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.