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The Authors Guild

Bulletin Board

This week’s batch of contests includes a Columbia University prize for history and diplomacy writers as well as two short fiction prizes. Deadlines range from Nov 1-17.

The Bancroft Prizes are awarded annually by Columbia University to the authors of distinguished works in either or both of the following categories: American History (including biography) and Diplomacy. The 2015 prizes are for books published in 2014. The term “American” includes all the Americas, North, Central, and South; however, the award is confined to works originally written in English or of which there is a published translation in English. Previous winners have received a $10,000 stipend. Deadline: November 1, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

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Amazon-Hachette’s Staying Power Shows Dispute’s Importance to Future of Books

As the standoff between Amazon and the publishing giant Hachette enters its sixth month in the spotlight, the conversation continues—and it continues to heat up.

In the wake of news that the Authors United group, in partnership with the Authors Guild, was preparing its third letter, this one asking for an antitrust investigation of Amazon, Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson appeared on the PBS program NewsHour on September 29, telling host Jeffrey Brown that Amazon’s targeting of Hachette writers’ incomes is “unacceptable.”

When asked if there’s a good guy in this dispute, Robinson elaborated:

The big difference is [Amazon’s] attitude towards books and towards writers. What publishers do is invest in books. They pay advances to writers. They recognize the fact that it may take years to write a good book—for a biographer, for a writer of history—and they invest in the book. Amazon doesn’t do that, Amazon doesn’t do editorial tasks, they don’t take a position on the intellectual merit of a book, so in terms of supporting our endeavor, and our intellectual property, there’s a big difference between these two companies.

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

About 40 mystery writers and would-be mystery writers showed up at Woodlawn Cemetery in the Bronx, where Herman Melville and other notables are buried. The writers spent a day touring graves and a mausoleum. They heard from a man who works for a company that builds crematories. James Barron went along to cover the event for The New York Times.

The idea for this day of background research came from Linda Fairstein, author of Bad Blood and a former prosecutor in the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Her great grandparents were buried at Woodlawn, and she had visited the place as a child.

Lawrence Block, a writer of bestselling mysteries, noted on Twitter: “At Woodlawn Cemetery. Need men’s room or grave of someone we don’t like.”

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Bulletin Board

This week’s batch includes a residency, as well as prizes for fiction, nonfiction, and poetry. Deadlines range from Nov 1-Nov 16.

The Table 4 Writers Foundation, dedicated to honoring the memory of Elaine Kaufman, is currently offering grants of $2,500. Submissions must be previously unpublished prose (fiction or nonfiction) that deals with some aspect of New York City in a meaningful way. Entries can be short stories, essays, or book excerpts, and should be limited to 4-10 pages or 1,000 to 2,500 words. Collaborative pieces are not allowed. Applicants must be at least 21 years old. Entry fee: $10. Deadline: November 15, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

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Rasenberger to Succeed Aiken as Authors Guild Executive Director

NEW YORK, NY, October 9, 2014 — Mary Rasenberger, a six-year Copyright Office and Library of Congress veteran and partner at the media law firm Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams and Sheppard, will succeed Paul Aiken as Authors Guild Executive Director on November 3rd. Rasenberger’s selection follows a national search by a committee of the Authors Guild Council, the Guild’s governing board. Her candidacy received the unanimous support of the Council. Aiken will work for the Guild as a consultant for the next two years.

“Mary brings with her exactly what the Guild needs today,” said President Roxana Robinson. “She’s a proven leader, a brilliant copyright lawyer and—especially important to us—a devotee of the written word.”

“I’m delighted to hand the reins to someone of Mary’s caliber,” said Paul Aiken. “I’ve known her for years. She’s energetic, very smart, and knows her way around Washington. She’s a perfect fit for the job. And I have a new cause,” said Aiken, who announced a year ago that he has ALS.

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Steven Pinker, a Harvard psychologist and prolific writer, is the author of a new book, The Thinking Person’s Guide to Writing in the 21st Century.

In an interview with Scientific American, Pinker said, “The main difference between good writing and turgid mush—academese, corporatese, and so on—is that good writing is a window on the world. The writer narrates an ongoing series of events which the reader can see for himself, if only he is given an unobstructed view.”

Scientific American said of The Thinking Person’s Guide that Pinker “shows readers how to take apart a piece of fine writing to see what makes it tick.”

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles Tasha Alexander, Cordelia Frances Biddle, Rex Burns, Elaine DePrince, Kate Flora, David M. Friedman, Jack Gantos, Amy Gibson, Donna Jo Napoli, Katherine Paterson, Charles Salzberg, and Meryle Secrest. Titles below the jump.

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Bulletin Board

This week’s batch offers a range of contests covering poetry, fiction, and creative nonfiction. The deadline for each is Nov 1.

Alice James Books is accepting submissions of poetry manuscripts to the Alice James Award (formerly the Beatrice Hawley Award). Submissions from emerging as well as established poets are welcome; however, entrants must reside in the U.S. The winner will receive $2,000, book publication, and distribution through Consortium. Manuscripts must be 48-80 pages in length. Individual poems from the manuscript may have been previously published in magazines, anthologies, or chapbooks of less than 25 pages, but the collection, as a whole, must be unpublished. Entry fee: $30. Deadline: November 1, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

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Authors Guild Makes Public its Call for Antitrust Scrutiny of Amazon

The Authors Guild’s mission, since its founding in 1912, has been to support working writers.

The Guild has consistently opposed Amazon’s recent and ruthless tactics of directly targeting Hachette authors, which have made these authors into helpless victims in a business dispute between two big corporations. This action has caused thousands of writers to see a significant drop in their royalty checks. The Authors Guild challenges this threat to the literary ecosystem, one that jeopardizes the individual livelihoods of authors.

The Guild started its own initiative to invite governmental scrutiny of Amazon’s outsize market share and anticompetitive practices in the publishing industry. Last summer the Guild prepared a White Paper on Amazon’s anticompetitive conduct, circulating it to the United States Department of Justice and other government entities. As a result of our request for the initiation of an investigation of Amazon, we hosted a meeting with the DOJ in our offices on August 1 so that a group of authors could make their case directly to the government, as the Wall Street Journal reported today (subscription required).

The Guild has been working closely with the grassroots group Authors United—founded by Authors Guild Council Member Douglas Preston—which will be making another request to the Department of Justice to investigate Amazon for potential antitrust violations.

Our mission is to protect and support working writers. When a retailer, which sells close to half the books in the country, deliberately suppresses the works of certain authors, those authors are harmed, and we speak out. We will continue to oppose any business tactics, from publishers or retailers, that interfere with working writers’ ability to present their products in a fair marketplace and to flourish within their chosen field. Our goal is to ensure that the markets for books and ideas remain both vigorous and free.

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

The lives of real-life writers are being turned into fiction. Novelist Thomas Mallon, author of Fellow Travelers and, most recently, of Watergate: A Novel, wrote in Sunday’s New York Times Book Review, “This territory seems to be expanding of late.”

Mallon lists Colm Toibin’s The Master (about Henry James), Jay Parini’s The Passages of H. M. (about Herman Melville), David Lodge’s A Man of Parts (H.G. Wells) and the newly published Arctic Summer by Damon Galgut, based on the life of E.M. Forster.

“In Arctic Summer,” writes Mallon, readers “will find a narrative voice reminiscent of Forster’s own calm, percipient one. Galgut depicts the novelist participating in ‘buttoned-down conversation about books and travel and opera and architecture’ all the while unable to ‘keep his gaze from sliding sideways, to the figure of the servant who bent in to clear the plates.’”

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