• Jackie Collins died September 19 of breast cancer.
• Remember the Authors Guild survey that reported 56% of respondents earned below the poverty level? The sky is falling! Even award winning authors have sales in the toilet. Washington Post book reviewer Ron Charles is dismayed: “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 in the U.K. I was shocked, that’s really low.”
“A sensational sale would be about 25,000 copies,” says literary agent Jane Dystel. “Even 15,000 would be a strong enough sale to get the publisher’s attention for the author for a second book.”
• The Harry Potter Alliance is raising money to fight “worldsuck.”
• Neil Gaiman and Amanda Palmer show off their “not so humble bumble.”
• Book subscription service Oyster, launched in 2012, is shutting down. Google is apparently reimbursing investors for the right to hire much of Oyster’s leadership. Hmm. Mike Shatzkin has some thinks on the subject.
The news that the general ebook subscription offering Oyster is throwing in the towel was not really a surprise. The business model they were forced to adopt for the biggest publishers—paying full price for each use of a book with a threshold trigger at considerably less than a complete read while, at the same time, offering consumers a monthly subscription price that barely covered the sale of one book, let alone two—was inevitably unprofitable.
• Next week is Banned Books Week.
• Harry Potter’s Hogwarts acceptance letter is up for auction and expected to fetch $6000. We think at that price it would make a good investment.
• And once again they’re claiming the ebook revolution might be over: “There are signs that some e-book adopters are returning to print, or becoming hybrid readers, who juggle devices and paper.” We think it’s a temporary stabilization. Once the market forces ebook prices down, as it inevitably will, the revolution will continue. But print aficionados needn’t panic; there will always be print books just as there will always be horses and buggies.
As publishers renegotiated new terms with Amazon in the past year and demanded the ability to set their own e-book prices, many have started charging more. With little difference in price between a $13 e-book and a paperback, some consumers may be opting for the print version.
• Big advances still happen. That is, if you’re a celebrity on a roll. Amy Schumer is receiving a reported $8-10 million for her forthcoming book, The Girl With the Lower Back Tattoo.
• There’s a new literary journal on the block: Freeman’s was founded by former Granta editor John Freeman and will resemble Granta in content and style.
• Who knew writing fortune cookies was a job? On the other hand, we guess someone has to write them. And at 75 cents a pop it’s not a bad gig.
• The Pottermore website has been redesigned.
• James Patterson will receive the National Book Foundation’s annual Literarian Award. He has donated gobs of money in support of literacy and literature.
• A student was accused of being a terrorist for reading a book on terrorism. “I could not believe it. I was reading an academic textbook and minding my own business.”
After three months of investigation into Farooq’s case, Staffordshire University admitted fault and apologised to the 33-year-old, saying it was responding to a “very broad duty … to have due regard to the need to prevent people from being drawn into terrorism.”
• PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals) is suing a photographer, claiming a photo copyright should be awarded to a monkey. In even stranger news, students at Wesleyan University are petitioning against free speech. No, on second thought, the monkey thing is stranger. Sorry, we were distracted.
• “Happy Birthday to You” is now in the public domain. You may include the lyrics in your novels and stories, without permission. In all caps, if you like. Paaarteee!
• Speaking of copyright law . . .
• Individual author earnings tracked across 7 quarters, Feb. 2014—Sept. 2015. The graphs are worth a look.
• Agent Janet Reid on how to evaluate a small publisher.
Look at the books they’re publishing. Do they look professional? Trust your instincts here. You’ve read books, you’ve held books in your hands, you can recognize when one looks cheap and poorly designed. What they are publishing now is probably what your book will look like too.
• We saved this for second-to-last: how to prepare for Fall.
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