Friday, November 27, 2009

My Head Hurts: The Google Settlement (Amended), et al

PW reports on the amended settlement in the Google/Authors Guild deal. Judge Chin accepted the revised agreement and imposed a new deadline for objections to the revised deal of January 28, 2010. A final "fairness" hearing is set for Feb. 18, 2010.

Unfortunately, it still looks to me that the losers in the deal will be (surprise, surprise) the authors. I have a print-out of the redlined revised amendment. Someday when I have nothing better to do I'll read all 337 pages of it. Oy. Apparently the onus has been shifted, somewhat, off the rights holders and onto Google. And international books have been taken out of the deal (US, UK, Australia and Canada remain). But I'd love to have one of the attorneys sit me down and explain exactly how it works. When Google finds an "orphaned" work, they snatch it up, start providing it and make money off of someone else's book/writings, without ever paying a penny for it. And if the work has a rightsholder front and center? They get 67% of the income. Google and the other "resellers" split the diff?

Too much math involved (and for those who dont' know my math skills are commensurate with my nuclear physics skills - which is to say non-existent).

In one corner of the world (i.e. ROMANCE) these last 2 weeks the glare of the spotlight was squarely on Harlequin. After a previous announcement of the start-up of their YA line (all good), and after the 60th Birthday celebrations died down, HQ announced the Carina all-digital arm. Angela James, digital proponant and late of Samhain and the gone-before-it-got-started Quartet Press, was announced to be the head of the new launch(good for you, Angela!) Rather than the release of e-books that had been or were being released as print titles, and different than the Spice Briefs and Nocturn Bites (shorts) that were all e-book shorts, Carina plans full-length novels, of a variety of types and flavors, without any future print release.

This started the rumblings amid the groups who don't favor e-books. And many, many questions arose as to royalty rates, etc., esp. when the Carina site indicated no advances would be paid (I can practically hear the squeals of distress from RWA over that one) and that the DRM process would not be implemented (opening the door to easier piracy and sharing of books, meaning fewer royalty dollars for authors). But apparently there were sufficient interested parties (read: desperate authors) because the Carina site was deluged with submissions.

Then - like a precursor to a Richter-scale sized quake - after the pre-shock - Carina - came the biggest news. HQ's even newer project: Harlequin Horizons - a self-publishing operation (called a vanity press by most) - with little tantalizing bits of info that would give the rejected Harlequin submittee a new 'lease' on their writing life by paying to be pubbed by the Harlequin Horizons line. That "Harlequin" would (kind of/sort of) be their publisher. And the additional tease that, if sales were good, they might be reconsidered to be a 'real' author (the quotes aren't mine - my opinion on self or vanity pubbing is a heated subject for another time and place).

The outcry against this op began with the Romance Writers of America whose "alerts" alerted their members that HQ was now verboten. Out. Kicked to the curb. No advertising HQ titles in Romance Sells. And they banished every single ARM of HQ - not just the Horizons folk. What this meant for RWA members pubbed, or dreaming of bineg an HQ pub was not clear. (Can I be in PAN? Can I get a "First Sale" notice?) HQ pubbed authors were concerned about the diluting of the brand that they were published with (and the taint of the self-pubbed author) (note that 2009 Pres. Diane Pershing was a multi-pubbed HQ author; so is this year's President, Michelle Monkou). What might it mean for entering the RITA with an HQ pubbed book, or having HQ attendees at the National conference, and many other questions arose and with lightening speed zoomed across the Yahoo group loops, blogs, Twitter, Facebook and every other conceivable avenue of communication.

There have been few responses from National to these questions from their members. But when the Mystery Writers of America and Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers joined the outcry, HQ began making subtle and quiet changes. Now the self-publisher is "DellArte Press". No sign of the vaunted HQ name anywhere. Apparently some of the other "too good to be true" bait has also been removed. Satisfying the HQ pubbed authors and, perhaps, the writing organizations who have booted HQ from their "reconigzed" (read: approved) publishers. No word that I have seen as to how the triumverate of writers' groups are responding to this change.

What I found particularly ironic is that numerous other "real" publishers already have partnerships in place with self-publishing operations (Random House, Thomas Nelson's West Bow Press and Smashwords - partners with B&N) were blithely ignored. Can't quite figure out why.

Time will tell! But the vitriol was at such a fever pitch that I was expecting word any minute that Donna Hayes and her henchwomen had been dragged from their Canadian offices and were being tarred,feathered and ridden out of town on a rail. Can you say "i'ts just business"?

As we creep up on the end of the year (a tough business year, for sure), the holiday gift-giving season and no new Twilight, Harry Potter, Dan Brown or other mega-mega title coming down the pike, what does 2010 hold in store? (Adult hardcover sales were up 2.9% for the quarter, but all thinking is that this was a Dan Brown phenom, rather than an upswing in the sales game overall.)

Well, Kensington's doing that little Snoopy dance, having had a stellar year. But they seem to be one of the few bright lights in a continuing tough year.

Fewer mall stores than ever before (Barnes & Noble & Borders) planned. B. Dalton and Waldenbooks stores being phased out. Will 2010 improve the bleak brick & mortar picture? The big three of non-bookstores: Target, WalMart and Amazon continue the "how low can you go" game of lowering prices on books to $8.97, undercutting publishers, hurting the dedicated booksellers and, naturally, the authors. (Lower publishers' profits and that will become fewer titles purchased, lower advances, etc.).

Barnes & Noble is making sure that they don't have all their eggs in one brick and mortar basket, however. They re-launched their e-book store, and its partnership with Google to sell digital books was expanded by its launch of the NOOK e-reader (Count 'Em! 700,000 titles!). Orders were such that the ship date was pushed from Nov. 30 to Dec. 18 (still in time for Christmas). Admittedly not a subject I'm all that well versed in, techno-phobe that I am, but I'm intrigued by the Nook's wireless capabilities (what always kept me from the Sony E-Reader). With lots of little perks - like "sharing" a title with a friend, free downloads while in-store to read as much as you want, and - for those who care - designer Nook covers by such heavy hitters as Kate Spade, it looks to put a crimp in the Kindle holiday stocking of profits.

December's just days away. NaNoWriMo is in full swing as writers the world over seek the elusive 50,000 word MS. The turkey's just a memory (well, not in my house...) and holiday titles are sweeping onto the shelves. "New Moon" is breaking box office records (no dearth of goodies under the tree for Stephanie Meyer, eh?) and somewhere out there is an author deciding how to best get her book into print. Print? Digital? Self-publish? Chisel and stone tablet?

It's a tough business. And every author has to make their own decision as to what process suits them best. Make sure to educate yourself - don't be sucked in by the advertising, word-of-mouth gossip, or the lure of cash. Only you can know what is best for you. Whether you are able to market yourself, or want to rely on someone else to do that. Whether you want to hie to a prescribed formula for a genre novel, or break the rules, break out of the box and tell your story your way. Whether you want your words available in as many formats as possible so you can share your story, or whether you want to hold that physical thing that is a book in your hands (or put it in your parents' stocking). Whether you want the cash up front or are willing to put in the work to get the royalties coming to you over time - or even paying up front to get the book published and then be your own sales person. Many decisions to make. And as a creative professional, only you know what is going to work for you.

1 comment:

Jo-Anne Vandermeulen said...

AWESOME article!...and so so right.

Just dropped by to leave you something and got caught-up in this article. Well done!


Cogent argument for starting right now with the blogging. I know too many authors who insist, “once I get a book deal”, or “once my book is released” that they will start to blog. Too late, I tell them! You’ve backed me up and given me renewed enthusiasm to keep my own blogging on track, with an eye toward branding and gaining a base of readers. Thank you!

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