Monthly Archives: June 2018

Author Earnings Sliding Fast in U.K.

29 June 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

Median annual income of professional writers in the U.K. is now under £10,500, down by 15% since 2013, according to ALCS (Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society) research. That figure puts authors’ hourly rate well below minimum wage

The earnings figure of £10,500 compares to the figure of £17,900 defined last year by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation as the income level considered to be a socially acceptable standard of living for a single person.

. . . .

At £3,000 a year, the typical median earnings of ‘all writers’—which includes occasional and part-time writers in addition to professional writers as defined above—are also declining steeply, falling in real terms by 49% since 2005 and 33% since 2013.

As earnings have fallen, so have the number of full-time writers. In 2005, 40% of professional writers earned their income solely from writing. By last year, that figure had fallen to 13.7%. As writing earnings decline, most writers are following portfolio careers, supplementing their writing income with other activities such as teaching.

The findings in the U.K. are generally in line with the salary survey the Authors Guild did in 2015that found a steady decline in authors earnings between 2009 and 2015.

The fall in writer incomes comes against the backdrop of the expansion of the U.K.’s creative industries, now valued at £92 billion and growing at twice the rate of the rest of the U.K. economy.

The gender pay gap is widening, with the average earnings of female professional authors only about 75% of those of the average male professional writer, down slightly from 78% in 2005.

. . . .

At the Society of Authors, chief executive Nicola Solomon said: “This decline is extremely disturbing. With average earnings down by 42% in real terms since 2005 and now falling well below the minimum wage, it is worrying news for the profession.” She went on to say that “if authors can no longer afford to make a living from their work, the supply of new and innovative writing will simply dry up.”

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

Sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison dies at 84

29 June 2018

From Engadget:

Sci-fi writer Harlan Ellison has died at 84. Ellison, who was an author of novellas and short stories, wrote for shows including Star Trek, Babylon 5,The Twilight Zone and The Outer Limits. He passed away in his sleep early Thursday.

. . . .

Ellison penned a 1967 Star Trek episode called “City on the Edge of Forever,” though writers on the show rewrote the script to pull out Ellison’s anti-war message. The famously opinionated writer published two drafts of his script in a 1995 book, and sued over revenue from the episode in 2009, eventually reaching a settlement.

He took Hollywood to task several other times, including suing James Cameron and other figures behind The Terminator, claiming that the movie cribbed from two of his Outer Limits episodes. The film’s production company and distributor settled out of court; the terms forced them to acknowledge Ellison’s influence in The Terminator‘s end credits.

Link to the rest at Engadget

Facebook’s New Political Ad Policy Ends Up Censoring Bookstore’s Author Event Ads

29 June 2018

From the American Booksellers Association:

Facebook’s attempts to regulate political advertisements on its social media platform have made it more difficult for bookstores to “boost” author events. Boosted posts are those which have been paid for to ensure that they reach a wider audience.

In early June, A Room of One’s Own Bookstore in Madison, Wisconsin, encountered a problem when trying to advertise author events on Facebook. The bookstore’s events coordinator, Gretchen Treu, requested to boost Facebook posts to promote two author events only to find that they were rejected on the basis of what Facebook characterized as their “political nature.”

The rejected posts are an outcome of a new Facebook political ad policy. The policy, which went into effect in May and applies only to ads targeting an American audience, was established to prevent foreign individuals or groups from running Facebook ads to influence U.S. politics. In order to pay for a “political” ad, advertisers must become authorized to do so. The authorization process includes submitting a government-issued ID and providing a residential mailing address. The new policy represents Facebook’s voluntary compliance with the proposed Honest Ads Act, a bipartisan bill sponsored by Senators Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), Mark Warner (D-VA), and John McCain (R-AZ) that subjects online political advertisements to the same rules as ads sold on TV, radio, and satellite.

“Here, Facebook’s solution might be worse than the problem,” said David Grogan, director of the American Booksellers for Free Expression, Advocacy and Public Policy for the American Booksellers Association. “While we are sympathetic to Facebook’s attempt to filter out false news meant to influence our democratic process, attempts to regulate or control speech will usually result in unintended consequences. And in this case it has, as bookstores that are advertising important author events — critical to the free exchange of ideas — are censored indiscriminately alongside foreign actors. Facebook needs to go back to the drawing board on this policy.”

The posts in question advertised events with Ijeoma Oluo, promoting her book So You Want to Talk About Race (Seal Press), and Cecile Richards, discussing her memoir Make Trouble (Touchstone Books).

Link to the rest at the American Booksellers Association

A $10 million wish list?

28 June 2018

From today’s letters to the editor of the Adirondack Daily Enterprise:

This is in reply to the May 22 article titled “$10 million wish list.” As a business owner, here are my thoughts.

We’re going after grant money to revitalize our village and particularly the business district. But has anyone bothered to ask themselves how we got this way in the first place?

Over the years we’ve lost a fair amount of mom-and-pop stores. Anybody know why? Do you suppose the business climate as a whole has changed drastically over the years? And if it has, what can we do about it?

In my industry, Christian bookstores that have been in business for over 30 years are closing. Cedar Springs Christian Bookstore in Knoxville, Tennessee, a bookstore larger than the old Newberry’s store we used to have in town, is now closed. Why? Because of competition from the internet. Unfortunately, they didn’t have enough loyal customers anymore, and competition from the internet was killing them. So these good folks just threw in the towel after more than 30 years.

Christian bookstores everywhere are blaming internet competition for hurting their business. Some are finding their own ways of fighting back, but others are just tired of fighting and they’re closing their doors. It seems that Amazon, eBay and various other websites have found that there’s money to be made in selling Christian product.

Now let’s look at our little village. What have we lost over the last few years? Has anybody bothered to ask why these stores closed? Granted, some of the owners either wanted to retire or do something else. But what about those who faced stiff competition from the internet and elsewhere, and decided they’d had enough?

Let’s take a look at the empty storefronts in town. First, most of them are too small. Many are under 1,000 square feet. How much inventory can you sell in that small a space? Not much. And as a small business owner, you have to pay top wholesale prices to get that inventory. You can’t purchase in large lots to get better prices. So your business ends up with a small selection and at what some folks would consider high prices. And since most people shop by price these days, you’re at a huge disadvantage compared to shopping for those same things online.

Secondly, most of those storefronts need work. Who pays for the needed renovations? Paint, paneling, flooring and whatever else that space needs isn’t cheap. And that’s just the stores’ renovations. You haven’t purchased store shelving, fixtures, displays or inventory! Fixtures and displays aren’t cheap. I have a two-sided lockable jewelry display. That display alone cost $900, and that’s just the display. I also have to pay for shipping to get it here. And remember this is just the display and not the product that goes inside. A four-sided display will run me over $1,000, and that doesn’t include the shipping. So anyone who thinks that they can throw a store together for a few bucks knows nothing of the real costs.

Thirdly, most who want to go into business have no idea how much money it’ll take. It’s been recommended that you have enough money to live off of for one to two years in the bank. Why? Because you won’t be able to write yourself a paycheck for at least that long, if not longer. The money people spend in your store will go for expenses, inventory and advertising. As one business owner said to a customer, “First you pay your rent. Then you pay your utilities. Then you pay your suppliers, and if there’s anything left over, you get it.”

There were other goals in this article like diversity shopping opportunities and providing low-cost retail space to encourage new businesses. But how do we diversify our shopping opportunities when we have small storefronts that cannot hold a lot of product? What kind of variety can a business offer in less than 1,000 square feet? And who provides low-cost retail space to encourage new businesses? Building owners have expenses to pay, too. And how long do those low costs last?

Think business hasn’t changed? When was the last time you went to the Plattsburgh mall? Today’s mall in Plattsburgh is a shell of what it used to be. In the food court we had a Philly steak place, Taco Bell, Subway, a pizza place, a Chinese eatery, a Mediterranean eatery, a chicken place and a Burger King. Today the steak place, Chinese and Mediterranean eatery, pizza place, chicken place and Burger King are gone. You had to look hard to find a place to sit and eat, but not anymore. On a Saturday afternoon the food court is empty. And you can almost drive a car down the main walkway and not hit anyone. It’s sad, but a reminder of how things have changed.

. . . .

Long gone are the days when customers would break your doors down if you just opened your store. If today’s retailers can’t get creative and find ways to bring in customers, they’re dead. When I was growing up, a 10 percent off storewide sale got everyone’s attention. Today 10 percent off gets nobody’s attention. Folks can find all the bargains they want in the comfort of their own home, and many do. I’ve also heard stories of folks who split up when they go shopping, and talk back and forth comparing prices on their phones.

So if we think that by putting in street trees, decorative light poles and sidewalks, we’ll somehow fill our empty storefronts, think again. If we’re not careful, we’ll be grasping at straws in order to fix a problem that we can’t fix. The internet has taken business away from every retailer in town, and if they tell you that’s not true, they’re probably lying.

And if you think that by hopefully getting a $10 million grant, we can fix things, I don’t think we’re being realistic. Perhaps instead of a grant, today’s retailers or would-be retailers need lessons on how to deal with competition, particularly on the internet. That’s more realistic.

Link to the rest at the Adirondack Daily Enterprise and thanks to DM for the tip.

You’re the reason

28 June 2018

You’re the reason our kids are ugly, little darlin’

L. E. White & Lola Jean Dillion


The Surprising Stories Behind the Pen Names of 10 Famous Authors

28 June 2018
Comments Off on The Surprising Stories Behind the Pen Names of 10 Famous Authors

From The Literary Hub:

 Some authors become so iconic that they cease, in some sense, to be people—especially once they’re dead, and have passed securely into the realm of our collective imagination. But there’s much to be gained from digging a little deeper into those writers, or at the very least, scratching off that first surface: the names (and personas) they invented for their writing careers.

. . . .

I have to admit, I had no idea that Toni Morrison was a pen name—but it’s true. The “Toni” came from her saint’s name, Anthony, which she took at 12 after converting to Catholicism. Toni soon became her nickname. “Morrison” was her first husband’s name—they married in 1958 and divorced in 1964. “To this day,” wrote Boris Kachka in a 2012 profile of Morrison, “she deeply regrets leaving that now world-famous name on her first novel, The Bluest Eye, in 1970.”

“Wasn’t that stupid?” she says. “I feel ruined!” Here she is, fount of indelible names (Sula, Beloved, Pilate, Milkman, First Corinthians, and the star of her new novel, the Korean War veteran Frank Money), and she can’t own hers. “Oh God! It sounds like some teenager—what is that?” She wheeze-laughs, theatrically sucks her teeth. “But Chloe.” She grows expansive. “That’s a Greek name. People who call me Chloe are the people who know me best,” she says. “Chloe writes the books.” Toni Morrison does the tours, the interviews, the “legacy and all of that.” Which she does easily enough, but at a distance, a drama-club alumna embodying a persona—and knowing all the while that it isn’t really her. “I still can’t get to the Toni Morrison place yet.”

“Myself is kind of split,” she told The Guardian the same year. “My name is Chloe. And the rest is . . . that other person.”

. . . .

Of all the writers on this list, John le Carré probably has the coolest reason for using a pseudonym—spies can’t use their own names when they publish books. I mean, obviously! He wrote his first novel, Call for the Dead, while an MI5 agent, but it didn’t print until he had moved to MI6. As le Carré explained:

I was what was politely called “a foreign servant.” I went to my employers and said that I’d written my first novel. They read it and said they had no objections, but even if it were about butterflies, they said, I would have to choose a pseudonym. So then I went to my publisher, Victor Gollancz, who was Polish by origin, and he said, My advice to you, old fellow, is choose a good Anglo-Saxon couple of syllables. Monosyllables. He suggested something like Chunk-Smith. So as is my courteous way, I promised to be Chunk-Smith. After that, memory eludes me and the lie takes over. I was asked so many times why I chose this ridiculous name, then the writer’s imagination came to my help. I saw myself riding over Battersea Bridge, on top of a bus, looking down at a tailor’s shop. Funnily enough, it was a tailor’s shop, because I had a terrible obsession about buying clothes in order to become a diplomat in Bonn. And it was called something of this sort—le Carré. That satisfied everybody for years. But lies don’t last with age. I find a frightful compulsion towards truth these days. And the truth is, I don’t know.

Trust a spy to keep the real story close to his chest. Well, at least he didn’t go with “Chunk-Smith.”

Link to the rest at The Literary Hub

How to Live in a Dystopian Fiction

28 June 2018

From The Paris Review:

A curious feature of most dystopian fiction is that it begins in medias res.  It’s a stylistic convention of the genre, and it applies to most dystopian lit that comes to mind, from Nineteen Eighty-Fourto Brave New World to Never Let Me Go.  As pure narrative strategy, it makes sense.  After all, novels in general must hook a reader quickly, and there are few things hookier than unfolding disaster.  Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven, for example, begins with twenty utterly gripping pages of the first hours of a superplague wiping out Toronto (and the world).  There is something compelling about this type of introduction—it carves narrative down to a brutal logic in which the only two options are survival or death.

The TV adaptation of Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, which will wrap up its second season in July, is the most recent popular example of this phenomenon. The viewer is dropped, from the first episode, into the fresh hell of Gilead, alongside Elizabeth’s Moss’s Offred.  We are given the broad strokes of how Gilead came to power (ecological disaster, plummeting birthrates, a coup in Congress), but only the occasional flashback to “normal life” before the coup, when the show’s world much resembled ours.  The first season was released in April, 2017, and Offred’s disoriented struggle felt topical, consonant with an American body politic waking up to the reality of the Trump era.  My wife and I watched it, as I know so many people did, with rapt, grim fascination. It showed our worst fears about the new government dramatized.

As time—and the show—has gone on, however, I found myself increasingly drawn to the scanty scenes of America before Gilead, the tender, doomed moments of Offred’s previous life.  The glimpses of that hazy, vanishing world are the most painful, and perhaps the most resonant with our own unfolding dystopia.  Because this is what all dystopias—fictional and real—specialize in:  erasure of what came before.

. . . .

Too often, I think, we want our fictional dystopias to protect us against the real thing..  As Alyssa Rosenberg says in this Washington Post article, “Dystopian fiction—and any fiction, really—shouldn’t be judged by the extent to which it serves as a bulwark against actual, radical changes to American society. It is enough to ask that a story be entertaining and well-executed, and that its characters be rich and memorable.”

But while asking a piece of entertainment to be more than entertaining may be asking too much, baked into most dystopian narratives is an implicit claim to edification. After all, dystopias, like utopias, succeed or fail based on how convincingly and relevantly they correspond to the real world. Both words share the root topos, place in Greek, and purport to tell us about the possibilities of our own place through fictional exaggeration.  It therefore seems reasonable to expect that they might tell us not only about the mess we’re in, but how we got into it, and how to escape.

Link to the rest at The Paris Review

Amazon Makes $1 Billion Splash in Health Care, Buying PillPack

28 June 2018

From Bloomberg: Inc. is buying its way into the heart of the U.S. health-care system, instantly shaking up a prescription-drug industry already in the midst of a broader transformation.

Insurance companies and drug-benefit managers have struck a series of deals in recent months designed in part to thwart a potential big splash in the health world from Amazon. But the online retail giant’s decision to buy online pharmacy PillPack rapidly accelerates the threat posed to entrenched retailers, suppliers and middlemen.

Most immediately, the move represents a formidable challenge to pharmacy chains including Walgreens Boots Alliance Inc. and CVS Health Corp., the two largest drugstore chains in the U.S. Walgreens shares sank 8.5 percent at 10:49 a.m. in New York, while CVS shares shed 8.9 percent.

“This provides an avenue for Amazon to disrupt major pharmacy chains the way that they’ve disrupted booksellers, pet supplies, clothing and other big-box retailers,” said Lisa Bielamowicz, president of consultancy Gist Healthcare.

Link to the rest at Bloomberg

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