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Thursday, 20 October 2016

What did you say?

It kicked off with a conversation about language with a colleague and an attempt to introduce him to the delights of the arty bollocks generator, I've touched on this before, but this time, horror of horrors, it was off-line. Mildly embarrassing to head for the reveal and be left with "page cannot be displayed" or a similar message. Happily, the loss was temporary and before too long the generator was back at work.

The temporary denial set me clicking around the Internet, trying to discover where it had gone and in the process stumbled on a cornucopia of generators, all of the same ilk. Brothers in Arms of the ABG and I was introduced to International Art English, after David Levine and Alix Rule's 2012 essay in the TripleCanopy magazine and a variant, one might call it a dialect perhaps, International New Music English explored by Danika Paskvan in cacophonymag.com.

With a liking for word play and a fascination for how language changes, naturally and by mangling and mutilation uncovering the various generators became a serious distraction, touching on the conversation about triggers, safe spaces and the less than tolerant attitudes expressed in both these areas. I left the heavy stuff for another day; returned to the generators and International Art English.

Levine and Rule explored the premise in their essay that the language of art whether by accident or design confused, obfuscated and segregated. Knowing the language was a way of breaking into and advancing through the ranks, without the knowledge advancement was near impossible. They lay some of the responsibility for the development of International Art English with the interns of the art world, at one point describing the language as English inexpertly translated from French.

The pair take it seriously, and many of the art world do, fluency is a mark of the Insider, and Levine and Rule describe it as a unique language, English that definitely is not English. Their research involved running thousands of press releases through the language analysing software, Sketch Engine, to uncover the workings behind it all. IAE uses more words not less. Its structure under analysis pointed towards the badly translated French origin and Levine and Rule pinpoint its arrival via the magazine October, a critical journal founded in 1976 in New York and drawing on French post structuralism's ideas and prose style.

Where ever it began, the language is now as global as its parent and an established part of any exhibition or installation, for good or ill.

I digress, that's how it's been for a couple of weeks, it started with the ABG and went waltzing (without matilda) across the Internet. The original intention of locating the downed ABG sent the click rate soaring and a web of connections. Nowhere seemed safe from jargon of some description or other and the humorous generators were never far away.

IAE was born out of post structuralism and post modernism got  in on the act too, the post modern essay generator was high on the search rankings, click the button and another wordy treatise of intellectual gibberish appears on the screen, and business has its adherents at the commerce B.S. generator. A simple click throws up a snippet of..., click it again and another one appears.

It does seem the art world is assailed by more than its share of generators, maybe an extension of the inevitable creativity expressed through art, but that hyperbolic verbiage comes under ruthless assault - hang on a moment, did I just slip into...?

The Art speak generator offers a quick fix, the Critical Response to the Art Product - the FLA is pretty clear  - offers a quick retort in a tight situation. The apposite comment you wish was in residence all the time visiting fifteen minutes after you turn the light out at night.

The right words at the right moment, what a rare gem that can be!

Tuesday, 20 September 2016

Just when you thought it was safe...

It was a sequel to Jaws, the not entirely originally titled Jaws 2, but it had the tag "Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water..." A classic line from Peter Benchley.

After sifting through the Bowker review of publishing trends, 2010 to 2015 and seeing the hit the Vanity press had taken, a hit so hard that Penguin Random House ditched Author Solutions at the beginning of 2016, and the declining numbers of authors buying their product I should have known there would be something lurking around the corner. Just when you thought...

I had that feeling when I clicked on David Gaughran's blog and started reading, he is running through the latest money scamming idea from the dodgy end of publishing, Vanity Publishers pretending to be legitimate trade publishers and hiding their true colours until the author has taken the hook, been played on the line and finally reeled in.

Just go to David's blog and read it here.

I'll let David tell the story, my job tonight is merely to pass it on, at David's request!

Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Looking under the carpet

That moment, you reach the point of searching for something and lift the corner of the carpet  to peer underneath, you know full well that what you're looking for isn't there, but you haven't already looked. So, the corner of the carpet comes up.

I guess it's also the moment that anything you swept under there before stares balefully back at you.

A couple of things had me looking around the other day, one was Bowker's Self-Publishing in the United States. 2010 - 2015; an analysis of print and ebook publishing trends and the other was a search at the top of the page. After wasting a few minutes, alright, more than a few minutes on the trending hashtags of twitter I moved on. I typed in Publisher's Weekly and read the search result at the head of the page; chooseyourpublisher.com.

Some time ago I posted a blog on the workings of the vanity presses in general and Author Solutions in particular, I remarked on the number of times the web page of something like FindYourPublisher had Author Solutions tucked at the bottom of the page (nothing has changed).

Chooseyourpublisher had; chooseyourpublisher. Now I was curious, so who are chooseyourpublisher, moving sideways across to an Internet domain site - I used get dotted  - I searched for chooseyourpublisher found the suffixes still available and clicked on the information icon of a domain name already taken and scanned the whois information.

Sound advice for an individual is to sign up for the privacy deal, big companies and organisations aren't always so particular. The owner of the domain name was tucked into the listed information and the usual suspects' information was there on the screen.

David Gaughran and Victoria Strauss and others have long held a spotlight up to the shady world of Vanity Publishers and the recent class actions dismissed against Author Solutions notwithstanding. Some of their activities deserve closer scrutiny.

What caught my eye about the Bowker report and the trends identified within the industry shed some light on Penguin Random House's quiet release of their hold on the company in January 2016. A contrast to the purchase four years previously

PRH bought AS in 2012 with considerable fanfare, and many thought the new owners would change the MO, not so! The old practises continued and the company expanded under the new owners.

However reluctant AS and PRH might have been to change their ways, the world was changing around them. The attitude towards self-publishing was shifting. Middle ranking and other authors previously held by commercial publishes were moving their back catalogues and self-publishing titles as they recovered rights previously signed away.

Commercial presses were already snapping up successful self-published authors and the expansion of authors working through the medium of the Internet shared their knowledge and experience. All contributed to a decline in the number of ISBN's issued through the Vanity outlets.

Caution is needed here; the Bowker document gives an indication of the trends visible through the distribution of ISBNs, Most self published authors are aware that an ISBN isn't essential for publication, so the picture laid out by Bowker isn't the whole picture.

What that might be is anyone's guess, but one thing seems certain, change is the only constant. Have a look at the article where I found the report and a hat tip to The Passive Voice for pointing me towards the-digital-reader.

Caution should be a watchword, check the links, dig deep into those who come knocking and ask Whois looking for your book to publish it, or help you do the donkey work. protect your investment. The time and effort you have put into your creation are worth it, and if you do make a mistake, pick yourself up and have another go.

When you need that boost, that hand up to get you back on your feet. Dust yourself down and remind yourself the large lady will have to find someone else to entertain.

Thursday, 25 August 2016

Sticks and stones, and words too!

Still working with the idea that Brexit could be the source material for future creativity had me digging through the Spectator online the other day and an article about the Creative and Artistic response to the vote as expressed at the Edinburgh Festival. Lloyd Evans penned "Luvvie anger over Brexit is palpable at Edinburgh - and its exposing their true colours.

Are we seeing a social shift where the creatives coalesce into a distinct strata in society deserving of special status? the constant search for funding, sponsorship etc. has always been part of the creative life, but the sense of a right, that as creatives they have a right to be funded has become more ope and the right to pass judgement, to decide who and what the other side are; basically wrong is more openly expressed.

Evans explains that the tantrum throwing mentality of the artistic Remainers is understandable; why? They believe the vote will deprive them of lots of cash. The humour was aimed at the Leave voters and inevitably called into question their intellectual capacity. In four days of comedy he encountered only one pro-Brexit joke from Geoff Norcott who was puzzled by the Remainers conviction the vote had been swung by 'thick' Leave voters. 'Thick?' He said. "The Remain campaign waited until after 23 June to stage their protest.'

Humour is powerful, but it's the sense of power exuded by the Remain camp, that the will of the people, the democratic vote can be overturned by whatever means possible. Evans takes his analysis further, citing the satirist Andy Saltzman asking who was to blame and received a list of the usual political suspects, Cameron, Johnson, Gove et al. received a name check, but the real culprit  - if there is one - was never mentioned; Democracy.

Many writers, especially the thriller and spy genre wondered what would happen after the Berlin wall came down and Communism began to fragment in the early 1990s. None of us at the time could have predicted the events of the next twenty years, the conflicts, terror alerts and the current situation unfolding across Europe with the migration of thousands from the Middle East and Africa.

The material kept coming, more than enough for any writer to slake their thirst for inspiration. Is this the beginning of what we see unfolding within the United Kingdom, a wealth of intrigue and chicanery. Political manoeuvring and judicial interference. Mishcon de Reya,  acting on behalf of clients, has challenged the Government procedure regarding article 50, citing that it should uphold the constitution and protect the sovereignty of Parliament. I thought that's what the whole bloody fuss was about in the first place! Parliament's sovereign ability to function without interference from outside.

Maybe, I'm just being a thick Leaver, but doesn't the vote come after the debate, and isn't that what the relentless bovine scatology hurtling from every direction was supposed to be? Debate first, vote after, then action derived from the result and to quote the legal challengers  'the decision to trigger Article 50... rests with the representatives of the people under the UK Constitution. That's Parliament, by the way.

Literature has worked the theme of the difference between the top and bottom of society for centuries, Dickens explored the class divisions in many of his novels, Oliver Twist, Great Expectations, and others, all unpacked the society in which he lived. Nearly a century later in the 1950s, British literature embraced social commentary, and the voices of John Osborne, Kingsley Amis and John Braine - among others - the Angry Young Men made themselves heard.

The referendum revealed a complex division among the voters and the over simplification of Leavers and Remainers does neither side any good. The perspective decides the point of view, who is wearing the black hat and who the white? The good guys and the bad?

The House of Commons, the lower chamber of the High Court of Parliament, has 650 members and they asked a direct question and got a straight answer, It's first past the post and the simple majority prevails; the majority vote was to leave. Black and White,  not 650 shades of grey?

Barely two months since the vote was cast and the potential material is gathering already, who knows what the future will bring, thrillers edged with the internal tensions of former colleagues in Pan European co-operation working the national angle into a multi-national agency. The insider who now stands outside? All of it potential material. The rise of the Far Right, and the counter-balance of the resurgence of the Far Left. If you go far enough in either direction do you wind up in the same place - I just wondered?

Kick the imagination into gear and the list grows exponentially, material, material, material. Complex, convoluted, add words to the list. I could go on...

Not today,

One last thought. On the morning after the vote a BBC reporter asked Jean-Claude Juncker is the vote marked the 'beginning of the end of the European Union?' He gave a one word answer - no - and left the podium. What happens next? We are only just beginning to find out.

Friday, 12 August 2016

My Precious

David Gaughran posted a piece about the current state of the publishing industry and its attitude towards books and publication. Read it, go, read it, and then come back here. I have my own two pennorth to throw into the ring.

David is known for his advocacy of the cause against Vanity presses and the links between the scammers and the so-called reputable industry. His earlier blog posts are worth looking at regarding the Penguin Random House relationship with Author Solutions, and others.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016


I recently bought my first Kindle device; not, I hasten to add the first e-reading device I've had, but definitely the first Kindle.

I've used the Kindle software on other devices, PC, laptop, tablet and occasionally grappled with the smartphone variant, with varying degrees of success.

The Kindle was brought to replace a Kobo mini; for what it is, a reasonably satisfactory device but the kobo had it's limitations.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Keeping it under your hat!

Declining eBook sales, and this has nothing to do with the effects of Brexit, this is routine sales figures for the last quarter. Nate Hoffelder at the-digital-reader.com flags up the recent reticence of the Big Five/Six to discuss eBook revenues, and the apparent decline in sales.

Jim Milliot picked up the thread in Publishers Weekly looking at the decline in eBook sales, citing user preferences changing and wanting more time away from screens.