Macmillan CEO John Sargent announced yesterday in a letter to authors and agents that Macmillan has reached a multiyear agreement with Amazon for the sale of both print books and e-books. Under the deal, e-books will be sold under the agency model, which allows the publisher to set its own prices and avoid Amazon’s strategic discounting of key titles. This will allow Macmillan to sell books above Amazon’s artificially deflated prices, potentially leading to more income for authors, but it leaves in place the inequitable 25% of net proceeds royalty rate that Macmillan regularly offers authors on e-book sales. The agreement will take effect of January 5, 2015.
The deal makes Macmillan the third major publisher to announce a new agreement with Amazon after the expiration of the publishers’ settlement agreements with the U.S. government, which banned the agency model and required each publisher to allow retailers to discount e-books for a defined period. These agreements, known as “consent decrees”—whose durations were staggered at six-month intervals (Macmillan’s ended December 18)—were settlements of the lawsuit brought by the U.S. Department of Justice accusing five major publishers and Apple of conspiring to fix e-book prices in the lead-up to Apple’s 2010 iPad launch. After the publishers each settled, the case continued as U.S. v. Apple.
A page one headline in the New York Times’ business section caught our eye this morning: “Amazon Not as Unstoppable as It Might Appear.” The article describes Amazon’s susceptibility to competition from start-ups in the retail sector. We’ve noticed a similar trend in the publishing industry. Now there are more—and more inventive—ways than ever to buy books without logging in to Amazon. We’d like to highlight a few of them. In our view, the more ways there are to get our books to readers, the better things are for us all.
One of the major developments has been publishers’ experimentation with selling directly. Last week Hachette rolled out a new sales program, letting readers purchase select titles from the publisher by clicking a “buy” button embedded in an author’s Twitter message. The program pairs books with limited edition collectibles: it began last Thursday when Amanda Palmer announced in a tweet that the first 100 people to buy her new release, The Art of Asking, would get a signed manuscript draft page. The program also includes astronaut Chad Hadfield’s book You Are Here—accompanied by an outer-space photograph of the Greek island of Corfu—and an offering from the satirical paper The Onion. So far, these are the only books slated for inclusion in the program.
While most major publishers sell directly nowadays, HarperCollins has distinguished itself by sweetening the deal for authors. In October, HarperCollins launched an e-commerce platform that lets readers buy books straight from its web page—sans bookstore, sans Internet retail giant. Kudos to Harper for passing on some profit to authors when it cut out the middleman: writers who offer their books through the program receive an additional 10% net royalty on e-book, print and audio sales. This applies even when authors sell the books through their own web page.
by Campbell Geeslin
The Biographical Dictionary of Literary Failure was edited by C.D. Rose and reviewed in The Wall Street Journal by Dave Shiflett.
“Among the many types of failure that life has to offer,” Shiflett wrote, “literary failure ranks among the most devastating. It is sometimes even more painful than romantic rejection, which may simply be the result of mundane factors (crossed eyes, a small income). Literary failure, however, is a thing of the soul, made all the more toxic when it comes at the hands of that confederacy of Precious, Insular, Sanctimonious, Smug and often Young (work out the acronym for yourself) writing program grads who seem to rule the literary roost.”
Shiflett quotes from the dictionary: “The power of writing is one of the greatest things we have, whether it is read or not. I was there, I saw.”
This week’s batch of contests include a residency for poets, a fellowship program, and an award for Civil War fiction writers. Deadlines range from Dec 31-Jan 15.
The Dartmouth Poet-In-Residence Award is now accepting applications for a six- to eight-week residency in poet Robert Frost’s former farmhouse. The residency begins July 1 and ends August 31, and includes an award of $1,000 from The Frost Place and an award of $1,000 from Dartmouth College. The Dartmouth Poet in Residence at The Frost Place will have an opportunity to give a series of public readings across the region, including at Dartmouth College, for which the Poet will receive a $1,000 honorarium. To be eligible, applicants must have published at least one full-length collection of poetry at the time of submission. Applicants should submit five poems from their most recent book, a resume, a personal statement, and contact information for two references. Entry fee: $25. Deadline: December 31, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.
by Campbell Geeslin
Jeffery Deaver’s latest mystery is The Starling Project. He has published 35 novels and sold 40 million copies of them, but this new “book” is coming out as an audiobook only. In a Page 1 article, The New York Times said, “If Mr. Deaver’s readers want the story they’ll have to listen to it.”
Deaver said, “My fans are quite loyal. If they hear I’ve done this and that it’s a thriller, I think they’ll come to it.” He told the Times that he hadn’t had a clue about how to write a sex scene for audio. “Do we have a zipper sound? Two shoes hitting the floor?” They went with swelling music.
There are no plans to have a printed version of the book. Deaver said, “There are so many time-wasting alternatives to reading out there, and authors are up against formidable competition. . . This is an easier way for people to get access to good storytelling.”
This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by John Enright, Bonnie J. Fladung, Jane Green, Gail Carson Levine, Sarah MacLean, Donna Jo Napoli, David Poyer, Naomi Gladish Smith, and Nancy Tafuri. Titles below the jump.
This week’s batch of contests includes a summer residency as well as a prize for a debut work of fiction. Deadlines range from Dec 31-Jan 2.
The Glimmer Train Fiction Open Contest is now accepting submissions. The contest is open to all subjects, themes, and writers. Entries can be from 2,000-20,000 words. The winner will receive $2,500 and 20 copies of that issue; second place will receive $1,000 and 10 copies of the issue if accepted for publication; third place will receive $600 or if accepted for publication, $700 and 10 copies. Entry fee: $19. Deadline: January 2, 2015. For more information, please visit the website.
Reporters, observers and lawyers lined up early Wednesday afternoon to guarantee themselves a seat in Courtroom 1703 of the Thurgood Marshall U.S. Courthouse in downtown New York City. The case of the day was the oral argument in the appeal of the Authors Guild’s ongoing copyright infringement case against Google. The Guild is appealing a November 2013 district court ruling that Google’s unauthorized copying of millions of copyrighted books was a fair use of those works.
The three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit spent over an hour and a half hearing lawyers’ arguments while peppering them with questions.
Paul Smith, a recent addition to the Guild’s legal team, argued for the Authors Guild. Smith, who has appeared in the Supreme Court fifteen times and in scores of appellate courts over a span of three decades, will also help the Guild position the case for an appeal to the Supreme Court, if that becomes necessary. He is perhaps best known for successfully arguing the landmark gay rights case Lawrence v. Texas.
The issue before the court today was whether Google’s scanning and snippet display of millions of books from the collections of leading research libraries, without regard to copyright status and without authorization or compensation, was fair use. The lower court had found that it was fair use and that Google therefore owed the authors nothing for the use. Fair use is a defense to an accusation of copyright infringement; it permits a work to be used in ways that otherwise would be considered infringing, in order to enable socially beneficial activities such as commentary, parody, reporting and teaching.
by Campbell Geeslin
The name of an author I hadn’t thought of in years turned up in an essay in last Sunday’s New York Times Book Review. Several of her books ran as serials in The Saturday Evening Post. My mother read the installments out loud to the family, No better way to end a day has ever been invented.
The writer was Helen Macinnes and one of her most famous titles is Above Suspicion, a spy thriller. She was the subject of the Review’s article by Sarah Weinman, editor of Troubled Daughters, Twisted Wives: Stories from the Trailblazers of Domestic Suspense.
Something Macinnes wrote 70 years ago was quoted: “Nowadays the word Communist or Fascist rouses the same emotions as Protestant and Catholic once caused. If these religious factions can learn to live together by giving up all persecution and forms of torture, it is quite possible that a future world will see many forms of political ideology living and working side by side.”
Weinman concluded that “the novels of Helen Macinnes provide the grim lessons we need under the guise of suspenseful entertainments.”
This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Julia E. Antoine, D.K. Christi, Melissa de la Cruz, Melanie Dickerson, Larry Duberstein, Marc Eliot, Donald Hall, Marilyn Johnson, Teresa Jordan, Nancy Tafuri, and Nicholas Wapshott. Titles below the jump.