Today, we will talk about the new EU new copyright directive and what it means for indie authors. Also, we ask, “Where have all the young indie authors gone?”
These are among the topics discussed on Self-Publishing News with Alli News Editor Dan Holloway and book editor Howard Lovy. Together, we will bring you the latest in indie publishing news.
Listen to Self-Publishing News: EU Copyright
Subscribe to our Ask ALLi podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, Player.FM, Overcast, Pocket Casts, or Spotify.On the #AskALLi Self-Publishing News #podcast, @agnieszkasshoes and @howard_lovy discuss the new EU copyright directive. Also, where have all the young indie authors gone? Click To Tweet
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About the Hosts
Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines Earlier this year he competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.
Howard Lovy has been a journalist for more than 30 years, and has spent the last eight years amplifying the voices of independent publishers and authors. He works with authors as a book editor to prepare their work to be published. Howard is also a freelance writer specializing in Jewish issues whose work appears regularly in Publishers Weekly, the Jewish Daily Forward, and Longreads. Find Howard at howardlovy.com, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Read the Transcripts: EU Copyright
Howard Lovy: Hello and welcome to the Self-Publishing News podcast.
I’m Howard Lovy, coming to you from Northern Michigan, where the first time in more than a year, I hugged a friend yesterday, and I’m not a big hugger, but we saw some friends for the first time since lockdown, and of course with me from Oxford University, I’ll give a big virtual hug to ALLi news editor, Dan Holloway.
Dan Holloway: Hi, Howard. I am a big hugger, but I still haven’t hugged anyone for 18 months.
Howard Lovy: Right. That’s probably best with the new Delta variant out there.
Dan Holloway: Yes. Let’s say as a performance poet, it sort of goes with the territory, but performance poetry hasn’t really happened for 18 months or so now it’s really strange.
Howard Lovy: Wait, your performance poetry also involves hugging the audience?
Dan Holloway: I think that most performance poets are just total lovies, we’ll hug anyone.
Howard Lovy: Oh, right. Got it. I thought the English were a little more repressed in that, you know, but, anyway, happy to have gotten together with friends yesterday, but I don’t know, it depends which English stereotype I want to believe, the stuffy old English or the Monty Python English.
Anyway, before we get into the news today, is there anything new that you want to talk about in your life or career?
Dan Holloway: Running a lot, lifting a lot, trying to write about running, and lifting, and creating things.
Howard Lovy: Now, you had planned on some big trek for your 50th birthday coming up.
Dan Holloway: Yes, that’s next year. I did a practice. I did 50 kilometers, 31 miles, I should say, shouldn’t I, rather than 50 kilometers?
Howard Lovy: That’s right. We don’t think in kilometers here. Well, that’s amazing. Wow. I ran four miles last week and it’s taken me a week to recover, so that’s amazing.
Dan Holloway: So, what are you up to?
Howard Lovy: Well, not much new with me. Maybe I just want to draw readers or listeners attention to my other podcast, which airs every other Sunday called Inspirational Indie Authors. I interview indie authors, not just about their books, but about their lives in general; where they came from, their backgrounds, what jobs they held before they became a writer, and I’m always inspired by their stories.
How does the new EU copyright directive affect indie authors?
Howard Lovy: So, let’s talk about the news now.
First up, the European Union’s new copyright directive, which sounds ominous to me, but it’s been a long time coming. And as I understand it, it has an impact on indie authors who run their own websites or blogs.
Dan Holloway: It sounds really dull, doesn’t it? It’s one of those things I’ve been writing about for, I think, probably four or five years on the column now. So, June the seventh was the deadline for European Union countries to embed the copyright directive into their national law, although I think only two or three countries have actually done so.
So that in itself has led to a lot of authors from across Europe getting rather upset that people are taking such a long time to put this into legislation, because the feeling is that it’s leaving people unprotected.
Howard Lovy: Let’s backtrack a little bit, and explain to us from the beginning, what this is and what the new news is.
Dan Holloway: Yeah. So, I think we were talking about this earlier. Probably the easiest way to think of it is that it’s Europe’s equivalent of what you have in the states with the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, if I’ve got that the right way around, which is the thing that offers protection for copyright owners, the thing that means that if someone puts your work up somewhere, you can get it taken down. So, this has two impacts for indie authors. It’s obviously a good thing, because it means that if someone’s got your work up who shouldn’t have it up, then you can send them a takedown notice and they’re required to take it down.
There was a lot of worry about the impact it was going to have on people who host material. So, that would be people like you, like us at ALLi who have podcasts, who get other people to write for us. There was worry about the level of responsibility that was going to be placed on people who have platforms to police the work that gets uploaded to your platform.
It seems that the official guidance about what it should mean in national legislation has now been released, and it seems as though the focus is much more on big platforms and not on people who run much smaller platforms. So, everyone is required to make the best effort possible and the best proportional efforts possible to do due diligence on the material that’s hosted on their podcast, or on their website. They’ve deliberately not defined what the best efforts mean, but it’s very clear that they essentially mean, if you have a team of a thousand people, then you need to be making sure that what’s uploaded isn’t someone else’s copyright material.
If it’s just you who has guest bloggers on your website, then do a Google search, put some of the text into Google, like we’d probably do anyway, see what comes back.
If nothing’s revealed on a very quick search, then that’s not going to leave us liable to having our website shut down, which I think was the worry.
Howard Lovy: Well, most authors have their websites to promote their own work, and to maybe have a few guest bloggers. I can’t imagine that this would have much of an impact on us at all.
Dan Holloway: It looks like it’s not going to have an impact on us. I think we underestimate the extent to which nefarious practices go on, and I think this links to another of the stories that I know we weren’t necessarily going to talk about that came out this month, which is the extent of fake reviews on Amazon. It was revealed that more than 200 million fake reviews got pulled from the website before they were published last year, which is about a third of all reviews placed on Amazon. So, it happens, and we can all get caught by it.
Howard Lovy: Certainly not any members of ALLi, of course, but less scrupulous people.
Dan Holloway: On balance it seems like it’s actually going to be implemented in a really fair and rational way, it’s just being implemented rather slowly, and that means that when we find our work somewhere else, we still don’t necessarily have the protections that we ought to.
Howard Lovy: Oh, I see. Yeah, tell me about that. I was reading in your latest column that there are delays in implementation and some writers are upset.
Dan Holloway: Yes. So, the writers’ organizations across Europe, I think, representing more than 200,000 writers have been getting very angry that national legislatures have taken too long to put this into law. I think European Union directives take a long time to get put into law, so I don’t think it’s unusual, and I think probably COVID is to blame as it is for most things; most deadlines got shifted in the last year or so, and I think this is just a deadline that has got shifted. So, I don’t think there’s anything sinister behind it, but it is something we need. We need to make sure that countries don’t drag their feet too much.
Howard Lovy: Now, I don’t want to open up a whole political can of worms regarding England and Brexit, but does any of this apply to England anymore?
Dan Holloway: No, it doesn’t.
Howard Lovy: No.
Dan Holloway: No.
Howard Lovy: Okay, that’s a short answer.
Dan Holloway: So, we are still covered by the data protection legislation and previous copyright legislation, but this isn’t something that will be going into UK law.
Howard Lovy: Is that any concern that you’ve heard of among British authors?
Dan Holloway: I very rarely hear anything from British authors about copyright, and I think if you put in copyright in the European Union together, that pretty much guarantees that most British authors won’t have a particularly strong opinion on it.
It’s just me because I find it fascinating.
Howard Lovy: So, the bottom line on all this is that this should protect authors in the long run, and shouldn’t really affect author websites, unless you’re doing something you shouldn’t be doing in the first place.
Dan Holloway: Or unless you’re hosting people who are. So, I guess it’s doing due diligence on your guests.
I know that you would never have me on your podcast without doing absolute due diligence to make sure I’m not a ne’er do well, for example.
Howard Lovy: Well, I only know you so well, but as far as I’m concerned, you’re okay by me, and you’re not plagiarizing any of your, your thoughts, and you’re giving me unencumbered and pure Dan Holloway.
Dan Holloway: I don’t think anyone else is interested enough in European copyright law for me to be able to plagiarize off them.
Is there an age gap among indie authors?
Howard Lovy: Okay. Well, let’s move on to a different topic, and I don’t want to offend anybody, being sort of a, let’s call myself a lower middle age, writer myself; I’m 55 years old, but there seems to be an age gap among indie authors. When I interview indie authors for my podcast, they’re all ages, from their twenties all the way up to their nineties, but I’ve noticed there are a larger number of older indie authors who’ve had other careers first and, in their retirement, decided to give writing ago.
But is there an age gap among the authors? Do we need to find more younger people?
Dan Holloway: I’ll backtrack a little bit, because this has come up because of the Young Writer of the Year Award in the UK. This is one of the few major awards that’s open to indie authors. It’s been open to indie authors for four or five years now, ever since it relaunched. It’s a really big and really prestigious award in the UK that’s been won by authors like Zadie Smith, so people who’ve gone on to have really major careers. It’s got a large prize fund, and it’s in the news this week because it’s got a new sponsor and it’s doubled its prize fund. So, now the first prize is £10,000. All shortlisted authors get a thousand pounds. So, it’s a major prize, and ALLi has been working with the Society of Authors for several years, and they administer the prize to try and encourage indie authors to enter.
No indie has ever been shortlisted for it, and from my conversations with people from the Society of Authors, the main reason for this is that we’re simply not getting people entering it. So, this sort of raises the question as to why young indie authors, and young here is defined as under 35, either don’t exist, or if they do exist, aren’t entering prizes like this.
So, this leads to the inevitable question of whether there is an age gap in indie authors.
Howard Lovy: I think they’re out there, at least anecdotally, but I don’t know, do you want to guess as to why they’re not applying for these prizes?
Dan Holloway: I have all sorts of theories.
I mean, we probably in ALLi, it’s fair to say that there is a skew away from the under 35. I mean, there are some very high-profile authors who would fit into that category. I think back to when we very first launched, and I remember Ben Galley was there sitting in the front row when we launched at London Book Fair, and he was 21 at the time.
I’m fairly sure we have several other, I’m not going to guess, I’m not going to name names because I don’t want to get it wrong.
Howard Lovy: I’m wondering, do younger authors still consider the traditional publishing route the legitimate route, and indie publishing as something akin to the old vanity press, or I thought we had already moved past that?
Dan Holloway: I think there are several things. I think traditional publishing has, in a way, become more friendly to experimental and unusual work. So, there are lots of younger authors being picked up who might not have been picked up before. So, a close friend of mine in Oxford, Daisy Johnson recently became the youngest ever shortlisted author for the Booker prize. She was picked up in her early twenties, and several other people that I know in Oxford that that’s happened to.
I want to be controversial, but not too controversial, so I’m going to stick my neck out and say that I think there are a lot of ridiculously talented young indie authors out there, but the self-publishing community doesn’t necessarily make itself as inclusive as it could do. In particular, when we think of the kind of book that people are publishing, there are a lot of indie authors publishing poetry, or a particular kind of poetry. So, more performance-related poetry, more Instagram type poetry, and there are a lot of in indie authors in the graphic novel area. And I’m not sure that the self-publishing community, in general, thinks of itself in terms of those genres. I mean, certainly Robin Cutler at IngramSpark has talked about poetry being the biggest selling genre for IngramSpark, of self-published writing. But we don’t really see masses of self-published Insta poets, as it were, coming through ALLi, or through the other-
Howard Lovy: If we’re going to be self-critical, then maybe we need a young ambassador at ALLi, not me or you, obviously, but somebody under 35.
Dan Holloway: I think we just need to be clear that there’s so much more to the indie world than just books that you might think of as traditionally published books, but self-published. So, it’s probably a problem with most of the traditionally published world as well, that we just tend to have a very narrow definition of what a book is, and books are evolving so much and there’s so much exciting stuff out there, but we don’t really hear much about it. And awards like this, they really are open to people who are publishing quite out-there stuff.
So, several of the last winners have been really quite experimental, and it would be really, really good to see us, as an indie community, embracing people who are producing work that we don’t necessarily understand, that we might not think of as what we had thought of as books. Things that we might not see the value in, or we might not be able to wrap our heads around, but we can see that there are readers out there who really do value this stuff.
So, that’s maybe a call for the indie community to think about how to make ourselves more inclusive.
Howard Lovy: Right, and the focus sometimes is too much on making indie books seem more like traditionally published books, when that’s not necessarily what we should be doing in terms of the experimental cutting edge.
Dan Holloway: It is, and I think that the other problem we have is, obviously, we talk a lot about the importance of professionalism, the importance of paying to get the best services possible in terms of covers, in terms of editors, and all of these things take disposable income that isn’t necessarily there for a lot of the most exciting younger writers.
Howard Lovy: Right. So, we need to be open to the young and the experimental, and the people who are really out there, which is a good segue to what we want to talk about next briefly.
Jeff Bezos is headed to outer space
Howard Lovy: Speaking of out-there, Jeff Bezos, whether you’re a fan or not, he’s going to outer space, and I believe he’s going to be taking somebody. Did you make a bid on it yourself?
Dan Holloway: I didn’t make a bid. I thought what was really interesting is, there was an auction for the first ticket to go into outer space with Jeff, and the winning bid was less than half the price of the winning bid for Beeple’s prize breaking NFT crypto token, which I thought was an interesting comment on the state of where we are at the moment, and what might or might not be a bubble. So, it was $28 million.
I don’t think we know who it is, but someone has paid to go into space with Jeff Bezos, which struck me as actually, if you had that sort of money, you’d get to be with him, and he couldn’t get away from you for quite a long time. So, anyone who’s got ideas about what Amazon should be doing, and you feel like Amazon aren’t listening, that was your chance to get Jeff Bezos alone with you in a room where he couldn’t escape.
Howard Lovy: Exactly. Yeah, or out the airlock, you know, depending on-
Well, if you were in outer space with Jeff Bezos, what would you want to talk to him about? Putting you on the spot again.
Dan Holloway: I’ll toe the indie line and say, I would want to ask him some serious questions about Audible, and what’s happening with Audiblegate.
Howard Lovy: There you go. Right.
Well, there you have it, all the news that’s fit to print on Earth and beyond. I think that’s our show for today. Thank you very much, Dan, as always. I’ll talk to you next month.
Dan Holloway: Super. Thank you.