Notes from An Alien

~ Explorations In Reading, Writing, and Publishing ~

Tag Archives: Author’s Guild

Why is the Authors Guild so Mad at Google Books?


I’ve written before about the Authors Guild of the U.S.A.—rather critical articlesseems they’re organized more to favor legacy publishers than authors… 

The Guild’s latest outrage is directed against Google Books.

Recently, a federal appeals court ruled that Google’s scanning of “snippets” from books, to present in their search results, was legally “fair use”.

Yet, according to an article in Consumerist, the Executive Director of the Authors Guild had this to say:

“It’s unfortunate that a Court as well-respected as the Second Circuit does not see the damaging effect that uses such as Google’s can have on authors’ potential income. Most full-time authors live on the perilous edge of being able to sustain themselves through writing as a profession… so even relatively small losses in income can make it unsustainable to continue writing for a living.”

Joe Konrath, an author who’s had a successful career in both traditional and self-publishing, responded on his blog with Fisking the Authors Guild.

An excerpt from Joe (here’s a definition of “Fisking“, too):

“The Authors Guild has lost similar battles. During Authors Guild vs. Bill Smopey, they sued him because he’d sat in a Barnes & Nobel and read half of The Terror by Dan Simmons but hadn’t bought it. Smopey’s defense, “After the first 500 pages, the monster wasn’t even in it anymore, and I got bored and put it back.” The Guild claimed that Smopey owed Simmons’s publisher half of the cover price for reading without paying, and for partially crinkling page 342. The court dismissed the case…”

And:

“With Authors Guild vs. Janet’s Mother, they sued because Janet bought a full price hardcover of Stephen King’s The Cell, then loaned it to her mother to read. The Guild demanded Janet’s Mother pay Stephen King a royalty, because she had no right to read what she hadn’t bought for herself. Janet’s Mother’s legal team dazzled with the famous, “Well, what about libraries?!” defense and the suit was dropped.”

Finally:

“That lead to Authors Guild vs. Libraries, where the Guild insisted that every library extract a pound of flesh from patrons who borrowed a book, in lieu of collecting royalties. But unlike the impossibility of separating blood from flesh,  making the acquisition of a pound of flesh quite impossible, the court did decide it was possible to separate the experience of reading a book with the fiduciary duty of monetarily compensating the author for having done so. Yep, you can read without paying.”

I recommend that all authors who may be contemplating joining the Authors Guild go read the rest of Mr. Konrath’s article
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How Many Sales Does It Take to Make a Book a “Success”?


The answer to this post’s title depends on who you ask.

Author Earnings and Book Sales

Image courtesy of Thiago Felipe Festa ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/thiagofest

The author, the publisher, and the readers would have different opinions.

My past post—What About All The Authors Whose Books Don’t Sell Very Many Copies?—says, “An extremely small percentage of writers sells more than 500 copies of a book…”

So, is a successful book one that sells 600 copies, a thousand, hundreds of thousands?

Again, it depends on who you ask

An article about book sales, from National Public Radio in the U.S.A., has Washington Post critic Ron Charles saying:

“When I saw that Anne Enright — [who] I think of as giant in literary fiction, beloved around the world — could only sell 9,000 copies [of The Green Road] in the U.K. I was shocked, that’s really low.”

The Authors Guild in the U.S.A. recently did a member survey that showed a decided drop in book sales per author; however, their members are either traditionally published or have book-earnings of around $3,300 a year

The National Public Radio article goes on to quote Barry Eisler (who’s mentioned in a number of my posts):

“I mean, there are lots of writers … thousands of writers who are making a good living from self-publishing.”

The article continues:

“Eisler is a self-publishing advocate who says the Authors Guild doesn’t represent all writers. Its membership skews older and it is mostly interested in maintaining the status quo of traditional publishing. Self-publishing may not be for everyone, he says. There is no question writers have to be more entrepreneurial. But he says it also offers them a choice when it comes to money and control — and the end result isn’t really all that different from traditional publishing.”

So, self-publishing might help sell more but doesn’t guarantee anything

Roxana Robinson, president of the Authors Guild, says:

“We can’t tell people not to write for free. It’s not to their advantage to do it. But if they want to do it, they will do it.”

If you’re a writer and are still reading this post, would you consider responding to Roxana’s statement in the Comments?
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Guild vs Alliance ~ Are Authors Being Helped?


Everything I write is my opinion.

Authors Guild vs Authors Alliance

Image courtesy of jorge vicente ~ http://www.freeimages.com/profile/jmjvicente

Sure, I quote others—often—but even what I choose to quote is decided by my opinion.

Of course, these days, many feel that their opinion is Truth

However, if you’re a writer who’d like to offer your work to readers, knowing the relative truth of various standpoints is probably of interest to you.

For instance, should writers still follow the traditional model—agent, editor, legacy publisher—or, strike out on their own—self-publish?

You can use the Top Tags widget in the left side-bar to find many posts about that choice

Also, should an aspiring author join an organization that purports to serve their interests?

If someone asked me my opinion about joining organizations, I’d have to warn them that I’m a maverick and really don’t like most organizations.

So, I can’t give solid evidence about the Authors Guild or the newer group, the Authors Alliance.

Both organizations are for, primarily, U.S. authors but the issues raised may well echo in other countries’ author communities

I did do a post last year that reported on two well-know authors’ opinions about the Guild’s leadership—The U. S. Authors Guild President vs Reality.

And, I will share a few excerpts from an article that begins with mention of the brewing battle between the Guild and the Alliance—On Why The Authors Guild is Wrong about the Future:

“…the fight between the two organizations illustrates the very question everyone is asking these days: What is my place in the new, digital world?

“Established writers already entrenched and successful in the traditional publishing system are telling these aspiring writers that while they must develop their early-stage careers on their own and they must build a loyal following to a publisher, they shouldn’t embrace the digital publishing tools available to them as it might undermine the traditional business.”

the problem is how to formulate a solution that enables early- and mid-stage career building that no longer exists within [the] publishing industry.

“For that, the Authors Alliance seems more inline with what those writers need.”

I have no idea if that writer is right.

I’m merely reporting to my readers on a turn of events that they may find important to track

Do you feel traditional publishing is still the best option?

Are you more likely to self-publish?

Would you consider joining a Guild or Alliance to help you in your career?

Care to share your opinions in the Comments?
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The U. S. Authors Guild President vs Reality


If you read the recent New York Times op-ed piece by Scott Turow, Authors Guild president, entitled The Slow Death of the American Author, you might think he’d made some valid points

First let me refer you back to a previous post on this blog, Authors/Readers vs Publishers vs the U.S. Dept. of Justice, and some comments of Joe Konrath about Turow’s comments concerning the Big Six lawsuit:

[italics are Scott Turow, Joe is Joe Konrath]

Yesterday’s report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

“Joe: Translation: It will be grim news for bestselling authors and billion-dollar publishers.”

The Justice Department has been investigating whether those publishers colluded in adopting a new model, pioneered by Apple for its sale of iTunes and apps, for selling e-books. Under that model, Apple simply acts as the publisher’s sales agent, with no authority to discount prices.

“Joe: Translation: Under the Apple model, publishers can set their own prices. That isn’t Amazon’s model, but if enough of us band together (i.e. collusion), publishers can force Amazon to accept the prices publishers set.

“Look, a retailer should be able to sell whatever they want to sell, for however much they want to charge.

“Imagine going to a car dealer and being told, ‘We have to sell this Mazda for $19,999, and you can’t bargain.’ Imagine owning a store and not being able to put anything on sale.”

Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

“Joe: Translation: Amazon was using free enterprise to gain market share, something that worries inferior competition.”

There’s more but I want to save some room for Kristen Lamb‘s comments about Turow’s recent NY Times piece, from her article, Let Them Eat Cake—The Slow Death of The Old Paradigm Author:

“The American Author, as Turow understands it, writes books, relies on an agent and publisher, and trusts to earn as many royalties as possible from as many sources as possible. FREE! is anathema and social media is too plebeian…and yes, these types of authors are slowly dying.”

“While Turow wails that authors are dying, he seems to be forgetting about Barry Eisler who famously turned down a half million dollar deal with his publisher to go on his own. Turow is also apparently unaware of the many successful self-published authors who’ve translated successful e-book sales into favorable print deals with traditional houses. He looks all too unaware of the astonishing success of publishers who’ve passed up the old business model and innovated to keep pace with a new culture.”

“It all boils down to this. The world has changed. There is a new paradigm and it’s birthing a very new type of reader who has very different expectations. This, in turn, has altered our job requirements if we hope to be successful.

“Yes, it is more work, but the odds of success are far higher. The Old World had 172,000 books published in a year and 160,000 of those sold less than 1,000 copies…”

So, obviously, no one should make any judgement of Scott Turow until they read his full article then, perhaps, read Joe Konraths’s and Kristen Lamb’s.

If you happen to do that, do come back and leave your thoughts in our Comments.

Of course, you can not read them all and still leave a comment :-)
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Authors/Readers vs Publishers vs the U.S. Dept. of Justice


It appears that Apple plus five of the Big Six publishers are being threatened by a lawsuit.

It seems to be revolving around the “Agency Model” of pricing

Personally, I have no rock-solid opinion, though I am leaning in a certain direction—which should be obvious when I include a few excerpts from the last reference-link below—in fact, even if you read all the referenced articles, I encourage you to read the last one first then go back and judge the others

Let me introduce you to a few published opinions:

From The Atlantic: How Cheap Should Books Be?

From the independent publisher, Melville House: Authors Guild head (and attorney) Scott Turow warns DOJ about the effects of law suit.

From The Guardian: Ebooks: defending the agency model.

From The Christian Science Monitor: Right pricing e-books: Is the government actually discouraging competition?

From TechDirt: Author’s Guild Boss On E-Book Price Fixing Allegations: But… But… Brick-And-Mortar!

And, From A Newbie’s Guide To Publishing: Barry, Joe, & Scott Turow.

Just a few excerpts from that last one [italics are Scott Turow, President of the Author’s Guild; Joe is Joe Konrath; Barry is Barry Eisler]:

Yesterday’s report that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

“Joe: Translation: It will be grim news for bestselling authors and billion-dollar publishers.

“Barry: I always wonder what people mean by these vague references to ‘rich literary culture’ (and when I see the same phrase crop up in more than one place, it really sets my bullshit detector tingling). Ordinarily, these buzzwords sound appealing in the abstract, but dissolve like an urban legend when subjected to a bit of thought.”

The Justice Department has been investigating whether those publishers colluded in adopting a new model, pioneered by Apple for its sale of iTunes and apps, for selling e-books. Under that model, Apple simply acts as the publisher’s sales agent, with no authority to discount prices.

“Joe: Translation: Under the Apple model, publishers can set their own prices. That isn’t Amazon’s model, but if enough of us band together (i.e. collusion), publishers can force Amazon to accept the prices publishers set.

“Look, a retailer should be able to sell whatever they want to sell, for however much they want to charge.

“Imagine going to a car dealer and being told, ‘We have to sell this Mazda for $19,999, and you can’t bargain.’ Imagine owning a store and not being able to put anything on sale.”

Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

“Joe: Translation: Amazon was using free enterprise to gain market share, something that worries inferior competition.

“Barry: Oh, come on. Amazon’s lower prices were intended to ‘destroy bookselling’? Not to sell more books and gain market share? It’s ipso facto evil to compete via lower prices?

“I really wish all companies would collude to charge higher prices. The world would be a better place.

“Joe: The Big Publishing Cartel monopolizes distribution for decades and that’s fine, but some upstart comes in and starts treating authors and readers with consideration, and it is a call to arms.

“Barry: This argument is just bizarre. I mean, Amazon, which sells more books than anyone, is destroying bookselling? Amazon is destroying bookselling by selling tons of books?”

So, what do you think about all this?

Are Apple and the Big Five right?

Is the President of the Author’s Guild in the pockets of the Big Five and Apple?

Is Amazon evil?

Are Joe and Barry crazy??
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