Word Count 8: Submission to Gollancz, the Crapification of Literary Contracts, Mark Edwards’ writing life, Saving the World vs Kissing the Girl, BookTok hurts authors, and the Archers.

by Suw on July 5, 2022

Hi there,

Happy Tuesday!

This week, I am trying to get back into a regular working and writing rhythm after six months of disruption during our move from the US back to the UK. Our belongings aren’t likely to arrive until early August, but I can’t wait until I get my desk to resume my writing habit. I’m just going to have to do the best I can with what I’ve got, which is a fold up table and an old dining chair.

Suw’s news

I’ve pretty much given up on ever getting an agent for my novel about a global pandemic, written long before Covid was even a glimmer in a bat’s watery eye. But last week I spotted that Gollancz had a month-long open submissions window for science fiction, fantasy and horror novels, ending on 30 June. As I had my synopsis, bio and sample ready, I thought why not? I’ve got nothing to lose.

Then I realised that they wanted the whole book, and I didn’t have that ready to go. So I spent an evening sorting out the chapter breaks (which are not where Scrivener thinks they are) and snuck my submission in just under the wire.

Doing that, I noticed a bunch of typos in the first few pages, pages I have read and edited again and again and again and thought were perfect. Just shows the value of letting a novel sit for a while. I’m going to have to do a really hard edit on it at some point, before I find a way to self-publish that neither relies on Amazon nor creates complicated problems with international VAT.

Cory DoctorowRead this: Reasonable Agreement – Cory Doctorow on the Crapification of Literary Contracts

Cory Doctorow is always good value, but this article on the way that publishers’ lawyers have been sneaking more and more ridiculous clauses into literary contracts is essential reading. From binding arbitration waivers that stop you from taking a publisher to court to ludicrous rights grabs, Cory goes through seven types of clauses you should never agree to.

Read this as well: My Writing Life – No Place to Run by Mark Edwards

It took Mark Edwards seventeen years to get his first book deal, having decided aged 23 3/4 that he wanted to be an author. Now, aged 51 1/2, he has chronicled the ups and downs of his literary career. I’m sure his experience will feel familiar to a lot of you. Indeed, my literary career has been similarly like a rollercoaster, except without the ups. Found via crime writer Steve Mosby.

What I’m watching: Lindsay Doran – Saving the World vs Kissing the Girl

Ever wondered what is at the very core of every successful movie? Film producer Lindsay Doran comes to a surprising, and yet also very obvious, conclusion in this 18 minute TED Talk: It’s relationships. Although we remember characters’ impressive achievements, what we really crave is to see people’s relationships develop – to see relationships created, nurtured, mended, reinvigorated. If a film ends without that, we feel cheated. And it’s the same with novels too, so pay attention to your relationships! Found via Scriptnotes.

BookTok returns meme punishes authors

I was really sad to see that there’s a TikTok trend that encourages people to buy books from Amazon, read them and then return them for a refund. Amazon has a two week window for ebook returns and it’s something that’s been abused for years. But Amazon refuses to do anything about it. Trouble is, this doesn’t just mean that author misses out on royalties, but the download fee they have to pay Amazon isn’t refunded, so they actually lose money and some have even ended up with a negative earnings balance. There is a petition, but having covered Amazon for years when I was a journalist, I can’t imagine it will have any impact on Amazon at all. Nothing else ever has.

Today I Learnt: The Archers wasn’t just a radio drama

During a trip to the University of York, where I’m a Visiting Associate, my colleagues and I were talking about the poor representation of academics on TV. Academics in science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) especially tend to turn up on TV as stereotypes: the maverick (always a bloke) who understands Something Big That No One Else Gets, the nerd with no social skills, or the boring tweedy don who gets murdered/murders someone in Morse.

I know a lot of academics, and they’re all normal people. None of them wear tweed. As far as I know, none of them are murderers. I’d suggest that this mischaracterisation of academia is down to a lack of scientists going into TV writing, and it means that opportunities to connect academia and academic knowledge with wider society are completely missed.

It was at that point that my colleague told me that The Archers, the world’s longest-running drama with over 19,500 aired episodes, was originally created in part to educate farmers after World War II. Launched in May 1950, during the post-War era of rationing and food shortages, BBC writers worked with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries to develop stories that would teach farmers how to produce more food.

Some modern TV shows do a great job of examining social issues – Sex Education springs to mind as an exemplar, with reliable factual information sprinkled in amongst the gags and teenage angst – but scientific knowledge is harder to find. Wouldn’t it be great if someone somewhere started a scheme to encourage more scientists to become writers, and to encourage more collaborations between writers and scientists?

Bonus link

Struggling to find somewhere quiet to write? Preferably surrounded by other creatives? Matthew ‘Maf’ Vosburgh tweeted about how his father, Dick, found himself the perfect spot to write whilst working as a freelance TV comedy writer.

There’s a legend that my dad wrote his TV comedy on the Circle Line due to the six children at home. He did that once or twice, but I prefer this other story.  During a meeting in a TV producer’s office, the producer got a phone call, said “I’ve just been fired!”, and walked out.

It’s worth clicking through for the whole thread.

Obligatory cat photo

We currently have no sofa and are making do with two garden loungers on loan from my mum. Here’s Copurrnicus lounging on a lounger and doing that weird thing he does with his paw to create a little chin rest.

Copurrnicus doing his weird paw thing

That’s it for this week! Don’t forget, if you’re interested in any of the authors or books I’ve mentioned in my newsletters, I’ve added them to my Bookshop list where possible. And if you’ve enjoyed this, please do feel free to forward it on to friends!

All the best,

Suw Charman-Anderson

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