Thursday, September 9, 2021

Literary news from Ron Charles, The Washington Post:

This will certainly have an adverse effect on the publishing world, especially self-publishers!

As Douglas Adams would say, “Don’t panic.” But we may be running out of paper. And this time it’s not just toilet paper. A recent report in The Washington Post warns, “Book publishers, dogged by paper shortages and shipping delays, are pushing fall releases into early next year” (story).  

Ingram, a major book distributor, issued a statement noting that “the book industry, like all physical goods industries, is experiencing Covid’s negative logistic impacts due in large part to labor and supplies shortages and transportation issues.” The company warned of “a perfect storm brewing.”

The ongoing economic effects are being felt by readers around the globe in strange ways. For instance, with millions of people stuck at home, meal deliveries have soared, forcing book publishers to compete for paper with pizza box manufacturers. 

Barnes & Noble CEO James Daunt tells me that reprints of popular books are of special concern because they’re driven entirely by customer demand and so are harder to predict. “This is where the paper shortages, and all the other supply and logistic disruptions, may cause delays and even an inability to reprint at all,” Daunt says. “In truth, printer capacity in the U.S. for domestic printing has fallen short of peak needs for several years now. This year seems certain to be worse.” (Brace yourself!)

Wednesday, November 25, 2020

The "Big Five" May Soon Become "Big Four"!

At some time next year Bertelsmann, the media conglomerate that already owns Penguin Random House, will in all likelihood purchase Simon & Schuster for $2.17 billion. The proposed sale is, however, "subject to regulatory approval." 

Such a move can only make things more difficult for authors and agents, particularly new talents struggling to "break in." The Authors Guild has spoken out against the proposed transaction, and News Corp, which owns HarperCollins, also voiced opposition. It remains to be seen whether the U. S. Department of Justice will take a position.

Full article:

Saturday, June 6, 2020

More Bad News for the Publishing Industry, but … ?

John Merrick has recently written a fascinating piece for Tribune: “Radical Publishing in a Pandemic.” I was particularly intrigued by one solution, even though it would never fly in the USA: “ … the Norwegian government guarantees sales of 1,000 copies of any title that passes certain quality, with those copies then distributed to the country’s many free-to-access public libraries. In doing so, the scheme has provided a lifeline for many publishers — there are many publishers in the UK and US who would be only too glad of 1,000 sales of their new titles every year.”

The article addresses the plights of radical presses and small presses, and how the very survival of “independent” publishing hangs even more precariously in the balance. Worth reading:

Thursday, June 4, 2020

We Actually DO Judge a Book by Its Cover!

The BBC ran an interesting article today: "Book design has become more important than ever – but what makes an iconic jacket, asks Clare Thorp." The piece discusses the importance of a cover that catches the reader's eye. Two thoughts come to mind, both relevant to the industry today:

(1) << The emergence of ebooks posed a threat to physical books a decade or so ago. But publishers fought back, making books that were more beautiful to look at and to hold than ever before. Fonts got bolder, colours brighter, paper more tactile. There was embossing, foil, cloth bindings and elaborate end papers. Bookshops also became spaces to spend time in, not just to shop, with books presented as objects of desire on curated table and window displays. >>

Of course, one must ask how much the perceived "threat" of digital publishing actually influenced the developments discussed below. That point aside, we must also concede that while ebooks can similarly utilize striking covers, only hard copy can address the other concerns. 

(2) The apparent need for a "great" cover also emerges as yet another obstacle for the self-publisher. There was certainly a time when people might procure something "decent" at a reasonable cost through sites like However, it seems as though writers may need to budget considerably more money for artwork in the years ahead. 

It has become increasingly difficult for new authors to break through to the "Big Five," and many now self-publish via Amazon, Ingram, Lulu, or other such services. Moreover, the more successful writers must reportedly spend up to half their working time on "marketing and promotion," often paying hefty fees along the way. Overall prospects for many have become more and more bleak, and an article like this, stressing the apparent importance of a powerful, eye-catching cover, offers no hope for relief in near future. 

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

A Legal Battle of the Sort Was Almost Inevitable; "Fan Fiction" Faces Legal Hurdles

Those of us who write justifiably take umbrage when someone plagiarizes our work. On the other hand, sometimes a resultant lawsuit may raise issues far larger than those initially presented by the litigants.

The article below arose in the "wolf/kink" genre, hardly as widely read as, let us say, Alex Haley's Roots, which itself resulted in a celebrated plagiarism trial, substantial settlement, and Haley's "acknowledge[ment] and regrets that various materials from The African, by Harold Courlander, found their way into his book, Roots."
Nevertheless, the issue of plagiarism -- or perhaps partial plagiarism -- is at least somewhat similar. 

I think one paragraph summarizes the problem: << “In fan fiction, the sharing of tropes and story parts and plot lines is free flowing,” said Anne Jamison, a fanfic expert and associate professor of English at the University of Utah, who was skeptical of the notion that Omegaverse tropes could be copyrighted. “There’s a blurry line between what is specifically yours and what is somebody else’s.” >>

This notion has prompted reflections on my novel, Trojan Dialogues: The Memoirs of Diomedes. The work is set during the Trojan War. The Mycenean Greeks use Helen's "theft" by Paris as a pretext for initiating hostilities. Hector slays Patroklus; Akhilles slays Hector; a horse somehow contributes to the destruction of Troy. Those element are familiar, though certainly not "tropes." Moreover, my narrative is absolutely unique in the way so many plot lines are developed. Nevertheless, one might ask whether some contemporary author who had treated the same material a few years earlier -- e.g., Marion Zimmer Bradley (cf., The Firebrand) -- could have accused me of stealing her ideas. With the Trojan War, the answer is easy: of course not! With wolf-kink? We shall await the outcome.

The article is in many ways more legal than literary in nature, and the genre is one with which I am altogether unfamiliar. I must append that in classical music one finds a staggering number of variations written by one composer on the theme(s) of another. However, it remains to be seen how freely writers of fan fiction can continue to use the material of others.

Thursday, August 15, 2019

A Quick Overview of the "Big Five" Publishers

As most people are by now aware, we are down to a "big five," along with a number of smaller presses. The latter, of course, get far less attention from booksellers, reviewers, and traditional marketing/promotion outlets (e.g., radio talk shows), but they remain part of the "traditional publishing" route, as opposed to the self-publishing options (digital and hard copy via Amazon, Ingram/LightningSource, Lulu, et al.). 

The "big five" are the following: Penguin Random House (Penguin, Dutton, Putnam, Random House, Alfred A. Knopf, Doubleday, Crown, etc.), Simon & Schuster ( S&S itself, plus Poseidon, Pocket, et al.), HarperCollins (which includes also Harlequin and others), Macmillan (along with St. Martin's Press and more familiar houses), and Hachette (Little, Brown & Company and other imprints). Details about these are explained in this marvelous graphic:

Saturday, August 3, 2019

Another interview published: Anais Chen (baroque violin)

This "news" is actually rather dated by now, but Stay Thirsty Magazine published "A Conversation With Violinist Anais Chen" several months ago. She is a remarkable talent, and I very much enjoyed chatting with her! Here's the link: