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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

Wednesday News: Amazon scores a point against Hachette, the Pentagon is watching us, Torstar shareholders okay Harlequin sale, and re-visioning the ‘bodice ripper’

Wednesday News: Amazon scores a point against Hachette, the Pentagon is...

Amazon Offers Authors 100% of eBook Sales During Dispute with Hachette – You’ve got to give it to Amazon and Hachette – both are doing a good job of keeping attention focused on the dispute. Frankly, I think Amazon is winning the public relations aspect of the battle, and it’s because of strategies like this. Apparently Amazon floated a letter to a number of Hachette authors asking their opinion on prospective strategies to solve the dispute. There’s a lot of legitimate speculation that Amazon isn’t really serious with this letter, but I don’t think it really matters, because they knew it would be leaked, and it does a pretty competent job of making it look like Hachette is the stalling, uncooperative, insensitive party. Your move, Hachette.

We agree that authors are caught in the middle while these negotiations drag on, and we’re particularly sensitive to the effect on debut and midlist authors. But Hachette’s unresponsiveness and unwillingness to talk until we took action put us in this position, and unless Hachette dramatically changes their negotiating tempo, this is going to take a really long time. –The Digital Reader

The Pentagon Funded Study of Lady Gaga’s Tweets – Despite the execrable title of this post, it’s a worthy read because of the revelations about the way in which the US government is both studying and potentially manipulating social media for reasons that may be even creepier and more troubling than Facebook’s. I don’t think anyone really believes that world governments are oblivious to or uninterested in social media and in the online communication patterns of people more generally, but it’s starting to feel like we’re just beginning to crack the seal on all sorts of icky, intrusive experimentation in the name of ‘science’ or ‘critical knowledge.’

It’s not just Facebook who’s interested in studying your status updates. The Pentagon, it turns out, has been studying social media use with a series of research projects reminiscent of Facebook’s controversial emotion manipulation study for years.

Some of these programs, described in a Guardian report on Tuesday, were funded by the Pentagon’s cutting-edge research arm, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), mostly known for far-out ideas such as mind-controlled robotic arms, dystopian-looking war robots and laser weapons worth [sic] of Star Trek or Star Wars, [sic] –Mashable

Torstar Corporation Special Shareholders’ Meeting – Torstar has taken another crucial step toward closing the sale of Harlequin to Harper Collins by securing the approval of its Class A shareholders to move forward with the transfer (different classes of shareholders have different types and levels of voting and other rights). I sure hope Harlequin’s sale doesn’t portend the end of everything unique and reader-focused the company has brought to the Romance genre.

The transaction remains subject to certain customary approvals and closing conditions, including certain regulatory approvals. The parties continue to work towards satisfying these conditions and obtaining the necessary approvals. –Yahoo Finance

Bodice Ripper: Dress made from romance novels. – Now here’s a clever, even beautiful, re-visioning of the “bodice ripper.” –Open Road Media