Monthly Archives: June 2013

How typeface influences the way we read and think

30 June 2013

From The Week:

The hunt for the Higgs boson was one of the most expensive and labor-intensive particle physics projects ever undertaken, and promised to answer the fundamental but elusive question of why our atoms stick together in the first place. And yet, when CERN researchers finally announced that they’d glimpsed the Higgs, the world’s first reaction wasn’t to cheer; it was to stifle collective laughter. The institution’s scientists, cradling the most important scientific discovery of the decade, had chosen to present their findings to a breathless public using a peculiar font face: Comic Sans MS.

. . . .

The whole kerfuffle underscored just how important typefaces are to the way we process information. Words hold power. But the aesthetic manner in which those words are presented can affect the way we read, and the way we think about the information presented.

“Typography is one ingredient in a pretty complicated presentation,” Cyrus Highsmith, a typeface designer and author of the book Inside Paragraphs, told me over the phone. “Typography is the detail and the presentation of a story. It represents the voice of an atmosphere, or historical setting of some kind. It can do a lot of things.”

. . . .

When readers came to the site, the story was presented in different typefaces: Baskerville, Computer Modern, Georgia, Helvetica, Comic Sans, and Trebuchet. Roughly 40,000 people responded to the quiz, and the results were weighted to evaluate which fonts inspired more confidence in the research, and which fonts made the information appear less believable.Here’s what Morris found:

The conscious awareness of Comic Sans promotes — at least among some people — contempt and summary dismissal. But is there a typeface that promotes, engenders a belief that a sentence is true? Or at least nudges us in that direction? And indeed there is.

It is Baskerville.

Believe it or not, the results of this test even show a disparity between Baskerville and Georgia — two apparently similar serif typefaces.

Baskerville’s weighted advantage wasn’t huge — just 1.5 percent. “That advantage may seem small,” Dunning told the Times, “but if that was a bump up in sales figures, many online companies would kill for it. The fact that font matters at all is a wonderment.”

Link to the rest at The Week and thanks to James for the tip.

Writing, I think, is not apart from living

30 June 2013

Writing, I think, is not apart from living.  Writing is a kind of double living.  The writer experiences everything twice.  Once in reality and once in that mirror which waits always before or behind.

Catherine Drinker Bowen

Hachette Book Group Acquires the Hyperion Adult Imprint

30 June 2013

From Publishers Weekly:

Deciding that a standalone adult imprint does not fit with its long-range plans, Disney is selling the majority of Hyperion titles to Hachette Book Group in a deal that is expected to close in mid-July. HBG will acquire more than 1,000 adult backlist titles plus another 25 books that it will release over the next few seasons. Disney will retain the most media-related titles such as its Castle series which ties into the ABC television show of the same name. The book franchises that will remain with Disney will be overseen by Disney Publishing Worldwide. Disney’s children’s imprints, Disney and Disney-Hyperion, are not affected by the sale.

The deal includes the Hyperion name and HBG will continue to publish the Hyperion books under that imprint. Hyperion employees will stay with the company until the deal is completed and will help with transition issues. Some Hyperion employees are expected to join HBG in such areas as editorial and publicity. Other Hyperion employees will be given the opportunity to interview for other positions at Disney.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Revising your writing again? Blame the Modernists – How self-editing became the first commandment of literature

30 June 2013

From The Boston Globe:

IT’S TOUGH to get a room full of writers to agree on anything—the best wine, the best Shakespeare play, the best time of day to work. Perhaps the only belief that today’s writers share is that to produce good writing, you have to revise.

This principle appears everywhere—in classrooms, in newsrooms, in writing guides, and especially in author interviews. “I’ve done as many as 20 or 30 drafts of a story,” Raymond Carver once told The Paris Review. “Never less than 10 or 12 drafts.” Joyce Carol Oates, who is so prolific she leaves other authors shaking their heads, has said: “I revise all the time, every day.”

. . . .

It’s easy to assume that history’s greatest authors have been history’s greatest revisers. But that wasn’t always how it worked. Until about a century ago, according to various biographers and critics, literature proceeded through handwritten manuscripts that underwent mostly small-scale revisions.

Then something changed. In a new book, “The Work of Revision,” Hannah Sullivan, an English professor at Oxford University, argues that revision as we now understand it—where authors, before they publish anything, will spend weeks tearing it down and putting it back together again—is a creation of the 20th century. It was only under Modernist luminaries like Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, and Virginia Woolf that the practice came to seem truly essential to creating good literature.

. . . .

In the age of Shakespeare and Milton, paper was an expensive luxury; blotting out a few lines was one thing, but producing draft after draft would have been quite another. Writers didn’t get to revise during the publishing process, either. Printing was slow and messy, and in the rare case a writer got to see a proof of his work—that is, a printed sample of the text, laid out like a book—he had to travel in person to a publishing center like London.

All of these factors suggest that revision was not something that happened on the page. Indeed, during the 19th century, the Romantics made resisting revision a virtue. The best literature, they believed, flowed from spontaneous and organic creative acts. “I am like the tyger (in poesy),” Lord Byron wrote in a letter. “If I miss my first spring—I go growling back to my Jungle. There is no second. I can’t correct.”

Link to the rest at The Boston Globe and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Why Is Apple Still Wrangling Over E-Books?

30 June 2013

From The Wall Street Journal:

A question hangs over Apple Inc.’s e-books trial: Why is Apple fighting the U.S. Department of Justice when the book publishers the agency also sued chose to settle?

The answer lies in part in what’s at stake. Apple says it is fighting the high-profile case, now in the hands of a federal judge, on the principle it did nothing wrong. But the company is defending a lot more than its tiny digital-books business. A win would help Apple maintain negotiating clout with media companies, which are searching for new ways to make money in markets shifting online. A loss could hamper its ability to compete with rivals like Amazon.com Inc. to land increasingly important media deals on favorable terms.

. . . .

While the government is only suing Apple over e-books, Apple uses a similar approach of trying to land partners by letting them set prices in other areas, like its app store. An ability to negotiate favorable terms is critical to its ability to compete with Amazon.com, which tries to offer lower digital prices.

“Apple is smart enough to realize what is potentially at risk for digital commerce generally,” said David Balto, a former policy director at the Federal Trade Commission. “They want to preserve their market power to disadvantage rivals and dictate the terms of competition.”

. . . .

The government is pushing for an “antitrust compliance program” and an “independent monitoring trustee,” programs that could allow the government to watch Apple routinely.

“Any time there is a monitor, there is someone sticking their nose in your future business and you aren’t comfortable,” said Jeffrey Jacobovitz, co-chair of the antitrust practice at Arnall Golden Gregory LLP. He added that Apple could face more class-action lawsuits.

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

Ebook Revenues Rising Abroad For American Publishers

29 June 2013

From Digital Book World:

Ebook revenues for American publishers selling the digital content abroad are rising — both in aggregate and as a percentage of overall international book publishing revenues.

According to the latest data from the Association of American Publishers, revenues for American Publishers selling ebooks internationally rose 63% to $121.5 million. Meanwhile, international print revenue increased 1.3% to $711.8 million.

Internationally, where Amazon, Apple and Kobo dominate ebook sales in many countries, ebooks now account for 14.5% of all publisher revenues.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

Skill alone cannot teach

29 June 2013

Skill alone cannot teach or produce a great short story, which condenses the obsession of the creature; it is a hallucinatory presence manifest from the first sentence to fascinate the reader, to make him lose contact with the dull reality that surrounds him, submerging him in another that is more intense and compelling.

Julio Cortázar

On Sexual Harassment at Conventions — Elise Mattheson speaks out

29 June 2013

From author Elise Mattheson via Mary Robinette Kowal:

At this year’s Writing Excuses Retreat, we had several evenings where we just answered questions about how to have a career as an SF writer. One night, I said, “We should probably talk about how to handle sexual harassment at a convention.”

The room had been quiet before. It became still.

. . . .

Back in 2010, while I was still VP of SFWA, I served as a conduit for a woman who had been sexually harassed by an editor to anonymously contact his employer. She didn’t feel safe doing so directly because she was afraid it would affect her career. You see that, right? The power that concern gave the editor over her? The publisher took it very seriously, and due to that the woman felt safe in speaking to a representative directly.

Apparently, that doesn’t count as a formal complaint because it wasn’t to Human Resources or to the Legal Department. So, here we are in 2013 and Elise Matheson was harassed by the same man at a convention. When she made a report, she was told it was the first one.

She’s written up an account of her reaction and how to go about making a formal report of sexual harassment.

. . . .

[T]his year at WisCon I learned firsthand how to report sexual harassment.  In case you ever need or want to know, here’s what I learned and how it went.

Two editors I knew were throwing a book release party on Friday night at the convention. I was there, standing around with a drink talking about Babylon 5, the work of China Mieville, and Marxist theories of labor (like you do) when an editor from a different house joined the conversation briefly and decided to do the thing that I reported. A minute or two after he left, one of the hosts came over to check on me. I was lucky: my host was alert and aware. On hearing what had happened, he gave me the name of a mandated reporter at the company the harasser was representing at the convention.

The mandated reporter was respectful and professional. Even though I knew them, reporting this stuff is scary, especially about someone who’s been with a company for a long time, so I was really glad to be listened to. Since the incident happened during Memorial Day weekend, I was told Human Resources would follow up with me on Tuesday.

There was most of a convention between then and Tuesday, and I didn’t like the thought of more of this nonsense (there’s a polite word for it!) happening, so I went and found a convention Safety staffer. He asked me right away whether I was okay and whether I wanted someone with me while we talked or would rather speak privately. A friend was nearby, a previous Guest of Honor at the convention, and I asked her to stay for the conversation. The Safety person asked whether I’d like to make a formal report.  I told him, “I’d just like to tell you what happened informally, I guess, while I figure out what I want to do.”

. . . .

Someone told me that since it was the first report, the editor would not be asked to leave the convention. I was surprised it was the first report, but hey, if it was and if that’s the process, follow the process. They told me they had instructed him to keep away from me for the rest of the convention.

Link to the rest at Mary Robinette Kowal and thanks to Joe for the tip.

PG is not familiar with any of the individuals involved here, but from prior experience representing juveniles who had been sexually mistreated, a harasser/predator almost never targets a single victim exclusively. There are always more.

 

Author Concerns and Complaints at Crimson Romance

29 June 2013

From Writer Beware:

Often viewed as experiments, these digital-only and digital-first imprints may offer less favorable terms than the publisher’s standard contracts, in an effort to shift more of the risk to authors (one example: Random House’s Hydra, Flirt, and Alibi imprints, a controversy that had a happy ending when Random House changed the imprints’ deal terms to make them more author-friendly). Another potential problem: in the rush to take advantage of a burgeoning new market, plans may not be as carefully laid as they should be, and books may be acquired and pushed out too fast.

This seems to have been the case at Crimson Romance, F&W Media’s digital romance imprint.

. . . .

I’ve seen several Crimson contracts. There are no advances. Books are published within six months of delivery (fast by traditional standards). Royalties are paid on the publisher’s net (a.k.a. “gross amount received”), 30% for ebooks and 10% for print.The grant of rights is life-of-copyright, with a reversion clause that allows authors to request reversion if royalties fall below $250 in each of two consecutive royalty periods (royalty periods are six months). However, this is qualified somewhat by the fact that, as an alternative to simply returning rights, the publisher can choose to “[take] such steps as it is able to accelerate sales” beyond the $250 threshold; if it can manage that within six months of the author’s reversion request, it doesn’t have to revert. In other words, if the publisher can get sales to $251, it gets to keep authors’ rights for at least two more royalty periods.*

Last month, I heard from a few Crimson authors about problems at the imprint. I put out a call for contact, and received a flood of emails. The issues cited are very consistent, the most frequent being late or missing royalty statements and payments, paltry sales, and hasty and/or inadequate editing.

. . . .

[Speaking about a subscription service that wasn’t provided for in contracts between Crimson and authors] Authors’ March 31, 2013 royalty statements didn’t include subscription service income, and those who contacted Crimson to ask why discovered that there was still no payment plan in place. Not until April 23 was a payment plan formally announced. Using the contract royalty percentage, Crimson is allocating 30% of subscription income to authors. But instead of pro-rating authors’ share based on the number of downloads, as many authors had expected, payment will be based on the amount of time each book has been available in the service.

. . . .

Crimson is apparently not reporting actual download numbers; and since the subscription service earned only modest revenues in its first royalty period, royalties due were tiny, with books published in the last month of the royalty period receiving just $0.42.

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

It’s a good time to reiterate two pieces of PG advice:

1. Read and understand every contract you sign.

2. Know who you are dealing with. Even with a perfect contract, you’re going to lose money if you deal with flakes.

Amazon’s Next Move: Fine Art

29 June 2013

From The Wall Street Journal:

Moving into more upscale markets, Amazon.com Inc. is quietly laying plans to sell high-end art.

The online retail giant is planning to open a new section on its site as soon as July where it will offer one-of-a-kind paintings, prints and other fine art, according to interviews with a dozen gallery owners.

Amazon is set to debut the site with works from roughly 100 small galleries across the U.S., say gallery owners briefed on Amazon’s plans. In recent weeks, the Seattle company has held cocktail receptions in its hometown, San Francisco, New York and other cities to invite galleries to take part in the new program.

. . . .

“It’ll always be difficult to sell art on the Internet,” said Richard Feigen, owner of Richard L. Feigen and Co. gallery in New York. “Serious collectors want to see the art before they buy it—you don’t have to see a book to buy it over the Internet.” He said he wasn’t approached by Amazon.

Gallery owners who were briefed on the plans said Amazon will charge a tiered commission based on an art piece’s price, generally from 5% to 20%, with higher-priced works subject to lower commissions.

. . . .

Nick Lawrence, owner of the Freight + Volume gallery in New York, said he had decided within the past month to list some paintings on Amazon’s site after getting an unsolicited offer from the company. “I figured this would be a great way to reach a massive crowd,” said Mr. Lawrence. “There are a lot of people who aren’t necessarily going to be able to visit New York to buy art and maybe they can find something instead on Amazon.”

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

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