Wally Lamb, Ishmael Beah & Chelsea Handler to Headline BEA

Wally Lamb to attend BEA Author Breakfast - peoplewhowriteBookExpo America or BEA as it’s better known is fast approaching and it’s set to be packed with literary stars. According to Publishers Weekly, comedienne and E! personality Chelsea Handler (Are You There, Vodka? It’s Me, Chelsea), Ishmael Beah (A Long Way Gone: Memoirs of a Boy Soldier), Doris Kearns Goodwin (Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln), and Wally Lamb (She’s Come Undone) are among the literati to be featured in a series of author breakfasts. There will be two Adult Book & Author Breakfasts, and one Children’s Book & Author Breakfast over the four-day conference. Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer, author of forthcoming YA novel The Case of the Time-Capsule Bandit, will MC one of the breakfasts as will MSNBC’s Chris Matthews.

Visit bookexpoamerica.com for all the deets, and to register.

Atria Books Tries Voucher System to Distribute eBooks

Gary Schwartz - peoplewhowrite

Gary Schwartz

The eBook business is exploding, lapping past physical book sales daily, but their popularity poses a conundrum in the traditional author-reader interaction. How do you sign an eBook, let alone distribute them at an author event?

Authorgraph (aka KindleGraph) enables writers to sign digital books, as does Fanado, an app author Margaret Atwood launched; and now Simon and Schuster’s Atria imprint has teamed up with Impact Mobile to create digital eBook vouchers with unique codes that can be redeemed for a free download by audiences at an author event/ signing. According to the press release on Digital Book World, “The digital voucher system will be in use at the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, where Impact Mobile CEO, Gary Schwartz, will have a presence on behalf of both Impact Mobile and as author of Fast Shopper, Slow Store.”

The voucher system sounds similar to the coupon codes fashion retailers distribute online to stimulate sales and grow their customer files. It’ll be interesting to see how it works for the publisher.

Barnes & Noble May Separate From Struggling Nook

Leonard S. Riggio - peoplewhowrite

Leonard S. Riggio

Barnes and Noble Chairman Leonard S. Riggio is planning to put in a bid to buy the floundering bookseller’s 689 stores. The New York Times writes, “The move would effectively cleave the retail arm, which established itself over four decades as the industry’s giant, from Nook Media, the e-book division that investors and analysts had believed would usher the retailer into the Internet era. The Nook has been beaten badly by Amazon.com’s Kindle and the iPad in sales.”

This news comes on the heels of a spate of recent bad news for Barnes and Noble. In December, the retailer announced they would have to shutter 15 stores with the chief executive of their retail group projecting many more store closings in the future saying “In 10 years we’ll have 450 to 500 stores.” B&N also reported disappointing Nook sales this past holiday.

Amidst the belt tightening, the bookstore giant has fought competitors and even publishers. They refused to carry titles published by chief competitor Amazon (which hurt sales of Amazon Publishing’s first title, The 4-Hour Cookbook by Tim Ferriss), and recently reduced orders of Simon and Schuster books allegedly because the publisher is not adequately supporting them.

Things seemed to be looking up for the embattled book retailer when investor Daniel Tisch increased his stake in B&N shares, but this news about Riggio’s reported plans to effectively split the company into two struggling halves thrusts the company into further uncertainty. If Riggio’s bid is accepted, the resulting company will be privately owned.

Does the Self-Publishing Boom Benefit Readers. . . or Writers?

Apple's iBookstore promotes new "Breakout Books" section by self-published authors - peoplewhowrite

Apple’s iBookstore promotes new “Breakout Books” section by self-published authors

There’s been a lot of talk about how self-publishing benefits writers, but what about readers? For writers sick of knocking the iron door of literary agencies/the publishing industry without favorable answer, self-publishing has allowed them to get their stories out. But in a recent piece on The Guardian‘s website, Anna Baddely questions whether this flood of self-published stories is a  good thing for readers.

“I find it very unlikely that someone looking for their next read would think: I want something by a self-published author,” she writes. “It would be like logging on to iTunes to buy some music and selecting, instead of rock/pop, a category called “songs recorded in people’s bedrooms”.” Ouch.

She adds, “let’s stop pretending that the self-publishing revolution has the reader’s best interests at heart.” Baddely even challenges the notion that self-publishing benefits the writers that take advantage of publishing platforms to release their work independently. “To get noticed,” she points out, “you either need to be very lucky or spend every waking hour manically self‑promoting.” Baddely says the only real winner are the booksellers who can move self-published works quickly as they tend to sell at a lower price.

By likening self-published titles to “songs recorded in people’s bedrooms,” Baddely references the stigma of low-quality (poor editing, bad cover design) usually associated with them. But, with self-publishing services teaming up with traditional publishers, and the industry becoming more sophisticated, that stigma is increasingly taking a back seat to news-makers like 17-year-old Beth Reekles who snagged a Random House book deal after self-publishing her work on Wattpad and Hugh Howey who recently inked a major deal with Simon and Schuster based on the success of his self-published series Wool. If Reekles’ and Howey’s success is any indication, readers appreciate having more titles to discover — whether they have the imprimatur of a traditional publisher or not.

But Baddely raises a great point about whether self-published writers benefit. Stories like Reekles’ and Howey’s are rare, as she points out; and with readers used to buying books (digital or physical) at increasingly lower prices, self-published authors earn less and less for their work even as they split the smaller pie with sales platforms.

We’re still at the beginning of the self-publishing wave, so it’s hard to know the legacy effect it will have on readers and writers, but we’ll be watching.

Congrats to Oscar-Winning Writers Chris Terrio & Quentin Tarantino!

Argo's Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar Winner Chris Terrio thanked fellow Best Screenplay Winner Ben Affleck - peoplewhowrite

Argo’s Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar Winner Chris Terrio thanked fellow Best Screenplay Winner Ben Affleck

Accepting his win for Best Adapted Screenplay, Argo writer and first-time Oscar-winner Chris Terrio thanked Director and producer Ben Affleck who won his first Oscar 15 years ago for Good Will Hunting.  Meanwhile, Django Unchained writer/director Quentin Tarantino, continuing his Awards Season streak with a win for Best Original Screenplay, exclaimed “This is the writers’ year!”

Tim Ferriss Says He'd Publish with Amazon Again

Tim Ferriss - peoplewhowrite

Tim Ferriss

When author Tim Ferriss decided to bypass traditional publishers and release The 4-Hour Chef with Amazon, Barnes & Noble refused to carry the title — eating into the cookbook’s sales. But Ferris told thenextweb.com he would publish with Amazon again, explaining, “I’m not anti-bookstore, I’m pro-reader.” For Ferriss, it came down to Amazon’s ability to give him the data on his customers — who they are, where they’re from, the kinds of books they buy, etc:

The reason I chose to go with Amazon was because I developed a relationship with them over time because of the volume of sales I was pushing through Amazon for the first two books. …Random House, Simon & Schuster, these traditional publishers sell to the head category buyers at a Barnes & Noble or Books-A-Million. They do not know their end users, they have no data about their end users, nor do they have any way to communicate with their end users. Amazon, in many ways I would say, knows me better than I know myself just based on my Amazon Prime purchasing behavior as well as what I refer people to through my blog, which they can track of course.

For readers, Amazon‘s leg up over bookstores has come down to convenience; and for writers, Amazon has made itself attractive by offering a level of transparency publishers have only recently begun to emulate with Author Portals that reveal real-time sales. That said, as Ferriss’ example shows, there either needs to be cooperation among Amazon, B&N, and the publishers; or they need to learn from each other to better compete.

A Word of Encouragement: Tenacity & Facebook Networking Really Work

Jenny Milchman - peoplewhowrite

Jenny Milchman

No one wants to wait 13 years for their opus to see the light of the day, but that’s what author Jenny Milchman had to do. Before Ballantine published her novel Cover of Snow, Milchman told Tulsa World she had written seven other novels that languished in the proverbial drawer, unpublished.

How did she reverse the cycle? Facebook. She explains, “I had developed a Facebook friendship with a well-regarded mystery novelist whose work I greatly admired, and she offered to read the manuscript. She liked it enough that she forwarded it to her editor, and things started to take off.”

Buying a Spot on the Bestseller List, Authors View it as a Marketing Expense

Nana Ekua Brew-Hammond - peoplewhowrite

selling books

I will never forget my first experience selling my book Powder Necklace to someone other than a friend or family member. My publisher had sent me to the annual Afr’Am Festival, and I sat behind a table piled high with my books… waiting. And waiting. Meanwhile, the authors around me were up and at ’em, basically shaking hands and kissing babies, fighting for each and every sale. I took note.

It’s an understatement to say it’s really hard to move books. Even some award winners see relatively modest sales, depending on whose analyzing the numbers. So, I wasn’t surprised to read that some authors spend upwards of $20,000 to buy their way onto the bestseller list. The Wall Street Journal reports that many authors hire book marketing company ResultSource to buy enough copies of their book to make the title a bestseller.

Though the investment can be steep, the authors see the dividends in paid speaking engagements and residual opportunities reserved for “bestselling authors” not to mention press and exposure on multiple lists. In essence, the bestseller list doubles as prime ad space for a title, and an amazing marketing tool for the author.

Though understandable, the phenomenon is disappointing — more evidence that money can skew what’s supposed to be a genuine barometer of the books people are reading. It also makes true bestsellers even more impressive.

That Research Grant May Compromise Future Earnings

Allan Adler, General Counsel - Association of American Publishers - peoplewhowrite

Allan Adler

UPDATE: The Office of Science and Technology Policy has directed Federal agencies to “develop a plan to support increased public access to the results of research funded by the Federal Government.” Publishers Weekly reports, though publishers came out strongly in opposition to the idea when Congress introduced it, the Obama Administration directive has been praised as “historic”.

Should research/writing funded by taxpayer dollars be available for free online? Congress thinks so. Publishers Weekly reports that Congress introduced The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act or “FASTR” on a bi-partisan(!) basis. If passed, the bill would require the public be provided “with online access to research manuscripts stemming from publicly-funded research no later than six months after publication in a peer-reviewed journal.”

The Association of American Publishers has criticized the bill as a reincarnation of the Federal Research Public Access Act which stalled in Congress last year; and argued the bill would end up costing taxpayers more in the end. Allan Adler, the AAP’s General Counsel and Vice President of Government Affairs said of FASTR, “This bill would waste so much taxpayers’ money at a time of budgetary crisis, squander federal employees’ time with busywork and require the creation and maintenance of otherwise-unneeded technology…all the while ignoring the fact that its demands are already being performed successfully by the private sector.”

This debate about whether written content should be accessible online in part or in full is not new. Google only recently settled an ongoing lawsuit with the Association of American Publishers; the search engine wanted to make books digitally accessible in search results. That said, the FASTR bill raises an interesting point about whether works that result from taxpayer funds should be free to the taxpayer since they/we have, ostensibly already paid for them.

On first thought, it would seem a no-brainer that federally-funded works should be freely available to the public, but on closer inspection, it’s a bit more complicated. Whether we’re talking federally-funded programs or community services, projects that receive federal funds usually require additional funding (public or private) to continue the work/service beyond the one-off. Same goes for the writer (and publisher) of federally-funded papers.

Moreover, research is by necessity ongoing, and with it being so difficult to win federal funds in the first place, there’s got to be a way for writers to move their work forward should they be unable to get more funding. Charging a fee (either via subscription to an industry journal or the price of a book) helps to support the work and the writer.

2013 Writers Guild of America Award Winners

Lena Dunham - peoplewhowrite

Lena Dunham wins WGA Award for Girls 

On Sunday February 17th, the Writers Guild of America feted film, television, video game, and new media writers at the 2013 Writers Guild Awards. Zero Dark Thirty‘s Mark Boal, Argo‘s Chris Terrio, and the team of writers behind HBO’s Girls including Judd Apatow and Lena Dunham were among the big winner. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Quentin Tarantino was ineligible for Django Unchained because he didn’t write the script under a guild contract. New York-based Lena Dunham couldn’t attend the West Coast awards show, but sent her comments via text; she did attend the New York ceremony where a tribute was made in honor of screenwriter Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle). At the LA event, Tom Stoppard (Shakespeare in Love) received the Laurel Award for Screen; Joshua Brand and John Falsey (Northern Exposure, St. Elsewhere) received the Paddy Chayefsky Laurel Award for Television. I’m not sure why the WGA doesn’t honor literature or journalism at this event.

Here’s a list of the winners:

ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY: Zero Dark Thirty, Written by Mark Boal; Columbia Pictures

ADAPTED SCREENPLAY: Argo, Screenplay by Chris Terrio; Based on a selection from The Master of Disguise by Antonio J. Mendez and the Wired Magazine article “The Great Escape” by Joshuah Bearman; Warner Bros. Pictures

DOCUMENTARY SCREENPLAY: Searching for Sugar Man, Written by Malik Bendjelloul; Sony Pictures Classics

DRAMA SERIES: Breaking Bad, Written by Sam Catlin, Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould, Gennifer Hutchison, George Mastras, Thomas Schnauz, Moira Walley-Beckett; AMC

COMEDY SERIES: Louie, Written by Pamela Adlon, Vernon Chatman, Louis C.K.; FX

NEW SERIES: Girls, Written by Judd Apatow, Lesley Arfin, Lena Dunham, Sarah Heyward, Bruce Eric Kaplan, Jenni Konner, Deborah Schoeneman, Dan Sterling; HBO

EPISODIC DRAMA: “The Other Woman” (Mad Men), Written by Semi Chellas and Matthew Weiner; AMC

EPISODIC COMEDY: “Virgin Territory” (Modern Family), Written by Elaine Ko; ABC

LONG FORM – ORIGINAL: Hatfields & McCoys, Nights Two and Three, Teleplay by Ted Mann and Ronald Parker, Story by Bill Kerby and Ted Mann; History Channel

LONG FORM – ADAPTED: Game Change, Written by Danny Strong, Based on the book by Mark Halperin and John Heilemann; HBO

ANIMATION: “Ned ‘N Edna’s Blend Agenda” (The Simpsons), Written by Jeff Westbrook; Fox

COMEDY / VARIETY (INCLUDING TALK) – SERIES: Portlandia, Writers: Fred Armisen, Carrie Brownstein, Karey Dornetto, Jonathan Krisel, Bill Oakley; IFC

COMEDY / VARIETY – MUSIC, AWARDS, TRIBUTES – SPECIALS: 66th Annual Tony Awards, Written by Dave Boone; Special Material by Paul Greenberg; Opening and Closing Songs by David Javerbaum, Adam Schlesinger; CBS

DAYTIME DRAMA: The Young and the Restless, Written by Amanda Beall, Jeff Beldner, Susan Dansby, Janice Ferri Esser, Jay Gibson, Scott Hamner, Marla Kanelos, Natalie Minardi Slater, Beth Milstein, Michael Montgomery, Anne Schoettle, Linda Schreiber, Sarah K. Smith, Christopher J. Whitesell, Teresa Zimmerman; CBS

CHILDREN’S – EPISODIC & SPECIALS: “The Good Sport” (Sesame Street); Written by Christine Ferraro; PBS

CHILDREN’S – LONG FORM OR SPECIAL: “Girl vs. Monster,” Story by Annie De Young; Teleplay by Annie De Young and Ron McGee; Disney Channel

DOCUMENTARY – CURRENT EVENTS: “Money, Power and Wall Street: Episode One” (Frontline), Written by Martin Smith and Marcela Gaviria; PBS

DOCUMENTARY – OTHER THAN CURRENT EVENTS: “The Fabric of the Cosmos: The Illusion of Time” (Nova), Telescript by Randall MacLowry, Story by Joseph McMaster and Randall MacLowry; PBS

NEWS – REGULARLY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT: “Tragedy In Colorado: The Movie Theatre Massacre,” Written by Lisa Ferri, Joel Siegel; ABC News

NEWS – REGULARLY SCHEDULED, BULLETIN, OR BREAKING REPORT: “The Ghost of Joe McCarthy” (Moyers & Company), Written by Bill Moyers, Michael Winship; Thirteen/ WNET

NEWS – REGULARLY SCHEDULED OR BREAKING REPORT: “World News This Year 2011,” Written by Darren Reynolds; ABC News Radio

NEWS – ANALYSIS, FEATURE OR COMMENTARY: “Dishin Digital,” Written by Robert Hawley; WCBS-AM

ON-AIR PROMOTION (RADIO OR TELEVISION): “Partners”, Written by Dan A. Greenberger; CBS

TELEVISION GRAPHIC ANIMATION: “The Oscars” (Sunday Morning with Charles Osgood), Animation by Bob Pook; CBS

“The Compromises, Episode 1,” “The Pest, Episode 3,” The Snake, Episode 4,” “The Bonding, Episode 6,” “The Future, Episode 7/Series Finale” (Jack in a Box), Written by Michael Cyril Creighton; jackinaboxsite.com

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN WRITING DERIVATIVE NEW MEDIA: “Hide And Seek,” “Keys to the Kingdom,” “The Chosen Ones,” “Parting Shots” (The Walking Dead: Cold Storage), Written by John Esposito; amctv.com

OUTSTANDING ACHIEVEMENT IN WRITING VIDEOGAME WRITING: Assassin’s Creed III: Liberation, Scriptwriting by Richard Farrese, Jill Murray; Ubisoft