Word Count 46: UK bookshops flourishing along with self-published authors, Sitcom Geeks on what a plot is not

by Suw on May 2, 2023

Plus London Screenwriters Festival 2024, and a new short story on the way.

Hi there,

We just had another long weekend here in the UK, one that was very much needed. Thankfully, we get another one next weekend and then yet another one at the end of May. I do like four-day weeks and as a self-employed person I theoretically have the power to put myself on a four-day week any time I like, but sadly my To Do list says otherwise.

Read this: UK bookshops and publishing industry flourishing

True to its name, Positive News has this story on the increase of indie bookshops in the UK and Ireland, with numbers hitting 1,072 in 2022 – a 10-year high after six consecutive years of growth. Some of these new bookshops are also mission-driven, tackling issues like loneliness, community cohesion, feminism or climate change

The pandemic was good for bookstores and publishers, with 669 million physical books sold in 2022 and industry income reaching an all-time high of £6.9 billion, up 4 per cent from 2021. It should perhaps not be surprising that books would prove so popular with people stuck indoors with little else to do, and that people who got into the habit of reading would continue.

Read this, two: Self-publishing incomes rise

A survey by Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) has found that indie authors now earn, on average, more than traditionally published authors and that they took home more in 2022 than 2021. The median income for authors who spent more than half their time writing was $12,749 per year, or £10,229, compared to the median of £7,000 pa that was headline news in the ALCS survey at the end of last year. Some 44 per cent of respondents in the ALLi survey said they were earning over $20,000 (£16,038), with 28 percent earning over $50,000 (£40,096).

The ALLi survey had responses from 2,000 authors, whilst ALCS’s survey received 2,570 responses, so this is just a snapshot, but it’s an interesting one. However, author incomes are still way lower than they frankly should be, given how vibrant the sector is.

Stop, look, listen: Sitcom Geeks, E212 – What a plot is not

I’m likely going to be sharing a lot more stuff about comedy, now that the Fieldwork short film project is getting so close to kicking off properly, starting with a podcast that’s new to me, Sitcom Geeks, with James Cary and Dave Cohen.

Episode 212, What a Plot is Not, includes an interesting dive into four things that are not plots but that are frequently mistaken for them by early career writers. A plot is not:

  • Stuff happening
  • An event
  • A big reveal
  • The premise of the show

Give it a listen – there’s also lots of really good advice about what a plot is that’s relevant regardless of what genre you’re writing in.

And whilst we’re talking about comedy, I’m very much in the market for comedy-related podcasts, newsletters and videos, particularly if they focus on the craft side of things. If you have any recommendations, please leave a comment!

Event: London Screenwriters Festival 2024

If you like planning ahead, put the London Screenwriters Festival 2024 in your diary now. It’s running from 5 April to 7 April 2024, and early bird tickets are already on sale at £349 (going up to £499 in due course). With 100 sessions and 130 speakers, including producer Samantha Horley and script editor Lucy V Hay – as well as pitchfest, scriptlab, and script chat sessions – you do get quite a bit of value for money.

WIAW?: Settle in for the long haul

I love a good, solid extended metaphor, so last week’s issue of Why Aren’t I Writing? explored the idea that a writing career is less like a marathon and more like the almost continuous round-the-world migration undertaken by the Arctic tern. A marathon might take a lot of training, and they might be painful to run (careful of those nipples), but they are relatively short in duration compared to writing a novel.

I think, instead, a writing career is a way of life, it’s something you do because it’s in your nature, it’s something you can’t not do. So it’s important to approach it like that, to think about how you’re going to nourish yourself along the way and how, once you get to where you’re going, you’re only going to have a short rest before taking off again.

Fiction: The Lacemaker

Coming up on Thursday is my short story, The Lacemaker:

When Maude tries to change a stranger’s destiny, she knows there’s only one way she can right her wrong.

The email should appear in your inbox at around 10:30 am (unless you’ve turned off my Fiction emails in your settings, though why would you do that?!).

I’ll also send you Argleton and Queen of the May over coming months. I had a nasty minute when I thought I’d lost all the Queen of the May files, which seem to have been fried when Dropbox’s main folder lost its connection with their servers several years ago. At the time, I didn’t think that I’d lost anything, but it seems that perhaps I have. I found the ebook files at least, buried deep on a previous computer’s hard drive, and then remembered I have the raw text in a draft document on my blog, so phew, disaster averted!

Obligatory cat picture

I had forgotten how much greener Sir Izacat Mewton’s eyes were, compared to Grabbity’s. This photo was taken in 2013, when they were just four.

That’s it for this week.

All the best!



P.S. A few extra things

1. You can pick exactly which emails you would like to receive from me here in your settings.

2. You can look at all the books I’ve ever featured in this newsletter in my Bookshop.org shop. Any purchases through this list do pay me a small commission.

3. If you’d like to support this newsletter, or my writing in general, you can upgrade to paid membership by visiting the Word Count home page and looking for the button in the top righthand corner that says, unsurprisingly, ‘Upgrade to paid’. It’s just £5 a month, or £50 per year, and you’ll get access to my twice-monthly paid essays about writing, screenwriting and publishing as well as all my free posts. Once we’ve got enough paid subscribers, I’ll also start doing joint webinars with my subscribers over at Why Aren’t I Writing?.

4. I’m now officially looking for freelance work after the Ada Lovelace Day rescue bid fell through. I’m available for remote writing, ghostwriting, mentoring, mentor program consulting, and/or gender equality consulting gigs, so if you want to work with me, or know someone who does, please get in touch!

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