Monthly Archives: September 2012

Watching the Numbers

30 September 2012

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I should never read the comments on other people’s writing information blogs. The comments discourage me, generally for one of two reasons. If the blog is about traditional publishing, and the authors are traditionally published only with no desire to change, I get discouraged at the amount of misinformation. If the blog is about indie publishing, I get discouraged because successful indie publishing writers think so short term. Both groups think small.

. . . .

 

The worldwide marketplace for English language books has changed dramatically in the past three years. Yes, books sold overseas and many companies bought worldwide rights to sell books in the English language. Only one company, to my knowledge, exploited those rights in as many countries as possible, and that was Harlequin. I’ll wager that somewhere in Harlequin’s parent company (Torstar)’s vaults are the statistics I want on worldwide Englishlanguage sales.

On the website, Harlequin tells me that it has published “over 110 titles a month in 31 languages in 111 international markets on six continents” and has sold (as of 2010) 6.05 billion books. Billion. Books.

. . . .

What we do know is pretty simple: more people than ever read books for pleasure. Brick and mortar bookstores have never penetrated all of America. Many, many, many small towns, even in the heyday of the bookstore, did not have a bookstore.

When Amazon came along in the 1990s, it made money selling books to people in rural areas or small towns who did not have access to books on a regular basis. (Many of these communities didn’t even have libraries.) Then, add to that the rise of the ereader, which has brought even more readers into the fold, partly because of convenience (no walking into a bookstore, no waiting for the mails), and the readership/buyership has grown yet again.

I want to plant all of this in your head as writers because we were all trained to think small about our work. Even (especially?) traditional publishers. The problem with book sales has always been getting the books to readers. The old distribution system left out more readers than it found. There were even shooting battles in the streets in the distribution wars of fifty years ago (I’m not kidding) over who controlled what area to distribute magazines and books. (This was when distribution was controlled by the Mob. This kind of publishing history is fun and colorful, and mostly no longer necessary to understand except in a very vague way.)

Am I ever going to get all of the world’s English speakers to read my books? Hell, no. I’m not even going to get a statistically meaningful percentage of them to read my books. But already, my books are being read in countries where they were previously unavailable, not only because of Amazon, but because of Kobo, Apple, and a bunch of other small companies that partner with Smashwords and such places. My biggest problem as a business person right now? Keeping up with all of the developing markets for my fiction. Making sure my work is available in as many places as possible is something I’m continually falling behind on, as more and more and more markets appear.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch and, per Dean Wesley Smith, make sure to read the comments to this essay as well.

It was unearthly

30 September 2012

It was unearthly, and the men were—No, they were not inhuman. Well, you know, that was the worst of it—the suspicion of their not being inhuman. It would come slowly to one. They howled and leaped, and spun, and made horrid faces; but what thrilled you was just the thought of their humanity—like yours—the thought of your remote kinship with this wild and passionate uproar. Ugly. Yes, it was ugly enough; but if you were man enough you would admit to yourself that there was in you just the faintest trace of a response to the terrible frankness of that noise, a dim suspicion of there being a meaning in it which you—you so remote from the night of first ages—could comprehend. And why not?

Joseph Conrad

More Change Coming

30 September 2012

From Publishers Weekly:

Speakers on a panel of industry leaders at Friday’s annual meeting of the Book Industry Study Group agreed that the publishing industry is in for much more change. “I expect there to be more dramatic, disruptive change ahead,” said Sourcebooks CEO Dominique Raccah. Tom Turvey, director of strategic partnerships for Google, said he believes the industry “is not close to what it will look like five years from now.”

But Turvey said that with the right adjustments, publishers are in a good position to take advantage of the opportunities that change will bring. Publishers need to hire less business people “and hire more people like we hire,” he said, noting that publishers need to bring into their organizations people who understand where technology is going. Publishers on the panel said they have all made extensive changes to their staff with Raccah noting that there is not one job at her company that hasn’t been touched by digital. Maureen McMahon, president and publisher of Kaplan Publishing, said the one characteristic that her company’s always screens applicants for now is whether they can “learn and teach.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The panelists sound like semi-finalists in a cliche contest.

After reading the article, Passive Guy is less impressed with Big Publishing’s ability to respond to change than he was before he read it.

Ain’t gonna hire your way out of the hole unless you’re willing to fire your way out of the hole first.

Skip the Paris Cafés And Get a Good Pen

30 September 2012

From author Mark Helprin in The Wall Street Journal:

 Should you be insane enough to want to make a living in this cultural climate by writing fiction that is neither politicized, confessional, nihilistic, sexualized, sensationalist, nor crafted with the vocabulary and syntax of Dick and Jane, here are some suggestions.

Never write in a café, especially in Europe. Ever since Hemingway, this has been the literary equivalent of what in mountain climbing is called the “tech weenie” (that is, someone who cannot get a foot off the ground but is weighed down with $10,000’s worth of equipment). Literary skill, much less greatness, cannot be had with a pose, and exhibitionism extorts the price of failure. Also, have pity on the weary Parisians who have wanted only a citron pressé but have been unable to find a café where every single seat is not occupied by an American publicly carrying on a torrid affair with his moleskin.

This brings up Levenger, which sells “tools for writers.” The fewer tools the better, and they need not be costly or complicated. Whether you use a pencil, a pen, an old typewriter or something electrical is largely irrelevant to the result, although there is magic in writing by hand. It’s not just that it has been that way for 5,000 years or more, and has engraved upon our expectations of literature the effects associated with the pen—the pauses; considerations; sometimes the racing; the scratching out; the transportation of words and phrases with arrows, lines and circles; the closeness of the eyes to the page; the very touching of the page—but that the pen, not being a machine (it does not meet the scientific definition of a machine), is a surrender to a different power than those of mere speed and efficiency.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire) and thanks to Barb for the tip.

Class Action Lawsuit Against PublishAmerica Dismissed

30 September 2012

From Writer Beware:

On June 11 of this year, a class action lawsuit was filed against PublishAmerica by a Baltimore, MD law firm, in association with high-profile litigators Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro.

Among other things, the complaint alleged that PA makes money off its authors while billing itself as a traditional publisher, requires authors to pay for “usual and customary marketing that any reputable publisher would do as a matter of course,” offers “services that are not reasonably designed to promote book sales,” and “duped” the three plaintiffs in the lawsuit with, among other things, “bogus services” and books “riddled with errors.” The complaint sought “a declarative judgment that defendant’s publishing contracts violate the Maryland Consumer Protection Act,” including the MCPA’s prohibition against deceptive trade practices.

. . . .

PA, not surprisingly, filed a motion to dismiss for “failure to state a claim,” arguing that the author-PA relationship is not protected under the MCPA:

The Court should dismiss the claims brought by Plaintiffs under the Maryland Consumer Protection Act (“CPA”) because Plaintiffs are not consumers; they have entered into a commercial enterprise with PA pursuant to which they split the proceeds from sales of their literary work made by PA. This profit sharing relationship is not a relationship that is protected by the (“CPA”). Plaintiffs’ declaratory judgment count should also be dismissed since the underlying CPA claim is defective.

The Motion to Dismiss was granted by the trial court.

. . . .

This past Wednesday, however, PA authors who’d sought to join the suit received a letter from Hagens Berman indicating that they did not intend to re-file.

In speaking and e-mailing with many of you what you wanted was out of your contract. That is also what we had hoped for when we filed this class action. We thought we had a good shot at this when we filed our first complaint. We claimed that Publish America’s representations about itself as a traditional publisher misled authors and led them to give away the publication rights to their books and that this violated the Maryland Consumer Protection Act. But the court concluded that the statute has a narrower scope and that the complaints we asserted against Publish America are not really consumer complaints, but more like business complaints.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware and thanks to Jeanne for the tip.

It’s pretty embarrassing for class action counsel to get bounced out of court so quickly. Passive Guy would love to know why they took the risk of suing under a consumer protection statute instead of plain old fraud. He speculates class action status and punitive damages were easier to generate under the consumer protection law.

Antilamentation

29 September 2012

For you and me, life out here is nothing

29 September 2012

For you and me, life out here is nothing; but there may be others so constructed that they don’t fit into this life at all; and yet they are finer and better souls than either one of us. She is a better soul than any I’ve ever met. It’s only lately that I have begun to realize all she suffered since we came out here.

O.E. Rölvaag, Giants in the Earth: A Saga of the Prairie

F. Scott Fitzgerald Responds to Hate Mail

29 September 2012

From Brain Pickings:

In 1920, shortly after the publication of his debut novel, This Side of Paradise, [F. Scott Fitzgerald] received a piece of “hate mail” criticizing the book as an affront to the respectable members of society, particularly those in power.

. . . .

Dear Bob:

Your letter riled me to such an extent that I’m answering immediatly. Who are all these ‘real people’ who ‘create business and politics’? and of whose approval I should be so covetous? Do you mean grafters who keep sugar in their ware houses so that people have to go without or the cheap-jacks who by bribery and high-school sentiment manage to controll elections. I can’t pick up a paper here without finding that some of these ‘real people’ who will not be satisfied only with ‘a brilliant mind’ (I quote you) have just gone up to Sing Sing for a stay — Brindell and Hegerman, two pillars of society, went this morning.

Who in hell ever respected Shelley, Whitman, Poe, O. Henry, Verlaine, Swinburne, Villon, Shakespeare ect when they were alive. Shelley + Swinburne were fired from college; Verlaine + O Henry were in jail. The rest were drunkards or wasters and told generally by the merchants and petty politicians and jitney messiahs of their day that real people wouldn’t stand it And the merchants and messiahs, the shrewd + the dull, are dust — and the others live on.

Just occasionally a man like Shaw who was called an immoralist 50 times worse than me back in the 90ties, lives on long enough so that the world grows up to him. What he believed in 1890 was heresy then — by by now its almost respectable. It seems to me I’ve let myself be dominated by ‘authorities’ for too long — the headmaster of Newman, S.P. A, Princeton, my regiment, my business boss — who knew no more than me, in fact I should say these 5 were all distinctly my mental inferiors. And that’s all that counts! The Rosseaus, Marxes, Tolstois — men of thought, mind you, ‘impractical’ men, ‘idealist’ have done more to decide the food you eat and the things you think + do than all the millions of Roosevelts and Rockerfellars that strut for 20 yrs. or so mouthing such phrases as 100% American (which means 99% village idiot), and die with a little pleasing flattery to the silly and cruel old God they’ve set up in their hearts.

Link to the rest at Brain Pickings

10 Inspirational Disabled Characters From Sci-Fi And Fantasy

29 September 2012

From SFX:

SFX honours 10 disabled sci-fi and fantasy characters who don’t let disability stand in the way of achieving their goals.

We’ve also concentrated on characters who truly have to cope with their disabilities. Losing limbs and having them replaced by superior cyborg parts (the Six Million Dollar Man, variousStar Wars characters) is tragic, but the fact that the characters in question can get along pretty much as before (sometimes better) hardly feels like a real struggle against adversity. And yes, Dark Angel fans, we did consider Logan and his wheelchair, and he almost made the cut, but we felt his constant whinging about his situation wasn’t particularly “inspiring”.

. . . .

Gary Bell

Alphas

Disability: Autism

Played with commendable dedication by Ryan Cartwright – it can’t be easy to act without looking any of your co-stars in the eye – Gary is the genius at the heart of Syfy show Alphas. He’s what the show refers to as a “transducer”, or “human antennae”, which is a fancy way of saying that he can see and feel electrical signals in the air around him and tap into them. This comes in very handy when you need to trace a phone call or use CCTV to find someone. The show’s FX team has also come up with some rather lovely effects to show us how he sees, with data streams forming beautiful patterns in the air as Gary plucks at them. Pretty cool.

Of course, some may object to the notion, propagated by films like Rain Man, that all autistic people are geniuses who have what amount to superpowers compared to the rest of the population (Gary’s powers are obviously a little more super than most…). There’s a similar character in Kiefer Sutherland’s new show Touch, a young boy who can interpret numbers and predict the future (again, another acting masterclass from David Mazouz, who can’t look anybody in the eye or even speak, except in voiceover mode). While it’s true that some autistic people can do extraordinary things, most are merely separated from the rest of us by a condition which locks them into themselves. Many would never function as well as Gary does.

Alphas doesn’t shy away from the fact that autism makes sufferers difficult to socialise with: Gary can’t relate to people properly, fails to understand certain emotions, and doesn’t think about how his words affect people. When it comes down it, though, he’s mainly just a computer nerd who’s been given powers that transcend his keyboard. Not a bad skill to have.

. . . .

Tyrion Lannister

Game Of Thrones

Disability: Dwarfism

The insults thrown at Tyrion Lannister in both the books and the TV show Game Of Thrones are, sadly, a reflection of what many dwarfs in our real world have to go through (although Tyrion, being a contrary sort, takes one of these insults – “Imp” – and makes it his own). And so there’s a lot to be said for the fact that Tyrion has emerged to become the most popular character in the series, with Peter Dinklage deservedly nabbing an Emmy Award and a Golden Globe for his performance in season one of HBO’s show.

Focusing mainly on the TV series here in case you haven’t read the books (no spoilers!), Tyrion has become the breakout character for two reasons. Firstly, his size, which automatically sets him apart from the rest of the cast… and pretty much everybody else on television, too. There’s not much serious work out there for actors like Dinklage, with only a lucky few (Warwick Davis is the best example) getting enough work and recognition to make a mark.

After a career spent steadfastly refusing to play roles that he thinks are demeaning to dwarfs (you can read him discussing this, and other things, in this excellent New York Times interview, Dinklage hit the motherlode with Game Of Thrones thanks to the fact that Tyrion is a fantastic character first and a dwarf second.

Of course his size is an important part of what makes him Tyrion, but he’s so much more: clever, sardonic, scheming, sexy and vulnerable. Tyrion is not “just” a dwarf: he’s one of the best characters on TV right now. And it’s made Dinklage a star. “They’re somewhat expecting Tyrion, you know?” he says, about attending fan events for the show. “I mean, they like me, but they just kind of want me to say my favourite lines and stuff… He’s a great character to hide behind. He’s a large personality.”

Link to the rest at SFX

YA Books Ratings and Publisher Arrogance (shh, it’s about the $$)

29 September 2012

From author John Brown:

I wish I could talk to a publisher about this. I should talk to a Barnes & Noble corporate book buyer. But since I don’t have one handy, I’ll discuss it with you folks. Maybe I’m up in the night? You tell me.

Here’s the deal. My wife is 7th and 8th grade language arts teacher. My wife is also a mom who loves books and wants her girls to read until their eyes bong out of their heads.

So we go to find books for her students and for our girls and, jeez, wouldn’t you know it, but this YA book features masturbation and that one features lots of fine words like F*** and S*** and this one is about giving the guys a blow job (tee, hee, hee).

Yeah, I know about YA saves. This isn’t about banning this or that content.

It’s about the fact that I’m a parent. And, geez, I have a certain way I want to raise my kids. My wife is a teacher who needs to provide books to her students that aren’t going to piss some parent off. Why? Because she’s providing a service to that parent. Because she wants to keep her job. And because it’s her job to help parents improve their kid’s reading ability not tell them how to raise a family.

So why in the Sam Hill can’t publishers rate their books?

. . . .

Well, here’s one answer I was given by a writer friend I respect.

Everyone in the industry is really pushing back against the idea of a rating system. Let me see if I can explain why.

A friend of mine, ZZ [name removed], is the nicest person in the world. Volunteered for years at a prison to help people learn to express themselves by writing. Her older brother was a closeted homosexual for years, contracted AIDS, died too young. She wrote a book recently called [title removed], about a family in the restaurant business (as hers was) who have a “late” baby and the problems it causes for the older teens, one of whom is coming out as gay. It’s a soft, quite, sad, moving book. And it would be part of the “rating” system and banned from a bunch of schools. ZZ also wrote a book a few years ago about teenage pregnancy. Also beautifully written, kind, compassionate. But it would get tagged by schools as “inappropriate.” ZZ feels strongly that there are kids out there who need books, kids in your wife’s school system who need to be told they are not alone.

I don’t see any way to have a system that distinguishes between books that I see as anchors to kids who need help and those books which I see as genuinely offensive and encouraging bad teen behavior by glorifying it. The only system I know is me recommending the best books I see. And I’d much rather see librarians and school teachers go through books on a case by case basis, deciding whether they personally think it fits the values in their community than to have someone else not attached to the community do the same thing.

Uh huh.

If this is accurate, it shows the industry’s stunning lack of creativity AND arrogance. Because if publishers really were listening to parents, they could come up with a solution.

Link to the rest at John Brown and thanks to Heather for the tip.

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