Thursday News: Penguin to contribute $75 million to restitution fund; Beware of blurbs; Amazon to sell licensed fan fiction
Important! My family and I are doing *things* this next week so I’m taking a mini vacation from Dear Author News. We’ll still have our daily reviews and daily deals (of course) but unless I’m feeling really energetic, there won’t be any news again until Wednesday, May 29. That’s when BEA starts and I suspect there will be important news then.
On June 3 the price fixing case with Apple starts. I will be glued to PACER and will bring you what daily reports I can from the filings. Don’t break Dear Author while I’m gone, you guys!
Also, don’t forget we have the Nalini Singh / Ghost chat on Twitter tonight.
I’m hosting a twitter chat with “The Ghost” on Thursday, May 23rd, from 9:00 to 10:00 pm EDT. Even if you are not on twitter, you can follow along at this link. You may not want to come if you don’t want to know any spoilers about Heart of Obsidian.
Two Thumbs Up I Hated It – Given my Tuesday article on marketing in publishing, I thought this piece by Ron Charles was timely. Charles says to beware of book blurbs because so often they purport to say something that isn’t actually true. Shocker. Sometimes, publishers choose these lines with the selective hearing of doting moms and dads at a parent-teacher conference. Through the magic of creative editing, “This is not a great book” shows up six months later on the paperback as “This is . . . a great book!” The Washington Post
Last to Settle Pays the Most: Penguin Agrees to Pay Over $90 Million to Settle eBook Pricing Suits – Penguin has finally settled the state AG and class action cases. It will put $75 million into the restitution fund and pay another $7 million to the states and $8 to the class action lawyers. I suspected the delay was in wrangling over the amount Penguin would pay. Likely the cash settlement that the State AGs are demanding is what had Penguin initially balking. Publishers Lunch
Amazon Publishing Introduces “Kindle Worlds,” a New Publishing Model for Authors Inspired to Write Fan Fiction – Remember back in 2010 when I suggested authors of popular books offer up their worlds to fan fiction writers for a fee? Yeah, I bet Stephenie Meyer climbed on top of that train. (Actually, Meyer is probably the last person to do this. She doesn’t seem particularly litigious which makes EL James’s 50 franchise moves to strike down any potentially infringing *thing* all the more ironic).
Nonetheless, Amazon is launching “Kindle Worlds” a “commercial publishing platform that will enable any writer to create fan fiction based on a range of original stories and characters and earn royalties for doing so.
Amazon Publishing has secured licenses from Warner Bros. Television Group’s Alloy Entertainment division for its New York Times best-selling book series Gossip Girl, by Cecily von Ziegesar; Pretty Little Liars, by Sara Shepard; and Vampire Diaries, by L.J. Smith; and plans to announce more licenses soon.
Through these licenses, Kindle Worlds will allow any writer to publish authorized stories inspired by these popular Worlds and make them available for readers to purchase in the Kindle Store.” Amazon Publishing will pay royalties to both the rights holders of the Worlds and the author. The standard author’s royalty rate (for works of at least 10,000 words) will be 35% of net revenue. As with all titles from Amazon Publishing, Kindle Worlds will base net revenue off of sales price—rather than the lower, industry standard of wholesale price—and royalties will be paid monthly.
It is instructive to look at the licenses that Amazon has secured. Alloy Entertainment is a book packager and all those series are packages to which Alloy (and not the writer who is really just a work for hire) owns. But it’s a movement toward selling actual fan fiction instead of repackaged fan fiction like EL James’ Fifty Shades series.
Authors Guild should set up a licensing agency ala Henry Fox’s music licensing agency but it won’t.
John Scalzi has an interesting post about “Kindle World” on his website. It is definitely worth a look: http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/05/22/amazons-kindle-worlds-instant-thoughts/
Safe traveling during your mini vacation.
Don’t most book buyers consider blurbs kind of silly? I can’t imagine being influenced to buy a book based on these quotes.
I did find the flying monkey cat quite hilarious this morning.
I need to rent your cat for a few hours. And the fanfiction thing– is it any different than those Star Trek books or the Doctor Who books that they contract authors out for? The market is obviously there I’m just surprised it’s taken this long for someone to try making a profit on it with other worlds. Should have known it would be Amazon.
A funny blurb on a (kids or adult) book by a funny author whose sense of humor I know I like, will influence me. Or a particularly thoughtful blurb by a trusted author showing why her fans in particular would like this new thing. The usual “a…great book” stuff, my eyes just bounce off, and books with pages and pages of blurbs are overkill. I skip past it. Sometimes I put the book down from fatigue. If you have to work that hard to convince me, I’m contrary and skeptical.
The Scalzi post and the comments examine the Amazon thing from different angles, very helpful. I’m sure Alloy et al think of their packaged properties as a commodity they’re just further merchandising through this scheme, whether through books or t-shirts. It does amount to creating a work-for-hire tie-in book, but my experience of fandom is that some authors are attached to whatever’s original in their stories; they don’t see this as a job where you’re brought in to follow the guidelines, hand over the pages, and you’re done–it’s not your baby and never was. This scheme could work for some authors, if they understand the meaning of work for hire (not just financially but on the personal emotional level). I’d like to believe someone in the company sees this as a way to embrace loving fans, like a fan club, but I’m contrary and skeptical.
I do like the idea of a Henry Fox-like way to license characters and worlds to “perform” in other books. Where everyone understands the parameters, and the original author has liability protection, and the fanfic writer doesn’t feel like they’re handing over whatever is original in their writing to a corporation to reuse and resell in perpetuity. A different sort of licensing could make for a friendly sharing of universes and encourage creative cross-pollination in a culture that’s abandoned a lot of that tradition.
Although, of course, you’d have authors saying “no sex in my sandbox” or “no slash” or “no something else I don’t like so didn’t write about,” so people would still feel a need for fanfic. I’m probably just dreaming here.
Blurbs or quotes from other authors or even big review sites don’t sell me books. And some blurbs create associations that would actively discourage me from buying an unknown-to-me author, even as it encouraged another reader to try the new author.
One that sticks in my mind is the Stephen King blurb on a JD Robb book: Nora Roberts (or JD Robb?) is cool. If I were a reader new to the series, the personalized blurb directed at the author rather than the content would have killed any interest I had.
Agree with jmc’s statements. Also publishers need to stop with the author comparisons/associations. Recently read a book blurb where the author was compared to Harlan Coben. Yeah, a lot of good that did since I don’t care to read anything by Harlan Coben. I just think this is lazy marketing. Also comparing Jo Nesbo to Stieg Larsson wasn’t a great move either and thankfully the author had that stopped (this was awhile back).
With Penguin’s settlement does this now mean we will start to see some discounting? I sincerely hope so because I was wondering why it was taking so damn long. Not that I need to spend any extra money on ebooks at the moment because my virtual library is well over a 1,000.
I agree that when the publishers do it it is often not accurate but I actually like it when i see a “if you like this you’ll like that.” I’ve often bought unknown to me authors when the blurb compares the book to an author whose work I know and like.
@LeeF: I think many book buyers sadly do take those blurbs seriously. My BFF shares my love of reading but isn’t into the internet and so falls for marketing despite my best efforts to teach her otherwise. As Jane has often said (and despite the number of people on sites like GR), the online book community is still the minority. I think that will change but it will take some years yet.
@Keishon: “With Penguin’s settlement does this now mean we will start to see some discounting? I sincerely hope so because I was wondering why it was taking so damn long.”
No kidding. Their ebooks cost more than the pbooks. Unless it’s a book in a series I’m already committed to, all Penguin books I’m interested are going straight to the wish list for later consideration. I’ve really come to hate Penguin, as well as the other DB publishers that are pulling this crap.
BTW, I can’t believe you’re taking time off, Jane! (Enjoy.)
@sandyl: Scalzi’s post is fantastic! He makes very good points about how little a writer will actually get compensated for his/her work and how little control they ultimately have over any innovations they make to the world or the characters.
@Keishon: Not unless stores renegotiate their contracts again. I asked Lori at ARe about this when Penguin agreed to settle. She said they ask the publishers about participation in their 10-for-1 and discount programs, but the publishers can say no. I really don’t understand what changed with the settlements to be honest if the publishers can still dictate terms.
Have a great vacation, Jane!
One question on the licensed fan fiction: There have been problems with fanfic authors stealing from each other plots and OC’s and such. What’s stopping someone from going over to fanfiction.net, checking over the Gossip Girl entries (9800) or the Vampire Diaries entries(1700), and stealing some fic from over there and presenting that to Amazon as their own work?
Or, the fanfic having elements from somewhere else, à la Draco Trilogy plagarizing disaster?
I think Amazon is trying to get new ideas and authors for free, and has no idea of the inner workings of the fanfic subculture.
Have a nice holiday Jane :)