In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at literary prizes and a new artificially intelligent sensitivity reader.
ALLi’s new guidebook, 150 Self-Publishing Questions Answered: ALLi’s Writing, Publishing, and Book Marketing Tips for Authors and Poets, written by ALLi’s Outreach Manager M.L. Ronn (Michael La Ronn), is available now. You can read an excerpt in this blog post and you can purchase the book here. As with all our guides, ALLi members can access their complimentary e-book copy in the member zone. Members: just log in and navigate to “Guidebooks”.
Indies in Prizes, and Arts During Covid
It's apt that this week's main story is about Prizes. Tomorrow, after all, we will know that Haruki Murakami has yet again not won the Nobel Prize for Literature. One of the first things I worked on with ALLi was the Opening Up to Indie Authors campaign. For me personally the biggest area of concern was prizes. But as The Bookseller launches a new prize to discover new talent in Young Adult and Middle Grade fiction, many of the same barriers still remain. Mark Williams has a very good piece on the subject. He also mentioned on Twitter that the Audible National Short Story Award is about to open again. It’s the UK’s most prestigious award for short fiction. And unlike any other short story competition I can think of, it excludes indie authors from entering.
In the light of this, I wanted to give a quick survey of progress made. Back in 2013, The Rathbones Folio Prize launched as an alternative to the Booker. It admitted (and still does) indies. And when the Young Writer of the Year relaunched in the UK, it welcomed indies. The Arthur C Clarke Award even changed its rules to allow indies to enter as a result of Becky Chambers' originally self-published debut, A Long Journey to a Small Angry Planet. It's a start. But that early momentum has somewhat abated. And no indie has won, though Kathleen Jowitt made the shortlist for the very prestigious Betty Trask Prize.
Interesting thoughts on the subject also from author Sam Byers. He wonders if the whole process of prizes might not be outdated. Instead, he suggests long term grants. It’s a timely thought. In the news just today, as I write, the UK’s arts industry is gathering en masse (distantly en masse, as it were). This comes as the UK’s Chancellor (Finance Minister) seemed to suggest freelancers and self-employed people in the arts “get another job”. We know, of course, it’s not that simple. Most of us who write have one of those already. As well. But as the arts industry in general comes to its knees, this is food for thought.
An Artificially Intelligent Sensitivity Reader?
Artificial Intelligence is everywhere in the news. I’ve been reporting stories for a couple of years now on developments that might change our lives as writers. A story this week caught my eye in part because it’s topical. But also because it is about an AI company called Writer (the cheek!). Writer has just received $5million funding (that's how you know it's not “writer” like us). The company is, as far as I can see, a combination of artificially intelligent sensitivity reader and Grammarly. Run your text through it and it will tell you if you've used words about communities that those communities find offensive.
What to Expect from Digital Frankfurt
It feels a lifetime ago that we were talking about whether London Book Fair would go ahead or not. The publishing world, like the rest of the world, is very different now. And so is Frankfurt, which in usual years one would introduce by saying, “It seems like only yesterday we met in London.”
Of course the first thing we can expect alongside Frankfurt is ALLi’s own Self-publishing Advice online event, featuring a host of fascinating and expert speakers giving essential information for indies. Watch this space and the ALLi website in the coming week for full details.
And The Bookseller has announced that its regular daily update magazine will be available free online. So you can track events form many angles. Of particular interest to me will be the theme of academic publishing and open access, but I will bring you everything that matters for indies.
Print Figures: What do They Really Mean?
I’ve talked about print sales since the start of Covid a few times. I’ve tried to avoid over reporting. That would be easy to do because I don’t think they’ve been out of the news once. But I wanted to reiterate something from a previous column to give context to the latest figures. In the UK, print sales to the end of September were up over 10%. That, though, is very much not the complete picture. First, as I have mentioned previously, the main beneficiary of those sales has been Amazon. Bookstores, which we think of when we think of print, are suffering. For indies this is real pause for thought as we figure out what the landscape looks like for us post-Covid.
And, to bring us back to where we started, most of that increase is driven by young adult sales. This is a rapidly growing market. And rapidly growing print market at that.
Meanwhile Nate at The Digital Reader has a very interesting update from Amazon. Kindle Create, they have announced, will now enable you to produce print on demand ready files which you can upload direct to KDP Print. I have to say, I’ve not had any problem getting my books to work on KDP Print from a Word file. But I really like formatting. For the many who, I’m sure, don’t, this might be helpful.Literary Prizes still aren't open for indies, and top #selfpub news stories for #indieauthors, in one quick read, by #ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway @agnieszkasshoes #digitaleconomy #publishingopenup Click To Tweet
Upcoming Conferences and Events
Help us fill this with great online events in the coming weeks and months.
Frankfurter Buchmesse, 14-18 Oct
Society of Young Publishers, 9-13 Nov
Over to You
Let us know about online events of interest to indies in the comments below.