Romance, Historical, Contemporary, Paranormal, Young Adult, Book reviews, industry news, and commentary from a reader's point of view

Thursday News: A Bit About DA, Agency Pricing Appears Doomed, Tamara...

The last few days have been frustrating for dear author readers and the crew here at Dear Author and it is mostly my fault. For the past year, I have tried to manage a self hosting option but I don’t know a thing about Apache and shell access and what not. Every time we had a problem, I could barely understand one of ten words in the error report and while the folks at the hosting service had amazingly prompt customer support, they didn’t support wordpress and thus I knew I needed to change. I found a wpengine.com recommendation at the WooThemes forum. I checked them out and they seemed like a good outfit. I emailed with them and they asked me about my traffic. I shared with them what I thought it was and they placed us in personal blog sector. My problem was that I didn’t understand my stats and I grossly underestimated the traffic here at Dear Author causing all kinds of problems with wpengine. They finally fixed it yesterday and the site seems to be loading great. (right?). Nonetheless this great speed and service comes at a steeper price so in order to maintain that I am going to put in another small ad to the left to cover the increased maintenance costs.

So what does this traffic look like? According to Google Analytics, we are closing in on 100,000 unique visitors a month. Wow.

Google Analytics

Let us recap some of the great content this week. I hope you will take some time and visit our past posts that you might have missed given our downtime.


Late last night David Wilk pointed to a Wall Street Journal article that reports the Justice Department is readying a petition against five major publishers and Apple for price collusion.  I’ve been a long time opponent of Agency pricing but acknowledge that without it, Barnes & Noble would likely not be in the game with its 26-27% of the digital book market share.  I don’t see how agency pricing survives  as the litigation costs keep mounting; yet a settlement with the Justice Department may mean that the publishers don’t have the stomach for the class action lawsuit.

The move toward Agency pricing will ultimately prove to be costly for publishers and the question is whether the two to three year reprieve from retailer directed pricing will be worth it.  One individual pointed out that Evan Schnittman suggested net pricing back in 2009.  Net pricing is when the publisher demands a certain set price regardless of the retailer pricing.

With net pricing, a producer offers a product to a reseller and asks for a set amount from each sale – or a net price. Rather than setting a suggested retail price or a list price coupled with a discount to resellers, Net Pricing establishes no list price but lets the reseller figure that out. For example, if a publisher decided it wanted to sell all ebooks at the same net price, say $10, that is what it would receive from each sale, regardless the reseller’s price.

This actually sounds like a great idea but the question is whether publishers have any leverage to move to that type of pricing instead of regular wholesale pricing.  My guess is that their leverage is fairly low coming out of a settlement with the Justice Department (if that is the outcome).  It makes sense for publishers to start negotiating for a pricing change now before any public settlement is achieved.

Perhaps Google’s newly announced Google Play means that Google is ready to engage in some serious competition with Amazon over the digital book market.  B&N’s survival post the fall of agency pricing seems iffy.


Tamara Allen, who published two novels at DSP last year,  has petitioned for removal of her books and DSP has agreed. Since ebook versions are no longer available at the DSP website or other retailers, she  is holding a giveaway for print copies of The Only Gold and Dreamtime at her website. The Only Gold made Sunita’s Best of 2011 list.


Fiction authors have long been warned about publishing scams, but its leeching into the academic market as well.

Although the author-pays model is not a new phenomenon in the realm of open access, its recent popularity has attracted some companies that try to exploit it. Some legitimate, peer-reviewed journals support themselves on the author-pays model, but other journals using the model are essentially vanity publishers that accept virtually any article to collect fees from the authors. The distinction between those two extremes, though, is not always clear-cut.

Thanks for the link, Askine.


Darlynne sent over this article from Smart Money on the 10 things ebooks won’t tell you.  There are some hidden costs to ebooks including that the larger ebooks can be 1 MB and if you are a heavy reader, you may want to watch your data consumption.  Frankly, I think you would have to be downloading a lot of 1 MB books to exceed your data limit, but it’s something to watch for.


And finally, Jennifer Weiner got into hot water tweeting negative things about 50 Shades.  This led her to fear backlash and so she has come out with a new policy that she’ll never say anything bad about another female novelist except Jennifer Egan.  Seriously, it’s a highly amusing post as Weiner starts with her intent not to criticize any female novelists ever again and ends with smacking around Pulitzer Prize winning novelist Egan.  Weiner conveniently leaves out Egan’s genuine and fulsome apology for her remarks.   Of course, Weiner’s unintentional message (besides the hypocrisy) is that women novelists need to be treated more tenderly than male novelist. Oh, you weak female novelists.

Not criticizing an entire swath of books because they were written by a certain gender smacks of disrespect, as if these female authors’ sensibilities are so weak as to be unable to face criticism.


Flavorwire has a post up about the 30 harshest author on author insults in history. It was originally published in 2011 and in January Flavorwire republished it.

Sigh. Authors just don’t insult each other like they used to. Sure, Martin Amis raised some eyebrows when he claimed he would need brain damage to write children’s books, and recent Pulitzer Prize winner Jennifer Egan made waves when she disparaged the work that someone had plagiarized, but those kinds of accidental, lukewarm zingers are nothing when compared to the sick burns of yore.

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

48 Comments

  1. Sirius
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 12:05:26

    I am very very biased, where Tamara Allen’s writing is concerned – love her writing very much, so I hope she will find whatever publishing option suits her books best and soon.

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  2. Josephine
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 12:19:18

    Wow. That smart money article was really informative. Especially this part:

    Amazon customers who don’t own a Kindle spent an average of $87 on the site in January, according to Codex-Group LLC. Those with a Kindle spent $136, while Kindle Fire owners shelled out $151.

    I am going to disable one-click purchasing on my reader.

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  3. Brie
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 12:31:11

    Speaking of authors insulting authors, I don’t know if you’re familiar with a website called Letters of Note, it’s a site dedicated to compile letters that have some significance -either historical or just because they were written by someone famous- but that aren’t that well-known. There are some amazing letters there and I was just reading this one that George Orwell sent to his publicist, there’s an interesting comment at the end about Sartre http://www.lettersofnote.com/2011/12/bag-of-wind.html. And my personal favorite is this one written by E. B. White: http://www.lettersofnote.com/2012/02/she-doesnt-answer-phone.html just read it, it’s awesome!

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  4. Darlynne
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 12:44:19

    Things seem to be running great here, Jane. I hope the days of frustration are behind you. And congratulations on those traffic numbers. The world is knocking on your door.

    So if I understand this (not always a sure thing), B&N has stayed afloat because of agency pricing (wherein I purchase many fewer books) and may not survive a return to competitive retail pricing (wherein I would purchase more books). Higher prices trump volume, is that it? Why do I feel as though there’s no win in this situation?

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  5. Rebecca (Another One)
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 12:51:47

    @Darlynne: I think she meant that Amazon couldn’t underprice B&N in the hope for more volume. I remember this from an earlier (last year) column.

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  6. Jane
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 12:53:29

    @Darlynne: Yes, as Rebecca said. Basically that BN was able to gain market share because it didn’t have to compete on price.

    ReplyReply

  7. MaryK
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 12:53:52

    “personal blog sector” LOL

    What if you were reading a 1MB book from the cloud? or do the books get downloaded first in that situation?

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  8. Jane
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 12:58:57

    @Darlynne: I think the biggest concern for B&N is that they have such a small market cap as opposed to their competitors (particularly now that Kobo was sold to Ratugen) and that the best part of their business (Nook) comes with heavy R&D costs.

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  9. Shannon Stacey
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 13:32:39

    Those with a Kindle spent $136, while Kindle Fire owners shelled out $151.

    I have three Kindles and a Fire on my account. I’m not doing the math. (My husband might see the scratch paper.)

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  10. Tasha
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 13:42:13

    More news for Thursday: According to Kristen Nelson’s blog (http://pubrants.blogspot.com/2012/03/sky-tumbling-down.html), Dorchester has defaulted on a loan and their assets are up for auction today (http://www.folioweekly.com/documents/notice%20of%20disposition%202012.02.28.pdf).

    Briane Keene (http://www.briankeene.com/?p=10803#more-10803) also seems to think this is the end.

    And here: http://lunch.publishersmarketplace.com/2012/03/dorchesters-office-closed-assets-auctioned-after-owner-forecloses/

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  11. Sherry Thomas
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 14:20:31

    I can’t believe they left out Byron slagging Shakespeare.

    Shakespeare’s name, you may depend on it, stands absurdly too high and will go down. He had no invention as to stories, none whatever. He took all his plots from old novels, and threw their stories into a dramatic shape, at as little expense of thought as you or I could turn his plays back again into prose tales.

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  12. Mireya
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 14:26:47

    @MaryK: Book is downloaded from the cloud, irrespective of software used for reading the ebook. At least that is how Aldiko, Sony Reader, Kindle, nook and Kobo and Moon Reader work for me when I use my little tablet. I usually use the external SD card though, to avoid issues with the internal SD storage, which is a bit limited in the case of my tablet.

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  13. Angela
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 14:28:28

    Regarding DA – I thought the problems the last few days were just me LOL. I’m on IE7 (still) here at work and almost every website I visit comes badly. At least I can still comment here :)

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  14. Lisa
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 14:35:40

    On the agency pricing. My guess is that the defense will be prevention of a monopoly (Amazon) by allowing other outlets for selling books to compete and even create devices. I doubt it will fly but at some point the monopoly issue would have come into play with Amazon, and if BN is gone, it probably will. I really don’t think it’s best for the book industry for BN to be gone. I hope they survive this.

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  15. sarah mayberry
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 15:04:10

    Thanks for the author-on-author insults. Will come in handy for trash talking for DABWAHA.

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  16. rebecca
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 15:34:38

    I read only print and am at a loss as to where I’d buy books if BN is ever gone. I refuse to give Amazon one penny of my money. I believe they are BAD for survival of print.

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  17. Ducky
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 16:01:41

    I dislike B&N, they treat their employees like crap and pay them a pitiful wage. Plus, usually I can get a new print book quicker and cheaper on either amazon or Target if I don’t get it as an ebook in the first place. So what good are they?

    I won’t be heartbroken if and when B&N goes.

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  18. Lisa J
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 16:11:44

    I won’t be sorry to see agency pricing end. There are so many books I haven’t bought because of agency pricing, maybe I should start saving my money so I can splurge when it finally goes away.

    ReplyReply

  19. LG
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 16:14:14

    @Ducky: The problem is, don’t we already know from the warehouse story that Amazon treats its employees like crap too? Unless the warehouse conditions have been improved since then…?

    ReplyReply

  20. Lada
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 16:51:42

    @Ducky: I think a lack of competition is a problem for everyone.

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  21. library addict
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 17:45:53

    I don’t want Amazon to be the only place to buy books. But I want Agency Pricing to go away ASAP. I have been buying some books by fave authors, but I have a huge list of books labeled to buy “once no agency pricing.”

    If the pubs had been smart (hahaha) they would have gone with this net pricing scheme instead of Agency Pricing to begin with. I think Amazon would probably still match or undercut prices, but seriously how long can they afford to act like a loss leader?

    I miss Borders.

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  22. Ridley
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 18:01:20

    I have no particular affinity for any retailer. If Amazon eats B&N, or doesn’t, I don’t care either way.

    In fact, I plan to abandon Amazon like a bad date if the demise of agency brings back the Fictionwise of old. Terrible website, shit customer support, but who cares when you’re getting 12 books for $10?

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  23. Mireya
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 18:31:37

    @Ducky: I wouldn’t be heartbroken either … but what else will there be if they go out of business… Amazon? That wouldn’t be a good thing by any stretch of the imagination, particularly as it pertains to print. With barely any competition, you can pretty much say goodbye to decent pricing, it would be all to the advantage of Amazon. As it is, we already are dangerously close to getting there. I really don’t like the idea of all that power and control under one single company.

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  24. Lil
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 20:16:51

    @Brie:
    Thank you. I was feeling a bit down, but now I’m happy again.

    ReplyReply

  25. library addict
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 20:18:17

    @Ridley: I won’t hold my breath for the return of Micropay, but would welcome it with open arms (and wallet).

    ReplyReply

  26. Robin/Janet
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 20:27:27

    Tamara Allen is a class act.

    I don’t know how publishers thought they could pass off that so-called Agency pricing model as non-collusive. I should probably by more relieved than I am that the Justice Dept is finally going to take action, but these days, I don’t really trust anyone, so I’m in wait and see mode.

    Re. Jennifer Weiner, I saw that post a couple of days ago and LMAO at the obvious way the slap at Egan undermined everything that came before it (Steve Almond’s “throw the rock and hide the hand” description is ever more apt”). And I totally — TOTALLY — buy that she’s going to refrain from talking about other women’s books out of principle and not out of self-serving motivations.

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  27. DS
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 20:36:53

    Is net pricing similar to the net book agreement in the UK? I guess publishers could compete rather than agree, but I have a hard time seeing that. They have always seemed to work in concert. It always seemed if one publisher upper the price of MMPB from fifty cents to seventy five the others all lined up behind it.

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  28. Wahoo Suze
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 20:43:26

    Amazon and BN don’t really exist in my world. I’m sure whatever Amazon’s doing is affecting me somehow, but I don’t shop at either place, never did. I used to buy my print from Chapters/Indigo, but I don’t care for Kobo. Agency pricing aside, geo restrictions mean I just don’t buy mainstream romances anymore. I buy small e-pub, mostly m/m. So, you know, wevs. It would be really nice to see some corporate shenanigans get smacked down for a freaking change.

    My take on the Weiner thing was that, she wasn’t doing fully-thought-out opinion pieces or reviews on books, she was doing drive-by snarks. After some thought, she decided drive-by snarking doesn’t do anything to elevate women in publishing, so she’s going to stop doing it publicly. I thought it was an admirable decision. (Keeping in mind that I know nothing about Weiner and her history, and this may be hopelessly naive optimism on my part.)

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  29. Ducky
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 21:00:34

    @Mireya:

    I personally would be affected if my local paperback exchange were to go bye-bye – then I guess I would get all second hand books from amazon.

    ReplyReply

  30. Ducky
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 21:08:04

    @LG:

    So, Amazon mistreats their workers too? Sigh. And so does Apple from what I have been reading. Boo to all of them then.

    I miss heyday Borders – not only was it fun to shop there, it was also a good work place.

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  31. Rebecca
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 21:09:52

    If Amazon gets their monopoly they will raise the prices at that point anyway. They aren’t going to give ebooks away at a loss forever. One company having a monopoly is bad for anyone who loves books regardless of the format they prefer.

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  32. SAO
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 22:59:01

    It’s incredibly foolish to have e-readers tied to a bookstore. As long as B&N’s survival depends on the Nook successfully competing with the Kindle, they’re doomed. All the Kindle owners aren’t going to run out and buy a Nook until their Kindles are obsolete.

    The publishing industry has accepted Amazon’s dynamic. To bring back competition in bookselling, they need to take a stand against DRM and proprietary formats and they need to do it in a way that doesn’t piss off the millions of Kindle owners.

    As long as Amazon is the only player in the book industry thinking strategically, they will win and use their market power. Frankly, I can’t muster a whole lot of sympathy for the players who are getting their lunches eaten because strategic thinking is either beneath them or beyond them.

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  33. SonomaLass
    Mar 08, 2012 @ 23:08:15

    @Sherry Thomas: That was the one I was going to quote too! Shakespeare the plagiarist/author profiting from fan fic/whatever. I just love that one.

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  34. Dago
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 06:10:42

    I wonder why she left DPS – it seems sudden, after all the latest great reviews her books were receiving. Her blog says ‘there was nothing else I could do’. I know it’s not nice to be nosy, but I’m really curious now.

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  35. LG
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 07:00:32

    @Dago: More than likely because of the controversy surrounding DSP lately (see: http://dearauthor.com/features/industry-news/saturday-news-no-deals-just-stupidity-and-smashwords-concedes-to-paypal-terms). Although they responded to the plagiarism accusations made against Bear, Otter, and the Kid, they never did say anything, as far as I know, about the repurposed fanfic issue. Although the “how to rework your fanfic for publication” blog post written by a DSP editor said that it wasn’t a statement of DSP’s opinions and policies (and I see that lots of red text has now been added emphasizing this), it did mention that several DSP works began their existence as fanfic. Because neither the post nor DSP’s site makes any mention of which works these are, it casts in doubt everything on their site. For those DSP authors whose works are original fiction, I would imagine this is very upsetting.

    I loved Tamara Allen’s The Only Gold, so I hope she finds another way to publish her works. She was on my short list of favorite DSP authors.

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  36. Patricia Eimer
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 07:35:31

    I’m a woman. I’m an author. And I really don’t think Jennifer Weiner or FSoG or Jennifer Egan are going to either make or break any success I may have in the future. Sure, there’s a glass ceiling in publishing against women. There’s a glass ceiling for women in just about everything. But whining at each other about who said what and who isn’t being supportive enough? All that does is give the people at the glass ceiling installation plant the ability to say “see, see, those silly GIRLS can’t hack it in the cut throat world of publishing.”

    Instead of hugging each other so we’re close enough to stab daggers in each other’s back maybe we should all (me included) sit down and write the next d@mn book already?

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  37. Sunita
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 08:59:22

    So much news!

    Tamara Allen is indeed a class act. And I have no doubt she will publish again, thank goodness. Her books are too good to lose.

    What I find so insidious about the scam pay-for-play journals is that because the model is widespread in humanities journals (and book publishing as well), it may be difficult at first glance to tell the difference between legitimate and less so. It is quite common for good scholars who are not likely to have a readership beyond other scholars to have to subsidize publication. So on first glance, how do you tell a new, promising journal from an unsavory operator?

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  38. Sherry Thomas
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 09:05:20

    @SonomaLass: :-)

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  39. Jenny
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 09:32:19

    Ah, that Hemingway…he’s my kinda writer. And I think he’s trying to say Faulkner can suck it.

    I suppose I’m “superficial and lazy” too, becuase I have an affinity for Mr. Twain.

    The comments below the 30 harshest insults are hilarious! Thanks for sharing, Jane. I needed a laugh today.

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  40. April Books & Wine
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 09:56:57

    Wow, Jane. I wish you were the BBC keynote. I say that in all seriousness, because when Sarah was the keynote last year, I learned SO MUCH from her because she’s actually in the whole blogging game and has taken her blog to a super high level of success. And from what you’ve posted with your 100,000 unique stats, I see that you likely would have something to offer us bloggers at BBC – much like Sarah did, because you and your team have that high level of success that I think a lot of book bloggers would like to aspire to, I mean, I don’t expect to ever get to 100,000 unique, but 30,000 unique would be nice ha ha.
    Anyways, I just see you/Dear Author having more that bloggers can learn from the Jennifer Weiner.

    And I’m sorry to sound like such a fangirl weirdo in my comment, it’s just the bit about the traffic and then the linkage to Jennifer Weiner which had the synapses firing in my brain.

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  41. Joy
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 11:18:16

    None of those author-on-author insults can light a candle to Pope’s Dunciad, an epic poem insulting /satirizing every single author/scholar he disliked or considered a hack. Of course, it doesn’t condense well into a blog post. It’s more the sort of thing you pay a semester’s tuition to study in college ;)

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  42. Jane
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 12:05:31

    @April Books & Wine I’m going to be at BBC so maybe we can hook up. I am hoping to learn from other bloggers as well. There is always something to learn when we pool our collective knowledge together.

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  43. Kinsey
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 14:54:11

    I’ve always liked Mary McCarthy’s slam at Lillion Helman (“Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the’.”)

    I’m not familiar with the Weiner or Egan brouhahas. But I’m about freaking tired of the “women shouldn’t say ugly things about each other” and “don’t write mean reviews because it’s mean” mindsets. Patricia is so right–it just makes us look weak. And I love me some driveby snark when it’s done right.

    I don’t normally post critical book reviews b/c I’m not comfortable, as a writer, publicly criticizing other writers’ efforts. But I think I’m going to post about 50 Shades and it won’t be at all kind. I’ve always been a big supporter of fanfic, and I still am, but the idea of other people enriching themselves off another writer’s world and characters steams me. It’s not plagiarism per se but it strikes me as deeply unethical, even if not actionable. Plus it gives ammunition to those authors who try to stop people from writing (free, unpublished) fanfic based on their works (remember Gabaldon likening it to rape?)

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  44. Jane
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 14:57:52

    @Kinsey The antidote to the Vida presented problem (underrepresentation of female authors / reporters / etc) isn’t to shut your mouth if one has a dissenting opinion but more and more and more coverage. Because surely there are books by women authors one likes as well as books that one dislikes. Sometimes those books on the opposite ends of the spectrum can be by the same author!

    More coverage, not less coverage, is the answer.

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  45. Kinsey
    Mar 09, 2012 @ 15:17:46

    Agreed. I frequently post and tweet (well, tweet at least – I suck as a regular blogger) about books I love. My fangurl crush on Meljean Brook, for example, shows no signs of abating.

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  46. Throwmearope
    Mar 10, 2012 @ 10:20:46

    When worlds collide. . . .

    About halfway down the comments in the linked Flavorwire article is a comment alleging that the Flavorwire article was plagiarized. Complete with link.

    Oy veh.

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  47. Deb
    Mar 15, 2012 @ 22:37:46

    Concerning the whole Jennifer Weiner thing-Ms. Weiner should be able to say what she pleases without masses of women getting their panties in a wad. I do not believe the other author needs ‘protecting’ from the big bad woman who wrote that she did not like her book. This whole thing is ridiculous.

    Sheesh women, what are we-mindless twits with no brain to think for ourselves or women who are unable to handle the slightest criticism? I am not going to be jumping on some book readers a** because she didnt like a book by another woman. That is what Ms. Weiner was in this situation, a Book Reader. A review is a review and I dont give a rats butt if the author is man or woman, or from Saturn. It wont change a thing about what I have to say about a book.

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  48. LG
    Apr 01, 2012 @ 18:33:27

    Just FYI, since I don’t think I’ve seen this mentioned on DA yet (maybe I missed it?), Tamara Allen’s Downtime and The Only Gold can be purchases on ARe now (and I’m guessing elsewhere, but ARe is all I’ve checked). They’re even on sale right now. :)

    ReplyReply

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