Monthly Archives: October 2012

VAT charges on e-books could be dropped

31 October 2012

From AccountancyAge:

VAT levied on e-books may have to be dropped by the government if a legal challenge in the first-tier tribunal by law firm Berwin Leighton Paisner proves successful.

BLP is challenging HM Revenue & Customs on behalf of an unnamed client in a tribunal over its decision to apply the standard 20% VAT charge on e-books when their paper counterparts are zero-rated.

. . . .

When the UK joined the European Union, it was afforded a transitional provision to keep a zero rating on books if the rating was already in place in 1991. That provision did not allow for the extension of the zero rating, and it is HMRC’s position that incorporating the e-books would do just that.

Alan Sinyor, BLP head of VAT, said that the word ‘book’ in VAT legislation should refer to both physical books and e-books and, failing that, should qualify under fiscal neutrality as both products meet the customer’s needs in the same way.

“The subtle but vital point is that this is not an extension. It is a correction of a misinterpretation,” Sinyor told Accountancy Age. “The word ‘book’ has been misinterpreted and it needs to be put right and recognise the fact that e-books are also included.” 

Link to the rest at AccountancyAge and thanks to Tony for the tip.

Amazon Life

30 October 2012

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to

30 October 2012

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have the exact measure of the injustice and wrong which will be imposed on them.

Frederick Douglass

Google Unveils $399 Nexus 10 Tablet

30 October 2012

From The Wall Street Journal:

Google Inc. on Monday unveiled a new $399 tablet and smartphone powered by its Android mobile operating system, as the Internet giant continues its quest to crack Apple Inc.’s grip on the tablet market and keep other rivals at bay.

Google said the devices are part of an expansion of its line of “Nexus” devices, which Google sells through its online store and co-develops with hardware partners to show off the latest version of Android.

. . . .

The Nexus 10 tablet, manufactured by Samsung Electronics Co. comes with a 10-inch screen and is priced at $399 for 16 gigabytes of storage. The device will be Google’s most serious attempt to compete with Apple’s latest, full-size iPad, which sells for $499.

The Nexus 10 will go on sale Nov. 13 through the Google Play online store.

. . . .

In the tablet market, Android has made some gains. Research firm Gartner projected that Android-powered tablets would capture 40% of global tablet sales this year, up from 30% last year, thanks to the Nexus 7 and Amazon Inc.’s Kindle Fire tablet.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

The Humble eBook Bundles and Authors

30 October 2012

If you don’t know/remember about the Humble eBook Bundle, click here and you’ll understand the following much better.

From author John Scalzi:

People are naturally interested in how much money I and other authors will make from the Bundle. Well, for the first week at least my default cut was 7.9% of money coming in (my default cut was in there independent of the fact that my book has considered a bonus book for people who paid more than the average). I didn’t check after the first week when the Web comic books were added but I suspect my default cut went down a bit, probably to something like 5%. Let’s say for the sake of easy math that when all is said an done my default amount of the bundle  was something like 6.5%. That would mean that my default gross cut of the Bundle would be something on the order of $78,000.

Now, here’s why I won’t get that much in net. One, while the Humble Bundle had default percentages, people could change those defaults and probably did. I assume that if they did change the defaults, they were not in my favor (I am assuming they would be in the favor of the non-profits, which would have been just fine with me). So the likelihood I’ll get that that total $78k seems small to me. Additionally, Old Man’s War is published by Tor, which has the rights for electronic versions of the book, and which will take its (totally fair) cut of the proceeds.

When all is said and done, if I end up with $20,000 (before taxes) then I figure I will have done well.

. . . .

So, basically, if I gross what I expect to gross from the Humble Bundle, I’ll be taking a roughly two thirds cut in my income per unit than what I usually do.

. . . .

Does this mean I’ve gotten ripped off by participating in the Humble Bundle? Of course not. One, I don’t usually sell 42k copies of Old Man’s War in two weeks, so I’m having volume compensate for per unit sales, and it doesn’t seem to have had a negative impact on OMW’s weekly sales in any event (i.e., it’s additive, not subtractive). Two, Old Man’s War is the first book in a series, and many of the people getting OMW in their bundles haven’t read it before. If they read it and like it, the additional books in the series are going to get bought and I get full freight on those, and otherwise it raises my profile as a writer.

Link to the rest at Whatever and thanks to Andy for the tip.

E-books, star authors, and lawsuits: Six reasons Penguin and Random House make more sense together

30 October 2012

From Quartz:

Penguin and Random House’s merger combines the defensive and the offensive.

Technology provides publishers with a golden opportunity to revitalize a product, which has been in the doldrums for years. But the same opportunity presents huge challenges, which perhaps only publishers with real scale can effectively address.

. . . .

1. A new kind of hard cover. From January 2011 to January 2012, sales of adult e-books grew by 49%, while sales of children’s and young adult e-books grew by 475%, according to the Association of American Publishers. At a fundamental level, the publishers’ product is changing. In the same way that BluRay discs now come with multiple extras (think actor commentaries, extra scenes, behind-the scenes-footage) the same will be true of e-books. The skills required to market books are changing, as are the manufacturing and distribution system. Publishers with scale will be better placed to invest in the technology required to address this dramatic transition

. . . .

4. Star power. For some time now, the book market has become increasingly hit-driven with star authors/celebrities earning escalating advances from publishers. The merger gives the new company the scale to compete more aggressively for hot authors while effectively removing a competitor (and therefore some of the heat) from the market

Link to the rest at Quartz and thanks to Abel for the tip.

Is Traditional Publishing a Happily Ever After?

30 October 2012

From regular visitor Anthea Lawson via Finding Bliss:

When Laura asked me to write this post in order to keep the conversation going about different publishing models, I jumped at the chance. Why? Because I was a traditionally published author who’s now indie. I’ve seen both sides, and I wish I’d known more about what traditional publishing was really like before I joyfully signed on.

. . . .

“Once I get a contract with a NY publishing house, everything will be great.”

Every single trad-pubbed author I know has been treated poorly by their publishing houses. Every single one—and I know some top-selling NYT bestsellers all the way down through solid midlisters to the once bright-eyed debut authors. I’m not talking about diva-author behavior, but basic stuff like remembering to print your books the month they’re supposed to release, or neglecting to place your books in the major big-box retailers, thereby cutting your print run in half. Promising a big sale on your e-book, only to discount some other author’s book, instead. Finding out on their last day on the job that your editor is leaving the company. Changing a secondary character into a raccoon (true story, see Laura Resnik’s excellent book Rejection, Romance, and Royalties for unflinching stories of NY publishing). Or holding a publisher spotlight at a huge national conference and vowing that every author is important and their career nurtured, while simultaneously cutting 90% of the debut authors bought over the last two years.

Listen. NY publishing can make you a star (if you’re lucky), but it’s a corporate machine. If you understand that going in, you’ll be in better shape than a lot of the authors who are chewed up and spit out on the other side once their contracts are up.

. . . .

“My publisher will handle all the details.”

Being ‘taken care of’ by a publisher also means being at the mercy of their decisions, often with little or no input about your career and what their corporate agenda is doing to it. The cover for my debut book was sexy—and completely wrong for the Historical Romance genre I was writing in. At book signings, people still pick that title up and say, “Oh, you’re writing contemporary romance?” Well, no. It’s Victorian set, though I point out even in that era people were naked underneath their clothes. We laugh, and the browser wanders off, maybe taking a copy of the book with them, but still. It’s obvious the graphics department completely missed the mark with my debut book.

For the publisher, it’s one error, maybe a book or two they failed at. They can easily absorb the loss. For an author, your career is tanking, fast.

Link to the rest at Finding Bliss

Hurricane Sandy

30 October 2012

For visitors from outside of the United States, a very large hurricane hit the Northeastern coast of the US, the most densely-populated part of the country, yesterday. It combined with a major winter storm to spread significant damage over a wide area.

The most severe damage reported so far was to New York City and surrounding areas. An estimated 60 million people are without electric power. Mass transit is completely shut down. Subways and tunnels are flooded and will take some time to resume service.

Elsewhere, the storm has left 12-18 inches of snow in the Appalachian Mountains and has resulted in widespread school closings due to wind, rain and snow in Cleveland, Ohio, about 500 miles away, and flood warnings in the Chicago area, about 800 miles away.

It goes without saying that the US publishing industry is centered in New York City. Yesterday afternoon, before the height of the storm, PG was hearing reports from friends and business acquaintances in New York that everyone was hunkered down in their apartments and houses, suffering from intermittent power outages and hoping not to lose cell phone connections.

PG has tried to imagine life in Manhattan without mass transit and electric power and with most, if not all train and auto tunnels shut down. It’s not a pretty picture. In more rural areas, the types of flooding that result from rainfall of 8-12 inches within a few hours will take out roads and bridges and cut off many small towns from any sort of outside assistance for a long time.

One of the most effective organizations for providing relief after disasters like this is the American Red Cross. You can contribute to the disaster relief work of the Red Cross HERE.

Can robots really write novels?

30 October 2012

From the BBC:

Machines can already drive trains, beat humans at chess and conduct countless other tasks. But what happens if technology starts getting more creative – can a machine ever win the Booker Prize for fiction?

In George Orwell’s fiction, by 1984 the “proles” were entertained by books produced by a machine.

In real life, robots have been capable of writing a version of love letters for over 60 years.

But how far away are books written by robots?

Well they have already happened, in their hundreds of thousands.

Professor Philip Parker, of Insead business school, created software that has generated over 200,000 books, on as varied topics as 60 milligram containers of fromage frais to a Romanian crossword guide.

Amazon currently lists over 100,000 titles under his name.

. . . .

Fiction is often criticised for being a factory process of using formula and “write by numbers” approaches. Creative writing programmes have been likened to working “from a pattern book” by Booker-nominated author Will Self.

Certain pieces of writing software provide templates that will automatically create the structure of a novel and once written, can tell you how easy the novel is to read.

“No novel writing package will write your book for you,” says software firm NewNovelist.

“They certainly can help you complete your novel and make sure it is composed correctly.”

. . . .

Russian Alexander Prokopovich is said to be responsible for the first successful book to be created by robots. It was published in 2008 and was written in the style of Japanese author Haruki Murakami in a variation on Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina.

. . . .

Prof Parker’s software, still in prototype, would allow characters to be decided, locations to be set, genre fixed and plot mechanisms chosen. It then creates anything from 3,000-word flash fiction to a 300,000-word novel.

He has even done public experiments with poetry.

“A computer works very well with rules and the most obvious way is poetry,” he says.

“We did a blind test between a Shakespearean sonnet and one that the computer had written. A majority of people surveyed preferred ours.

“That’s not to say it was better, Shakespeare is a genius, but it was what people preferred.” 

. . . .

“The idea of a computer winning the Nobel Prize for physics is not too unlikely, citing a computer as joint recipient. It’s obviously not a huge leap to think of something similar happening in fiction.”

Link to the rest at BBC and thanks to Brendan for the tip.

Passive Guy has already mentioned Professor Parker here and here, but the topic is always good for a post plus the headlines make prime Twitterbait.

Rights Reversion

29 October 2012

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

Over the last couple of years, a number of writers have written to me to ask how to get the rights to their traditionally published novels reverted back to them.

. . . .

Some contracts are short, some are ten and twenty pages long. Each contract will delineate what the rights licensed are, what the publisher will pay the writer for the use of those rights, and when the contract expires. All contracts need an end date to be legal, and so you’d think that book contract would have a set time period. It’s pretty convenient: both parties know the contract expires on a specific date. The contract can be renegotiated around the time of expiration or renewed on a yearly basis, until one party decides to cancel the contract, or, or, or…

. . . .

Back to reversion clauses. They are not created equal. But there are some commonalities in book contracts that I can talk about in general.

. . . .

Over the decades, book contracts evolved to avoid the time-limit. Instead, the ticking clock would start once the book was officially “out of print” which was usually defined in a contract (if defined at all) as unavailable for sale. At that point, the author would notify the publisher that she wanted all rights reverted and the publisher either had to do so, or would have a set amount of time (generally six months) to reissue the book.

Of course, there were a dozen permutations of that. I’ve seen some contracts that would not allow a rights reversion for seven years after the date of the contract even if the book went out of print in the very first year. The publisher in that case had no obligation to reissue the book and could sit on the rights for six years. At the end of the seventh year, the publisher would still have the option of putting the book back into print if the publisher did so within a six month window after the writer informed the publisher that she wanted the rights back.

Why would a publisher have this clause? Imagine this: in the six years that the publisher ignored this out-of-print book, the writer went from relative unknown to a bestseller. Even if she became a bestseller under another name, the publisher would want the right to reissue that old book. That’s why  you often saw things like Famous Writer writing as Not-So-Famous Writer on book covers, particularly in the 1980s and 1990s. Those writers had signed bad contracts early, and were paying for it years later.

. . . .

In fact, back then, only weird or pushy writers would ask for rights reversions. In the 1970s and earlier, rights reversions were important because other publishing houses would buy backlist, but by 1990, that concept was disappearing. So writers just didn’t ask. Or they’d instruct their agent to get the reversions, and the agents either wouldn’t do it at all or wouldn’t follow up.

And getting reversions, even then, required a lot of follow-up.

By the late 1990s, printing technology changed, and print-on-demand books became easier to do. Publishers started using print-on-demand suppliers to do second, third, and fourth printings of backlist titles. Those printings might have been as small as 100 copies. By the mid-2000s, such practices were common.

As usual, writers and their agents were behind the curve on this thing, and only recently started adding the phrase along the lines of “the availability of a print-on-demand edition of the book does not count toward the in-print definition in this contract.”

. . . .

So agents and authors tried to define the end of a contract by sales velocity. If a book sold fewer than 500 copies in a six-month period (for example), then that book would be considered out of print, and would, for the sake of the contract, be eligible for reversion.

The problem here? The only way the writer knows what the book’s sales are is through the royalty report generated by the publisher. And, as we’ve seen in other blog posts, those reports are rarely accurate. Plus, if the book sold fewer than 500 copies in a six-month period, the writer would have to wait until the reporting time after that period ended.  Which gives the publisher even more time to hang onto the rights.

. . . .

At the dawn of this new century, it became very hard to get rights reversions. It became even harder in the past five years as the e-book revolution hit traditional publishing.

If an old publishing contract contained e-book rights, and that e-book was available, did that constitute in-print? Traditional publishers said yes; writers and their advocates said no. The courts will eventually decide a lot of these cases.

Writers and agents again tried to close the barn door after the horses got out by trying to define e-book velocity as out of print. If, for example, the e-book sold fewer than 100 copies in a six-month period, then the book would be considered out of print. But that barn door remained wide open, since most writers and agents did not exclude free e-books from the sales figures. So if a publisher wanted to hang onto rights, he could offer the book for free for a few days, the “sales” would go up, and the book would not revert.

. . . .

Which is why I’ve started recommending to writers that if they want to have a traditional publishing contract for their book, that contract has to have a limited term. The contract can exist for ten years from the date of the contract (or seven from the date of publication, which may not be unreasonably delayed), and can be renewed at the same or more favorable terms.

That’s how all of my foreign contracts work and most of my Hollywood contracts have worked. In fact, all of my subsidiary rights contracts work like that. But my former traditional book publishers in the United States have all balked at that suggestion—so I walked.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Everything Kris writes about the business of writing should be required reading for anyone who wants to be a professional author. Go read the entire essay and don’t forget to hit Kris’ tip jar. It’s way cheaper than an MBA.

Out of print or reversion of rights clauses are typically the most opaque of any in today’s publishing contracts. Given the clarity of other clauses in those contracts, PG can only assume the opaque nature of these clauses is intended to make the process of regaining rights to even the most poorly-selling book one that overwhelms the author with its complexity. Even understanding when it might be possible to start the process of reverting rights can be a complex undertaking.

The best time to deal with rights reversion is when you are negotiating your publishing agreement. An author has maximum leverage at this time. Once the contract is signed, the publisher’s attitude toward making even modest changes typically disappears.

In PG’s experience, one of the few exceptions to this rule that occurs with any frequency is if the author is negotiating a new publishing agreement for a new book the publisher really wants and makes amending prior agreements a condition for signing a contract for the new book.


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