Traditional Publishing

Writers' News

To hell with woke publishers – Wednesday September 13, 2023

The gatekeepers of the creative industry are riddled with a nasty strain of identity politics.

ASH Literary is on the hunt for budding children’s book authors. ‘We are actively seeking voices that have historically been underrepresented’, the submissions section of the agency’s website tells us. ‘For example, we are not interested in stories about white, able-bodied [Second World War] evacuees, but would welcome that story from a disabled, LGBTQ+ or BIPOC [black, indigenous or people of colour] perspective’, it explains.

Leaving aside for a moment the big question of what on Earth the term ‘indigenous’ could possibly mean in a British context, this reads like a sophomoric parody of the modern publishing industry. But I’m afraid it is real. And when we stop laughing at the thought of a blue-haired ‘nonbinary’ stepping nervously off a train at a remote rural station in 1940 – which would be rather like Neville Chamberlain bopping along to some Chiptune – there is something quite troubling about this stuff, uncovered among other examples by Charlotte Gill in the Sunday Telegraph.

The nub of things comes a little later on the same page of the ASH agency’s site, which reads: ‘If your book is about an identity that is not yours, we will not be a good fit.’ What a grim traducement of the power and the purpose of literature – of humanity, even – that nasty little sentence is.

[Read the full article]

More writers sue OpenAI for copyright infringement over AI training – Tuesday September 12, 2023

A group of U.S. authors, including Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Chabon, has sued OpenAI in federal court in San Francisco, accusing the Microsoft-backed program of misusing their writing to train its popular artificial intelligence-powered chatbot ChatGPT.

Chabon, playwright David Henry Hwang and authors Matthew Klam, Rachel Louise Snyder and Ayelet Waldman said in their lawsuit on Friday that OpenAI copied their works without permission to teach ChatGPT to respond to human text prompts.

Chabon's representatives referred queries about the lawsuit to the writers' lawyers. Those lawyers and representatives for OpenAI did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

The lawsuit is at least the third proposed copyright-infringement class action filed by authors against Microsoft-backed OpenAI. Companies, including Microsoft (MSFT.O), Meta Platforms (META.O) and Stability AI, have also been sued by copyright owners over the use of their work in AI training.

[Read the full article]

New Literary Agent Listing: Alyssa Maltese – Tuesday September 12, 2023

In the YA space, I’m seeking fiction that helps young readers discover their own voice and sense of self-worth. I love kids and have a background in early childhood education, and feel strongly that if a child is old enough to experience something, then they are old enough to read about it. I’m particularly drawn to contemporary coming-of-age stories with a healthy dose of angst. I’m open to genre elements (particularly speculative, fantasy, romance, historical), but in general I prefer fiction grounded in our world, so I’m not the best fit for straightforward fantasy. I’m also seeking YA horror. In this space, I love high stakes and work embedded with social commentary. I would be absolutely tickled to find a YA project exploring 2000s emo culture. (It’s not a phase, mom!) If your book is set at Warped Tour or Bamboozle, I want to see it! In adult fiction, I’m casting a bit of a wider net. I’m looking for weird upmarket speculative novels. I’m also seeking commercial psychological thrillers, domestic suspense, and horror. Propulsive pacing is a must, and twists that really surprise me are a bonus! My very favorite kind of historical fiction is slice-of-life revealing untold stories of interesting women. I’d also love some romance to round out my list. One of my favorite tropes is when love is reciprocated, but one or both love interests doesn’t realize it... think enemies to lovers; best friends to lovers; sunshine and grumpy. My ideal romance is torturously slow burn with a healthy dose of angst and substantial emotional growth. Lastly in the adult fiction space, I’m seeking commercial/upmarket book club fiction. In adult nonfiction, I’m seeking prescriptive and research-driven narrative nonfiction from authors with an established expertise and audience. Topics of interest in nonfiction include psychology, mental health, taboo topics such as death and sex, science pertaining to nature and animals, and pop culture. I am not accepting submissions for poetry, short story collections, screenplays, novellas, early reader books, chapter books, religious texts, picture books, graphic novels, or illustrations of any kind. I am not the best fit for high/epic fantasy, space operas, paranormal romance, crime fiction/detective novels, cozy mysteries, legal thrillers, romantic thrillers, pulp fiction, sick lit, stories set in mental hospitals, most things related to sports, grifter-themed stories, torture porn/gratuitous gore, or fairytale retellings (though I do have a soft spot for Arthurian legend).

[See the full listing]

Self-publishers must declare if content sold on Amazon’s site is AI-generated – Monday September 11, 2023

Amazon has introduced new rules and guidance for Kindle books generated by artificial intelligence tools, including the requirement that authors inform it when content is AI-generated.

The company announced the new rules on its Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) forum on Wednesday. It said in a statement: “Beginning today, when you publish a new title or make edits to and republish an existing title through KDP, you will be asked whether your content is AI-generated.” KDP allows authors to self-publish their books and put them up for sale on Amazon’s site.

Amazon also added a new section to its content guidelines focused on AI, which now includes definitions of “AI-generated” and “AI-assisted” content and states that sellers are not required to disclose when content is AI-assisted.

[Read the full article]

Mackintosh, Ware and more confirmed for inaugural Chiltern Kills crime writing festival – Monday September 11, 2023

Authors Frederick Forsyth, Mark Billingham, Claire Mackintosh and Ruth Ware are among a raft of crime authors confirmed as part of the programme for the first ever Chiltern Kills crime writing festival in Gerrards Cross, Buckinghamshire.

Taking place on Saturday 7th October, all proceeds will be going to youth homelessness charity Centrepoint. The one-day event, described by the organisers as a “14-hour rollercoaster of crime”, will see more than 70 authors attending the event at the historic Grade II-listed Colston Hall.

The schedule will run from 9 a.m. until 11.30 p.m. and includes book signings and interviews with authors, 20 panels across two stages, live podcasts, BBC One and Two TV shows on site, and the world premiere of a specially-written play performed by crime writers.

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Phoenix Publishing House acquires Karnac Books – Thursday September 7, 2023

Phoenix Publishing House, winner of the 2023 IPG Nick Robinson Newcomer Award, has acquired Karnac Books, with Phoenix changing its name to Karnac to “encapsulate this new single entity".

Karnac Books is a publisher and bookseller of psychoanalysis, psychotherapy and related subjects such as organisations, family, child and adolescent studies titles, founded in 1950.

[Read the full article]

'A Plague on the Industry': Book Publishing's Broken Blurb System – Thursday September 7, 2023

Do authors actually like the books they endorse—or even read them? Writers, literary agents, and publishing workers take Esquire inside the story of a problematic "favor economy."

When an author I’d worked with a decade ago at Simon & Schuster emailed me asking if she could send over an advance copy of her new novel, I of course said yes. But what really got me to read her book over all of the many unread books in my apartment was this quote from mystery writer S.A. Cosby on the cover: “Polly Stewart's The Good Ones is a fantastic achievement. A classic Southern Gothic tale told through the prism of modern-day sensibilities. Not to be missed.”

Having been unable to stop thinking about Cosby’s heartbreaking thriller Razorblade Tears ever since I read it, I inherently trusted him to guide me to my next great summer read (spoiler alert: he was right).

That quote from Cosby is what’s known as a book blurb, or more commonly, just a blurb. These endorsements from other authors or relevant notables are included on book covers, press releases, bookseller letters, and other promotional materials both before and after publication. Requests for blurbs are commonly made author-to-author or otherwise put into motion through their editors or agents ahead of publication, as soon as the manuscript is ready to send out—the earlier, the better.

On their surface, book blurbs seem fairly innocuous, but in reality, they’re a small piece of the puzzle with a big impact—one that represents so much of what’s broken within the traditional publishing establishment. Blurbs expose this ecosystem for what it really is: a nepotism-filled system that everyone endures for a chance of “making it” in an impossible industry for most. To borrow a phrase from Shakespeare enthusiast Cher Horowitz, “Blurbs are a full-on Monet. From far away, they’re okay, but up close, they’re a big old mess.”


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That best-selling romance book? It might be based on fan fiction – Thursday September 7, 2023

Romance novels do big business for the publishing industry, and there’s a new source for those books going mainstream. As Elizabeth Held wrote in Vulture, publishing houses are looking to the world of fan fiction for new writers, converting their already-popular fanfic into books.

“Marketplace” host Kai Ryssdal spoke with Held, a self-proclaimed “avid reader” and writer of the book recommendation newsletter “What to Read If.” The following is an edited transcript of their conversation.

Kai Ryssdal: So for those who aren’t familiar with the world of fanfic, which includes me, by the way. What kind of stories do you find out there on, for instance, the site you talk about in this piece called Archive of Our Own?

Elizabeth Held: So fan fiction is kind of a giant, underground community that’s starting to pop up anywhere. So a lot of the stories you find on Archive of Our Own, which is also referred to as AO3, are love stories featuring characters from all sorts of different books and movies. A lot of “Harry Potter,” Marvel and “Star Wars.”

Ryssdal: So, let’s talk about a couple of things here. First of all, the business case for this, the “Marketplace” reason we have you on this podcast, is that literary agents are now finding their way to fan fiction authors. As opposed to the other way around, which is usually authors have to go screaming and hurting and crying to find a literary agent. What’s up with that?

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New Magazine Listing: Snowflake Magazine – Thursday September 7, 2023

Publishes art, poetry, essays, flash fiction, photography, interviews and articles that are either queer themed or from an artist who identifies as LGBTQ+ (or both).

[See the full listing]

This sinister censorship agenda in the publishing world should trouble us all – Wednesday September 6, 2023

Hard on the heels of the news that Ian Fleming’s publishers have “edited” its new edition of the James Bond novels to coincide with the 70th anniversary of Casino Royale (a cracker) to omit some non-current references to race, there arrives a new version of James Bond. On His Majesty’s Secret Service, by Charlie Higson, is Bond as a sensitivity reader might have created him.

As The Spectator reviewer observed, “our hero has somehow become the modern age in arms, a Centrist Dad with a sidearm.” Instead of bad Bond, we get 21st century Bond. Whaddya know? He’s rubbish.

The problem with the censorship of contemporary publishing is twofold: one is that it happens upstream, at the commissioning, writing stage of a book.

The other is that when it comes to the censorship of existing authors, it’s like additives in foodstuffs; you have to read the small print to find it’s there. So, with the edited Bond, you have to be bothered to read the publisher’s note that “This book was written at a time when terms and attitudes which might be considered offensive by modern readers were commonplace”. If you’re buying it on Amazon, what chance that you’ll know that you’re getting an expurgated version? What you actually need is a big fat sticker on the front saying: CENSORED.

[Read the full article]

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