Monthly Archives: June 2013

Remember the Orphans? Battle Lines Being Drawn in HathiTrust Appeal

Organizations were lining up to file briefs in the HathiTrust appeal this week. Before we get to that, however, let’s take a moment to recap for those of you who may be foggy on the details of this mass book digitization lawsuit.

In the fall of 2011, authors’ groups from Australia, Canada, Norway, Sweden, UK and US (ourselves and the Authors League Fund) and eleven individual authors sued digital book repository HathiTrust and five universities over their storage and use of millions of books. The basic facts are pretty clear. Everyone agrees that some of the universities authorized Google to digitize copyright-protected books by the million (we say seven million, but we think that’s conservative). Those books comprised nearly the entire stacks of some university libraries, and included in print and out of print books by authors from all over the world in dozens of languages.

Google employees and contractors produced complete digital replicas of each library book and converted those page scans into machine-readable digital text. Google then gave the libraries the resulting ebooks — a readable page-by-page image file accompanied by an embedded, searchable digital text file for each of the seven million books. For its trouble, the libraries agreed that Google could keep its own copy of the ebooks it created. (Google’s actions are the subject of a separate, ongoing, seemingly unending, class-action lawsuit, Authors Guild v. Google, which we and representative plaintiffs brought in 2005.) Neither Google nor the libraries sought or obtained authors’ or publishers’ permission to convert their books into machine-readable form for ingestion by Google and the university library data centers.

Read More…

Amazon Knocks the Cookie-Stuffing out of UK Book Recommendation Site

We’d never heard of cookie stuffing before, but it turns out it’s a thing one shouldn’t do online. Or at least one shouldn’t be accused of doing it, especially if you have a book recommendation site called Lovereading (based in the UK) and Amazon has just plunked down a lot of money for a book recommendation site called Goodreads.

It could be, of course, that the timing is purely coincidental.

According to an article in The Bookseller, London’s book trade magazine, Amazon terminated Lovereading’s affiliate relationship shortly after the company announced its purchase of Goodreads. Amazon claims the site violated its terms of service. In a letter to Lovereading, Amazon made clear that reinstatement was out of the question; there would be no appealing its decision:

Read More…

Bulletin Board

This week’s contests include three fiction and one poetry contest, with June 30 or July 1 deadlines.

The University of Pittsburgh Press is now accepting submissions for its 2014 Drue Heinz Literature Prize for a collection of short fiction. The award is open to writers who have published a novel, a collection of short fiction, or at least three short stories or novellas in publications with national distribution. The winner receives $15,000 and publication by the University of Pittsburgh Press. Manuscripts must be between 150 and 300 typed pages. Deadline: June 30, 2013. For complete submission guidelines, please visit the website.

Glimmer Train’s Fiction Contest is currently accepting submissions.

Read More…

Random House Provides Online Tool for Reporting Piracy

Random House is now encouraging its authors to report suspected online piracy of their books through its Author Portal. The portal provides information on the suspected piracy directly to Digimarc Guardian, a company working with Random House to remove stolen ebooks from the Internet. Digimarc will verify whether the link actually leads to your book (often the links are fake) and, if so, “immediate legal steps will be taken.”

For more information, see the publisher’s Random Notes blog.

Publisher’s Own Analysis Shows Ebook Royalties Unfair to Authors

A HarperCollins analysis of its own figures confirms what the Guild has long pointed out–that when sales migrate from hardcover to digital, publishers’ profits rise at the expense of author royalties.  Publishers Lunch highlighted the numbers in a piece today covering HarperCollins’ investor day conference.

 In the sample case of a new release frontlist title, the ebook edition is 39 percent more profitable, returning an additional $2.20 in profit to the publisher over the hardcover. Authors and agents will immediately note that much of the additional profit exists because the royalty allocation once earned out is $1.58 lower on the ebook than for the hardcover. On a hardcover, the author earns 30 percent of the publisher’s gross revenue, and 42.5 percent of the total margin (what the author and publisher together earn). For now, on the ebook, the author earns 25 percent.

On the AARdvark blog, agent Brian Fiore said HC’s numbers confirm what publishers have been denying for years: “That their savings on printing, binding and distribution make up for the lower revenue from lower e-book prices– and that increased profitability is coming entirely off the backs of authors.”

Fiore also dissected the often-heard argument that royalty rates are irrelevant to the large percentage of authors who never earn out their advances. The current ebook royalty standard, he wrote, penalizes authors who exceed expectations while leaving untouched celebrities and big name writers whose sales don’t merit their big advances.

The only thing really surprising about these figures from HC is that they came directly from the publisher. More than two years ago, the Guild did the math showing the disparity and proposed an interim solution that would protect authors until a fairer industry standard could be worked out. Since then, the continued migration away from print toward ebooks has made the need for a more equitable royalty system even more urgent.

DOJ Highlights Emails to Make Case Against Apple

On day one of the civil trial against Apple for alleged ebook-price fixing, the Department of Justice presented its case in an 81-slide deck that highlighted email communication between executives at Apple and heads of the five big publishers formerly named as defendants.

Many of the emails (which will be familiar to anyone who has been watching the case) referenced concern over Amazon’s $9.99 pricing strategy and publishers’ fears of trying to go it alone in challenging Amazon’s terms.

Read More…

Counting the Cost (to Authors) of S&S/B&N Rift

As the dispute over terms between Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble drags on, an experience related by bestselling novelist William Kent Krueger reminds us it’s authors who are paying the price. On his blog, Kent’s Rants, Krueger explains how he learned about the conflict:

I’ve been setting up my tour for Tamarack County, which comes out on August 20.  I’d arranged two events at Barnes and Noble stores in the Twin Cities, two stores that have been strong supporters of my work from the beginning and that sell enormous quantities of my work.  Then I got the word from New York: No visits to B&N.

Read More…

Along Publishers Row

By Campbell Geeslin

“Sometimes I suspect that my obituary in The New York Times,” Andrew Greeley once wrote, “will read, ‘Andrew Greeley, Priest: Wrote Steamy Novels.”

It did.

The Catholic priest, 85, died May 30 in Chicago. He was the author of 120 books, 10 of them bestselling novels. The first of his sexy books was The Cardinal Sins (1981). The obit also said: “It was easy for Father Greeley to dismiss critics of his novels as prudes. Other critics, however, found the sex not prurient but preposterous.”

Greeley claimed that his popular novels were “the most priestly thing I have ever done.” But early on, Greeley denounced the Church for the mishandling of the child abuse crisis. A Times editorial two days after his death said he was “strident, defiant, alarmist and exactly right.”

Read More…

BEA: Touting Serious Books, Mulling Reviews Ethics, Celebrating Indies, Lining up for a Cat

In addition to providing a showcase for upcoming books and lots of schmoozing opportunities, BookExpo America offers a look at the trends and ideas that—for better or worse–could affect authors now and in the near future.

This year’s BEA featured less hyperbolic discussion of digital publishing than in recent years, reflecting the fact that ebooks are now an entrenched part of the business. Many of the best-attended events revolved around more traditional subjects.

At the annual Buzz Panel, where editors tout their favorite fall titles, observers noted a refreshing emphasis on serious books.  On the Vulture website, Boris Kachka described the panel:

I’ve previously found it to be a hodgepodge affair, spanning fiction and non-, great and derivative. This year was different: overwhelmingly female (five of the six writers, all six editors), unrelentingly bleak (genocide, strokes, Calvino-esque alienation), and consistently enthralling.

Another BEA gathering focused on the ethics of book reviewing.

Read More…

New Books by Members

This week’s batch of recent and upcoming releases by Authors Guild members includes books by Pat Carr, Mary Kay Carson, Jane Ciabattari, Matt de la Peña, Patrick A. Durantou, Brian Fagan, Thomas Farber, Deborah Freedman, Chris Grabenstein, James Gunn, Michael Gurian, Michael Mallory, Debby Mayer, Claudia Mills, Lisa Moser, Paul A. Offit, Michael Pocalyko, Elisabeth Stevens, Phoebe Stone, and Richard Watson. Titles after the jump.

Read More…