Shining a bright light into the dark corners of the shadow-world of literary scams, schemes, and pitfalls. Also providing advice for writers, industry news, and commentary. Writer Beware® is sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, Inc.

April 29, 2013

ASJA Annual Conference 2013, Plus Tidbits

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I was in New York this past weekend for the 2013 ASJA Annual Writers Conference. I participated in two panels with Writer Beware-er Richard White: a Writer Beware panel (of course) on schemes, scams, and pitfalls in the publishing industry; and a panel on breaking into science fiction and fantasy publishing.

We had a good and engaged crowd for the Writer Beware panel. Rich and I presented on Writer Beware, what it is and does, and the kinds of schemes and scams we track and warn about. The Authors Guild's Jan Constantine spoke about poor contract terms, payment problems, and other issues confronting writers who publish traditionally; and marketing expert Penny Sansevieri spoke on scams in the marketing field and how to avoid them.

The SF/fantasy panel had sparser attendance, but was still a good discussion, with Rich and I talking about our experience as writers, and editor Sheila Williams and former editor/current agent Shawna McCarthy providing an industry perspective.

As usual, the Writer Beware-hating wingnuts at The Write Agenda  had a hissy fit about my and Rich's participation in the conference. However, ASJA staff know wingnuts when they encounter them, and provided an appropriate response--which, predictably, provoked a fresh explosion of indignation. I only wish I had the arcane powers TWA ascribes to me.

P.S., wingnuts: hurrying from the train to the hotel where the conference was taking place, I stepped in a pothole and sprained my ankle. Now you can do another post on karma biting the ladies of Writer Beware. You're welcome.

Turning to other's some recent publishing news that caught my eye.

- Last year, complaints began to emerge about Noble Romance Publishing, including poor sales, non-payment of royalties, and poor communication. Then, last July, owner Jill Noble walked out without notice, leaving the company to a new owner, Jean Gombart. Since then, things have only gone further downhill. Recently, author Margie Church blogged about the continuing problems and broken promises at Noble Romance. Despite every sign that Noble Romance is "a business in its last vestiges of life," Gombart adamantly refuses to relinquish book rights back to authors.

- The always-insightful Porter Anderson provides perspective on a major Twitter freakout of last week: some literary agents' angry reaction to Barry Eisler's keynote address at the Pike's Peak Writers' Conference, in which he stated that print distribution is the only thing traditional publishers provide that self-publishers can't obtain on their own. I don't entirely agree with him--in the best publishing experiences, there's a synergy among all the various parts of the process that can't be duplicated when you piece them out--and I also think that the potentially substantial costs of creating a really professional self-published book should be emphasized more. But he makes provocative points that are well worth considering.

(I do wish, though, that we could we could get rid of the term “legacy publisher.” It's a term that embodies an assumption about the state of traditional publishing that hasn’t yet been proven [a legacy system is a system that has been supplanted by new technology but is still in use]--plus, it was coined by self-publishing evangelists as an epithet, and has a negative connotation that I don’t think adds to serious discussion.)

- Last February, several independent booksellers filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Amazon and several large publishing houses, alleging that by requiring the use of DRM on the Kindle, Amazon and the publishers have colluded to restrict the sale of ebooks. Now a judge is considering tossing the suit, citing a lack of evidence of any conspiracy.

April 19, 2013


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."

April 2, 2013

Why I'm Not Here

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

You may have noticed there was no blog post last week.

That's because I'm currently dealing with a family emergency (helping my disabled stepmother, who has broken her shoulder) that's eating up my time. Between that and trying to maintain my writing schedule (book deadline approaching...) I just haven't been able to manage any blog posts.

I'm hoping to get back to a more normal schedule next week, or possibly the week after.

I am still answering email, so if you need to reach me, it's beware [at]

Happy writing, and I'll see you all soon!
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