Divisions and support at #AuthorDay

Divisions and support at #AuthorDay

Open submissions, face-to-face feedback and guidance 

New developments in our Author Day (#AuthorDay) planning for 30th November are helping us to bring elements of practical author support, one-on-one networking, and advice into the mix alongside our issues-driven core discussions. Quickly:

  • Publishers and editors from Pan Macmillan and from HarperCollins' divisions Harper Fiction, The Borough Press and Harlequin will be open for submissions during the day.
  • PFD agents including Robert Caskie, Adam Gauntlett, Rachel Mills, Nelle Andrew, Laura Williams, and Marilia Savvides, will take submissions as well as invite authors to discuss anything from their latest manuscript, successful e-book publishing, how to get an agent, or how to sell foreign rights.
  • Ahead of the event PFD (@PFDAgents) will also run two Twitter sessions, asking authors to submit their questions via social media. These sessions will take place between 3pm and 5pm on the 12th and 13th November, using the hashtag #authorday. Three authors who pitch the best question invited to attend Author Day free of charge.
  • Booking for all of these sessions open today (Friday, 6th November), with appointments made on a first come, first served basis. Only confirmed Author Day attendees may apply for a slot and must do so via Sandra Williamson (sandra.williamson@thebookseller.com).

Our full announcement of these new availabilities is here. And we do need to urge you to move quickly because seating capabilities in our 30 Euston Square venue will be limited—not least because we plan a closing session in which the full group is invited to interact.

If you need a sense for the rationale behind the Author Day, we have this article on the event's site for you. And by way of walking up to today's #FutureChat, I'd like to remind you that the day is specifically devised to welcome authors of every path to publication and members of the industry. 

I'm delighted, in fact, that Jane Steen is leading us into our chat today with some specific thoughts as she prepares her commentary for the day. You may know Jane as one of the most faithful of our regular #FutureChat participants. Based in Chicago, she's making the journey to London for the 30th to take up one of the four opening "State of the Author" positions of the day. It's in this sequence that we'll be hearing from Orna Ross, founding director of the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi); Nicola Solomon, chief executive of the Society of Authors (SoA); author Kamila Shamsie; and Jane. These are our four keynote addresses and will resonate throughout the day as touchstones of priority—some perhaps easily aligned with each other, and some more divisive.

Jane, an independent historical novelist, is one of the most consistent voices in the professional author community today for unity. At many points, she has been the first and most steadying proponent of cohesion, but never allows this to compromise a stance on issues. She is, for example, one of the key personalities behind the Alliance's Ethical Author campaign and its Ethical Author Code—which Ross announced at last year's FutureBook Conference. 

I've asked her today to give us some thoughts as she works on her coming Author Day address, and it's these ideas that we'll use today as when she joins us for #FutureChat. We'll also answer any questions you might have about Author Day plans and our new offerings during the event. Let's look next at the text of Jane's notes to me ahead of today's chat.

This story was written as the walkup to the #FutureChat of 6th November 2015. Join us every Friday live on Twitter at:

  • 4:00 p.m. London (GMT)
  • 5:00 p.m. Rome (CEST)
  • 11:00 a.m. New York (ET)
  • 10:00 a.m. Chicago (CT)
  • 8:00 a.m. Los Angeles (PT)

In this section of today's walkup, you're hearing entirely from Jane Steen. I'll come back briefly after the next subhead, but will put her text here in standard format rather than as pull quotes for easiest readability.—PA

Jane Steen: 'To focus more on common ground than on the matters that divide us'

Back in July, I said indie authors should support the Authors Guild (US) and Society of Authors (UK) calls for fairer terms in trade publishing contracts.  At the FutureBook Author Day, I’ll be extending that call to all authors to focus more on their common ground than on the matters that divide us.

In public we really are a divided profession, at least according to the vast army of writers who comment on blog posts.

  • Trade-published authors align with (some) industry professionals in decrying the low quality of indie-published books, blind to the fact that indie publishing inevitably covers a spectrum ranging from amateur to professional.
  • Indie authors vilify all industry publishing professionals as snobbish confidence tricksters out either to prevent writers from being published at all, or to grab an unfair share of the profits once they’ve allowed a writer through the “gate.”

And this despite the fact that the defection of authors from trade to indie publishing is far from total, and many trade authors are happy with matters as they are.

Oddly enough, my experience of the spaces where indie and trade authors meet in person—writers’ organisations, networking events, Facebook groups, and conferences—is generally that writers, in real life, are more focused on their common concerns than on their differences. They come together to improve their craft, form potentially valuable connections, and talk about the changing face of publishing. For every author or wannabe I meet who makes an excuse to drift away once they find I self-publish, there are usually two or three who are interested and intrigued by my choice—and we usually end up talking about more general book-related matters anyway.

I’m not sure why there’s this disconnect between our online and real-life groups.

Perhaps I’m just five years or so ahead of the market—after all, back in 2010 when self-publishing was starting to become mainstream, it was fairly obvious to anyone who thought about it that the market would be settling down and flattening out a bit by now, as readers became more savvy about picking out the good books from the rest and more immune to the marketing methods that exploded as the Kindle took off.

To me it’s obvious that there’ll be a gradual process of convergence as more authors work on both sides of the divide according to what works best for a specific project, and as more indie authors strive to give a more realistic, less evangelistic picture of what the indie life involves. This is already happening as writer publications, blogs, and trade magazines become more accepting of the indie viewpoint, allowing in truly knowledgeable voices as opposed to the poorly informed “news” about self-publishing that often seems to find its way into the general press.

I’d like to suggest that we accelerate the process of convergence by putting aside our opinions and focusing on the issues that affect all authors. There are several:

  • We need a healthier, more ethical publishing environment. That means making it harder for companies whose sole purpose is to extract money from authors to stay in business. It means protecting readers from rankings, reviews and award systems that are open to being gamed, including some longstanding practices. It means pushing—perhaps through calls for legislation—for more transparent accounting practices among all intermediaries (agents, publishers, distributors, vendors) and making it easier for authors to understand and enforce contracts.
  • We need to emphasise the centrality of content creators (including composers, designers and illustrators) in the publishing and entertainment industries.
  • We need to push for better copyright laws.
  • We need more diversity in books, in awards, in hiring practices in the publishing industry—more diversity, period.
  • We need to be paid. If our content’s worth something, it’s worth paying for, whatever the medium.
  • We need to work against the building of silos—proprietary formats and exclusivity arrangements aren’t beneficial to authors in the long run.

Those are just some suggestions of areas where indie and trade authors can find common ground. There are others.

Many of the issues that divide us are based on our failure to grasp the whole picture, so I’d also add the general suggestion that we need to develop the ability to put our side of the question across and debate issues without falling into an adversarial stance. Just after I made my call to support the Authors Guild, that body was in the news regarding two issues—their call for an inquiry into Amazon and their case against Google Books—where they clearly failed to take into account the full spectrum of viewpoints among authors. This was a great example of why we need a forum where we can listen to each other.

I’m hoping that Author Day will become that forum.

'Without falling into an adversarial stance'

My thanks to Jane Steen for these early thoughts on her coming comments at Author Day. Probably the most resonant for me have to do with her call for discussion, debate, frank exchange of views, "without falling into an adversarial stance." We see how hard this is on a daily basis. Just look at the comments sections, right?

Another regular #FutureChat personality who will be coming from North America to London for #FutureChat is the Canadian editor Carla Douglas. (Here's her "Manifesto for all writers," part of our series of manifestos leading up to our sister conference, #FutureChat15.)

Douglas is the one who has pointed out in one of our chat sessions that while writing once was among the most isolated professions, today authors are among the most social of creative people because of the advent of online social media.

It's in those social media channels, in particular, that you can see the silo-ing, the evangelistic, the divisive tirades and angry posturing that Steen is referencing as barriers in "a divided profession."

Today in #FutureChat, let's talk about both those divisions and that common ground. These things are what Author Day is about, and—as on the day, itself—we welcome in our chat authors of all paths to publication and members of the industry who work with them and are concerned for their place in the business.

See you in #FutureChat.


Join us for #FutureChat each Friday live on Twitter at 4:00 p.m. London (GMT), 5:00 p.m. Rome (CEST), 11 a.m. New York (ET), 10:00 a.m. Chicago (CT), 9:00 a.m. Denver (MT), 8:00 a.m. Los Angeles (PT), 5:00 a.m. Honolulu (HAST).

  • Booking for our special pitching, networking, and advice sessions opens today (Friday, 6th November), with appointments made on a first come, first served basis. Only confirmed Author Day attendees may apply for a slot and must do so via Sandra Williamson (sandra.williamson@thebookseller.com).

Main image - iStockphoto: Banet12