Category Archives: Copyright

Publishing: The Traditional Defense Part Four

Before even beginning his final post defending traditional publishing, Steve Laube calls part five boring. Personally, I disagree. For people not already involved in the industry, the information presented here is probably the most enlightening in his series.

The publisher’s involvement does not stop once the books hit bookstore (or online) shelves. In fact, the post production part of their jobs may just be what makes it worth giving up more than half of your royalties. Most aspiring authors know their publisher or agent will deal with things like selling and managing foreign rights, but they don’t think about things like IRS laws and multiple state income taxes. Selling your book across state lines apparently adds a lot of complications to your tax return, fyi. Publishers have teams of people dedicated to tracking and verifying sales, standardizing prices across multiple outlets, and accounting for every dollar made by a particular title. On a global scale. Can you imagine trying to do that on your own? I don’t even want to think about it.

Foreign rights are their own legal and logistical nightmare. Did you know you have to sell the English language rights to different countries before they’re allowed to sell the book in their territory? Add to that the translation rights, audio right, movie rights, etc., etc., etc. and you have a puzzle with teeny tiny pieces and no picture to guide you.

What else do these behind-the-scenes teams do? How about protect you from piracy? Steve explains:

I attended a presentation last year on “Digital Initiatives” made by very smart people from Hachette. They discussed their use of “Attributor Monitors” to scour the Internet for illegal versions of their book titles. I was shocked to hear that they discover and send out 1,500 take-down notices to illegal sites, every month (saying, in essence, take the illegal book down from your site, or else). Fifteen hundred! They get better than 99% compliance with the request, worldwide. (It is understandable that they would have that level of trouble since Hachette publishes the Twilight franchise.) I suspect that when a company like Hachette contacts the illegal site with their powerful legal team, the offending site owner is willing to comply. But if you tried to do it on your own, you would be ignored.

 Having the power of an experienced legal team behind you can give you a peace of mind you wouldn’t otherwise have in an age where digital piracy is the norm.

However, speaking of digital, that side of the market isn’t all about piracy. It’s also about metadata. For those who don’t know, metadata is one of the ways search engines like Google find you on the web. It’s also how sites like Amazon employ their “you might also like” algorithms. Bad metadata will bury your book in an avalanche of fiction titles–both self and traditionally published–and leave you mired in obscurity. By itself, this isn’t a daunting thing to learn for yourself, but added to all the other tasks ultimately part of the infrastructure of traditional houses and I know it’s something I don’t want to have to do on my own. 

After all this, do I still think the traditional model has some major adapting to do if it’s going to succeed in an increasingly digital world? Yes. Am I still going to try to find an agent? Yes. Am I still going to have that agent submit my work to both traditional and indie houses? Yes. If after several books and years of trying that still doesn’t work, will I self-publish? Most likely, yes. Will I ever succeed at any of these? Who knows? Only time will tell.

Publishing: Since We’re Kind Of On The Subject…

I jumped onto the subject of self-publishing yesterday and this morning found another related post. This one, written by author and blogger J.A. Konrath, specifically talks about how legacy houses (the big names people normally think of) treat non-blockbuster level authors. Konrath has experience on both sides of the fence and is a strident, vocal, and sometimes angry proponent of self-publishing. His love of DIY publishing has some pretty strong support, like the $500,000 he’s made off a book the publishing houses didn’t want to print.

His posts always send me straight into the whirlpool of doubt and indecision about whether or not self-publishing is for me. There’s no doubt about its viability or the possibility of creating a huge following, the doubt is whether or not it’s a good fit for me.

Like most fields, there’s no clear path to success with self-publishing. There are some ways to make things work for you, but it’s a trial and error process. There’s also no filter between what people are writing and what they’re selling. No editorial reviews, no slush pile. I’ve read some books off Amazon that had the promise of a good story, but the writing just didn’t deliver. They didn’t invest in an editor, or maybe hired one who isn’t worth their salt, and put out a final product that won’t carry them as far as it could have. I don’t want to be one of those authors. I’m not looking for perfection in my story because, really, there’s no such thing, but I want my debut novel to be the best I can make it before I release it to the world. For that I need editing. And editing services without an agent and publishing team to provide them are EXPENSIVE. At least, the good ones are and why would you spend less money on something this important?

So, yes, Konrath, I get your point. I agree and can even honestly say that I would like to have some of the creative control self-publishing offers, so I’m thinking of the middle ground. Anyone know of an indie house that publishes young adult paranormal novels and is taking submissions?

Books: Crossing the Line

Where is the line drawn between literature and fanfiction? Length? Character development? Readability? Publication? The physical presence of the author? As far as I can tell, the answer lies somewhere between the latter two.

Even though she’s been dead for quite some time now, Jane Austen’s books still excite quite a bit of admiration. So enamored with her characters (namely Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy) do some become that they take it upon themselves to continue the story. While this shouldn’t be surprising considering the web space devoted to alterations and continuations of living authors’ work (, for example), it is still odd to come across a book on a shelf in a store that has somehow escaped the odious label of fanfiction.

Personally, I adore Jane Austen’s work. Pride and Prejudice has an especially dear place on my bookshelf (it’s one of the only books I own multiple copies of), so when I ran across multiple versions of what happened to the Darcys after their wedding, I found myself intrigued. Since that day, I’ve read four different versions.

Each one was unique, but overall they ranged in worth just as the online unpublished fanfictions did. Some were far more developed and intricate while others seeemed merely interested in what happened between the sheets of the Darcys’ marital bed. I even found myself wondering if one of the authors had ever even picked up the actual novel or had simply watched the condensed 2005 Kiera Knightly/Matthw Macfayden version. Overt references to the movie abounded and always in instances where the book was drastically different. It amazed me that something like this could cross the line between the unpublishable and the literary. But, then again, maybe it’s best to just take it as one more reminder that subjectivity rules here.

Update: Facebook is suddenly evil

I have a Facebook and have for years. I’ve been a member since before they opened it to non-college students, before applications, before anything except the basic profile. I thought it was a great site and easy to use, but now? Now they’re big and corporate and, apparently, evil.

Colleen Lindsay, an agent out of NYC, posted a warning on her blog today about Facebook’s new terms of service. Basically, Facebook now owns everything you post on Facebook forever. Including things you set to update via an RSS feed.

You hereby grant Facebook an irrevocable, perpetual,
non-exclusive, transferable, fully paid, worldwide license
(with the right to sublicense) to (a) use, copy, publish,
stream, store, retain, publicly perform or display,
transmit, scan, reformat, modify, edit, frame, translate,
excerpt, adapt, create derivative works and distribute
(through multiple tiers), any User Content you (i) Post
on or in connection with the Facebook Service or the
promotion thereof subject only to your privacy settings
or (ii) enable a user to Post, including by offering a Share
Link on your website and (b) to use your name, likeness
and image for any purpose, including commercial or
advertising, each of (a) and (b) on or in connection with
the Facebook Service or the promotion thereof. You
represent and warrant that you have all rights and
permissions to grant the foregoing licenses.

While I have never posted anything about my writing or any of my so-called intellectual content on Facebook, I know that others do. I don’t know what, if anything, can be done about this ridiculous clause in the terms of service, but I would recommend not posting anything there that you might one day regret losing.

And, for a better explanation, check out Colleen’s post about it here.