As we are preparing, in the south of the UK anyway, for the first serious snowfall of the year, I'm reminded what a luxurious position writing plays in my life. As a runner, I look out at snow and ice and pull on my kit – however painful, adverse conditions make for great training. As a writer, however, I look out of the window, and can put on an extra layer, make coffee and simply enjoy looking out. I have a feeling that's as close to “balance” as I'll ever get.
Wattpad Enters the Publishing Arena
I make no secret of the fact I find Wattpad one of the most exciting companies out there. They find innovative ways for writers to tell stories. They make people excited about stories. And they provide remarkable opportunities for writers to find audiences. This week Wattpad announced they are taking the next logical step. With Wattpad Books they are becoming their own publisher. Deals will go not just to popular stories from the site, but to popular stories that have been run through their algorithms to discover if they have the structural DNA of a bestseller. To many, of course, this sounds like the kind of dystopia you might find in, well, a Wattpad book. Personally I find this kind of human-AI collaboration really exciting.
In many ways the business model here is similar to Amazon’s publishing imprints. It will be fascinating to see how it fares.
Amazon’s Language Problems
A troubling consequence of Amazon’s merging Createspace with KDP Print has come to light this week. It seems that many of the language options available through Createspace are not available in KDP Print. It is no longer possible, for example, to self-publish in Yiddish and Hebrew. Amazon are aware of the problem, but it is unclear whether they intend to do anything about it.
Augmented Reality Book Catalogs
I talk a lot about the possibilities augmented reality creates for writers. But this week we saw the launch of a literary use of AR that I hadn’t anticipated. Cambridge University Press (CUP) will be using AR for its new catalog. It makes sense for a non-fiction publisher in many ways. Indeed, non-fiction publishers led the way with enhanced books when they were a thing. In many ways, how CUP describe what they’ve done with this catalog (videos playing, downloadable pdfs, songs) feels more like what I understand as enhanced books rather than actual augmented reality.
Writing the Future
On the subject of augmented reality, that is just one of the things that will be on the agenda at Confluence. Byte the Book have brought together an astonishing set of thinkers and leaders to discuss the future of writing. It's not often I get genuinely excited about an event, but this is wonderful to see.
Talking of futuristic writing, parse.ly have introduced a new tool to help non-fiction writers produce smarter content. Using a feature called demand sorting, you will be able to see which topics are read a lot without being covered widely. All you have to do then is plug the gaps!
Copyright After Brexit
In the UK right now, the news features very little else but the legal implications of a so-called “no- deal Brexit”. (A no-deal Brexit is essentially what would happen if the UK leaves its relationship with Europe as laid out in the Treaties of Rome and Lisbon without replacing those treaties with any new formal relationship). If it weren’t quite so depressing, I would find the coverage of technical minutiae fascinating.
When it comes to copyright law, the Berne Treaty, which covers most international copyright law, will remain in place. But there are several areas in which things will change for the UK. The most relevant for authors is content portability. What does that mean, you ask? Well, remember all those news stories I shared last year about geoblocking? How the content you bought in one part of the EU had to be accessible in every part? Well, if the UK is no longer part of the EU, that will no longer apply.
Upcoming Conferences and Events
San Antonio Book Festival, 6 Apr [San Antonio] Self-publishing Conference, 27 Apr [Leicester, UK] Hawkesbury Upton Literature Festival, 27 Apr [Gloucestershire, UK] Sydney Writers’ Festival, Apr 29 – May 5 [Sydney]
Book Expo, 29-31 May [New York]