Reprinted from the Spring/Summer 2017 issue of the Authors Guild Bulletin.
Dear Authors Guild Members,
To begin with, I would like to welcome our new president, James Gleick. Jim is the author of numerous essays on technology and science and of seven important nonfiction books, including several bestsellers and three that received Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award nominations. The Information was awarded both the PEN/E. O. Wilson Literary Science Writing Award and the Royal Society Winton Prize for Science Books in 2012. Jim was a reporter and editor for The New York Times before he published his first book, Chaos: Making a New Science, in 1987. Joyce Carol Oates described his most recent book, Time Travel: A History, as “superb and unclassifiable . . . laced with lyricism, wit, and startling and convincing insights.”
Jim brings a deep intellectual curiosity and a rich understanding of technology to his Guild presidency. He has been an active member of the Council since 1995 and has been immersed in our advocacy and legal campaigns for many years. I very much look forward to working together.
I would also like to express my deep gratitude to our most recent president, Roxana Robinson, for three years of generous service to the Guild. Roxana gracefully and fearlessly led the Guild through a period of enormous transition. In the midst of the complicated, sometimes tumultuous three years of her presidency, which required a commitment of time and energy far beyond what any president is expected to contribute, Roxana somehow managed to publish one novel and write another one. Talk about energy! I cannot thank Roxana enough for her support during my early tenure at the Guild. She has been a wonderful mentor, partner and friend.
I would also like to welcome our new Authors Guild Council members — Rich Benjamin, Deirdre Blair, Sylvia Day and Jonathan Taplin — and the new members of the Board of the Authors Guild Foundation: Georges Ugeux, Buff Kavelman, Laura Pedersen and Diana Rowan Rockefeller. We are fortunate to have such a distinguished and talented group of individuals on both boards. This will be a particularly busy year for the Foundation as its board has nearly doubled — and so will its activities.
Our staff has been working hard to provide more services to you, our members. In June, we’ll launch a revamped version of Sitebuilder, our website-building software, and we’re smack in the middle of producing and hosting two different series of panels, one in partnership with the Copyright Clearance Center, focusing on authors’ legal and free speech issues, the other with the author consultant Jane Friedman, focusing on marketing and promotional tactics. Jane also helped us by lending her expertise to The Authors Guild Guide to E-Publishing, which we released piecemeal this spring and is now available to members as an e-book at authorsguild.org. Lastly, in May we hosted our annual fundraiser, the Authors Guild Gala, which raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for the Authors Guild Foundation that will be used to support and protect the writing life in America.
At the same time, the maelstrom of current events has kept us quite busy on the advocacy front. In response to the detention of two foreign authors at the U.S. border in late February, we redoubled our efforts to provide visa assistance to foreign authors and to educate writers about their rights at border checkpoints. Near-constant threats to the press have led us to speak out on free speech issues and inspired us to commission a series of essays in which writers reveal what the First Amendment means to them. On Capitol Hill, we’ve lobbied for and lent our support to a bill that would greatly increase the independence of the U.S. Copyright Office, the sole government agency that serves the interests of authors (see page 11), and we’ve made our case to members of Congress that arts and library funding is essential to the cultural life of the nation.
We’ve also focused on preserving net neutrality, protecting authors’ online privacy and securing authors’ “moral” rights. You can read about these efforts in the Advocacy News section on page 9. Most recently, we’ve been standing up against Amazon’s latest grab, its decision to allow third-party discount sellers to be the featured seller on a book’s “buy” page. Rest assured this development will provide us with even more evidence as we seek in the coming months to persuade the antitrust authorities to scrutinize Amazon’s publishing industry practices.
In March, we visited the offices of several U.S. senators with our new Council member, Jonathan Taplin, whose book, Move Fast and Break Things: How Facebook, Google, and Amazon Cornered Culture and Undermined Democracy, was just published. We discussed our desire for antitrust reform that would focus not only on consumer price-point, but would address such issues as Amazon’s stranglehold on the publishing industry and its negative impact on the free trade of ideas, as well as the ability of Internet platform giants to profit from piracy, at great cost to the creative sector. There seems to be a growing understanding of the havoc these monopolies are causing to the creative industries, thanks in part to books likes Jonathan’s. That is just some of what we’ve been working on.
Many of you have heard me say this before: We are doing so much with so little right now. The Guild staff has been heroic in their efforts to keep up with everything. Here is a rundown of who’s who in the office:
Sandy Long is our heart and soul — officially our COO. Sandy works quietly behind the scenes to make sure everything gets done. She handles staffing, HR, the day-to-day budget, all of our communications and also oversees our primary tech vendor and the Bulletin. We could not function without her!
Irina Bor, our finance manager, keeps the coffers in order.
Andrea Bronson nurtures our partnerships and public outreach as senior marketing manager. She is also invaluable to the gala.
John Carroll, receptionist, mans the front desk and routes your calls and emails to the right people; he is also my executive assistant.
Ryan Fox, policy and advocacy director, helps me with our advocacy work and drafts much of our prose.
Luis Garcia, director of information technology, literally keeps this office running. He is our go-to guy for just about everything.
Francesco Grisanzio, digital service coordinator, runs our back-in-print programs and is our eagle-eyed proofer. Frank sees almost everything that leaves our office in print.
Michael Gross, director of legal services, has seen more publishing contracts than any lawyer in the country. He is your guy if you have any question about contracts.
Umair Kazi, legal consultant, helps Michael review your contracts and answers your legal queries. Like Ryan, he is a joint MFA/JD and helps with writing.
Terry King manages the Authors Registry and cuts your checks for overseas royalties. He also advises on our licensing-related projects.
Hector Lugo, web services coordinator, helps you build and manage your websites.
Abigail Montague, web services manager, is our tech guru; she oversees our web services, including the rollout of our new Sitebuilder software.
Paul Morris, vice president, programs and outreach, is our literary ambassador. He is focusing now on recruitment and partnerships.
Jennifer Simms manages our website and keeps us all on task. She is a wizard project manager and an expert in social media and website metrics.
Waddy Thompson, managing director of the Authors Guild Foundation, oversees Foundation activities. He runs the gala, raises money and gets us grants; he also works on the strategy for Foundation programs.
Nicole Vazquez, assistant Bulletin editor and membership coordinator, makes sure you’re getting everything you need from your Guild. She processes all new members — so if you have recently joined, you have interacted with her. She also manages our Bulletin content and is our tweeter par excellence. If you see our tweets, you have read Nicole.
We always have a number of interns and temp employees too, so you may occasionally hear from others!
Last but certainly not least, I’d like to thank everyone who responded to our queries on moral rights and on the Amazon “buy box” shakeup. It’s helpful to hear from you because we are much better informed and can advocate on your behalf that much better with your input. The comments and insights we received were incredibly smart and well considered. Please keep sending us your thoughts.
Best wishes, in life and in writing. I hope you enjoy this issue of the Bulletin.