djonn: (woods)

I've seen a good deal of reaction over the last couple of days to Amazon's announcement of its "Kindle Worlds" program in which it aims to solicit and publish licensed (!) fanfiction set in a handful of franchise universes.  Both the fanfic world and certain corners of the professional writing community are rising up in mutual astonishment, mostly to point out the holes in Amazon's logic.

At the same time, both the fans and the pros seem cautiously convinced that the program is actually going to work -- that is, that people are actually going to make money on the deal.

I'm not.  I think the odds are against anyone -- writer, licensor, Amazon -- turning a significant profit on the venture.  Let me explain.... )

djonn: Self-portrait (Default)

Other folk with far deeper expertise have been weighing in all weekend on the current fracas between Amazon and Macmillan over ebook pricing.  I don't propose to wade into the main discussion here, but there's a side to the matter to which very few of the commentators have been paying attention.  It's this: everyone's been discussing e-book pricing as that pricing connects to corresponding print versions of the same text.  But not all e-books have corresponding print editions.

This has two consequences. )

djonn: Self-portrait (Default)

No, it's not what you think (but I bet [livejournal.com profile] twilight2000 fell off her chair just reading the subject line).  Through the friendly and very kind auspices of the mistresses of Smart Bitches Trashy Books, I'm spending a chunk of my summer as a guinea pig.

I have here on the desk a Sony PRS-505 Reader, which I'll be "test driving" through the end of September.  I've already loaded some two dozen titles on the device (not counting a handful of odds and ends and the gadget's onboard user's guide).  Over the course of the next couple of months, I'll be putting the Reader through its paces, and the 30 of us in the Test Drive group will be reviewing both the device and a wide variety of romance titles (since SBTB is, after all, a romance readers' blog/site) over on SBTB.

It's going to be a very interesting ride.  Despite having published two ebooks, I haven't been an ebook consumer before now, and I've read relatively little category romance (though that's been changing a bit over the last year or two, as a number of writers whose work I enjoy have begun writing and publishing in the romance genre).  I'll certainly be linking to my SBTB "Test Drive" entries from here, and most likely posting additional observations (very likely including book-notes) in this space.

And so it begins....

djonn: Self-portrait (Default)

Local news outlets, as usual, missed the real news story this week as they waxed amused at Stephen Colbert, who claimed during a recent show that Powell's Books owed him $8 for selling his new book at a 30% discount.  In a similar amused vein, they uniformly quoted a Powell's spokesperson who said that they'd sent Colbert the $8.  (They didn't, he said, plan to send any more than that for additional sales.)

The real story?  Colbert out-and-out lied on national television -- and if he cashes that $8 check, one might argue that he successfully committed extortion.

Now for most pro authors, the next paragraph is basic publishing knowledge, but it's important in context, so bear with me.

The truth is that Colbert, like any other author with a book contract, gets royalties from his publisher for each retail sale of his book, amounting (going by general industry standard) to 10%-15% of cover price for trade hardcovers.  On a $26.99 hardback, that's about $2.70 to $4.05, which the publisher will either credit against his advance (if the book hasn't earned out yet) or pay out in his first royalty check (if the book has earned out).  Moreover, what consumers don't always realize is that most of the time, bookstore discounts don't affect the author's royalty; the author gets his or her percentage on the cover price, whether the book is discounted or not.  [There are exceptions, and some publishers now try to key royalties to net price, but generally speaking, percentage of cover price is still the standard.]

Now I'm reasonably confident that Stephen Colbert knows how publishing works, so he should know very well that his publishers will, in fact, pay him the $2.70-$4.05 royalty they owe him on that copy of his book he caught Powell's selling for $18.89 -- just as they will pay him that same figure for a copy sold for $26.99 up the street at 23rd Avenue Books, and for a copy sold for $16.19 on Amazon.  He didn't lose a penny on that Powell's sale, and Powell's did not and does not owe him $8 (strictly, $8.10) for selling the book at a discount.

But he said they did, and that makes him a liar.

Now having said that, I should add that I'm actually less offended by Colbert's riff than I am by the local media coverage and by the fact that Powell's caved so easily.  Colbert is, after all, a comedian, and you can make a case that what I'm calling a lie is justifiable comic exaggeration.  (I'd disagree with such a case, but I can understand it.)

OTOH, I think it's ethically wrong and journalistically irresponsible for the local media to support and perpetuate the lie.  Consumers are already confused enough about how authors get paid; this was a chance for media outlets to educate folks on How Publishing Works, and to point out that Colbert was engaging in a Foghorn Leghorn moment (i.e. "That's a joke, son!").  Instead, they covered the joke as if it were a true statement, and thereby did their readers and viewers a disservice.  And Powell's, I'd think, would have gotten even better PR value by pointing out that Colbert is probably making more on each sale than they are, and thus Powell's is arguably even more patriotic and civic-minded than Colbert himself.

But I suppose that expecting that much brain out of the mainstream media is an exercise in wishful thinking....

djonn: (butterfly)

Noted on the advertising poster for the upcoming Nancy Drew movie, opening next week at theaters everywhere:

Based on the characters created by Carolyn Keene

Riiiight....

....unless maybe this book really is the true story.  (Heh,  I like that theory.)
djonn: Self-portrait (Default)
Good news on the writing front:

Uncial Press has accepted "Charmed, I'm Sure" -- a contemporary fantasy novelette -- for ebook publication (I'd say that I have contracts in hand, but in fact they're en route back to Publisher HQ as I type this).  Tentatively, the story should be out in spring 2008; I will definitely be providing more specific details as they become available.

I'm very much looking forward to this.  Uncial is a relatively new e-publisher, but I think they have solid market and business sense (and, obviously, good editorial taste).

Meanwhile, I'm now contractually obligated to bring my incredibly dusty Web site up to date....
djonn: Self-portrait (Default)
Several different online discussion groups I follow have recently glommed onto KaavyaGate, the scandal wherein Harvard sophomore Kaavya Viswanathan's first novel has been yanked by publisher Little, Brown in the wake of growing accusations that the novel borrows passages from a number of other books of varying degrees of similarity.

It's a juicy story, to be sure, but my own sense is that the plagiarism charges have distracted the media from the aspect of the case that should be of more interest to authors. Much of the coverage mentions the involvement of 17th Street Productions, a book packaging firm, with the gestation of Ms. Viswanathan's novel -- but a careful look at the apparent sequence of events suggests that "packaging" isn't an accurate description of the role 17th Street (now part of Alloy Entertainment) had in the book's creation.

What actually seems to have happened -- some of the details are a trifle vague -- is this: )

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