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Starting a new trilogy

I have officially handed in The Outcast trilogy and will be starting on a new King Rolen’s Kin trilogy. About a month ago I woke up with the motivations of all the characters sorted in my mind, which is really weird because I hadn’t been consciously trying to come up with this.

I know who is going to betray/help who and why. I know the character flaws and strengths that will make these actions not only believeable, but perfectly reasonable. And, in fact, the character could not do otherwise, because their actions arise from the person that they are.

The time line is bit hazy and the details are also hazy. But I feel like I can start writing. For me it is this process of heading off on a journey, some of the sign posts are clear but not many, even so I’m willing to trust to my inner-story compass to get me to where I need to go.

There is also the wonderful sense of freedom and exhileration because it will be an exciting journey for me as the characters take the story where they want it to go. I know the world and the characters have grown in the course of the first trilogy, so they are more interesting people.

How much planning do you do for a novel/trilogy?

There, but for fortune, go you or I.

 On another authors-only list I belong to a few of members (let it be said, mostly younger or fairly minor) authors were whinging about bookstores response to their august presence. It seems that bookstores — especially the big chain ones did not roll out the red carpet, and, um, actually treated them at best with bland indifference and at worst with hostility. The fault, it appeared, were these dratted self-pubs. People boring clerks with asking them for books which were obviously by them or their friend/cousin, and telling them how good they were. And worst, having signings in indies, signings which were always full of people.

How was anyone supposed to know the difference between real books and self-pubbed ones? From this the discussion flowed onto the fact that authors were expected to do all this damned publicity and marketing stuff…

Hmm. There is– as any slush-reader will tell you– a difference between 90% of slush and ‘real books’. Some of that 90% will make it into self-published book ranks. Most of those are so bad, and so unprofessional, that 10 seconds will tell you that they’re rubbish. However… that leaves the other 10%. Now, given that Old Fashioned Publishing takes about 0.1% of that 10%, and, as we all know, their selection process is such that at times we all wonder if they took a particular book from the 90%… so for every 1 book old-fashioned publishing brings out… there are 99 that are as good, or quite possibly quite a lot better, that they don’t. There are enough proofs of runaway best-sellers that were rejected over and over and over by publishing, until they found the right person on the right day. It’s not (especially as a newly published author or one whose success is shall we say ‘tepid’) that actually, between you and the authors of those 99 books, there is a real difference, except that on a given day you were luckier or more persistent than they were. What’s worse, they are getting (outside of brick and mortar) precisely the same amount of that damned marketing and publicity stuff you are — which is to say none that the author doesn’t provide for him or herself. To make it yet more irritating still, these independent upstarts are getting 70% of the sales price… and given the screwy Hollyweird tricks that Old Fashioned Publishing seems in a hurry to imitate, the ‘real author’ will be very lucky to see 10%… for which they’ll put paper copies of your books in a slowly diminishing number of bookstores that are closed to the self-published author. And that is probably it. That’s the difference. Given the real numbers of sales from those – being 1-5K for a noob sans push (ie getting the normal 4-5K advance)…. and therefore 1-5K eyeballs and word of mouth) the Old Fashioned Publisher wants 55-60% of your e-book income for ‘advertising’ very passively to at most 5K of people, a percentage of which are going to recommend your book. It doesn’t seem a hell of a deal to me. Might be worth it to get those 1000-5000 to know your name. But it’s not really grounds for feeling superior to anyone… Unless it is say “I got screwed more than you did.”

My own feeling on this is that resentment is being focussed on the wrong target. It reminds of my own days as a boot, when the Instructor NCO’s would make our lives a misery and then some smart alec Lieutenant would come along and say (and I translate loosely) “This is all the fault of those black #$@*& terrorist scum. They’re one that make you have to sh!t off like this.” And some people were stupid enough to believe him. The real answer for ‘real author’ is not that it’s some self-published self-publiciser that is making them not get the support and respect of the bookstores and even the public. It’s their ‘real publisher’ who isn’t earning his keep. They SHOULD either pay a hell of a lot more, or DO a lot more for their share. Estimates vary, but the actual cost of putting an e-book on the shelf with a good cover, proof reading, and some editing come in at around $1000 according to Konrath et al. You want original art, proper professional graphic art direction, top notch proof reading and good editing? You’ll get change out of 5K unless you pick a major artist .  And trust me, if you’re a noob, you’re not getting that from your publisher. The 1000 dollar deal maybe…. or to put it another way, if your $9.99 e-book (typical oldfashoned publisher pricing) sells more than 835 copies it actually paid all its costs for the 5000 dollar job, and the paper version’s costs too. Oddly the accountants won’t show it as profitable. And their ‘real retailer’–who is getting 40-60% of the income generated by the book–who isn’t earning his share either, with display, availability and hard-selling. So there you go. Next time someone gets poncy (and it won’t be me) about being a ‘real author’ ask them what was so sweet about being ripped off?

There are of course things that Old Fashioned publishers can and should do to make themselves valuable to authors. The first is of course to stop thinking they’re the only game in town and realise that their ‘suppliers’–if they really are ANY good as authors–will need to become assets to be cultivated and not disposable things of infinite supply (because at the level things of infinite supply, there are tens of thousand self-published competitors- who are as good or better for those customers). This involves a change of mindset and will, per se, not add appreciably to costs (because every time they dump an author who has built a small audience – that’s customers and money wasted). Which leads directly to stage two: if you need a contract that says to the author ‘you are bound with chains of adamantine to me to the heat death of the sun…’ you’re doing it wrong. Authors need to be content to stay, or for every one you trap, 5000 will fly and tell everyone to stay away. You’re not the only game in town. Get over it. If you’re offering two year contracts with the potential for extensions… well, a)you have real incentive to keep the relationship happy, b)if things do change, it’s not impossible to change terms. Yep, I know. Much better to lock them into a deal offering new manacle every twenty years and a transfer to the upper deck of oars if they make you more than two million a year. That was yesterday. Get over it, it won’t work any more. Accept that you will have to offer better incentives than going directly to KDP or PubIt does, for a share of the income. The share will have to be balanced by what you can offer to do: If you are willing to accept 20% then the author will settle for fairly little: Good transparent accounting and statements (which no Old Fashioned Publisher offers at the moment (12-18 months after sales being normal for statements and ‘questionable’ being common too), but Amazon gives day by-day); Rapid, timeous, frequent payment, at least quarterly (which once again they get without you. No Old Fashioned Publisher is reliable and timeous, and six months late is barely late at all). Then you’ll need to provide all the formatting, submission to outlets, proof-reading and covers and some editorial input. And that’s the BASIC. If you want more than 20% you’re going to have to start providing real marketing and promotion. Authors DON’T in general have the time and skill for this. This is what they would be willing to give you a bigger cut for. If you can turn their 1000 readers it into 100 000 readers… you’re golden. But work it out: anyone with a decent book, at a reasonable price (say 2.99) can in time, with effort, and their own push, sell 1000 copies. Sooner-or-later. So if an OFP is to be worthwhile: they must increase the income the author would get off 1000 copies at 70%. So for 20% royalty the author is looking at 1400 copies at least. For the roughly 55% most Old Fashioned Publishers want …. 4700 copies and the author is barely breaking even. If they push the price up (standard modus operandi ATM) … the author gets there faster, but fails to build readership – more valuable than $2093 would be. And the downside is that Old Fashioned Publishers have some skills at selling to book chains or distributors. They don’t have any more than Joe-the-author at selling to the public (which is what publicity and marketing really amounts to in the ebook world). Right now, they can’t offer you a 370% increase on your own efforts. But that is what they need to do. There are levers — other authors, hiring professional publicity people, expenditure on websites authors use and are supported in and fed readers by (not authors who who feed the publisher by), and give-aways, links to other books in their catalogue. But soon, otherwise, it will be very easy to tell ‘real’ authors from self-published ones. The ‘real’ ones will be the ones living under bridges…

Sunday Morning Musings

by Amanda S. Green

It’s Memorial Day weekend here in the States. This is the traditional beginning of summer and, most importantly, a time when we remember those men and women who have given their lives in the service of the country.  So, let me take a moment to thank them – and their families and friends – who have made this ultimate sacrifice.

Now, onto business.

A couple of weeks ago, I blogged about agents becoming publishers and the problems I foresaw with such an undertaking.  Let’s face it, when you sign a contract with an agent, it is with the understanding that they will go out and find you the best contract possible with a publisher.  They are your agent.  It is their responsibility to work for your best interest.  When the agent becomes a publishers, they are now wearing a hat that conflicts with their duty to represent your best interests.

Unfortunately, the trend is continuing.  It was announced earlier this week that Bloomsbury is forming a digital publishing arm that will partner with agents to publish their clients’ works.  Now, the announcement looks okay on the surface.  This enterprise is to focus  on those works where the author has died and the work is no longer in print.  But, it still begs the question of who is the agent working for.  If there is enough interest in the work to bring it out in digital format, then why isn’t the agent sending it out to digital publishers, both traditional (in this instance, meaning established publishers who regularly publish in both print and digital formats) and digital publishers?  How can they put the work up for auction and keep it fair without hiring a third party so the agent can blind bid on the publishing rights?

Now, I’ll admit that this announcement doesn’t come right out and say that agents are part of the “publishing” house.  But it specifically says it will be “partnering” with agencies.  Again, this partnership seems to be blurring, if not outright crossing, the line between representing the best interests of the author/client and the best interests of the agent.  I guess only time, and probably the courts, will tell.

Borders is back in the news.  Specifically, the creditors committee has objected to Borders’ request for an extension of 120 days to file its reorganization plan.  If granted, the deadline would be moved from June 16th to October 14th.  The objection notes some of the same concerns I wrote about last weekend.  But it basically comes down to the facts that Borders continues to bleed cash and isn’t cooperating with the creditors, leading to grave concerns about the future of the bookseller.  Considering the fact that Borders also wants to reject its “master licensing” agreement with Seattle’s Best Coffee in such a way it would allegedly infringe on SBC’s intellectual property, well, you can understand the creditors committee’s concerns.

Finally, I have to give a hat tip to one of the local newspapers here.  Imagine my surprise this morning when I was reading the Dallas Morning News and came across a book review and large excerpt on the front page of the entertainment section.  This is notable for a number of reasons.  The first is simply the placement.  Book reviews are usually relegated to the middle of the section on Sundays.  Second, this article and the accompanying snippet consisted of as much space as the entire book review section usually does — and did so without other reviews being deleted.  Third, as with so many papers across the country, the Morning News had stopped printing reviews and only recently (the last year or so) returned to doing so.  Finally, and this is the really exciting part for me, this front page treatment with snippet is the first in an ongoing series.  The paper is going to start spotlighting some of Texas’ best authors in this manner.  So, here’s a tip of the hat to the DMN and a heartfelt thanks from a grateful reader.

The floor is now yours.  What items in the publishing news have you seen this week that you want to discuss?  Or is there something from this past week or two that you’ve read that you think we need to talk more in-depth about?

The Pitfalls of Promotion. . .

or “How to Find Yourself Banished to the Hinterlands”.

by Amanda S. Green

Promotion is the bane of all writers.  I don’t know a writer who wouldn’t rather be writing than trying to figure out a new and better way to promote our books.  But it is a way of life these days and something we have to be aware of.  One of the easiest ways of promotion has been to take part on different discussion boards.  That not only gives name recognition but allows the opportunity to add a link to our book, Amazon Central page, etc.  It’s free and it also gives us the chance to interact with people who might just become fans.

However, this path is filled with pitfalls.  We’ve all seen it.  The author who jumps into a discussion and makes a complete ass out of himself.  It can be over politics, e-books v. hard copy books, does the sun rise in the east. . . you get my meaning.  It is so easy to rip off a response to something and hit send before we actually think about what we’ve just typed.  Then there’s that set of authors who never show up until someone says something they perceive as negative about their “baby” and then the author feels the need to defend, often with vulgarity, what they wrote.  All that does is hurt the author, even if does give a short term boost to whatever title they are dewfending.

Then there’s the drive-by posting.  This is where an author who hasn’t been part of an online community joins simply to be able to post a promo announcement or two and then disappears, never to be seen until their next book is about to be published.

Those examples can be annoying — and often entertaining, especially if you like flame wars — they pale in contrast to the fallout that can happen when enough authors hijack threads to promote their own work.  This is what happened this past week over on the Amazon kindle boards.

A little background:  When Amazon started the kindle boards, the terms of service (TOS) included a prohibition against self-promotion.  But, no one really worried about it as long as the authors used some common sense.  The community self-policed itself and, for the most part, authors kept their promotions to a single thread a week — if that often — and to adding the link to their book or their Amazon Central page under their name as part of the signature.  Then Amazon started the KDP program and publishing was suddenly opened to everyone.  The result was a sudden influx of self-published and small press published authors coming to the kindle community and using it to promote their books.

Mind you, most of them followed the “rules”.  But the few who didn’t soon turned threads into frequent areas of contention.  They’d post their promotions in the middle of threads that had nothing to do with their book, or books in general.  They’d start new threads with deceptive headers, quickly ticking off the regulars on the forum.  It got to the point where the frustration with these few boiled over to taint all indies (small press and self-published).  That’s when Amazon started hearing a number of complaints and finally took action.

This action impacts all authors, not just those who couldn’t be bothered to follow the “rules”.  As of now, there is no self-promotion allowed on the Amazon kindle board.  Instead, they’ve created a new community for just that purpose.  There are a couple of problems with this, imo.  The first is that it means we can no longer “sign” our posts with links to our books or our Amazon Central page.  That’s promotion, you see, so not allowed.  I’m hopeful Amazon will change that or, as in the past, simply turn a blind eye to it.  However, that isn’t guaranteed and it does remove one of the most effective ways of promotion on any of the Amazon boards from out arsenal.

The second issue is that the new community, like most of the other Amazon communities, isn’t easy to find.  Heck, it’s like trying to find the B&N communities.  If you don’t know where to find then, you won’t. And that hurts readers and authors alike.

This sort of behavior — and consequences — isn’t unique to the Amazon kindle boards.  I’ve seen it time and time again.  It’s just that the kindle community is one of the largest communities devoted to e-books and e-readers around.  To have that removed from our arsenal of free promotion tools is like shooting us in the leg and then telling us to run a marathon.  It can be done, but it will hurt like hell and be a whole lot harder.

So now we have to look for some other way to promote, one that will not cost us an arm or a leg and that won’t take even more time away from writing.  And this is where my questions to each of you come in.  What sort of promotion best gets your attention?  What makes you want to find out more about an author or a new book or short story, especially if it is an author you’ve never heard of before?

 

Sit For A Biscuit Fido (Training the Inner Writer)

by Chris McMahon

I’ve been trying to get back on the writing horse again after a really crappy period of work, external commitments and  injury (torn ligaments in my knee this time as a result of  a very slippery rock near a waterfall).  As usual my first attempts are to try to go back to the same pace I was maintaining before everything fell over, and as usual the results are proving to be a little inconsistent.

Then I remembered something that the dog trainer said at puppy pre-school (no I’m not kidding, we all went to dog training classes when we bought Kirra, our silky terrier X mini-poodle). We had reached that point in the class where we were demonstrating how well we had established the basic training, such as getting her to sit, stay etc. I was getting her to sit, then moving quite a distance across the room to see how far I could stretch the training in terms of getting her to stay. The trainer said, ‘No. Train for success. Don’t try to push the boundaries or ‘test’ the training. Reinforce the training from the point where you know you will succeed.’

I thought about this a lot at the time, and realised that I always do this to myself. I always establish something that works and immediately try to push the boundaries, to extend what I am doing or add something new. In a way I am always ‘testing’ myself, driving myself.

This little incident in training came back to me this morning as I was scribbling down some thoughts in my journal (I love using pen and paper – seems to provoke a different way of thinking). I realised that I needed to train myself for success. It sounds basic but I needed to gradually re-introduce myself back into the world I was creating, to build back up to the same sort of intensity I had achieved. In essence I had to give myself some ‘writer treats’ – Dog Biscuits for the Hungry Mind – to reward myself and reinforce my success.

How do you reward yourself for staying in the chair? Or is being in your world reward enough?

The Writer’s Toolbox – Stringing it together

by Kate Paulk

Obviously, words on their own aren’t much good. Particularly when they’re stripped of context and laid out on a page like slabs of meat waiting to be ogled by the next reader. Um. Okay. Maybe a little too colorful there.

Anyway. One of the joys and frustrations of language is that words can mean more than one thing, sometimes at the same time. Add in a bunch of homonyms and homophones, and you’ve got a whole lot of potential meanings in what you’re stringing together.

And of course, the primary purpose of writing is to convey meaning, in the form of emotion, to a reader.

There’s any number of ways to do that – more than I can remember the terminology for. I do have a fondness for inappropriate onomatapoia, though. I may be the only person who actually says “burp” when I burp – and not deliberately, either. It just sort of… happens.

So you’ve got similes, which I used in the first paragraph. Metaphors are usually more direct, and when I use them, turn into a kind of demented pot-pourri of weird. I think it may be the Aussie effect… Strine is a dialect that plays with words in ways that go beyond not work-safe. Entendre is… well… entended.

Satire tends to play better if your readers are cued to recognize it – how often do The Onion pieces get taken for the real thing? If you can get it just close enough that it feels right, you can go a long way – as the actress said to the bishop.

There’s irony and it’s harder (there are harder things than irony – I guess that would make them diamondy) cousin sarcasm. Both are best in small doses: too much and the piece gets too heavy, but a little can bring home a point that wouldn’t be nearly as effective done straight (as the actress… oh, never mind).

And of course, there’s the pun. Often indescribable, sometimes awful, and always interesting. English is loaded with multiple meanings, so the pun will inevitably raise its head and punctuate the topic at hand. I’d hesitate over the near certainty of restarting the punic wars, except that… I don’t think they ever stopped around here. It’s just that my native pun level is about 6 inches below the belt and about that long. Particularly when I’m tired, over-stressed or unwell.

(As a side note: there are people at the Mad Genius Club who have seen me in this state. I’m informed it’s rather scary – although I’m usually too busy with the evil giggle to notice. I wouldn’t be surprised if I giggle in my sleep.)

So there you have it – the super-quick cook’s tour through the pungent part of the writers kitchen. Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to unpun.

Musing — by Sarah

Yesterday I answered a series of interview questions for Literary Lunes Magazine. This happened with a lot of other “business catching up” which had to be done before I go to Portugal, since there I’ll only have intermittent internet access, when I visit my brother’s house. My mom appears to think the internet is the work of the devil or something.

Anyway, among those interviews there was one I’ve never been asked, and which UTTERLY baffled me. “What is you muse?”

I had no idea how to answer that, so I went flip – which, you know, is what I do when I have no clue what people are talking about. I said if I had a muse, she’d wear a toga and lift aloft a clothes iron, because I do most of my ideation while ironing or doing other boring, routine tasks.

I’m still bothered by what they mean. Perhaps they asked “who” (I don’t remember) but that only makes it more baffling. When I wrote poetry, this was easy, since I usually wrote series of poems to someone, normally my crush of the time. (Sigh. Time is the enemy of us all. The young man I wrote 200 sonnets for between the ages of 14 and 18 is now completely bald and looks… well, nothing like he used to. This hurts more than aging personally. Who was it who said something about time making a mockery of our loves?)

But I don’t write poetry and I don’t write straight romance (I don’t write gay romance, either – I mean, as you know very well that I don’t write romance on its own, not as part of a bigger plot.) So the question of a muse doesn’t arise. Or does it?

Of course I fall a little in love with my characters, but not that sort of love. It’s more the love of parent for child, or the love of creator for creation.

Sometimes a book does center around one character, though. It’s not – I think – so much a matter of “love” or even “muse” but more a matter of following the pain. I write to the pain. I go where the pain is.

I think this is because I write to resolve pain – to resolve conflicts within myself that can’t be resolved any other way, starting, inevitably, with the fight between mind and body, but twisting to a lot of other things. And if you’re scratching your head and wondering what I mean by pain – to take an example, I know that I’m not the only one who left her native land behind. Half the members of the Mad Genius Club have. And I’ll admit I wanted to be here, and I’m happy where I live and with my family and friends here. But at the same time, every time I go back, I remember I severed a piece of myself and left it behind – a whole parallel history that was more likely to happen, the person I’d be if I’d married someone there and lived there. It hurts a little not to be able to be in two places at once, no matter how much you love where you are.

But I’m not alone. Even if you never left your birth place and your birth family, I bet the world has changed so much around you that your childhood is as irretrievably lost as my own. It’s part of being a physical, mortal creature caught in the coils of advancing time. No human being deserves that, and all of us live through it. And there’s no way to resolve it, to come to terms with it. Except through art. At least for me. And my art is mostly my writing (the rest being on the lines of a hobby.)

So I go where the pain is. I find the pain in the character, the situation, the world, and the tension that comes from that pain, and I go in and wind the plot around the pain till catharsis happens.

This is the closest thing to a “muse” I can admit to, and it makes me sound like I keep a closet full of whips and chains. (I don’t, though the cats sometimes make me wish for a whip and a chair. Yeah, I know they’d just play with the leather strips.)

So what do you think they meant by “muse”? It made me feel completely out of step, like there was an entire world of writing out there that I not only didn’t know, but couldn’t fathom. After twenty six years of writing, that is a pretty scary idea.

Does everyone but me have a muse? What is a muse in this context? Do you have one?

*Crossposted at According To Hoyt *

The Five Stages of Writing a Book

The Five Stage of Writing a Book

(Disclaimer:  in no way does this post seek to minimise the reality of grief and the Five Stages of Grieving).

1. The Brilliant Idea.

When the idea for the book first comes to the writer, they can’t stop thinking about it. They see all sorts of wonderful characters, plots and subplots, meaningful themes and relevance. They can’t wait to get started.  Going to work, cooking dinner … everyday occupations feel like interruptions.

2.  The Brilliant Book takes Shape.

This is the honeymoon period for the writer. They are still in love with the idea for the book. They occupy every spare moment researching, writing, discovering new characters and plot threads. At this point they might even consider turning the book into a series.

2.5 The Belief that what they are writing is Brilliant.

Now the books is progressing. As the writer lays down the plot, chapter by chapter it unfolds before them, sweeping them along. They can still see wonderful opportunities to explore things that fascinate them by holding the mirror of fiction up to the real world.

3 The Moment of Total Despair

This happens about two thirds of the way through the book. Everything has been going along swimmingly and suddenly they see a plot flaw. It has a domino effect.  One or more characters refuse to do what the author planned. The end, which seemed so tantalizingly close, has now fallen into a black hole. This is where the dedicated author will push on, by going back to the place where the book was working really well and writing through the bad patch.

3.5 Completion of the First Draft

This is the moment when the writer feels they have nailed it.  The characters, who were misbehaving, have worked with the writer to reach an ending that satisfies them both. There are probably a list of things that need tweaking and the writer is quite looking forward to starting the rewrites.

4. The Realisation that what they have Written is Utter Rubbish.

This comes for the writer somewhere between the third and thirty-third rewrite. They are so close to the story now that they can’t tell whether it is any good or utter rubbish. They can’t understand why they ever thought they could write, or that writing this book was a good idea. At this point cleaning the oven looks like a viable option. (It is a good idea to have a supply of chocolate ready).

5. The Acceptance

This is the acceptance that what they have written will never be never be perfect, but they have written it to the best of their ability with their current writing craft skills. If the writer is very lucky, this stage will be followed by the actual acceptance of the book for publication.

At which point the writer will go through another five stages during the editing process. (This post was written because my husband found me tearing my hair out in stage 4).

Sound familiar?

Copyright

I’m going to Contuum 7  in Melbourne a few weeks time, where I’m supposed to be the local GoH (a gesture I appreciate, I like being thought of as ‘local’… but I have no Australian publications (or even nominations in the local awards), yet.  So that seems a little unfair to well, people who have). Anyway, the die is cast and I’m going.  Among the panels I am on is this one ‘Copyright Law:  how is it broken and how can we fix it?’

Now I am not sure we can fix it (for some reason they won’t let me march out the legal departments of Hollyweird, their accountants and all their lobby-pet pollies and hang them all out of hand, which would improve many things, methinks. They won’t even let hang a few as token, to set an example… It would fix  the problems in copyright instantly. )

  But I am damty sure it is badly bent if not utterly broken.

When discussing laws my first step is one much frowned on by courts and legal practicioners and Judges: It is ask what the purpose of the law is intended to be? Now to many of the aforementioned gentlefolk the purpose of the law, any law, is itself.  It exists and that is the basis of the jurisprudence that flows from it.  My starting point is a little different (and bear with me, this does apply to copyright -and therefore to authors, DRM and much else.)  The law is a written codex guiding and enabling the court system to see the purpose of the law is fulfilled. The courts and law merely a tool of that purpose, and if the purpose is not being served, then either court or the law are broken and need fixing or replacing.  This is not an interpretation that finds a lot support with the participants in this field… but it is the one 90% public actually hold to (which if you are one of the 10% might bear thinking about).  

So: What is the purpose of this law called copyright?  If you go back to the original Statute of Anne in 1709 it seems that the lawmakers of the time had very clear ideas about the purpose – the full title of the Statute said very plainly.

An Act for the Encouragement of Learning, by vesting the Copies of Printed Books in the Authors or purchasers of such Copies, during the Times therein mentioned.”

You can read this a number of ways, with several slants… BUT the purpose is clear it is for the encouragement of learning [by the poplace at large plainly]  or to put it in other terms, for the benefit of society.  Ownership – exclusive ownership of the intellectual creation is vested in either the author  or purchaser (from whom? the author)  although sadly there was squirm room there, which did incalculable damage to the fulfilment of the purpose of this law. The purpose of the law was not to allow censorship of what was published, and absolutely nowhere was Walt Disney mentioned. Nor was the term of copyright until the heat death of the sun. It was  a ‘short’ 14 years, which it could be leased out for and then ownership returned to the author  * for a further 14 years after which it was public domain.

One merely has to look at the situation propmped the need for such purpose. While Stationers (printers, in todays terms publishers) made good money out of books and enjoyed some monopolistic rights before this… authors had fairly little ability to make a living from writing – there was little to encourage them to disseminate their work in print (which is why the original draft pre-amble is so relevant*). Plainly the lawmakers of time recognised this.

As I read the purpose: Books are good for society, and we want more of them available. So: Authors should have a financial incentive to produce them.  The law then allowed them a monopoly on copies of their own work for a limited time. They could sell the right to this monopoly. 

Or in short: for the good of society authors must be able to earn a living.

Still a bit short on large corporates need to be able to plagiarise work and then benefit from a monoply on selling work they never created until the heat death of the sun…. because, oddly that’s of somewhat nebulous value to society, and actively discriminatory against the ability of the creators of original material to make a living and create more.

So: while the law allows a monoply to exist that neither benefits the public nor allows the author to make a living and thereby gives incentive to her/him to write more and better, it has failed at its purpose and can be declared broken. While authors need day jobs to survive and get 6-8% of the gross – and the middlemen earn living wages and their companies earn profits (after substantial benefits to their staff – salaries, medical, warm offices, equipment, company cars…) the purpose is not being served.

Now there are a number of takes on the above. It could simply be that traditional publishing is publishing people who shouldn’t be.  You could argue (and it happens) that they’re doing the midlist and newbies a favor. Lucky us.

The counter to that is does this ‘favor’ pay the bills or some of them?  And the answer is yes. Almost always.  Then it’s no favor.

The answer I prefer is that traditional publishing and its staff and overheads have taken the protection intended for the author to make him make economic sense, and used it for their benefit, as another author is born every minute and its an enless resource of no real value, unless a bestseller. There are some books being published that shouldn’t be. That do not make economic sense.  But those are books which cannot go to Kindle and pay their expenses as indies.

And that’s just it. Copyright works reasonably and isn’t broken if the middlemen are not allowed to benefit more – in gross terms – than the creator.

The E-book allows us to do this.

There is no place whatsoever for the protection of derivative works – whether you’re doing your own simplified Alice or Walt Disney is.   

The reaction of traditional establishement in losing their monopoly has been to try dig their heels in. To write contracts which defeat the purpose of  copyright, to introduce means to limit e-books – ergo DRM to retain their monopolistic position.

Piracy laws and DRM is of course the classic example of how the law fails if civil society fails to see a justifyable purpose to it.  Super-injunctions (See the UK papers) are another case – where the law has been shattered by massive civil disobedience, which I think you could rightfully argue is what’s happened with copyright. Because society (who are supposed to benefit from it) see it as exploitative and to the benefit of middlemen (be they publishers or music labels) and not having a direct cause-and-effect reward to creators (who in turn reward society), they’ve basically told the law courts that copyright law is not fit for purpose.

Which brings us to alternatives: what can you think of that would encourage learned men to labour at producing more and better books for the benefit of society (and by this I do not mean PC benefits, please! I mean reading is good for us!)? 

Oh – in other important news WITHOUT A TRACE is now available for a princely $2.99 (I am putting my money where my mouth is, and not gouging). In the interests of cutting out middlemen if you want to buy it, buy straight from NR please. I get more money that way, but it does not cost you more.

*I disagree with the author the wikipedia article on the Statute of Anne on this. It was clearly perverted later to be a law protecting publishers rights. The preamble to the original draft of the bill shows plainly that this was to encourage AUTHORS to produce books  – “in whom the undoubted Property of such Books and Writings, as the Product of their Learning and Labour, remains or of such Persons, to whom such Authors, for good Considerations, have lawfully Transferred their Right and Title therein, is not only a great Discouragement to Learning in general, which in all Civilised Nations ought to receive the greatest Countenance and Encouragement, but is also a Notorious Invasion of the Property of the Rightful Proprietors of such Books and Writings.”

Well, we’re still here, guess that means I have to blog

by Amanda S. Green

A lot has been happening in the publishing world this week and I feel like I’ve missed a lot of it because I’ve been so busy with NRP work.  The latest sales figures for the industry are out.  Borders continues to bleed money and now says it needs more time.  Amazon has a new author promotion community. Facebook limits what we can do regarding contests.  There’s an offer for Barnes & Noble.  Kristine Kathryn Rusch has some great advice for every author.   And that’s just the tip of the iceberg.

Let’s start with Facebook.  We all know how important it is to have a platform and to get our names out there.  Social media has become a major part of any promotion plan and most plans include contests and giveaways.  Facebook has played a big role in all this — until this week.  No longer can we use FB as we have in the past for giveaways.  For a quick rundown of the new regulations — and requirements — check out this post on Galleycat.

Since I’m talking promotions, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the new author promotion community at Amazon.  There has long been a rule against self-promotion on the Amazon boards, but it hasn’t been uniformly enforced.  Basically, as long as an author didn’t get too annoying with a promotion thread (ie, didn’t do one more than once a week or so), the thread wasn’t reported as spam too often or an author didn’t hijack another person’s thread just to do drive-by promotions, there was no real problem.  At least not as far as Amazon was concerned.  However, there are a number of folks on the kindle boards who would b**ch and moan about such threads, often being, as Jim Baen would say, butt-heads.

Well, Amazon finally responded and has created this new community where self-promotion threads are not only allowed but welcomed.  Of course, there are problems.  The first is that it wasn’t adequately announced, only buried in a thread entitled “important annoucement from Amazon”.  The second issue occurred when Amazon started moving the promotion threads.  Apparently, they are using bots to sniff out and find the promotion threads.  As a result, when a long-time forum participant listed new titles offered for free — by various other authors, not herself — and then an author added his own promotion note, the thread was moved to the new forum.  The howls of protest and outrage could be heard around the kindle world.  That thread, and others like it that are not actually promotion threads but merely listing free titles offered by Amazon, are now back where they belong on the kindle board and will be allowed.

But there is another issue that has arisen.  Authors have long added links to their books or their Amazon Author Central pages to their signatures.  That will no longer be allowed, or so I’ve been led to believe.  Hopefully, Amazon will change their view on at least the Author Central links.  But only time will tell.

Now to the nitty-gritty.  The AAP has released the sales figures for March.  E-book sales continue to soar, although at a slight slower pace than in the first two months of the year (for January and February, sales increased at a rate of 169% while for March it was a “relatively modest” increase of 145.7%).  What this means is that e-book sales rose 159.8% (16 publishers reporting) during the first quarter of the year.  Compare this to a 23.4% decline in hard cover sales (8 publishers reporting) during the quarter.  Is it any wonder the industry is reeling right now, especially when faced with major players who either don’t understand or want to deny the changes in demand that are occurring?

On the bookstore front, both Borders and Barnes & Noble were in the news.  We’ll start with Barnes & Noble.  Liberty Media has made an offer for the company.  The offer has strings attached, but most offers do.  This one is interesting in that, among the requirements Liberty Media put on their offer, is that Len Riggio would retain not only his position in the company but also his equity ownership in it.  It will be interesting to see where this offer goes.

And then there’s Borders.  Yes, I’m shaking my head.  It’s all I can do these days whenever I see the once proud bookseller in the news.  This week, Borders made headlines twice.  We’ll start with the bad news.  Despite closing hundreds of stores and firing thousands of employees, despite reassurances that Borders is on the right track and publishers should go back to the way things were with them, Borders announced it lost $132 million in April.  This is more than March’s reported losses.  I don’t know about you, but this doesn’t bode well in my book.

Then came the other bad news.  Borders has been in bankruptcy for months now.  There have been several comments from the executives on high, all telling us how well their reorganization is going.  We’ve heard the blame game — how Ann Arbor isn’t rallying around the troubled company, how the publishers are being unreasonable for wanting money upfront despite a track record of non-payment by Borders, how e-books are the cause of the company’s problems and not poor management and lack of foresight.  Now comes the “Please, sir, may I have some more” phase where the company is asking for more time to submit its reorganization plan to the court.  Under the motion filed this past week, Borders is asking for an additional 120 days to file the plan.  The new deadline would be October 14th instead of the current June 16th deadline.  Gee, am I the only one who remembers their promises to be out of bankruptcy by September?

Finally, if you are a writer and you don’t follow The Business Rusch by Kristine Kathryn Rusch, hie ye there now and read her latest entry, Surviving the Transition – Part I.  Read it, think on it, think on it again and remember what she has to say.

So, was there any publishing news this week I didn’t mention that you want to discuss?  The floor is now yours.