The Guardian's New Editor-in-Chief Promises "Ambitious" Journalism

Katharine Viner is the first female editor-in-chief of The Guardian Newspaper Group - peoplewhowrite

Katharine Viner

Katharine Viner is the new Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian — the publication that helped break the story of the NSA’s citizen surveillance program by publishing leaked documents procured from Edward Snowden. She is the first woman to hold the position since the paper was founded in 1821.

Viner first began working at the publication in 1997. After serving as Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian US, the newspaper group’s Deputy Editor, and launching its Australia edition, Viner was the frontrunner for the top post in a ballot Scott Trust, which owns The Guardian, invited full-time and freelance employees to vote in. Fellow staffer Janine Gibson who was formerly Editor-in-Chief of The Guardian US, and now runs Guardian.com, was also on the ballot, but votes put her at third place. Last year, it was revealed former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson had wanted to hire Gibson as Managing Editor of the Times, which would have put her on the same level as now-Executive Editor Dean Baquet and might have led to Abramson’s dismissal. Gibson offered Viner her sincere congratulations.

Mashable.com points out:

“Viner inherits the Guardian at a time when it is well-funded with a cash cushion, but still pushing to become profitable. Like many newspapers, it has faced challenges in drawing revenues from its online growth. The CEO of its US office said this week that the American outfit is on track to be profitable in three years. The company has a large cash reserve, kept by the Scott Trust, after the sale of its interest in car website AutoTrader in January for about $985 million. The paper also signed a “seven-figure” editorial partnership with Unilever.”

Viner promised that under her leadership, The Guardian “will be a home for the most ambitious journalism, ideas and events, setting the agenda and reaching out to readers all around the world.”

On Failure: Margaret Atwood, Anne Enright, Will Self & More

Will Self - peoplewhowrite

Will Self

The Guardian recently asked seven prize-winning writers — Diana Athill, Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Anne Enright, Howard Jacobson, Will Self, and Lionel Shriver — to reflect on what it means to fail and succeed. My favorite is Will Self’s answer: “…the disjunction between my beautifully sonorous, accurate and painfully affecting mental content, and the leaden, halting sentences on the page always seems a dreadful falling short.”

Read the full piece here.

Indie UK Booksellers Demand that Amazon Pay UK Taxes

Visit change.org/amazon to learn more about the Smiths' petition - peoplewhowrite

Visit change.org/amazon to learn more about the Smiths’ petition

Independent UK Booksellers Frances and Keith Smith have delivered a petition to Prime Minister David Cameron demanding he “make Amazon pay its fair share of UK corporation tax”. The Guardian reports the Smiths launched their petition in December 2012 and had nearly 160,000 signatures when they dropped it off today.

The Smiths explained their grievance as follows: “We face unrelenting pressure from huge online retailers undercutting prices, in particular Amazon, and it’s pushing businesses like ours to the brink. But what’s even worse is that Amazon, despite making sales of £3.3 BILLION in the UK last year, does not pay any UK corporation tax on the profits from those sales. In my book, that is not a level playing field and leaves independent retailers like us struggling to compete just because we do the right thing.” Amazon is allegedly “avoiding UK taxes by reporting its European sales through a Luxembourg-based unit” according to The Guardian piece.

If this is true, it seems like a no-brainer that Amazon give to Caesar what is Caesar’s; but the issue is likely complicated by the fact that Amazon operates online, which means they can be headquartered wherever on the continent is most cost-efficient and still be a more convenient buying option for European customers. Ah, the complexities of the digital vs print battle.

This scuffle marks the latest episode in a protracted battle between Amazon, bookstores, and publishers. Last month, Amazon Publishing announced it would pay their author royalties on a monthly basis, as opposed to the bi-annual schedule of traditional publishers. Amazon bypasses publishers to communicate directly with agents and writers. In response, major bookstore Barnes and Noble has refused to carry titles published on Amazon’s imprint, and sharply reduced orders of Simon and Schuster titles for a perceived lack of support by the publisher.

Does the Self-Publishing Boom Benefit Readers. . . or Writers?

Apple's iBookstore promotes new "Breakout Books" section by self-published authors - peoplewhowrite

Apple’s iBookstore promotes new “Breakout Books” section by self-published authors

There’s been a lot of talk about how self-publishing benefits writers, but what about readers? For writers sick of knocking the iron door of literary agencies/the publishing industry without favorable answer, self-publishing has allowed them to get their stories out. But in a recent piece on The Guardian‘s website, Anna Baddely questions whether this flood of self-published stories is a  good thing for readers.

“I find it very unlikely that someone looking for their next read would think: I want something by a self-published author,” she writes. “It would be like logging on to iTunes to buy some music and selecting, instead of rock/pop, a category called “songs recorded in people’s bedrooms”.” Ouch.

She adds, “let’s stop pretending that the self-publishing revolution has the reader’s best interests at heart.” Baddely even challenges the notion that self-publishing benefits the writers that take advantage of publishing platforms to release their work independently. “To get noticed,” she points out, “you either need to be very lucky or spend every waking hour manically self‑promoting.” Baddely says the only real winner are the booksellers who can move self-published works quickly as they tend to sell at a lower price.

By likening self-published titles to “songs recorded in people’s bedrooms,” Baddely references the stigma of low-quality (poor editing, bad cover design) usually associated with them. But, with self-publishing services teaming up with traditional publishers, and the industry becoming more sophisticated, that stigma is increasingly taking a back seat to news-makers like 17-year-old Beth Reekles who snagged a Random House book deal after self-publishing her work on Wattpad and Hugh Howey who recently inked a major deal with Simon and Schuster based on the success of his self-published series Wool. If Reekles’ and Howey’s success is any indication, readers appreciate having more titles to discover — whether they have the imprimatur of a traditional publisher or not.

But Baddely raises a great point about whether self-published writers benefit. Stories like Reekles’ and Howey’s are rare, as she points out; and with readers used to buying books (digital or physical) at increasingly lower prices, self-published authors earn less and less for their work even as they split the smaller pie with sales platforms.

We’re still at the beginning of the self-publishing wave, so it’s hard to know the legacy effect it will have on readers and writers, but we’ll be watching.

Publishers Reveal the Books They Wish They'd Published

The Illicit of Other People by Manu Joseph deserved to do better, publisher Roland Philipps told The Guardian

Deserved to Do Better: “It got great reviews in a few places, but… not enough sales in a very tough environment,” said Roland Philipps, managing director at John Murray which published The Illicit Happiness of Other People.

To writers who constantly face rejection from publishers, it’s easy to think of them as Wizards of No, or wardens of the gated Publishing Industrial Complex, but of course they’re human beings, and at their hearts, lovers of books and authors. In a new article on The Guardian‘s site  publishers from Simon & Schuster, Penguin Press, Bloomsbury and more reveal the books they think deserved better reception from the press and readers, and the books they wish they published. Click over to read the article and learn about some books you might want to add to your reading list. Personally, I’m really interested in checking out The Illicit Happiness of Other People by Manu Joseph. “Joseph’s second novel confirms him, to my mind, as one of the leading new Indian novelists – he tells great truths about modern India while being thoroughly entertaining,” said Roland Philipps, managing director at John Murray which published the book. I could do without Philipps’ “Indian” qualifier — why can’t Joseph just be a leading new novelist? — but, I get his point, and am glad to learn about Joseph’s work.