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What The Words Of The Year Tell Us About The Year In Words: Self-Publishing News Podcast With Dan Holloway

What the Words of the Year Tell Us About the Year in Words: Self-Publishing News Podcast with Dan Holloway

What the words of the year tell us about the year in words. Welcome to Self-Publishing News with ALLi News editor Dan Holloway, bringing you the latest in indie publishing news and commentary.

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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: Words of the Year

Dan Holloway: Hello and welcome to Oxford, where we are in our second week of interviews to see what poor creatures are going to be unfortunate enough to join us as undergraduates next year.

Welcome to the penultimate self-publishing news broadcast before the festive season fully kicks in. We're not quite at the end-of-year retrospectives and reflections just yet, but it feels like we are already looking back on some of the memorable, and this week, some of the fun events of the last year.

Diagram Prize Shortlist Announced

In particular, two of the most eagerly anticipated award/retrospectives of each year. First up is the Diagram Prize, which, those of you who aren't familiar should know is the prize for the oddest titled book of the year. It is an award those of you who know my books will know is dear to my heart.

The art of titling books is one of the finest arts in the literary business and previous winners of this award have been amongst some of the finest works of imaginative writing you could possibly conjure up, as have indeed famous titles that haven't won the award, such as the infamous, How to Avoid Large Ships.

This year we've just seen the announcement of the shortlist. It's a fabulously monikered shortlist. My favourite title is Matthew F. Jordan's, Danger Sound Klaxon! The Horn That Changed History, which is exactly what it sounds like. It is a book about the history of the klaxon. That's one of the things that's so delightful about the books that are shortlisted for this award is their titles are all in the words of trying not to demonetize us, and we are not sponsored by the wood finisher, Ronseal, exactly what they say on the tin.

Another example that seems equally likely to demonetize us. Are we monetized? Who knows?

Anyway, if we are, we're probably not, after saying another shortlisted title. The wonderfully named Dry Humping: A Guide to Dating, Relating, and Hooking Up Without the Booze.

The publisher of that is titled Quirk Books, so they clearly are aiming at a particular market who goes in for that kind of thing.

Other titles on the list, Backvalley Ferrets: A Rewilding of the Colorado Plateau, The Queerness of Water: Troubled Ecologies in the Eighteenth Century.

Finally, and very festively, The 12 Days of Christmas: The Outlaw Carol that Wouldn't Die.

So, there we go, six wonderful titles, one of which will walk away with the award as the oddest titled book of the year.

Word of the Year Announced by Dictionaries

{Inaudible} here in Oxford, it's also been time to come up with things of the year, and one of the things that we come up with every year is the Oxford Dictionary's word of the year, and this year, the word of the year according to Oxford is ‘rizz'.

This was a new one to me. It's a word that has gone from Twitch to the mainstream, clearly not mainstream enough for me to have come across it, apologies for feeling increasingly out of touch.

What's interesting about the word is that it is one of the few abbreviations to be an abbreviated form of the middle of a word rather than the beginning or an end, and the word in question is charisma. So, ‘rizz' is charisma, it's chutzpah, it's the thing that people have who make a room twinkle. It can also be used as many parts of speech, so it's not just a thing, it can be a verb, apparently. You can rizz up the room, which, again, sounds like something that would demonetize us. It just means you make the room light up when you walk in.

This is one of the few times when it feels like Cambridge have outdone us here in Oxford, so Cambridge's word of the year, slightly less fun, but it feels really topical is ‘hallucinate'. Hallucinate taken in the sense that it has acquired in recent months, meaning the thing that artificial intelligence does when it tells you that things have happened that you know full-well haven't.

So, I know that Howard, our podcast editor, is one of many of my writer friends who has asked ChatGPT to write a biography of them and has been surprised to find that they are authors of works that they never realised they had any part in. This sort of hallucination sadly doesn't ever seem to make it into reality when it comes to receiving royalties on these books that AI is so convinced that we've written. Sadly, Amazon, bookstores, everyone else is less convinced.

Obviously, there is a dark side to this. People have lost their jobs over imaginary news reports that AI has made up about them, over even criminal records that they have never had, that relate to court judgments that were never made against them, but the AIs have suddenly just decided were real.

So yes, hallucinate, it's a very topical word. It brings us to AI.

European Union Passes AI Act

I'm not going to dwell too much on AI. Obviously, it has been quite a momentous week. The European Union finally passed its AI Act. It still needs to go through a couple of stages before it becomes law in European states, and it has been the subject of much wrangling.

I will almost certainly look back in some considerable detail at it as we go through our end of year reflections.

Long story short, there's been lots of lobbying by the tech industry to remove barriers to innovation, as they put it, or as the publishing industry and other creative industries would put it, protect the rights of copyright holders.

So, it was anticipated widely that all regulation other than self-regulation would be scrapped as the AI Bill became the AI Act. It hasn't gone that far. There is still some regulation. There is still legislation around what are called systemic risk platforms. These are super huge generative AI platforms.

The thing that has disappointed a lot of activists is that the definition of super huge or very large is really very large, so a lot of platforms are not covered by it. Only the very, very big players. So, some of the things run by Emeta or OpenAI or Google would be covered. A lot of them aren't.

I still think that what is going to happen is that at some point there is going to be a line in the sand. The tech industry will fork up for compensation for rights holders. There will be a window of time in which you can claim it and after that things will move forward with regulation in place that is increasingly toothless in practice. Maybe I'm just a pessimist, I still think that's what's going to happen.

It will be really interesting to see what the regulation in the EU's AI Act looks like in practice. Anyway, that's the brief look at AI this week.

Mensch Publishing Moves to Print-on-Demand

The final story is one that's really interesting actually to us as indies because it involves print-on-demand, and it's another of the hot topics of this year and the last several years, sustainability.

So, the publishing industry obviously has a massive sustainability issue and the big thing that contributes more than anything else to its sustainability issue, which in itself is quite an achievement given that we cut down forests and we ship things halfway across the world. So, for something other than that to be our biggest impact is quite something, but the biggest impact of the publishing industry is returns.

So, the books that get mass produced and then don't get sold, get sent back, get pulped; that whole process, the travel involved in it, the energy involved in it, the water involved in it. It's hugely carbon intensive, it's hugely resource intensive in general. It's also something that, as indies, we by and large circumvent because we use print-on-demand technology, which means there is no waste because you only print the books that you sell.

But more than that, being able to print-on-demand means that you can print books where your consumers are. If you sell a book to someone in Germany, by and large that will be printed in Germany and then sent a very short way to reach them. If you sell a book to someone in Australia, it will be printed in Australia and then will reach them, again, without having to be shipped halfway across the world.

So, there are lots of ways in which print-on-demand is a really good technology for reducing the impact that publishing makes on the environment, and the one announcement this week is that one of the mainstream publishers, Mensch Publishing they're called, has announced that they are only now going to be publishing on an on-demand basis. Like us, they are going to be using the print-on-demand facilities provided by Ingram.

So, a really interesting development. Somewhere else where, again, indies are taking the lead, setting the agenda. It will be interesting to see if this becomes adopted by larger publishers. If it becomes the standard, how easy will it be for us to continue using that model, what will be the knock-on impact in terms of fulfilment time, in terms of the terms that are provided to us? Will it be that with our small numbers that we are seen as somehow less desirable customers, or will it be that actually this is a way in which we are competing pricewise on a more level playing field than we are doing at the moment with publishers?

It will be really interesting to see how that goes, what will be the impact on the overall prices that books fetch in bookstores, the discounts that bookstores are able to command, therefore the profit margins that we are able to achieve. Will it make it all pretty much impossible for us to make a profit from selling print copies, or will it actually mean that prices overall for the print-on-demand process start to come down? Bookstores become less averse to selling our books because print-on-demand is the standard model they use. The terms are standard across the board, and so we finally have some equality in the process.

It's going to be really interesting to see how that one pans out. It has the potential, as so many things do, to go either way, but it is great, again, to see indies leading the agenda.

Thank you for joining me this week. Next week I am sure I will be looking back at the year as a whole, reflecting on the big stories that have made it, and some of the smaller stories that might not have got the attention they deserved.

I look forward to speaking to you then. In the meanwhile, a very happy, festive season.


Author: Howard Lovy

Howard Lovy is an author, book editor, and journalist. He is also the Content and Communications Manager for the Alliance of Independent Authors, where he hosts and produces podcasts and keeps the blog updated. You can find more of his work at https://howardlovy.com/


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