The Business of Writing

Appeals Court Revives Lawsuit Against CBS Over Pre-1972 Recordings

5 September 2018

From The Hollywood Reporter:

CBS Radio must again contend with a lawsuit brought by ABS Entertainment, owner of recordings by Al Green and others. On Monday, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals wiped out an eye-opening 2016 summary judgment ruling by a trial court in CBS’ favor that raised the prospect that music owners could enjoy perpetual copyright because remastered versions were independently copyrightable. In the decision, the appeals court concludes that the judge shouldn’t have ruled so quickly for CBS and casts doubt on whether remastered sound recordings exhibit enough originality to be copyrightable.

For decades, radio broadcasters didn’t have to compensate sound recordings owners for performance.

But then, owners of older recordings — those authored before Congress conferred federal copyright protection for sound recordings — asserted claims of misappropriation under state laws. Like SiriusXM and Pandora, CBS Radio has faced a wrath of litigation for broadcasting iconic songs from the dawn of the rock era.

In response to the lawsuit, CBS made a bold and novel argument. The broadcaster made the point that older recordings were mainly distributed through vinyl, and what the broadcaster now performs is really remastered versions, eligible for its own copyright protection. As such, any state misappropriation claim is preempted by federal law, and owners of pre-1972 recordings don’t have any claim for compensation.

. . . .

“We conclude that the district court erred in finding a lack of a genuine issue of material fact about the copyright eligibility of remastered sound recordings distributed by CBS and improperly concluded that ABS’s state copyright interest in pre-1972 sound recordings embodied in the remastered sound recordings was preempted,” he writes.

Judge Linn acknowledges that derivative works do enjoy independent copyrightability, but focuses the question on originality and whether the author of a derivative work has contributed something that is creative and easily recognizable as distinct from the original. He points to guidance from the U.S. Copyright Office that mere changes in format, declicking and noise reduction don’t warrant separate copyright protection.

. . . .

“If an allegedly derivative sound recording does not add or remove any sounds from the underlying sound recording, does not change the sequence of the sounds, and does not remix or otherwise alter the sounds in sequence or character, the recording is likely to be nothing more than a copy of the underlying sound recording and is presumptively devoid of the original sound recording authorship required for copyright protection,” states the opinion . . . . “Such a work lacks originality.”

. . . .

The trial judge is faulted for placing too much reliance on CBS’ musicologist expert who attempted to explain how listeners of remastered versions would perceive changes to timbre, spatial imagery, sound balance and loudness. The 9th Circuit derides these bits as “technical improvements,” and while devoting some space to credit the contributions of recording engineers and producers, the panel of judges are leery of extending copyright too far.

Link to the rest at The Hollywood Reporter

In addition to the obvious copyright law implications, the OP reminded PG of the sometimes substantial difference between the copyright attitudes of West Coast creative individuals and the organizations they work with and those of comparable (at least with respect to copyright) East Coast individuals and organizations.

West Coast creatives (and their lawyers) tend to be much more persnickety and obsessive about the nature of copyrights and the scope of rights granted by a copyright holder. This is why West Coast copyright disputes – often related to music and movies – tend to be litigated with some frequency (by intellectual property standards).

OTOH, East Coast creators – often authors of books or other writings – and their advisors tend to be more blasé about grants of rights based upon their copyrights.

For example, the typical Big Publishing publishing contract grants extremely broad rights to the publisher for the full term of the copyright with an extraordinarily low bar for the publisher’s reciprocal obligations to the creator. If the publisher pays the agreed-upon advance and publishes a copy of the author’s book, the publisher has essentially locked up a wide range of rights to the book and derivative works arising therefrom for the rest of the author’s life plus 70 years in the US.

PG has used geography to distinguish between two different habits of copyright-based businesses, not to disparage anyone for where they live or work, but rather to contrast what have become the common practices with respect to creators in the movie and music industry (West Coast) and those in the traditional publishing industry – books and periodicals (East Coast).

While differences in West Coast media and East Coast media are substantial and the comparison is not completely fair, PG notes that typical working creatives involved in West Coast copyright-based industries are likely to earn more money from their creations than typical working creatives in East Coast industries relying on copyrighted creations.

While starving screenwriters are not hard to find in Los Angeles, starving authors are also common in New York.

But PG could be completely wrong. Commenters are, as usual, free to dissent or identify factors PG has foolishly overlooked in his maunderings.

9 Pieces of Bad Publishing Advice New Writers Should Ignore

3 September 2018

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

Social Media is both a boon and a curse to new writers. Online writing groups and forums are an excellent source of insider information on the publishing industry—stuff we once could only find at expensive classes and writers’ conferences.

But social media is also a major source of misinformation and dangerously bad advice.

. . . .

1) If You Can’t Handle Rejection, Just Self-Publish.

This is one of the most common themes I see. Somebody asks a question about querying agents, like how long you should wait before you take silence as rejection (about 6 weeks), or is it okay to phone an agency to ask about the status of your query (no.)

Inevitably, somebody pipes up with a variation of: “I could never go through all that. Agent rejections are so painful. I’m just planning to self-publish when I finish my novel.”

I usually don’t say anything to these people. Bubble-bursting makes me feel like a meanie, and I can hope they’ll learn more about the process before they finish that book.

But if the poor dears do self-publish, they’d better pray they never get any reviews.

If you think agent rejections are hurtful, your first Goodreads review will send you into screaming agony.

Rejection is part of a writer’s job description. You’ll get it from reviewers, readers, editors, bookstore owners, advertising newsletters, and your brother-in-law. Get used to it.

In fact, learning to take rejection and criticism well should be listed as one of the top 10 skills every writer needs.

. . . .

3) Follow this/that Guru and Learn to Game Amazon.

This might be the saddest delusion of all. There have been some major “bestselling  gurus” who have FB groups or other more secret forums, where they teach new writers the “ropes” of gaming Amazon with book-stuffing, trading reviews, or joining pricey boxed sets that promise to make you a “USA Today Bestseller.”

These “gurus” often end up in court, but not before their followers have lost thousands of dollars and may have been kicked off Amazon for life.

Amazon is run by algorithms and bots, and the temptation to fool robots is high. But even if somebody is making major bux running circles around Amazon’s algorithms right now, you can be sure that Amazon will catch on eventually. Then you can be booted off the site—for life. No shopping. No using that gift card, or even your Prime video subscription.

Don’t tempt them. Amazon is not a videogame. Do not mess with the Mighty Zon.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

How to Beat the High Cost of Working

1 September 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

It seems like a paradox: The economic news is great, and unemployment has dipped below 4%, yet almost 51 million American households are struggling to make ends meet, according to a May study by the United Way Alice Project. Why the seeming contradiction?

The answer may have something to do with the fact that, according to a study by the economists Lawrence Katz and Alan Krueger, over 90% of the jobs created from 2005 to 2015 involve what is sometimes called “contingent work.” This is a blanket term that covers all kinds of nontraditional employees: workers who are temporary, on call or part-time, as well as independent contractors and the self-employed. Such jobs offer autonomy but incomes that are often less secure, and workers may end up juggling two or more positions.

The rise of contingent work comes at the expense of the stable, good-paying jobs that used to be the foundation of the middle class.

. . . .

One idea would be for the contingent workers who rely on income from “sharing economy” platforms like Uber and Airbnb to simply take this logic a step or two further. The secret of these companies is they allow users to unleash the economic potential of idle personal assets, namely cars and houses. But they have only scratched the surface of what living in the “gig economy” can look like. Perhaps such apps should be viewed as mile markers on the road to a full reintegration of work and life within a single space, the home.

While I was studying the role of technology in society at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology during the 1990s, I spent summers living and learning among the Amish, who are unappreciated masters at blending work and life. Most economists see the Amish as throwbacks, living reminders of outdated forms of labor. But when I gazed at my yeoman neighbor, I saw a person who combined exercise, fresh air, food production, family life and vocational training in a single activity. He made the most of his greatest asset—his farm—and in so doing (to use a familiar phrase from Economics 101) “maximized his utility,” despite earning less than $10,000 a year.

“What an efficient use of time!” I once exclaimed. He shook his head: “We’re just doing what everyone used to.” But thanks to disruptive innovation, this past may not be that far gone—and it may not even be the past, to recycle a phrase of William Faulkner’s.

In the years since, I’ve applied Amish insights to my work in urban St. Louis and found them economically viable. Today, my three principal income streams come from hand-making soap, writing, and driving a pedicab—essentially a First World rickshaw. All these activities take place, or are based at, my house. This arrangement is aided by a non-Amish innovation, the internet, which allows my wife, Mary, to work as a part-time accountant from her home office.

. . . .

What matters more than the finances, though, is the arrangement of our time: By merging work and life in an urban setting, Mary and I avoid needless expense, duplicative effort and unnecessary shuttling back and forth. That yields huge cost savings and maximizes leisure.

. . . .

Mary and I regard technology with the same wary eye as the Amish. Does it promote economic holism? By way of answers, we have jettisoned the smartphone, the television and even the car (alas, no Uber income for me). Recognizing that screen time is relatively empty, we’ve also minimized internet use, reserving it primarily for Mary’s accounting business. If I need to go online, I bike three blocks to the library.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

Many indie authors would seem to fit well into this economic model.

What Ian Fleming Did to Make James Bond a Success (Besides Write Terrific Books)

26 August 2018

From Anne R. Allen:

It’s not just today’s authors who work hard. Consider Ian Fleming.

The Man With The Golden Typewriter: Ian Fleming’s James Bond Letters is a collection by Fleming’s nephew of the author’s letters to his publisher, editors, colleagues, other writers, fans, readers, and friends.

They were written in the 1950s when the British mail service operated at high efficiency. A letter mailed in the morning would be delivered the same day. The letters are organized chronologically and were written contemporaneous to the publication of the James Bond thrillers, beginning with Casino Royale.

Lively, witty, and extremely informative about the inner working of book publishing at the time, the letters reveal Fleming to be a man of charm, lively intellect and wide interests.

He was also a hard-working author concerned with the technical, editorial, and financial details of publishing.

. . . .

In fact, his publisher was—shall we say—barely lukewarm about Casino Royale. He had little interest in thrillers, “believing them to be short-run phenomena that rarely covered their costs. Nor did he think much of their authors, and suspected that Fleming was a dilettante. Remarkably, Casino Royale was the only Bond book Fleming’s publisher ever read.”

. . . .

Fleming was a disciplined writer. Every morning, for three hours, he sat at his desk and typed 2,000 words of a new Bond adventure during January and February. Those were the months he spent in his house, Goldeneye, located on the Caribbean island of Jamaica.

He shored up his discipline by “obstinately closing my mind to self-mockery” and wondering “what will my friends say?” He joked that as “a confirmed bachelor on the eve of marriage, I decided to take my mind off the dreadful prospect by writing a thriller.”

. . . .

Fleming also wrote blurbs, concerned himself with the details of covers and size of print orders, and suggested ads and promotions, Also, he drummed up reviews, contacted magazine editors about feature stories, and concerned himself with the size of print orders, advertising budgets as well as the ads themselves.

Nor did he overlook the details of his contracts—royalties, foreign editions, option, serial, movies, and tv. He worked closely with cover designers, making suggestions about images, and commenting on title fonts.

. . . .

The novelist Michael Arlen advised him to “write your second book before you see the reviews of the first. Casino Royale is good but the reviewers may damn it and take the heart out of you.” Heeding Arlen’s words, Fleming completed Live and Let Die before its predecessor had even been published.

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen

Blip or New Reality?

12 July 2018

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

A lot of times on this blog, I deal with the problems in publishing. Bad problems, like agents embezzling, traditional publishers not paying royalties, income going down, or sales not up to expectations.

In the early days of indie publishing, I would also blog about the problems of success. In our workshops and classes, we call them problems you trade up for.

Just because a person is successful—in any business—doesn’t mean that the problems in their life have gone away. In fact, success brings its own share of problems.

And like all of you, whenever I look at the next rung on the success ladder, I don’t want to hear about the potential problems. I say, Bring ’em on! And I mean it.

But when those problems arrive hand in glove with success, you need to deal with the problems properly to make the success last.

In the past year, a number of writers have had the marvelous difficulty of “sudden” success. And they’ve contacted me about how to handle it.

As many of you know, I’ve been dealing with a lot of change in my life, and it wasn’t until things have settled down these past few weeks that I realized just how many times people have asked about a certain problem in indie publishing that doesn’t appear (in the same obvious way) in traditional publishing.

I got another such inquiry this week, put quite succinctly and clearly, and I realized that the problem the writer was dealing with wasn’t unique to that writer. It happens to a lot of indie writers, and they’ve been talking to me, and I just hadn’t put it together because my focus has been elsewhere.

A little background: the writers who’ve been contacting me listened to me and the other writers who’ve been around a while. These newer writers wrote and wrote and wrote. They wrote in series as well as standalones. They set up their websites and their newsletters, but didn’t do a lot of promotion until they’d had at least ten books published.

Then, something hit. For one person it was a Book Bub that goosed the sales in the entire series. Another writer experienced exponential growth from month to month to month, as more and more readers discovered the series. A third writer saw a huge bump in sales every time a new product (be it short story or novel) in one series got published.

There are a bunch of other variations on this, but you get the idea. These writers have a lot of product, and they’ve been watching sales increase. Then, something—and it varies—hits, and the writers see their sales increase massively.

In one writer’s case, the book sales went from pay-the-electric bill money to three-times-the-paycheck money. In another writer’s case, the book sales went from 10 per day to 100 in every book in the series.

In every single case, the change caused a life-changing increase in income—or it would, if the sales continued.

So after a month or two of these increased sales, the writers contacted me and asked:

Is this a blip or will the sales fall off a cliff?

. . . .

Well, essentially, all huge book sales are a blip. Stephen King’s books don’t sell on release what they did in the 1980s; J.K. Rowling’s non-Harry Potter book sales are lower on release than her Potter books which are, by the way, selling steadily, but not at the stratospheric numbers they sold at in the early part of this century.

That stupid old adage what comes up will come down applies here.

But if you think about sales bundled together as a ball tossed into the air, then extend the metaphor. Sometimes that ball catches the wind and goes at the high level for a long long time, only to land somewhere unexpected.

Sometimes the ball lands on a roof, and it takes forever for the ball to fall down (if it ever does).

Sometimes the ball goes straight up, and comes down into the thrower’s hands.

And on and on and on.

. . . .

  1. Realize that it will take months to know what kind of pattern your sales have hit.

Blip? Maybe. Your sales might plateau. Or grow. Or the increase might only last a few weeks. Or it might last a few months. There is no way to know in the moment.

  1. Plan as if this increase is a blip.

Bank the money. Spend only what you would have spent if this increase had not happened. Keep the money separate if you possibly can, so you know how much you’ve earned that’s additional.

I would bank the money for three months before spending any of it. That way, you’ll know a few more things than you knew when the blip started. You’ll know if the sales are increasing or decreasing or staying the same.

If the sales continue to increase, cautiously figure out what you want to do with the added money. Three months is not enough time to decide if you should quit your day job (unless the money is 3 times your annual salary), but it is enough time to cautiously invest the money in some things for your business—a new computer, say, or something that will make the day-to-day easier.

Or just keep banking the money, saving up for whatever is next on your writing bucket list (like quitting the day job).

If the sales have plateaued, then keep banking the money. You don’t know if this is the new normal yet or a long blip. Give it another three months.

And if the sales fell off that cliff, then you can be happy that you did not make any major life changes in response—and you now have some extra cash in the bank. Yay, you!

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

In ancient days when PG handled some consumer bankruptcies, more than one financial collapse happened in the aftermath of a client receiving a significant amount of unexpected money. It’s far more difficult to scale back financially after you’ve increased your spending than it would have been to continue to spend at the level that was sustaining you before.

The Mercedes people still want their monthly lease payment even if you’re back to Fiat income.

Author Income Surveys Are Misleading and Flawed—And Focus on the Wrong Message for Writers

7 July 2018

From Jane Friedman:

Reliably, every year or so, you’ll see headlines about new research that claims author incomes are on the decline. The most recent is from the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society (ALCS), a British nonprofit run by writers for writers.

. . . .

Before I continue with this epic-length post, here’s the short version: I don’t trust these surveys’ results and I question their usefulness in improving the fortunes of writers. Too often it feels like promotion of a self-interested narrative from writers’ organizations, with the outcome boring and predictable: There is media coverage that claims writers’ incomes are plummeting, a few big-name authors come out and try to shame publishers or even society for not valuing writers properly, debate ensues, then everyone gets back to work—until a new study emerges.

This latest gnashing of teeth has motivated me to finally write a comprehensive post about why these reports are so frustrating, in the hopes more people will ask critical questions and notice their flaws. In the long run, I hope organizations will either reassess how these studies get done, or focus on more useful support of professional authors. However, a brief side note for industry insiders: For the purposes of this article, I’m setting aside the fact this research may be done mainly to support arguments and legislation for strengthening and protecting of authors’ copyright and thus (presumably) their earnings potential. Frankly, I don’t think weak copyright law is the problem, and I believe such efforts have little effect on the average author. My thinking on copyright aligns with what you might hear from Cory Doctorow—but that’s a post for another day.

When considering author-income research, my concerns fall into these areas.

  1. How reliable is the research?
  2. What other data points do we have?
  3. If the data is directionally correct, then why are incomes declining?
  4. Does the research tell us something meaningful or useful about how writers earn a living?

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman

Back in the dawn of the modern era, PG graduated from college. His favorite professor told him he needed to find a real job and sent him to the university placement center. Lo and behold, a couple of weeks later, he had a real job. For more than minimum wage.

That job was as an economic and marketing research analyst for a large financial services company. Suffice to say, PG had a lot to learn as his formal education lacked any mention of economic and marketing research.

One of the things PG learned is that most surveys of this or that group are garbage. The reasons are simple. If you wish to learn something real about a large group of people, you have two choices:

  1. Query every single person in the group in a way that will result in an accurate answer.
  2. Carefully select a truly random sample that accurately represents the group and query them in a way that will result in an accurate answer.

Both approaches are expensive and require a lot of work – by people who know how to create questions that will result in accurate answers. Real random samples assume you understand the constituent qualities of the entire group very well and are able to obtain answers from respondents that include appropriate numbers of those with each of the constituent qualities. (If your group contains 50% women and 50% men, you may be in trouble if 80% of responses are from women. Ditto if your group contains 50% native English speakers and 50% non-native English speakers or if your group contains 50% who earn less than $10,000 per year and 50% who earn more than $10,000 per year.)

The surveying process can go wrong in many different ways. These ways include:

  1. Obtaining answers from people who aren’t part of the target group.
  2. Failing to obtain significant numbers of answers from people who are part of the group.
  3. Obtaining answers to ambiguous questions.
  4. Asking questions that are likely to generate answers that are guesses.
  5. Using the cheapest method of obtaining some sort of responses instead of the best method of obtaining accurate answers.

Quite often, it is useful to conduct some preparatory research (usually by talking to people) to understand how they view the subject of the research and to help map the types of responses people in the target demographic are likely to give when asked about the subject generally or specific sub-parts of the subject. If you create a multiple-choice question that doesn’t include all the meaningful alternative answers for the target audience, that’s one way the survey can fail and result in inaccurate results.

Here are a couple of example of bad multiple choice questions:

You indicated that you eat at Burger King less than once every month. Why don’t you eat at Burger King more often? (choose one answer):

  •  There are no Burger King restaurants near my house
  •  I became sick after eating at a Burger King
  •  I’ve never eaten at Burger King

What is your overall opinion of the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society?

  •  Pretty good
  •  Great
  •  Fantastic
  •  Incredible
  •  The Best Ever

The OP discusses other problems with 99.999% of surveys of author income. In short, poor surveys of author income are probably less useful than collecting anecdotal evidence of author income (in part because people are likely to be suspicious of anectodal evidence).

Licensing Opportunities

21 June 2018

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I think the moment writers dream of being published, they have the same wish. They want to write the books of their heart. They want those books to reach a vast audience, and they want someone else to worry about doing all the things that turn a book from a rectangular object on a shelf into a vast global empire a la Harry Potter.

Most writers expect their agents to help with that. Some think the publishers will do it all. Even more writers believe that once they make a movie or TV deal, the magic will happen. Their heroine will become an action figure. Their hero’s face will decorate a throw rug. Even the feline sidekick will find images of herself for sale in the plush toys section of every toy store and bookstore on the planet.

Not to mention the new stuff—the apps, the games playable on every device, the YouTube channel, the Instagram feed, the Spotify playlist. The old-fashioned stuff too. Socks and t-shirts and posters. Tchotchkes that come directly from the book, like Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans from Harry Potter. The first time I saw a packet of those, I laughed out loud with pleasure.

But it’s not that easy to have products made from your book. Most books don’t easily lend themselves to toy or product licensing. Most books aren’t popular enough, truth be told. And many don’t have the imagery or built-in products like Harry Potter did. (Rowling was simply showing how kids could get into a craze, so she invented a bunch of crazes, which then became actual crazes. Nifty cool, in my opinion.)

Most publishers barely have time to put out their monthly schedule of books. And most publishing houses don’t pay attention to subsidiary rights aside from translation rights and film/TV rights. Thinking about other types of marketing, licensing, and sales is simply impossible for them. They don’t have the staff, and they certainly can’t do it for each book they publish.

In fact, most publishers only respond to requests. So if some game company comes to them and asks to license the board game rights to The Handy Dandy Money-Making Novel, the publisher will figure out if they have those rights to license (chances are they do, these days) and if so, then they usually say yes, without any negotiation at all.

There is, as my poker-playing husband is wont to say, a lot of money left on the table each and every day.

. . . .

You can license anything to anyone, if you know what you’re doing. And knowing what you’re doing is the key. Most book agents haven’t even been to a [large licensing] show like this, let alone have any idea what they’re doing when they get there.

The larger agencies, with movie and TV arms, have a licensing division, but even then, those agencies usually sell the rights for their clients to one organization—say a movie studio—and don’t worry about licensing the coffee cups on their own.

Money left on the table.

And I know why it happens. It happens for the very reason that writers want to hire someone else to handle everything for them.

Learning a new world—any new world—is a lot of work. And you need to be a bit forward to handle a licensing fair. Most writers aren’t. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t attend.

. . . .

But you’re going to need to give this part of your business some thought as well.

Most writers don’t, except to say that their agent handles this stuff. I was in the middle of writing this post, having just come off the rights fair, when the Donadio & Olson news broke, and I took time out to write that first blog post about the extreme problems with agents. I recommended that writers avoid agents at all costs, and got tremendous blowback, including comments like “I can’t hold an auction for foreign rights without an agent” and other myths.

(Ironically, I was Googling that particular tweet because I couldn’t remember how it was phrased, and saw that a German publisher contacted that same author on Twitter because the German publisher “emailed your literary agent and never got a response.” You cannot make this stuff up. Seriously.)

So, I wrote about the problems with agents and financial mismanagement, ignoring the actual rights licensing and other things they fail to do.

I did meet a few agents at the rights fair. Agents who specialize in licensing the rights to “properties” that are “bankable.” None of the agents I spoke to, briefly, handled books that weren’t already big gaming or big movie projects. (Yes, I spoke to the agents. Research, y’know.)

Here’s the thing:

Indie publishing has disrupted traditional publishing, yes. But indie publishers (and writers who consider themselves self-published) have pretty much built their businesses on the old traditional publishing model.

That model is based on innovations made in the early 1960s. Traditional publishers have not moved off that model at all. This is why James Patterson has his own division (which he runs) inside of Hachette, his U.S. publisher.  The article I’ve just linked to here, on that division inside Hachette does not mention licensing outside of the traditional publishing norms of TV/Movie and translation. Patterson has added a few things, like a literacy campaign, but I didn’t see much about other types of licensing.

He’s creative and innovative, but his creative innovations are very 1990s, partly because he’s working inside the traditional publishing industry—which he disrupted (and continues to disrupt) all by himself.

You can see the book industry’s disinterest in this licensing fair just by searching for the word “book” on the website. Chronicle Books and Sourcebooks were there, but not as the companies themselves. Rather, they were represented as part of someone else’s marketing campaign.

I found Penguin Random House’s booth in the armpit of the floor, back in the part with some exhibitors for whom English was not their first language, and some smaller exhibitors like quilters.

Penguin Random House has thousands of properties that could be exploited as brands and for licensing. You’ll note in the photo above that they only focused on three for some inexplicable reason.

The big comic book companies were all present. Marvel and DC were there, of course, and they were hard to miss.

. . . .

Why should you care? Because this is the part of the business that built LucasFilm. George Lucas retained his licensing rights when he made the tiny deal for the distribution of the original Star Wars movie. There’s a lot, lot, lot of money in marketing, branding, and licensing, if it’s done right.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

Morality clauses: are publishers right to police writers?

16 June 2018

From The Guardian:

When the American Libraries Association awards its Andrew Carnegie medals in New Orleans later this month, there will be no winner for excellence in non-fiction. Sherman Alexie, the poet and novelist who was due to receive it for a memoir, You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me, has declined the award following allegations of sexual harassment.

Last month, the novelist Junot Díaz withdrew from the Sydney writers’ festival and from chairing the Pulitzer prize board after being confronted by his own accusers. As the allegations swept through social media, another writer, Mary Karr, joined the fray, tweeting of her distress that her testimony to DT Max, the biographer of her one-time partner David Foster Wallace, about Foster Wallace’s abusive behaviour had been marginalised. “Deeply saddened by the allegations against #JunotDiaz & I support every woman brave enough to speak. The violence #DavidFosterWallace inflicted on me as a single mom was ignored by his biographer & @NewYorker as ‘alleged’ despite my having letters in his hand,” she wrote.

Such high profile cases are far from rare as the #MeToo movement spreads across the creative industries. They come at a time when writers are facing increasingly draconian attempts by publishers to police their behaviour, calling into question centuries old assumptions about the desirability – or even the possibility in today’s networked world – of separating writers’ lives from their work.

. . . .

Morality, or morals, contracts have existed in the film industry since 1921, when Universal Pictures introduced them in response to Fatty Arbuckle’s trial for manslaughter, but they are relatively new in the publishing industry. One such clause, introduced by HarperCollins in the US, stipulated that the publisher could terminate a contract in cases of “conduct [that] evidences a lack of due regard for public conventions and morals”, or in the case of a “crime or any other act that will tend to bring the Author into serious contempt, and such behaviour would materially damage the Work’s reputation or sales”. Caroline Michel, a leading literary agent, said this week that the use of morality clauses had doubled in the US over the past year. In a recent speech, Royal Society of Literature president Marina Warner warned that “being good” should not be conflated with “good writing”. But where is that line drawn?

Clearly, reputation doesn’t matter to a controversialist in the way it does to literary authors such as Alexie or Díaz, who are facing serious damage to their careers. In the weeks since 10 women came forward with accusations against Alexie, the Native American author has been subjected to a cascade of punitive measures. His name has been stripped from a scholarship awarded by the Institute of American Indian Arts, all references to him have been “deleted or modified” in the blog Native Americans in Children’s Literature, bookshops and libraries are destocking his books and his US publisher has said that it will be postponing the paperback of his memoir (though his UK publisher, Penguin Random House, says it will continue to reprint his work as required).

. . . .

The high emotions surrounding the behaviour of writers are starkly exemplified by the case of Foster Wallace. Though Karr feels understandably aggrieved that her experience wasn’t taken more seriously by his biographer, she would be wrong to think it wasn’t noted. In a blog written at the time, Kristen Roupenian – who went on to write the New Yorker short story sensation “Cat Person” – described her dismay at discovering in Max’s book that the literary hero she worshipped as a student would probably have dismissed her as “audience pussy”.

She wasn’t looking for a boycott of his work, she wrote. “All I expect is a quiet, un-showy disqualification for the role of hero, mentor or saint. I would like the ‘statue’ (Wallace’s word) of his public image to be carefully dismantled, for the overblown ideas we have of him and what his life meant to slowly begin to deflate. I would like him to become just another writer, imbued with no moral authority beyond what is contained in his words on the page.”

. . . .

As the pressure has mounted, London-based authors’ agent Lizzy Kremer has taken pre-emptive action – drawing up a new, industry-wide code of conduct on behalf of a coalition of authors, booksellers, agents and publishers. The voluntary code was partly inspired by London’s Royal Court theatre, which constructed one in reaction to its own sexual misconduct scandal involving a former artistic director. Among the theatre’s first responses was a call out for testimony about sexual harassment to help it to identify “patterns and scenarios”. In a detail that chimes strongly with the publishing industry, the report drew attention to the dangers of a “blurred social context”: “13.3% of reported incidents happened at work parties … with alcohol.”

“Publishers feel an obligation to use their personal social media accounts to publicise books and to go out for drinks,” says Kremer. “People forget that these are not friendships, they are friendly business relationships. You have to understand what’s off limits.”

In a personal blog, she recalled meeting up with a younger woman who told her of several “small yet frightening liberties” that men in publishing had taken at parties and in offices over the years. “One of the things that interested me about the [Royal Court] report was its emphasis on the vulnerability of the creative person,” says Kremer. “Obviously it’s not the same in publishing – you don’t have to get changed in communal dressing-rooms – but it’s another industry with a culture of asking employees to give something personal of themselves.”

Link to the rest at The Guardian

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