Spring 2018

The publishing landscape is wintry but spring is in the air

James McConnachie, Editor

I always try to shape each issue of The Author around a theme – but this Spring issue is more vigorous. It has three. The first might go against the instincts of those who live by words: it considers silence.

Poet Philip Gross guides us through the quiet landscapes of pauses, white spaces and ‘the writing-in of spaciousness’, while John Greening, another poet, takes us on a journey into writers’ retreats – although he argues that proper retreats are communal, mutually supportive affairs rather than eremetical adventures. Lawyer David Hooper, meanwhile, advises us how to handle the ugly noise of online trolls and harassing reviewers and, most movingly, Kate Colquhoun describes finding her voice after years in which she did not write at all.

The second theme examines the many forms that authors now take. Typically described as cats – unherdable – we are becoming more like chameleons. Caroline Sanderson introduces us to the newly emerging figure of the ‘hybrid’ author who chooses to be both published and self-published.

John Ward experiments with what he calls ‘extreme self-publishing’, by which he means that he does all the work himself, from writing and printing to guillotining the paper and stitching the very bindings of his own book. Joan Michelson concentrates on her own sales – or ‘peddling’ her poetry chapbook, as she describes it. Not so much self-publishing, in her case, as self-deprecating.

A news story drives our third theme. The publisher Michael Bhaskar offers a personal insight into the report he co-wrote for the Arts Council on the wintry economics of literary fiction in the UK. Sales and prices have been dropping like temperature and air-pressure ahead of a cold front, he finds, but there are signs of spring. And signs of strength in depth: he notes the networks that underpin many authors’ economic, professional and emotional lives, and singles out those created and sustained by the SoA and its admirable Authors’ Foundation. The tireless work of the Foundation is described for us by Mark Le Fanu.

Reading Bhaskar’s report it seemed to me that British literary fiction stands like a forest in late winter. The trees are bare and a little wind-blown, perhaps, but the forest’s fundamental architecture is still strong. And one of the reasons for that strength – if I can stretch the analogy further – lies underground.

It is a relatively recent discovery that individual trees are nourished not only by the soil, sun and rain but by thread-like mycorrhizal networks that all but invisibly connect them. It is from this fungal web, indeed, that 40% of the carbon in a tree’s roots is derived. Trees draw strength, in other words, not only from above and deep below, but from their neighbours.

Applications to the Authors’ Foundation close on 30th April.

James McConnachie

mcconnachie.tumblr.com | @j_mcconnachie

In this issue...

Support and camaraderie

The chameleon writer

  • The hybrid author - Caroline Sanderson
  • Extreme self-publishing - John Ward
  • Peddling a poetry chapbook - Joan Michelson
  • What sort of deal are you being offered?


  • Verse drama in the 21st century - Richard O’Brien
  • Earning more from author events - Nicola Morgan

Silence and shouting


  • Need to know
  • Out and about - David Henningham
  • To the Editor
  • Booktrade news
  • Broadcasting
  • Notices
  • Grub Street - Andrew Taylor

Looking for our guidance on tax for authors, our FAQs on VAT or tax-deductible expenses?