In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway looks at a new sponsor for one of the biggest prizes open to indies, and the scale of Amazon's fake review problem.
In this month’s self-publishing news podcast, Howard and I look in depth at what the partnership between Spotify and Storytel means for the future of reading and writing, and examine new platforms that allow authors to engage with readers more closely. And this comes as ALLi launches a book on podcasting for indie authors which you can read about and order here.
Indie-inclusive Prize Gains New Sponsor and Doubles Prize Fund
There are, as many of us frequently lament, not so many major prizes open to indie authors. One of the big ones in the UK is the Young Writer of the Year, awarded to the best book by an author under 35. Past winners include such luminaries as Zadie Smith. Since it was relaunched in 2015 following a hiatus, with eligibility criteria that allowed for indies to take part, it has seen a similarly stellar cast of winners including Sally Rooney, Max Porter, and Jay Bernard.
What we have lacked so far is an indie winner. Or even shortlistee. There is, my sources inside the organizing body tell me, simply a lack of indie entrants. It would be wonderful to change that. While there might be few indies under 35 publishing traditional novels and what we might think of as “prizeworthy” books, there are lots of young writers out there self-publishing really great work outside those traditional parameters. And one only has to look at the roll of honour for this prize to see the potential.
And this is a perfect time for people who fit the bill to get entering. The Young Writer of the Year has a new sponsor, the Charlotte Aitken Trust. The fund was set up to promote the work of young writers. And it brings a first prize doubled to £10,000. Shortlisted writers get £1000 each.
Amazon: Fake Reviews and Destroying Stock
Amazon reviews is one of those subjects we are never far from in our lives as indie authors. Indeed, there was an #indieauthorchat on the subject recently. As authors we want reviews. They feel like magical keys that can open so many doors – not just to new readers but to services like BookBub. So we tend to see Amazon’s sporadic review purges as a scourge on our chances.
On the other hand, we are aware of the many ways in which people game Amazon. This can include stuffing, where people create thousands of pages of content then scam their contents to trick people into clicking to the end of a book, effectively stealing from the kindle Unlimited pot. Or scraping content and selling it off.
For all we know in theory that fake reviews are a problem alongside these other issues, we nonetheless feel aggrieved when our genuine reviews get caught in a purge. We curse the lack of granularity in Amazon’s approach. Surely they should have more nuance? Well, information released last week might make us a little more sympathetic. It shows the level of the problem Amazon is trying to deal with. In 2020, Amazon removed 200 million fake reviews before they went live on the site. Yes, you read that right. This represents, from what it's possible to work out, around 1/3 of all reviews on the site.
And Amazon has also been the subject of an investigation into its stock handling procedures. According to UK news service ITN, its warehouses have seen millions of items condemned for destruction. These include high ticket technology, but they also include books. Book pulping is, of course, part of the publishing business. But it is one the industry has found harder to defend as society becomes more environmentally aware. And as the rest of the industry seems to at least be becoming aware that it needs to address the issue, it will do Amazon’s already shaky reputation no favours that it seems to show no such awareness.
New from Spotify
Since Spotify partnered with Storytel, any new developments they undertake have become our business. And they have some very interesting developments in the pipeline this week.
The most interesting is the acquisition of Podz, the podcast discovery app. Discovery is central to any platform on which we want our high quality content to stand out. I’m less convinced about how promising the other development is. Spotify’s Clubhouse-alike is coming. Spotify Green Room will allow users to host or take part in audio meetings. This is at the same time as Facebook trials something similar. A lot of platforms are putting their eggs in the themed social chat space. But while I am excited about the prospects for genuine engagement between creators and fans, I am sceptical about the whole tranche of rather unfocused offerings we’re seeing.A new sponsor for one of the biggest prizes open to indie authors and other 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. I highly recommend this great list of online writers' conferences from Nate Hoffelder, some of which are indie-inclusive.
Comic Con, 22-25 Jul