The SoA's quarterly journal
"The underlying, perhaps reassuring truth is that, without authors, those who take our works to market have nothing to sell".
James McConnachie, Editor
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From the Editor
The ‘death of the author’, I always thought, was a suspicious one. It allowed the same 1960s critics and theorists who pronounced it to assert their own supremacy. I imagine them strutting on stacks of authorial coffins, volubly distracting attention from the angry kicks coming from below.
Authors dusted off the grave-dirt, of course, and got on with the business of creation. Today there are more tangible threats: from publishers who grab rights without fair payment, offer fee-only commissions, or sidestep moral rights with digital mash-ups; from festivals and broadcasters who won’t pay us properly; from legislators who listen too eagerly to those with an interest in the erosion of copyright; from providers of internet or retail services who profit from our work while eroding the very value that makes it sustainable.
Writers will outlive them all, however, and not just because we have the Society of Authors to energetically articulate our concerns. The underlying, perhaps reassuring truth is that, without authors, those who take our works to market have nothing to sell – just as the critics of the 1960s and 70s had, without us, little to say. (I make honourable exception for the actual coiner of the phrase ‘the death of the author’, Roland Barthes, who could talk the back wheels off a Citroën DS, the chips off a plate of steak-frites and the face off Greta Garbo – and did so, scintillatingly.)
Our cover image makes the central point with shocking economy. Entitled ‘authors matter’, it was conceived for us by the author-entrepreneur Seth Godin. Without authors, words are mere ‘content’ (is there an author who doesn’t loathe that word?), defined by the limits of the space they fill. Authorship, by contrast, implies ownership. Texts that are ‘authored’ are infused with their creators’ humanity and resonant with their voices.
This Spring issue celebrates the author’s voice. In particular, it celebrates ‘the voice that speaks out’. Poet Thomas Orszàg-Land tells the story of a poem that spoke for the Hungarian Revolution of 1956. Novelist Diran Adebayo interrogates the writer’s duty to speak for others – a duty that haunts him and, he argues, other black British and African writers. Biographer Andrew Lycett speaks up for Wilkie Collins, who spoke out for authors in the Society’s early days. Simon Brett summons memories of the splendidly outspoken P. D. James. Kona Macphee gives practical advice on audio recordings and podcasts. And novelist Roopa Farooki cries out for heroes in children’s books to be more ethnically and socially diverse.
Talking of diversity, I am convinced that The Author must not just represent its members but be representative of them. I will continue to commission pieces from the most thoughtful and successful writers working today, and from major publishers and industry experts, even when their views or topics are controversial, unpalatable or discomforting – try the article in this issue on ‘big data’, by the publisher Michael Bhaskar. But I do not want a journal stuffed with contributions from the usual celebrity suspects or people the editor gladhanded at literary soirées. (No, relax; I don’t go to them either.)
If you’re feeling doubtful, diffident or marginalised, I particularly want to hear from you. (And what is true for The Author is true, on the grand scale, for the Society. You will find various appeals for your help and expertise in this issue.) I have to reject more pitches than I can accept. But to encourage the widest range of voices at least to clear their throats, I have posted some thoughts on pitching to editors, and to me in particular, on the website.
- Big data is watching you Michael Bhaskar (Members only, login to view)
- Perambulation - the sense of place by Kate Colquhoun
- Crowd editing Alison Flood
- Happy anniversaries Tony Bradman
- What's in a name? Katharine McMahon
- Creating recordings and podcasts Kona Macphee
- Truth and fiction in biographical drama Annie Caulfield
- My books, my homing pigeons Mary Russell
The voice that speaks out
- A poem of the barricades Thomas Ország-Land
- On duty Diran Adebayo
- Diversity and adversity in children’s books Roopa Farooki
- Collins the campaigner Andrew Lycett
- P D James Simon Brett
- Quarterly news
- Out and About: how to inspire reading Annemarie Young
- Grub Street Andrew Taylor
- To the Editor
- Booktrade news
- Endpaper Terence Blacker
About The Author
The Author is an invaluable source of information, news and opinion for Members and Associates as well as for publishers, literary agents and other professionals working in the book industry. It has a circulation of approximately 9,200. Members and Associates receive The Author free of charge.
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