Saturday, 19 October 2013

Writers' & Artists' Yearbook, farewell and good riddance

I last thought it essential to possess a copy of Writers' & Artists' Yearbook in 2008. I was no doubt happy to hand over my £14.99 for their 101st edition, believing this was a step towards becoming a published author. Flicking through it now, it strikes me as all rather quaint.

Here's Alison Baverstock, writing a piece on How to attract the attention of a literary agent: "Think not what an agent can do for you, but what you can do for an agent", which is the exact opposite of my advice of what to ask an interested agent: "What can you do for me?" There's all the usual stuff about doing your research, meekly sending exactly what the agent wants, and waiting patiently and not bothering her as the months trail by. It's not called submission for nothing.

Little mention, in 2008, of self-publishing; one article mentions POD, with no suggestions as to how a writer can sell the books once they are printed.

In my copy I see I've turned down corners, crossed out non-fiction agents, and put lines and stars by the possibilities. So much hope: such a complete waste of time, effort, stationery, ink cartridges and stamps.

These days, Writers' & Artists' recognizes that a huge chunk of publishing is self-publishing, and have even got a section offering would-be indie authors advice. Unfortunately they, like most of the large publishers, have done a deal with the devil, Author Solutions (now owned by Random Penguin). A new writer filling in their handy form is very likely to be recommended to use one of the 'self-publishing services' of Author Solutions or one of their alter egos. He will then find himself subjected to a hard sell, and paying thousands of pounds for inferior and useless 'services' he doesn't need or could get cheaply elsewhere. He will end up sadder, wiser, and considerably poorer.

For more detail on W & A's perfidy, see David Gaughran, here.

And my old copy of Writers' & Artists' Yearbook 2008 is going in the bin where it belongs.


  1. Oh, Lexi - you speak directly to my soul! So many years spent highlighting agents and bookmarking articles - I gave away my copies every year when I forked out for a new one, and for what? It does seem obsolete now, and I don't know why that makes me sad.

  2. It was only a matter of time before corporate publishing decided to cash in on self-publishing. They are too expensive, too late, and too much like the old vanity presses. People (like Lexi) who have succeeded without them are not going to keep quiet. While they may still make some money off the vulnerable and naive, unless they can actually offer something different they are at a dead end.

  3. Joanne, I am clearly meaner than you and readier to call it a day - I only bought the one copy. After a year of submitting Remix I went right off bally agents.

  4. I hope you are right, Marion, but with the backing of 'reputable' names like Penguin I'm afraid Author Solutions is going to make more money than ever.

  5. It is pretty sickening that they plug the kind of company that would shock Rogue Traders, is on preditors and editors and author beware and is basically, a rip off merchant.

    Some companies adapt and grow, some try to crush the opposition. Usually it's the adaptable ones that win.



  6. I'm running behind you, Lexi, I have a 2011 edition. I don't need the space on the bookshelf, I shall keep it as a reminder that the world is changing faster than ever before. Once upon a time publishing was a respectable, learned profession. Then it became a business, now it's in the bin.

    In 2012 that wonderful guy, Jeff Bezos, made it possible to save postage, time, effort and, for some I expect - tears. And so much more. Let's face it, the guy has changed writing and many indies' books are so much better than some traditionally published books. I hope Mr Bezos is a very happy bunny.

  7. Right, MTM, and unfortunately it's only indie authors that seem to have noticed how badly Big Publishing is behaving with Author Solutions.

    Anna, I imagine a 2011 edition of W & A must be rather interesting, coming just as digital was beginning to make waves. Is there much mention of KDP in there?

  8. Um... I can't say I read it much. I'll go and look. Back soon.

  9. KDP was called DTP back then - Digital Text Platform. Ah, those golden early days...

  10. There's a whole chapter devoted to ebooks. I can't spot KDP or DTP in the index nor can I see it in the text - but I'm only flicking through.

    There is a subheading called 'The Future'. And it says 'Many industry watchers believe that the ebook market will take off once there is a ground-breaking device available on which to read ebooks'.

    Apparently, back in the old days of 2011, it was thought that 'sales of ebooks for use on computers and phones have, to date, been constrained by the complexity of the user experience'.

    There is also a chapter on e-publishing (yes, with the hyphen). This does draw attention to the lack of set standards or quality. And also 'the electronic minefield'.

    It made me think that you, Lexi, are being modest when you say how lucky you were to be competing in a market where there were fewer competitors. There were also fewer customers able to purchase an ebook.

    I'm now wondering whether to conserve this 2011 copy in aspic.

  11. 'Many industry watchers believe that the ebook market will take off once there is a ground-breaking device available on which to read ebooks.'

    The first Kindle went on sale in 2007. Did the writer for W & A, addressing the topic of the ebook market in 2011, not notice or do any research?

    Gordon Bennett.

  12. Aren't you glad you didn't waste £14.99 on this doorstop?

  13. Why would I buy another when the first one didn't work?