Monthly Archives: February 2014

I think my agent’s dead, what to do?

27 February 2014

From Janet Reid, Literary Agent:

Last summer, after a flurry of kind, flattering emails in which a reputable agent told me repeatedly how much she loved my novel, I signed a contract with her. I was over the moon.

In September I sent her a last revision with the changes she had suggested. I didn’t hear back, so a few days later I sent her a “did you get my revision and what’s the next step” email.

She responded rather tersely in comparison to the earlier emails, but I figured she’s a busy, sought-after agent and now that I’ve signed on, she’s getting down to business. She gave me the first-round list of editors she planned to submit to and said she expected to hear back from them very soon. That was on October 1.

Since then I’ve waited. In mid-January, I finally sent her a brief, polite followup email asking for an update. No response. A week later, I sent a second polite followup email. It’s been about a week, and again, I’ve heard nothing back from her.

Yesterday, I left a message on her cell phone, and again, no response. I haven’t yet worked up my nerve to call the agency directly, although I’m guessing this is what I have to do now.

In the meantime, I’m stuck wondering what happened to her and where does it leave me? Do I have an agent? Is my novel out there being considered? Or did she get terrible responses back from the editors and decide she hates it after all? Does she regret signing me on? Is that why she’s gone AWOL on me? Is she seriously ill? Dead? Did she quit her job? If she has dropped me, shouldn’t she let me know? And if so, what responsibility does the agency have to me or I to it?

First thing to do is pour yourself a soothing beverage and realize It’s NOT You.  The agent has clearly gone round the bend for some reason, and I’ll bet you a pair of furry shark slippers and a full length manuscript critique that it has nothing to do with you.

Agents lose their minds with increasing frequency. I’m not sure why. I’ve had a few bouts of The Bends myself wherein I’m sure my clients thought (or hoped) I was dead cause at least then they could find someone to return their calls.  Generally I’ve picked up the pieces, apologized profusely, learned from the situation and tried not to repeat it.

Link to the rest at Janet Reid, Literary Agent and thanks to Margaret for the tip.

Most of all, money is a story

27 February 2014

From Seth Godin’s Blog:

Money’s pretty new. Before that, we traded. My corn for your milk. The trade enriches both of us, and it’s simple.

Money, of course, makes a whole bunch of other transactions possible. Maybe I don’t need your milk, but I can take your money and use it to buy something I do need, from someone else. Very efficient, but also very abstract.

. . . .

Most of the time, when we’re buying non-commodity items, we’re asking ourselves questions like:

  • How much pain am I in right now?
  • Do I deserve this?
  • What will happen to the price in an hour or a week? If it changes, will I feel smart or dumb?
  • What will my neighbors think?
  • Does it feel fair?
  • and, What sort of risks (positive and negative) are involved? (This is why eBay auctions don’t work for the masses).

Pricing based on cost, then, makes no sense whatsoever. Cost isn’t abstract, but value is.

Link to the rest at Seth Godin’s Blog

Indies talk a lot about ebook pricing. Big Publishing complains that Amazon and indie authors have devalued books. PG agrees with Seth that, at bottom, value is abstract.

Two indie authors are making 8 figures annually

27 February 2014

From Joe Konrath and another commenter via the comments on Joe’s blog:

Joe Konrath said…

I think media generally will be microscopically fragmented.

I agree. And it’s a smart prediction.

But while we’ll have fewer blockbusters, and more of the niche artists sharing that pie, there will still be 80/20 rules and bell curves and occasional big hits.

And we do have some self-pub authors making 8 figures. I’m on the low end of the KDP bestselling author lists.

. . . .

Anonymous said…

Anon BB here again:

Joe said, “And we do have some self-pub authors making 8 figures.”

With the greatest respect (and you know we’ve known each other for years) … really? Plural? My ear is as close to the ground as anyone’s, and I know this business backward, and I have dozens of clued-in friends in the KDP community, and I have as many – or more – friends in certain Seattle offices as you, and that’s the first such claim I have ever heard.

The thrust of the OP was all about how authors should have accurate information. Is that really accurate? If you can’t provide links, have the person or people e-mail me privately, and I’ll retract right here in bold capitals.

. . . .

Joe Konrath said…

really? Plural?

Two is plural. So yes. 🙂

Keep in mind that while you’re privy to what the best of the best NYT bestsellers are making, I’m privy to what many of the top self-pubbers are doing. Many of them have contacted me directly.

But it isn’t my business to reveal their names, any more than I’d reveal your name.

It’s also fine if you don’t believe me. Prior to, there were a lot of people that didn’t believe how big this shadow industry was. Some see the figures and still don’t believe.

Link to the rest at A Newbie’s Guide to Publishing and thanks to Tony for the tip.

Apple’s e-book appeal: Toss out the verdict, or give us a new judge

27 February 2014

From Fortune:

Apple pulled no punches in the 65-page brief it filed Tuesday, asking a higher court to overturn the controversial results of last year’s e-book antitrust trial and placing blame for the outcome squarely on the shoulders of the judge who heard the case.

In Apple’s view, U.S. District Judge Denise Cote was not only wrong about the law when she ruled that the company orchestrated a conspiracy with publishers to fix the price of e-books, she was wrong about the facts as well.

The key issue of law is the same one that was raised at trial: That the antitrust rules that restrain the actions of direct competitors are not the same as those governing the actions of a vertical player — as Apple was in its dealings with the publishers.

. . . .

“Apple’s entry into the conspiracy had to start somewhere,” Judge Cote wrote in her July 2013 decision, “and the evidence is that it started at those initial [Dec. 2009] meetings in New York City with the Publishers” when the company “made a conscious commitment” to join a pre-existing conspiracy to violate the Sherman Antitrust Act.

“This finding forms the bedrock of the court’s entire decision and is demonstrably wrong,” Apple told the U.S. Court of Appeals, Second Circuit. “The undisputed record reflects that Apple had no prior dealings in the publishing industry and that everything it knew it had gleaned from public sources—like reports in The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal—none of which reported on a conspiracy.”

Apple knew before those initial meetings that the publishers were frustrated with Amazon, which at the time controlled nearly 90% of the e-book market. They hated that Amazon was selling their most popular titles for $9.99 — below cost — and were afraid of getting squeezed out of what little profit they still had. The judge herself recognized that Amazon’s dominant position “strengthened [Apple’s] hand in proposing [a] new business model to the Publishers.”

“Apple seized the moment and brilliantly played its hand,” she wrote.

Steve Jobs later called this an “aikido move,” referring to a Japanese martial arts maneuver that uses the power of a stronger opponent against itself.

Link to the rest at Fortune

PG hasn’t read Apple’s brief, but, based on various reports, thinks this sounds like a moon shot.

A general rule of appellate law is that, absent unusual circumstances, the appeals court will accept the trial court’s decisions with respect to the facts of a case. 99% of appeals are based upon the idea that the judge got the law wrong, not the facts.

Cases like this generate a massive amount of paperwork and PG hasn’t read it all. He did, however, read the judge’s opinion and found it to be exceptionally detailed and compelling. In all the right ways, Judge Cote did a good job at making her opinion difficult for Apple to appeal.

Additionally, Judge Cote is a senior judge, which means she is semi-retired but is available for assignment to some cases. She has a great deal of experience being a judge and, unless she has a history of flaky decisions (which PG hasn’t read anything about), the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals will be familiar with her past work, thus giving her opinion a bit more credibility than it would have if it were written by a new Federal District judge.

The judge’s decision made Apple and the publishers’ actions sound like the most garden-variety of price-fixing cases. It appears Apple’s counsel is going to great lengths to attempt to distinguish it from the dozens of other antitrust cases where business executives have acted like fools trying to manipulate prices.

Raymond Chandler’s Ten Commandments for Writing a Detective Novel

27 February 2014

From Open Culture:

Raymond Chandler . . . sandblasted the detective novel of its decorousness and instilled it with a sweaty vitality. Chandler, through the eyes of his most famous character Philip Marlowe, navigated a thinly veiled Los Angeles through the desperation of those on the low end of society’s totem pole and through the greed and venality of those at the top. . . . . Chandler created stories that looked outward, struggling to make sense of a morally ambiguous world. He dedicated his career to the genre, influencing generations of writers after him. His very name became synonymous with his terse, pungent style.

So it isn’t terribly surprising that Chandler had some very strong opinions about crime fiction.

Below are his ten commandments for writing a detective novel:

1) It must be credibly motivated, both as to the original situation and the dénouement.

2) It must be technically sound as to the methods of murder and detection.
. . . .

6) It must baffle a reasonably intelligent reader.

7) The solution must seem inevitable once revealed.

Link to the rest at Open Culture and thanks to J.A. for the tip.


26 February 2014

Granted: I am an inmate of a mental hospital; my keeper is watching me, he never lets me out of his sight; there’s a peephole in the door, and my keeper’s eye is the shade of brown that can never see through a blue-eyed type like me.

First line of The Tin Drum, Günter Grass


26 February 2014

Passive Guy received the following from an author.

The identities of the people involved are obscured.

PG has not investigated any of the matters described in the post and, with some additional obscuration and editing, is presenting the story as he received it.

As a long time freelance artist and writer; with many years under my belt navigating through the publishing world, I was thrilled at the prospects of becoming an author of indie fantasy. After being a member of the freelance and publishing communities for so long, I had developed a long list of colleagues, many of whom I hoped I would have a chance to work with.

One such chance cropped up about a year ago. During the Winter of [date omitted], I was shopping around for a cover for my eBook, [title omitted]. I had known [artist name] for many years. He/she was (and remains) a relatively underground and unknown artist. However, I had always admired his/her work. Although, there were some red flags that painted the picture of an unsavory personality, I let all of that slide due to his/her immense talent.

I contacted [artist name] to see about licensing one of his/her works. He/she let me know that the price for licensing the specific painting that I was interested in was $6,000.

Something about this didn’t jive with me. I felt some bad juju. So, I contacted a few friends who design covers for the Big Six for a living. They all had the same story… Licensing a painting should never cost more than $20 – $100 if it’s from an artist who’s relatively unknown. And still, the Big Six never pay more than $5,000 – $6,000 to the biggest names in the business for a 100% completely original work of art for a cover. The general consensus was that [artist name] either was self-aggrandizing or that he/she simply had no interest in licensing his/her artwork, but that really remains to be seen, as no one but he/she can really attest to his/her motives.

I had decided that $6,000 was much more than I felt comfortable spending. [Alternate artist’s name omitted] licensed artwork to me for commercial use, free of charge as it was already Creative Commons- licensed material and I decided that I would design my own cover.

After knowing [artist name] for many years and out of respect for him/her, I decided that the professional thing to do was to not leave him/her hanging. I contacted him/her and let him/her know that I would be licensing artwork from someone else as $6,000 was outside of my budget and that I hoped that he/she and I would get to work together in the future. At the same time, my spouse had purchased all of [artist name]’s digital art tutorials for me. I also e-mailed him/her telling him/her that my spouse had purchased his/her tutorials for me and asked for a simple product recommendation. At that point, I received a file from him/her. I assumed that it was a product recommendation.

The day after I had opened the file I received from him/her, all of my social media profiles were hacked and deleted. I was able to salvage everything. Until, two weeks ago… When he/she started hacking again.

I have my Apple ID and Facebook setup to alert me if someone logs into my accounts using a device other than the ones registered to my accounts. In fact, my Facebook had been deactivated. I received two e-mails from Facebook. One that my account had been reactivated and another that my account had been accessed by a computer other than one of  the devices registered to my account.

I logged into my Facebook account and brought up the log of devices. There is was, in black and white, my Facebook account had been accessed by someone living in the area where [artist name] lives. The next day, the same thing happened with my Apple ID.

Then it happened with my computer. Someone had bypassed my Firewall and succeeded in corrupting the documents for [title omitted], which I was editing to enter into the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award contest.

My external hard drive was connected at the time and my backups of those files were also corrupted. The person who did this, knew exactly what to do to destroy the files. [artist name] is the only person with a motive to do such a thing.

I also started receiving abusive e-mails from [artist name]. He/she started slandering me online. It was obvious that the things that he/she was saying about me were fabrications.

I have since discovered that, while using many different aliases, [artist name] posted books that were in direct competition with mine. Mine have been much more successful then his/hers. His/her sales ranks are all the way at the bottom of the pile and his/her books don’t even have any reviews after being on the market for a long time. So, mine is faring much better. He/she started posting fake negative scam reviews on [book title omitted]’s Amazon and Goodreads pages. These reviews have been removed as both Amazon and Goodreads deemed that those reviews violated their review policies. This whole ordeal has negatively impacted the sales of my eBook.

I recently ran a virus scan on my computer. The file [artist name] had sent me tested positive as malware. I deleted both the e-mail and the file.

I’ve filed reports with my ISP, my local police, [artist name]’s local police, the FBI, the Department of Law Enforcement for my state, the registrar of [artist name]’s website, as well as all of the social media networks involved.

Of all of the social media networks I contacted; only Goodreads, TimeRepublik and 500px have responded and are willing to assist me. The only agencies who have responded are my local police and the Department of Law Enforcement for my state. The Department of Law Enforcement sent me a list of state statutes that [artist name] is breaking and they let me know that my local police need to handle this. Yet, my local police refuse to handle this.

However, my local police did tell me to do the following:

1. Close all social media/networking accounts and never create new ones.

2. Be completely anonymous. Change my handle/pen name (for everything already published and anything that will be published in the future) to something gender-neutral that doesn’t use anything identifiable, including my website.

3. Delete all pictures and video of myself from the internet and never post any pictures or video in the future. No one can know what I look like, nor my gender.

4. Contact all bloggers I’ve worked with and have them remove anything identifiable from their posts.

5. Become 100% private and secretive, not sharing any information, even in interviews.

6. Never ever do any appearances, ever.

7. Do not do a podcast. No one can know what I sound like, since then they’ll know my gender.

The obvious problem with following this advice is that I would have no platform. I think of it like this… If a politician is running for office and I don’t know what this politician looks like, nor if it’s a man or a woman because they don’t make any appearances, there’s no photos or videos to be found anywhere. I have no idea what this politician’s platform is, because they’re secretive about it. This politician isn’t going to be receiving my vote. There needs to be a certain amount of disclosure and trust between public figures and the public they’re reaching out to.

The same thing applies to the author-reader relationship. That’s really only the tip of the iceberg. I’m an extrovert by nature. Being private and secretive aren’t a part of who I am. Nor am I comfortable with the idea of needing to behave in such a manner. As such, I’m wondering what options are available to me.

Rights Grabs and Copyrights

26 February 2014

Passive Guy put together the following for the IndieReCon online writers conference which continues through today:

Let’s discuss the rights authors own under their copyrights to their books.Although we could talk a long time about what copyright is, for the purpose of this post, we’ll call it the exclusive legal right of the author of a literary work to reproduce, publish and sell a book for the period during which the copyright is in force. Copyright also includes the right of the author to permit others to do the same thing.Copyright is a collection of different rights. Some of these are called derivative works.

Here’s a definition from the United States Copyright Office:

A derivative work is a work based on or derived from one or more already exist­ing works. Common derivative works include translations, musical arrange­ments, motion picture versions of literary material or plays, art reproductions, abridgments, and condensations of preexisting works. Another common type of derivative work is a “new edition” of a preexisting work in which the edito­rial revisions, annotations, elaborations, or other modifications represent, as a whole, an original work.To be copyrightable, a derivative work must incorporate some or all of a preexisting “work” and add new original copyrightable authorship to that work. The derivative work right is often referred to as the adaptation right. The fol­lowing are examples of the many different types of derivative works:

•   A motion picture based on a play or novel
•   A translation of an novel written in English into another language
•   A revision of a previously published book
•   A sculpture based on a drawing
•   A drawing based on a photograph
•   A lithograph based on a painting
•   A drama about John Doe based on the letters and journal entries of John Doe
•   A musical arrangement of a preexisting musical work
•   A new version of an existing computer program
•   An adaptation of a dramatic work
•   A revision of a website

Note that a derivative work includes uses for the work that are developed in the future. Authors who wrote novels long before ebooks were invented still have copyright protection for their work in the form of ebooks.

So, what is a rights grab for the author of a book?

Here’s Passive Guy’s own definition: A rights grab happens when a publisher demands more rights than to print, publish and sell hardcovers, paperbacks and license ebooks.

Of course, many publishers ask the author to grant many more rights than those three. Common additions are motion picture, television and dramatic rights.

Why does PG not like this?

Does Penguin make movies? Does HarperCollins create stage plays?

Those sorts of things are done by people whose principal business is something other than publishing. Publisher like these sorts of things because all they have to do is contact someone, usually a Hollywood agent, and ask the agent to sell performance rights. Quite often, the author even pays some or all of the agent’s fee through royalty deductions.

That’s a lot less work than editing, printing and promoting books.

An analogous set of rights are translation rights. The right to translate a book into German, French, etc., and sell those books world-wide. There are some exceptions, but quite often, the process is similar to performance rights. The publisher contacts a German publisher or agent and the German publisher does all the work.

Of course, the publisher takes a cut of all of these subsidiary rights, sometimes a very large cut. The author gets what’s left.

So, PG’s standard for what rights an author should grant to a publisher are those that the publisher has the in-house capability of exploiting without involving third-party agents, producers or publishers.

If a book sells well, it will attract people in the movie business and foreign publishers on its own, without the involvement of the US publisher and, if the author retains these rights, he/she keeps all the money.

How does the author know what to do with these non-book rights? Hire an attorney or agent to help. They will charge much less than a publisher will to handle those types of licenses. And the author will be in control of negotiations and the contract terms, not the publisher.

What does rights grab contract language look like? Here’s a short one from a real publishing contract (but not a contract that involves one of PG’s clients):

The Author hereby grants the Publisher the exclusive, worldwide rights to publish, display, reproduce, license, grant subsidiary rights, distribute, and sell the Work, in any and all forms currently, or in the future, known for publishing such material.

Here’s that same contract provision with key terms highlighted:

The Author hereby grants the Publisher the exclusiveworldwide rights to publish, display, reproduce,licensegrant subsidiary rights, distribute, and sell the Work, in any and all forms currently, or in the future, known for publishing such material.

Often grants of right are significantly longer than this, but this gives you the idea of the kinds of things to look for.

Why does a publisher need worldwide rights if it only publishes in the US?

Why does a publisher need subsidiary rights if it’s never produced a movie or sold rights to a movie?

Why does a publisher need rights to some unspecified future use of the work when the publisher doesn’t even know what that might be?

If you’re looking for a compromise between a rights grab and PG’s absolutist position about hardcover, paperback and ebooks, here are some ideas:

1.      The publisher has the right to seek movie, TV, etc., deals for a period of time – three years, for example. If no deal is consummated during that time, those rights revert to the author.

2.      The first $1 million derived from the sale or license of any subsidiary right is divided 50/50 between author and publisher and any revenues above that are paid to the author.

3.      The publisher has rights in any countries where it presently has offices and operations with the author retaining rights everywhere else. The countries should be listed.

B&N Third Quarter: Earnings Up, ‘Core’ Store Sales Off 0.5%

26 February 2014

From Shelf Awareness:

In the third quarter ended January 25, consolidated revenues at Barnes & Noble fell 10.3%, to $2 billion, and net earnings were $63.2 million, compared to a net loss of $3.7 million in the same quarter last year. Earnings were comfortably above analysts’ estimates.

Sales at trade bookstores and fell 6.3%, to $1.4 billion, which the company attributed to “a comparable store sales decline of 4.9% for the quarter, store closures and lower online sales.” Sales at stores open at least a year fell primarily because of lower sales of Nook products. Bookstore sales excluding the Nook were down just 0.5%.

. . . .

Nook revenues fell 50.4%, to $157 million, with Nook device and accessories sales falling 58.2% while digital content was off 26.5%, mainly because device sales were down.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Author’s Unmasking Won’t Stop Book

26 February 2014

From The New York Times:

In a book proposal recently sent to publishers, the writer known only as @GSElevator — a popular Twitter account consisting of things purportedly overheard inside Goldman Sachs’s elevators — bragged about being aggressively recruited by the bank.

He said that after enduring more than 15 interviews, he landed a job, writing: “I have the offer and the guaranteed package.” The proposal then describes his career in fixed income, leaving publishers with the clear impression that he had worked at Goldman.

He had not.

“Almost Clintonian,” said one dismayed publisher who had seen the proposal.

. . . .

A day after the author of the planned book, “Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance and Excess in the World of Investment Banking,” was revealed to be John Lefevre, a former bond salesman who was never employed by Goldman, Simon & Schuster stood by its author. It said that it had expected that his identity would eventually be uncovered.

“The great interest in the identity of who was behind the Twitter feed, and in his employment history, only speaks to how much his @GSElevator tweets have been a lightning rod for conversation, as well as to the quality of his writing,” said a statement from the publisher.

A spokeswoman for Touchstone, the imprint of Simon & Schuster that acquired the book, said that it planned to proceed with publication. Yet Mr. Lefevre’s admission that he had never worked for Goldman appeared to undermine his credibility, if not the premise of his book.

. . . .

 When Touchstone acquired the book for six figures in January, the publisher said it would go well beyond the Twitter feed to tell a wild, behind-the-scenes tale of the financial world. The book, planned for an October release, was promised to be “a humorous, insightful, and profoundly uncensored account of Wall Street.”

. . . .

 Touchstone declined to say whether it knew at the time of the acquisition that the author had never worked for Goldman. Before being exposed, Mr. Lefevre had originally planned to write the book under the pseudonym J. T. Stone.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Abel for the tip.

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