Monthly Archives: July 2013

For “Zealot” Author Reza Aslan, Fox News Debacle is the Gift that Keeps on Giving

With enemies like this, who needs friends?

Reza Aslan, author of Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth, is still riding the publicity high from last week’s hostile interview with Fox News correspondent Lauren Green.

Zealot remains the top seller on Amazon and even Aslan’s older titles seem to have gotten a boost. His 2011 book, No god But God has displaced Bill O’Reilly’s Killing Jesus as the bestselling book in Amazon’s general history of religion category.

And Aslan, until this week a successful but by no means “celebrity” author of serious nonfiction, has been packing venues, including Portland’s Powell’s Books last night. The Daily Beast reported:

Many of those who attended Aslan’s reading Tuesday, including McLean, hadn’t heard of the author before Fox’s clip. By the time they stuffed into the room, though, it was clear that they had not only heard of him, they’d been reading his book. Powell’s was all sold out of copies, came another announcement over the PA.

In case you missed the interview, Green repeatedly questioned why Aslan, a Muslim, would write a book about Jesus. Aslan repeatedly explained that he was, in addition to a Muslim, a PhD. scholar of religious history and that writing about Jesus was actually in his job description.

The interview went viral after Buzzfeed posted it under the headline, “Is This The Most Embarrassing Interview Fox News Has Ever Done?”

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Many writers have been famous drunks. Did drink help or hurt them?  It’s a perennial question.

Blake Morrison started off a long article in The Guardian by listing a few of the usual suspects: Dylan Thomas, John Cheever, Ernest Hemingway and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

(Personal note: In the late 1950s, I once came upon Truman Capote, already pudgy, staggering around in front of a Manhattan bookstore in a filthy corduroy suit, trying to engage strangers in conversation. A grim sight I’ve never forgotten.)

But writers, doing what writers do, have left behind some interesting quotes about booze:

“There is no poetry among the water drinkers.” —Ovid.

“The excitement of alcohol and the excitement of fantasy are very similar.”— Cheever.

Kingsley Amis liked a drink to supply “that final burst of energy at the end of the day.”

“I’d rather have a bottle in front of me than a frontal lobotomy.”— Dorothy Parker

Morrison supplied a familiar list of reasons why writers drink: “Boredom, loneliness, habit, hedonism, lack of self-confidence; as stress relief or a short-cut to euphoria; to forget the past, obliterate the present or escape the future.”

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Broad-Based Show of Support for Federal Shield Law Ahead of Key Senate Vote

With the Senate Judiciary Committee scheduled to take up federal shield law legislation tomorrow, advocates are rallying support for passage of this crucial First Amendment protection

The Authors Guild is part of a coalition of news companies, media trade groups and other free press advocacy organizations that have sent a letter to Judiciary Committee members that says:

“In the wake of revelations that the Justice Department used a warrant to obtain the email content of a Fox News reporter, and secretly subpoenaed Associated Press phone records affecting over 100 journalists and covering over 20 lines (including work, home and cell phones; bureaus in three different cities; and the AP line at the House of Representatives press gallery), a federal shield law is needed now more than ever to prevent government overreach and protect the public’s right to know.”

Those revelations led Attorney General Eric Holder recently to issue new guidelines for obtaining journalists’ records while investigating leaks. The bipartisan Free Flow of Information Act, based on a 2009 bill that made it through committee but failed to become law, would expand on and codify those new DOJ guidelines.

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ABA Calls Obama’s Amazon Warehouse Visit “Misguided,” Asks President to Share Ideas, Coffee With Indies

In an open letter to Pres. Barack Obama, ABA members are criticizing the president’s decision to make a speech from an Amazon warehouse today and inviting him to have a conversation with independent booksellers.

“For you to highlight Amazon as a job creator strikes us as greatly misguided,” the booksellers say in a letter signed by ABA President Steve Bercu, ABA CEO Oren Teicher and nine others.

Ahead of Obama’s planned visit to the warehouse in Chattanooga, TN, Amazon announced it was adding 5,000 jobs. But the jobs pay about $11 an hour, which, as USA today points out, would put a full-time worker with a family of four at about the federal poverty level.

In their letter, the booksellers say Amazon had “flouted sales tax laws,” engaged in anti-competitive pricing and hurt local businesses.

All told, according to the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, every $10 million in spending that shifts from Main Street retailers to Amazon results in a net loss of 33 retail jobs. That would mean for 2012 alone — using Amazon’s own numbers about its increase in sales — Amazon cost the U.S. economy more than 42,000 jobs just last year!

The letter concludes:

Conversely, the value of a local business to its community cannot be overstated — whether through job creation or in the myriad ways it gives back to the community.

We would love to continue this timely and important conversation with you. We’ll bring together a group of real job creators to meet at your favorite local, independent bookstore! And we’ll buy the coffee!

Hachette UK Chief Exec Tells China Newspaper: We Represent Authors and Authors Deserve to Get Paid

How do you protect the intellectual property of authors in the digital market?

The question was posed this weekend to Tim Hely Hutchinson, group chief executive of Hachette UK, during an interview with the South China Morning Post. Hutchinson responded:

“One of the most important new roles for publishers is the protection of copyright – how do we protect authors against piracy and casual file sharing? We have a subcontractor who sweeps the internet every day to find infringing editions and we send every infringer a takedown notice. If they persist we take legal action. And that is successful – the books do get taken down.”

Hutchinson also discussed DRM (encrypting digital files such as ebooks to discourage illegal copying), a hot-button topic in some circles:

“And on casual file sharing, we strongly support the maintenance of DRM – digital rights management – so all the files, e-books and audio are encrypted and all our contracts with people like Amazon make it impossible for people to share or to lend. Lots of people say take DRM off, it’s old-fashioned, but that’s wrong. Our primary job is to represent authors and authors deserve to be paid. One way is by making sure we keep the DRM on.”

While the interviewer did not specifically mention piracy in China, widespread theft of intellectual property in the country makes DRM all the more important.

Last year Hachette opened a sales office in Hong Kong, stepping up its focus on the region. During the interview, Hutchinson contrasted Asia’s robust growth to the “relatively small and static market” for books in the U.K. And he said Asian readers tend to prefer nonfiction such as business and self-improvement books. “It’s less literary and more to do with getting on in life,” he said.

It’s a Race to the Bottom for Amazon, Overstock on Pricing for Some Bestselling Hardcovers

How low can they go? Apparently responding to Overstock’s attempt to undercut its pricing, Amazon is offering discounts on popular hardcover titles that are dramatic even by its standards.

Shelf Awareness first reported on the price slashing at Amazon, noting that the retailer was offering 50% to 65%  off list.

“The books are from a range of major publishers and include, for example, Inferno by Dan Brown, which has a list price of $29.95 but is available on Amazon for $11.65, a 61% discount; And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini, listed for $28.95, offered at $12.04, a 58% discount; Lean In by Sheryl Sandberg, listed at $24.95, available for $9.09, a 64% discount; and The Fault in Our Stars by John Green, listed at $17.99, available for $6.55, 64% off.”

Amazon’s deeper discounting followed Overstock’s announcement last week that,  “For a limited time, we’ve priced our books at least 10-percent below’s prices.”

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming releases by Authors Guild members include titles by Lisa M. Bakos, Michael Thomas Barry, Alice Denham, David Gilbert, Lawrence Grobel, Edward Hannibal, John Hennessy, Stephen Krensky, Lisa Lutz, Gerald McFarland, Rick Mofina, Deborah Navas, Dean Radin, Cheryl Reavis, and Carl Rollyson. Titles beneath the jump.

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Tablet Wars Heat Up: Google Unveils Nexus 7, iPad Sales Slip, New Kindle Fires Rumored, Nook in Limbo

Google has unveiled its new Nexus 7 tablet and an upgraded version of its Android operating system, the latest moves in the heated battle to capture the market for multi-purpose digital devices.

USA Today reports:

Three versions of the tablet will be available: Wi-Fi only 16GB and 32GB models for $229 and $269 respectively, and the 4G LTE version launching in the coming weeks.

Earlier this week Apple reported that it sold 14.6 million iPads in the third quarter, down from 17 million during the same period the previous year. The company attributed the decline to a tough comparison with last year, when the latest generation iPad had just come out.

Meanwhile, tech website BGR earlier this month cited “trusted sources” who say Amazon is preparing to roll out a new lineup of Kindle Fire devices in time for the holiday shopping season. Amazon has not commented.

The biggest wildcard in the tablet game may be Barnes & Noble’s Nook. The once promising device had been losing money so quickly that last month B&N said it would no longer manufacture the color tablets (but would continue with the black and white e-readers). Two weeks later,  B&N CEO William Lynch resigned, stoking speculation of a Nook Media sell-off, possibly to a tech company (Microsoft?) willing to invest in reviving the faltering business.

With all these companies competing to put tablets into readers’ hands, the most likely winner is the ebook market, where sales continue to grow at double-digit rates.

Bulletin Board

This week’s batch of contests is heavy on the poetry, but there’s a fiction contest in there as well. Deadlines range from August 15-August 31.

The Grayson Books Poetry Prize is now open for submissions to all poets writing in English. Submitted manuscripts must be 50-80 pages. The winner will receive $1,000, publication, and 10 copies of the collection. Entry fee: $25. Deadline: August 15, 2013. For complete guidelines, please visit the website.

The Manchester Writing School is currently accepting submissions for their Poetry and Fiction Prizes. The Fiction Prize will award £10,000 (about $15,125) to the best short story. The story can be on any subject, and in any style, but must be fiction and must not be previously published. The Poetry Prize will award £10,000 (about $15,125) to the writer of the best portfolio of poetry submitted. Entrants are asked to submit a portfolio of three-to-five poems (total maximum combined length: 120 lines). The poems can be on any subject, and in any style, but must not be previously published. Deadline Entry fee: £17 (about $25) per entry. August 30, 2013. For complete guidelines, please visit the website.

The Tennessee Williams Annual Poetry Contest is currently open for submissions. The contest is only open to writers who have not yet published a book of poetry. Authors who have self-published or have published chapbooks are eligible provided that their poetry collection does not have an ISBN number. Authors who have published in other genres are eligible. To enter, submit 2-4 original, unpublished poems, written in English, with a combined length of up to 400 lines. The winner will receive $1,000, a VIP All Access Pass to the New Orleans Literary Festival, publication in Louisiana Cultural Vistas Magazine, and a reading at the next festival. Deadline: August, 15, 2013. For complete guidelines, please visit the website.

A Room of Her Own Foundation’s To the Lighthouse Poetry Publication Prize will be awarded to the best, unpublished poetry collection by a woman. Manuscripts should be between 48 and 96 pages. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication by Red Hen Press. Entry fee: $20. Deadline: August 31, 2013. For complete guidelines, please visit the website.

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“Ever since Dracula stepped from the shadow of a Transylvanian castle in Bram Stoker’s novel of 1797, he has cast a spell over our supposedly rational modern age,” wrote Elizabeth Lowry in The Wall Street Journal. She was reviewing Who Was Dracula?, a new book by Jim Steinmeyer.

For the origins of Dracula’s “queasily erotic overtones,” Lowry wrote that Steinmeyer suggests we “look to a prominent member of Stoker’s circle of acquaintances.”

Stoker knew Oscar Wilde and the shocking revelations exposed during his trial for “gross indecency.” It was also the time of Jack the Ripper, and Stoker must have known some of the unsavory suspects. Stoker then, Steinmeyer believed, used the weaknesses and traits of many well-known people. “In the figure of Dracula,” wrote Lowry, “he organized what he saw ‘into a new kind of nightmare’—one that remains ever vivid because we replace his associations with our own.”

Why is being frightened so entertaining? Gangs of grotesque zombies stagger through books, TV series, and even a Brad Pitt movie. Dr. Frankenstein’s monster had his day. Werewolves and mummies were nightmare makers. But the most durable boogieman of all is that bloodsucking vampire.

Zombies must eventually exhaust their current popularity, but Dracula will endure because he reminds us of creeps that we have known in real life.

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