Monthly Archives: December 2016

Write it

31 December 2016
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Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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Technology is the Worst Thing to ever Happen to me

31 December 2016

From HackerNoon:

Everyone says that technology is great. We can do so much more! I can catch up with old friends! I’m alerted immediately to everything that happens so I never miss out! Look at this photo of my best friends sisters cousins dog in Indonesia drinking a milkshake!

My contrarian truth for 2017 is that technology, or at least the current advances to instantaneous always connected communication, has ruined my life. I don’t mean that as some sort of hyperbole, I literally mean it has detrimentally affected the quality of life that I have every day.

It has bred obsession on a scale unimaginable before smartphones. At no time in human history have we been more connected to everyone around but at no point have we been more detached. Meetings and conversations have been replaced by likes and retweets and form the social currency which afford us happiness.

I’m expected to answer email all the time, calls whenever they arrive, friends when they WhatsApp me, colleagues when they LinkedIn me, acquaintances when they tweet me. I’m constantly overwhelmed by the barage of communication I’d become an outcast from if I ignored it.

Only I wouldn’t but we all have fear of missing out.

. . . .

We see all the good parts of people’s lives and none of the bad. It gives us unrealistic expectations of what our own life should be like so we try to compete.

. . . .

Smartphones are a terrible habit and a cancer. We are addicted and they cause as much harm as many illicit substances. In many ways we are even less in the moment when on our phones than we would be if on something. We aren’t even present; if your attention isn’t focused on your reality are you really conscious?

Link to the rest at HackerNoon

One of the benefits PG finds in a Kindle is that he really does only one thing with it. Read. Books.

Yes, he can shop on Amazon, but he finds the Eink shopping experience slow and clumsy so he never buys ebooks or anything else with his Kindle. He’s not certain if there is a browser on his current Kindle because the browser experience on his first Kindle was so bad, he immediately stopped using it.

PG has a tablet and, for him, it’s not a good tool for reading books. He’ll read short articles on the tablet, check email, websurf, etc., but he much prefers the Kindle for books. He essentially treats it as a non-connected device for 99.999% of the time it’s in his hands. It’s a book and a small bookshelf.

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In Hong Kong’s book industry, ‘everybody is scared’

31 December 2016

From The Guardian:

Just over a year after five publishers and booksellers disappeared from Hong Kong in mysterious circumstances, the Chinese territory’s book industry has been shaken to the core.

Bookshops have closed. Publishers have left. Authors have stopped writing. Books have been pulped. Printers are refusing political works. Translators have grown weary of being associated with certain topics. Readers have stopped buying. And the whole industry is wondering if hard-hitting books on Chinese politics still have a future in the former British colony.

The booksellers involved, formerly known only to a small niche of insiders, have now become household names in Hong Kong: Gui Minhai, a Swedish citizen, remains jailed in an undisclosed location in China after he was kidnapped from his holiday home in Thailand. Lee Bo, a British national who was lifted off the streets of Hong Kong and taken to China against his will has been released and allowed to return, but has consistently refused to give a full account of what has happened to him. He remains in China. Lui Por and Cheung Chi-ping, two clerks at Causeway Bay Books, the bookshop at the centre of the case, disappeared while on a visit to Shenzhen. They are also formally free, but live across the border where they have refused to entertain calls from the press and former associates.

The booksellers were pressured into televised confessions broadcast on national TV, in which they admitted to a variety of crimes – from a hit-and-run incident to mailing to sending Chinese clients forbidden Hong Kong books without a licence. Only Lam Wing-kee has jumped bail while on a visit to Hong Kong in June to retrieve a computer database. He has since spoken out against his ordeal, which included “isolation and psychological torture”, threats and being denied access to a lawyer.

. . . .

As more Chinese visitors had been allowed to travel to Hong Kong withoutvisas, shopping for politically revealing books forbidden in the rest of the country had become widespread. Some had been dubbed “democracy tourists” by activists who’d see them also taking part, or observing, pro-democracy demonstrations in Hong Kong.

Until the Causeway Bay case, these books were easy to buy, allowing Chinese citizens to gain a glimpse – not always truthful – of the inner workings of their opaque leaders.

. . . .

This is no longer the case. Since April, the 16 bookstores at the Hong Kong International Airport have been cut down to 10. The biggest five are now controlled by Chung Hwa Book Co, a company that was established in Shanghai in 1912 and is now under Sino United Publishing, a mainland-backed conglomerate that owns most Hong Kong bookshops – and where the “forbidden” books are mostly unavailable.

Critical, gossipy books have also disappeared from the ubiquitous 7-Eleven stores and other 24-hour mini-supermarkets. A clerk at a 7-Eleven outlet in Hollywood Road, a central street well-known to tourists for its antique shops, only says that this was a decision by the management, as the books were “still selling”.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

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The Kindle Effect

31 December 2016

From Fortune:

Consider the metamorphosis of self-publishing. For decades it was dismissed as the desperate refuge of authors rejected by publishing houses, wannabes who paid a fee to a musty vanity press that would dutifully typeset their words and transform them into a few boxes of books that the “writers” could hand out to their friends.

Today, thanks to ebooks and Amazon, self-publishing is a global phenomenon—an independent route intentionally chosen by more and more authors—that has spawned not only mega-bestsellers like Fifty Shades of Grey, but also hits in other realms, such as the movie version of The Martian. Ebook self-publishing has become a $1 billion industry.

But there’s a lot less “self ” in self-publishing these days.

A burgeoning ecosystem of supporting services has sprung up to serve independent authors.

. . . .

 Call it the Kindle effect. Amazon opened the floodgates in 2007, the same year it released its first e-reader, when it launched Kindle Direct Publishing, allowing anyone to upload, publish, and sell his own ebook for free. This year Jeff Bezos’s company released 4 million e-titles, and 40% were self-published.

. . . .

Amazon maintains an 80% share of the electronic-book market, and its rivals have gotten the message. Apple’s iBook (AAPL, -0.78%) and Google Play (GOOGL, -1.30%) now promote self-published authors, while Canadian-based Kobo, which sells books in 180 countries, recently added author services to hire professional editors and book-cover designers. Barnes & Noble (BKS, -3.04%) started a print-on-demand service this summer for self-published writers.

. . . .

Kobo CEO Michael Tamblyn says indie authors drive 20% of the platform’s ebook sales. “They’re selling better than traditional authors,” he says.

Link to the rest at Fortune

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Self-Publishing: An Insult To The Written Word

31 December 2016

From The Huffington Post:

As a published author, people often ask me why I don’t self-publish. “Surely you’d make more money if you got to keep most of the profits rather than the publisher,” they say.

I’d rather share a cabin on a Disney cruise with Donald Trump than self-publish.

To get a book published in the traditional way, and for people to actually respect it and want to read it — you have to go through the gatekeepers of agents, publishers, editors, national and international reviewers. These gatekeepers are assessing whether or not your work is any good. Readers expect books to have passed through all the gates, to be vetted by professionals. This system doesn’t always work out perfectly, but it’s the best system we have.

Good writers only become good because they’ve undertaken an apprenticeship. The craft of writing is a life’s work. It takes at least a decade to become a decent writer, tens of thousands of hours. Your favorite authors might have spent years writing works that were rejected. But if a writer is serious about her craft, she’ll keep working at it, year after year. At the end of her self-imposed apprenticeship, she’ll be relieved that her first works were rejected because only now can she see how bad they were.

. . . .

The problem with self-publishing is that it requires zero gatekeepers. From what I’ve seen of it, self-publishing is an insult to the written word, the craft of writing, and the tradition of literature. As an editor, I’ve tackled trying to edit the very worst writing that people plan on self-publishing just because they can.

Link to the rest at The Huffington Post and thanks to Matthew and others for the tip.

PG says it’s wonderful that those who lack native talent and require an extended internship before learning to write decently have traditional publishing to help them along.

PG says it’s also wonderful that those who possess native writing talent and can learn to write more quickly don’t have to wait for some intern in New York to read their email before making their writing available to grateful readers (at a reasonable price) by self-publishing.

.

 

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Publisher All Romance Ebooks: Closing Hits New Low In Stealing From Authors

30 December 2016

From BlogCritics:

The ebook industry has undergone several transitions in the past few years, where authors have become increasingly victimized by e-pirates, vanity presses, and scams designed to keep writers from making money on their intellectual property. Earlier today, December 28, 2016, the industry hit a new low when longtime e-tailer All Romance E-Books (Are), LLC (with its non-romance genre partner Omni Lit) released a surprise notice to its authors and publishers. ARe’s CEO and owner, Lori James, announced that the retailer was closing its doors in three days’ time.

What makes this so terrible is not the fact that they’re closing. What makes this so terrible is how they’re doing it:

We will be unable to remit Q4 2016 commissions in full and are proposing a settlement of 10 cents on the dollar (USD) for payments received through 27 December 2016. We also request the following conditions:
1. That you consider this negotiated settlement to be “paid in full”.
2. That no further legal action be taken with regards to the above referenced commissions owed.

Wait…what?

Let’s break this down. An online retailer is closing down and cannot remit the royalties owed to authors and publishers for the entire fourth quarter of 2016. In lieu of the agreed-upon percentage of 60% of the cover price for each book sold, ARe is proposing that they pay authors TEN CENTS on the dollar of those owed royalties–for books that have already been sold and the money already collected and presumably deposited in the bank account of ARe.

. . . .

The big publishing houses will almost certainly get their money. But the small presses and self-published authors are facing a terrible decision. Do writers allow ARe to steal their royalties? Do they submit for convenience’s sake because the owners of ARe aren’t planning to pay those royalties as they are contractually and legally required to do? Or, are writers willing to stand up to this theft and pursue legal recourse, knowing full well they won’t even see that ten cents on the dollar after all is said and done?

Because let’s be for real here. It’s not like ARe’s owners aren’t paying authors because they don’t have the money for the sales. They do have it. They banked all that cash and are now trying to keep it. And by hanging the threat of filing for bankruptcy out there, the company is attempting to threaten authors into agreeing legally to let them retain that money without future legal responsibility.

And here’s the million dollar question – what did ARe and its owners actually do with all the money they collected from fourth quarter sales? They haven’t paid the authors, obviously. So where is it?

And what about the authors who prepaid for advertising in 2017? What happened to their money? Just last week, ARe sent out notices soliciting ads for 2017. As you can see from their website, advertising cost anywhere from $50 to $2000 per month.

. . . .

There is an underlying lack of legal protections for authors, their intellectual property, and their income in this country. Publishers, false agents, and retailers continue to run these long-term scams, sucking the unwary into their webs and milking them for every dime. But what makes this case stand out is the egregious bullying tone of its owner’s statement to the authors she stole from, and the utter lack of concern James and ARe display for anyone outside of their own personal interests. And sure, most of the authors whose money just vanished into the ether surrounding those multi-million dollar properties in a Big Bear Lake vacation community may be out ten bucks at most.

But that’s not the point.The point is that a retailer announced today that it was stealing the money it’s received for three months’ worth of book sales and has no intention of fulfilling its fiduciary responsibility to the authors whose intellectual property they sold. A retailer has basically committed fraud and has no evident fear of being challenged or behind held responsible legally, either on a criminal or civil level. And unfortunately, that’s probably true. They’ll get away with it, and Lori James will continue to spend part of her time at Big Bear Lake, where she will enjoy the benefits of running a company who blatantly stole from the authors whose books she sold.

Link to the rest at BlogCritics and thanks to Matthew for the tip.

PG believes this whole matter is likely to end up in bankruptcy court where they deal with this sort of situation all the time.

PG hasn’t appeared in bankruptcy court in many years and hasn’t kept up on bankruptcy law, but, generally speaking, bankruptcy judges are experienced in sorting out the kinds of problems mentioned in the OP.

Failing businesses almost always stiff or try to stiff most or all of their creditors. If the owners have diverted significant sums of money from the businesses for their personal use, bankruptcy courts can claw back money and/or assets purchased with that money for distribution to creditors.

To the best of PG’s dated bankruptcy knowledge, booksellers, distributors or publishers would not owe any special fiduciary duty to authors for royalty payments and authors would not receive priority for payments over other unsecured creditors.

The difference between secured and unsecured creditors is important in a bankruptcy. If a bankrupt entity had borrowed money to purchase real estate, the lender (a bank, for example) would have almost certainly required that the borrower grant it a security interest (mortgage) in the real estate. In a bankruptcy, with permission of the court, the bank would be entitled to foreclose on the real estate for repayment of its mortgage loan. If such a foreclosure failed to generate enough cash to pay off the loan, the bank would likely be an unsecured creditor with respect to the remaining balance of the loan, just like other unsecured creditors.

If a failing business attempts to pay one creditor or group of creditors to the detriment of others similarly situated, a bankruptcy judge can require the favored creditors to refund part or all of the money they have received. In the case of a failing publisher, if the publisher attempts to pay some authors 100% of royalties due and other authors 10% of royalties due, the authors who have received 100% can be made to repay most or all of the money they’ve received into the bankruptcy court.

In the case of ARe, if a bankruptcy proceeding is commenced, authors are unlikely to be the only unsecured creditors who are not paid. If a group of authors are paid 10% of royalties due and other unsecured creditors are paid nothing, those other unsecured creditors may ask the bankruptcy court to require the 10% authors to repay some or all of the money they’ve received. Creditor priority can raise complex issues and PG is just skimming over the top of this topic.

Usually the owners of a failing business will file a bankruptcy petition for the business. If a business is, in fact, unable to pay its creditors, the creditors may petition the bankruptcy court to place the business into bankruptcy and bring its assets under court supervision. An involuntary bankruptcy proceeding is sometimes used if creditors suspect the owners of the business have improperly siphoned money or assets out of the business.

These are general bankruptcy principles and PG is neither current on bankruptcy law or privy to any inside information regarding ARe’s collapse.

Given the way authors often support one another, PG wouldn’t be surprised if a group of authors have not already banded together to consult with competent bankruptcy counsel about ways to protect their rights and maximize their return from their books which ARe has sold or licensed. Generally speaking, unless things have changed since the last time PG walked out of bankruptcy court, counsel can often represent a group of creditors who are similarly situated in a bankruptcy proceeding.

If he has not already made himself clear, PG is not currently able to represent anyone in a bankruptcy proceeding. He likes to help mistreated authors and regrets not being able to do so in this instance.

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A critic

30 December 2016

A critic is a legless man who teaches running.

Channing Pollock

Thanks to Barb for the tip.

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12 Signs you are (Probably) a Born Writer

30 December 2016

From The Writing Cooperative:

1. You haunt libraries. You have always haunted libraries and walked, rapt, around bookshops (sometimes secretly smelling the pages of a book you’ve freshly opened, when you think no ones looking).

2. Your favourite people are often fictional characters. Their stories sometimes haunt you — and often you can’t sleep at night due to your feelings about those characters dilemma’s. They might even be your own fictional characters.xx
. . . .

8. Your characters often come alive and start doing their own thing. When you next sit down to write, you are catching up with what they have been up to, rather than making them do things.

Link to the rest at The Writing Cooperative

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In 2017, publishing really needs a blockbuster

30 December 2016

From The Los Angeles Times:

This year, publishing needs a hit.

Not that 2016 was bad; it was fine. Books sales basically held steady — down a little here, up some there — for the most recent period for which we have numbers, from January to July. Although the Assn. of American Publishers wants to crow about the fact that books for children and teens were up quite a bit, overall, trade books sales were down 0.4% in 2016 from the same period in 2015.

Which isn’t terrible. But it isn’t good, or at least, not good enough.

What publishing needs is one book, one big book, that comes out of nowhere and takes America by storm. You know what I mean: You hear people talking about it in line at the grocery store. Your grandmother asks if you’ve read it and the same day your college roommate does. It’s the book you see people reading on subways and on planes, that you hear about on the radio and on TV talk shows, that seems to be everywhere at once.

. . . .

In 2015, that book was “The Girl on the Train.” In 2012, it was “Gone Girl.” Before that came “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo,” “The Girl Who Played With Fire” and “The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest” (2008, 2009 and 2010, respectively).

Girls, girls, girls!

. . . .

The piling on once a book gets mega-successful may be dismaying from a creative standpoint, but from a business perspective it makes sense: The big hits are impossible to predict.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times

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The Biggest Literary Stories of the Year

30 December 2016

From Literary Hub:

5. Poetry is Relevant, Again

By now, it is both common knowledge and a no-longer funny joke that 2016 was an exceptionally bad year. To cope with its continued indignities, its cruelty, people turned to poetry. After the election, poets.org saw its biggest surge of shares in four years, with “Still I Rise,” “Let America Be America Again,” and “September 1, 1939” remaining the most popular poems on the site. As the editor of Poetry Magazine Don Share explained, “When people are under pressure of any kind, they turn to poetry. That’s why poetry is with us at the most important occasions in our lives: weddings, funerals, anniversaries. When Kobe Bryant retired, the first thing he seems to have done was write a poem.”

. . . .

3. The Boy Who Lived . . . Forever

J.K. Rowling, as it turns out, is not done with Harry Potter. Between the Cursed Child play and the Fantastic Beasts series (which, even the actors were shocked to learn would continue for another five movies), it seems that there is much left to milk out of the franchise—at least two bestselling scripts, to start.

Link to the rest at Literary Hub

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