Monthly Archives: March 2018

Sexual Harassment in the Children’s Book Industry

14 March 2018

From Medium:

Sometimes, it’s in the form of inappropriate comments.

An author wrote, “An editor who was considering my work commented very thoroughly on my body type as a possible personal advantage of working with me.” For her now, “it makes submissions feel like a minefield.”

For an author/illustrator, it was at a book party with a famous illustrator; “I introduce myself to him,” she writes, “and he makes a crack about my breasts.” After enough incidents like these she’s “completely stopped socializing in this business because each time it becomes another abuse story.”

. . . .

These are the sort of events we’re told to brush off — they’re jokes, they’re flattering, no big deal. But when you believe you are a professional and someone informs you they see you as a sex object, it can shatter your sense of self and your sense of safety.

Sometimes, it’s inappropriate touching and groping: as in “a senior editor of a division I don’t work in being a tad too handsy;” or the author who says another author groped her while taking pictures at a conference; or an agent who says she was sitting in the backseat with a bestselling author during a conference, and as he pretended to be searching for his seatbelt, he fondled her.

. . . .

This is not intended to be some kind of lurid exposé of children’s publishing. The point of it isn’t to say that our industry is somehow special; the point is simply that we do have problems, that these problems affect people’s careers and mental health, and that we can and should take steps to solve these problems so more people do not get hurt.

. . . .

The two biggest groups of respondents were creators (people who described themselves as authors/writers/illustrators) and conference attendees/staff. About a fifth of the respondents worked in publishing houses, while others were agents, booksellers, librarians, and one was a graduate student.

Responses reveal, in general, three loci for sexual harassment: in the workplace; at conferences and book festivals; and in the professional spaces where spheres of the industry intersect (author to bookseller, agent to author, etc, editor to agent, etc.)

. . . .

An editorial director writes, “I was on the way to our weekly acquisition meeting at a major big 5 publisher, to present new titles. The finance director and production director followed me downstairs to the meeting sharing explicit comments about my ass and general fitness for sex. I then had to present potential acquisitions to them.” She did not report the incident, as “no one would listen to me.”

Link to the rest at Medium


Microsoft starts testing voice dictation in latest Office apps

14 March 2018

From ZDNet:

On March 12, Microsoft began testing this feature with its Office Insider testers. The @OfficeInsider account tweeted yesterday:

“Windows #OfficeInsiders, get ready to ditch your keyboard and use your voice to write documents, compose emails, and create presentations! Voice dictation is available now to #InsidersFast.”

Microsoft officials touted the coming Office dictation technology in January, saying it would be available in February 2018.

To test dictating using voice, customers must be running the latest version of Office for Windows (Office 2016) and be an Office 365 subscriber. The voice dictation feature, which uses speech recognition technology to convert speech to text, is available for Word 2016, PowerPoint 2016, Outlook 2016 and OneNote 2016 and in US English only for now. To test this, users must be in the Windows desktop Office Insider program.

. . . .

I’m not sure if Microsoft is using the Dictate technology developed by its Microsoft Garage incubator as the basis for the Office Dictate feature. Dictate originally was an add-in for Word, Outlook, and PowerPoint and used the same speech-recognition technology in Cortana for converting speech to text, coupled with real-time translation. I’ve asked the company if this is the case but haven’t heard back yet.

Link to the rest at ZDNet and thanks to Felix for the tip.

PG has been trying out computerized dictation software forever.

He thinks his first attempt was with some software from Kurzweil, then he had an extended and frustrating relationship with Dragon Dictate. He did find an article he wrote about Voice-Assisted Legal Research for the ABA Journal in 1994 (and hopes nobody relied on it to jump into voice recognition).

PG is perennially hopeful, but, in the absence of a smart legal assistant, has always found typing to be more satisfactory than dictating. He’ll try Microsoft’s Dictate when he gets a chance, but will be braced for disappointment.

The ‘Profits From Publishing’ Debate: Do Authors Get a Fair Cut?

14 March 2018

From Publishing Perspectives:

When the UK’s Society of Authors chief executive Nicola Solomon wrote her ‘Profits From Publishing’ commentary on authors’ and publishers’ revenue for The Bookseller last week, she challenged publishers on behalf of the writer community “to state in their accounts how much they pay to authors, illustrators, and translators in advances, royalties, and secondary income.”

Not surprisingly, that call for publishers to reveal what they’re paying writers has triggered applause in some quarters and alarm in others.

. . . .

“One of our responsibilities as agents is to remind publishers that authors are their business partners and as such they should be included in conversations about the economics of publishing. We welcomed Andrew’s acknowledgement that an unearned advance does not, in and of itself, signal an unprofitable book. Authors are not a cost to the publishing industry: they are its most precious assets.

“I can also add from my own perspective as an agent,” Kremer says, “that it goes to follow that, as publishing’s most precious assets, authors should be rewarded by at minimum fair royalties and, in many cases, by a greater share of the profit than a standard royalty can allow. In most cases this means that a ‘fair’ advance may well be one that will never earn out.”

. . . .

The Society of Authors’ president, Philip Pullman, was quoted in Solomon’s essay clarifying the nature of the authors’ complaint this way: “To allow corporate profits to be so high at a time when author earnings are markedly falling is, apart from anything else, shockingly bad husbandry.

“It’s perfectly possible to make a good profit and pay a fair return to all of those on whose work, after all, everything else depends,” Pullman said. “But that’s not happening at the moment. I like every individual editor, designer, marketing and publicity person I deal with; but I don’t like what publishers, corporately, are doing to the ecology of the book world. It’s damaging, and it should change.”

And when, Solomon writes, the UK’s Publishers Association created its study, The Contribution of the Publishing Industry to the UK Economy, the consultancy doing the survey estimated that in 2016, £161 million (US$224.9 million) was paid to authors in advances, royalties and secondary rights revenue. The UK publishing industry’s turnover was reported to be £5.1 billion (US$7.1 billion), of which book sales contributed £3.5 billion (69 percent) and sales of academic journals £1.2 billion 24 percent.

“That means,” writes Solomon, that “authors received around 3 percent of publisher turnover. Even if we take out journal revenue—where authors are, shockingly, paid next to nothing—authors were receiving less than 5 percent of turnover in the same year that (major) publishers’ profits were around 13 percent.”

. . . .

The Bookseller’s response from a publisher comes from Andrew Franklin of the independent house Profile. And one of his first points is that the publisher takes a hit from the beginning, in effect, by paying an advance against royalties that may well not earn out. “Profile’s offer is always for an advance against royalties (and rights income if the publisher is taking, say, translation rights),” Franklin writes.

“In theory, publishers pitch advances at a level that will be covered by the royalties the author earns. In practice, the advance is frequently not ‘earned out,’ so the author is taking a higher share of the total revenue from the book than the royalties would earn.”

. . . .

To his credit, Franklin does go on to name the percentage his house is paying to authors, and it sounds comparatively good: “So bookshops take more than half of the total and publishers give almost a quarter of their revenue to the author. In both 2016 and 2017, Profile paid out just over 22 percent of its total revenues to its authors. But where does the rest go?”

. . . .

“Profile’s total returns on UK sales,” Franklin writes, “are approximately 14 percent, but that average hides some books with far worse rates. Sometimes more than 40 percent or even 50 percent. Returns are a real cost, because the publisher has paid to print and deliver the books, and when the books come back they are generally pulped.”

. . . .

Having given Franklin’s publisher viewpoint careful consideration, [literary agent] Lownie tells Publishing Perspectives, “I only wish authors were being paid a royalty of £1 on each home sale of a £10 hardback or 75 pence on the home sale of a £10 paperback. The reality though is that such a royalty is only likely to be paid on less than 15 percent of trade home sales and in some cases, particular with paperbacks, less than 5 percent of trade home sales.”

. . . .

“Given discounts,” Lownie says, “authors’ royalties tend to be reduced by a fifth on sales at between 50 percent at 55 percent discount and by two-fifths on sales between 55 percent and 60 percent discount. The royalty on home sales at 60 percent or more discount in many cases will be based not on the retail price but the amount actually received by the publisher.

“So on home sales of £10 hardback to a bookseller at 56-percent discount, the author will be receiving less than 14 percent of the publisher’s net revenue. It is not at all unusual for the royalty on the majority of home sales to be based on three-fifths of the full rate and/or the amount received.  Of course these royalty reduction provisions vary from publisher to publisher, both in the amount by which the full royalty is reduced and the points at which those reductions apply—fairness of which can only be judged once the royalty statements arrive.

“In some cases,” Lownie says, “the structure of these provisions is such that an author could be forgiven for the opinion that they act as an incentive to the publisher increasing the discounts they offer to booksellers by 0.5 percent or 1 percent. The truth then is that very few authors receive a proportion of a publisher’s net revenue from home sales which is anywhere close to the rusty standard of a 25-percent net receipts ebook royalty.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG has noticed that when a traditionally-published book does not sell well, it’s always the fault of the author, not the publisher. Even if the publisher did a miserable job with the cover, the marketing and the pricing, it’s the author’s fault. And the author should be ashamed at letting down all the nice people who work at the publisher.

Additionally, whose fault is it if the book doesn’t earn out its advance?

Publishers (and some agents) contend it’s a black mark against the author if a book doesn’t earn out its advance. Again, whose job is it to sell enough books so the advance earns out.

What is an advance? It’s simply the price a publisher is willing to pay up front for the privilege of publishing the book. In some book deals, nobody expects the advance ever to be earned out. There is absolutely no moral obligation on the part of the author to make certain to earn out the advance. It’s the author’s job to write the book and the publisher’s job to sell the book.

If a publisher is financially squeezed, that’s an indication the people in charge aren’t doing a very good job at running a publishing business. Perhaps if they weren’t paying sky-high rents for offices in the most fashionable part of the city, their finances would be better.

PG will note that many more than one author is selling a larger number of books and earning a much larger amount of money by self-publishing and offering their books for sale in the world’s largest bookstore than they ever did while they were working with a traditional publisher. PG will also opine that successful indie authors know their readers better than most publishers do and, thus, are much savvier at pricing their books than publishers are.

Under the Weather

14 March 2018

PG is a bit (or more than a bit) under the weather.

However, he thinks the worst is over. If he improves, he’ll do a post or two later today.

It’s sometimes better to pretend

14 March 2018

It’s sometimes better to pretend I don’t hear the sound of somebody in the nearby woods with a shotgun.

Dashiell Hammett

Under the Weather

13 March 2018

PG contracted a malady yesterday that kept him up all night.

He was able to get some sleep this morning but feels like a devolved version of himself, so he won’t be blogging much today.

I’ve been as bad an influence

13 March 2018

I’ve been as bad an influence on American literature as anyone I can think of.

Dashiell Hammett

Why Young Readers Need Real Books

13 March 2018

From Intellectual Takeout:

A young lady I know won a Kindle in an academic contest. She is a voracious reader. In eighth grade, she enjoys Austen, Chesterton, Lewis, and Wodehouse, among many others. A trail of books seems to follow her everywhere she goes.

Her parents, wary of potential negative effects of screens on growing minds, would have preferred that their daughter not own a Kindle, at least not for a few more years. Since it was a prize well earned, however, they acquiesced.

The young lady continued to read paper books, but the Kindle came in handy for outings (no more scrambling to find enough books to bring along) and reading in bed (no book lamp needed). Not wanting to spend money, she searched for books in the public domain, and was delighted to discover that the Kindle gave her access to some old books by her favorite authors—books that local libraries no longer carried on their shelves.

All in all, it seemed like a wholesome approach to integrating technology, and so her parents were surprised when, several months later, their daughter announced that she wanted to sell her Kindle.

“For the first time in my life,” she explained, “I’ve noticed that I’ve had to read lines two or three times in order to understand them, because I’m distracted. There are so many things I can do with the Kindle. I can make the font bigger, or change the contrast, or highlight and save a passage. There are so many choices, so many things to fiddle with, that I lose track of the story. It’s becoming a habit that is carrying over into my real books, too.”

Nineteenth-century British educator Charlotte Mason described the ability to focus (in a healthy brain) as a habit of the mind—one that can be gained or lost according to how the mind is trained. For this eighth grader, reading on a Kindle was undoing her habit of concentration. Her mind was losing the ability to be fully present to her books, and she did not like how it felt.

. . . .

No doubt, a computer might contain a story worth reading. When a father or mother or beloved teacher reads that story aloud to a child, it can forge memories for a lifetime. In our house, we use computers to listen to audio books by authors like Hans Christian Anderson and Thornton W. Burgess, and everyone enjoys it.

Still, it isn’t the same. Listening to the book on the laptop can be nice, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the bond that is built when my husband or I cuddle up with the children and turn the worn pages of our favorite books as we read aloud together.

Isn’t there something precious about the book itself? Isn’t there something in its weight, in its feel, in its illustrations, in its pages, that, when a grown-up child holds it in his hands and reads it to his own children, will awaken a reverence for the story that a computer screen would not?

Link to the rest at Intellectual Takeout

PG says if you like printed books, by all means buy and read them. If a child in your life likes printed books, by all means buy and borrow printed books for the child to read.

PG is all for choice in this matter.

However, he becomes a little annoyed when an author takes a personal preference up to the top of a mountain and makes sacrifices to a printer god and pledges fealty to forever revere ink and paper.

PG is not persuaded that printed books are inherently superior to electronic books in any meaningful way, however. Each is a means of presenting words to a reader in a convenient manner.

Just like scrolls were once a means of presenting words to a reader in a convenient manner. PG can imagine readers in ancient times extolling the virtues of scrolls over these new heavy and cumbersome book things that caused you to lose your place whenever they fell off the table. Instead of the exquisite unveiling of a story in one continuous stream from a scroll, a book chopped up a story into ungainly pieces and ruined the continuity of the author’s vision. Plus, the prices the binders guild charged were outrageous.

PG likes the convenience of ebooks and the size of the ebook reader. Reading in bed is an end-of-the-day ritual for PG and Mrs. PG, so PG has plenty of experience with a comprehensive and thick printed account of something like the Battle of Thermopylae sitting open on his chest for many long hours. (And don’t forget what happens to your bookmark when the book slides off the bed in the middle of the night.)

He much prefers his featherweight Kindle for reading extensive accounts of heavy topics.



Could Jordan Peterson become the best-selling Canadian author of all time? More people are reading Jordan Peterson right now than any other Canadian

13 March 2018

Right now, University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson is the world’s most-read Canadian author. Given that he also narrates his own audiobooks, it’s possible he may currently be buzzing through more earbuds than any other Canadian voice.

Although he first rose to international prominence as an opponent of gender-neutral pronouns, Peterson’s new book, 12 Rules for Life, is largely his take on what is most “valuable” in life. And it is tearing up the charts, with Penguin Random House already deeming it one of their top performers.

From The Edmonton Journal:

Right now, University of Toronto psychology professor Jordan Peterson is the world’s most-read Canadian author. Given that he also narrates his own audiobooks, it’s possible he may currently be buzzing through more earbuds than any other Canadian voice.

Although he first rose to international prominence as an opponent of gender-neutral pronouns, Peterson’s new book, 12 Rules for Life, is largely his take on what is most “valuable” in life. And it is tearing up the charts, with Penguin Random House already deeming it one of their top performers.

. . . .

It’s currently Amazon’s most read (and most sold) nonfiction book. As the unstoppable online force that has taken a merciless scythe to brick-and-mortar booksellers, Amazon generally has its finger on the pulse of what people want to read. And this week, 12 Rules for Life is not only the “most sold” work of nonfiction, it’s also the “most read,” a measure of how many people are currently reading electronic editions of the book. It’s the first Canadian book to rank this highly on Amazon since Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale experienced a 2017 resurgence inspired, in part, by its adaptation as a Hulu series. Most notably, 12 Rules for Life is also Amazon’s number two top-selling book of 2018 so far. The only title to outrank it is Michael Wolff’s Fire and Fury, an account of the first months of the Trump White House.

Link to the rest at The Edmonton Journal

When PG looked at the Amazon page for the book , it was ranked #1 on the Most Read Amazon Charts. With 1,278 Customer Reviews, it had a 4.8 Star rating with 1,121 5 star ratings.

PG is always interested in how Self-Help books start. Here are the first few paragraphs of this one.

And another important marketing tool – the Table of Contents:


Lemony Snicket cancels graduation speech amid harassment allegations

12 March 2018

From The Bookseller:

US children’s author Daniel Handler, who writes under the pen name Lemony Snicket, has cancelled a speech he was due to give at a graduation ceremony amid allegations of sexual harassment, according to Associated Press.

Wesleyan University in Connecticut had engaged Handler to speak at the ceremony in May this year.

A letter sent from the university president to students said: “Daniel Handler has chosen to withdraw as Wesleyan’s Commencement speaker this May. We’ve agreed that the focus of the event should be on the Class of 2018, their families and the celebration of graduation.”

Plans to give Handler an honorary degree have also been shelved.

. . . .

In February several authors accused Handler of making sexually inappropriate comments. One, writing on an online blog, said Handler made jokes about children’s book events turning into orgies at the Rhode Island Children’s Book Festival.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

PG can’t add anything to items like this. There’s nothing funny about them.

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