Traditional Publishing

Writers' News

Testing Google’s Newest AI Writing Tool: Text FX – Sunday August 27, 2023

When Google Bard was released, I compared it side-by-side with ChatGPT, and Bard was the clear loser.

Google quietly released a new AI-powered writer named The Text FX Project. My first impression is that this one is way cooler than Bard. But, I know the slick branding doesn’t matter much. What matters is how it performs.

I’m testing Text FX as I’m writing this article. I saw one person mention the new tool was launched on LinkedIn, but haven’t seen any positive or negative reviews about it yet.

Here’s what the homepage says about the project:

TextFX is an AI experiment that uses Google’s PaLM 2 large language model. These 10 tools are designed to expand the writing process by generating creative possibilities with text and language.

Text FX was created in collaboration with Lupe Fiasco, a rapper who also teaches a class on rap theory and practice.

The 10 different Text FX tools are: Simile, Explode, Unexpect, Chain, POV, Alliteration, Acronym, Fuse, Scene, and Unfold.

Let’s test it out each of them and see what they can do!

[Read the full article]

My children’s book about India was rejected because I’m white – Saturday August 26, 2023

As you may recall, several years ago I wrote a children’s book called Mr. Das and his Fifty Cats. In 2022, I mentioned it (and my travails finding a home for it) here, where I gave a brief description:

“Mr. Das and his 50 cats”  [is] a fictional work that is actually based heavily on a real person: Birendra Das, one of India’s most famous sweetmakers (his business, K. C. Das and company, is famous in Kolkata).  I stayed with Mr. Das in Bangalore (now called “Bengaluru”) to do “field work” observing his life and his cats, and found that he indeed had around fifty cats, whose names I learned. Around these facts—and the knowlege that Mr. Das took all of those cats in as strays—I wove a fictional tale about the cats invading the factory in times of famine and eating all the milk, cream, and yogurt. (Indian sweets are heavily laden with sugar and dairy products.) The story of how that led to the closure of Mr. Das’s sweet business, and then how the cats fixed the situation in the end, is the subject of my book.

I quite liked the story, as did others, including parents of small children and school teachers to whom I vetted the book (the story is meant for kids from about first to fourth grades).  I got a lot of good suggestions before it arrived at its final incarnation.

Eventually, on the advice of my agent (who doesn’t handle non-science books),  I sent the manuscript to a well known agent in England, who worked with a very famous illustrator. They both liked the book a lot and agreed to provide illustrations, which, given the fame of the illustrator, would almost guarantee publication.

I got a few illustrations, but then: radio silence. This lasted for months, and every six months I’d email to ask what was going on.  I’d get some reply that finding a publisher was still in the works.  Then, more radio silence.  This went on for several years, and I grew increasingly depressed.

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Literary Agents - Unfit For Purpose? – Saturday August 26, 2023

Like many authors, I’ve long wondered what added value agents add to the publishing industry. Disclaimer: I have never had an agent, and I value Independent Publishers.

I shall not mention this agent’s name and I will paraphrase what she wrote to the Twitter (X) Writing Community. So it wasn’t a personal reply, this counts as an announcement.

She said that when a writer is passed over by an agent, the writer shouldn’t assume it was a quality of prose issue. And that she just passed on a “most delightful, well-written manuscript”. One that she felt sure was going to sell. 

An agent’s job is to sell books to publishers. Some also edit. Let’s think for a moment about the art of selling. (Disclaimer: ex sales manager.) If I am trying to sell a product, I don’t give a damn whether or not the salesperson “falls in love with” or “has a special spark” about it. No, I want him to make his quota, preferably more.

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Lex raises $2.75M for its AI writing tool that helps writers get past blocks – Thursday August 24, 2023

Lex, an AI-powered writing tool, today said it has raised a $2.75 million seed round led by True Ventures. The company has been spun out of Every, which Lex’s CEO Nathan Baschez helped start.

Baschez described Lex as a “modern writing platform,” emphasizing that ‘modern’ in this case means inclusive of AI. In the CEO’s eyes, the use of AI in writing tools is the continuation of the centuries-long arc of improvements to the practice of writing.

According to Baschez, most writers today do not use AI in their workflow. That claim tracks with what I have heard from my friends in the larger writing community. Lex, then, has to not only build a solid writing service in a market that has a number of incumbent and low-cost tools, but also get writers interested in using technology that some folks expect to take away their jobs.

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Publisher boosts investment in Yorkshire with office expansion – Thursday August 24, 2023

Publishing group Hachette UK is expanding its national office in Sheffield.

The 23-strong team has moved to a workspace previously used by Twinkl, an education business founded in Sheffield.

Hachette UK now has 120 staff based across the cities of Manchester, Bristol, Edinburgh, Newcastle and Sheffield.

The Sheffield team includes staff from eight different publishing divisions and a similar number of job functions, with particular strengths in editorial, marketing, sales, rights and IT.

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Julie McDonald commentary: Learn to write fiction and nonfiction at writers’ conference – Wednesday August 23, 2023

Do you want to write your memoirs? Are fictional characters running around in your head, begging for you to tell their story? Do you have a love story pining for release? Did you experience a chapter in life that would make a good piece for Chicken Soup for the Soul? Do you want to write for local publications? 

Anyone interested in connecting with local writers and learning from published authors throughout the Pacific Northwest should consider registering for the all-volunteer-run Southwest Washington Writers Conference at Centralia College the weekend after Labor Day. All proceeds from the nonprofit conference benefit scholarships offered through the Centralia College Foundation. Each day, writers will receive a scrumptious lunch from Dawn’s Delectables.

Writers can select from among 24 workshops on Saturday, Sept. 9, and those who want more intensive training can register for the Friday master class on editing manuscripts and earning a paycheck writing for newspapers and magazines. To make that easier, we’ve invited two local editors, Eric Schwartz of The Chronicle and Krysta Carper of Lewis Talk and Thurston Talk, to meet with writers and discuss how freelancers can submit work for publication.

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What are the manuscript submission details for Australian publishers? – Wednesday August 23, 2023

So you’ve written what you hope is a masterpiece, but what now? Navigating the Australian publishing scene can be tricky, as many organisations have specific dates and timelines in which they will accept your manuscript for perusal. Note, all publishing houses – from the small, independent ones to the large multinationals – are inundated with unsolicited material on a year-round basis, so it’s best to check with the individual companies their read times and designated opening dates for manuscript submissions.

Many can take from three to six months before your manuscript is considered and most, if not all, cannot provide editorial feedback if your work is declined. Before you submit, it’s also prudent and strategic to check the specific guidelines, including the word count, set out by each publishing house. (Some for instance, accept hard copies, while others prefer electronic attachments; some are also particular when it comes to the type and size of font used in your manuscript).

While the following list does not cover every publishing house in Australia, it includes some of the main players in the industry.

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Where are today's modernists? – Wednesday August 23, 2023

A hundred years ago modernism was reinventing the rules of poetry with linguistic innovation and experimentation, pushing readers into a new relationship with the world via the word. Poets found fresh ways of expressing through style and form and publishers provided the engine room to connect their work with readers. So, what happened to this populism of the difficult? Today this tradition of experimentation has moved into underground channels where some of our most dynamic poets are creating incredible work, outside the earshot of major publishers.

Last year saw the centenary of The Waste Land. There were Eliot-themed events and even a festival called fragments, which took place across twenty-two City of London churches. The 1923 centenary should also be celebrated as a century ago this year was an incredible year for poetry. Wallace Stevens published Harmonium, his first collection of poetry completed at the age of 44. Stevens’ work brought a striking philosophical angle to modern poetry, demonstrating that everything that poetry could do existed in the imagination; not the world as it is, but as the mind – and language – perceives it. 

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Story Machine launches creative writing guides for writers ‘struggling to access opportunities’ – Wednesday August 16, 2023

Story Machine has launched You Are a Writer, a series of creative writing guides written specifically with and for writers who struggle to access existing opportunities.

You Are a Writer, which comprises five guides to be published in 2024, aims to “champion everyday creativity and expand access to high-quality writing education”. Arts Council England has invested more than £40,000 from the National Lottery Project Grants to support the project, which was instigated by poet, performer and playwright James McDermott.

He said: “To train as a writer, I had to invest in studying for a BA, MA, and travel to and from London to train on various writing courses with high-profile companies.

[Read the full article]

New Literary Agent Listing: Molly O'Neill – Wednesday August 16, 2023

If I can visualize exactly how to form a web of connections around a book and its creator while I’m reading an early draft, then it’s a fantastic signal that I also know how to help that author or artist build their way into a meaningful, and potentially lucrative, career.

[See the full listing]

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