So I received the Fall 2012/Winter 2013 Authors Guild Bulletin, which, in addition to PW Daily and PW Weekly emails, forms the bulk of where I get worldwide publishing news. These sources rarely deal with the genre of horror directly, but I find they encompass the bigger ocean of publishing that the ponds and lakes of horror often seem to gloss over.
Anyway, there are a few interesting tidbits in there I wanted to share/comment on, and maybe see what other folks think. I apologize to the nonwriter folks who read this blog, as it may seem like dry shop talk, but by all means, if you have an opinion, weigh in. I’m always interested to hear people’s thoughts on the things that, in affecting us as writers, subsequently affect you as readers.
AG’s Bulletin, to give you a quick background, features articles that usually focus on the political and business decisions occurring in publishing. Reports from conferences as well as a letter from Scott Turow, president of the AG, also appear. Now, I don’t profess to understand all the ins and outs of the court proceedings/rulings, but I do like one feature they run consistently which covers news, notes, funny asides, business decisions, quotes from other writers, and an assortment of miscellaneous tidbits that I guess don’t fit anywhere else. It’s called “Along Publishers Row.” And here, I found some chewy food for thought.
For example, a quote, reprinted but originally by Colm Toibin in “Draft,” a series on writing published at nytimes.com. I think this is an excellent description of what fiction feels like for a writer: “The world that fiction comes from…persists because it is based on the power of cadence and the rhythm in language and these are mysterious and hard to defeat and keep in their place. The difference between fact and fiction is like the difference between land and water.”
Less delightful is another tidbit about Todd Rutherford, who, according to the AG APR column, “offers a service that provides glowing ‘reviews’ of self-published books on the Web.” He charges $99, evidently, for one review, $499 for 20 reviews, and get this — for 50 reviews, a mere $999. Um…what? Okay, I get that word of mouth is a big, important factor in promotion, but…paying 1) exorbitant prices for 2) mechanically churned out reviews of empty praise in 3) often overused terminology seems dishonest to me. Dishonest on TR’s part, and dishonest on the parts of writers paying for this service. Am I missing something? I am not, admittedly, a good promoter of my own stuff, but this strongly goes against something inside me. I guess TR supposes the world wide web is wide enough that few book buyers will find out about this business practice, which would essentially void any credibility the review, reviewer, or book reviewed may have. But still, this kind of practice seems to me to contribute to the discrediting of customer reviews in general, much the same way people swapping good reviews at the behest of writer friends on Amazon or vindictive people posting bad reviews of their perceived enemies does. Apparently, any endorsement that has been paid for needs to be labelled as such, but this is not very stringently enforced. A quote from the NY Times states that “Customer reviews are powerful because…they offer the illusion of truth.” And yet, this — illusion rather than truth. Gah.
A Letter to the Editor points out an interesting thing about royalty statements and payments to agents I didn’t realize (though I probably should have). To preface for those who might not know, when a publisher owes you money on a deal brokered by the agent, one check for the entire sum was traditionally sent to your agent, who took his/her 15% and then sent you a check for your remaining 85%. Numbers were verified by your royalty statement. Recent practice has had some agents/authors requesting that publishers send one check of 85% for royalties directly to the author and another separate check of 15% to the agent. The agent who wrote the Letter to the Editor points out that this means two royalty statements need to be sent, showing 85% of sales on one, and 15% of sales on another. This can cause confusion in tracking sales, ad complications regarding taxes. While the AG supports the authors’ and agents’ rights to request the split, it does point out all the potential hang-ups a split might cause. Hmmm. It sounds to me like if you trust your agent (and you should, or else why have one?), that one check is probably easier, right?
Finally, there’s an article about turning down interviews/asking to be paid for interviews which, in my current position, I don’t quite agree with. I’m admittedly not in this author’s position, and while he makes some interesting points and delivers a lot of it with tongue firmly in cheek, I tend to disagree overall with the idea of being paid for interviews. To give a speech at a conference or college? Sure, I think authors should be paid for those. Generally, those are presentations which take time and sometimes research to prepare, and are meant for the audience to glean much more than an author’s background or opinions. At least, the author speakers I’ve heard in the past (David Morrell, incidentally, being one of the most compelling and one hell of a nice guy) seemed to have put a lot of time and effort into their speeches. To be fair, the author of the article explains to a degree how willing and able he has been (and still is) to talk on the subject of his books for interested parties, and points out that publicity upon the release of a new book is important, that interviews garner exposure, But he also mentions that they take away from time writing new books and for no monetary compensation or even a significantly recognizable increase in sales. He points out foreign news sources have paid him at least an honorarium for bringing his knowledge-base to their audiences, while domestic news sources (he cites an NBC affiliate in Bangor, ME) are less likely to do so. Still…I like doing interviews. I like talking about horror books and movies and video games, about my work and the work of others I enjoy. While the points he expresses are valid, it seems pretentious, maybe, to me to ask people to pay me for opinions I would spout just as readily, for free, on this blog.
Well, that’s all I have, for now — the good, the bad, and the quirky. I’m off to write a bit and then spend some time helping my sister out with Seedling (my niece), ad then spend some more time with Sprout, and then write some more. Busy busy me on a Friday night. 😉 In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these things. Comment away!