Archives for category: Writing

The Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society has issued its annual survey on author incomes, and as reported by The Society of Authors, reveals that median earnings for UK authors have declined by 60% since 2006. “In 2006, median author earnings were £12,330. In 2022, the median has fallen to £7,000, a drop of 33.2% based on reported figures, or 60.2% when adjusted for inflation.” I assume, without knowing anything about the numbers, that a similar situation prevails in America.

Numbers like this are hard to interpret*. Many, presumably the vast majority of authors are making virtually nothing from their writing, and are probably perfectly content for this to be the case. They probably never expected to make any money from their books, and are unsurprised when this turns out to be true. Others, however, look on their writing careers as a sort of job choice, so the fact that their income goes down is of existential importance. In 2006 40% of authors reported earning all their income from their writing. In 2022 the percentage had dropped to 19%.

Now there are of course different types of contract that an author and publisher can negotiate, but the most common form is a royalty agreement whereby the author gets paid a percentage of the sale of every copy of their book. Advances against royalties do no more than change the timing of such payments (and guarantee the author against the risk of failure to reach a certain sales quantity), but these are becoming rarer, and in any case don’t affect total earnings. To the extent that an advance will take income you might have made in year two and moves it to year one, the reduction in advances will negatively impact the earnings of successful authors. They are however irrelevant to the mass of authors at the bottom of the sales pyramid. Royalty income, as a percentage of the price of each copy, is clearly dependent on sales. A 10% royalty on a retail price of £20 gets you £2; sell a million copies and you’ve got £2,000,000. Sell 500 and you’ve got £1,000.

ALCS doesn’t reveal any income details, but they are not, as far as I can see, complaining about reductions in royalty percentages. In other words, income reductions are due to sales reductions. It may look bad that while publishers are experiencing a banner year, authors’ income continues to plunge. But what this has to mean — and by “has to mean” I am effectively saying “is mathematically certain” — is that book sales are now being made over a larger number of titles than previously, so that each author makes less off their writing, while the overall pool of authors makes more. This is entirely consistent with reports of the unexpected popularity of back-list during the pandemic. So a bigger royalty pot is being shared by more writers. However if you’ve had a pay cut it’s no comfort to know that wages for the whole company have increased!

The Society of Authors warns that these “findings raise serious questions about the future of writing as a profession”. But surely there has never been a time when the profession was able to support more than a few members in any condition better than penury. Grub Street has always been tough work environment.

Any thought that such a crisis in author earnings might have a negative impact on the course of literary history should of course be resisted. But one cannot deny that someone like D. H. Lawrence was able to make enough to live on by his writing, and it is no doubt harder to do so today. But that, I do believe, is mainly due to the increase in the number of active authors diluting the pot. To some extent society has recognized the problem and is dealing with it through grants and subsidies.

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* Recognize that such a drop in the median income could be caused solely by a large reduction in the earnings of a single top author. — I’m not suggesting it is, but mathematics is mathematics, and the mean is the mean, not the average.

The Merry Muses of Caledonia is a collection of bawdry by Robert Burns (1759-96), though some of the content of the first edition may have been written by others. That edition appears to have been privately printed in 1799 for The Crochallan Fencibles, an Edinburgh social club. However the date, the location of printing, the purpose, and the contents all seem to be subject to debate. Two copies survive, one, from which the title page shown below comes, in the G. Ross Roy Collection at the University of South Carolina, and the other a copy owned in 1959 by Harry Primrose, 6th Earl of Rosebery, which contains no printing date though paper analysis shows it was printed in 1799.

The edition I have was published in 1965 by W. H. Allen & Co., then in 1966 in paperback by Panther Books. Slightly oddly copyright is claimed for both 1959 and 1965, and indeed the introductory pieces by the three editors are all dated 1958, though there’s no indication that they were published before 1965. The paperback, which cost me 8/6, was printed in Manchester at C. Nicholls & Co.’s Philips Park Press.

Clearly nervous, the publisher prints on the half title this justification of the project from Elizabeth Smart of The Queen magazine: “Poetry has somehow acquired a boring, prissy brand-image. ‘Poetry lovers’ have given it a bad name. It might get a glorious reversal if all the bawdy verse that all the poets invariably write — even that stately old Tennyson, so scholars tell me — were published in pocket-size bar-room editions. In the meantime we have at least got a great rollicking collection by Robert Burns: The Merry Muses of Caledonia.” The Queen (now just Queen, but formerly subtitled The Ladies Newspaper and Court Chronicle is obviously a solidly establishment puff-source. If polite ladies can tolerate bawdry, who are we to resisit?

The publication of this edition was driven forward by James Barke, the Scottish novelist (and father of a onetime colleague at Cambridge University Press) best known for the five-volume series, The Immortal Memory, fictionalizing the life of Robert Burns. The Wind that Shakes the Barley is the one you might have heard of. I am surprised, and touched, to discover that James Barke was born at Torwoodlee just outside Galashiels in 1905, son of a dairyman and a dairymaid. Barke was joined in the enterprise by Sydney Goodsir Smith, the Scots poet, and John DeLancey Ferguson, an American academic, who introduces the volume with a bibliographic essay on sources. Mr Barke died after a long illness in 1958 and the other two editors carried the task forward to ultimate publication.

When he died Mr Barke had substantially completed his introduction in which he indulges in quite some contortion to justify the publishing of bawdy poems be they by howsoever famous an author. Remember we are talking about 1958, when people could still (in theory) go to jail for just saying “fuck”. The Lady Chatterley’s Lover lawsuit was still two years in the future when he died. He emphasizes the good-humored straight-forwardness of Scottish bawdry: “English bawdry is ever inclined to ‘snirtle in its sleeve’: the prurient snigger is seldom far away. In the main, Scots bawdry is frank, ribald, robustly Rabelaisian, rich in erotic imagery and extraordinarily fanciful invention. The flowering of this Scottish art form reached perfection in ‘The Ball o’ Kirriemuir’.” This last, set to a catchy tune, never struck me as literature, but does still tend to recur in snatches in my mind when it’s free-wheeling.

Here’s a “robustly Rabelaisian” offering from The Merry Muses, this one preserved in Burns’ holograph:

There was twa wives, and twa witty wives
    As e'er play'd houghmagandie,
And they coost oot, upon a time,
    Oot o'er a drink o' brandy;
Up Maggie rose, and forth she goes,
    And she leaves auld Mary flytin,
And she farted by the byre-en,
    For she was gaun a shiten.

She farted by the byre-en,
    She farted by the stable;
And thick and nimble were her steps
    As fast as she was able:
Till at yon dyke-back the hurly brak,
    But raxin' for some dockins,
The beans and pease cam doon her theese,
    And she cackit a' her stockins.

The book comes with a split personality on the use of rude words. In the Introduction Mr Barke freely uses the f-word and the c-word, spelling them out repeatedly; in Burns’ text however modesty prevails. All rude words are presented as grawlix, with dashes in the middle. Thus in the poem above, the last word of the first stanza is printed “sh—ten” in the book.

Overall The Merry Muses is a fairly tame and unexciting collection, which fact may have redound to the credit of the poet when he faced his heavenly tribunal, no doubt not that different from the kirk-organized ones he had to face while among us. “Collected by Burns” and “Attributed to Burns” are the largest sections. There’s a section “Old Songs Used by Burns for Polite Versions” which contains twenty poems: here Burns actually cleaned up the folk versions! Only twelve of the ninety-six poems are identified as definitely by Burns. Jean Redpath has committed a few of these to song: here’s “Ode to Spring”, the first line of which, in case you miss it, is “When maukin bucks at early fucks” (maukin being a hare):

Somewhat unexpectedly Lit Hub publishes an extract from the book The Fires of Lust: Sex in the Middle Ages by Katherine Harvey, published last year by Reaction Books. This extract, and no doubt more so the entire book, provides copious (over-copious) evidence of medieval bawdry, such as to put Burns in the deep shade.

GLOSSARY

  • houghmagandie — (obsolete) fornication. In truth, this is probably the only place you’re likely to meet this word. The rest of the words are so common and everyday as to almost escape my list.
  • flytin — scolding, shouting the odds
  • byre — cow shed
  • dyke — wall
  • hurly — storm. Think of hurly-burly.
  • theese — thighs
  • rax — reach
  • docken — Rumex obtusifolius A common plant in Scotland with a large wide leaf, ideal for al fresco clean-up. Also a remedy for the sting of a nettle, near which it usually grows.
  • cack — shit. A note on pronunciation: north of the border we tend to rhyme this word not with pit but with white, sight, flight, which makes Burns’ rhyming scheme work in the first stanza above. It’s usually transcribed with an e on the end.

I just woke up to the fact that the phrase “a New York Times bestselling author” is a simple turn-off for me. I was reading about a book which sounded quite interesting, a book about trees, but as soon as I encountered this claim I stopped reading and moved on to the next item. OK, you can of course accuse me of being an élitist snob, but that’s not the point, I think, whether it’s true or not. My point is that an author’s motivation is a huge aspect of the success with which they’ll be able to write their book. What the book’s useful for will in large part be determined by the author’s intentions. So you have to choose: important book for readers, or profitable book for the author.

Some popular authors can I dare say just churn the stuff out, but for most writers I’d imagine that writing for money must be an awful grind, and utterly wearing on your self-belief. It must be a bit like writing advertising copy without the organizing structure provided by the product. When you’re own your own, you’re always hitting that writer’s block wall, and when you do get going you have to face your financial commitments: you’re either running late or finding you’ve written way too much and have to cut. These two problems will naturally tend to occur together as Parkinson has decreed. Then of course your imagination will start telling you that your publisher will surely be out to screw you. When your book does eventually roll off the presses, inevitably your worst enemy will be asked to review it. And perish the thought that the thing doesn’t rise to number one in the bestseller list. A bestselling author cannot afford to write (m)any books which don’t get into the bestseller list. Is it any wonder that trade books are more often than not less than brilliant? With all that hassle who’s got time to focus of literature?

On the other hand — I’ve just finished reading Entangled Life by Merlin Sheldrake, and now notice with chagrin that its cover carried a tag line: “The Sunday Times Bestseller”. I have the UK edition; no doubt the US version says “New York Times bestseller”. I thought the book was brilliant, so I’m having to tell myself that insofar as it was a bestseller it must have been a borderline bestseller! Maybe this is that rare phenomenon: important and profitable. Should there be a category “Accidental Bestseller”? — a book written for a serious purpose which nevertheless manages to sell in quantities associated normally with entertainment pap. I never knew anything about fungi — they turn out to be fascinating. Hard to classify, but they are clever little guys, and a lot of fun. They are specialists in cooperation, with us naturally, but most dramatically with plants where they supply phosphates to the trees in return for the carbon they need but can’t make themselves, they seem to be everywhere.

Mr Sheldrake concludes the book with a tour-de-force bibliographical metaphor: “Now that this book is made, I can hand it over to fungi to unmake. I’ll dampen a copy and seed it with Pleurotus mycelium. When it has eaten its way through the words and pages and endpapers and sprouted oyster mushrooms from the covers, I’ll eat them. From another copy I will remove the pages, mash them up and using a weak acid break the cellulose of the paper into sugars. To the sugar solution I’ll add a yeast. Once it’s fermented into a beer, I’ll drink it and close the circuit.”

Here’s a picture from his website:

I wonder if those mushrooms are protected by copyright?

Jacques Testard, owner of Fitzcarraldo (who didn’t publish Mr Sheldrake’s book), says “I never want to publish a book for commercial reasons. I think of publishing as an intellectual project: if we grew so big that I couldn’t read all the books, I would find that depressing. Then it becomes strictly a business and I don’t really see the point in that.” (From a piece in The New Statesman.) Publishing books which aren’t “real” books just to make money is as boring as writing them must be. Books accidentally getting into the bestseller lists as quite a few Fitzcarraldo titles have done, is of course altogether acceptable. It’s not the money we object to; it’s the grubbing for it we deprecate.

Money can of course be made off books, but it’s much pleasanter to make it as the publisher rather than as the author.

Passive Voice reproduces and comments upon a piece by Lisa Gitelman from Public Books entitled What is a Book? It must betoken a certain attitude when an author finds herself writing “Now, books are just widgets in the grand scheme of things”. A widget, a small mechanical device of unspecified purpose, surely is not what a book is under any circumstances. Could it perhaps qualify when used to prop up a table with one short leg? Is Ms Gitelman really trying to say that it’s the content that’s important not the format? Don’t think so. I suspect she’s actually signaling that she just doesn’t care. What really interests her is the manuscript/typescript/computer disk or file which lies behind the book.

I dare say that there’s some interest in whether an author writes in pencil on ruled yellow paper, or with a typewriter on cheapo-cheapo bumph, but I’m far from convinced that the fact that Toni Morrison employed someone who did word-processing for her makes any real difference to the book which is Beloved (in title and reception). Archivists of course have to get off on this sort of thing, and I dare say someone is already working towards a PhD on how the chosen tools of origination affect the quality of a novel. If only James Joyce had had a random word generator, or Homer a Dictaphone, or Shakespeare a typewriter and some carbon paper. I did observe, by living through it, that the introduction of the word processor lead quickly to a growth in the average page count of academic books. This effect did not necessarily improve the product.

The mature Henry James wrote English as if he would have the word-order freedom of Latin without the help of declentional signposting which that language provides. You’ve got to keep on your toes, and retain in active memory all the units of his sentences, mentally juggling them into position, and one hopes sense, after reading the whole thing. Dealing with Henry James’ late style is like deciphering a chemical formula; it seems to aim at mimicking mathematical precision. It is therefore a bit of a surprise to catch him out in linguistic imprecision.

In the first chapter of The Ambassadors, talking about the eyes of Maria Gostrey, he delivers himself of this sentence: “Their possessor was in truth, it may be communicated, the mistress of a hundred cases or categories, receptacles of the mind, subdivisions for convenience, in which, from a full experience, she pigeon-holed her fellow mortals with a hand as free as that of a compositor scattering type.”

Under just what conditions a compositor might scatter type we aren’t informed, but I suspect that the master must have been thinking about distributing the type after printing. Here “scattering” doesn’t really come into it: distributing type off press demands that you return each individual character to its correct location in the type case so it can be reused for the next job. It’s a very deliberate process. If you have to put all the “p”s into this little box and all the “q”s into that one, there’s a lot more intentionality involved than the word “scattering” suggests. I suppose years of experience might have led to a certain freedom of hand action in the journeyman printer, based on “flow”, but unless “receptacles of the mind”, “subdivisions for convenience”, “pigeon-holed”, and of course “cases” forced our author into a typographical metaphor, he’d have been better off alluding to the freedom of hand motion of a sewer casting seed, a chef throwing raisins onto the the top of his pudding, or a navvy shoveling gravel*. Isn’t it also a little odd that such a precision-maniac wouldn’t have bothered to find out the correct word for distributing type?

OK, it doesn’t really matter; but if you set your hand to the wheel of precision, well, precision is kind of what’s expected.

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* In Scotland we had the tradition that as they left the church the bride and groom would have a “scatter”. This involved throwing out lots of thruppenny bits, sixpenny bits, and shillings, which the local kids, who always knew to be there, would scramble for.

Well, I didn’t know what it meant. Maybe you do. The adjective “ekphrastic” describes a literary depiction of a work of visual art.

“Mona Lisa, Mona Lisa, men have named you
You’re so like the lady with the mystic smile”

— an ekphrastic lyric.

Victoria Chang runs a course on ekphrastic poetry, described in her piece at LitHub. Here’s the reading list for the course:

The word isn’t all that well established, so not knowing it might be the default position: it’s not the sort of thing you find yourself needing to talk about every day. But it’s good to know the word exists. The first reference in The Oxford English Dictionary is from 1906 by the Dublin Review, with the next one in 1965. Perhaps to show the word lives on The New York Review of Books is quoted from 2010.

I can’t believe there are many who don’t have to look this word up every time they meet it: is there a name for words like this? Words which accurately describe things which people in general rarely discuss. I suppose there’s a lot military vocabulary in this category, plus sports. Actually of course any jargon peculiar to any pastime or job. Non-publishing folks no doubt stop and wonder at leading or pica for instance! I guess “jargon” is the word. The OED defines it (in meaning 6) as ” Applied contemptuously to any mode of speech abounding in unfamiliar terms, or peculiar to a particular set of persons, as the language of scholars or philosophers, the terminology of a science or art, or the cant of a class, sect, trade, or profession.” Is it always contemptuous? Its first meaning is “the inarticulate utterance of birds” which happens to be the Old French word for exactly that. Nowadays twittering means something else, so maybe we need to regain this word.

The Guardian brings us an example of ekphrastic poetry by R. S. Thomas, showing also the painting on which it is based.

Publishing Perspectives has a good round-up piece about the Justice Department’s suit against the proposed merger of Simon & Schuster with Penguin Random House. The claim is not the usual anti-monopoly case that the merger will be bad for book customers — the claim in this case is that the merger will, by reducing the number of bidders, reduce the amounts paid to authors for their books when they are subject to rights auctions. Now of course, not all (not even many) books are “sold” by an auction, and the Justice Department seems to be riding bravely to the defense of the richest 1% of authors. PRH have asserted that they will continue to allow their individual imprints to bid against one another. They do this now, and say they’ll allow S&S imprints the same freedom.

Am I just being naïve when I object to this lawsuit on the basis that an advance is not a normal purchase? It’s an “advance against royalties“. If best-selling author A “sells” their book for an advance of $1,000,000 but their book ends up selling 2 million copies with a royalty of $2, the publisher will be happy to pay them another $3 million. In what way has this author been harmed by agreeing to an advance of a mere $1 million? Well, time is money, so there’s a little bit of interest loss, but the lawsuit seems to be based upon the misconception that if the publisher pays an advance of $1 million, that’s all the money the author’s going to get out of them. This is obvious nonsense. Maybe there are a significant number of book signings at auction which do result in guaranteed cash payments, not advances tied to royalties at all — this is not something about which I have any knowledge. Though we may have to accept that such a deal could be made, we couldn’t call it an advance.

Still Stephen King testified yesterday. I guess he’d know. Shelf Awareness‘s report makes it seem that his testimony didn’t really focus on the auction process at all. “I came because I think that consolidation is bad for competition” — an attitude many of us can share without any reference to the earnings of authors. “It becomes tougher and tougher for writers to find money to live on,” he said. On the subject PRH’s promise to allow S&S to bid against PRH imprints, he opined “You might as well say you are going to have a husband and wife bidding against each other for a house. It’s a little bit ridiculous.” But of course it’s not like that at all, is it? Unless they are in divorce proceedings a husband and wife are not in competition: heads of imprints and divisions within a large corporation most certainly are.

If you hit Command C and copy someone else’s words, then paste them, and go through the quote and edit it into “your own words”, are you in fact indulging in plagiarism? PlagiarismToday says yes in their post “Why you can’t make someone else’s words your own”. Jonathan Bailey has devised a procedure called Cleanroom which is designed to help writers avoid plagiarism. Given that the main edict is “don’t copy and paste” this might seem a bit circular. Mr Bailey’s point about avoiding copying and pasting is that it’s copying not writing. OK. More importantly, more riskily, if you do a lot of it you will almost inevitably miss changing some of your pastings into “your own words”. These sentences, even if you do remember to edit them, will of course not really be “your own words” — they are someone else’s thoughts, disguised so they can pass as your own.

Notwithstanding, I have to confess to doing this from time to time. I do believe that what I copy and edit are always fairly short bits: maybe a full sentence. I believe that I do it so that I won’t get the argument wrong more than just to reproduce the thought. I think (and hope) that my editing is always pretty extensive. Oftentimes, if it just looks like it’ll be too much of a hassle to change it all, I do enclose the resultant paste in quotation marks, and attribute it — which is obviously the “right” thing to do.

Copy and paste is almost certainly what led to a steady increase in the length of manuscripts submitted to publishers (at least to academic publishers) towards the end of the last century. In the olden days if you added a couple of sentences in the middle of Chapter Three, then you had to retype the entire chapter to accommodate the insertion: one would try to make a balancing deletion in order to avoid having to retype the whole damn thing. As soon as we got word processors we could shunt paragraphs around and add lots of second thoughts without any need to delete first ones. First thoughts plus second thoughts equal longer books.

I’d no idea that I’d been involved in decades of paratext generation.

IGI, the publisher of Examining Paratextual Theory and its Applications in Digital Culture by Nadine Desrochers and Daniel Apollon, tells us “The paratext framework is now used in a variety of fields to assess, measure, analyze, and comprehend the elements that provide thresholds, allowing scholars to better understand digital objects. Researchers from many disciplines revisit paratextual theories in order to grasp what surrounds text in the digital age.” Amazing how easy it is to write simple stuff in a way nobody can understand!

Despite all the gobbledegook, paratext basically means all the stuff surrounding and supporting the text of a document, in the case of a book — the cover, title page, index etc.* There was a flurry on the SHARP listserv recently after someone asked for help locating studies of digital paratexts.

Books have those “paratextual” elements added to them by publishers because that’s what we’ve done to them for hundreds of years — and over hundreds of years such stuff has proved its use in navigating the book. People have come to expect it, and to some extent even to depend on it. Now, anyone working for a publishing company almost intuitively knows what bits need to be added to the author’s manuscript to make a proper (printed) book.

Then along comes the ebook. Just take the p-book and digitize it, and Bob’s your uncle. We’ve just taken the book and all its features over into the ebook format, even though there must be other, better things we might do. Trouble is it’s hard to imagine what these other things might be, and there’s just no money in rethinking the ebook format right now.

But it’s still early days. Eventually someone will discover the potential of the digital format to do this or that, and we’ll come up with a better way of dealing with this sort of material. These practices take a long time to establish — we didn’t even start to get page numbers on a regular basis until the end of the fifteenth century — so don’t go holding your breath in anticipation of any exciting change in the mechanics of the ebook. In fact, of course, the ebook as we know it is almost certain NOT going to be the format in which people access text in the future. We just haven’t come up with the better methodology yet — but of course we will I’m sure. Whatever traditionalists (like me) may think, paper will not be how most people access their reading material in a hundred years. (See also A different kettle of fish.) I am always struck by just how clunky and primitive the reading tablets in Isaac Asimov’s Foundation series seem to have been, especially in comparison with the other technologies they’d been able to evolve. Surely we could do better with 20,000 or whatever years in which to try. Just takes imagination. Will Artificial Intelligence bail us out?

The Economist has an article on AI, which makes it all seem pretty ominous. Seems to me that it’s quite probable that we’ll develop an AI system that ends up being so much more “intelligent” than we are that humans will end up being disposable (if we survive global warming and nuclear war). AI already can take care of writing journalism and poetry: and it’s become a lot better at it than it was when I wrote about it four years ago. In a way there’s surely no essential difference between a “robot” called AI that paints a picture using the artificial aid of its programming, and an artist who paints a picture using the artificial aid of a paint brush. And why can’t we be excited about an expert AI tale-spinner rather than insisting on our stories being written by live authors with all the usual pains, problems and prejudices?

Of course, thinking like this just adds to the risks humankind faces — if we have an AI system that can do painting, novels and poetry better than humans, why should we expect Big AI to tolerate incompetents who have ignored global warming and nuclear arms build-ups. But still, it might actually work out pretty well: if we can continue to “exist” virtually, eliminating only our inefficient physical apparatus, could the world not be a better place? Program the system to steer clear of our bad habits and the world can keep on keeping on without the damage we humans have learnt to dump onto it. The sign will read “Last human to check out — do not interfere with Big AI’s programming, and leave the lights on.”

So, just what we might like to see “thresholding” our digital books is something some genius still needs to figure out. No doubt progress will be made in tiny fits and starts. As I say, part of the problem is that there’s no profit to be made in doing much to improve the ebook, so we just leave it as a straight conversion of a print book. It all ends up a bit chicken-and-eggy — until readers want better paratextual apparatus for ebooks we won’t be able to afford to create different paratexts. And until we make them, how’s anyone meant to be able to imagine what a better ebook might look like?

Coming back to earth, I have of course written over the years about many (most?) paratextual elements, such as bar codes, bibliographies, blurb, book jacket, CIP, colophon, copyright page, table of contents, errata, figure, fly-title, half-title, indexes, ISBN, page numbering, running head, running feet, and tables.

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*The Oxford English Dictionary adds subdivisions to the word paratext, breaking it down into “the peritext, e.g. front cover, introduction, footnotes, etc.” —the stuff attached to the book, which they contrast with external thresholding: “the epitext, e.g. reviews, advertisements, interviews, etc.”.

We’ve become accustoms to hearing about how dissatisfied with their publisher some authors are. The rhetoric mainly originates with self publishing enthusiasts who seem determined to remain dissatisfied till they can force everyone else to agree with them. However, rather obviously given the numbers of books published every year, not all writers agree, and here’s an example. Dana Schwartz is pretty happy. She tells expectant authors about what they’re in for, starting from the writing of the book and up to signing copies for excited buyers. Her piece at The Observer is entitled “15 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Publishing a Book”. The Passive Voice sends the link to Ms Schwartz’s 2017 piece.

We’ve all read pieces in almost exactly the same form as hers where the author bitches about publishers, their lack of sympathy, their inefficiency, their rapaciousness, their lethargy, their incompetence. I hope her YA book And We’re Off sells well: we need to keep her onside! As she’s now got three more books from different publishers out I suspect there’s no need to worry.

The relationship between publisher and author is always at risk of deterioration — after all no publisher can force the public to buy a book, and the author will tend to regard any such shortfalls as failures of the publisher not of themselves — after all their book was self-evidently perfect. The more experienced author will recognize the collaborative nature of the author/publisher relationship, and give credit where credit may be due. Deserving of mention in this regard is Professor G. L. S. Shackle, an economist, who’d take the time after each of his books came out to come down from Liverpool to Cambridge and personally thank every employee who had worked on his latest book.