Non-US

Artist’s Tax Exemption Set to Increase

29 October 2014

From Hotpress:

 In what could be of significant benefit to many Irish artists, the Department of Finance have decided to increase the artist’s tax exemption threshold by €10,000. It means profits will only be taxed above €50,000.

With Arts minister Heather Humphreys stating that “Budget 2015 sends a strong message that this Government values the arts, our heritage and the support of the Irish language.”

. . . .

Humphreys called the increase to the threshold for the artist’s tax exemption, “a clear recognition of the need to support artists. Artists are the bedrock of our culture and they continue to represent us at home and abroad with great distinction.”

“There is an implied recognition from the Department of Finance that it was a mistake to push the limit down in the way that they did,” one music industry insider revealed. “The truth is that we need to provide every possible reason for artists to live in Ireland, because once they are successful, there is a natural draw that takes them to the US or the UK. we need to avoid that brain drain.”

Link to the rest at Hotpress and thanks to Caoimhe for the tip.

Ebook Tax Rises to Hit Publishers, Retailers, and Writers

28 October 2014

From Chris Lynch: Hack of All Trades:

Following a European Commission ruling dating back to 2008, e-books are to be taxed in the European member state in which the consumer is located, at the tax rate of that country, as opposed to the country from which the product is sold. The move prevents Amazon, Nook and Kobo from applying the low 3% tax on e-books sold to European countries, just because their headquarters are in Luxembourg. Instead, the e-book retailers will have to apply the standard UK VAT rate (20% at the time of writing) to e-books sold into the UK.

. . . .

Some publishers are already threatening a “revolt” if Amazon tries to pass the additional costs on to publishers. Speaking to The Bookseller Alessandro Gallenzi, founder of Alma Books, said: This isnt a thorny issue, its a hornets nest. Who will take the hit? I dont know. Amazon has so far been absorbing it; I doubt itll do the same moving forward. However, if it tried to force it on publishers there will be revolt and Amazon knows that.

. . . .

From a practical standpoint, there isn’t any good news for writers here. If you’re working with a traditional publisher who ends up with higher costs, or deeper discounts, as a result of this change then you will see your royalties squeezed. If you’re an independent, expect to have to work even harder to market your book as prices creep upwards.

If Amazon are smart about this they’ll protect their KDP exclusive writers for as long as possible from this VAT change, making their platform more profitable for their indie authors and slipping another knife into the ribs of traditional publishing houses.

. . . .

The downside is that UK consumers, publishers, and creators have been working, some even thriving, under a system where the largest retailers were operating in a tax structure that was, at best, a loophole. Like it or not, its hard to paint this as a tax rise; it’s the closure of a loophole. Readers may love their cheap eBooks, but the gravy train may be coming to an end.

. . . .

Despite the ruling, booksellers across the spectrum have long argued that digital books should attract the same 0% VAT rate as physical books in the UK. An Amazon spokesperson said: Amazons view is that the same reduced VAT rate should be applied for both p-books and e-books.

Link to the rest at Chris Lynch: Hack of All Trades and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

Pellerin under fire over reading admission

28 October 2014

From The Bookseller:

The French culture minister has sparked controversy after admitting she hasn’t read for pleasure in the past two years.

Fleur Pellerin, who has only been in the post two months, was interviewed on Sunday (26th October) on television about French novelist Patrick Modiano who recently won the Nobel Prize in Literature.

When asked by the Canal+ presenter which was her favourite of Modiano’s books, Pellerin answered: “I admit without any problem that I have had no time to read over the past two years,” she said. “I read a lot of notes, and legislative documents. I read a lot of news, but I read [for pleasure] very little.”

Her confession has sparked a row on Twitter, with some commentators sympathetic of her situation and others calling for her resignation.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Websites with reader inputs offer new ways for writers to get their works out

28 October 2014

From The Straits Times:

I recently read an article in The Financial Times in which a columnist lamented how the half-year royalties of his book amounted to only £257.20 (S$528), or 39p a book.

“Only fools ever wrote books to get rich, but today very few authors can even live off them,” Simon Kuper added.

I consider myself forewarned. After all, the bad news has been steadily trickling in since I started working on a collection of short stories earlier this year: Too many writers are scrabbling for too few slices of the same pie, locked in battle with Amazon.com and unable to afford their proverbial wood sheds any more with sky-rocketing rents.

Yet, call me an optimistic egghead, but I feel that these are exciting times to be an aspiring author. Consider these attempts to break out of the traditional author-literary agent-publisher road to getting your book into stores:

  • Earlier this month, not-every-author’s-favourite online retail giant Amazon officially announced Kindle Scout, which allows writers of science fiction, mystery, thriller or romance to submit their completed manuscripts, which are then rated by Amazon customers. Top-rated authors chosen by Kindle Press for publication receive a US$1,500 (S$1,900) advance and 50 per cent of e-book royalties in five-year renewable terms.

. . . .

  • This year, English author Paul Kingsnorth’s debut novel The Wake became the first crowdfunded novel to make it onto the Man Booker longlist. He had posted his book project on the Unbound literary crowdfunding website, where supporters pledged sums varying from £5 to £300 to get the manuscript published, marketed and distributed. Launched in 2011, Unbound has successfully funded more than 65 books and published about 40. Investors in book projects can get returns ranging from first editions to the right to name characters to champagne lunches with the author. The hook? That the book you read would not have existed without you.

. . . .

In Singapore, publisher Edmund Wee notes, it remains a big question “whether online support from potential readers will translate into sales”. Wee, who is the managing and creative director of indie publisher Epigram, cites the example of a Singapore writer who garnered more than 1,700 “Likes” on Facebook for a short story collection, but did not see similar brisk demand for a 1,000 print run.

. . . .

Singaporean author Felix Cheong says he crowdsourced for opinions while writing his upcoming second volume of Singapore Siu Dai stories, slated to launch next month. He posted the stories as flash fiction on his Facebook status updates and used “Likes” and comments to gauge if they worked. “But I also know when a story has a message to convey, but may not resonate with people,” says the 49-year-old.

“I will still include it in my book because it’s creatively what I have to say and not because I want to please my reader.”

Admittedly, it took me a while to wrap my head around literature without professional editors as bastions of good taste and gatekeepers of the slush pile, but as a democratic product. Would an increasing reliance on crowdsourcing in publishing lead to an American Idol effect, in which the true geniuses are weeded out, leaving us with popular mediocrity?

. . . .

What the crowdsourcing trend means is that readers can stop relying on bestseller lists to tell them what to read.

. . . .

Why should selecting a book remain such a prosaic process? With the music industry already embracing the fact that traditional talent-scouting, production and delivery methods no longer cut it in a world of YouTube and Spotify, it is high time the book trade and readers throw themselves into this adventure too.

Link to the rest at The Straits Times and thanks to Eustacia for the tip.

Over the past few months, PG has noted an uptick in the number of non-US stories about authors bypassing publishers.

Austrian minimum book price to apply to e-books, web sales

27 October 2014

From telecompaper:

Print books sold online in Austria and electronic books will be subject to the set price law.

. . . .

The law charges publishers and book importers with setting a floor for the price of books. From December, this law will apply in Austria for books sent from overseas, too.

Link to the rest at telecompaper

Ruth Rendell Readies Her 65th Novel

26 October 2014

From The Wall Street Journal:

“People don’t grow old like they used to, do they?” asks a gossipy neighbor in English crime novelist Ruth Rendell’s new book, after learning of an affair between two sprightly 70-somethings.

The senior citizens in Ms. Rendell’s latest work, “The Girl Next Door,” commit adultery, brandish knives, wear studded leather jackets and hide terrible secrets. They also serve tea and consider hip replacements. “Things like this didn’t happen to old people, but evidently they did,” she writes.

The book’s 84-year-old author has been publishing for 50 years but shows no sign of slowing down. “The Girl Next Door” which will be released in the U.S. Tuesday, is her 65th novel.

Ms. Rendell brushes aside the milestone and says she doesn’t monitor how many books she has written. “It just feels that I’ve been publishing 50 years. I don’t know how else it could feel,” she says during a recent phone interview from her home in London. “It’s what I do. Many people have a profession, or a job—most people do, I should think. And they do it. And that’s what I did.”

Retirement isn’t in the cards. “If I were to stop writing, which I will not do, I would hate it,” she said. “I don’t know what my life would be like without my writing. It’s very important to me.”

. . . .

Barbara Fass Leavy, author of “The Fiction of Ruth Rendell: Ancient Tragedy and the Modern Family,” says Ms. Rendell’s books are closer to “whydunnits” than “whodunits.” She made her name with the Inspector Wexford series but also has been lauded for her nuanced treatment of complex characters in the Barbara Vine stories and stand-alone Ruth Rendell novels.

“She’s in a class by herself,” Ms. Leavy says. “She’s a first-rate novelist in whose books crimes are committed. I don’t think she is to be classified mainly as a mystery writer.”

Most mornings, Ms. Rendell is up at six and at her computer writing from about 8:30 to noon. During the week, she spends three or four afternoons at the House of Lords, where her friend and fellow crime novelist, P.D. James, also is a member. She takes Pilates classes once or twice a week, goes for long walks and exercises on fitness machines at home.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

Read this before you take sides in the tussle between publishing houses and Amazon, Flipkart

25 October 2014

From Tech in Asia:

The tussle between big book publishers and Amazon, which started in the US, has now spilt over to India, where local ecommerce leader Flipkart has also been dragged in.

The arguments made against Amazon and Flipkart have a familiar ring – that their discounts will kill the publishing industry in the long run, that the two companies are becoming a duopoly, and that ebooks need to be priced higher for the sake of authors.

The publishing houses enjoy sympathetic coverage in the mainstream media in both the US and India, as the godzilla Amazon makes an easy target for scare-mongering. This report in The Economic Times, for instance, presents a one-sided view of the issue. It doesn’t alert readers that the claims made by publishing houses are exaggerated on several counts, not the least of which is that digital publishing and online distribution are hurting authors.

Ashok Banker, well-known Indian author of the Ramayana Series, is unequivocal when he explains how much he has gained from ebooks. He tells Tech in Asia:

The ebook editions of my books now outsell the print editions by a factor of easily 100:1. As in, for every 100 ebooks sold of a particular title, the publishers sell barely one print copy. To look at it another way, the print editions have increased in sales at a rate of about 10 percent each year, while ebook sales have doubled every six months or so for the past three years.

. . . .

By and large, however, the well-established authors, who manage to wangle decent royalty deals for printed books, pitch in for the brick-and-mortar publishing industry. And they are the ones usually quoted in the print media. Amish Tripathi, author of the much-loved Shiva Trilogy, had this sweeping statement in The Economic Times: “Online stores are not convenient for browsing as against a physical bookstore where people spend hours discovering new titles. This creates a problem for new authors who find it difficult to be visible on these sites.”

. . . .

Initially, when he submitted the manuscript of his first book to the publishers, all of them, without exception, rejected the book. Then Tripathi decided to self-publish. His agent invested in printing, and he in its marketing. The management techniques Tripathi learnt at IIM (Indian Institute of Management) probably helped him spread the word about the book on social media. “When my book became a best-seller within a week, and sold 45,000 copies in less than four months, the publishers came back to me,” he told me in an interview earlier this year.

. . . .

Ashok Banker too, despite a successful start to his writing career, got stymied by the “MNC factory publishers,” as he describes the major publishing houses. There were no takers for his Ramayana Series in India, which then got snapped up abroad. He explains what prompted him to eventually take the self-publishing route:

Once the Ramayana Series was bought by all those foreign publishers, the Indian publishers immediately became interested in my mythological retellings and bought Indian rights – but still did not expect mythology to sell as well in India as it might sell abroad. So despite the success of the series, when I tried to sell my next titles, they continued to reject them or offer abysmal advances. This was what prompted me to retain ebook rights of all my works and sell them independently on my own website and also on the Amazon Kindle platform.

Banker had the last laugh because mythology went on to become the biggest-selling category in Indian publishing. “Now my publishers want the ebook rights, but I’m not selling them at any price,” he says happily.

Link to the rest at Tech in Asia and thanks to T.M. for the tip.

Literary agents look to change ‘distant’ image

24 October 2014

From The Bookseller:

Literary festivals can “provide help and support for new writers” and enable them to ask questions in a “relaxing, happy, supportive environment”, event organisers and literary agents have told The Bookseller.

Festivals can also bring would-be authors closer to the publishing process by connecting them with agents, who want to move away from the perception that they are “very distant and difficult to meet”.

Earlier this year, the Battersea Literature Festival and the Literary Kitchen Festival included dog walks led by literary agents as part of their programme.

Agent Jo Unwin, of the Jo Unwin Literary Agency, said she started the dog walks “because it seems to me that the people who find it easy to submit to agents aren’t necessarily the best writers”. She added: “Some people feel more entitled to write than others, and it’s just a way to open things out a bit. Of course the danger with being too open is that you get inundated by unpublishable work, so it’s all a bit of a balancing act.”

. . . .

Andrea Mason, founder of the Literary Kitchen Festival, agreed: “Agents are people like us and they want your manuscript.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

Is it time to chop down Amazon?

24 October 2014

From The Globe and Mail:

Amazon has knocked a hole in the book publisher’s barricade, agreeing to a new contract with Simon and Schuster, a CBSowned company. A settlement of the row between Hachette and the e-retailer over book pricing cannot be far off. Yet, in political terms, the jury is still out as battle rages between Amazon’s enemies, who accuse it of predatory pricing and of killing off bookstores, and its supporters, who say Amazon’s disruptive business model supports a community of self-publishers and offers consumers cheaper books.

. . . .

A thousand authors (not all of them with Hachette, and, notably, Stephen King) protested that writers were being held hostage by Amazon and, oddly, the American political Left has taken up the cause of big publishing. Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, accuses Amazon of behaving like Rockefeller’s Standard Oil – bullying suppliers and competitors by cutting prices. Franklin Foer, editor of New Republic magazine, calls for government and regulatory action to stop a new golden age of monopoly led by Amazon, Google and Wal-Mart.

It is difficult to feel sorry for big publishers. They have been digging their own graves for decades, ignoring new technology, relying on antiquated marketing and a small cabal of blockbuster authors to support a lifestyle business that employs college arts graduates from nice families.

That a community of established authors supports the big publishers is hardly surprising; the writers’ deepest fear is loss of the cash advance, a payment by a publisher that allows a trusted author to spend a year writing a book without the need of a day job to pay the bills. Amazon promises the radical low-budget, self-publishing solution to the untested, untried new author and Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and chairman, has proposed a deal that splits the cover price thus: 35 per cent each to the author and to the publisher and 30 per cent to Amazon.

Needless to say, it doesn’t appeal to Hachette, which would doubtless prefer not to hand over a third of publishing income to authors, compared with the usual maximum royalty of 10 per cent. But the real fear is that the Amazon model, pushed to its logical conclusion, would remove entirely the cost of publishers from the equation, replacing them simply with an agent or manager or nothing.

. . . .

But the fundamental question is whether we think fair competition is just about consumers getting a good price or whether we think that diversity of supply is a good in itself, something that we experience in healthy economies. If we think that more and better books are written when authors have financial backing, then we may need well-capitalized publishers. Better still would be a new model for the writing business, a new kind of Amazon that is prepared to risk capital on human creativity and not just suck the cash flow out of a river of cheap goods.

Link to the rest at The Globe and Mail and thanks to Tudor for the tip.

Germany’s Blloon launches in UK

22 October 2014

From The Bookseller:

Subscription e-book service Blloon launched in the UK today (22nd October), with titles from publishers such as Allen & Unwin, Faber and Profile.

The German company founded by Txtr boss Thomas Leliveld plans to target young people who “read up to 12 books a year”.

. . . .

The Blloon app can be downloaded from the iTunes store for free and the company said it has designed “a beautiful app with gamification at its core” which it believes will engage young people.

Anyone can read 1,000 pages for free and can continue reading by sharing and recommending books – or by inviting others to join the service. “Research shows that 85% of young people would be likely to recommend books if rewarded for it – this gamification gets young people talking about books and Blloon, while getting something in return,” the company said.

Further pages can also be bought as top-ups or provided monthly by upgrading to a premium membership at a cost of £3.99 for 500 pages.

. . . .

We aren’t offering an expensive ‘unlimited’ service simply because that isn’t the demographic we are targeting. And people can only read so much. We’re welcoming young people, the majority of whom currently read up to 12 books a year.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

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