It’s been a busy week, both in the publishing world and in the little bit of the world that is mine. For me, I’ve been trying to finish up reviewing edits on several titles coming out for NRP and I’ve been attacked by a new novel — one that demands it be written NOW. For the industry, well, let’s just say there have been a lot of developments and I’ll try to touch on a few of them.
Let’s start with the news from the courts. A federal judge in New York has thrown out the Google books settlement. From Publisher’s Weekly: But citing copyright, antitrust and other concerns, Judge Denny Chin said that the settlement went too far. He said it would have granted Google a “de facto monopoly” and the right to profit from books without the permission of copyright owners. There is still the possibility Google and the other parties to the settlement can reach and agreement that will pass legal muster, but PW is right. This is a blow not only to Google but to the Authors Guild and Association of American Publishers. The parties had taken two years to negotiate the current settlement and now must go back to the drawing board.
Then there’s this head-scratcher from Hawaii. Simply put, this bill would open publishers and authors up to civil liability if a reader of a travel book or article is hurt or killed trying to get to a location described in the piece. In other words, even if that person trespasses on private property and decides to hang off the edge of a skyscraper to see that nest of birds he just read about in the travel section of the newspaper and falls, the paper and the author could be held liable. It doesn’t matter that the reader didn’t exercise the common sense of a gnat. At the risk of stepping over the no politics line, I have to say that this smacks of legislators going a bit too far. There has to come a point where you have to trust folks to use a little common sense. If they don’t, then they need to suffer the consequences. From a realistic stand point, conditions change and what may have been true at the time an article or book is written may have changed by the time it is published. So the warning might be so totally wrong as to be misleading as well. So, trust folks to use their brains or let them suffer the consequences. This is like requiring publishers to have disclaimers that books written 200 years ago use words that are no longer considered proper, etc.
Then there was the news that Barry Eisler gave up a $500,000 publishing deal to self-publish his books. Among the reasons given were that he was unhappy with the current royalty scheme with traditional publishers — especially where e-books are concerned — and the desire to get his books out quicker than they would be going the traditional route.
Coming on the heels of the news about Eisler is this piece that indie publishing phenom Amanda Hocking has just signed a deal with St. Martin’s. As an indie, Hocking has sold more than a million books and made more than $2 million. She has done what every indie — heck, what every writer — wants. She’s made enough money to be able to write full-time. So why did she, as some will say, turn traitor and join the ranks of traditional publishing? According to Hocking, it’s so she can finally see her books on bookstore shelves. Something else every writer wants. There are other reasons, some very good ones, including making her books available when and where her readers want them, ensuring better editing (I hate to tell her, that may be a pipe dream. I’ve seen some horrible editing coming out of the major publishers.) But this doesn’t mean she’s giving up self-publishing either. As she notes in her post, she still has a number of books she can put out on her own.
So, who’s right — Eisler or Hocking? To me, they both are. Authors have to decide what is best for them and for their readers. The industry is changing. We have to change with it, whether we’re authors or editors or publishers. If we don’t, we’ll be left behind.
Finally, if you want to take part in a poll, Genreville has a poll about SF/Fantasy purchasing habits. You can find it here.
What do you think? Should there be a new Google books settlement? Should there be warnings and disclaimers in travel books and articles? Self-publish or traditional?
(Cross-posted to Mad Genius Club)