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Authors Guild

Friday News: Authors Guild backs Hachette, Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, Harper Collins tries direct-to-consumer sales, and Jenny Trout exposes bias against body fat

Friday News: Authors Guild backs Hachette, Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest, Harper...

Authors Guild Weighs In on Amazon-Hachette Dispute – I know you’ve been waiting for this; the Authors Guild’s Richard Russo wrote a letter to its members, essentially backing Hachette in the current game of publishing chicken. I don’t think this is at all surprising, given the Guild’s history of and perspective on author advocacy, but I have to admit that I find the logic even more mind-boggling than usual:

In closing, Russo notes that the Guild is not anti-Amazon and acknowledges that traditional publishers have not treated writers fairly when it comes to e-book revenues. But, he continues in closing, “To our knowledge, Amazon has never clearly and unequivocally stated (as traditional publishers have) that books are different and special, that they can’t be treated like the other commodities they sell.” –Publishers Weekly

Amazon Announces Five Finalists in the 2014 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award Contest – Customer voting is currently underway in the 7th annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award (ABNA) and will continue through the next week. The winner will receive a $50,000 Amazon publishing contract, while the four other finalists will get an Amazon publishing contract and a $15K advance. 10,000 titles were submitted in the categories of General Fiction, Mystery/Thriller, Romance, Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror, and Young Adult Fiction, so there’s a finalist for each category. There is a voting link on the page, which allows you to read 3-5K word samples of each book. I haven’t yet checked any of them out, but holy heck could the Romance novel have a less promising and original title?????!

The 2014 ABNA Finalists are:

General Fiction: A Pledge of Silence by Flora Solomon, Southport, NC

Mystery/Thriller: The Dead Key by D.M. Pulley, Shaker Heights, OH

Romance: The Bluestocking and the Rake by Norma Darcy, Canterbury, Kent GB

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Horror: The Mengele Effect by Chuck Grossart, Bellevue, NE

Young Adult Fiction: Seashell, Stork and Apple Tree by Carrie Anne Noble, Montoursville, PA

The ABNA contest takes new fiction from pitch to publication in a much more accelerated path than traditional publishing. –Amazon Press Releases

HarperCollins launches direct-to-consumer sales site – I’m not sure whether to cheer or give this new publisher website the skeptical side-eye. Although only the US site is available now, the UK site is expected to be up and running in August, followed by sites in Canada and Australia. I would LOVE to see traditional publishers actually paying attention to readers as their customers, but given the current Amazon-Hachette situation, and, you know, the whole collusion thing, I’m not particularly confident or trusting at this point. Hopefully I’m wrong.

In a statement, the publisher said: “The capability to sell directly will enable the company to better understand consumer preferences and, most importantly, further extend the global reach of its authors.” It added that authors would be able to use the technology to sell directly through their own sites.

Chantal Restivo-Alessi, chief digital officer said: “We are excited to be able to offer an e-commerce solution to our authors, ensuring their books are always available to their fans. As a publisher, we want to offer as many paths to the consumer as possible.” –The Bookseller

Fat Woman Wears Bikini, World Doesn’t End – You may have seen Trout’s original article on her so-called “fatkini” picture, which has gained tremendous attention and initiated a much-needed discussion about narrow Western standards of beauty and all the ways society consciously and unconsciously colludes to validate them. We’ve had this discussion in Romance many times, as well, and clearly we need to keep having it, since so often “plump” heroines are portrayed either as getting a makeover to win the attentions of a love interest or as beautiful despite their weight.

Trout wraps up her piece this way: “The reason these people do not want to see a fat body in a bikini is because traditionally, that garment is something a woman earns by proving herself attractive enough to exist. If fat women begin wearing them without shame or fear, what’s next? Will they have self-esteem? Will they demand respect? Then what will keep them in their proper place? How would conventionally attractive people judge them?

“As a society, we need to be more honest in our discussions of others’ bodies. If we can’t avoid those totally unnecessary conversations, then we should at least admit the truth to ourselves: That this has nothing to do with health, and everything to do with the control we believe is our right to exert over others.” Amen to that, sister. –Yahoo Shine

Dear Author

Wednesday News: HathiTrust wins against Author’s Guild, Kindle installment plan, book...

Fair Use Victory in HathiTrust Litigation – So this is the one about how the Author’s Guild sued the HathiTrust and lost. The HathiTrust — comprised of more than 80 academic and research institutions — created a digital library (the HathiTrust Digital Library) and then digitized more than ten million works for the Library. The Second Circuit ruled on two issues and did not rule on a third, and both of the issues they did rule on — full-text searchability and digital access for print-disabled readers — to be Fair Use. Go figure. The third, as yet unresolved, issue is related to the question of whether a library can print a replacement copy of a book that is otherwise unobtainable for a reasonable price.

Today’s decision is an important reaffirmation of the fair use doctrine’s role in enabling transformative uses of copyrighted works that enable the creation of new information-location tools and in the ability of libraries to serve the needs of their print disabled patrons. –The Berkeley Blog

Three Months in, Amazon’s Kindle Installment Plan is Here to Stay – Did you know that Amazon was offering an installment plan for Kindles? I sure didn’t. Apparently everything but the Fire is available for purchase in five payments, and the program has already been in place for three months.

It makes a lot of sense for Amazon to offer this program. Once they have maxed out their retail channel by selling to everyone who can pay full price, and lowered the price as much as they can via ad subsidies, the next logical step was to offer an installment plan and lower the purchase barrier another notch. And since Amazon handles their own payment processing, the actual cost (compared to having the stock sitting in a warehouse unsold) is minimal. –The Digital Reader

Absent Friends: Lean Years of Plenty – Katherine Mansfield was the fiction reviewer for The Athenaeum for about four years, between 1919 and her death in 1923. And for all of the complaints we have about genre fiction of today, trust that Mansfield made note of most of them almost a century ago. That’s right, dear readers, streams of literary dreck have been running unchecked through pens, typewriters, computers, and book presses for decades and decades, and authors have resented negative reviews. Seriously, though, it’s pretty amusing to see how little things have changed when it comes to complaints about writing quality and the value of critical reviews.

Public Opinion, garrulous, lying old nurse that she is, cries: ‘Yes! Great books, immortal books are being born every minute, each one more lusty than the last. Let him who is without sin among you cast the first criticism.’ It would be a superb, thrilling world if this were true! Or even if the moderate number of them were anything but little puppets, little make-believes, playthings on strings with the same stare and the same sawdust filling, just unlike enough to keep the attention distracted, but all like enough to do nothing more profound. After all, in these lean years of plenty how could it be otherwise? Not even the most hardened reader, at the rate books are written and read nowadays, could stand up against so many attacks upon his mind and heart, if it were. Reading, for the great majority—for the reading public—is not a passion but a pastime, and writing, for the vast number of modern authors, is a pastime and not a passion. –Open Letters Monthly

7 Highlights from a 19th Century Book of Sample Love Letters – Perhaps this 19th century advice on writing love letters should be filed under things not to include in your Romance novel. Among the examples (with helpful annotations):

3. “FROM A GENTLEMAN OF SOME FORTUNE, WHO HAD SEEN A LADY IN PUBLIC, TO HER MOTHER”

He gets to the heart of the matter eventually, but it’s the opening paragraph that’s worth considering:

I shall be very happy if you are not altogether unacquainted with the name which is at the bottom of this letter, since that will prevent me the necessity of saying some things concerning myself, which had better be heard from others. Hoping that it may be so, I shall not trouble you on that head; but only say, that I have the honour to be of a family not mean, and not wholly without fortune.

I think that’s 19th century speak for “Do you know who I am?!” –Mental Floss