Monthly Archives: January 2015

George RR Martin’s The Winds of Winter: no plans for publication in 2015

31 January 2015

From The Guardian:

Another year of waiting for The Winds of Winter to blow is in store for fans of George RR Martin, as his publisher confirmed there are no plans for the much-anticipated latest volume from his A Song of Ice and Fire series to appear in 2015. Instead, readers will have to comfort themselves with an illustrated edition of three previously anthologised novellas set in the world of Westeros.

A Knight of the Seven Kingdoms takes place nearly a century before the bloody events of the A Song of Ice and Fire series, when the Iron Throne was still held by the Targaryens. Out in October, it is a compilation of the first three official prequel novellas to the series, The Hedge Knight, The Sworn Sword and The Mystery Knight, never before collected, and now set for release in a new illustrated edition.

Martin’s publisher Jane Johnson at HarperCollins promised that fans will pick up all sorts of clues from reading them.

“The novellas,” said Johnson, “are illustrated in black and white line drawings throughout by Gary Gianni in classic style. It will be a truly lovely book, and I adore these clever, funny stories.” They “give fascinating insights into the ongoing story, from the point of view of Ser Duncan the Tall, a hedge knight, and his squire Egg – who may be rather more than he first seems,” she said. “The short novels have been previously published in separate anthologies but never put together before, and this will be a particularly beautiful edition.”

However, Johnson confirmed that The Winds of Winter, the next novel in the series that has been filmed by HBO as A Game of Thrones, is not in this year’s schedule. “I have no information on likely delivery,” she said. “These are increasingly complex books and require immense amounts of concentration to write. Fans really ought to appreciate that the length of these monsters is equivalent to two or three novels by other writers.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Perhaps his memory is flawed today, but PG can’t remember another story in a major newspaper announcing an author would not be publishing a book.


31 January 2015

From the Oxford English Dictionary Word of the Day:

mundicidious, adj.

. . . .

Likely or able to destroy the world.

. . . .

1647 N. Ward Simple Cobler Aggawam (ed. 3) 20 A vacuum and an exorbitancy are mundicidious evils.

Link to the rest at The Oxford English Dictionary

My Gravity Lawsuit and How It Affects Every Writer Who Sells to Hollywood

31 January 2015

From author Tess Gerritsen:

Yesterday, the court granted Warner Bros’s motion to dismiss my lawsuit against them. While Warner Bros crows victory, the judge has in fact left the door open for me to pursue my claim, allowing my legal team twenty days to revise our complaint and address a single issue: the corporate relationship between Warner Bros. and New Line Productions.

. . . .

In 1999, I sold the film rights to my book GRAVITY to New Line Productions. The contract stipulates that if a movie is made based on my book, I will receive “based upon” credit, a production bonus, and a percentage of net profits. The book is about a female medical doctor/astronaut who is stranded aboard the International Space Station after the rest of her crew is killed in a series of accidents. A biological hazard aboard ISS traps her in quarantine, unable to return to earth. While my film was in development, I re-wrote the third act of the film script with scenes of satellite debris destroying ISS and the lone surviving female astronaut adrift in her spacesuit.

. . . .

In 2008, Warner Bros acquired New Line Productions. The takeover was rumored to be brutal, with numerous New Line employees losing their jobs overnight.

Sometime around 2008 – 2009, Alfonso Cuaron wrote his original screenplay “Gravity” about a female astronaut who is the sole survivor after her colleagues are killed by satellite debris destroying their spacecraft. She is left adrift in her space suit, and is later stranded aboard the International Space Station. I noted the similarities, but I had no evidence of any connection between Cuaron and my project. Without proof, I could not publicly accuse him of theft, so when asked about the similarities by fans and reporters, I told them it could be coincidence.

In February 2014, my literary agent was informed of Cuaron’s attachment to my project back in 2000. Now the similarities between my book and Cuaron’s movie could no longer be dismissed as coincidence. I sought legal help, and we filed a Breach of Contract complaint that April. Please note: this is not a case of copyright infringement. Warner Bros., through its ownership of New Line, also owns the film rights to my book. They had every right to make the movie — but they claim they have no obligation to honor my contract with New Line.

This is why every writer who sells to Hollywood should be alarmed.

It means that any writer who sold film rights to New Line Productions can have those rights freely exploited by its parent company Warner Bros. — and the original contract you signed with New Line will not be honored. Warner Bros. can make a movie based on your book but you will get no credit, even though your contract called for it.

Link to the rest at Tess Gerritsen and thanks to Clair for the tip.

Here’s a link to Tess Gerritsen’s books



Great artists make the roads

31 January 2015
Comments Off on Great artists make the roads

Great artists make the roads; good teachers and good companions can point them out. But there ain’t no free rides, baby.

Ursula K. Le Guin

Reasoning with the Unreasonable?

31 January 2015

From author Renee Bernard:

Recently, I’ve begun drafting my next semi-annual requests to my previous NY based publishers for the rights to revert back to me for dustier tomes that I would love to welcome back onto my shelves. It’s become a bit of a ritual and repeated rite of supplication and rejection for me.  For a lot of Indie authors, it’s just part of the landsacpe–a nearly hopeless quest to recover your creative offspring and reunite them with their newer siblings.

I ask.  They say, no.   It isn’t fun.

They say something about the book still being available for sale…and with the veils of secrecy that they’ve perfected over a century, it’s tough to argue that it is NOT “in print” if one box is rotting in a warehouse, or if they’ve jobbed out copies for pennies on the dollar and it’s clear they aren’t making any print runs anytime soon (aka never).  Prove it.  Even if I buy the few remaining copies at a fire sale, they refuse to let go.  They use the same electronic copies that have become the stuff of dreams against you because those books never go out of print, right? Sorry.

As NY publishing continues to stumble in the dark, the fallback position is to hold onto everything they have, either for fear of losing the tiniest revenue stream from past books or out of the hope that one of those long-neglected and dropped authors will become quite the lottery win if the writer goes on to do great things outside of their hold.  For them, they think retaining every scrap of rights is a win-win.

. . . .

If an author has stepped away from traditional publishing, they probably had reasons.  By refusing to play nice and yield publication rights when it is reasonable to do so–you step firmly into the role of greedy villain.  Which while probably an awesome thing to be in a captitalist profit-driven scenario in a Hollywood film, won’t sustain an industry in the real world for long.  As talent flees in droves and the publishing world changes, what hope do they have of luring back any of those Big Fish if things do take a turn for the better?

What author would look back and say, “Yes! Oh, please! You’ve been so reasonable and pleasant to deal with!  Where do I sign?”

They lock the door on any future contracts with incredible writers because let’s face it, those creative types tend to remember every bruise and insult.  The business model becomes dependent on new, naive, uninformed talent to sign on the dotted line… And we all know how that’s going!  Because writers are talking to each other!  We communicate.  We share stories of our experiences, numbers, names, details.  That’s right–it’s quite the forum out there!  In other words, I believe that the pool of talent they say is shrinking is in fact the pool of willing newbies they can attract with the diminishing prestige of hardcovers and shiny marketing.

Link to the rest at Renee Bernard

Here’s a link to Renee Bernard’s books

The Second Coming of the Textbook Wars

31 January 2015

From Flavorwire:

It may not happen today, or tomorrow, but the coming textbook wars will be massive, if quietly so. Why? The world of educational publishing is enormous; it is much bigger than you might imagine. It dwarfs, for example, the feeble trade publishing market. At the turn of the last decade, Pearson’s educational arm alone brought in more revenue than all other publishers, with the exception of education-driven Reed Elsevier. That’s just the arm that produces textbooks and other educational material. Frankly, when we talk about publishing as a whole, what we say makes little sense unless we’re talking about textbooks and educational publishing.

Enter Amazon. It announced this week that it will launch a new arm of its Kindle Direct Publishing service, one that will “help educators and authors easily prepare, publish, and promote eTextbooks and other educational content for students to access on a broad range of devices.”

. . . .

Amazon and Apple’s sought-after “democratization” of textbook production could alter education irrevocably in the coming years. And these developments may affect academic publishing more rapidly, as it’s an industry whose strengths are also its market weaknesses. The peer review process that lends academic publishing much of its prestige also requires slow, painstaking analysis. Add to this the brute fact that many university presses are run primarily to mitigate losses: this means they pay little to authors and sometimes fail to keep up with developments in a given field. You can see the appeal, in theory, of Amazon’s DIY platform.

Link to the rest at Flavorwire

My interviews with the Marshawn Lynch of writers

30 January 2015

From Crosscut:

Marshawn Lynch, the Seahawk’s star running back, is famous for his desire to avoid sitting and answering the media’s questions. Hostility to the media is common among people whose fame relies on it, but it is not restricted to athletes. There are plenty of literary figures who detest the probes of inquiring minds — think of semi-recluses like Thomas Pynchon, J.D. Salinger, Harper Lee.

We understand the need for solitude and control in the case of creative types, and honor it. Authors, however, also play in a public arena, usually less raucous than a football stadium but still often a circus of distractions. With a unique soul like Lynch — an artist of the running game — maybe we should cut him some slack. Think of him as Emily Dickinson in shoulder pads.

The saga of Lynch puts me in mind of another popular semi-recluse whose work was beloved by millions and who enjoyed the fruits of adoration — and its monetary rewards — but loathed interviews and fuss. In 1995, I was tapped to interview this man, the author Patrick O’Brian, beloved for his series of Napoleanic era sea stories, the so-called Aubrey/Maturin novels. They have been described as the successors to the works of C. S. Forester, or as “Jane Austen-at-sea.”

. . . .

O’Brian was an intensely private man who lived and wrote in relative obscurity in the south of France near the Spanish border, where he’d moved from Britain in the late 1940s.

. . . .

In 1995 he went on a U.S. book tour arranged by his New York publisher, W.W. Norton. He would hit only a few select cities — Seattle, Portland, San Francisco, New York and some others. The format was on-stage interviews — not your usual bookshop signings. I was tapped to interview him on stage in the two Northwest cities on that tour, Seattle and Portland.

. . . .

I was made more nervous because I knew that O’Brian hated interviews on principle. A few years before, he had told Francis X. Clines of the New York Times that “Question-and-answer is not civilized.” He also asserted the right to keep his private life private. O’Brian, a man of culture, high literary achievement, a close friend of people like Pablo Picasso and Simone de Beauvoir and whose work was consider by some to be on the level of Austen’s, was being sent forth into America to capitalize on his success, yet in a format that he considered by definition to be barbaric.

. . . .

I decided to approach the interview with O’Brian from a slightly unexpected angle. His fans would want to hear about his Aubrey/Maturin books. Most were unfamiliar with his other works. So I figured, if I came at O’Brian with something fresh, he might find it fun to talk about, before we slid into the hardcore fan stuff. I began by asking him about his relationship with Picasso — O’Brian had written an excellent biography of the artist and had known him well. We also talked about his biography of the British naturalist Sir. Joseph Banks. I appealed to his ego, to the historical substance of his work, and by this route we managed to get through potentially rough waters and into the friendly sea of a wonderful conversation.

. . . .

How do you protect that inner fire that makes you who you are, that helps you create or perform in a way others describe as genius? O’Brian managed to do it for decades, until his fame hit a critical mass. I’m sure he loved parts of it — on this visit to North America, he was able to acquire a narwhal tusk and some first editions of Jane Austen that he treasured. Fame had its rewards. But it also disrupted the bubble of privacy and quiet that he had cultivated for so many productive years — that had helped to make the reclusive, private O’Brian a literary star.

Link to the rest at Crosscut and thanks to Ryan for the tip.

Simon & Schuster Offers Expanded Author Services in New Multimedia Imprint

30 January 2015

From Digital Book World:

Simon & Schuster rolls out a new imprint designed to “offer authors an expanded suite of profile-building, ancillary services that extend beyond the boundaries of traditional publishing,” according to a statement released today.

The imprint, called North Star Way, will focus on wellness and self-improvement nonfiction, delivered in a variety of multimedia formats in addition to print and ebooks, from apps and podcasts to online video.

Headed up by VP and Publisher Michele Martin, North Star Way will initially launch with four titles. Adam Rothberg, SVP of Corporate Communications at Simon & Schuster, explains that “the focus is to do a lot of things with a smaller group of authors and titles,” as opposed to publishing in high volumes.

. . . .

The move shows Simon & Schuster doubling down on forms of multimedia that books now compete with in an increasingly mobile-driven landscape. Earlier this month, Simon & Schuster announced a series of paid online video courses called SimonSays, featuring tutorials led by some of the publisher’s best-known authors. The new imprint appears to take that approach one step further, positioning such multimedia as a regular part of authors’ content offerings, not just marketing material surrounding their books.

. . . .

Rothberg confirms that contracts for North Star Way authors will account for the “new services and activities being offered, along with the traditional book publishing language about advances, royalties, rights, territories, etc.” but declined to offer specifics.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World and thanks to HN for the tip.

For some reason, PG immediately thought of Author Solutions.

No, the Big Five are not a cartel and it really ignores reality to label them as one

30 January 2015

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

One of the best-attended breakout sessions of Digital Book World 2015 was the discussion called “Should Amazon Be Constrained, and Can they Be?” which shared the very last slot on the two day program. That conversation was moderated by veteran New Yorker journalist Ken Auletta, and included Annie Lowrey of New York Magazine, thriller author Barry Eisler, and Barry Lynn of the New America Foundation.

It turns out that the two Barrys, who have pretty much diametrically opposed positions on Amazon (Lynn wants them investigated by the DoJ as a competition-stifling monopoly; Eisler casts them, for the most part, as the heroes of the book business’s digital transition) have a common position on the Big Five publishers. They refer to them as a “cartel”. Eisler is sneeringly dismissive of “New York”, which he refers to the way Republicans of the 1980s referred to “Moscow”, as an obvious pejorative. He appears befuddled by how anybody interested in the well-being of authors and the reading public could take the side of these publishers who maintain high prices for books, contract with authors to pay them smaller percentages of sales than Amazon does (either through Amazon’s own publishing operations or through their self-publishing options), and notoriously reject a very high percentage of the authors who come to them for deals.

Perhaps because the focus was Amazon, perhaps because Eisler was both emphatic and entertaining in his roasting of the publishing establishment, and perhaps because the facts to defend them are not well known.

. . . .

I am not certain that Amazon can or should be constrained, but I am damn sure that the Big Five publishers are not villains, and they are certainly not a cartel. They do seem to be extremely poor defenders of their own virtue but they are doing yeoman work maintaining the value in the old publishing model — for themselves and for authors — while adjusting to changes in their ecosystem that require that they develop strong B2C capabilities while maintaining their traditional B2B model, the death of which has been greatly exaggerated. If I’d been on that stage, the discussion of Amazon would have been diverted when the trashing of the big publishers began.

I took the step of confirming in an email exchange my recollection of the counts in Eisler’s very entertaining, persuasive, and unchallenged indictment of the big publishers.

1. Their basic contract terms are all the same, which it felt at the time he was suggesting demonstrated collusion, but which in our subsequent exchange he clarified he interprets as evidence of “asymmetrical market power and a lack of meaningful competition”;

2. They pay too low royalties on ebooks, which he also attributes to their “asymmetrical power” and “an implicit recognition that publishers come out ahead if they don’t compete on digital royalties”;

3. They only pay royalties twice a year, rather than more frequently or more promptly, which Eisler also attributes to a lack of competition;

4. The term of big publisher contracts is normally “life of copyright”, which Eisler calls “forever terms”

. . . .

First of all, the Big Five have plenty of competition: from each other, as well as from smaller niche publishers who may but be “big” but certainly aren’t “small”. (That is why the big ones so often buy the smaller ones — they add scale and simultaneously bring heterogeneous talent in-house). They are all quite aware of the authors housed elsewhere among them who might be wooable. In fact, since we have started doing our Logical Marketing work, we have done several jobs which were big author audits commissioned by publishers who wanted to steal the author, not by the one which presently has them signed.

. . . .

But the big flaw in Eisler’s logic is the same one that dooms Hugh Howey’s“ Author Earnings” project to irrelevance: the assumption that the per-copy royalty terms and rights splits are the most important element of publishing contracts. In fact, they’re not. Actually, those terms matter in 20 percent or fewer of the agented author contracts with the Big Five. Why? Because the agents get the publishers to pay advances that don’t earn out!

In fact, I have been told by three different big houses what they calculated the percentage of their revenues paid to authors amounted to. We could call that thetrue royalty rate. The three numbers were 36, 40, and 42 percent. That includes what they paid for sales of paperbacks, all of which carry “stipulated” royalties of well less than 10 percent of the cover price (and therefore below 20 percent of revenue).

Take that on board. Big publishers are paying 40 percent of their revenue to authors!

. . . .

Not only were the authors’ collective royalty rates much higher than contracts stipulated, the authors got most of that money in advance, eliminating the authors’ risk. The only contracts on which the royalty terms matter are those that do earn out (and, arguably, those that are close). For all the others, most of Eisler’s list of complaints is irrelevant. And, for the record, I have never heard an author complain about that show of confidence, the work that follows in helping him or her reach an audience (which benefits all involved), nor the cash upfront.

More frequent accounting doesn’t matter if you aren’t owed any money. And if the solution to “forever” contracts were that you could buy your way out by paying back what you got in advances that your book didn’t “earn”, how many authors would do that?

. . . .

First of all, the standard terms in big house contracts are almost always more generous than the terms in smaller publisher contracts. Few — if any — of the smaller ones pay a hardcover royalty as high as 15 percent of list. Although higher digital royalties can sometimes be found, usually those are from publishers who have little capacity to deliver print sales, so digital royalties is all you’re going to get. (That might be okay for a romance novel where a big majority of sales could be digital. It would be disaster for the author of just about anything except genre fiction.) And some smaller publishers actually pay less than 25 percent for digital royalties.

So the Big Five terms are generally better and they routinely pay agented authors advances that no other publisher would attempt to match.

But, beyond that, the idea that they are a “cartel” (a characterization enthusiastically seconded by Amazon critic Barry Lynn after it was introduced by Amazon supporter Eisler), is really preposterous. In fact, the Big Five are, to varying degrees, federations of imprints that even compete internally for books, sometimes to the extent that they will bid against each other when an agent conducts an auction.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files and thanks to Daniel and many others for the tip.

Everybody who believes that 80% of the authors publishing with Big Publishing are not expected to earn out their advances, please raise your hands.

And the price-fixing that the Price-fix Six engaged in with Amazon is the very definition of cartel behavior.

Server Problems

30 January 2015

Due to hosting problems, The Passive Voice was down for an hour last night. A runaway program not associated with TPV ran amok, filled up the hard drive and crashed the server.

This morning, PG was locked out of any administrative functions for the blog due to issues arising from the server crash last night. He is now an expert on all the various methods of resetting an administrator’s password on WordPress.

Fortunately, all the nooks and crannies of TPV are once more available to PG and he will add some additional blog posts shortly.

One of the many reasons for today’s frustrations is that a lot of people have sent good tips this morning.

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