Category Archives: Writing

The Behemoth of bookselling seems unstoppable

Jane Friedman’s latest post on the growing reach of Amazon.

Amazon’s Importance to Book Sales Keeps Increasing—for Better or Worse

Posted on  by Jane Friedman

Today’s post draws from material previously published in The Hot Sheet, a paid subscription email newsletter that I write and publish every two weeks. This week, we celebrate five years of continuous publication. Get 30% off an annual subscription through September 28 using code 5YR at checkout. Your first two issues are free.


Since Hot Sheet started publishing in 2015, Amazon has changed, grown, and dominated more than any other company in the book publishing industry. While that’s not likely a surprise to anyone, here are the key developments that authors need to know about.

Amazon has pulled back on most of its writer-focused programs

Here’s a list of all the writer-focused programs Amazon has launched in the last decade; only one is still active.

  • Kindle SinglesThis program debuted in 2011 and expanded with Singles Classics in 2016. Amazon describes the initiative as “a way to make iconic articles, stories, and essays from well-known authors writing for top magazines and periodicals available in digital form, many for the first time.” It seems mostly designed to give Kindle Unlimited subscribers a library of special content. (More on that in a minute.)
  • Kindle Serials. This program was very active in 2012 and 2013, but Amazon stopped publishing serials in collaboration with authors in 2014 and no longer features them on the site.
  • Kindle Worlds. This program launched in 2013 and provided a way for authors and fan-fiction writers to collaborate in a way that profited everyone. It was discontinued, to authors’ great disappointment, in 2018.
  • Kindle Scout. Launched in 2014, this was kind of like American Idol for unpublished books. Any writer could upload the beginning of a story, along with a cover, and try to gather as many reader votes as possible to catch the attention of Amazon staff and secure a boilerplate book contract with Amazon Publishing. It also closed in 2018.
  • Kindle Press. This program published titles primarily coming from Kindle Scout. It was discontinued in 2019.
  • Write On by Kindle. Launched in 2014, this was kind of like Amazon’s version of Wattpad, an online writing community. It closed in 2017.
  • Amazon Storywriter and Storybuilder. In 2015, Amazon launched special, free software to help people more easily write their scripts, presumably for the discovery benefit of Amazon Studios. It shut down in 2019.
  • Day OneAmazon’s literary journal was produced every week starting in October 2013 until it closed in 2017.

Read the rest here…

Is Indie publishing really vanity press activity?

Many people, even those who read a lot, still think self-publishing is a vanity press activity – you pay a business to design and produce your book. The business gives no thought to its quality. How things have changed in the last ten years. Self-publishing, or Indie publishing, has become a legitimate avenue for authors to bring a professional product to a vast reading public. Kobo Writing Life briefly traces the rise of Indie publishing.

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A VERY BRIEF HISTORY OF INDIE PUBLISHING

September 2, 2020

Dear authors,

Happy Labour Day weekend to those in North America! As we approach the end of an incredibly challenging summer, we thought we’d distract ourselves from the present and have some fun by looking at the history of indie publishing.

As modern-day independent publishers, you’re in great company. Many renowned authors––from Stephen King, to Jane Austen, to Virginia Woolf––have gone ahead of you, and by now we’ve firmly established that authors can successfully take control of the publishing process and hold their own in the industry.

So where did it all begin? In the beginning, there was spoken word, and for centuries, we passed stories through generations orally. The advent of publishing began when those stories were transcribed onto papyrus and parchment, creating the very earliest iterations of books.

In 1439, Johannes Gutenberg created the first printing press, and society changed forever, as for the first time the written word was accessible to the masses.

Fast forwarding way ahead to the 1800s (in which Jane Austen published Sense and Sensibility via a vanity press); to the 1900s (when Virginia and Leonard Woolf founded Hogarth Press and published their own work), all the way to the 1961, when Margaret Atwood self published her first title, a collection of poetry. 

We’re going to speed into the digital era in the year 2000, when everyone and anyone had a LiveJournal, and could share their writing far and wide. By the year 2000, we were starting to see the first stirrings of a publishing revolution after Stephen King struck fear into the hearts of publishers everywhere when he announced that he would be publishing his book The Plant directly to readers on the internet.

By 2010, the first eReader devices had entered the market (shout out to the earliest version of the Kobo, launched in 2010––we’ve come a long way, baby!) and online retailers had grown in popularity. Suddenly, authors had direct access to millions of readers all over the world, and began to publish in droves. Kobo Writing Life launched in 2012 and has continued to expand and evolve.

In 2020 so far, we’re weathering a global pandemic and provided an unprecedented number of free books to support readers at home; we’ve launched our subscription service Kobo Plus in Canada; we’ve attended virtual conferences and adapted our business for this new normal; we released the 200th episode of the Kobo Writing Life Podcast, and we’re about to do our first ever KWL-only audiobook promotion. 

While 2020 is shaping up to be the most unpredictable year of modern time, we’re looking ahead and focusing on continuing to support our authors and continuing to make Kobo Writing Life even better.

Yours in Writing, 
The Kobo Writing Life Team

Update on my writing

This year, 2020, has been a big writing year for me. By the time the year closes, I will have completed and posted 4 books on Amazon, smashwords and D2D. That does not mean I have written four books in a year. It means that I have completed four books, one started as far back as five years ago.

I have also come to a decision about where I am heading with my writing. The question was whether I would pursue the route of traditional publishing with all the risk and frustration that incurs. Or would I commit myself to the self-publishing route – no looking back? There are some great youtube channels that explore this option.

One of the best is Joanna Penn’s THE CREATIVE PENN. I have found her videos extremely helpful in making the choice. She has gone the self-publishing route and, on her saying, earns a six-figure income annually. Not that big earnings is what I am looking for. I am looking for a particular readership. There are others like Penn. They function as mini-publishing enterprises.

Another important consideration in making the choice is that my novels are in the genre of the ‘Catholic Novel’. Book agents, who are the gatekeepers of what gets published, are not looking for my sort of book, nor have they shown the slightest bit of interest. The message comes abundantly clear when you read what sort of books they are looking for. So, it’s now the self-publishing route. What that involves I propose looking at in following posts.

You will find Joanna Penn’s website HERE.

Musings of a ‘Catholic Agnostic’

Chilton Williamson Jr writes about two of Grahame Greene’s most powerful titles in the genre of the Catholic novel

The novelist Graham Greene belonged to a grand era in English Catholicism that began with Newman and ended around 1960. According to the author, his many books fall into two general categories: those works of fiction he described as “entertainments,” and the others he called simply “novels.” The latter reflect the degree to which Greene—a convert and later a self-described “Catholic agnostic” with a disordered private life—was haunted by the Faith he neither could nor wished to abandon, while persisting in his idiosyncratic understanding of it.

This, of course, is the intellectual and spiritual condition of many modern Catholics. No one, however, has explored that condition more consistently, poignantly, and dramatically than Greene did. His friend and admirer Evelyn Waugh, in a lengthy review essay of The Heart of the Matter, observed that only a Catholic could have written the book, and only a Catholic could understand it. Greene chose aptly when he took for his epigraph several lines from Charles Péguy: “Le pécheur est au coeur même de chrétienté… Nul n’est aussi compétent que le pécheur en matière de chrétienté. Nul, si c’est le saint.” (“The sinner is at the heart of Christianity… No one is as competent as the sinner in matters concerning Christianity. No one, unless it is the saint.”)

Read on…

The Ghost of Dickens Past

By Cicero Bruce|February 6th, 2020

Dickens and the Social Order, by Myron Magnet (266 pages, ISI Books, 2004)

Critics have well acquainted us with Dickens the sentimentalist—lover of the oppressed, defender of childhood innocence, decrier of England’s industrial sweatshops. But seldom have they given readers a glimpse of the Dickens with whom Myron Magnet deals in his study of Britain’s preeminent fictionist, the Dickens who had an “almost fanatical devotion to the Metropolitan Police,” who reproved his government’s failure to punish sufficiently the hardened violators of its laws, supported Governor Eyre’s notoriously violent quelling of the 1864 Negro uprising in Jamaica, and called the proverbial noble savage and annoying “superstition” that “ought to be civilized off the face of the earth.” In short, critics have said far too little about the philosophical traditionalist reconsidered in Dickens and the Social Order.

Yes, Dickens was a reformer, a radical one at that, but his reforming spirit, as Dr. Magnet carefully reveals, was checked by the intrinsic conservatism by no means shared by his present-day enthusiasts, who, for the sake of validating generally liberal aims and assumptions, prefer to focus on the sanguine aspects of his achievement. True, Dickens may have been qualitatively liberal, at least by the standards of nineteenth-century English liberalism. But he was neither a liberal per se nor a conservative liberal of any sort. He was, to make an important semantic distinction, a liberal conservative.

Read on…

Deep revision and adjustment to Novels

I am carrying out a deep revision and adjustment to IN THIS VALE OF TEARS and THE CASTLE OF HEAVENLY BLISS (Books Two & Three of the Winterbine series) to bring them into line with the first book of the Winterbine series, TIMES OF DISTRESS, which will be finished in April 2020. The revised and adjusted texts for IN THIS VALE OF TEARS and THE CASTLE OF HEAVENLY BLISS will be ready in May 2020 and June 2020 respectively.

The National Book Foundation Defines Diversity Down

Kevin Mims, Quillette, 7 January 2020

Last month the Huffington Post published an essay by Claire Fallon entitled “Was this Decade the Beginning of the End of the Great White Male Writer?” Fallon celebrated the notion that white men are losing their prominence in contemporary American literature and that the best books being published in America today are being written by a wider variety of authors than ever before:

“What was once insular is now unifying,” National Book Foundation director Lisa Lucas told the crowd at the 2019 National Book Awards Gala, where the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry honors all went to writers of color. “What was once exclusive is now inclusive.”

Lucas took over the foundation in 2016, at a time when the high-profile awards had a somewhat checkered record with representation. Though historically the honorees had skewed heavily white and male, that began to change around 2010. (However, there had been some other recent embarrassments, like 2014 host Daniel Handler’s racist jokes following author Jacqueline Woodson’s win for “Brown Girl Dreaming.”) Lucas, the first woman and person of color to helm the foundation, made representation and inclusivity a focus of her messaging. When looking back at the past decade, she told HuffPost in an interview, a multipronged effort to build a more inclusive literary scene has indeed paid dividends.

Read on…

A brief remark on style

While I agree in principle that fiction writers should avoid the passive voice and choose a strong verb in instead of resorting to adverbs, the passive voice and adverbs are functional part of the English language, and I use them when required by the shade of the narrative. I take my example from Evelyn Waugh who, it was said, never wrote a bad sentence. Take this sentence in Decline and Fall (chapter 9 about sports day). There were accusations of cheating:

No one spoke of the race, but outraged sportsmanship glinted perilously in every eye.

Would Waugh’s meaning be the same – have the same force – if one removed ‘perilously’ ? Or what verb could replace the already descriptive ‘glinted’ and convey the same meaning?