• The Publishing Post

Publishing News: Issue 27

Michael Sheen Announces New Scheme to Give Underrepresented Authors ‘A Writing Chance’


By Naomi Churn


Actor Michael Sheen has launched a new project to support aspiring writers and journalists from underrepresented backgrounds. Part of a public call to the media to make more room for writers from lower income and working-class backgrounds, A Writing Chance aims to discover and nurture new talent among storytellers who are struggling to break into the industry. The UK-wide scheme is co-funded by Sheen and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), supported by media partners the New Statesman and The Daily Mirror. It will be delivered by New Writing North and other literature organisations nationally, backed by research from Northumbria University.


Eleven aspiring writers have been selected from a pool of 750 applicants, and will each receive a £1,500 bursary, one-to-one mentoring from an industry leader, insight days with media partners, and publication or broadcast of their work.


Growing up in the traditionally working-class community of Port Talbot in South Wales, Sheen cites the importance of seeing acting influences such as Richard Burton and Anthony Hopkins, both towering beacons of the industry, hail from a similar background to him. “I grew up knowing that it was possible, because they were out there doing it, you know, and how important that is to be able to see your background, your experience, represented out there [...]”, he said in a Channel 4 interview posted on New Writing North’s website.


Sheen also recognises his supportive family, community and the well-funded youth arts infrastructure within his local authority as factors that have driven his success. A Writing Chance was born out of the realisation that not everyone has access to such support and that increasingly, arts programmes of the type he benefited from are vanishing as funding is cut across the country. “I watched my pathway kind of disappear behind me really,” he explained further in the interview. The hope is that this new scheme will re-establish a pathway to success for writers facing these kinds of barriers and will also spark positive change for representation within the media industry.


Speaking about the project, Husna Mortuza, Deputy Director of Advocacy and Public Engagement at JRF said: “The best writing shows us who we are by reflecting our lives. Currently, those who get to write, edit and set the agenda too often do so through a very narrow prism of experience. We know visibility matters and when a diverse group of writers are able to be published and progress in their careers, we all benefit from a greater understanding of our collective experience.”


A Writing Chance’s class of 2021 includes Mayo Agard-Olubo, Tammie Ash, David Clancy, Jacqueline Houston, Maya Jordan, Anna Maxwell, Tom Newlands, Grace Quantock, Elias Suhail, Stephen Tuffin and Becka White. All that remains is to be on the lookout for great writing from this talented pool of storytellers.


"An absolute shambles": New EU VAT Rules Make Shipping Impossible for Indies


By Katie Gough


On 30 June Influx Press tweeted: “We’re sad to say that as a result of upcoming changes to VAT (as of 1 July), we’ve made the tough decision to suspend direct sales to the EU through our website, for the time being,” and they were not alone in the decision. Comma Press also tweeted: “As a result of upcoming changes to VAT, we've made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend direct sales to the EU through our website. Customers in the EU, please note our books are still available through bookshops.”


Independent publishers have been left feeling abandoned by the government over new post-Brexit VAT regulations. The new rules require businesses to register for VAT, which is now applicable on all sales at the rate charged in the customers country. The One Stop Shop is an electronic portal that has been set up to help sellers comply with the VAT obligations within the EU by simplifying up to 95% of the VAT charges. It would mean that sellers can register and pay the VAT in one member state rather than in each country.


These VAT rules will mean some companies are incurring extra costs that make it far more difficult or impossible to ship to the EU. Indie publishers are also enraged at the short notice of the regulations. Sam Jordison of Galley Beggar expressed his annoyance: “We've had no warning from the government. Nothing.”


Newly established Bearded Badger Press shipped its first publication Seven Nights at the Flamingo Hotel to Ireland, France, Germany, Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, Malta, Denmark and Finland. Founder Paul Handley has said that the regilations are "a nightmare" and have made shipping impossible for them too.


He said, exclusively to The Post: “Shipping to the EU, a once simple process, has become a bureaucratic nightmare since 1st July; I’ve seen small presses struggling with returned shipments, even in some cases customers being expected to foot a VAT bill in order to receive their books. From my perspective as a one-man band, the change in VAT rules is simply impossible - how am I meant to understand and digest VAT rules for each member state? The gov.uk guidelines aren’t really that helpful either! I’ve seen some suggestions that selling via eBay or other sales sites could be a loophole… but I’m flabbergasted, sitting here left to wonder how something billed only as delivering sunlit uplands for business (Brexit), has resulted in honest businesses scurrying around for loopholes simply to legally ship products to EU customers? It’s an absolute shambles.”


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