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The Authors Guild

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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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles P.M.H. Atwater, Linda Coleman, Beverly Lanzetta, David Madden, Alberto Ruy-Sánchez, Robert Seidman, Susan Sussman, J.E. Thompson, SF Tomajczyk, and Jamie Langston Turner. Titles below the jump.

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Bulletin Board

This week’s batch of contests is brimming with poetry prizes. The deadline for each is Oct 31.

The James Hearst Poetry Prize is currently open for submissions. Entries may include up to five previously unpublished poems. The winner will receive $1,000 and publication in the Spring 2015 issue of the North American Review. Entry fee: $20 (includes a one year subscription to the North American Review). Deadline: October 31, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

The Poetry Society of the United Kingdom is currently seeking submissions for the National Poetry Competition. The competition is open to anyone aged 17 or over at the time of entering. International entries are welcome. The winner will receive £5000, publication in The Poetry Review, and will be invited to read at the Ledbury Poetry Festival in July 2014. Poems should not exceed 40 lines and should be written in English. Entry fee: £6 for the first entry and £3.50 for each subsequent entry. Deadline: October 31, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“Writers are starting to realize that in predicting the future, they have actually helped shape it,” wrote Nick Bilton in The New York Times. He suggested that some sci-fi writers may have contributed “to dark advances in technology.”

H. G. Wells first wrote about atomic bombs in 1914. George Orwell predicted an N.S.A.-like surveillance state. “And writers have been envisioning incredibly destructive weapons of all shapes and sizes, for centuries,” Bilton said.

Back in 2011, Arizona State University president Michael Crow challenged Neal Stephenson, the author of several sci-fi novels, to stop writing dystopian stories and offer ideas with a brighter outlook.

Last week, the university released Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future. There are no dark stories. Co-editor Kathryn Cramer told the Times, “We’re hoping to show that there are a lot of things we can do better.”

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by David A. Adler, Kathy Caple, Doreen Cronin, Lisa Doan, G. Brian Karas, Michelle Knudsen, Jacqueline Briggs Martin, Laurel Neme, Jon Scieszka, Marilyn Singer, R.L. Stine, and Dianne White. Titles below the jump.

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Bulletin Board

This week’s batch of contests is a mixed bag of fiction, poetry, and creative nonfiction. Deadlines range from October 15-31.

The American Poetry Review is currently accepting submissions for the Honickman First Book Prize, open to U.S. citizens who have not published a book-length collection of poems. Poems previously published in periodicals or limited-edition chapbooks may be included in the manuscript, but the manuscript itself must not have been published as a book-length work. Manuscripts must be at least 48 pages. The winner will receive $3,000, publication, and distribution by Copper Canyon Press through Consortium. Entry fee: $25. Deadline: October 31, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

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AG’s President Stands Up For Writers as Authors United Prepares Second Amazon Letter

The Amazon-Hachette conflict returned to the news this week, with two Authors Guild members playing prominent roles. Monday brought news that Authors United, the grassroots group formed this summer to support writers caught in the middle of the Amazon-Hachette dispute, unveiled its second initiative: an open letter to Amazon’s board of directors. The group, founded by Authors Guild Council Member Douglas Preston, but unaffiliated with the Guild, has grown to 1,100 authors.

Following this announcement, on Tuesday morning Authors Guild President Roxana Robinson appeared on Bloomberg Television’s “In the Loop” to discuss the potential effects of the letter and whether Amazon’s poor treatment of authors has endangered its reputation with consumers. Robinson argued that Amazon’s “targeting” of writers during its dust-up with Hachette threatens to erode the public’s confidence that Amazon is a author- and reader-friendly company. “People who buy books often tend to be people of conscience, and they recognize what Amazon is doing and they don’t like it,” Robinson said. “It’s very easy to find another source of books.”

The broadcast became heated over the question of whether books are products like any other in the marketplace. Robinson’s tablemate on the program, Bloomberg Contributing Editor Paul Kedrosky, took issue with Robinson’s claim that “a book is not like a brick.” He proceeded to mock authors’ conceptions of themselves as “special snowflakes.” Robinson took issue with the demeaning phrase, and then defended writers as “creators of serious intellectual property that support our culture and have done so for thousands of years.”

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

Emily St. John Mandel’s new novel is Station Eleven. She is 35 years old, has published three earlier novels, and lives in Brooklyn.

Mandel told The New York Times, “When I started writing, there were a few post-apocalyptic novels, but not quite the incredible glut there is now. I was afraid the market might be saturated.”

It wasn’t. Knopf bought Station Eleven with a six-figure advance. That was more than Mandel earned for all three earlier novels.

Times interviewer Alexandra Alter said, “Some trace the current literary fascination with the end of civilization to The Road, Cormac McCarthy’s 2006 novel, which became a bestseller and won the Pulitzer.”

Mandel said, “It’s almost as if The Road gave more literary writers permission to approach the subject.”

In the September 14 Times Book Review, the reviewer of Station Eleven, Sigrid Nunez, wrote that the book “offers comfort and hope to those who believe or want to believe that doomsday can be survived, that in spite of everything, that people will remain good at heart, and that when they start building a new world they will want what was best about the old.”

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Carolyne Aarsen, David A. Adler, Robin Overby Cox, Nancy Raines Day, Kate Flora, Joe Gannon, Wayne Everett Goins, Katherine Howe, Susan Morse, Paula E. Morton, Walter Mosley, Dennis Palumbo, Charles Sheehan-Miles, and Gail Sheehy. Titles below the jump.

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