Monthly Archives: July 2015

Defiance

31 July 2015

Mrs. PG has just released a new book.

Since this book is about a more serious time in history than (to PG’s undoubtedly uninformed knowledge) the Regency period in England, he will defer his usual summary style until Mrs. PG’s next Regency appears.

Defiance is the third book in a 20th Century family saga/historical romance.

TheLastWaltz_NEW

Book 1 – The Last Waltz – is set in Vienna and Berlin, during the period from before World War I through the war and into the difficult post-war period for Austria. It follows Amalia Faulhaber from her teens through marriage, nursing in a military hospital, motherhood, the tangled political intrigues of Austria after World War I and the invasion of Austria by Hitler’s Germany.

Exile Cover - ebook

Book 2 – Exile – is set in Switzerland and England as Amalia, her children and a couple of old friends dodge the pursuing German SS to carry a message to Winston Churchill about Hitler’s real plans for Europe. She discovers many in England who believe Hitler and fascism are an antidote to a general decline of morality and character among the British. Still devastated by the losses of World War I, most of England wants to believe Hitler can be placated with a bit more room for Germany to settle its growing population. Churchill is a lone voice in the political wilderness, warning of the dangers the Nazis present.

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Just released Book 3 – Defiance – adds the perspectives of Amalia’s two sons, a pilot in the RAF and an MI5 agent tracking Nazi spies and their supporters in England. Amalia and her family are deeply involved with the politically ascending Winston Churchill, the desperate Dunkirk evacuation of the British Army from France and the Battle of Britain, where a small band of outnumbered British airmen fought the mighty Luftwaffe alone.

Mrs. PG studied in Vienna as an undergraduate and focused on Eastern European history and politics in graduate school. In preparation for Defiance, she reread a great many histories, including those written by Winston Churchill covering the interwar period.

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Authors marketing themselves online: the components of a strategy

31 July 2015

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin via Book Machine:

A range of useful options is available to any author as they consider their online presences. All can be useful to any author but their own website is an essential component of that. It’s an anchor and it is the only web presence the author knows s/he will always control.

An author’s objectives for a website should be to:

  • Make it crystal clear to search engines who the author is and for what they are an authority.
  • Give the author a platform that can be used for many things: blogging, posting parts of books or works-in-progress, and gathering email addresses.
  • Give fans of the author a sensible place to link to an author’s content and biography that is not called Amazon.com.
  • Collect data that is independent of any specific book’s sales that can help an author know how s/he is doing in the digital world.

In addition to a web site, which is real estate an author totally controls and is the most important tool in an author’s kit to get new followers through search, an author can do him or herself some good by going where fans could be.

. . . .

And authors should be in touch with other authors too. They have blurbed for each other’s books for years. Now they can link to each other. They can mail to each other’s fans. No author is so prolific than s/he needs to “own” fans exclusively.

Link to the rest at Book Machine

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What a word is truth

31 July 2015

What a word is truth. Slippery, tricky, unreliable. I tried in these books to tell the truth.

Lillian Hellman

 

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Ebook Sales down at Hachette

31 July 2015

From a Lagardère press release discussing 2015 first half results:

In the United States, the decline in activity, which had been expected (-7.8%), can be explained by the high level of activity in the first half of 2014 (including The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith and The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt) as well as a decline in e-book sales.

. . . .

Digital: in the 1st half of 2015, the weighting of e-books in Lagardère Publishing total sales declined to 10.7%, compared to 11.3% at the end of June 2014. This transition remains limited to English-speaking countries and to the General Literature segment:
– in the United States, in a declining digital market (slowdown seen since the beginning of 2014), sales of e-books have dropped (24% of sales for Trade vs. 29% at the end of June 2014), given a less successful slate of new releases and the implementation of the agreement with Amazon;
– in the United Kingdom, the market is stabilising and has been impacted by the January 1, 2015 VAT increase. E-books represented 33% of sales in Adult Trade(8) vs. 36% at the end of June 2014.

Link to the rest at Lagardère press release

“Implementation of the agreement with Amazon”

PG suspects this means Hachette’s agency pricing agreement with Amazon which allowed Hachette to increase its ebook prices. Is it possible that Amazon knows more about the optimal pricing of ebooks than Hachette?

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The Authors Guild’s Mary Rasenberger on Why Amazon Deserves Antitrust Scrutiny

31 July 2015

From The American Booksellers Association:

Mary Rasenberger, executive director of the Authors Guild, talks about the organization’s support for the Authors United letter and why Amazon’s unprecedented dominance of the book retail market is harmful to authors, booksellers, and the reading public.

. . . .

BTW: Why did the Authors Guild support last week’s Authors United appeal to the Department of Justice and what has been your role in the Authors United letter?

Mary Rasenberger: We at the Authors Guild have been working closely with Doug Preston for the greater part of the past year on both the longer policy memo and the shorter letter that he is asking authors and others to sign. We sent a separate letter to the Department of Justice on this topic last summer and met with them as well. We wholeheartedly believe that Amazon deserves antitrust scrutiny. While Amazon has done a lot that has benefitted the book industry — it created an e-commerce platform that made buying books online very easy and fast; created the first really good e-reader, which dramatically increased access to e-books; and made it very easy for authors to self-publish — in recent years it has ruthlessly used, indeed abused, its unprecedented dominance of the book retail market in ways that harm the book industry as a whole, including authors and the reading public.

The fact is Amazon now virtually controls an important marketplace of information. That is not good for bookstores or for authors, and it is not good for democracy. We now have a single, corporate entity that exerts a dangerous amount of control over the channels of free expression that sustain our democracy. A corporation has never before in American history been allowed to monopolize an information or communications channel. The courts and the government never let that happen before, precisely because democracy relies on the free flow of expression and that requires a broad, diverse array of information sources. When the Associated Press, Turner Broadcasting, or Barnes & Noble threatened to dominate a single marketplace of information, the courts or a government agency intervened. It’s important to see the big picture here, because this situation can easily be trivialized. We’re not just talking about the price of an e-book. We’re talking about interference with the marketplace of information and ideas, which is the engine of any democracy.

. . . .

I want to be clear on one thing, even after everything I just said: We’re not anti-Amazon. We don’t oppose everything the company does.

. . . .

BTW: According to some news reports, self-published authors who once thought of Amazon as their ally are now feeling victimized. Why is that?

MR: As we’ve seen time and time again, at the end of the day, Amazon is only interested in one thing — its own welfare and obscene growth. That became clear to a lot of the self-published authors who used to be on Team Amazon right when Amazon began pulling the rug out from under them on their royalty payments. When Amazon rolled out its subscription service, Kindle Unlimited, last year, it automatically enrolled most of the self-published authors who published with the KDP Select program in the subscription service, where readers got unlimited access to hundreds of thousands of books for $9.99 a month. So, all of a sudden, a lot of these indie authors’ royalty checks just plummeted. And there were some misgivings in the indie community; many of these writers thought they had a partner in Amazon.

Worse, though, Amazon treats its indie authors as second-class citizens. Traditionally published books in Kindle Unlimited were paid for as if sold every time a reader read beyond a certain portion. Indie authors, on the other hand, are paid pro rata out of a pool, which pits indie authors against each other in a competition for readers: One author’s gain is another’s loss. And how does Amazon calculate the amount of money that goes into the pool? No one knows but Amazon. There is a complete lack of transparency in how it determines what the pool is and, so, what any author’s royalties are. They expect authors to just trust them? It is shocking when you think about it. Imagine if a publisher said, “Don’t worry, we’ll pay you something out of our profits; just trust us.” Not exactly a model for professional authors to rely on.

. . . .

Our biggest problem with Amazon vis-à-vis indie authors is that they do not treat their authors as professionals. They provide a take it or leave it contract. Yes, we have lots of problems with the standard contracts of traditional publishers — but at least they allow authors to individually negotiate terms. The KDP authors don’t even have that luxury — they are forced to accept Amazon’s terms and its unknowable royalties, or go somewhere else. Whoops, the problem is that Amazon has so dominated the market there is nowhere else to go if you want any reasonably sized potential audience.

Link to the rest at The American Booksellers Association

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Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s

31 July 2015

From Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s:

The story of crime fiction in America has been largely understood as a male one. Starting with the terrifying tales of Edgar Allan Poe, moving to early “Great Detective” imitations of Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, on to the hardboiled tradition created and perfected by Dashiell Hammett and Raymond Chandler, expanded to a mass audience by pulp paperback novels, and further refined and honed by the likes of David Goodis, Ross Macdonald, and Elmore Leonard.

That story, of course, is far from the truth. In fact, women were publishing crime fiction from close to its inception, with Metta Fuller Victor (The Dead Letter) and Anna Katherine Green (The Leavenworth Case) beating Conan Doyle to the detective punch in 1866 and 1878, respectively, and Carolyn Wells publishing her Fleming Stone series soon after. That women were always part of the tradition somehow got sanded over, whether by accident or willful design, even though they were always there, paving their own distinct pathways through the rules and tropes of the genre. They took as much from deductive ratiocination as they did from the Gothic tradition made famous by the Bronte sisters.

. . . .

American women crime writers drew from other traditions: the spy story pioneered by Erskine Childers and G. K. Chesterton and made contemporary by Eric Ambler and Graham Greene; the “Queens of Suspense” across the Atlantic like Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and Margery Allingham; and the “Had I But Known” school invented by Mary Roberts Rinehart in 1907 and further popularized by Mignon Eberhart and Mabel Seeley in the 1920s and 1930s; the unrelenting dread of Marie Belloc Lowndes’s The Lodger, seasoned with a Gothic flavor, a quarter-century later, in Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca; and psychoanalysis, Freud and Jung. In these works, the heroines were notably passive: events happened to them, and if they were active arbiters of their fate, it was only at the very last moment.

Link to the rest at Women Crime Writers of the 1940s and 50s

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Filmmaker Says Unearthed Songbook Proves ‘Happy Birthday’ Is in Public Domain

30 July 2015

From Variety:

There’s a twist in a long legal tangle over the copyright to “Happy Birthday to You.”

First, though, it’s a surprise to many that there is still a claim to copyright on the song, which is sung, well, just about anytime and everywhere anyone is marking a birthday.

Warner/Chappell Music’s claim to own the rights is being challenged in a federal court, and a documentary filmmaker now contends that she has a “smoking gun” proving that the song’s copyright protection expired long ago, if it ever had protection in the first place.

The filmmaker, Jennifer Nelson, was making a documentary about the history of the song, and paid a license fee to Warner/Chappell for its use. But she and her company, Good Morning to You Productions Corp., filed a lawsuit in 2013 challenging the music publisher’s claim to the song.

In a recent court filing, her lawyers say that a batch of documents produced by Warner/Chappell includes a PDF copy of a 1927 songbook that includes the “Good Morning and Birthday Song,” but with no copyright claims identified. Instead, it includes this line: “Special permission through courtesy of the Clayton F. Summy Co.” Her attorneys also obtained an earlier, 1922 version of the songbook, again with the song and no claim of copyright.

Summy Co. was a music publisher of the time.

. . . .

Under the laws of the time, her attorneys contend, the work fell into the public domain as it did not include a notice that it was under copyright.

But Warner/Chappell argues that the Clayton F. Summy Co. did not own the copyright in 1922 — and that at the time, “Good Morning to All,” on which it was based, was already in its renewal term.

The origin of “Happy Birthday to You” is traced to to a 1893 manuscript for sheet music that included the song “Good Morning to All,” which was written by Mildred J. Hill and her sister, Patty Smith Hill. The song was first published in 1893 in “Song Stories for Kindergarten,” and later the lyrics to “Happy Birthday” were adapted to the song’s medley.

Warner/Chappell contends that Jessica Hill, a sister who had inherited Mildred Hill’s interest in the song after her death in 1916, renewed the copyright to “Song Stories,” which included “Good Morning to All,” in 1921.

. . . .

Warner/Chappell acquired the company that claimed ownership of the song, Birch Tree Hill, in 1998. It has collected license fees for the use of the song in movies, TV shows and other music productions.

The plaintiffs attorneys argue that the 1935 copyright registration covers only piano arrangements.

Link to the rest at Variety and thanks to Casey for the tip.

Since you’ve been wondering about copyright notice for several days, here’s a brief primer.

Since 1978 under US law and since March 1, 1989, under the Berne Convention Implementation Act of 1988, use of a copyright notice on a copyrighted work is not mandatory.

Prior to 1978, under the 1909 Copyright Act, in the US, any publication of a copyrighted work authorized by the copyright owner that did not contain a proper notice of copyright, all copyright protection was forever lost in the US.

Even though not required for copyright protection, placing a copyright notice on your work is a good idea because it prevents an infringer from claiming that the infringement was innocent, thus possibly reducing the damages an infringer would be required to pay.

So, what is a proper copyright notice for a book? According to Circular 3 from the United States Copyright Office, three things are required:

  1. The symbol © (letter C in a circle); the word “Copyright”; or the abbreviation “Copr.”
  2. The year of first publication. If the work is a derivative work or a compilation incorporating previously published material, the year date of first publication of the derivative work or compilation is sufficient. Examples of derivative works are translations or dramatizations; an example of a compilation is an anthology. The year may be omitted when a pictorial, graphic, or sculptural work, with accompanying textual matter, if any, is reproduced in or on greeting cards, postcards, stationery, jewelry, dolls, toys, or useful articles.
  3. The name of the copyright owner, an abbreviation by which the name can be recognized, or a generally known alternative designation of owner.

Example © 2012 Jane Doe

In some other countries, the word, Copyright, may not be a proper notice. © is recognized everywhere.

How do you get the © symbol? If you have autocorrect turned on in MS Word, when you type (c), Word will change it to ©. If that doesn’t work, you can use the Insert Symbols command in Word and hunt around until you find it. © is also ASCII symbol 169, so in Windows, if you hold the ALT key and type 0169, © should appear.

Speaking of (c), which is frequently used in place of ©, particularly in computer programming, PG remembers lots of disagreements in years past about whether (c) was a proper way of giving notice under the 1976 Act.

More recently, that argument seems to have died down. Since, under current law, the author automatically has a copyright as soon as the work is in fixed form without any notice, most attorneys would agree that (c) and © should both be adequate for the purposes of informing someone of a claim of copyright.

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Authors Guilded, United, And Representing… Not Authors

30 July 2015

From Barry Eisler via Techdirt:

One of the more Orwellian aspects of the book world is the number of publisher advocate groups calling themselves Author This and Author That. The Authors Guild, Authors United, theAssociation of Authors’ Representatives… their devotion to protecting the interests of authors is right there in the names, right? No further inquiry necessary.

That’s the idea behind the misleading nomenclature, anyway. But even a cursory glance at the behavior of all these “author” organizations reveals their true priorities and actual allegiances.

Let’s start with the Authors Guild, which claims to “have served as the collective voice of American authors,” and which describes its mission as “to support working writers. We advocate for the rights of writers by supporting free speech, fair contracts, and copyright. We create community and we fight for a living wage.” The Authors Guild even proudly notes that it “has initiated lawsuits in defense of authors’ rights, where necessary.”

Leave aside the wooly talk about creating community. How does the collective voice of American authors, the supporter of working writers, the advocate for the rights of writers, go about fighting for that living wage? Especially given that publishers are making more money from digital booksthan ever, and sharing less of that money with authors than ever.

Well, the organization has periodically mentioned in passing that the shockingly low lockstep17.5% legacy publisher digital royalty rate “needs to change,” so there’s that. Sometimes a spokesperson expresses his or her “hopes” for a little more fairness. And recently they did managea whole blog post on the topic. But that’s all. Occasional words; zero deeds. And likewise regarding a host of other obvious, longstanding, outrageous legacy publisher abuses such as life-of-copyright (forever) terms, twice-yearly payment provisions, draconian non-compete clauses, and impossible out-of-print clauses. Pro forma words and practiced complicity.

But does all this mean the Authors Guild is lying when it says it sometimes initiates lawsuits?

Not at all. The organization did sue Google and Hathitrust over digitization (the first suit was settled; in the second, the Authors Guild lost). Leave aside the merits of those suits; I think they were wrongheaded, but that’s not the point. The point is that when the Authors Guild really wants to throw down, it throws down — just never against legacy publishers and the Rich Relationships™ by which they systematically screw authors (in fact, in the Google suit, the Authors Guild fought alongside the Association of American Publishers).

. . . .

If the Authors Guild really wanted to “advocate for fair contracts,” it would support self-publishing, which even more than Amazon publishing is empowering authors with the first real competition the industry has ever seen — a 70% digital royalty rate (four times the lockstep legacy standard); control over packaging and other business decisions; faster time to market. Yet there’s nothing on the Authors Guild website about how to use KDP, Kobo, NookPress, Smashwords, or any other self-publishing resource. Nothing about AuthorEarnings.com, the most comprehensive breakdown available about where authors are making money in Amazon-, legacy- and self-publishing. The only “self-publishing” resource available through the Collective Voice of American Authors has been a notorious scam outfit called (naturally) Author Solutions (a relationship the Authors Guild finally terminated in May).

Link to the rest at Techdirt

Here’s a link to Barry Eisler’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

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City partners with Amazon for $30 M. e-book contract

30 July 2015

From Capital New York:

The Department of Education is about to approve a $30 million contract with Amazon to create an e-book marketplace for New York City’s 1,800 public schools.

The Amazon deal will be one of the D.O.E.’s most expensive contracts and one of the city’s few significant deals with a leading technology company. The contract will also create the department’s first unified e-book marketplace.

Schools chancellor Carmen Fariña has said she wants to boost the department’s technology credentials.

. . . .

Amazon will provide contracted content, such as widely used textbooks, along with non-contracted content, largely books and texts that individual schools select. Non-contracted content will be purchased directly from Amazon, and the D.O.E. is expecting both types of content to be provided at low prices via Amazon.

All the content can be used on a variety of devices, including smartphones, tablets, PCs and Macs.

. . . .

“We’ve listened closely to educators and this new marketplace will address many of the major current concerns of our schools relating to school texts: not having enough space for textbooks and primary resources, the physical decay and loss of books, not being able to easily compare options and prices, and not being able to exchange book licenses with other classrooms and schools,” Devora Kaye, a D.O.E. spokeswoman, said in a statement.

Link to the rest at Capital New York

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Samuel Delany and the Past and Future of Science Fiction

30 July 2015

From The New Yorker’s Page-Turner blog:

1968, Samuel Delany attended the third annual Nebula Awards, presented by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA). At the ceremony that night, “an eminent member of the SFWA,” as Delany later put it, gave a speech about changes in science fiction, a supposed shift away from old-fashioned storytelling to “pretentious literary nonsense,” or something along those lines. At the previous Nebula Awards, the year before, Delany had won best novel for “Babel-17,” in which an invented language has the power to destroy (his book shared the award with Daniel Keyes’s “Flowers for Algernon”), and earlier on that evening in 1968, Delany had again won best novel, for “The Einstein Intersection,” which tells of an abandoned Earth colonized by aliens, who elevate the popular culture of their new planet into divine myths. Sitting at his table, listening to the speech, Delany realized that he was one of its principle targets. Minutes later, he won another award, this time in the short-story category, for “Aye, and Gomorrah . . . ,” a tale of neutered space explorers who are fetishized back on Earth. As he made his way back to his seat after accepting the award, Isaac Asimov took Delany by the arm, pulled him close, and, as Delany (who goes by the nickname Chip) recalled in his essay “Racism and Science Fiction,” said: “You know, Chip, we only voted you those awards because you’re Negro . . . !”

It was meant to be a joke, Delany immediately recognized; Asimov was trying, Delany later wrote, “to cut through the evening’s many tensions” with “a self-evidently tasteless absurdity.” The award wasn’t meant to decide what science fiction should be, conventional or experimental, pulpy or avant garde. After all, where else but science fiction should experiments take place? It must be—wink, wink—that Delany’s being black is the reason he won.

. . . .

Delany came of age at a time when the genre was indeed characterized by gee-whiz futurism, machismo adventuring, and white, heterosexual heroes. From the beginning, Delany, in his fiction, pushed across those boundaries, embraced the other, and questioned received ideas about sex and intimacy. And, within a few years of publishing his first stories, he won some of the field’s biggest awards. Delany’s career now spans more than half a century, and comprises dozens of novels and short stories, many of which have challenged every notion of what science fiction could or should be. Even now, when graphic sex and challenging themes are hardly unusual, Delany’s rapturous sexuality and his explorations of race within the trappings of science fiction have the power to startle.

. . . .

Delany’s novels and stories have taken place in outer space and the future and other alien worlds. His plots are speculative: the race to harvest an energy source from the sun, the struggles of a libertarian society on one of Neptune’s moons, the plight of slaves in a pre-industrial world of magic and barbarism. But he does not believe that science fiction is the right genre for his concerns any more or less than another genre would be. “Nothing about the sonnet is perfect for the love poem, either,” he said. “Genre simply provides a way for the reader to look for things that have been done. A form is a useful thing to use. It has history and resonance. It informs you as to the way things have been done in the past.” In the preface to “A, B, C,” Delany writes that, “though the genre can suggest what you might need, it can never do the work for you.”

Link to the rest at The New Yorker

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