Tidbits

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

It’s spring! Here in chilly New England, climate change seems to be taking a break, and it felt as if the warm weather would never arrive. But daffodils and primroses are blooming in my garden, and it’s almost–almost!–mild enough to sit outside.

My family emergency situation is still ongoing, and my book deadline is only three months away–so it’ll be a while before I can return to a normal schedule. However, I’m still following the news (and answering email), so I can at least share with you the publishing stories that caught my eye over the past week or so.

One more note: I’ll be at the ASJA’s 2013 annual conference in New York City on Friday, April 26, appearing on two panels: Writer Beware! How to Avoid Publishing Scams, Ripoffs, Pitfalls, and Deadbeats; and Fiction Spotlight On…Science Fiction and Fantasy. If you’re there, stop by and say hi.

- Ebooks accounted for nearly 23% of US publishing revenue in 2012, according to the Association of American Publishers, That’s up from 17% in 2011.


- On the flip side, ebook growth in the US, while robust, seems to have plateaued“only” 41% in 2012, as compared to triple-digit growth in previous years. The market is starting to mature, and print isn’t going away as fast as many people predicted.

- Scam publisher Peter Campbell-Copp, of Historical Pages Publishing, has been sentenced to six months’ jail time for defrauding authors. It’s a sadly familiar story: promises given, money taken, books never produced. In this case, at least, law enforcement took notice (though the authors will not get their money back.) Most deadbeat publishers go unreported and unpunished.

- Another small press in trouble: Leaf Books. The company’s most recent newsletter attempts to explain the situation (publication delays of up to two years, hundreds of unanswered emails, ongoing financial problems) and promises to fix them. However, the newsletter was issued last August, and there have been no updates since then, or any indication that the troubles have been resolved. Writers should be very wary.

EDITED 4/20 TO ADD: In the day since I put this post online, Leaf has changed the date on its newsletter to April 2013. However, if you paste the newsletter link into Google’s search box, or right-click on the newsletter so you can view the HTML code, you can still see the August 2012 date.

- A new definition of “crowdfunding?” This week I ran across an anthology that presents itself as a crowdfunding scheme, with the “crowd” actually being would-be contributors, who must “donate” £50 in order to submit (and don’t get it back if their submission isn’t chosen). This is just pay-to-play by a different name. Vanity publishers take note–now you, too, can be a crowdfunding project!

- What could possibly be wrong with a book that collects over 100 “encouraging, motivating, inspiring and instructional passages” about writing from actual writers? (Click the “Show more” link under the book description to see a partial list of “contributors.”) How about if the author didn’t get permission to use those passages, and is making money from them by selling the book?

Chuck Wendig, who found himself quoted in the book, explains why he isn’t happy. The book’s author is claiming fair use–but fair use is a slippery thing, and defending it has sunk many a lawsuit. Fair use or not, it’s simply polite to ask permission to borrow someone else’s words. Especially where you intend to make money from the words you’re borrowing.

- Does reading on a screen change the way we read? Is it good, or bad, for focus and/or comprehension? This article takes a look at the many studies addressing this issue, concluding that paper and ink still has the edge for certain kinds of reading–but that, increasingly, “text is not the only way to read.”

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