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Monday Midday Links: Mockingjay Embargo Broken

There is something about Amazon that brings out the crazy in everyone.   First up is some Western author who won some award for the only book he has for sale at Amazon criticizing Susanna Fraser for daring to have a book with the SAME TITLE! I know, egregious isn’t it?

I’m very aware that book titles are not copywriteable, but it’s a pretty dumb idea to use the exact same book title that a better known author has used recently. Do some homework next time, please, for your copycatting here is just going to cause confusion for both of our reader groups. Miles Swarthout

As someone in the comment thread pointed out, it is unlikely historical romance readers are going to look at a Western book with the same name and go, “gosh, is this book about Regency England” and be confused.

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The other Amazon dustup is more epic and needs a bit more set up.   First, Laurell K Hamilton (I know! we already know it is epic because it involves LKH), writes a blog post wherein she is awesome and everyone else is a faker.   The gist of LKH’s post is this.   She is a method writer. Her characters are her imaginary friends (and sometimes real people in her life aka her ex husband as Richard).   Her characters speak to her.   She feels for them.   She is empathetic with them (not just sympathetic). When they bleed, she bleeds.   Other writers who don’t feel this connection?   Just aren’t good enough

Some very successful writers don't seem to feel that emotional connection to their work, or at least not to the degree I do. I used to envy them until I realized the price of that cool distance. They write like they feel with less depth, less of themselves on the page. It is a safer way to write, less frightening, less hurtful, less pain for the writer, but the writing shows that. I can read most other writers and tell you within a few pages which of them "feels" strongly when they write and which do not. Now, some can fake it better than others, but in the end it is a fake. They don't believe in their own work, their own world, their own characters. They know that the skin of let's pretend is there, always, they never let themselves sink past a certain point, or perhaps their world, their muse, their imagination is more shallow than mine. Maybe there are no painful depths to explore and they just spend their careers wading through the shallows because no matter how wide the water looks, it's just a wading pool with no unexpected holes to swallow the writer up, and drown them in the dark water of their own minds.

I'm one of the few writers that routinely calls my characters, imaginary friends

Jennifer Armintrout calls BS.

For an author who strenuously objects (or at least makes a big show of objecting) to being asked if aspects of her writing are influenced by her real life, it takes some major balls to assume that she can know anything about another author’s life from “a few pages”. How arrogant does someone have to be to claim that they can tell whether or not an author has “painful depths” from a few pages of fiction? It’s insulting to authors who do have “painful depths” but keep them private or don’t wish to express them in their work.

Someone brings it over to the Bullet forum on Amazon and thus begins 7 comment pages of wankery.   Needless to say that there are a lot of fans who aren’t thrilled with LKH’s work.

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LA Times breaks the Mockingjay embargo and  posts an early review.   The review did its job, though, because now I am interested in buying the book.   The review says that

[spoiler]Katniss does make a choice, we move out of the arena (thank god), and the ending is wildly unpredictable.[/spoiler]
*****

NPR talks about diversity (and lack thereof) in publishing. In tabulating the reviews of the NYTimes, it was noted that of the politically themed books reviewed, 95 percent of US authors reviewed in the publication were white, and 87 percent were male.   NPR host, Michel Martin,  asked guest Mr. Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, former reviewer and editor of the Times book section and current Editorial Director of Delphinium Books, why this might be:

MARTIN: What do you think about this whole question of the chicken and the egg here? Is it that people of color and women are not writing as many political books? That they have a harder time getting those books published? Or that the review is, the book review is simply isn't choosing those books? What do you think?

Mr. LEHMANN-HAUPT: Well, I think that, again, you have to go a little bit deeper. Publishing has become is going through a real crisis now. The most obvious thing is that the so-called midlist book, the book that isn't going to be a bestseller, isn't being published to the degree that it was, say, in the 1960s, where there was a conscious effort to represent diverse views, races and so forth.

I think it reflects what's being published. Does the book review – I don't know what's being published by smaller presses that might be publishing Latino writers, for example, African-American writers. But the major houses are simply doing less diverse books in every respect because they are aiming for the bestseller list.

*****

The city of Philadelphia is sending it’s residents demands for $300 if they a) have a blog that b) runs ads or is trying to generate any profit.   Thanks for the link, Super Librarian, Wendy.

Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com

39 Comments

  1. katiebabs
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 10:42:32

    LKH would be the author who thinks her books are her babies and burps them and hugs them and calls them George.

  2. TKF
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 10:49:26

    LKH just can’t hide the crazy. *shakes head* I gave up on her books YEARS ago. I guess I’m too shallow to appreciate the depth of her prose. It is clear that the heroines of both her current series are Mary Sues of the First Order and I don't doubt for a second that LKH feels very deeply and intimately connected to them. And this is, IMO, not a good thing.

  3. Robin Bayne
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 10:52:42

    On the title issue, does the guy not realize that often an editor will decide the final title on a book? How does he know she saw and copied his title anyway? And some books are contracted more than a year before release–maybe HE was the copycat.

  4. JessicaP
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 10:58:51

    @katiebabs: Would those be the badly behaved children screaming on airliners and kicking the back of one’s seat? Or the badly behaved children screaming and running around in WalMart unsupervised, doing whatever they please with no adult supervision? Whatever they are, they’re tiresome in the extreme these days.

  5. Isabel C.
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 11:05:00

    Ugh, LKH, seriously?

    I admit to quite enjoying the Merry Gentry books–couldn’t get past the third Anita Blake–but man, talk about pretentious. Not every method of writing works for everyone, and also…”dark water of their own minds”? Please.

  6. katiebabs
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 11:07:08

    @Jessica: The ones where the parents think their children can do no wrong and are spoiled brats.

    But then again why should LKH care what anyone thinks? She still sells books like crazy. Key word being crazy.

  7. Mireya
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 11:13:03

    That guy googled his book’s title, try it, and you’ll see what I mean. He’s just pissed off that his own book has been swallowed. The vast majority of what comes out are reviews and posts about Susanna Fraser’s title. He just didn’t stop to sit on his very ignorant fingers before posting what he posted.

  8. Elyssa Papa
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 12:00:19

    I really cannot wait for MOCKINGJAY. The LA Times review whetted my appetitie—and I know I’ll be glued to that book until its very end.

  9. Evangeline
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 12:14:00

    I can’t believe Lehmann-Haupt’s response! He is basically excusing the publishing industry and book reviewers from accountability. I find it difficult to believe that these reviewers cannot find political books written by authors of color or by women when I can walk into a bookstore and see a hefty selection of titles–and they are not published by small presses, but by major NY imprints.

  10. John Green
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 12:25:14

    You seem to have missed the point a little. Our Amazon thread was pretty tame, agreeing with the point about LKH’s egotism. The ‘wankery’ began when someone posted that Armintrout shouldn’t have blogged that because of some unwritten code of ethics about authors not calling each other out, despite the history of it happening. Some of the other points raised were not well received and it all went from there.

  11. jmc
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 12:43:46

    Irrelevant detail but I must ask: should the disgruntled author be asking whether the books is “copyrightable” or “copywriteable”?

    Yes, I get hung up on little details like that.

  12. jenny armintrout
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 12:55:59

    I need to stop getting involved in controversies. That, or I need to time them with my release dates.

  13. Wendy
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 12:58:49

    One of my regular blog readers sent me that link re: Philadelphia wanting bloggers to pay up. Looks like a lot of it boils down to local city tax codes? The whole thing is just mind-numbing, but numbers do that to me :P

  14. LG
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 13:02:55

    Richard = LKH’s ex-husband? I’d kinda suspected something like that, because that’s the only explanation I could come up with for why Richard suddenly became a complete jerk who was always in the wrong.

  15. Kristi
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 13:07:50

    That Philadelphia business license tax thing is kind of mind blowing. According to that article, the city expects freelance writers of any sort to pay the $300. That’s like some kind of extra special penalty for not being employed by a third party. Do they nail every web designer and consultant too (maybe I shouldn’t give them ideas) If you work for yourself, your “business” of one employee owes $300 per employee. If you work for a company of 10,000 people, the business owes $300 (or 3 cents per employee). No, that’s not small-business friendly in the least.

    I’ve lived in a city with an extra city-specific earnings tax , but that was based on your income, not some arbitrary amount. So a blogger making $20 a year in ad credit would owe like 20 cents (1% tax).

    Glad I don’t live in Philly.

  16. Jia
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 13:10:06

    @LG: Richard = LKH’s ex-husband.
    Micah (I think that’s his name?) = LKH’s new husband.

    This is one of the reasons why I stopped reading the Anita Blake books. Too much feeling like I was reading someone’s dirty laundry, which is something I’m not particularly into.

  17. MaryK
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 13:10:49

    “the skin of let's pretend is there, always

    “The skin of let’s pretend” is also known as sanity.

  18. TKF
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 13:22:05

    @MaryK: I love you.

  19. Sandra
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 13:57:52

    I read the original LKH blog and at the time thought of the, probably, apocryphal story about Laurence Olivier and Dustin Hoffman where Hoffman has stayed up all night to prepare for a scene with Olivier in Marathon Man. Olivier said ‘Why don’t you try acting my boy’ Which was a dig at Hoffman’s practice of Method acting where one has to get inside a character’s head and “feel” the character’s emotions and experiences. Olivier’s style of acting relied on technique.

    LKH’s description of her writing is very similar to the Method style of acting that Hoffman uses.

  20. Amy
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 14:22:12

    Argh, the Mockingjay spoiler appears in the short snippet on the main page…*weeps gently, hates spoilers*

  21. Jane
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 14:28:30

    @Amy Sorry! Moved it out of the first page.

  22. Nifty
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 14:50:21

    When I have a taste for some fruitcake with extra nuts, I know just where to go. That LKH…she keeps me supplied!!

  23. Courtney Milan
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 14:54:14

    The city of Philadelphia thing is crazy. They are trying to get someone who made $11. Would someone have to register as a business there if she had a savings account where she made $11 in interest?

    That’s crazy talk. There has to be a point where an activity that generates money is just simply not a business.

  24. Patrice
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 16:53:03

    Well, unlike most of the amazon reviewers and seemingly the world at large, I do still enjoy LKH’s books for a fast read that is pure escapism. I’ve read all of both series so I enjoy following the characters and whatever plot there may be. I borrow the books from our excellent local library and she always has a waiting list. But I had to stop reading her blog, she manages to alienate just about everyone IMHO with posts like that. I met her and her husband once. She seemed down to earth and very nice to all the fans there. Maybe she just can’t write a journal. Funny that. Needs an editor. But of course the lack of editing is why journals are so juicy. LOL

  25. Ridley
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 17:38:50

    That Philadelphia story is pretty out there. It reminds me of how Quincy, a city on Boston’s southern border, is now billing people for responding to car accidents.

    These are crazy times indeed.

  26. Michelle
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 18:35:00

    I often think authors are sometimes their own worst enemy. Recently I got sucked into reading a trainwreck of a blog by a 19 yo YA author who laments that there are not enough good male characters in YA. That all the stinky female heroines are emasculating boys. But her books are special because she has a male hero. When people posted the names of several male heros she just would say not enough, or that she doesn’t read YA fantasy/scifi. Grr, it really irritated me.

  27. Kim in Hawaii
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 19:41:49

    The Philadelphia story is ridiculous. But as we all know only two things are certain in life – taxes and death.

    Despite what seems to be overtaxing, the US still enjoys low cost “Western” living. Even our expensive US cities (NY, DC, SF, and Honolulu) are cheap compared to London, Paris, Rome, Oslo, Tokyo, etc.

    Mills and Boon may offer non agency pricing (previous DA blog) but the Brits still fly to Orlando on chartered flights for cheap Disney, cheap shopping, and cheap dining. The flip side, of course, is the US doesn’t have the extensive social welfare system that is bankrupting the European nations.

    Taking a cue from the antacid commercials, do you want to pay now or later for heartburn … er … taxes?

  28. Suze
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 20:34:18

    Quincy, a city on Boston's southern border, is now billing people for responding to car accidents.

    WTF?! People really need to sit down and think about what the flock government and taxes are for. Infrastructure, public services, response to accidents. Libertarians trying to do away with government because they think they can do it all on their own PISS ME OFF. Nobody can do it all on their own, not even zillionaires.

    the extensive social welfare system that is bankrupting the European nations

    It’s not the social support systems that are causing the bankruptcies, it deregulation and, in Greece’s case, deliberate fraud from the same banksters that have done their best to break everybody’s economy. The most financially stable European countries are the ones with the most social support. Not welfare. Support.

    /end rant

  29. Tae
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 20:50:47

    oh my god Mockingjay! Now I’m even more excited about it coming out. I wonder whens the soonest I can download a copy.

  30. Tae
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 20:51:24

    “download” as in buy off of Amazon, not pirate

  31. Estara
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 21:07:27

    @jenny armintrout: Well, this comment certainly put you on my radar and one of your books into my Wishlist, so all is not lost.

  32. CupK8
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 21:17:09

    Okay, so I know LKH is crazy, and nothing I say is going to change that, but I felt the need to comment anyway. . .

    Something one of my professors just told me last year, during my first year of professional actor training:

    “The skill is not in how emotional you can get on stage. The skill is being able to let it go when the curtain falls.”

    LKH needs to learn to let it go. Srsly. I resent her insinuation that I am somehow a lesser artist (in a field in which I don’t think she has much, if any, experience) just because I can go off-stage, take a deep breath, and shake off the moment.

    I admire authors who manage to write thought-provoking, emotional, truthful work and can shake off whatever they may have conjured on the page as they go about their lives outside of their fiction.

    @Sandra:

    My mom told me that story in my very first acting class. It still makes me giggle every time.

  33. K. Z. Snow
    Aug 23, 2010 @ 23:19:13

    @jenny armintrout:

    Don’t silence yourself. Opt for the latter. :-D

  34. Sao
    Aug 24, 2010 @ 01:21:09

    It would be interesting to know what percentage of the political class is white and male. You get published if you have the right credentials and a decent book (or a bestselling name).

    Is the problem who gets published or who is in the political class?

  35. cead
    Aug 24, 2010 @ 06:50:09

    Thanks for the alert about bloggers in Philadelphia – I do live in Philly, and I hadn’t heard. The city is so broke these days that they’re trying all sorts of things; for a while they were threatening to close all of the public libraries, permanently, and I’m not sure whether the proposal that residents be charged for garbage and recycling collection is still on the table or not.

    That’s life in a Philadelphia?

  36. Randi
    Aug 24, 2010 @ 13:35:16

    Caed: I’m in Philly too and am really really getting aggravated with all these nickel and dime taxes coming out.

    Why don’t we just legalize marijuana and prostitution? The shit load of money in those two arenas would likely cover Philly’s shortfall. (I have other reason for wanting to legalize prostitution but this isn’t a soapbox forum so I won’t get into that).

  37. Rissa
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 04:56:13

    @Suze:

    U.S. arms sales to Greece in FY2008: $196 million; in FY2009: $1.290 billion (+$1.1 billion).

    Reminds me of this quote in Gaghan’s Syriana: PRINCE NASIR: “Except [the US] President calls my father, says, ‘I’ve got unemployment in Texas, Kansas, Washington state.’ One phone call later we’re stealing out of our social programs to buy overpriced airplanes.”

    – As in how the US is able to enjoy that “low cost ‘Western’ living”.

  38. J.C. Wilder
    Aug 25, 2010 @ 16:50:31

    Hmm…I’m thinking I need to write a book called The Sargeant’s Lady and it will be about cowboys and dogs… :)

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