The Authors Guild has been the published writer's advocate for effective copyright, fair contracts, and free expression since 1912.

Letter from Richard Russo on the Amazon-Hachette Dispute

July 10, 2014

We want to share with you an open letter on the Amazon-Hachette, written by Richard Russo, novelist and co-Vice President of the Authors Guild.

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The primary mission of the Authors Guild has always been the defense of the writing life. While it may be true that there are new opportunities and platforms for writers in the digital age, only the willfully blind refuse to acknowledge that authorship is imperiled on many fronts. True, not all writers are equally impacted. Some authors still make fortunes through traditional publishing, and genre writers (both traditionally published and independently published) appear to be doing better than writers of nonfiction and “literary” mid-list fiction. (The Guild has members in all of these categories.) But there’s evidence, both statistical and anecdotal, that as a species we are significantly endangered. In the UK, for instance, the Authors’ Licensing and Collecting Society reports that authors’ incomes have fallen 29 percent since 2005, a decline they deem “shocking.” If a similar study were done in the U.S., the results would be, we believe, all too similar.

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Bulletin Board

July 10, 2014

This week’s batch of prizes includes a mix of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Deadlines range from Aug 1-15.

The Malahat Review invites emerging and established writers from Canada, the United States, and elsewhere to enter the Constance Rooke Creative Nonfiction Contest. A prize of $1,000 will be awarded to the best work that embraces, but is not limited to, the personal essay, memoir, narrative nonfiction, social commentary, travel writing, historical accounts, and biography, all enhanced by such elements as description, dramatic scenes, dialogue, and characterization. All entries should be previously unpublished, and between 2,000-3,000 words in length. Entry fee: $35 for Canadian entries, $40 for U.S. entries, and $45 elsewhere. Additional entries are $15 per submission. Deadline: August 1, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

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Amazon Baits Hachette Writers with “Temporary Windfall”

July 9, 2014

In an attempt to coax authors and public opinion to its side in its ongoing dispute with Hachette Book Group, Amazon has proposed that both parties give Hachette authors all e-book revenue from sales on Amazon as long as the stalemate lasts.

The offer was made to Hachette yesterday, after it was sent to a small group of writers and agents, among them Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson, who dismissed it as illusory. “If Amazon wants to have a constructive conversation about this, we’re ready to have one at any time,” she told the New York Times. But, she continued, the proposal “doesn’t get authors out of the middle of this.” Hachette also saw through the offer, calling it “baloney.”

Is the groundswell of anti-Amazon sentiment finally getting to the retailer? Guild Council member Douglas Preston’s open letter to Amazon, signed by hundreds of high-profile authors, has been getting its fair share of press in recent days. On the other hand, authors who self-publish through Amazon have started their own petition supporting the bookseller on Change.org.

The bottom line, according to Robinson, is that this dispute must be resolved in a manner that protects authors’ livelihoods. “What writers want is a long-term healthy publishing ecosystem,” she said, “not a temporary windfall.”

Robinson in NYT Op-Ed: “Be Ready for Radical Empathy” When Drawing on Others’ Stories

July 8, 2014

In a recent op-ed piece for the New York Times, Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson ventured an answer to one of the thorniest questions faced by writers of fiction. “Who owns the story,” she asks, “the person who lives it or the person who writes it?”

Since authors must draw on the stories of others, they are open to charges of exploitation. Robinson recalls once hearing a critic say, of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s novel Uncle Tom’s Cabin, that Stowe had no right to write about the black experience. Drawing on her own experience writing about a young male Marine in the novel Sparta, Robinson reaches a different conclusion, arguing that “it’s empathy”—not exploitation—“that allows a writer to feel her way into someone else’s experience.”

“A writer is like a tuning fork: We respond when we’re struck by something. The thing is to pay attention, to be ready for radical empathy. If we empty ourselves of ourselves we’ll be able to vibrate in synchrony with something deep and powerful.”

See the entire opinion piece here.

Along Publishers Row

July 8, 2014

by Campbell Geeslin

Oprah Winfrey can sell books and so can Stephen Colbert.

Colbert, whose America Again: Re-becoming the Greatness We Never Weren’t, is published by Hachette, has been waging a fierce public counter offensive against Amazon’s freeze play on Hachette book orders.

His latest weapon in the good fight was a first novel by a young writer named Edan Lepucki, whose California isalso published by Hachette.

“We will not lick their monopoly boot,” said Colbert as he suggested that viewers pre-order California from independent bookstores. The upheaval caused by Amazon, Colbert told his audience, “is toughest on young authors who are being published for the first time.” He also recommended the novel to his 6.6 million Twitter followers.

The book, published last Tuesday, has become “one of the most pre-ordered debut titles in Hachette history,” said The New York Times, quoting a company spokeswoman.

Lepucki’s book tour was expanded, and she signed 10,000 copies at Powell’s Books in Portland, Oregon. The original print order of 12,000 copies has been expanded, too—to 60,000 copies.

Last Sunday’s Times Book Review described California as a novel “in which characters traverse a cross-section of mid-collapse landscape, framed by the gradual decline of civilization.”

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New Books by Members

July 7, 2014

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Melissa Balmain, Livia Blackburne, Emma Campion, Breena Clarke, Mira Jacob, Peter Laufer, Eric Liu, Marja Mills, John Sandford, and Susan Wiggs. Titles below the jump.

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AG Council Member Preston’s Amazon Letter Rapidly Gains Support

July 3, 2014

Novelist and Authors Guild Council Member Douglas Preston has gathered a grassroots opposition to Amazon; his open letter to the bookseller is currently catching wildfire among the authorial community.

The letter calls on Amazon to resolve its dispute with Hachette without incurring any more collateral damage to authors and readers. “No bookseller,” Preston writes, “should block the sale of books or otherwise prevent or discourage customers from ordering or receiving the books they want. It is not right for Amazon to single out a group of authors, who are not involved in the dispute, for selective retaliation.”

Preston began circulating the letter two weeks ago, hoping to find a dozen fellow authors to add their signatures. Publishers Weekly reports that the list of supporters—still growing—had snowballed to over 300 by this morning, and includes such luminaries as Stephen King, Scott Turow, Nora Roberts, and James Patterson.

Preston, who hasn’t yet sent the letter to Amazon, is still collecting signatures. To add your name to the list, send Doug an email at dipreston@me.com.

Along Publishers Row

July 1, 2014

by Campbell Geeslin

David Leavitt’s eighth novel is The Two Hotel Francforts. For an interview in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review he was asked to name his favorite novelist of all time and a novelist writing today.

Leavitt said, “Penelope Fitzgerald. The Beginning of Spring, The Gate of Angels and The Blue Flower are novels I return to again and again, with joy and awe.

“Among writers working today, I have the greatest admiration for Norman Rush. I also admire John Weir, who deserves to be far better known than he is. And I was floored by Edward St. Aubyn’s Patrick Melrose novels.”

The Blue Flower has been noted by so many writers that I got a copy from my library and read it. They were right.

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New Books by Members

June 30, 2014

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Larry Baker, Ju Ephraime, Judy Fridono, Diana Gabaldon, Rebecca L. Johnson, Kate Kelly, Marc Leepson, Jerry Ludwig, Jody Lynn Nye, and Lauren Willig. Titles below the jump.

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Highly Anticipated SCOTUS Decision Keeps Copyright Law Technology-Neutral

June 25, 2014

In a 6-3 decision hailed by copyright proponents and the creative industries, the Supreme Court held today that Aereo, a subscription service that allows users to watch television programs over the Internet mere seconds after they are actually broadcast, violates copyright holders’ exclusive right to “publicly perform” those programs.

The case, American Broadcasting Companies v. Aereo, was brought by a coalition of television networks and other industry groups. But the decision resonates beyond the broadcasting industry, reinforcing the bedrock copyright principle that authors and other rightsholders are entitled to compensation for uses of their works.

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