Friday, March 8, 2013

Publishing Industry News

This post covers 2/22-3/8/13. Get comfortable, and prepare yourself: things have been stirring like crazy these past couple of weeks!

Industry News

A law firm begins to investigate vanity publisher Author Solutions Inc., alleging ASI has engaged in deceptive practices. If you think you may have been affected, go to the link to learn more and submit your own story--they're looking at going the class action route, but still gathering evidence.

Although Penguin settled with the DOJ in the antitrust e-book lawsuit last year, they're still headed to court beside Apple, as of June 3. Penguin had asked to be exempted from the trial, but the request was denied.

If you heard that Barnes & Nobles was planning to close 1/3 of its stores within 10 years, Barnes and Nobles marketing department would like to point out that this is not an accelerated schedule as compared to historical rate of store closings. The company closes 12-20 "underperforming" stores annually, and has done so for the past 10 years, leaving the profitable stores open. Meanwhile, the B&N chairman has put in a request to purchase the retail portion of the company himself, including all brick-and-mortar stores.

Twitter discontinues support and development of Tweetdeck AIR, Tweetdeck for iPhones, and Tweetdeck for Androids to focus on newer models. The apps will soon no longer be available for purchase.

There are more male reviewers than female reviewers at major literary publications (uh, surprise?). VIDA: Women in the Literary Arts points this out with a comparison chart.

The Association of American Publishers isn't thrilled about Amazon making a bid for the .book domain ending. Nine different agencies are applying for control over and/or use thereof. The AAP does not believe any one group should be allowed sole control over this particular domain.

Apple opens iBookstore in Japan.

Evernote deflected a hacking attempt, but is now asking all 50 million users to reset their passwords. The hackers did manage to see user names, e-mail addresses, and passwords, but not payment data or stored data. Evernote does not believe that the thieves would be able to decrypt the passwords, but says better safe than sorry. (CNN, Evernote's blog, Wired)

Have an iPhone or iPad? Don't install Kindle update 3.6.1, says Amazon.

Amazon's changing a couple of their download and linking policies. For websites that link to free e-books, if more than 20,000 free e-books are purchased from the link and more at least 80% of the e-books attributed to the linking from your website are free, you won't get paid advertising fees. Amazon's official statement.

When Victoria Strauss speculated about the Random House Hydra, Flirt, and other e-publishing lines, she wondered if the contract was established to lure in self-publishers, and if it's really a good deal. Hint: She says no, she doesn't think so. And so does author and current SFWA president John Scalzi, calling them "appallingly bad contract terms." To add injury to insult, SFWA then delisted the Hydra line--in other words, authors publishing with Hydra cannot not qualify for SFWA membership based solely on the Hydra publication, as the Hydra does not pay authors an advance against royalties ("Hydra fails to pay authors an advance against royalties, as SFWA requires, and has contract terms that are onerous and unconscionable."). Note that all other Random House lines are fine--it's just the relatively new Hydra, Flirt, and Alibi that have been excluded.

Random House, of course, took offense and published a letter in response. They call the terms a "profit-share" and say it's actually an okay deal after all. They also express disappointment at Strauss, Scalzi, and the SFWA for publicly expressing anger at these terms instead of coming to them and giving the company a chance to convince them otherwise, and disappointment at SFWA's move to delist them without giving them a chance to rebut the criticism.

Scalzi was not impressed, restating that the "profit-sharing" is not actually a good for authors, and followed up by saying the Alibi line has just as horrible contract terms. He then goes into detail as to why it is such a bad deal--which is useful, if you're looking at contracts, because it gives an idea of what to avoid at all costs from absolutely anyone. Scalzi is an already successful author published through Tor, a division of Macmillan, and is retiring from SFWA presidency this year.

Strauss, meanwhile, responds in less scathing words, reiterating that she does not like the terms listed. But she does make sure to point out that some authors have successfully negotiated better terms, and that she does not think life-of-copyright terms are necessarily awful, if negotiated to give clear limits. She also mentions being willing to meet with the Random House folks.

(If there are any more updates on the RH Flirt/Hydra/Alibi vs industry watchdogs debacle, I'll be needing popcorn! What do I think of the issue? Well, I'll say this: if that were the contract a publisher tried to make me sign, I'd walk away and self-publish, and never look back. Thank goodness there's other lines and imprints out there, and groups like the SFWA that bring things like this to our attention. Now, if you'll excuse me, I'll be off making popcorn in the kitchen while you move on to the blog section. ;)

Industry Blogs

QueryTracker's Publishing Pulse for 3/1 and 3/8.

Nathan Bransford's The Last Few Weeks in books.

GoodReads looks at how readers read e-books.

PaidContent speculates on Amazon's changes to their promotional program. Doesn't sound like a big deal, but websites that make connecting to free e-books their primary spiel, such as, BookBub, and Free Kindle Books and Tips will be having to rethink their business model. The emphasis on paid Kindle books will probably also change how authors use sites and price reduction to advertise their books.

Rachelle Gardner informs authors of their rights as writers, and their responsibilities. Mostly, you've got the right to be treated fairly and kept informed, but you've got the responsibility to know what "fair" is and to understand that information. She also gives us advice on getting a great headshot. If you want your profile picture to look good, remember, you get what you pay for, and you need to own the images yourself. And here's how to look good on your webcam: make sure you have an area set up ahead of time, and spruce your visible parts up as you usually would for business.

Oh, and are you worried about that typo you found on p.213 of the manuscript you just submitted, and want to send the agent you're querying a new version? Don't sweat the details quite so much. Agents understand. (Also, how did Gardner get a picture of me? I thought I said no one was allowed near me with cameras while I write...)

Kristen Nelson at Pub Rants encourages all self-publishing authors who think they may one day want an agent to keep an Excel spreadsheet to analyze and keep track of their sales numbers.

And keep in mind that agents can't accept cupons for free e-books, or most other kinds of gifts. Just send the query. Anything else makes them worry about business ethics. Also, one of Nelson's clients became a digital best-sellar--six years after publishing. Want to repeat that act? Have you considered forming a village?

Tuesday tea, Saturday brunch, and more at Janet Reid's the Question Emporium. Should you personalize your query to your agent with non-essential details from the book that research indicates the agent might find interesting? Reid prefers not, because it's too easy to come off sounding stalkerish or get the interest incorrect. And if you write two different genres, should you seek an agent who represents both of them? Don't worry about the second book until the first is sold. If the agent doesn't rep your second genre, they might have a fellow agent at the agency who does. Also, make sure your contract has an audit clause. That way, you have a vehicle for checking in to make sure your publisher is sending you the correct numbers. Checking up doesn't mean you suspect them of deliberate wrong-doing, either: with all the hundreds of books publishers put out, it's easy to make clerical errors. So there's nothing wrong with taking a look at the numbers every so often to verify everything's correct.

Publisher's Weekly looks at what works in book promotion and what doesn't, as discussed and analyzed by the American Book Producers Association's monthly meeting. Gradual reveals and GoodReads? Yes. Video responses or promoted Tweets? Not so much.

Victoria Strauss at Writer Beware talks about why it's not necessary to register a copyright for an unpublished work.

Ash Krafton on QueryTracker talks about choosing a stand-out title in your genre.

What publishing industry news have you encountered in the past two weeks?


  1. Some great info there and I'm going to have to check some of these out. Thanks for compiling it all.