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About the Host
Dan Holloway is a novelist, poet, and spoken word artist. He is the MC of the performance arts show The New Libertines, He competed at the National Poetry Slam final at the Royal Albert Hall. His latest collection, The Transparency of Sutures, is available on Kindle.
Read the Transcripts to Self-Publishing News: Selfies Awards
Dan Holloway: Hello and welcome to another week's Self-Publishing News from here in a freezing cold Oxford, where I have just returned from a bitingly chilly run on a cold November evening. Apologies if my words don't come out properly, my mouth isn't moving prostrate, and I am trying desperately to warm myself up in this beautiful fuzzy pop-filter that Howard has asked I use.
So, let's see if I can get my words straight, not pop too much, and still convey some of what's been going on in the news.
Selfies Awards Launches New Nonfiction Category
So, let's start with the thing that'll be of most interest to anyone who is publishing a book in the UK right around now, and that is the 2024 Selfies Awards, which have just opened, and which remain open for entries until January the 7th.
For those of you who don't know, the Selfies Awards are the premier self-publishing literary awards. They are sponsored by IngramSpark and run by new ALLi partners, Book Brunch, who are a news aggregation site, snack-sized news item site for the literary world. Read what they say, subscribe to what they have to say alongside, as I put it in my column, and not instead of your weekly news here from ALLi, which has very much an indie focus.
What makes the selfies such a great award that I really welcomed when they came out, and have been welcoming ever since, is that they focus on quality. It's usual in the indie world for awards to focus on sales or commerciality, or to be voted for, or to have some other kind of popularity type element, which makes them feel sometimes slightly different from more traditional awards. The Selfies Awards are unapologetically about looking for the best books in each of three categories.
Those categories are general adult fiction, children's fiction, and this year, the third category, which for the last couple of years has been memoir and autobiography, is now opened out to include general non-fiction.
So, that's something that is very much of interest to me as I have a general non-fiction book coming out within the next couple of weeks.
So, the Selfies Awards have traditionally been great for ALLi authors. So, last year Sarah Ziegle's Marching to a Different Beat: A Family's Journey with Autism, won the memoir award. And in the very first year, Jane Davis's fabulous Smash All the Windows was the inaugural winner, in those days there was just one category, and another ALLi success, one that I'm particularly fond of, as I was the editor of that, I have to say, marvellous book.
So, Selfies Awards, the actual awards ceremony will take place on March the 12th at Author HQ in London Book Fair. I look forward to seeing many of you there. It's an event that always draws a great crowd, and the whole shortlist will no doubt be absolutely fabulous. I look forward to reporting on them and hopefully on some ALLi winners. Hopefully, who knows, one of them, it would be great to report on my own shortlisting.
Although is that conflict of interest? Who knows? Anyway, I look forward to seeing you at the selfies.
OpenAI Shambles as CEO is Fired then Re-Hired
So, having started with something like that, I suppose we ought to talk about what happened last week with the absolute chaotic omnishambles of OpenAI's meltdown.
So, when the podcast was recorded last week, I talked about how Sam Altman, CEO of, or then former CEO of OpenAI, the company behind DALL-E and ChatGPT, had been unceremoniously booted out by the board.
There was much speculation as to why this happened. It wasn't clear.
What was starting to emerge was that Microsoft had headhunted Sam, and later on, when senior employees at OpenAI started voicing their displeasure, Microsoft made a rather cheeky and bold blanket move to offer employment contracts on favourable terms to everyone senior at OpenAI.
By the time the podcast actually was broadcast the whole thing had turned around, and Sam Altman found himself back as CEO of OpenAI, and it was the board who found themselves out on their ear.
It's hard to know quite what to say about it. I think my feelings are still predominantly what I expressed in the last column I wrote about it, which is if AI is seen by many as one of the greatest threats to humanity, then the thought that the people who are running it can't even figure out who they want to run their own company is somewhat worrying.
It does feel a little bit like, a lot of politics often feels that this is still children playing in the playground, not realizing there are actual consequences, and this isn't just a game. It's not some student sitting around playing things.
Anyway, so that's been the main AI news of the last week or so. Fingers crossed; it will all just float off into the background. I'll have nothing to say about it next week.
AI Copyright Lawsuit Rebuffed
There is more AI news, and that AI news comes in the form of a rebuff to the lawsuit that Sarah Silverman and others were bringing against Meta.
So, this is one of the suites of copyright cases that is being taken against AI companies for using copyrighted material in training their generative AI platforms. This is the second case that has been rebuffed by the courts. The first was a case against Midjourney relating to art, and if you remember the courts turned that away, or said that the case couldn't proceed without being reframed, because it failed to take account of the way that large language, or not large language models because these are large art models, so generative AI machine learning platforms, actually used the data that they ingested.
So, it wasn't the case, the judge said, that it was simply that an artwork went in, and a similar artwork came out, because Midjourney had done a really good job of arguing that they didn't use art like that, rather they sliced and diced it, they looked at it pixel by pixel, section by section, in order to create the output. So, it wasn't that they were taking a work and copying it, because that was a misunderstanding of the technology.
It's a similar technical argument that has been used to turn this case away and to send it back again for reframing, or not so much send it back for reframing as to tell the plaintiffs that they can't proceed unless they do a good job of making a better case, is how it was put.
The judge's words are very telling here. He said, “there is no way to understand the large language machine models themselves as a recasting or adaptation of any of the plaintiff's books.”
And this is key. This is a point that Mark Williams makes. Passive Guy, the copyright lawyer who Literary Matters has also made this point on many occasions.
It's something I think a lot of creatives still haven't internalized, that we might think there is something wrong here. A lot of us do think there is clearly something wrong that is going on here with the way that these larger tech companies are using copyrighted work without the consent of the copyright holders, but that is very different from being able to prove in a court of law that copyright law has been breached, and that is what no one has been able to do so far.
That in part is because copyright law wasn't designed for cases like this. So, if you want to show a breach, that your rights as a copyright holder have been breached, you need to show that there is sufficient similarity between the end product and the start product, and that is what people haven't been able to show.
That is to say, , If you are author of book XYZ, then the outputs of these models are not sufficiently similar to book XYZ for you to say that the rights I hold as author of book XYZ have been breached, rather the way that your book XYZ and your other books, other words that you might have produced have been again, like with the artwork, sliced and diced to create a picture of your style or an understanding of the world in which you situate things; it is sufficiently removed from any one of your original works to mean that whatever comes out isn't clearly derivative of it.
It's going to be really interesting to see how future cases go, or to see if any of these cases do get reframed and brought back to court. But what is clear is that the way this is going to be solved once and for all is going to have to be for copyright laws to be looked at again, because laws as they stand at the moment aren't going to do the job.
This is something I've said before that there is going to come this moment where the law changes. From now on everything is different, we recognize that something bad has happened in the past, and so there is going to be what I've called the day of reckoning, where there will be a mass pay-out to say, look, sorry, we didn't really behave in the best way in the past, this will give you a very narrow window to claim that you need to be compensated for what we did then, and this is what's going to happen going forward.
So, you really do need to keep your eyes open for when that happens and be ready for it to happen, because it will be a narrow window. The payoff will be a one off.
I'm not sure that copyright law in the future will say what a lot of us want it to. So, that might be your one and done shot.
Audiobooks Continue to Grow
That's some gloomy news. Anyway, after the bright news of the Selfies, gloomy news there, let's end with some news that nicely blends the two. Hypothesis, antithesis, synthesis, as it were, if we want to take a Hegelian reflection on how the news podcast is formulated.
That story that brings everything together is around the growth of audiobooks. So, a great piece in Publishing Perspectives this week by Michelle Cobb of the Audio Publishers Association, in which they take a really deep dive into the growth of audiobooks in the last few years, the figures go from 2017 to 2022.
What they show is that, as we know, audiobook sales have been rising. So, they've been rising from initially 1.03 billion in that period to 1.85 billion by the end of it. So, they've been sustaining this double-digit increase throughout.
What's really interesting is that the audience, or the market share within the publishing industry, has been increasing dramatically. So, at the start of the period, the market share was 6%. By the end of the period, it was up to 11%. So, audiobooks are now a big part of the market.
Obviously, that means that the opportunity for us continues to grow. It's easier than ever for us to make our audiobooks available through places like Findaway.
What's going to be really interesting is how, and this is where AI comes in, and the upsides and the downsides of that, is how moves such as KDP's new tool that will enable writers to turn eBooks into audiobooks, with high quality digitally generated narration, how that affects this.
Is it the case that there is a growing but finite market for audiobooks, and that as the number of audiobooks increases because it's getting cheaper and easier to make audiobooks, you'll all be familiar, I'm sure, with the figures that keep getting bandied about that more than 90 percent of eBooks don't have an audio equivalent.
It's that market that things like KDP, and all these AI driven narration tools like DeepZen, SpeechKey, what they're aimed at, they're aimed at tapping that market of all these eBooks that don't have equivalent audio.
So, it's going to be really interesting as the number of audiobooks grows, is that market share going to grow dramatically, or is it the case that because there are only a certain number of people listening to audio. We know that Gen Z loves audio content, they get most of their information from audio. Lots of them also listen to fiction audiobooks, but are the number of people listening to audio content actually going to grow? They already listen to quite a lot.
Is it just that there are only so many hours of audio you can listen to, and that the spread of what gets listened to will get more diluted, or is it that as more books become available, the readers of those books who previously hadn't had anything to interest them in the audio sphere, will suddenly discover that audio is a really convenient way for them to listen to what they love.
That's going to be a story that really is interesting to follow over the next five years as all these technologies take off, as audiobooks become much more prolific, to see is it that the whole market is going to grow or is it that this steady growth is going to continue because there is, as a lot of people perceive, there is this cap on the number of audiobooks that people can consume because audio happens at a certain speed.
So, that is definitely one to follow. I will be reporting on developments as they happen, as I always do.
I look forward to speaking to you all again next week when hopefully it will be a little bit warmer, and I will get my words out more easily. So, thank you all for listening as always. Have a safe rest of November and speak to you in December.