Science fiction and fantasy                                            







   

Musings and rants

Nine Political Books That Change The Conversation
Following news that Simon and Schuster plan to publish an inflammatory commentator, here are nine political books that deserve more attention.

Authors Support Stop Funding Hate
Some authors have had enough of divisive and xenophobic elements in the British press, and are willing to make an ethical stand.

Women In SFF: Indie Edition
A list of indie and self-published women writing in science fiction, fantasy, horror, and other speculative fiction genres.

Amazon Finally Makes KU Appealing For Novelists
The new per-page payout for the Kindle Unlimited subscription service makes it a much better deal for authors of longer novels.

Thoughts On The Sieghart Report On Libraries
The Sieghart report on libraries missed its mark by miles. Yet the real cause of the decline of the UK library network is depressingly obvious.

A Shout-Out For The Good Guys
When nastiness dominates online conversations about books it is time to appreciate the well-behaved authors.

Critique Circle: Shaping Fabulous Stories
The appeal of a certain writing critique website. Or, why I have neglected this blog.

Where Shall I Point This Pitchfork?
Some thoughts on Jonathan Ross, Loncon, and the twitchfork mob.

Reading Is Not A Race
Why I will be abandoning annual reading challenges in 2014.

What Book Discovery Is Missing
The current state of book discovery is narrowing our reading choices and squeezing out midlist writers. How can it be fixed?

An Explosion Of Discovery Tools
New book discovery engines are popping up all over the web. But which ones will come out on top?

Blog Tours From Both Sides
Blog tours are the lastest marketing fad. But what are the pros and cons of this kind of publicity?

It's Not Your Story Any More
When a book is published, authors lose control over how the story should be read. They should let go the reins and enjoy the ride.

Same Old, Same Old
Are current methods of book discovery pushing us further away from original literature?

Female Protagonists In Genre Fiction
A list of recommended SFF books for adults which feature a female as the main character.

Is This The End Of Sweeping Vistas?
Do recent trends in fantasy art styles and the constraints of online book discovery mark the decline of landscape cover art?

A Rising Tide Floats All Boats
Authors: stop thinking of other writers as your rivals. They're not the enemy.

Reviews Are Useless Without Context
With so many review blogs, quick ways of understanding their authors are more important than ever.

Great Scriptwriters: Sometimes Overlooked, Always Vital
Sometimes it seems like the only way to get known as a scriptwriter is to do something else entirely.

The Going Rate For Fake Reviews
Now you can buy your way to critical success, at least until you get caught.


Penguin Random House Withdraws Union Recognition

20th December 2016

As an indie there's freedom to choose to do business with who I like and in the manner I please, to an extent. But it's undeniable that large businesses have much more marketplace power for a whole host of reasons. At the end of December and the beginning of January my Kaddon novels will come out of Amazon's Select and I'll be able to distribute them widely once more, and that comes as a relief: no more reliance on one distributor for that series' success.

However, as an individual author my choices are limited to accepting Amazon's terms, or those of any other company, or rejecting them.

The employees of Penguin Random House, who have recently learned that their careers in publishing are dependent on the whims of a management that has just decided to de-recognise both Unite and the NUJ as the result of unresolved disputes about severance pay, might be having similar thoughts about the power of large organisations. Penguin and Random House merged to form the largest publisher in the world in 2013. Since then a lot of major publishers have suffered from falling profits, in part due to the growth of independent authors, Amazon imprints, and the ebook revolution. Yet PRH isn't one of these suffering companies. It reported record profits for 2015, up over 23%.

That's what makes PRH's conflict with the unions so worrying. It clearly has nothing to do with a need to keep the publisher solvent.

It's something PRH have done because they think they can get away with it. PRH risks "will suffer enormous reputational damage if they plough ahead with these misguided plans", according to Unite officer Louisa Bull.

The trouble is, PRH has become too powerful and they are throwing their corporate weight around to the detriment of their staff. It's a bad sign. Yet the ultimate power in publishing lies with paying customers, especially when there are nowhere near enough hours in a lifetime to read all of the great books, never mind those that are merely good, that are available in most genres. Okay, perhaps the genre of popular science books written by hamsters might be a bit sparse, but in speculative fiction? Forget it.

Unfortunately there are a lot of publishers who don't recognise unions for collective bargaining, so it's harder to single one of them out as a bad apple. But that doesn't make PRH's move in any way reasonable. It will make me reconsider which books I buy unless the company does something in the near future to prove it is a decent employer willing to listen to unions.

In 2017 I believe we will see more of this sort of thing, if the trend of consolidation continues both in publishing houses and in the reduction in the number of outlets for selling books. In such circumstances unions become more relevant, not less.

Update

PRH, the NUJ and Unite issued a joint statement on 21st December stating that talks continue after a meeting they describe as "positive".