What does Brexit mean for writers?


While the dust has far from settled, following this enormous bombshell, I thought I’d risk some speculation.

The film and TV industries have been clear that they think it’ll be more difficult to get finance, and that fewer British and European films and programmes will show up in each other’s territories. For the next couple of years, I think we’ll see polarisation between low-budget domestic product, and material which looks as if it’ll be successful internationally. So, anyone who can write good scripts that cost very little and can be shot here, and more Harry Potter.

We might see some unexpected alliances, too, as co-production partners.

The publishing industry has also been clear it thinks Brexit is disastrous. In particular, the US and UK may war over English-language books exported to Europe. If the Americans can get cheaper editions into Europe, the UK publishers will lose many thousands of sales. In response, I think publishers will try and protect their incomes by putting even greater pressure on authors to agree to World rights deals.

It’s never been easy to make a living in this business, but the next few years will call on our best entrepreneurial and creative skills.


Where is the money?

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThere’s been a lot of coverage this week about the ALCS’s latest survey of writers’ earnings:
Nicola Solomon, Chief Executive of the Society of Authors, makes astute comments on the publishing aspects here:
Briefly, in publishing, book sales have been declining over the past few years; however, as Nicola points out, publishers don’t appear to be suffering. In television, companies have had to provide new digital services with no extra funding. Other media, such as film and theatre, have suffered from austerity cuts. Who loses out? The individual, as always – the writers.
What can be done about this? For a start, it’s time for the writers’ unions and agents to examine the writer’s share of money generated by their work. In the way that poor people’s benefits have been cut, almost as a punishment during the austerity cuts, writers seem to be expected to subsidise the digital developments in the media. Second, both the Labour and Conservative governments can stop suspecting there’s money to be found in creative content if we can just make it cheaper for the consumer, or promote our culture… without spending any money on it. At this rate, we won’t have a culture.

A 4-hour ride in an elevator

file2901279389192 (2)I’ve been doing a series of writers’ events – the London Author Fair, the T Party, Get Writing, and next week will be tweeting for Swanwick and attending the LMA’s first literary event on Friday. It’s good publicity for an agent, you meet interesting writers, and you keep an eye on what’s really happening out there.
A popular feature of writers’ events is pitching sessions. You can’t go to one now without seeing a row of tables. Sometimes it’s hard to tell whether the writer or the agent look more horrified at meeting the other at last, or more appalled at what the other is saying. Whoever thought the elevator pitch was a good idea?
The good thing about the pitching process is everything else besides the pitch. It gave me a chance to smile at that terribly nervous writer who had 5 minutes with me on Saturday, and I hope my fangs looked reassuring. Someone else’s pitch document read like randomly generated words, until they explained the interesting ideas behind it. There were a few sessions where it was the writer and I knew we weren’t right for each other. There’s just no substitute for meeting face to face. I may have a name that should belong to a small Welsh fairy but I suspect that’s not how I come across.
#AskSwanwick at 8pm on Monday 7th April
LMA Spring Festival on Friday 11th and Saturday 12th April http://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/lma

The Sins of Agents

This wonderful article


made me wonder about what might be the Ten Commandments for Writers, but I could only come up with a few obvious ones (“Don’t write anything rubbish”).  However, the sins of agents are many, and here’s my stab at Twenty Commandments for Agents.  Further suggestions welcome…

1.  Thou shalt put the client’s interests first.

2.  Thou shalt give positive feedback as well as negative.

3.  Thou shalt return phone calls and answer emails.

4.  Thou shalt deal with contracts and payments promptly.

5.  Thou shalt keep thine ego in check.

6.  Thou shalt not indulge in paranoia.

7.  Thou shalt resist weird superstitions about what works in the industry.

8.  Thou shalt not indulge in strange practices to improve thy clients’ luck and frustrate thy competitors.

9.  Thou shalt not boast to a client about another client’s greater success.

10.  Thou shalt not make enemies.

11.  Thou shalt not knowingly represent anything rubbish.

12.  Thou shalt not harry publishers and producers fruitlessly.

13.  Thou shalt not blame everything on someone else.

14.  Thou shalt be honest and caring, without undue support from alcohol, drugs and egregious boasting.

15.  Thou shalt not spend more than 2 hours a day moaning about the industry to thine agent friends or thy clients.

16.  Thou shalt remember thy clients’ names and (roughly) what they wrote.

17.  Thou shalt not look covetously on another agent’s client.

18.  Thou shalt not use thy lunch as a bookmark.

19.  Thou shalt keep up with new developments.  As soon as a new right exist, writers start losing money.

20.  Thou shalt resist harking back to the golden days of 100% repeat fees, uncomplicated royalty statements, the Net Book Agreement, 15-year licences, and the ability to send an interesting work in progress to someone who had the time to read it properly and think about commissioning the writer.


Chamber of Horrors 1

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It’s a sunny Friday, and a feeling of summer in the air.  All too cheerful.  You might like to step into the back room of my laboratory, where I store nasty samples in jars.

Along here are the Stunted Works. This one was a stage play that never grew an Act 3.  Was sold for TV.  Was commissioned as a 30-minute pilot, then expanded to 60 minutes, then cut to 30 minutes (but a different 30 minutes).  This one used to be a comedy, but bad things happened to it.

Here’s a fine collection of Appalling Contracts.  This one took 2 years to be negotiated and signed.  The Head of Contracts would take 6 months to answer, and then only to say she’d lost the previous set of responses.  The project it was commissioning was rewritten and finally rejected by the time the contract was signed.  I’ve got two here that actually have a clause saying ‘This is not a legal document’.  You’ll see they went unsigned – what’s the point?

These many smaller bottles here are Screaming One-liners.  ‘We know it’s a prestige project – that’s why we’re paying your client less’.  ‘We’re only interested in your client because he’s cheaper’.  ‘Oh, Meg, you were supposed to be cancelled.  I’m having lunch with an agent that I’m really doing business with’.

Next, I’ll introduce you to some Toxic Conditions peculiar to writers and agents.  Have a sunny weekend.

Image courtesy of Renjith Krisnan from http://www.freedigitalphotos.net