January 2016

Mothers – they’re your kids, not the shop’s

What is happening to parental responsibility?

Indeed, what is happening to taking responsibility for one’s own actions?

A mother found her 19-month-old daughter ripping open a packet of Ibuprofen tablets while they were waiting in a queue in a branch of WH Smith.

Does she upbraid the child – teach her that such behaviour is not on?  Of course she doesn’t?

Does she censure herself for not properly supervising a child that is of an age when she will have her fingers into everything? Of course she doesn’t.

Her course of action is, in the words of the local media, to accuse WH Smith of endangering her toddler’s life.

Not only does she accuse the retailer of a  “crime” for her own lack of supervision, but she also runs to the media with her story of this supposed heinous misdemeanour.

Maybe, as WH Smith later agreed, such products should be placed where no tiny hands can reach them.

But surely the first responsibility lies with the mother, not the shop.

A glaring example of how it has become the norm to blame everyone but oneself when things go wrong – and often at a huge cost to the community at large in terms of excessive legislation, additional expense and even more prohibitions.

Mothers, they are your children. They are your responsibility.  God knows what the next generation will be like if these are the standards of the present one.


E-book trash, not publishers, keeps authors poor

Once again we poor slaves of the written word are being categorised as an endangered species, especially those of us who devote our energies to long-form fiction and non-fiction.

The Society of Authors is blaming the subsistence level of writers’ earnings on publishers who fail to pay adequate recompense for works that end up as e-books.

It has called on publishers to shell out at least 50 per cent of their revenue from e-book sales instead of the “mere” 25 per cent that is currently paid – if you are lucky.

It’s a fair call and one that might help raise the income of British authors above the present annual median of £11,000.

However, with the enormous proliferation of self-published works, it could be that authors are their own worst enemies. Too many are chasing numbers – in terms of downloads – rather than income. Hardly have they uploaded their book to Amazon, Kindle, Smashwords or wherever than they are offering deals akin to some cheapjack stallholder down Petticoat Lane.

They equate success with downloads rather than with the number of readers willing to pay to read their work.

Writers’ websites are awash with screams of FREE or 99 CENTS, such is the minimal value they place on their creative work.

While the Society of Authors claims low publisher payments are reducing “the breadth and quality of content … that drives the cultural reputation of our creative industries”, it is actually the writers themselves who are doing this. The advent of easy online publishing has opened the floodgates to every Jack and Jill who picks up a genuine best-seller and says “I can do that” and dashes off another 100,00 words of trash to add to the already enormous shitpile that self-publishing has become.

They clearly can’t “do that” but no one is there to stop them or, at least, edit them, as the traditional publishers once did.

By all means reward authors adequately for their work – but first let’s ensure that work has merit some levels above trash that is too quickly becoming the norm.