Monthly Archives: September 2013

Booker Prize Opens to All English-Language Novels, Some U.K. Writers Less Than Thrilled

It’s official: Americans can now compete for a Man Booker Prize.

The Booker Prize foundation today announced it was opening up the award to any novel written originally in English and published in the U.K., regardless of the author’s nationality. After 45 years in which only authors from the UK, Ireland and Commonwealth countries were eligible to win, the foundation said in a written statement that it was time to expand the competition.

“We are embracing the freedom of English in its versatility, in its vigour, in its vitality and in its glory wherever it may be. We are abandoning the constraints of geography and national boundaries.”

The long-rumored change is controversial, to say the least, and drew criticism even before today’s announcement. The Guardian on Monday published a story quoting author Linda Grant, who was shortlisted for the prize in 2008 for her novel The Clothes on Their Backs.

“‘There are two career-changing prizes, the Booker and the Pulitzer. The Pulitzer has this big market in the US, and UK authors are closed off from that. If the Booker is open to US authors it will create a huge imbalance. UK writers will have more competition for a career-changing prize, whereas US authors will have a new prize.'”

Jim Crace, who is on this year’s shortlist for his novel Harvest, was quoted Sunday by the Independent:

“If you open the Booker prize to all people writing in the English language it would be a fantastic overview of English language literature but it would lose a focus. I’m very fond of the sense of the Commonwealth. There’s something in there that you would lose if you open it up to American authors.”

Anticipating that the change could send submissions skyrocketing, the foundation is also establishing a somewhat complicated cap on entries based on a publisher’s previous longlisted titles. The foundation expressed confidence that the new rules will make the process, “slightly less challenging in terms of reading than the 151 books the judges considered this year.”

Guild Tells Court: Reject Google’s Risky, Market-Killing, Profit-Driven Project

Arguing that the Google Library Project violates authors’ rights to control the copying and distribution of their books, destroys a potential market for the works, and puts the material at greater risk of theft, the Authors Guild urges Judge Denny Chin to rule against Google in a court brief filed ahead of next Monday’s hearing on summary judgment.

While Google maintains that its mass unauthorized copying of books is “transformative,” and therefore protected as fair use, the Guild argues that merely digitizing a work doesn’t meet the legal standard of transformative.

The brief also says that a program as all-encompassing as the Library Project “eviscerates” any possibility that license holders could form a collective market for the works.

On the issue of security, the brief outlines the risks of Google making digitized books available without any accountability for keeping it safe. What’s worse, if such programs are considered fair use, “others will engage in their own unauthorized book digitization programs, putting more books within the reach of digital thieves,” the brief says.

The Guild rejects a number of Google’s justifications for the project, including the contention that it’s actually helping authors by increasing exposure to their books (the “we were only trying to help” defense) and that the program is “only indirectly commercial.” In fact, according to the brief, “the primary motivation for Google’s exploitation of the authors’ books is for Google to gain a competitive advantage in the online search marketplace” by increasing traffic and therefore ad revenue.

Recognizing that the “fair use doctrine is not designed to address the enormity of Google’s infringement,” the Guild argues that it’s up to Congress, not the courts, to revise copyright law to deal with technological advances. Earlier this year, the House Judiciary Committee said it would begin a review of U.S. copyright law. In the meantime, the brief says, “Google’s unilateral and profit-driven effort to upset the balance between copyright owners and users must be rejected.”

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Back in the 1780s, James Boswell wrote the best literary blog, with quill and ink. He and his friend Samuel Johnson lived by their pens and would have felt right at home last Saturday night at the sixth annual Lit Crawl Manhattan on the Lower East Side.

The Crawl was “a gritty, low-budget affair,” The New York Times said. Volunteers did all the planning. There were no tickets, no admission fees and it gave “lesser known New York writers a turn in the spotlight.” Hours were six to nine p.m. and the crowd moved from bar to art gallery to pizzeria to laundromat, to hear authors read on subjects loosely organized by themes such as “Fake It”  “More Damn Lies,” “Radical Latinas” and “Return of the Savage Detectives.”

This annual outing was first enjoyed in San Francisco in 2004. It has spread to literary strongholds across the U.S.

London held its first crawl this year. The ghosts of Johnson and Boswell lifted their mugs of ale.

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London Police Ready for Piracy Crackdown; U.K. Author Blasts “Moral Squalor” of Digital Book Theft

In the U.K., two new separate efforts aim to defend copyright, one by enforcing the law, another by highlighting the immorality of piracy.

The London police department is launching a 19-person intellectual property crime unit, The Bookseller reports.  Publishers Association chief executive Richard Mollet applauded the new unit as “a hugely significant development in the fight against online intellectual property crime which undermines the creative industries on a daily basis.”

Meanwhile, acclaimed author Philip Pullman today ignited public debate on unauthorized book downloading with his scathing piece in Index on Censorship magazine.

“The technical brilliance is so dazzling that people can’t see the moral squalor of what they’re doing. It is outrageous that anyone can steal an artist’s work and get away with it,” writes Pullman, who is president of the Society of Authors. “It is theft, as surely as reaching into someone’s pocket and taking their wallet is theft.”

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming releases by Authors Guild members include titles by David A. Adler, Lily Brett, Diane Chamberlain, Zita Christian, Myra Johnson, Kate Manning, Carla Killough McClafferty, Terry McMillan, Walter Dean Myers, Alexis O’Neill, Hank Phillippi Ryan, Maggie Scarf, Hollis Seaman, Bob Shacochis, Toby Speed, Todd Strasser, Cynthia Voigt, Robin Wasserman, Elizabeth Wein, and Ashley Wolff. Titles under the jump.

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Updated Edition of “The Writers Legal Guide” Helps Authors Succeed in a Fast-Changing Market

While most authors would rather focus on their craft, The Writer’s Legal Guide helps them navigate the unavoidable entrepreneurial concerns of their profession, including protecting their work from theft, avoiding legal risks and, of course, making as much money as possible.

A newly updated version of the Guide goes in-depth on the latest developments in digital royalties, copyright law, self-publishing and other topics. The Guide, co-published by the Authors Guild and Allworth Press, had its last update in 2002. Since then, “The literary marketplace has fundamentally changed,” its authors Kay Murray and Tad Crawford write.

They point out that traditional publishers and bricks-and-mortar booksellers are struggling to adapt to a market where “readers expect instant, inexpensive access to literature” and content aggregators like Amazon, Google, Apple, Facebook and The Huffington Post reign.

On a brighter note, they say, “the advent of digital delivery systems offers writers new ways to reach a paying audience.”

The updated Guide helps readers sidestep the dangers and take advantage of the opportunities posed by changes in the market. It also addresses business issues authors have confronted for decades.

In the Guide, authors can find out:

  • How to avoid defamation, privacy and infringement liability
  • How to understand copyright and fair use
  • How to use Freedom of Information laws to access troves of data compiled by the government
  • When to consult an attorney.
  • What to expect from a literary agent.
  • How to understand and negotiate book, magazine and blog contribution contracts
  • How to establish collaboration agreements that prevent misunderstandings later in the process.
  • Which print and online sources provide crucial industry information.
  • How to tackle the practical steps of self-publishing, from hiring a cover designer to  obtaining an ISBN.
  • How to minimize their tax bill, but still be in good shape if they get audited.
  • Why they should join a professional organization.


writers_legal_guide_front_coverBuy book.


Committee Votes to Send Shield Law Legislation to the Senate, Broadens Definition of Journalist

A federal shield law protecting journalists from overzealous government intrusion is one big step closer to becoming a reality today, after the Senate Judiciary Committee voted to approve the Free Flow of Information Act and send it on to the full Senate.

As defined in the act, the law would cover a wide range of information gatherers including nonfiction authors, bloggers, students and freelancers, regardless of whether they’re being paid for the work. In addition, a federal judge could rule that someone who doesn’t fit into any of the categories laid out in the law is covered.  The committee broadened the definition of “covered persons” with an amendment approved today ahead of the vote on the full act.

That more inclusive definition makes this a double victory for free press advocates, who feared that the law as previously written would leave unprotected many journalists who work in non-traditional media.

The bipartisan legislation seeks to strike a balance between the First Amendment rights of journalists to not to reveal their sources and other private information and the need to protect the public from the dangers created by leaks of classified information.

While attempts at passing a federal shield law have failed in the past, most recently in 2009 with legislation similar to the act approved in committee today, momentum for putting the protection into place has been building since revelations earlier this year that the Justice Department secretly obtained the emails of a Fox News reporter and the phone records of Associated Press reporters.

Outrage over the revelations led Attorney General Eric Holder to issue new guidelines for obtaining journalists’ records while investigating leaks. But without the force of law, those guidelines could be changed at the whims of the current or future administrations. Legislators and First Amendment advocacy groups, including the Authors Guild, have been pushing for legislation that would expand on those guidelines and make them law.

Bulletin Board

This week’s batch includes one residency, one fellowship, one traveling scholarship, and one fiction contest, with deadlines ranging from October 1-October 15.

The Amy Lowell Traveling Poetry Scholarship is an annual scholarship of approximately $54,000 established to support travel abroad for gifted American-born poets. There is no age requirement, and there is no requirement that applicants be enrolled in a university or other education program. While many recent winners have been published poets, there is no requirement that applicants have previously published their work. Applicants should submit a representative sample of their poetry. The sample must not exceed either one printed volume plus no more than 20 typed pages of your most recent work, or if you do not have a printed volume you may send up to 40 typed pages of your poetry. Deadline: October 15, 2013. For more information, please visit the website.

The Dora Maar Fellowship is currently seeking applications from outstanding mid-career professionals in the arts and humanities for residencies from the Brown Foundation Fellows Program. Applicants must include their C.V., two professional references, a project description, a community participation description, and two writing samples of no more than 20 pages. The fellowship term begins February 1 or after and ends no later than June 30. Entry fee: $10. Deadline: October 15, 2013. For more information, please visit the website.

The Southern Indiana Review is seeking submissions for the Mary C. Mohr Editors’ Award. This year the prize will be awarded to a work of fiction. The winner will receive $2,000 and publication. Entries can be a short story, novella, or stand-alone novel excerpt of up to 40 pages. Entry fee: $20 per entry; $5 for each additional entry. Deadline: October 1, 2013. For more information, please visit the website.

The Thornton Writer Residency Program is a 14-week residency at Lynchburg College awarded annually to a fiction, poetry, creative nonfiction writer, or playwright for the spring term. The writer-in-residence teaches a weekly creative writing workshop, visits classes, and gives a public reading. The residency includes a stipend, housing, some meals, and round-trip travel expenses. Applicants must submit a copy of a previously published book, their curriculum vitae, a cover letter outlining evidence of successful teaching experience, a workshop course proposal with sample syllabus, and contact information for 3 references. Deadline: October 15, 2013. For more information, please visit the website.

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

A good ghost story is just about the only thing in literature that can cause goose- bumps on a reader. Scary tales were told long before Charles Dickens or Edgar Allan Poe.

            The first ghost story was found in Pliny’s Letters. He lived A.D. 62-113.  That tale is recounted in Roger Clarke’s A Natural History of Ghosts and retold in the London Review of Books. The following is a capsule version:

There once was a house in Athens haunted by “an old man, emaciated and filthy, with long beard and unkempt hair.” His chains rattled as he walked about at night. Anyone who tried to live in the house was driven to madness and death.

One night, Athendorus the Stoic (the first ghost buster?) sat up reading, waiting. At midnight, he heard chains rattling. A shadowy figure beckoned to him as it shuffled to a corner of the courtyard and disappeared.

In the morning a hole was dug at the spot where the ghost had vanished. A skeleton in chains was unearthed. The bones were given a proper burial and the house was no longer haunted.

Now, rub your arms briskly and your chill bumps, too, will vanish.

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With Senators Set to Consider Shield Law Thursday, First Amendment Advocates Push for Passage

Free press advocates are stepping up efforts to raise support for the Free Flow of Information Act, as the Senate Judiciary Committee prepares to consider the federal shield law legislation on Thursday.

“Journalists work hard every day to give life to the promise of the First Amendment. The ability to protect confidential sources is the oxygen that investigative reporting needs to survive,” a media coalition supporting the act writes in a letter  sent to Judiciary Committee members Monday afternoon. The letter is signed by the Authors Guild, along with news companies, media trade groups and other First Amendment supporters.

Coalition leaders are also asking advocacy organizations to encourage their members to call senators who serve on the committee and urge passage of the legislation.

Interest in a federal shield law was reignited earlier this year after revelations that the Justice Department secretly obtained the emails of a Fox News reporter and the phone records of Associated Press reporters. Outrage over the revelations led Attorney General Eric Holder to issue new guidelines for obtaining journalists’ records while investigating leaks. The current legislation, based on a 2009 bill that made it through committee but failed to become law, would expand on and codify those new DOJ guidelines.

The Judiciary Committee began considering the bi-partisan legislation on Aug. 1, but postponed a vote until after the August recess. In its letter, the coalition urges the committee to support the bill and oppose any amendments that would weaken it.