The Authors Guild

Bulletin Board

Highlights from this week’s batch of prizes include translation fellowships as well as a prize for mid-career poets. Deadlines range from Dec 10-Dec 31.

The Friends of American Writers Adult Literature Award is given annually for a book of fiction or creative nonfiction published in 2014 by a writer who is a resident of the Midwest (Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota or Wisconsin) or whose book features a Midwestern setting. Writers who have published up to three books are eligible. There is no application but authors should submit two copies of book(s) published in 2014 and an author biography. Deadline: December 10, 2014. For more information, please visit the website.

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Get Thee to Your Local Bookstore: Celebrate ‘Indies First’ on 11/29

We all know that books make the best gifts. So do our friends at the American Booksellers Association, who have brought back a winning initiative this holiday season to help spread the word in support of independent bookstores.

That’s right, Indies First returns to your local independent on November 29, otherwise known as Small Business Saturday (think of it as the grassroots Black Friday). The brainchild of Guild Council member and self-confessed “book nerd” Sherman Alexie, Indies First recruits authors to spend Thanksgiving Saturday hand-selling books at their favorite independent bookshops. Last year—its first—over 1,100 authors participated in the program.

This year Indies First will be helmed by Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer. Take a look at their letter about the project here. Per Gaiman and Palmer, directions are as follows:

Choose your independent bookshop, talk to the owner or manager, and agree on what you are going to do that day. If you have a website, put that store’s buy button in a prominent place on your website, above the Amazon button and the IndieBound button. If you prefer, you can sign up on the author registry so that a store can contact you.

We wish everyone involved the absolute best. There’s still time to sign up on the author registry. While you’re at it, take a look at IndieBound’s map to see participating stores. Hundreds of authors have signed up so far, including David Baldacci, Roz Chast, and Jeanne Birdsall.

Even if you can’t participate, remember that books make great gifts. Support your local independent this holiday season.

Ursula K. Le Guin Stuns with National Book Awards Speech

The book world is abuzz today after Ursula K. Le Guin delivered a tour de force address at the National Book Awards ceremony in New York City last night. Le Guin, who has been publishing consistently since the ’60s, received a medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. She shared the laurels with “all the writers that were excluded from literature for so long: my fellow authors of fantasy and science fiction.”

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AG Director Rasenberger Speaks to Congressional Caucus on Behalf of Authors

In her first official appearance as Executive Director of the Authors Guild, Mary Rasenberger traveled to Washington, D.C. last Thursday and presented a speech to the Congressional Creative Rights Caucus, a bipartisan group of lawmakers dedicated to protecting the rights of creators.

Rasenberger’s speech was part of a panel co-hosted by the Authors Guild and aimed at giving the Congressional group a behind-the-scenes look at “a book’s passage from manuscript to marketplace.” The panel consisted of authors, editors, and publishers.

In her speech, Rasenberger focused on the “urgent state” of authorship today. “Even authors who made a living writing books for decades now need to find alternative sources of income,” she told the assembly. “This means they write less—and, in some cases, not at all. Fewer professional authors means fewer types of books that might take years of research and writing. These are precisely the kinds of books that further the knowledge and learning that copyright is meant to foster.”

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Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

If you visit your editor in her (or his) office, you may soon find that you can no longer shout at her (or him). When she (or he) tells you to cut out those three paragraphs you spent a week on, polishing them to perfection, you must behave.

If all publishers go the Hachette way, your editor will work in a no-privacy cubicle. At Hachette, chief executive Michael Pietsch, has given up his private suite for a six-by-seven-foot cubicle. One of 519 identical cubicles for company employees.

There was room, however, for Jonathan Mahler from The New York Times to sit and interview Pietsch in his new office. The top man told the reporter, “I looked into the future and thought, ‘Are profits going to be easier to come by or harder?’ I think they’re going to be harder. We need to save as much money as we can and still have a nice office.”

Pietsch admitted that he had given himself a window.

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New Books by Members

This week’s recent and upcoming books by our members include titles by Frances O’Roark Dowell, Joan Hiatt Harlow, Michael Hurley, Maureen Johnson, Rebecca L. Johnson, X.J. Kennedy, Janet Lawler, Sharon Lovejoy, CJ Lyons, Elsa Marston, and Emily Arnold McCully. Titles below the jump.

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Amazon and Hachette Shake Hands on Distribution Deal; Hachette Authors No Longer in Limbo

It’s over.

This morning, after a nasty and very public corporate stalemate, Amazon and Hachette jointly announced they have come to terms. Their new multiyear contract will allow Hachette to set its own e-book prices, but that arrangement will be tempered by “financial incentives” for Hachette to keep those prices low, according to the companies’ joint statement.

The dispute became big news in the book world this May, when it became known that Amazon was purposefully chilling Hachette authors’ book sales as a way to pressure Hachette to adopt the retailer’s preferred terms. The most immediate beneficiaries of the détente are Hachette authors, whose books will once again receive standard treatment from Amazon, their visibility and shipping time restored. In a letter to Hachette authors and agents, CEO Michael Pietsch promised that “Hachette titles will be restored as soon as possible to normal availability on Amazon, will be available for pre-order, and will be included in promotions on the site.”

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Many in the book world—including the Authors Guild—expressed disbelief when it was announced in March 2013 that Amazon and other private companies (including Google, as it turns out) were angling to purchase the Internet domain name “.book,” among other generic domain names. That dismay was substantiated yesterday when it became official that Amazon won “.book” at auction—for a cool $10 million, according to reports.

The auction was hosted by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which manages domain names—those letters that come at the end of a web address, such as “.com” or “.org.” We have long objected to ICANN’s decision to auction generic Internet domain names to the highest bidder. As former Guild President Scott Turow stated in a March 2013 open letter to ICANN, “Placing such generic domains in private hands is plainly anticompetitive, allowing already dominant, well-capitalized companies to expand and entrench their market power.”

In addition to remaining concerned about ICANN’s auctioning of generic domain names, the Authors Guild is dismayed that Amazon won the auction. “The ‘.book’ domain should not be owned by a for-profit company that is in a position to use it for its competitive advantage,” said the Guild’s Executive Director, Mary Rasenberger, “much less by Amazon, which we believe is already a monopolistic force in the publishing marketplace.”

Along Publishers Row

by Campbell Geeslin

“Books about living a happy life have been in vogue for the past two decades,” said PW in an article called “Come on, Get Happy.” But the essay started off with a quote from Euripides, writing in 424 B.C.: “That man is happiest who lives from day to day and asks no more, gaining the simple goodness of life.”

BookScan said that the category was up 12% more than in 2013. PW asked, “Has the happiness market reached the saturation point?”

Happiness Is . . . 500 Things to Be Happy About is a current bestseller by Lisa Swerling and Ralph Lazar. One of their 500 moments of happiness occurs when one “recovers data from a dead computer.”

Maybe the happiest of all is the writer whose self-help book lands on the bestseller lists.

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HarperCollins Makes a Costly Stand on E-book Royalties in Open Road Litigation

Last week, concluding the final chapter of the three-year legal dispute between HarperCollins and digital publisher Open Road over the e-book rights to Jean Craighead George’s 1971 young-adult novel Julie of the Wolves, a court rejected HarperCollins’ attempt to recover over $1 million in lawyers’ fees from its opponent. But not everything came up roses for Open Road: the court awarded HarperCollins $30,000 in damages and also blocked Open Road from distributing its e-book edition.

This phase of the litigation—HarperCollins v. Open Road—came on the heels of a March 2014 ruling that Open Road’s e-book edition of Julie infringed on HarperCollins’ right to publish electronic versions of George’s classic. At issue was whether language in the 1971 contract between George and her publisher granted HarperCollins exclusive electronic rights. Complicating the interpretation of the contract was this little thorn: there was no market for e-books when the contract was signed. The court found, however, that the contract’s “forward-looking reference to technologies ‘now known or hereafter invented’ [was] sufficiently broad to draw within its ambit e-book publication.”

Many in the industry had wondered whether this case had the potential to chip away at the precedent of the watershed authors’ victory in 2001’s Random House v. Rosetta Books, which held that pre-digital-era contracts where an author grants her publisher the right to publish a work “in print book form” or even “in book form” with no mention of electronic rights should be interpreted to reserve electronic rights to the author.

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