What Would George Bernard Shaw be Campaigning for Today? - Andrew Crofts

The Society of Authors has kindly put my name forward as one of four nominations for its Management Committee. If all goes smoothly and I join the other distinguished committee members I thought it might be useful to have a clearer idea of what it is that we would all like the Society to be doing for authors in these exciting times?

What, I wonder, would George Bernard Shaw, (an early and active member of the Society), be campaigning for if he was around today? What would his views be on e-books and self-publishing, for instance? Would he be championing Amazon for making books so accessible or criticising their monopolistic and capitalistic tendencies? Would he be sympathetic towards struggling high street independents or would he see them as the architects of their own downfall?  

What better place to launch such an investigation than here amongst a group of authors operating on the “cutting edge” of the electronic publishing industry. I would greatly welcome any ideas anyone might have on ways in which the Society should be making itself useful to its members.

Below is a short biography which the Society has published in The Author to support my nomination.

Andrew Crofts is a full-time author and ghostwriter. He has published more than 80 titles, a dozen of which have spent many weeks at the top of the Sunday Times best seller charts.

As well as using traditional publishers to reach readers, (including Arrow, Blake, Bloomsbury, Century, Ebury, AndrĂ© Deutsch, Hamish Hamilton, Harper Collins, Headline, Heinemann, Hodder, Hutchinson, Little Brown, Michael Joseph, McGraw Hill, Orion, Pan Macmillan, Penguin, Pocket Books, Sidgwick & Jackson, Sphere and Weidenfeld & Nicolson), he has also experimented with e-books, publishing “The Fabulous Dreams of Maggie de Beer”,(a prequel to his traditionally published “The Overnight Fame of Steffi McBride”), on both Kindle and Smashwords, and has guided a number of international clients successfully through the minefield of independent publishing.

His books on writing include “Ghostwriting”, (A&C Black), which was extensively quoted by Robert Harris in his thriller “The Ghost”, and “The Freelance Writer’s Handbook”, (Piatkus), which has been reprinted eight times over twenty years. In 2010 he wrote “The Change Agent – How to Create a Wonderful World”, a biography of James Martin, the futurologist and biggest ever private donor to Oxford University. Andrew lectures on the subject of making a living from writing at Kingston University and frequently guests at writing workshops, literary festivals and in the media. He blogs and tweets regularly on matters pertaining to publishing and writing.


Dan Holloway said…
mm, very interesting - and very good luck, Andrew - it would be cracking to have one of the good guys on the SoA establishment. My wishlist would be fairly straightforward (and its overlaps with the Alliance of Independent Authors is one of the reaosns I'm happy to be associated with them despite being phobic of organised anything):
1. push for greater media coverage of self-published books
2. push for more mainstream coverage of the content of books, especially ebooks, and not the business or sales side - the latter belongs in the business pages, the former belongs on the culture pages, and they can happily sit side by side in features
3. push for greater opportunities for self-published authors at festivals
4. a genuine commitment to poetry being treated equally, especially when it comes to appearance fees and a call for solidarity from all writers with poets, including performance poets, who are not treated equally and not just with their fellow "proper" (i.e. fiction & non-fiction) writers

very very best
Andrew Crofts said…
Thanks, Dan. I imagine self publishing is an area which is already taxing the Society's minds.I'm guessing things are going to be evolving pretty fast over the next few years.
Dennis Hamley said…
Well, Andrew, I shall definitely vote for you. Actually, I'm afraid that in my thirty-seven year membership of the SoA I have never voted in Management Committee elections because I could not see any sign of the Society ever doing anything of which I might disapprove, though many years ago, when I was briefly Chair of the educational Writers Group, I was quite glad that only illness resulting in a long stay in hospital saved me from actually being on it!

But I agree with Dan. The rules of the game are changing fast. We really are on the cutting edge and we know it full well, even though we usually seem too jokey to be really serious about it. The SoA, which is by and large a forward-looking organisation and not too trammelled by the traditional publishing model, could and should have huge influence - and with someone like you on the committee, not only would AE know its interests would be looked after and its potential recognised but also the alternative literary movement represented by Dan would be valued and taken seriously - though, heaven forfend, not be absorbed into the establishment.

What will your attitude be to the new constitution? I see no reason why the change shouldn't be made. The first constitutional change since GBS and your accession to the committee might be a very significant coincidence.
Andrew Crofts said…
I too, Dennis, can see no harm in the changes to the constitution. At first glance it seems a fairly academic exercise. I shall do my best to be worthy of my place as part of "a very significant coincidence".
Pauline Fisk said…
Short and sweet. You have my vote too.
Dan Holloway said…
Dennis, I'm afraid I'm out of the loop - what is the proposed change?
Dennis Hamley said…
Well, Dan, as I understand it, it's this. The Society is legally a trade union, though not affiliated to the TUC (could you imagine that?) It's also a company limited by shares, which are at present held by the 57 council members. The proposal is that in future, the shares will be held by all full members. This is to encourage democracy and get rid of the old top-down structure. It's mainly symbolic and I can't see it having any effect on how the society operates, but it is more transparent and may signify a full acceptance that times are changing and the SoA had better change with them.

As the old advertisement for Redex, the petrol additive, used to say, 'cannot do harm, may do good.'
julia jones said…
I hope you'll look at all forms of discrimination against independently published books. In the small print of most (possibly ALL) literary awards there's a clause the precludes entry for books that are not published through the conventional channels. I realise that this may be a defence mechanism - no one wants thsie judges to be swamped by a rush of unsolicited packages - but there are mechanisms for dealing with this. It's possibly financial - organisatons who promote the bigger awards expect to have a lunch or diunner where puhblishers and agents will spend large sums of money on tables. It may also be to do with distribution - if an independent were to win, could the resulting sales be fulfilled. These are all practical difficulties and like any practical difficulty there will be a practical solution if people really want one. At least there should be proper discussion and some attempt at fairness.
Andrew Crofts said…
Thanks for all the above.

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