lownie launched his own digital and print-on-demand imprint, Thistle, using Amazon’s White Glove service. Increasingly, literary agents are looking for ways to maximise the potential of their client’s work, whether by publishing their backlist as eBooks or considering various self publishing options. Over the next few years we are going to see many more agency imprints like Lownie’s Thistle, as the line between publisher, author and agent continues to blur. The Hanbury Agency has been in operation for thirty years, and today maintains an eclectic client base, with a good mix of debut writers sitting alongside public figures as opposed as Imran Khan and Jordan. The panel honed in on what all authors want from a literary agent when they spoke in praise of Maggie’s agency: “Authors want an agent who they can trust without question, and Maggie is one such…she is totally dedicated to her clients”. As the hangover of The Bookseller Industry Awards wears off it’s clear that those who are continuing to thrive in times of change and disruption are those who’ve already been brave enough to look out beyond the bounds of the traditional, embracing the new and the unexpected; they are already seeing returns.
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In the book trade, getting the right distribution set up is crucial, especially for self published writers. Authoright’s Oren Berman sheds light on its new importance as the publishing world changes. The bookshop shelf was once the elusive holy grail for aspiring authors. Being able to see your book stocked by a bricks and mortar retailer was the preserve of only the traditionally published author; for an indie author in particular, getting your book positioned on the shelves of Waterstones, Barnes & Noble et al. was nigh on impossible. Today, the challenges facing self published writers are largely the same when it comes to high street retailers. The difference is that fewer and fewer authors are actually concerned about getting their work into bookstores, now that the bulk of their sales will be online. The importance – and indeed the future – of physical book retailers is a hotly debated topic. With eBooks taking the market by storm and giants like Amazon eliminating the need for us to ever really leave the house, you don’t have to look far to find publishing news stories pontificating on the death of the bricks and mortar bookstore. According to the Association of American Publishers’ annual BookStats survey for 2012, in the US at least, eBooks accounted for 20% of book revenue, and for print books, nearly half (47%) of revenues came from online purchases, rather than physical bookstores. Both of those numbers are expected to keep rising while sales of print books fall. It’s good to note that the book market as a whole is growing at a healthy pace, with the US market booming by 44.2% in 2012. The ascent of these two innovations – eBooks and online shopping – and
their expanding market share (about 60%, by the figures above), combined with the rise of affordable print-on-demand (POD) book distribution, have enabled many independent authors to sell plenty of books despite their negligible presence on actual bookstore shelves. Those shelves are now viewed by many as the sole home of legacy publishers; their primary value to an author is their ability to distribute and sell in stores. Some would argue that physical bookshelves are all that trad publishers have left. Getting a book into bookstores – and supermarkets, of course – across the English speaking world requires a complex network of printing, warehousing, distribution agents, return policies and more. The legacy publishing crowd would certainly have you believe that only a wellconnected publisher, with longstanding relationships with oldfashioned retail channels, could ever manage such a gargantuan logistical triumph. But is that really true? Well, almost. The traditional print book distribution system (what was merely known as ‘the book distribution system’ before eBooks and POD came along) is indeed a complex and nuanced problem for an indie author to tackle. One of the things that makes it so problematic is the issue of returns. A main pillar of the bookstore business model is the ability to return books to the publisher if they don’t sell, for a partial or full refund or credit on future purchases. In part due to the high-risk ‘blockbuster’
approach of the larger publishers – in which a select few titles are hand-picked to receive massive promotional support and distribution – booksellers shield themselves from publishers’ gambles in the form of return policies, and most stores simply refuse to stock non-returnable books. Most traditional publishers print many thousands of copies and have them warehoused with a distributor while they await shipment to the stores – if they sell most or all of them, the scale ensures that the whole operation costs much less per copy than POD. If you can afford that kind of risk and scale upfront and find a distributor willing to warehouse your books, then congratulations to you. For the rest of us, we’ll be over here using POD. The good news is that POD books can be returnable too. Lightning Source, the mainstay printer and distributor of POD books, has a straightforward returns programme, and many self publishing imprints pass that option on to their authors in some form. Others resolutely won’t; Amazon’s CreateSpace, for instance, does not allow books to be returnable, even through their ‘Expanded Distribution to Brick and Mortar Stores’ programme. In addition, many independent bookstores – even ones that sometimes make exceptions and stock non-returnable books – will refuse to stock books published through CreateSpace, on the grounds that Amazon is their biggest and cruellest competitor and they don’t want to support them in any way. The reality is that vast
NEW EDITION, JUNE 2013
amounts of stock get pulped or sent to the remainders bins annually; around 50% of books in bookstores will be returned. As an indie author, if you have your book set up directly with Lightning Source and a bookstore wants to return copies of your book, you will simply be billed for the wholesale price of the book times the number returned. If you print with Lightning Source through an intermediary imprint your mileage may vary, but it’s a lose–lose situation regardless. You can have the returned copies shipped to you, for you to store or sell; basically, you just bought a whole bunch of your own books at a premium, or you’ve paid wholesale to have them pulped. Opening oneself up to this possibility is still too much financial risk for the average independent author on a budget.
On top of all that, it’s a major challenge for an indie author to convince a store to stock a book in the first place. Even if your book is returnable, shelf space has a value and the store has to be convinced that the book will sell and therefore justify taking up that space over another title. You might be able to get your book into some local independent stores, or onto the ‘Local Authors’ shelf in a chain store near your home, if you’re persuasive enough to get the store manager’s consent; but to reach much farther, you’re gonna need a bigger boat. If you can handle the risk of an unknown number of book returns, and you really want to give your book a shot at widespread bookstore presence, you’ll need a well-connected book distribution agent to represent your title. This is how the traditionals do it. Distributors will only accept a title into their sales catalogue if they believe that it will sell to retailers, so they look out for the same things that stores look for: high-quality professional design inside and out, strong marketing and promotional support, and, of course, good content. Having an author with a solid brand and fan base and a track record of decent sales doesn’t hurt
either. If these elements are in your favour, then there are distributors who will certainly consider pitching your book to retailers on your behalf. But most will probably ignore you, simply because without the clout of a known publisher behind you, you are an unquantifiable risk. The ones who are willing to pitch your book will probably charge you a hefty upfront fee in addition to a handsome commission on sales, none of which will come back to you if the books get returned. If you’re a powerhouse of an indie author brand, with several titles under your belt, plenty of success to your name, and a healthy publishing budget, you might be looking at all of the above and saying, “Yeah, I can handle that.” You might look at the
“New and Noteworthy” display tables cost upwards of $15k figures in my fourth paragraph and think, “I can’t afford to miss out on 40% of the market.” Or you might just be completely enamoured of the idea of your book drawing in the unsuspecting reader with its gorgeous cover, and closing the sale with your genius literary flair. But is that really what you’re missing out on by not having your book on the shelf of a bricks and mortar bookseller? Because the chain-bookstore display table is decidedly off limits to independent authors. The prominent placement of a book on Barnes & Noble’s ‘New and Noteworthy’ display table costs upwards of $15K, is available only to publishers with longstanding relationships with the chain, and even with all the firepower described previously, you almost certainly will not get there with a self published book unless you are already very famous. Instead, even if Barnes & Noble agrees to stock your book across the country, it will be spine-out on the shelf along
with all the other competing books in its genre. In some ways, these books are largely invisible within the context of the modern bookstore. It’s estimated that the prominent table, end-cap, and window displays where books are displayed cover-out produce around 75% of a store’s sales – no wonder they’re so expensive! Take that 40% figure and reduce it to 10%. So is 10% of the market worth all the trouble of dealing with distribution agents and returns? The reality is that the overwhelming majority of sales for any self published author will be online, and yet the oldschool way of connecting with readers remains so emotive. As an author you’ll need to ask yourself how much you value the prestige and validation of having your book on the store shelf, and how much financial risk you are willing to take to (maybe) get it. But let’s not pretend that store shelves = guaranteed sales success; too many traditionally printed and distributed books have done poorly in stores for that mistake to be made. Ultimately, to get stores to stock your book you need to give them a compelling demonstration of your book’s chances of good sales and low risk – and that’s roughly the same thing you need to do to get agents and publishers to consider offering to do the logistical heavy lifting for you, in exchange for a majority of the earnings. Whether or not they’ll take the added risk of spending loads of dough on prominent display placements is anyone’s guess, although almost certainly not for a new name; so at that point you have the privilege of deciding whether the value of a publisher’s advance and their getting your book into stores is worth what you give up in per-copy earnings and overall control. If you’re still just at the stage of getting your book out there in eBook and/or POD form, stop worrying about retail shelves and focus on good writing and editing, high-quality interior and cover design, and strong marketing with a compelling online presence. After all, bookstores want to stock books that have all of those elements because that’s what makes a book sell. If you secure the first, the second may eventually follow.
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comic timing! Thanks to the rise of digital publishing, graphic novels are enjoying something of a renaissance. Since the prehistoric age, man has used pictures instead of prose to tell stories. Images and illustrations have long played an integral part in our innate desire to communicate and to entertain. But the art of graphic storytelling hasn’t always received the respect it deserves, either critically or commercially. In the mid-1950s, a US Senate Judiciary Committee reviewed how comics contributed to juvenile delinquency. Fortunately, things have changed a lot since then. Last year two graphic novels were shortlisted for the Costa Prize; comics sales had risen 20% in the first quarter of 2013; and the North America graphic literature market turned over $715 million (£475m) last year – 50% more than a decade ago. Comic books and graphic novels have not only begun to reach the mainstream market on a larger scale, they have also gained acceptance from the literary world’s intellectual elite. Some of them, anyway. Even the chairman of this
year’s Man Booker Prize judging panel, Robert Macfarlane, suggested that he would be open to the idea of graphic novels being submitted for consideration. That would be sure to cause a few sharp intakes of breath! Comic books first began to appear in newspapers and magazines back in the mid-19th century, often as a source of political satire. With the explosion of full-length, stand alone comic books in ’40s and ’50s America – thanks in part at least to the creation of a guy called Superman – the medium was, for a fairly long time, confined to the children’s market, in terms of mass-market perception at least. Similarly, in Europe comics like Tintin, Asterix and The Smurfs were
hugely popular, but remained the preserve of kids and adolescents. A watershed moment came in the 1970s when Will Eisner designed and published an illustrated series of interlinking stories involving the residents of a poor Jewish suburb of New York; the book was called A Contract with God and showed, arguably for the first time, that the picture-driven format could be used to tackle adult issues with popular aplomb. Eisner coined the phrase ‘graphic novel’ to distinguish this more serious form of pictorial literature from children’s comic books. Where Eisner led, others followed, and soon an array of serious graphic literature began to flow from Europe and the US. The writer and artist almost universally acknowledged as having permanently changed the image of graphic novels is Art Spiegelman. His autobiographical graphic novel, Maus, was released in several forms
Eisner coined the phrase ‘graphic novel’ to distinguish this more serious form of pictorial literature from children’s comic books...
NEW EDITION, JUNE 2013
between 1978 and 1991 and stunned audiences when in 1992 it won the Pulitzer Prize. At last this evocative and powerful format was being recognised by the upper echelons of the literary elite as a legitimate vehicle for exceptional storytelling. So what’s behind the recent resurgence of graphic novels in both niche and mainstream literature? Director of comic and graphic novel publishers Soaring Penguin Press, John Anderson believes that their continuing maturity has certainly helped. “Comics were initially a juvenile medium, but as time passed
and more people became aware of the medium, it occurred to storytellers as a viable method of storytelling… and as comics have started to mature, making the stories more appealing to a wider audience.” The popularity of graphic novels, and their acceptance into the mainstream, has coincided with a larger output from authors and illustrators, and subsequently publishers. The greater circulation of graphic literature in libraries has also contributed to their ascent; when renowned authors like Neil Gaiman began exploring the world of graphic novels – promoting the medium in 2002 at an American Library Association meeting, along with Art Spiegelman –
librarians suddenly took notice. Their new-found commitment to the comic cause clearly worked; a 2011 survey of US libraries showed a dramatic rise in the number of loans of comics and graphic novels, and libraries are increasingly looking to expand their collections. As lending figures rose, publishers were given another indication that there was a dedicated mainstream audience for graphic titles. Franchising, merchandising and profitability have undoubtedly combined to inspire the next generation of graphic heroes. Superhero film adaptations such as The Dark Knight and Spiderman franchises have been wildly successful, as have movie versions of more highbrow graphic novels such as Persepolis and Road to Perdition. According to John Anderson, “There’s a strong similarity between graphic narrative as used in graphic novels, and storyboarding that’s used in the process of creating a film.” This means that comics can be an inviting prospect for filmmakers and publishers alike. Commercial viability is, of course, critical. Graphic novels and comics are expensive to produce and represent a risky investment for a publisher. Anderson credits the improvements in print-on-demand technology with limiting this risk by reducing the cost of intricate colour printing. “Earlier this year I had printed three copies of Peter Pan, 336 pages, full colour hardcover, for the purposes of having an advance copy for the London Book Fair. Each book cost less than Left: Popular genre-busting graphic novels Road to Perdition, Watchmen, and A Contract with God.
Right: Persepolis, which became a hit feature film.
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£24 to print. While the quality wasn’t quite as good as the litho printing that went into the final edition, it was of high enough quality to be a reasonable representation of the book. Printing such a small, full colour edition (in hardcover!) was inconceivable a few years ago.” Cheaper and on-demand printing has also made it possible for artists and writers to self publish illustrated fiction; digital comics company ComiXology has recently launched a self publishing platform that makes it very easy for artists to digitally convert, and distribute, their work. Oddly enough, the everincreasing demand for tablet and eBooks has yet to impact the comic book and graphic novel market, something which John Anderson blames on the limited ranges of apps and platforms currently available: “[They] actually have a tendency to undermine the nature of graphic storytelling…either the resolution is poor, or the comic is broken down into a series of related panels, instead of pages, as was originally designed by the artist.” To Anderson, increasing the use of animation in order to enhance graphic literature defeats the point, raising the question “at what point is it an animated film and no longer a comic?” He predicts that the market may embrace the digital revolution by creating material
a graphic history... First comic book published which is designed specifically for that platform. Anderson also points to the viability of digital conversion as being a significant barrier to progress in this area: “I can produce a single comic and sell it for, say, £3. To produce that same book in digital form might cost me up to £1000. I would have to sell considerably more of them to break even.” There’s still room for growth and for improvement in the graphic novel arena. Faber & Faber and Random House are two of the more committed traditional publishers to enter into graphic novels, and are openly seeking new and inventive ways of capitalising on the genre’s new wave of popularity, but even they only publish two or three titles each year. Jonathan Cape is a small publisher looking to make a mark through graphic publications; following the success of Raymond Briggs’s Ethel and Ernest in 1998, they’ve released around ten graphic titles a year since. Jonathan Cape’s Publishing Director, Dan Franklin, reportedly “thought it was a joke” when he heard that two of their books – Days of the Bagnold Summer by Joff Winterhart and Dotter of her Father’s Eyes by Mary Talbot – had been nominated for the Costa Prize last year. Neither won the award but their inclusion marked a profound shift in how graphic novels are perceived by the industry and, in turn, by readers. If this trend continues to gather momentum and its audience grows further, it’s very likely that a second graphic novel will be joining Maus in scooping a major literary accolade in the near future.
Superman is born
Comic books take off around the world
Graphic novels emerge with ‘A Contract With God’
Maus wins Pulitzer Prize
Iron Man 3 breaks $1bn at the US Box Office
NEW EDITION, JUNE 2013
PENN To paper
A super storyteller and a champion of independent writers everywhere, Joanna Penn takes her role as author-advocate very seriously. She spoke to Authoright’s Louis Dresner about becoming a one-woman book business. You’ve had massive success independently publishing your ARKANE Series, but did you always want to self publish or was the dream originally to secure a traditional book deal? Once upon a time, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose was my favourite book and I thought Eco’s literary success was the pinnacle of what I wanted to achieve as an author. When I was at university in Oxford, I also believed that traditional publishing was the only way to go. But back then, eBooks didn’t exist, the internet was still in the lab and self publishing was only considered vanity. Since 2008, Amazon’s Kindle has changed the game and authors can now consider what their true goals might be. If the goal is to be enjoyed by happy readers and make a good income from writing, then self publishing, as a truly independent author, can be a fantastic option. Ego and vanity are actually far more tied up with wanting to be in a physical bookstore or wanting to name a specific publisher so you can validate your being chosen. But there’s nothing wrong with ego, and I think you can choose both paths. Now my aims are: to please my readers by delivering books they will enjoy, to make a good income from my creativity and to reach more readers by getting greater distribution, which means partnering with publishers and agents to reach markets I couldn’t otherwise. I also don’t think I deserve the term ‘massive success’ because I’m really just getting started. Hugh Howey has had massive success and he has worked for it, so did Bella Andre, Amanda Hocking and others. I’m just a few rungs up the ladder with a long way to climb! What do you make of your label as an ‘author-entrepreneur’? Do all modern writers have to take
a business-like approach? The very definition of entrepreneurship is about creating value from ideas, and I believe that you have to look after your own business whether you self-publish or have a traditional deal. No one will ever care as much about your books and your income as you will! Also, if you want to do this full-time, you need to know about running a small business as well as investing in the craft and creativity of writing. As a self publisher you definitely need to be an entrepreneur, as you have to hire professionals, do your own sales and marketing, and run the finances as well as writing. I am also a professional speaker and sell digital products so I have a multifaceted business, so the definition of author-entrepreneur also applies because my income is from multiple sources. You have become something
eventually creates a critical mass and you start to get noticed. It’s the whole 10,000 hours, tipping point effect. It’s also not so much selfpromotional as useful content that happens to be created by me, e.g. interviews with agents, authors and marketing professionals on my podcast are not promoting my books. But over time, if you produce something useful or entertaining, people get to know who you are and then become more interested in your books. It’s attraction marketing, not scammy hard selling. All this content creation is also fun for me and I’ve learned so much and connected with so many people along the way. You have to love what you do or you won’t be able to sustain it over time, especially through the first 18 months to two years when it feels like you’re just howling into the wind. In that way, it’s similar to writing. Most authors who become
you have to look after your own business whether you self publish or have a traditional deal. No one will ever care as much about your books and your income as you will! of a master of self-promotion; consistently putting out useful content is key, but how did you amass a following in the first place? I’ve just been consistently putting out useful content for nearly five years now, and it all compounds over time! I actually recommend people read The Compound Effect by Darren Hardy as it explains exactly how small, incremental, daily steps can have huge results over time. But like everyone, I had no blog subscribers, no Twitter followers, no podcast listeners etc. at the beginning, but I kept putting out content and that kind of work
overnight successes have actually been writing for many years before they hit a critical mass of readers. Authors really look up to you. It must be quite a responsibility to have become their champion and to balance your own career with giving aspiring authors the right advice. It’s clearly something you take very seriously… Thank you for saying that, but although I do take responsibility for what I put out there, I don’t feel like someone who ‘gives advice’. I share what happens on my own writing and publishing journey as lessons learned, and I interview or share guest posts
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from experts who know more than me. I do help people with things I have learned myself because I want people to avoid the mistakes I made. But mostly, I’m just an author focused on my own craft and career as a writer and speaker. This is my life and my passion, my income and my obsession and yes, I’m deadly serious about making a success of this career! How did you go about securing a literary agent? And why did you feel you needed one? I didn’t really go seeking an agent, it was more something that arose based on a personal meeting at Thrillerfest in New York and an introduction from a writer friend. I also had quite a bit of interest because of my self publishing and marketing credentials. I signed with an agent because I’m definitely interested in a traditional deal as that form of publishing offers different pros and cons to self publishing. It certainly opens your work up to a different audience and can help you negotiate the aspects of the creative world that you can’t do easily as a self-publisher, e.g. foreign rights deals and TV/film. Eventually, I want to be a hybrid author, someone who spans both worlds, but I would only sign
with a publisher who understood that approach and saw me as a partner. In return, I would be an asset on the marketing side and believe I bring more to the table than just my writing. In your several years’ experience of self publishing, what have you learnt about the publishing industry? What frustrates you the most and what would you like to see being celebrated more? I’ve learned that the ‘publishing industry’ is full of great people, many of whom are fantastic, passionate book-lovers. When I meet them at conferences, there’s often a real connection and recognition that we are all in this together. Unfortunately, the industry can sometimes get a bit ‘us vs them’ but in reality, that’s not what it’s like at a personal level. Nothing is black and white and there is no right way to get published, or be a publisher. We all want reading and books in all forms to thrive, so it would be great if we could work together to achieve that. I would like to see more of an acceptance of the hybrid model of publishing in the UK, as it seems to be increasingly accepted in the US. Publishers need to realise that working with savvy authors is a win– win situation and allowing us to self publish and market at the same time
as traditionally published books come out is only a good thing. Are you able to tell us what you’re working on next? What can we look forward to from Joanna Penn in 2013 and beyond? I’ve just finished Desecration, which is a crime thriller that opens with a murder in the Hunterian Museum in the Royal College of Surgeons, London. It’s a murder-mystery with an edge of the supernatural and has themes around dissection, body modification and use of corpses in art. Definitely darker than my usual writing! It’s just gone to my agent but I will self publish that by Christmas 2013 if I don’t sell it before then. I’ll be working on the sequel to that in the second half of the year, which will be around madness. My ARKANE books are all coming out as audiobooks on Audible in the next few months so I’m working with a narrator on that right now. I’ve also got an ARKANE novella called Relic coming out in the middle of the year, set in Budapest with lots of chase scenes and kick-ass action-adventure. Plus I have a couple of other novellas on the boil and a non-fiction book I’m working on too. My main aim is increase the size of my backlist and establish more of a brand around my fiction in the next year. In order to do that, I am committing to writing every day and continuing to improve my craft. Uber-agent Donald Maass once said that something happens with the fifth novel. An author finds their voice, readers discover them and a tipping point is reached in terms of audience. My next novel will be the fifth, so we’ll see what happens.
Joanna Penn is the author of the ARKANE thrillers, Pentecost, Prophecy and Exodus. Find out more at JFPenn.com. She is self published but is also represented by the Irene Goodman Literary Agency in New York as she favours a hybrid approach to an author’s career. Joanna’s site for writers TheCreativePenn.com has been voted one of the Top 10 blogs for writers three years running and offers articles, audio and video on writing, publishing and book marketing. Joanna is also a professional speaker and entrepreneur. Connect with Joanna on Twitter @thecreativepenn
NEW EDITION, JUNE 2013
PUBLISH AND BE LOVED? lauded? rich? Famous? happy? DAMNED?
Authoright’s Aga Szymanska considers whether the stigma of self publishing has finally disappeared. The publishing industry hasn’t been known, historically at least, for its appetite for innovation and renewal. For well over a century, there has been one tried and true strategy for getting a book published: author writes manuscript, author submits finished manuscript to literary agents, literary agent picks up author and goes about selling their manuscript to a traditional publisher. That publisher subsequently brings that book to market. There’s also a lucrative advance and limitless publicity thrown into the mix. Or, at least, there used to be. Those days are largely long gone, and as the traditional arm of publishing has limited the scope of its business – publishing ever narrower lists and highlighting celebrity ‘authors’ – it’s no wonder that other options had to flower, and that, eventually, they would become viable alternatives to the publishing mainstream. Kelly Gallagher, the Vice President of Publishing Services at RR Bowker, declared that 2012 marked the start of the ‘golden age of self publishing’. Bowker’s US publishing figures confirm that three million books were published in 2011, up from a little over 400,000 in 2007. Industry guru Seth Godin is even suggesting that as many as 15 million ISBNs may have been assigned last year, representing a staggering volume of new writing. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that self publishing has had a radical impact on those figures. This so-called ‘Indie Boom’ has been ignited by the newest developments in publishing technology, which have provided
authors with quick and affordable and sometimes even free ways to publish their work. Critically, and some might say for the first time ever, authors have had – drum roll, please – choice. Seamless services offered by companies such as Lightning Source allow books to be printed to order. This has been a godsend for many aspiring authors for whom publishing a book had previously required a hefty investment. Before print-on-demand (POD), the author had to pay astronomical amounts to have thousands of copies printed upfront. If the book did not sell, they would face a major loss. POD has also eliminated the costs associated with having to warehouse masses of stock. Convenience is often key in contemporary self publishing circles. The arrival of the e-reader has also undoubtedly forever changed the publishing world. The e-reader has allowed consumers a convenient way to browse and buy new books, wirelessly, from anywhere that has mobile internet coverage. eBooks are also significantly cheaper to produce than print books, which has ultimately led to a profound shift in consumer purchasing trends. In the US in 2011, eBook sales increased by 117%, while sales of print books fell by nearly 36%, according to the Association of American Publishers. Lower cost and convenience have made eBooks a much more efficient platform from which to self publish. And many authors publishing eBook-only titles, efficiently from home, having established exactly who their
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audience is and learned to target them effectively, are reaping the rewards. At the recent BEA, we met one prolific eBook superstar who was making in excess of $300,000 A MONTH selling her romance novels online. When self publishing becomes so astonishingly successful, who could possibly stoop to criticise it? Well, people still do, and for one reason alone. The perception of quality. Self publishing has become so easy that practically anyone can write and publish a book nowadays. But of course, as in any industry, that does not always go hand-inhand with literary excellence. But why should it? The traditional sector have long spawned mindless titles in pursuit of commercial gains, so why should the quality argument be focused purely towards the self publishing arena? There are a whole lot of great writers out there who don’t get a contract with a major publisher and it has nothing to do with their talent. There are myriad reasons why a publisher could reject even a wellwritten book with a high potential for success. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone had been rejected by twelve publishers before her agent eventually signed it with Bloomsbury Press in 1996. Those publishers who had rejected the book did so because they felt it was too long for children. So in search of an easier read, they actively overlooked the children’s series of the century. For readers and reviewers, who, let’s face it, are the real tastemakers in all of this, self published writing has felt at times like a literary karaoke. If self published authors don’t take care and pride in managing their writing endeavours with all the skill, precision and desire for excellence that much of the traditional sector does, readers will be left disappointed. Yes, there will always be writers for whom quality
and legacy are very much secondary considerations; those who just want to tell a story, and fast, may well dispense with those markers of bestpractice – editing, creative brandfocused cover design, competitive pricing and good availability in retail – and risk leaving readers disappointed. As consumers we expect the books we read to look and feel a certain way; if they miss the criteria we instinctively set for them, they will be judged harshly.
books, says, “Self published authors are finally gaining much-deserved respect, not only from the industry, but from readers as well.” And given the breathtaking scope of genres, many of which are highly specific and extremely popular, readers can often find they have more choice than ever before. Bestselling authors like Barry Eisler, Joe Konrath and the playwright David Mamet have all walked away from their lucrative
More and more industry insiders are taking a different stand on self publishing, encouraging readers to give indie books a second try and many actively promoting it as a viable alternative to getting a traditional deal. Fortunately, over the last couple of years, those issues have improved quite remarkably and self publishing authors have assumed a new professionalism, which in turn is helping to validate and reposition the indie book market. More and more industry insiders are taking a different stand on self publishing, encouraging readers to give indie books a second try and many actively promoting it as a viable alternative to getting a traditional deal. Jenny Bent, founder of The Bent Agency, claims that “the idea that all self published books are sub-standard is erroneous.” There are many self published books that represent quality as high as the titles published by HarperCollins or Macmillan. With a growing set of highprofile success stories, self published books have finally reached the mainstream and are now a legitimate part of the publishing world, a force to be reckoned with. Mark Coker, the founder of Smashwords, the world’s largest distributor of indie
publishing deals for the sake of independence, actively choosing to self publish, the editorial freedom and potentially higher royalty rates a source of great sway. Despite the challenges, more and more wellrespected authors are turning to self publishing to be in charge of every aspect of their book, from writing it, to editing it, to marketing it. They want to be able to gain control over the destiny of their books. As the professionalism of indie books continues to improve and as the field of play with traditional titles continues to even out, the stigma of self publishing will fade away altogether. The more that indie authors embrace the aesthetics and the editorial finesse of the traditional publishing realm, the more the two arenas will start to become indistinguishable from one another. A book is rather like a diamond in the rough. Once it is cut and polished, refined and set, it becomes a beautiful piece of jewellery, precious and unique.
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c i n e masc o p e d
To mark the release of Baz Luhrmann’s controversial reworking of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, we salute our most recent favourite film adaptations.
The Shawshank Redemption by Stephen King Published 1982, film release 1994 The first time we met Andy Dufresne it was 1982 and Stephen King had just released his novella Rita Hayworth and Shawshank Redemption. Fast forward to 1994 and Frank Darabont’s movie adaptation was enjoying only limited success at the box office. Darabont decided to re-release the film during Oscar which would prove to be an inspired choice; The Shawshank Redemption was nominated for seven Academy Awards. With its story of injustice, friendship and hope in the face of adversity the film has a lasting legacy, and it is today considered to be one of the greatest films ever made. Morgan Freeman was cast as Red over better-known actors including Paul Newman and Clint Eastwood, and his voiceover - an effortless blend of pathos and pragmatism - is one of the most beautiful things about the film.
The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini Published 2003, film release 2007 The Kite Runner catapulted its author Khaled Hosseini to fame; the film version of the book was the icing on the cake as it turned Hosseini into the bestselling author in the world in 2008. The Kite Runner tells the story of two childhood friends, Amir and Hassan, and leads readers into the events of their adult lives. What is poignant about both the film and novel are the parts of the story told from the perspective of Amir as a child, against the backdrop of the fall of Afghanistan’s monarchy through Soviet military intervention and the rise of Taliban regime. The innocence of Amir’s character provokes such deep empathy from the viewer and the flashbacks between modern day San-Francisco and war-torn Kabul reveal a story of suffering and struggle that has been painfully necessary for him to survive and to thrive. The harrowing, heartbreaking and wonderfully powerful final scene representing friendship, love and redemption is impossible not to be moved by.
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The Harry Potter series by J K Rowling Published 1997 - 2007, films released 2001 - 2011 The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo Arguably the greatest children’s book-to-film adaptations by Stieg Larsson ever made. And that’s not even accounting for all the adults First published in English 2008, film who were even more excited about each instalment than release 2009 younger fans. Casting, set design, CGI and paring down JK Rowling’s epic series were all executed with aplomb. Viewers are transported to another world where magic and wizardry and beautiful castles and giants that look like Robbie Coltrane really do exist. And we’re probably all guilty of pretending to run into the non-existent platform ‘11 3/4’ at Kings Cross station. Watching the cast grow up, almost in real time, was part of the Potter series’ unique charm, as we shared their experiences of love, loss and adventure. With such a British heart – from the writer to the stellar cast that includes Alan Rickman, Ralph Fiennes, Michael Gambon and Maggie Smith – we can’t help but feel proud. Ten points to Gryffindor!
The Swedish version of Stieg Larsson’s pulsating thriller was directed by Niels Arden Oplev and is largely considered to be superior to the subsequent Hollywood blockbuster version in almost every way. Oplev manages to unpick Larsson’s complex narrative, opening up this dark, twisted story in a way that makes even the most unlikely aspects of the plot feel tangible for the viewer. The entire film hinges on Noomi Rapace’s outstanding portrayal of the damaged genius Lisbeth Salander, a strong young woman capable of bringing down the ‘men who hate women’, as the Swedish novel was originally titled.
We Need to Talk About Kevin by Lionel Shriver Published 2003, film release 2011 It was hard to know how director Lynne Ramsay would translate Lionel Shriver’s first person narrative in the form of as a series of letters to her husband on to the big screen. But she did it and with precision and perfection. Tilda Swinton’s tour de force portrayal of a mother struggling to come to terms with her son and the murders he has committed is worth watching the film for alone. What is particularly striking about Ramsay’s interpretation is the alternation between intense commentary and beautiful, pure cinematography. An unsettling film which managed to evoke the same disquiet that make the book so brilliant.
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New Edition is written and designed by Authoright. Contributors: Oren Berman, Louis Dresner, Katy Garland, Hayley Radford, Aga Szymanska, Ben Wood. 16
NEW EDITION CONTEMPORARY ISSUE
Issue 4, June 2013 of New Edition, Authoright's monthly magazine for authors