Friday, January 27, 2012

Publishing News

Publishing news for the past couple of weeks. It's been busy!

Major News:

Apple reveals a new app for authors, available for free download. iBooks Author allows writers to easily import word files and assemble them into an e-book, presumably to publish them in Apple's iBookstore. But there are a few legal issues to be aware of before using: for the most part, if you sell the work (as opposed to giving it away for free), you can only sell it through Apple's iBookstore. Selling it through any other means (such as PubIt!, Smashwords, or even traditional publishing) becomes illegal. But if you want to give it away for free, you can give it away anywhere, as long as nobody makes any money. Isn't that nice of them?

However, they also are alleviating the mandatory $500 per semester students have to pay for textbooks by offering textbooks at a must less expensive electronic rate with their iBooks 2. Anyone who has thought they'd paid tuition and then paid it again in books will rejoice over that.

Romance writers: The registration for the 2012 national conference in Anaheim, CA is now open. It runs July 25-28. If you can afford it and you're serious about publishing, go. Agents are much more likely to look at your work if you pitch in person, you'll learn a lot, and you'll meet other writers who can give you invaluable advice.
Nonmember of RWA registration price: $570
Member of RWA registration price: $495
Hotel costs:
Single/Double Occupancy: $199 per night through April 9; $219 per night after April 9
Triple Occupancy: $219 per night through April 9; $239 per night after April 9
Quad Occupancy: $239 per night through April 9; $259 per night after April 9
Don't forget travel costs when determining whether or not this conference is within your budget. Can you drive there? Will you fly? Plus give yourself a food and purchase allowance (Personally, I'm penciling myself for $200 at minimum). On the plus side, the trip would be a business expense for writers.

MegaUpload, a site that hosted pirated works including books, comics, and digital content, has been shut down and the founder and employees indicted.

The saga of the lawsuit against publishers for price-fixing continues. The newest consolidation of claims does not target either RandomHouse or Amazon; those accused are Apple, HarperCollins, Penguin, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan. The suit asserts that the price-fixing between the major publishers targeted has "driven up the cost of e-books by as much as 50%." Amazon cites evidence of being approached by the 5 companies individually with threats to unlist e-book titles if they didn't capitulate to raising their e-book prices.

NBC news announces the formation of NBC Publishing, which will specialize in digital publishing. The focus seems to be on creating 'enhanced' e-books that incorporate multi-media, such as sports clips.

Amazon's trying hard to clean plagiarized works from their e-shelves. There's a huge selection of 'self-published' writers who are publishing plagiarized works in disguise, and for every one they shut down, another pops up. It's bad PR for both Amazon and all the legitimate self-published authors out there.

Amazon releases KDP Select's 'stats.' But what do these stats mean? There are things we don't see, and probably should. Their press release only mentions, for example, the top earners. We don't hear about the average income, or what the lowest-earners get. We also don't hear about the estimated losses writers suffered from removing works from all other sites. I'd like to see a rounded report, please.

Publishers are less enthusiastic about ebooks this year. Mostly, the novelty is wearing off, and they no longer expect eReaders to save the world. Um, I mean, get non-readers reading.

In Canada, Random House acquires the major publisher McClellan & Stewart.

Industry Blogs

Rachelle Gardner answers the question, "Would an agent ever recommend self-publishing? If so, when?" There are some factors, she says, that affect the answer. Is the material time-sensitive? If there's not enough time for it to be traditionally published, then yes. There's also the cases of authors who aren't looking for a traditional publishing path, and some authors who are in a position to make more by themselves than with a traditional publisher. In the latter case, the author needs to have an established market, the time to invest in marketing, and the ability to reach his or her audience effectively. In most cases, however, she would personally not recommend it.

She also addresses the issue of agents taking a longer time to respond some queries than others in a two-part post. This has to do marketability and competition as much as quality. Stories with great writing, brilliant storyline, and a popular genre might get an instant reply; stories with great writing, brilliant storyline, and a smaller market may be deliberated upon. That isn't a guarantee it will sell, but it's also not a guarantee it won't. An editor or an agent might hang onto a submission they particularly like but aren't sure they can sell, just in case an opportunity comes up: for example, a publisher might be looking to fill a specific slot in a target genre, and your manuscript just happens to fit.

And should you go with an indie publisher? A reader asks Rachelle, "I was offered a contract for e-book only, but I want a physical copy of my book. Should I take the deal anyway?" It depends on what you're looking for. If you want a physical copy, then no. If you want the validation of traditional publishing, then no. But if you want to be published more than you want a physical copy, and you've verified that the indie company is valid and doesn't scam its clients, you might consider it.

Jessica Faust reminds readers to never bring a manuscript to a pitch. Editors and agents don't want to haul the paper around. You can bring a few samples to the conference just in case they ask for it, but don't plan on handing it to them. And it's typically better not to bind or staple the sample.

For writers with offers from publishers but who want agent representation first, she suggests the subject line "publishing contract offered, need representation" and a short introduction paragraph explaining, followed by the rest of the query. This will catch an agent's eye and let them know what's up.

Romance writer Roni Loren posts about what makes agents stop reading queries.

QueryTracker posts the weekly Publishing Pulse for 1/20 and 1/27. They're also holding a contest for the first 100 words and the logline. Genres to apply? Commercial fiction, especially romance, upmarket women's fiction, and children's literature. Subgenres listed, but pretty inclusive, so that science-fiction romance is eligible.

Writing a crime or law novel wherein the defendant tries to use the insanity defense? QueryTracker explains just what the insanity defense is, how it's used, and when it first started being used. The site also offers an article on world-building. How do language, culture, and geography affect the development of your world, your characters, and the story's conflicts? Details unique to your world will enrich the story.

Query Shark gets asked a question, too: Does she expect authors to fix and find their own grammar errors? For real queries, yes. It's disrespectful to the agent's time not to proofread, so errors in a query will get a toss. Has the writer bothered to have someone proof for them? Do they understand the general mechanics of writing? If the answer to the latter question is 'no,' then the agent will probably pass on them until they've gotten it more or less down. On her site, she's a little more lenient, but she isn't going to mark all the spelling and grammar things out for the writer. The writer should be able to catch those on his or her own.

Edit: Added Friday afternoon:
Houghton Mifflin Harcourt will be distributing Amazon Publishing's books.

Agent Kristen talks about the AAR's (Association of Author Representatives) discussions on the ethics of agents publishing or helping their clients publish via ePublishers. Nothing new has been passed yet, but they reiterated a couple of things: Members of AAR may only receive money from the client for these transactions. In other words, "Agents can't be publishers and still be AAR members." Also, the agent must put the client's welfare first and must inform the client of all costs associated with the ePublisher.

Agent Vickie Motter discusses how to format your manuscript so that agents can easily read it on an eReader. These guidelines are a good idea to apply to any manuscript, by the way, so don't be afraid to use them on a manuscript that will be read in another method.

What other publishing news have you seen these past couple of weeks?

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