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The Authors Guild

Simon & Schuster’s Agreement with Amazon Points the Way Back to Agency Pricing

Simon & Schuster and Amazon have reached a multi-year contract covering both print and digital books, reports Jeffrey Trachtenberg of the Wall Street Journal (subscription required).

This is the first deal Amazon has struck with any of the five publishers who settled with the government after having been charged with e-book price-fixing in 2012. Notably, Simon & Schuster has negotiated an agreement that “preserves the basic construct and terms of agency [pricing],” according to a source who spoke to Publishers Lunch. This will allow the publisher to set the prices of its e-books in most cases, as Amazon’s right to discount will be confined to specific situations, according to an Amazon source quoted in the same report.

Simon & Schuster CEO Carolyn Reidy said in a letter to authors that, although deals like this are not usually announced, “the high level of public speculation over the status of these talks made it important to let you know about this positive development.” She refers, of course, to the ongoing Amazon-Hachette dispute, in which Hachette authors have found themselves held hostage by the e-tailer.

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“A handful of new studies,” The New York Times reported on Page 1 last Tuesday, “suggest that reading to a child from an electronic device undercuts the dynamic that drives language development.”

“There’s a lot of interaction when you’re reading a book with your child, said pediatrician Pamela High. “You’re turning pages, pointing at pictures, talking about the story. Those things are lost somewhat when you’re using an e-book.”

The Times quoted from a study presented at the White House last week that stressed the power of that engagement. “The quality of the communication between children and their parents and caregivers, the researchers say, is of much greater importance than the number of words a child hears.”

Kathryn Hirsh-Pasek, a psychology professor and lead author of the study said, “It’s not about shoving words in. It’s about having these clued conversations around shared rituals and objects, like pretending to have morning coffee together or using the banana as a phone. That is the stuff from which language is made.”

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Patricia Romanowski Bashe, Betty Bolté, Barbara Rose Brooker, Diane Chamberlain, Molly Gloss, Barbara Gregorich, B. G. Hennessy, Stephanie Hoover, Judika Illes, Jodi Picoult, Bill Roorbach, Jane Smiley, and Solange St. Brice. Titles below the jump.

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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 by 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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