Archive for the ‘SFWA Blog’ Category

Victoria Strauss — VDM Verlag Dr. Mueller

For some time, I’ve been receiving questions about VDM Verlag Dr Mueller, a German academic publisher. VDM describes its business thus: VDM publishes academic research worldwide – at no cost to our authors. Annually, we publish more than 10,000 new titles and are thus one of the leading publishing houses of academic research. We specialize […]

How syntax can help you!

by Juliette Wade This one’s funny, because it sounds like grammar, or maybe computer programming… Syntax is the study of how sentences are put together. Part of this is word order. This is the one everyone fears because it often involves diagramming sentences. Actually, one of my most intense and wonderful classes was Syntax 1 […]

Interview: Ysabeau S. Wilce

Our sister site, Nebulaawards.com, interviews Ysabeau S. Wilce, author of this year’s Andre Norton Award winner: Flora’s Dare: How a Girl of Spirit Gambles All to Expand Her Vocabulary, Confront a Bouncing Boy Terror, and Try to Save Califa from a Shaky Doom (Despite Being Confined to Her Room).

Victoria Strauss — Google Book Search Settlement: Opting Out

This morning, I opted out of the Google Book Search Settlement.

For several months, I’ve had no question that I did NOT want my books included in Google’s database. It’s not the display of bibliographic information, or even snippets, that I object to–it’s the possible uses the settlement empowers Google to make of my work down the road (including selling my books in electronic and POD form). If those uses were limited and clearly defined, I might not have a problem–but they aren’t, and I just can’t see allowing such a sweeping license to my work, where the implications of granting that license are so unclear.

My only question was whether my desire not to participate in the Settlement would be best accomplished by opting out–in which case Google would “voluntarily” honor my request not to digitize or display my books, but not be barred from changing its mind at some point in the future; the advantage is that I would retain my right to sue Google for infringement–or by opting in and directing Google to remove my books from its database, in which case I would waive forever my right to legal action against Google for any use of my work. Either option presents the risk that Google might at some future point renege, and I might find my work used anyway.

Two things convinced me that opting out was not only the best, but also the most morally acceptable, decision. The first was reading Scott E. Gant’s objection to the Settlement, which provides a blistering analysis of the Settlement’s raid upon the very ground of copyright, and also of the inadequacy of Google’s efforts to notify copyright holders. It convinced me that I couldn’t accept the Settlement, even to the degree of opting in solely to prevent Google from using my work.

The second was my conviction that the Settlement will not be approved at the Fairness Hearing on October 7. The flaws are just too glaring, the objections are just too persuasive–and then there’s the Dept. of Justice’s antitrust investigation. There could be years of litigation ahead. For writers who’ve opted into the Settlement–or who’ve done nothing and have been opted in by default–what will the rights implications be? I don’t want to be a party to that either.

In an article from the Guardian that I read this morning, an advocate of the Settlement is quoted:

“The obvious social justice and social utility impact that the book project is going to have … are getting lost in the discussion,” said Professor Lateef Mtima, director of the Institute of Intellectual Property & Social Justice at Howard University, a pioneering black college in Washington.

He suggested it would help “so many segments of our society today who for decades have been left out of the communication exchange, who have been on the wrong side of the digital divide”.

I don’t disagree. In fact, I think it’s a compelling argument. The article continues:

However, critics of the deal said that this does not address their concerns with the settlement – which are not about whether digitising books is useful, but whether the specific terms of the deal will hamper innovation and damage authors.

For me, this is exactly the issue. As alluring as is the prospect of a universal, digital world library, I don’t believe that the Settlement, fatally flawed as it is, is the way to establish that.

If you decide you want to opt out, there’s still time–you have till the end of today. See my previous post on opting out for links and information.

How morphology can help you!

Morphology is a fantasy and science fiction writer’s best friend. Seriously. Why? Because everyone uses it, and I mean everyone, whether they know it or not. Every story that makes up a name for a group of people and then pluralizes it is using morphology. Every story that takes a nice-sounding made-up word and then adds on a suffix to make the name of a country or city is using it too.

Victoria Strauss — Postage Promotion

Whenever I think I’ve seen it all, something new comes along.

The explosive growth of self-publishing options over the past decade or so has spawned a mini-industry catering to writers trying to get notice for their books. From publicity companies (some competent, many not) to the marketing packages hawked by self-publishing providers such as AuthorHouse (typically overpriced and largely ineffective) to completely worthless pseudo-services (email blasts, online catalogs, book fair “representation”), self-published authors these days have near-unlimited opportunities to spend money on self-promotion.

Such as this one, from self-publishing service Outskirts Press: put your book cover on a postage stamp.

No, I am not making this up. From an Outskirts’ press release, dated today:

Outskirts Press, the fastest growing full-service self-publishing and book marketing company, recently announced it is making available to its family of over 4500 published authors an opportunity to feature their book cover on customized first-class US postage stamps.

Every envelope they send out can then promote their own books with these new eye catching stamps. These are legitimate, custom First Class U.S. Postal stamps, and they come in quantities of 120, each with a color image of the author’s book cover.

This clever book marketing tool is just one more marketing device within an already expansive repertoire of promotional aids provided by Outskirts Press to its authors. Unlike many self-publishing firms, Outskirts Press understands the key role marketing plays in their authors’ success, and they continually develop new promotional and marketing services for their authors to use well beyond the initial publication of their work.

Of course, Outskirts’ “new promotional and marketing services” are also designed to snag their authors’ dollars. Prices aren’t mentioned in the press release, but per this list of add-ons to Outskirts’ basic publishing packages, 120 custom stamps will set an author back $149.

When was the last time you took a careful look at a postage stamp?