Writer Rufi Thorpe: Talent, Yes. But Perversity, Love, and a Handkerchief Are Critical.

from “What it Takes to be a Writer: Perversity of Spirit” by Rufi Thorpe from the September/October issue of Poets & Writers Magazine. - peoplewhowrite

From “What it Takes to be a Writer: Perversity of Spirit” by Rufi Thorpe (September/October issue of Poets & Writers Magazine)


Now Publishers in Japan are Pissed at Amazon Too

Amazon.com logoA group of Japanese publishers is voicing concern over Amazon’s recent negotiation tactics with them. Asiaone.com reports, “Several Tokyo-based publishers said Amazon recently unveiled a four-point system that rates them based on the size of the commission they pay for selling books on the US company’s vast website, among other criteria. Amazon then pushes hardest to promote books from publishers who agreed to the most favourable contract terms, which directly impacts how a book sells, they said, confirming a report by Japan’s Asahi newspaper this week.”

American publisher Hachette and Swedish publishing conglomerate Bonnier have separately expressed similar frustration with Amazon. In May, Hachette became locked in a battle with the e-tailer when negotiations over ebook prices broke down. Amazon reportedly began delaying and “refusing orders” of books published by Hachette, and recommending other books to customers seeking specific Hachette titles. The standoff has extended into a conflict between Amazon and authors united with Hachette writers.

Meanwhile, Bonnier has also alleged that Amazon is bullying them. Quoting a piece by The Digital Readers Nate Hoffelder, a blog post by independent publisher Melville House points out that Bonnier will feel the squeeze most in Germany:

“Germany has fixed price book laws; publishers set the retail price and retailers are not allowed to discount their books more than (I think) 10%. As a result, any money that Amazon squeezes out of a publisher ends up in Amazon’s pocket, and not in the pocket of consumers.”

At ReadersUnited.com, the Amazon Books Team addressed the Hachette drama, saying any publisher who refuses to reduce prices is compromising revenue opportunity for writers and publishers and reducing the number of readers for whom books are accessible.

Amazon’s Japan office has declined to comment.

Hilary Mantel Short Story Will Run First in the New York Times Book Review

Hilary Mantel - peoplewhowrite

Hilary Mantel

An excerpt of Hilary Mantel‘s upcoming short story collection The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher will run first in the NYT Book Review on September 28th. Publishers Marketplace reports that the collection’s title story will also be featured in UK outlet The Telegraph on September 20.

NYTBR editor Pamela Paul told PM the Review “would love to do more first serials and excerpts, albeit selectively.” Mantel won the 2012 Man Booker Prize and the 2012 Costa Award (a first) for her period novel Bring Up the Bodies set in Henry VIII’s England. Paul says the short is “a shift from her two most recent historical novels.”  

Booker-Winning Author Announces a Grant that Gives Writers "Time to Read"

Eleanor Catton grants writers

Elanor Catton

Between her 2013 Man Booker Prize win and her recent New Zealand Post Best fiction and People’s Choice Awards, Eleanor Catton has earned close to £60,000 for her novel The Luminaries. Now, she’s paying it forward.

The Guardian reports that Catton announced intentions to grant scribes $3,000 “not to write, but to read”. She further explained:

“We’re very lucky in New Zealand to have a lot of public funding available for writers, but they generally require the writer to have a good idea about what they want to write, and how, before they apply. I think that this often doesn’t understand or serve the creative process, which is organic and dialectic; I also think it tends to reward people who are good at writing applications rather than, necessarily, people who are curious about and ambitious for the form in which they are writing. I’m also uncomfortable with the focus that it places on writing as production, with publication as the end goal, rather than on writing as enlightenment, with the reading as the first step.”

Rest in Peace, Steven Sotloff

Journalist Steven Sotloff was published in TIME, World Affairs Journal,  and Foreign Policy, among other outlets. - peoplwhowrite

Journalist Steven Sotloff was published in TIME, World Affairs Journal, and Foreign Policy, among other outlets.

Steven Sotloff was reportedly beheaded by Islamic State representatives. The Washington Post reports the Florida native was abducted after entering Syria from Turkey on August 4, 2013, adding, “he had covered turmoil in countries including Egypt and Libya, where his reporting served as the basis of a Time magazine reconstruction of the September 11, 2012, attack on U.S. compounds in Benghazi.”

Save the Date: A Conference for Binders Full of Women Writers

Binders Full of Women Writers_peoplewhowrite
On October 11-12, 2014, Binders Full of Women Writers is hosting: “Out of the Binders: a Symposium On Women Writers Today”. Scheduled to take place in New York City, the event will feature “panel discussions on women in the newsroom, starting to write after forty, and challenges faced by women writers of color,” according to the event’s Kickstarter page.

The page also promises “professional development workshops on pitching and accounting for freelancers; literary agent speed dating; and networking opportunities for everyone from journalism and creative writing students to new freelancers to seasoned professionals.” Jezebel founder Anna Holmes, SheWrites founder Kamy Wicoff, and authors Tayari Jones and Imogen Binnie are among the Binders slated to be in the building.

Founded as a Facebook group in response to VIDAweb.org findings that male writers are disproportionately reviewed by disproportionately male book reviews — and a joking nod to 2012 presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s memorable assertion that he had sought and found “binders full of women” who could have filled posts in his cabinet when he was Governor of Massachusetts — the instantly viral network of scribes, editors, and publishing industry professionals has since spun off into multiple groups around genre and professional focus.

It's the Story, Stupid

Story is queen. - peoplewhowriteAs print news and books succumb to the instant gratification and experiential capabilities of digital formats and delivery, it’s becoming increasingly clear that though format and delivery are critical to the success of media in a 3.0 world, story remains the most important ingredient. In fact, format and delivery are part of the story now, which is why we’re seeing an increase in experimentation from online serials to subscription services, longer short form pieces to the 3-D slipcover of Chang-rae Lee’s On Such a Full Sea

Print news giants like Newsweek and the New York Times have been feeling the pressure to compete with digital outlets for the last decade. Newsweek ultimately migrated to an all digital format in 2012. The Times submitted to a self-imposed innovation audit complete with a report packed with recommendations and anxieties related to keeping up with the internet news cycle. And the Washington Post Company sold their struggling flagship paper to Amazon.com CEO Jeff Bezos (“in a personal capacity and not on behalf of Amazon the company“).

Bezos told Charlie Rose,”Don[ald E. Graham, Jr, former Chairman and CEO of The Washington Post Company] thought that because the newspaper business is being so disrupted by the internet that someone who had a lot of internet knowledge and technology knowledge could actually be helpful.” And under Bezos’ yearlong leadership, the paper has made a series of changes that have expanded its digital experience and reach, including hiring Frederick J. Ryan Jr., one of the founders of political news website Politico.com, as the Washington Post‘s new publisher.

But even as digital trends,  new reports show that students and readers retain more when they consume print media. In an interesting twist, the digital publisher IBT Media announced plans to put Newsweek back in print. Ironically, writer Brad Stone notes that Bezos has mandated meeting presenters at Amazon pass out print documents that outline the topic being discussed.

Print is not dying, per se, nor is digital killing it. Per se. Story consumption is just changing. However people choose to engage a piece of writing, the story, rather than the format or delivery, remains queen