So what's new for 2012, apart from the UK Olympics, the inexorable rise of China, the continuing economic decline...and the coming of Doomsday with the end of the Mayan Long Calendar on 21st December? Well, here goes - this is what I think will happen in the next 12 months.
Writing and Politics
The Government doesn't like writers much. We're too fond of pointing out the uncomfortable truth to people like Ed Vaizey and Jeremy Hunt. PLR dropped last year, and the very efficient department administering it has become a victim of the cuts. I predict a further drop and less efficiency. Despite brave and tenacious legal battles, libraries are dying like flies, and the situation continues to worsen for reading and readers everywhere, with both independents and chains feeling the chill winds of closure. It's not going to get any better this year either - there'll be more shock shutdowns everywhere, and I'm certain that the demise of the euro (yes, I'm definitely predicting that) will affect us all. However, if we get enough people on the streets on National Libraries Day on February 4th, maybe we can turn things round for the libraries at least. Put the date in your diary, please! (Unfortunately, I also predict that library campaigner Alan Gibbons will not be getting an OBE in 2012 - though he damn well should). School budgets are massively down too, so I'm certain that author visit bookings will become rarer than hens' teeth. I think that writers will have to become much more political this year. We can't just stand on the sidelines and watch - we have to shout even more loudly at the people who are depriving children of their reading potential. We must harness our anger and focus it effectively.
Writing and Social Media:
Facebook is on a downward trend in my opinion (too many changes), and Twitter will increasingly become the social media tool of choice for most writers - especially for YA authors, as more and more teens are joining up, and can be reached directly. But beware! It's not a direct selling tool for books. More authors will also join the Linked In bandwagon, though most will be bewildered by what it actually achieves for writers (not a lot, currently). YouTube will become bigger than ever, with a book trailer becoming the norm and not the exception (actually, that's already happened). As publishers' budgets are stripped still further, authors are once again going to have to cooperate in 'putting themselves out there' via social media in order to promote and sell books (even more so than previously). If you haven't yet built a social media presence, for goodness' sake do it now - the future of books is definitely on the internet, however much we all love the paper versions. Writers themselves will become more powerful as a group - social media has proved revolutionary in this respect already - and we will all be grateful for the support of our peers in the difficult times ahead. This will possibly make publishers increasingly nervous! Writers and artists talking to one another? Whatever next?
Writing and Technology:
Last year I said that 'this will be the year when e-books rock the public perception of reading'. Er, was I right? I think so! With Kindle sales through the roof, and e-books overtaking print books by a considerable margin, technology is careering ahead, sometimes leaving publishers behind and floundering in the tailwind of its rise. Many more already established authors will learn to 'Kindle' their books this year - some self-publishing out of frustration and some providing 'add-ons' to existing traditionally published work in the form of stories or novellas. The buzzwords for 2012 will be 'added content'. Despite the many 'blog tours' out there for book promotion, I'm predicting a backlash against them from unpaid book bloggers fed up with the inexorable timetable, which requires them to read and comment on books at a frantic rate. Authors will increasingly become available for Skype school visits, which will open up a global audience for their work, thus making it even more important to have work available in e-formats. The good news is that teens (GenY) are reading on their smartphones. The technology for moving picture books to e-books will race ahead still further, becoming cheaper and easier to programme, and small children will be able to interact with their favourite characters as a matter of course via apps, and busy parents will turn to iPads and tablets even more as readers of bedtime stories. Pirating is already a real problem for authors, and that's only going to get worse. Copyright theft should be addressed urgently this year, but effective measures are unlikely to come quickly. I also predict more approaches from foreign e-packagers (Korea, China, the USA) looking for material for those of us who have out-of-print picture books lying about doing nothing.
Writing and Publisher Deals:
Oh dear! I don't want to be the Prophet of Doom here...but it's not going to be easy to get a contract for anyone. Advances, as I predicted for 2011, are down hugely, and the art of the good synopsis will be increasingly essential. It will be very unlikely that first (or even third) time authors will get a deal for anything less than a full manuscript, which means time and energy spent with no assurance of a positive outcome. Paranormal will still be hot in YA, but it'll have to have a very different spin to get published at all. History is going to be hard to sell for all but a few, and dystopia is still there, but again, it will have to have real quality to be bought. Frankfurt was good in 2011, and I'm predicting a frantic selling Bologna for those lucky ones with a deal. London Book Fair too will be busy, and it is shaping up to be much more 'author friendly' for children's writers especially this year, with lots of interesting seminars going on. It's not all bad news for writers, though, with new independent publishers like Nosy Crow and Hot Key Books popping up and commissioning. There are also more competitions out there for new and unpublished writers, which can be a route to publication. I'd say don't despair, but be realistic this year. Don't give up - it is going to get better eventually (though I won't say soon), and the Americans are buying again at last. That has to be good news!
Quite honestly, though I wasn't saying so, I was bricking it this time last year. I had no contracts in view, and the view wasn't all that rosy. However, my 2011 was better than I could ever have dreamed. I've got back into the picture book market with two new books coming from Nosy Crow and Bloomsbury in 2013, about which I'm delighted, and Lovely Agent has sold a middle-grade mythological series of novels to the USA, also for 2013. So it was a good year - and I've finished my YA novel, about which I hope to have good news soon. So although 2012 brings no publication dates, I have some deadlines to stick to (three contracted books to write), more picture books to come up with, and a lot of fingers in bookish pies (about which more in due course). I'm also taking part in the brand new Chipping Norton Literary Festival, planning for the second ABBAlitfest, doing a few school visits and, most exciting of all, going to Bologna Book Fair for the first time ever in March. It's going to be an amazing year of writing for me, and I'll be keeping you all posted either here or on Twitter about any developments.
Once again thanks for sticking with me, Lovely Blog Readers - I am so grateful to you all for your comments and participation here, and I promise there'll be a Big Blog Announcement about a brand new series of author interviews on Scribble City Central very soon. Watch this space - I'm plotting and planning for your delight even as I write this. Do tell me your own writing predictions, hopes and dreams for 2012 - I'd love to hear from you.