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Monday News: Brashear reclaims helm at Samhain, a tale of digital publishing, a South African street book reviewer, and Amanda Palmer on voluntary exchange

Monday News: Brashear reclaims helm at Samhain, a tale of digital...

Christina Brashear Returns as Samhain Publisher – This is pretty interesting. Brashear, who went from Publisher to President of Samhain in 2012, is back as Publisher, with a promise to “return” Samhain “to its roots.” Lindsey Faber is not only stepping down as Publisher, but leaving Samhain entirely (there’s something about her serving as a consultant to the company. Hmm.). If you remember, there were recently some apparent issues with contract terms for Samhain authors. Brashear claims the following deals are in process:

17-audiobook deal with feminist icon Susie Bright at Audible
4-audiobook deal with Insatiable
Front-list Samhain titles will now be available on the industry review site NetGalley
A newly revamped and designed website will launch this summer
Samhain will sponsor the Horror Writers of America/Bram Stoker Awards in 2015
The company will embark on aggressive mainstream commercial advertising, starting with the August issue of Cosmopolitan magazine

Says Brashear, “As part of this reorganization, Samhain will be returning to its roots of finding and publishing best-selling romance writers. The careers of New York Times best-selling authors like Maya Banks and Lorelei James started at Samhain nearly a decade ago. Now that I’m back at the helm, I’ll continue to nurture and support our current authors while looking to find that next generation of best-selling writers to take their work to the next level and continue to do what Samhain does best.” –PR Web

I Was a Digital Best Seller! – Tony Horwitz chronicles his foray into digital publishing. These stories tend to trigger all sorts of defensive rebuttals from self and digital publishing gurus and other advocates, but I think they serve as a very real, and very true reminder that a) the market is heavily impacted with self-published and digitally published authors, b) authors are doing more and more marketing of their own books, and if they serve as publisher as well as author, they’re likely doing most to all of it, and c) the term “bestseller” doesn’t necessarily translate to tens or hundreds of thousands of copies. Also, note the unsavory reference to “gaming the system” via friends and family reviews. *sigh*

Eager to know how many copies this represented, I asked Byliner for sales figures. It took them a while to respond — because, I imagined, they needed the time to tally the dizzying numbers pouring in from Amazon, iTunes and other retailers. In fact, the total was such that Byliner could offer only a “guesstimate.” In its first month “Boom” had sold “somewhere between 700 and 800 copies,” the email read, adding, “these things can take time to build, and this is the kind of story with a potentially very long tail.”

It was also the kind of story that could bankrupt a writer. I’d now devoted five months to writing and peddling “Boom” and wasn’t even halfway to earning out my $2,000 advance (less than the overrun on my travel). The cruelest joke, though, was that 700 to 800 copies made “Boom” a top-rated seller. What did that mean for all the titles lower down the list? Were they selling at all? –New York Times

The Unlikely Story of The Pavement Bookworm – Tebogo Malope, a South Africa cinematographer, recently filmed an interview with Philani, a 24-year old homeless man from Johannesburg who raises money through his love of books and his own literary literacy. The poignancy of this story hits on multiple levels, from its own social justice foundations to the personal inspiration Philani represents in a country (and within a continent) where basic literacy is still such a concern.

Philani is a bookworm who has chosen to review and sell books rather than resort to begging. He shows up on different streets of Johannesburg with a pile of books, and on request he will review the books, the authors, the publishers.

“He has read all the books in his collection and is always seeking for more to read,” says Tebogo. “He then sells some of his books as a way to raise money for himself and some of his homeless friends. I’m appealing to anyone that can contribute somehow into his life.

“He’s a great role model on the power of reading and can be an amazing ambassador for our young people.” –South Africa People

Amanda Palmer on the Art of Asking and the Shared Dignity of Giving and Receiving – In the wake of Tesla’s announcement that it was basically dumping its patents and throwing in with open source technology, I was thinking about the unremitting cries of piracy in the reading communities, and the equally persistent claims that readers somehow have a responsibility to make sure authors have food to put on the table, take care of their children, dogs, etc., etc. Which got me thinking about this interesting TED talk from musician Amanda Palmer, who, among other things, left her own music label and crowd sourced her next album. While her technique is pretty extreme, I think her philosophy is both sound and inspiring.

Palmer talks extensively about the concept of fair exchange between artists and their fans, and she does it in a way that emphasizes the difference between entitlement (on either side) and voluntary exchange. By focusing on the second, she reinforces what many have asserted about all the anti-piracy measures and talk, namely that it often gets in the way of what is a more “natural” circumstance — specifically that people *want* to pay for creative products, and when given the opportunity outside an environment of suspicion, demand, and control, that they will do so generously and voluntarily.

“I don’t see these things as risks — I see them as trust. … But the perfect tools can’t help us if we can’t face each other, and give and receive fearlessly — but, more importantly, to ask without shame. … When we really see each other, we want to help each other. I think people have been obsessed with the wrong question, which is, ‘How do we make people pay for music?’ What if we started asking, ‘How do we let people pay for music?’ –Brain Pickings

Wednesday News: The FCC invites comments on Net Neutrality, Apple disappoints (again), alleged plagiarism in 1D fan fiction, and Writer’s Coffee Shop owner is sued for millions

Wednesday News: The FCC invites comments on Net Neutrality, Apple disappoints...

John Oliver’s Net neutrality response swamps FCC – I’m posting this story to serve as a reminder that the public comment period for the FCC’s new Net Neutrality proposal is open until July 15th. It’s also a pretty funny anecdote about how comedian John Oliver directed people to the FCC website for comment, which basically killed the FCC site (too much traffic — the irony is so rich). And if you aren’t up on Net Neutrality, there’s more information at the CNET site.

The FCC’s online public-comment system stumbled under heavy traffic Monday after comedian John Oliver capped a 13-minute segment about Net neutrality — the concept that all Internet content should be delivered without preference or discrimination — with a rallying cry to the Internet’s trolls to visit the FCC’s website and “focus your indiscriminate rage in a useful direction.” –CNET

Apple: There’s more than meets the eye in today’s announcements – In which we are sold the story that the disappointing Apple announcement was more significant than we think. A new programming language (Swift) that’s already making programmers and software developers swoon (allegedly), expanded cloud storage, etc. Still would have been better with new hardware, especially given Apple’s deficiencies relative to more inexpensive, larger screen phones.

As for the rest, in the attached video Yahoo’s Aaron Pressman says much of Apple’s announcement is a down payment on their future. Sure it wasn’t as sexy as an iPhone or iPad launch but Tim Cook and company unveiled the Homekit and Healthkit apps. They will allow third party hardware and software to better integrate with Apple’s ecosystem. –Yahoo

One Direction fanfic author gets book deal – There are really two stories here. First, the sale of a real-person fan fiction story to Simon & Schuster (details below). Then the allegation that the book, After, contains some plagiarized content, most notably from You’ve Got Mail. I’m not sure which story is more interesting, or troubling, but you can read about the plagiarism allegations on Jenny Trout’s site, which is linked to in her Twitter conversation about the situation.

Harry Styles-inspired fanfic After, by 25-year-old One Direction fan Anna Todd, has inked a three-book deal. Simon & Schuster acquired the series with a deal in the “mid-six figures,” according to Publisher’s Weekly. They also grabbed the story’s “world and audio rights,” meaning that spinoffs are possible as well — and movie rights are in the works.  –Entertainment Weekly

Arlington woman seeks millions in royalties from “Fifty Shades of Grey” - And speaking of fan fiction, there’s an interesting twist to the Fifty Shades story, or, more specifically, to the co-op that published the story. Jennifer Pedroza, one of the original owners of the Writer’s Coffee Shop, is suing another owner, Amanda Hayward, alleging that Hayward cheated Pedroza out of royalties when Fifty Shades was acquired by Simon & Schuster. Additionally, Christa Beebe, an employee of Writer’s Coffee House, is suing Hayward, basically for breach of an alleged employment contract. Both Pedroza and Beebe live in Texas, while Hayward is from Australia, where the Writer’s Coffee House is based, although there was apparently no partnership agreement among the women (including a fourth, Lea Dimovski, who joined in 2011), the year they published Fifty Shades.

From the outside, the history and status of Writer’s Coffee Shop has always been a little fuzzy (was it a publisher or was it a place for fan fiction writers to post and exchange their work), and it sounds like things weren’t so clear from within the Shop, either. It’s gonna be interesting.

Writer’s Coffee Shop was launched in 2009 by Pedroza, Hayward and Waxahachie resident Jennifer McGuire as a blog site in 2009. The three women had formed online friendships though a fan fiction website. McGuire did the design on the blog, Pedroza uploaded contributor’s writing and Hayward worked with authors, the suit says. In May 2011, it published Fifty Shades, followed by two sequels of the trilogy in 2011 and 2012.

Pedroza not only handled marketing for the runaway bestseller, she also packed the print-on-demand copies in her home for shipment. Beebe joined in January 2012 to help with marketing and distribution, first as an unpaid volunteer then as a salaried employee, it said. –Forth Worth Star-Telegram