Amazon Has Acquired Goodreads

Amazon.com logoAmazon strikes again. The e-commerce giant has purchased the online community for booklovers Goodreads, which doubled in size in 2012. With Goodreads’ 13 16 million passionate members now part of Amazon’s extended customer file, publishers and bookstores are even more compromised in the fight to mitigate the online giant’s size and sizeable budget advantage.

It remains to be seen how Goodreads will/won’t change; and more importantly, how writers will be impacted by Amazon’s virtual monopoly of online book discovery now. So far, Amazon has been stealth about trying to woo writers (and their agents) away from traditional publishers.

Amazon has selectively increased transparency of book sales via author dashboards, forcing publishers to do the same. Recently, Amazon announced they would start paying authors signed to Amazon Publishing royalties on a monthly basis, versus the bi-annual schedule traditional publishers adhere to. They also regularly share business announcements with a list of authors and agents, bypassing publishers.

We shall see how publishers respond to this bit of news — and how Barnes and Noble deals with it. B&N has been particularly salty over the last few months, dealing with bad sales, store closings, and perceived lack of support from publishers by throwing their own heft around. They have reduced orders of Simon and Schuster titles and refused to carry books released under the Amazon Publishing imprint.

Read more about Amazon’s Goodreads acquisition on PublishersLunch.com, and check out author Kate Messner’s response to the news.

In Solidarity With Authors, Editorial Board of Journal Resigns

Damon Jaggars resigns from Journal of Library Administration with entire editorial board - peoplewhowrite

Damon Jaggars

The entire editorial board of the Journal of Library Administration has resigned because they feel the author agreement that requires writers to pay $3000 for an article to appear in the journal is “too restrictive.” Damon Jaggars explained his resignation to the Chronicle: “When I became an editor, I did so because I really wanted to create a really forward-looking journal that would have an impact on the profession… A lot of community effort went into the journal because a lot of people believed in what we were trying to create, but it was at the point that we really couldn’t do what we wanted to do.”

Taylor and Francis, the publisher of the Journal, responded: “We consider ourselves to be a forward-looking Publisher on author rights.” Editorial Director Tracy Roberts continued, “Our License grants significant reuse rights to authors (pre-prints, non-embargoed post-prints, sharing, classroom use, presentation at conferences, republication in existing or new form), whilst we ask only for a sole license over the published version of record.”

It’s exciting to see editors supporting authors in this way. With every aspect of publishing going through major growing pains in the face of digital reading preferences, Amazon, the decline of bookstores, and self-publishing; alliances have been slippery. Agents in bed with Amazon. Bookstores in (and out) of bed with publishers. Meanwhile, writers have become rag doll pawns between the competing interests. It would be nice to see this kind of solidarity spread to other parts of the publishing industry.

Penguin To Let Libraries Loan E-Books of New Releases

Penguin will allow libraries to loan e-books of newly released titles - peoplewhowritePenguin Group USA has decided to let libraries loan e-books of new releases — “a switch from the previous policy of delaying downloads for six months,” The Miami Herald reports. The American Library Association is thrilled by the news with President Maureen Sullivan saying “There is more to be gained than lost when publishers work with libraries.”

Penguin has been reticent to allow library downloads for fear it would hurt sales, but after tracking the downloads’ effect on sales the publisher gave the go-ahead. The Herald notes: “Like HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group and other publishers, Penguin is still not offering unlimited access to e-books. Libraries are allowed to lend out one e-edition at a time, for a duration determined by the library. Because e-books don’t wear out, libraries can purchase them for one year, then must pay again to continue making them available.”

Minority TV Writers 'Underrepresented By a Factor of More than 2 to 1', Study Shows

Zoanne Clack is one of the writers of Grey's Anatomy, alongside head writer Shonda Rhimes - peoplewhowrite

Zoanne Clack is one of the writers of Grey’s Anatomy, alongside head writer Shonda Rhimes

According to a recent study by the Writers Guild of America West, women, minority and older television writers remain underemployed. The LA Times points out the report’s finding that though “minority writers’ share of TV employment increased from 7.5% to 15.6%, with much of the gains occurring among Asian and Latino writers… minorities remained proportionately underrepresented by a factor of more than 2 to 1 in television staff employment in the 2011-2012 season.”

The report notes that multicultural shows were responsible for these gains. “TV shows employing the highest percentage of minority writers include ‘Criminal Minds,’ ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ ‘Single Ladies,’ ‘Raising Hope’, ‘Reed Between the Lines’ and ‘The Game.'” Women writers’ employment has increased from 25% to 30.5% in the last 12 years. Meanwhile, white males hold 76% of the executive producer jobs.

The author of the report and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA Darnell Hunt rightly points out, “Much more work must be done on the television diversity front before the corps of writers telling our stories look significantly more like us as a the nation.” said sociology professor , author of the report and director of the Ralph J. Bunche Center for African American Studies at UCLA.

Tea Obreht, Uwem Akpan Named NYPL Cullman Center Fellows

Uwem Akpan's Say You're One of Them was an Oprah's Book Club Selection - peoplewhowrite

Uwem Akpan’s Say You’re One of Them was an Oprah’s Book Club Selection

Uwem Akpan, Paul La Farge, Téa Obreht and Rajesh Parameswaran have been selected as Fellows of the New York Public Library’s Cullman Center for Scholars and Writers. Journalists Arthur Lubow, Elizabeth Rubin, Elif Batuman, and David Grann, and historians Linda Colley and Anthony Grafton were also named Fellows. The fellows will receive a stipend, and an office in the Cullman Center.

The announcement on the NYPL website reveals, “The Fellows were chosen from a pool of 313 applicants from 38 countries. With a diverse array of people originally from Nigeria, Turkey, England, Argentina, and Serbia.” Past Cullman Center Fellows include Karen Russell, author of 2012 Pulitzer Prize finalist Swamplandia and Jennifer Egan, writer of Pulitzer-Prize-winning A Visit from the Goon Squad.

Amazon Will Pay Royalties on a Monthly Basis-Publishers Pay Biannually

Amazon Publishing's Jeff Belle - peoplewhowrite

Jeff Belle

Amazon Publishing continues to do what they can to make themselves a more attractive option to writers and agents, to the chagrin of traditional publishers. First they gave authors access to sales dashboards to create an aura of transparency around book sales, now they are announcing a faster royalty payout schedule.

In a letter sent to authors and agents today, Amazon Publishing VP Jeff Belle explained “in this digital age, we don’t see why authors should have to wait six months to be paid.” Publishers Lunch reports, “The new payment procedure will begin with January 2013 royalties, to be paid through on March 31… Amazon has confirmed to us that they are measuring unit sales for this ranking (not dollar sales), and when they refer to Amazon Publishing they mean their house imprints only (and not KDP).” Interestingly, Amazon does not reveal Kindle sales on the Author dashboard.

Soon after Amazon rolled out Author dashboards, Publishers followed suit. Will they follow Amazon’s lead on royalty payments?

Cover Love: Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch

Donna Tartt's The Goldfinch - peoplewhowrite

Don’t you just want to tear away the flap to see more?

Donna Tartt‘s latest book The Goldfinch is set to hit stores in October 2013, but until then, allow me to fixate on the cover. Her editor told Bookish “The cover suggests a central moment in the story, which I can’t give away here!”

I’m intrigued. You?

France Doesn't Want Their Bookstores to End Up Like America's

French Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti - people who write

Aurélie Filippett

French Culture Minister Aurélie Filippetti “wants to ensure that France ‘never suffers the same fate as the United States’ with ‘the collapse of several [bookshop] chains‘ and the ensuing difficulties for publishers and creation.” The Bookseller reports, Filippetti is putting a plan in place that includes €5m fund to assist booksellers with cashflow problems, a bigger budget for ADELC, the association that subsidises booksellers, and a mediator that would act as a liaison / advocate for the independent book industry mediator in settling disputes “as an alternative to avoid costly litigation.” French booksellers are thrilled about the government support while publishers reportedly feel publishers a mediator is taking things a bit too far. Publisher Hervé de La Martinière told The Bookseller, “No-one [among French publishers] is in favour, but no-one dares says so… We can solve problems among ourselves.”

There's No "I" in Writing: Writer-Actress Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy on the Art of Collaboration

Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy on writing collaboratively - PeopleWhoWrite

Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy

We often speak about writing as a solitary process, but in many ways writing is collaborative. Whether you’re a novelist or journalist, you will have to work with at least an editor and copyeditor, and in some instances, an agent. And when you’re writing for the screen or stage, the number of collaborators swells. Actress and writer Shaun Bennet Fauntleroy shared her insights on writing as part of a team.

In your experience, what are the main differences between writing for the page and writing for the stage?
A playwriting teacher once said to me, “Your play is full of characters who ‘tell’ each other things. Don’t tell me what they’re thinking, show me. Don’t tell me what they want, make them go after it. That is the art of dramatic writing.” I think that’s it in a nutshell, really. The reasons why a character may do something may be manifold, but if those reasons are not activated in action, your audience will be lost.

In a book, a man could sit on a couch for 10 pages contemplating the rain, experiencing hunger, remembering his first love, and then finally, put together a well drawn out plan to rob a bank to win her love back…all without saying a word. We would get all of that by the author’s words. However, if we saw a play where a man just sat on a couch for 25 minutes thinking, and then said, “I think I’ll rob a bank,” before the curtain went down, there would be rioting in the theater lobby.

A play must be active, it must be visual, and the action must drive forward. A simple dramatization of the previous story would be for him to get up and look out of the window while a rain sound queue plays, then search through his kitchen cupboards until he finally finds enough ingredients to make himself a sandwich which he gobbles down…then he goes and visits his first love and try to regain her love only to find her in love with a richer, better man, etc, etc.

In most cases writing requires the writer only, but scriptwriting is much more collaborative. What are the benefits and challenges of writing with a group?
When a play goes into the workshop/rehearsal stage, the bulk of the writing is usually done. One of the benefits of this stage is getting perspectives on the work that are different than your own (especially helpful if you’re writing a character or two [that] is very different from you). There are some universal similarities, of course, but there are also some specifics about a character that cannot be gleaned from research alone. When you have an actor who has spent time with the character you’ve written and is trying to make sense of that character’s storyline in order to portray them, they’re going to have insight into that character’s psyche that is unique to their journey with the character.

The challenging part of this collaboration is that you must have a very clear vision of the story you’re trying to tell and what your unique voice is. Oftentimes, the feedback you will get may be tinged with the bias of personal taste, or there may be a misunderstanding if you haven’t clearly articulated what your goal for the work is. You have to be able to humbly take in what’s being said (hopefully without getting defensive) and use what’s helpful while you leave behind what isn’t. Knowing clearly what you’re going for can help you [achieve] this, and it will also greatly help with rewrites if they become necessary.

What should the writer be aware of when writing for a production that will be executed by other experts (Director, Production Designer, Costume Designer, etc)?
I’ve done a lot of producing and backstage work, so when I write I struggle to turn off my “producer brain”, which can actually be destructive in causing you to censor yourself when you’re trying to get your story out. However, when you’re finished and are going back over your script, I find it’s a good idea to make sure you don’t have any major logistical holes, i.e. a character has a line when they’re supposed to be out of the room, or a character has an impossibly quick change back to back. This is just your basic clean-up.

After all that, I then go over the script with a producer’s eye. If I have a scene where a character sets a baby grand piano on fire in the middle of the stage, I have to know that makes my play difficult (and expensive) to produce, which is not a favorite of producers and artistic directors. Also, if you have a scene where several characters get into a pillow fight and feathers are supposed to fly all over the stage, for the sake of your poor stage manager make it the final scene, or maybe try to find a less messy way to do it. Have you ever tried to sweep up feathers? The point is to be mindful of the other jobs it takes to put on your play.

If you want to be really fancy, try to get a behind the scenes job on another production so you can see first hand what it takes to put up a play. Take a directing or an acting class. Assistant stage manage a small show. All of this will also help you in articulating things to the director in the workshop/rehearsal process.

What’s your technique for giving feedback?
Liz Lerman has an excellent process for feedback that I try to follow. In her process’ guidelines she recommends starting the feedback with what was meaningful and evocative about the work, in other words, start with the positive feedback. Playwrights are people…they need to know you appreciate what they’ve labored to create. Even the most seasoned artist may feel a bit beaten up if they’re only hearing critical feedback and no one mentions what worked.

I also try to first understand what the playwright was aiming for before I state what did, or didn’t work. This requires asking questions, active listening, and more of a desire to help than a desire to be heard. Now, usually in a workshoping environment ideas and opinions tend to be expressed freely and quickly so this process isn’t always easy to stick to, but I find that things go much more smoothly when I do. It’s all about love, respect, and listening.

What’s your advice to a writer interested in breaking into playwriting?
I’m a firm believer in the value of community, and although the actual writing of the play is generally done in solitude, the living of it must be done communally. Get to know other playwrights. Get to know actors and directors. Join a playwriting group, not only for the networking potential, but also for the opportunity to gain insight from the struggles and victories of your peers as you get to know them. You’ll commiserate with others about how difficult filling up that first page can be, or you’ll hear that someone else was rejected 50 times before they heard a, “yes” and it may encourage you to keep on keepin’ on.

Try to find a way to observe a professional rehearsal process so that when it comes time to rehearse your play you’re prepared for collaboration and are aware of the rehearsal “etiquette”. If someone is producing your work, even if it’s just a reading, make sure people know about it. See and read as many plays as you can, new and old. Get business cards. Know what kind of people you want to work with and seek them out, and most importantly…If you firmly believe you are called to do this, don’t give up and really, truly give this your best effort. Knock ‘em dead.