Thursday, May 29, 2014

Maya Angelou, Poet, Dead at Age 86

Author, poet, and civil rights activist Maya Angelou died at age 86 at her home in Winston-Salem, North Carolina last Wednesday. Angelou had been frail and suffering from heart problems, according to her agent.

Angelou's contributions to the literary world are legion. She published seven autobiographies, three books of essays, and several books of poetry, and is credited with a list of plays, movies, and television shows spanning more than fifty years.

Maya Angelou (Marguerite Ann Johnson) was born on April 4, 1928 in St. Louis, Missouri. Angelou attended high school in San Francisco, where she studied dance and drama. At the age of 14, she dropped out of school and became the city's first African-American, female street car conductor. She later graduated and soon after gave birth to her son, Guy. As a young woman she worked as a cook, prostitute, night-club dancer and performer, cast-member of the opera Porgy and Bess.

Angelou's most famous work, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, tells of the life of Marguerite Ann Johnson up to the age of 16. Abandoned by her parents and raped at the age of 7 by her mother's boyfriend, she was homeless and became a teen mother. The book, which has been banned many times, has become a mainstay of student reading lists.

Although referred to as Dr. Angelou, she never went to college. But she had more than 30 honorary degrees and taught American Studies for years at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem. She also spoke six languages, and worked as a newspaper editor in Egypt and Ghana.

Maya Angelou will be remembered for her stunning poetry, and for her words of inspiration, which will provide a source of inner strength and courage for generations to come.

Monday, May 26, 2014

3 Literary Agents Actively Looking for Romance, Literary Fiction, Narrative Nonfiction and more

Updated 4/3/20

Here are three literary agents actively seeking new clients. Make sure to read everything on their agency website to get a feel for what they represent. Some agencies are geared more toward commercial fiction while others prefer literary works. You should also check Absolute Write to see if other authors have had experience with them.

Jessica Watterson is most interested in all subgenres of adult and new adult romance, and women’s fiction. Kate Johnson represents literary and upmarket / book club fiction as well as a range of narrative nonfiction, with interest in food, running, feminism, obsessives, unconventional families, social history, art, travel and international stories, mental health, medicine, and the environment. Annette Crossland is looking for all genres of fiction.

Important! Don't submit without reading the submission instructions on the agency website! Submission requirements may change.

If these agents don't suit your needs, you can find a comprehensive list of new and established agents here: Agents Seeking Clients.

Jessica Watterson of Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency

About Jessica: Jessica Watterson joined Sandra Dijkstra Literary Agency in late 2013, and currently assists Sandra Dijkstra and Elise Capron. She graduated from the University of California at Irvine with a degree in Sociocultural Anthropology and English. Jessica has made books a serious part of her life for many years. During college, she started an indie review blog which has featured author interviews and has reviewed several self-published books that eventually ended up on the New York Times Best Seller list.

What she is seeking: Jessica is most interested in all subgenres of adult and new adult romance, and women’s fiction. She is looking for heartfelt and unique romance that will instantly draw a reader in and keep them hooked.

How to submit: Use online form HERE.

Annette Crossland A for Authors, Ltd. (U.K.)

Currently closed to queries

About Annette: In a career spanning more than 30 years, Annette has worked in high-profile positions in some of the UK and USA’s most successful publishing companies. She has worked with some of the top bestselling authors in the world, touring overseas with Elizabeth George, Dennis Lehane and Frances Fyfield, amongst others.

What she is looking for: "We are always on the lookout for exciting new work and we welcome submissions across all relevant genres by email."

Submissions: Please email all submissions to: "We only accept electronic submissions. Please include a covering letter, brief synopsis, short author biography and the first three chapters of your manuscript as a Word document or PDF attachment. Downloadable material, e-books, or links to any such items are unacceptable. Please note that all postal submissions will be recycled unread."

Kate Johnson at Mackenzie Wolf Literary Services (UK and US)

Currently closed to queries

About Kate: Kate Johnson is a literary agent at Mackenzie Wolf Literary Services. Prior to joining Mackenzie Wolf Literary Services, Kate was an agent and vice president at Georges Borchardt, Inc., for more than eight years. She previously edited and reported at StoryQuarterly,, New York magazine and elsewhere, and graduated from Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism.

What she is looking for: Kate represents literary and upmarket / book club fiction as well as a range of narrative nonfiction, with interest in food, running, feminism, obsessives, unconventional families, social history, art, travel and international stories, mental health, medicine, and the environment. She loves working with journalists. Across all her projects, she looks for authentic voices and books that uncover something off-kilter in the everyday, or conversely something relatable in the extraordinary. Kate handles contemporary, realistic YA on occasion.

Please don’t query Kate with: middle-grade, picture books, fantasy, sci-fi, erotic fiction, or legal/courtroom dramas.

Submissions:To submit a project, please send a query letter along with a 50-page writing sample (for fiction) or a detailed proposal (for nonfiction) to Samples may be submitted as an attachment or embedded in the body of the email.

Friday, May 23, 2014

Amazon Squashes Major Publishing House - Again

Laura Miller quit buying books from Amazon because of its monopolistic tactics. She asks the question, "Is it impossible for book publishers to do the same?" 

In all likelihood, it will be impossible for publishers to quit Amazon as easily as Laura did - in spite of their dirty tactics. Amazon's recent punishment of Hachette authors is a case in point. When Hachette tried to negotiate better terms with Amazon, Amazon retaliated by delaying publication of Hachette titles, stalling shipments, removing pre-order capabilities, and raising prices while offering cheaper substitutes. 

How long will Amazon get away with being the biggest bully on the block? 

As long as Amazon holds most of the cards in the Internet deck, publishers don't stand a chance.

Goodbye, Amazon: We’re through!

By Laura Miller - Salon, May 20, 2014

No longtime observer of the power struggle between Amazon and traditional book publishing could be surprised by the news, delivered by the New York Times last week: Amazon is playing hardball with the Hachette Book Group while the two companies renegotiate the terms of their contract. As David Streitfeld reported, Amazon has been delaying shipments and raising prices on Hachette’s titles while emblazoning the Amazon pages for books like Jeffery Deaver’s thriller “The Skin Collector,” with banner ads across the top touting “similar items at a lower price” from more compliant publishers.

Such tactics — an inconvenience to consumers and a hardship for the targeted authors — are not new. When Macmillan Publishers attempted to wrest control of the prices of their e-books from Amazon in 2010, the retailer removed the buy buttons for all Macmillan titles (print as well as e-books) for a few days. Brad Stone’s “The Everything Store” documents Amazon’s view of itself as a proud predator, a “cheetah” that aims to take down the “gazelle” of book publishing.

But even cheetahs have their weaknesses, and a little poking around on Amazon’s site revealed that the retailer is not hobbling every Hachette title in its online store. Specifically, Donna Tartt’s “The Goldfinch,” a bestseller since it was released last fall and the recent winner of the Pulitzer Prize for fiction, can still be purchased, in hardcover, at a handsome 45 percent discount and without its buyers being subjected to pitches for substitutes.

This may not comfort Sherman Alexie — an outspoken Amazon critic — much; would-be purchasers of Alexie’s acclaimed 2007 novel “The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian” will still have to wait a ridiculous two to three weeks for the paperback to ship from Amazon. Nevertheless, the exception made for “The Goldfinch” is telling.

Read the rest of this article here

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

23 US Children's Book Publishers Accepting Manuscripts Directly From Writers

Updated 1/8/23

If you are a children's or young adult author, you have the option of submitting your work directly to publishers without needing a middleman. While most of these are small to mid-range publishers, some are big names in the industry.

As always, go to the publisher's website and read their list to see if your work would be a good fit. Read their submission requirements very carefully. If you don't follow their submission guidelines to the letter, they will not read your manuscript.

Be forewarned that if you submit your work directly to a publisher, and are rejected, you can't backtrack later and submit it again through an agent. Most agents will not represent works that have been previously "shopped" to publishers.

Albert Whitman & Company

Albert Whitman & Company has been publishing award-winning children’s books since 1919. Albert Whitman’s special interest titles address subjects such as disease, bullying, and disabilities. Submissions: Albert Whitman and Company currently has an open submissions policy. They read and review unagented manuscripts and proposals for picture books, middle-grade fiction, and young adult novels. Email submissions only. Note: They will not review any submissions that do not follow their submission guidelines.

Levine Querido

Arthur A. Levine Books was founded in 1996 as an imprint of Scholastic Press. They produced more than one hundred seventy-nine works of hardcover literary fiction and nonfiction for children, teenagers, and adults. In 2019, Arthur A. Levine started an independent imprint, Levine Querido, focusing on diversity, with a mix of 75% minority creators, including people of color, Indigenous people, and LGBTQ individuals. Levine Querdio launched in fall 2020, with a debut list of 20 U.S. titles and five of what he described as “the world’s best books in translation.” Read submission guidelines here.

August House

August House focuses on world folktales and the art and uses of storytelling. Submissions are by regular post only. Please review their guidelines before contacting them about publishing your work. They do not respond unless they are interested. Read guidelines here.

Yeehoo Press
 is dedicated to publishing fun, enchanting, and socially responsible children’s books foraudiences around the world. Their books are published and sold in simultaneous English and Simplified Chinese editions. Yeehoo Press has offices in Los Angeles, San Diego, California, and Shanghai, China. Yeehoo is a boutique press publishing 10 to 15 books per year. They are looking for fictional and non-fiction picture books, both text-only and author-illustrator projects, aimed at ages 3-8. Read guidelines here.


Capstone publishes both fiction and nonfiction books for struggling and reluctant readers. They have four imprints and three separate divisions with over 3,000 books in print. Submissions: Most of Capstone's books are produced in-house. Currently, they are only  interested in work-for-hire assignments. Read more here.


Charlesbridge publishes both picture books and transitional “bridge books” (books ranging from early readers to middle-grade chapter books). Nonfiction books focus on nature, science, social studies, and multicultural topics. Fiction titles include lively, plot-driven stories with strong, engaging characters. Submissions: Please submit only one or two manuscript(s) at a time. For picture books and books, please send a complete manuscript. For fiction books longer than 30 manuscript pages, please send a detailed plot synopsis, a chapter outline, and three chapters of text. For nonfiction books longer than 30 manuscript pages, please send a detailed proposal, a chapter outline, and one to three chapters of text. Regular mail only. They also accept YA.  No simultaneous submissions. Read guidelines here.

Free Spirit

Free Spirit publishes nonfiction books and learning materials for children and teens, parents, educators, counselors, and others who live and work with young people. With the exception of board books for early readers, they do not publish fiction. Submissions: Proposals to be considered must be sent by mail (not by fax or email). Include the following: A cover letter briefly outlining your project, the intended audience (including age ranges), and your relevant expertise; A current résumé; A detailed chapter-by-chapter outline; At least two sample chapters. (If a full manuscript is available, you may send it.); A market analysis with a comprehensive listing of similar titles and detailed explanation of how your project differs from available products; A description of your personal promotion plan for the proposed book (including both in-person and social media outreach). Read guidelines here.


Heartdrum is an imprint of HarperCollins focusing on Indigenous stories that reflect Native people whose Nations are located within the borders of what’s now called the United States and Canada. "We are open to considering picture book, chapter book, middle grade novel, and young adult novel manuscripts as well as middle grade and young adult nonfiction manuscripts, and both poetry and graphic novel formats. Writing that reflects young protagonists and/or youth-related topics are welcome. Our emphasis will be on contemporary, near histories and/or futuristic works, including realistic fiction and genre fiction." Read guidelines here.

Holiday House

Holiday House specializes in hardcovers, from picture books to young adult, both fiction and nonfiction for ages four and up. They do not publish mass market books, including pop-ups, activity books, sticker books, coloring books, or licensed books. Submissions: Holiday House only responds if they are interested in publishing your manuscript. Please send the entire manuscript, whether submitting a picture book or novel. All submissions should be directed to the Editorial Department, Holiday House, 425 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10017. They do not accept submissions by email or fax. Read guidelines here.

Just Us Books

Just Us Books publishes children’s books that celebrate the diversity of Black history, culture and experiences. Submissions: Just Us Books is currently accepting queries for chapter books and middle reader titles only. Please send a query letter pitching us your manuscript, 1-2 page synopsis of your manuscript, 3-5 sample pages of your manuscript, a brief author bio that includes any previously published work, self-addressed stamped envelope. Read guidelines here.

Lerner Publishing Group

Lerner Publishing Group is one of the nation’s largest independently owned children’s publishers with more than 5,000 books in print. Their Jewish-themed imprint, Kar-Ben, is the only division accepting submissions. Submissions: Kar-Ben accepts unsolicited manuscripts by regular post only. Read guidelines here.

Pants On Fire Press

Pants On Fire Press, located in Winter Garden, Florida, publishes picture, middle-grade and young adult books. They are always on the lookout for Action, Adventure, Animals, Comedic, Dramatic, Dystopian, Fantasy, Historical, Paranormal, Romance, Sci-fi, Supernatural and Suspense stories. Submissions: Pants on Fire is acquiring Chapter Books, Middle-grade and Young Adult fiction. Please read complete author guidelines here.

Quirk Books

Quirk is a Philadelphia-based company that publishes just 25 books per year. Their titles are distributed through Random House. They are always on the lookout for "strikingly unconventional manuscripts and book proposals. A well-written novel with an off-the-wall editorial premise? That’s Quirk. A playful cookbook or craft book with cool photography or crazy illustrations? That’s Quirk, too. We publish across a broad range of categories—always with the goal of delivering innovative books to discerning readers. Put more simply, we publish books that are smart, original, cool, and fun."

 Read submission guidelines here.

Tilbury House  

Tilbury House is an independent publishing company founded forty years ago as the Harpswell Press, publishing Maine books. They publish children’s picture books about cultural diversity, social justice, nature, and the environment. Their primary emphasis is on nonfiction picture books that appeal to children (ages 5 – 10). They also consider nonfiction chapter books and graphic nonfiction for early readers (ages 8 – 13), and nonfiction for young adult readers (YA, age 12+). Read their submission guidelines here.

Pajama Press

Pajama Press publishes picture books—both for the very young and for school-aged readers, as well as early chapter books, novels for middle grade readers, and contemporary or historical fiction for young adults aged 12+. Our nonfiction titles typically contain a strong narrative element. Pajama Press is also looking for manuscripts from authors of diverse backgrounds. Stories about immigrants are of special interest.

See their submission guidelines here. See submission windows.

Skypony Press

Sky Pony Press is the children's book imprint of Skyhorse Publishing. They publish picture books, chapter books, middle grade, and YA fiction and nonfiction. "We’re open to any genre and style, and we’re always looking for something new and different. We love original concepts, fresh voices, and writing that knocks us off our feet."

See their submission guidelines here.

Jolly Fish Press

Jolly Fish Press is an imprint of North Star Editions, Inc., based in Minnesota. They publish trade fiction and select nonfiction books in the national and international market. Right now they are seeking middle grade and young adult titles in science fiction and fantasy with an epic and visual scope; thrillers with strong, carefully crafted characters and a unique voice; and unconventional love stories.

See their submission guidelines here. Has submission windows.

Sasquatch Books

Sasquatch Books publishes 30 titles per year in a variety of genres and have a Little Bigfoot children’s imprint. The editors say, “Sasquatch Books publishes books for and from the Pacific Northwest, Alaska, and California is the nation’s premier regional press. Sasquatch Books’ publishing program is a veritable celebration of regionally written words. Undeterred by political or geographical borders, Sasquatch defines its region as the magnificent area that stretches from the Brooks Range to the Gulf of California and from the Rocky Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.”

How to submit: Potential authors can submit a query, proposal, full manuscript, or a combination of all three. See their submission guidelines hereHas submission windows.

Flashlight Press

Flashlight Press publishes fictional children’s picture books for 4–8 year olds. Their titles are distributed in the U.S. through IPG (Independent Publishers Group), and internationally. Manuscripts must be under 1000 words, have a universal theme and deal with family or social situations.

Read their submission guidelines here.

Page Street Publishers

Page Street publishers, located in Salem, Mass, is one of the fastest growing publishers in the US. They have recently launched a children’s program, headed by a 20-year children’s book publishing veteran. This program includes picture books as well as young adult titles for ages 12 and up. Page Street titles are distributed by the Macmillan sales team: a Big Five publisher. Their books can be found in every major retailer and most independents, as well as in mass merchandisers like Costco, BJ’s and Sam’s, and special sales accounts such as West Elm and Crate & Barrel, and occasionally QVC, Nordstrom, Williams-Sonoma, Whole Foods, Urban Outfitters and Anthropologie.

How to submit: Children’s Books: Please include a query (1 page) with the text as a word document or a pdf sketch dummy, 32-40 pages, as an attachment in spread layouts. Your query must contain: 1) synopsis, pitch, age range; and 2) an author bio that describes your occupation, publishing history, social media presence, and any other relevant information that pertains to your manuscript. If you are an illustrator, please also send your website. If you are represented by an agent or plan to be, please note this in your author bio.

Young Adult: Please label your submission YA and state the title of your manuscript in the subject line of your email. Include a query (1-2 pages) with the first three chapters of your manuscript in the body of your email. Your query must contain: 1) a book synopsis that includes your novel's pitch, word count, and classification (literary, historical, fantasy, mystery, etc); and 2) an author bio that describes your occupation, publishing history, social media presence, and any other relevant information that pertains to your manuscript (including any endorsements, if applicable). If you are represented by an agent or plan to be, please note this in your author bio. All submissions must be edited and proofread. Ideally, your manuscript's length is 60-90K words and your protagonist is 15-18 years old.

Read full guidelines HERE.

Flying Eye Books

Flying Eye is an imprint of Nobrow Books. Flying Eye accepts submissions for picture books that are 24 pages or 32 pages long (story) with a word count 500 words (1000 max) for picture books. For children’s non-fiction submissions we will accept pitches for books of up to 90 pages. They require a brief synopsis of the story and the complete first draft of the text, this must be sent in attachment.

If you are an illustrator/author or an illustrator author duo, you should supply a minimum of two finished double page spreads. In the case of a picture book submission, the remainder of the pages should ideally be visually roughed out as a first draft.

Read full guidelines HERE.

Princeton Architectural Press

Princeton Architectural Press accepts fiction and general nonfiction picture books for children ages three to eight. They only review complete submissions, which include text and illustrations. Please send a low-resolution PDF of your proposal to Read their guidelines here.

Little Press Publishing

Little Press Publishing is a traditional publisher located in Wood Ridge, New Jersey. They publish picture books, early readers, chapter books (5,000 - 15,000 words), MG and YA. Books are distributed through Baker & Taylor.  Read submission guidelines HERE

Note: See submission periods.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

What is the "Authors Alliance?" And Why You Should Not Join

Authors Guild board member T.J. Stiles sent a note to the San Francisco Writers Grotto last week about the Authors Alliance, which launches next Wednesday.

After reading the Publishers Weekly interview with Authors Alliance founder, Pamela Samuelson, I have to say I agree with Stiles. The Authors Alliance doesn't represent authors any more than Georgia-Pacific represents trees.

The erosion of copyright protection can only harm authors. If we decide to offer our work for free, it should be when and how we choose. We gain nothing from giving up our right to royalties.

It should be mentioned that Stiles suggests that academics, who don't write for a living, wouldn't be harmed from losing royalties. He is mistaken. Academic publications often garner huge royalties for authors when they become required reading for college courses.

Feel free to pass this along to others. Here's the link.

May 15 note from T.J. Stiles to the San Francisco Writers Grotto:

I would like to pass along a warning about a new group that is trying hard to attract members, calling itself the Authors Alliance. In a recent interview in Publishers Weekly, founder and executive director Pamela Samuelson presented the Authors Alliance essentially as a counterweight to the Authors Guild. As an Authors Guild board member you may consider me biased. I have read the Authors Alliance materials, am familiar with the work of its directors, and met with one of them and developed a pretty good picture of what it’s all about.

If any of you earn a living as a writer, or hope to, I strongly urge you not to join the Authors Alliance. If you think authors should be the ones to decide what is done with their books, then I strongly urge you not to join.

However, if you are an academic, or scorn the idea of making a living from writing as a quest for “fame and fortune,” the Authors Alliance may be the organization for you. If you think, in our digital age, that the biggest problem facing authors is how hard it is to give your work away for free, it’s for you. If you think you’ve got too much power over people who copy and distribute your work without your permission, by all means sign up. Even if you agree with one or two things advocated by the Authors Alliance, if you join you lend weight to its entire agenda.

To be clear, I firmly believe that authors should have the choice to give their work away. That’s the Authors Guild position, too. But no one should make that decision for you. I’m pro-choice.

A few key points:

It’s an astroturf organization. It was not organized by authors, nor is it governed by them. The four directors are Berkeley academics. The executive director and her right-hand-woman are law professors who have made many proposals to reduce copyright protections for authors and restrict remedies for infringement. (I take that wording from the writings of Prof. Samuelson.)

As Samuelson stated in Publishers Weekly, the organization is intended to represent the interests of authors who don’t write for a living—academics and hobbyists. See my comments below on the financial interests they represent, and how they are at odds with those of authors who write for a living.

It may be too early to identify official Authors Alliance positions, but its directors and advisory board members have pushed such ideas as

• allowing people to resell digital files the way they can resell used physical books. Of course, with current technology the original copy would still exist, so that the “resale” would be copying. In other words, anyone could become a publisher of your book, selling or giving it away as much as they want by claiming to simply be reselling. You would have to prove they were doing it more than once—have fun with that! (For you legal wonks, this is called the application of “first-sale doctrine” to digital media.)

• allowing libraries to digitally copy your books, even if you have an e-book edition for sale. No security measures would be required. You would have to hire a lawyer to sue a library if you could prove that the library had allowed its self-published digital version of your book to be stolen and released onto the Internet. As has already happened with the theft of scholarly journals. Even if you did sue, by the way, you couldn’t collect damages from public libraries or state universities, which enjoy sovereign immunity.

• allowing private for-profit corporations to copy your books in their entirety and selling advertising against searches of them, and otherwise making money from your work. They wouldn’t have to ask your permission or share any revenue with you. Samuelson said, on behalf of the Authors Alliance, that Google had the right to do so, which would mean any business corporation could monetize your work, if they know how to game it just right.

• allowing potentially unlimited copying for educational uses. For many of us, library and educational markets are huge parts of our income. Many books are created specifically for educational use. Expanding free copying raises potentially huge problems—including the possibility that anyone claiming to be an educator could copy your work wholesale and not pay.

• requiring proper attribution of others’ works. This reasonable-sounding proposal sounds all kinds of alarms. Who will judge our books? What will be the penalties?

I have no doubt that their theories are sincerely held. But they happen to align perfectly with their own financial and professional interests. As academics, they don’t care about the commercial market for books or writing. I would argue they’re actively hostile to it.

Not including the executive director, the lowest paid member of the four directors earned $196,000 in 2012; the highest paid earned $262,200. That doesn’t include benefits. Prof. Samuelson is independently wealthy. I’m happy for their success, and wish all professors were paid this well. But my point is that these academics are insulated from the commercial book market, except to engage in it as consumers. They don’t earn much from royalties, but in most cases their advancement is largely based on publishing low-print-run academic works. Their interests lie in getting your books at low cost to supply their own academic work, and in advancing their own careers and incomes by making their own work available for free. Salary information is available here: https://ucannualwage.

When it comes to issues that actually matter to authors, the Authors Guild already advocates and provides actual services. The Authors Alliance does not. The Authors Guild provides free contract review and much more. The Authors Alliance will provide one-size-fits-all“education” about how to get your rights back. Period.

Again, you may believe that authors are too powerful, and have too much control over what happens to their work. But please be warned that if you sign up, you are lending support to a very long agenda. The Authors Guild is actually run by authors, elected by the membership, with an annual meeting open to all. That ain’t true of the Authors Alliance.

The Authors Alliance will stress some issues that are of authentic interest to authors, such as making it easier to get your rights back when you’ve signed them away to a publisher. If that was all there was, fair enough. But it exists to make it appear that there is a grassroots authors’ organization in favor of loosening copyright protections and limiting remedies for copyright infringement. (Do we have any remedies, by the way? Take-down letters are about as powerful as wishing wells.) And it doesn’t offer any actual services.

The intellectual-property shop at Berkeley’s law school has a very aggressive and expansive agenda that was crafted without working authors in mind. They want you to join so they can say you are one of a large group that supports that entire agenda. Let the joiner beware.

T.J. Stiles
Authors Guild board member
Author of The First Tycoon: The Epic Life of Cornelius Vanderbilt, winner of the Pulitzer Prize and National Book Award, and former Guggenheim fellow

Note: Copyright confers substantial benefits to academic authors. The Authors Registry, which shares office space with the Authors Guild provides a handy example. The Registry pays photocopy royalties collected abroad to US authors. Over the years, it has paid the lion’s share of its $22 million in disbursements to academic authors. Not many refuse the checks.

This is not to say that copyright is functioning as it should in academia. Far too often, copyright is used to separate scholars and scientists from their intellectual property. Scientific and scholarly journals frequently insist on seizing the author’s copyright as part of the price of publication. For scientists in particular this can be galling: their work is usually publicly funded, yet privately locked up.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Famous Authors Who Disowned Their Own Books

I ran across this blog post via Publisher's Weekly, which is a great source of publishing news and information. Of course, I expected that Kafka would have ordered all of his works to be burned (that is sooo Kafka-esque), but Ian Fleming?

Why do authors reject their own books? In the case of Stephen King's Carrie, he got frustrated writing it, and thought it was no good. But other authors have rejected their books after publication for similar reasons. Bad reviews are another source of rejection. But in nearly all cases, it's because the books did not meet the author's own expectations. Writers are their own harshest critics.

10 Great Authors Who Disowned Their Own Books

By Madeleine Monson-Rosen and Charlie Jane Anders,

1) Ian Fleming, The Spy Who Loved Me

Fleming wrote this novel, in which James Bond is basically a secondary character, in an attempt to caution his readers against making Bond into too much of a hero. Fleming said he wanted to make Bond's misogyny apparent after being shocked to discover that his Bond novels were being taught in schools.

This "experiment," Fleming wrote to his publisher after the book received overwhelmingly negative reviews, had "obviously gone very much awry," and Fleming attempted to keep the book out of print. After Fleming's death, however, the value of his backlist overwhelmed the author's wishes, and The Spy Who Loved Me came back into print.

2) Octavia Butler, Survivor

This 1978 novel is the only one of Butler's works to remain out of print. She disowned it and let it stay buried, because she felt it depended on the worst cliches of science fiction:

When I was young, a lot of people wrote about going to another world and finding either little green men or little brown men, and they were always less in some way. They were a little sly, or a little like "the natives" in a very bad, old movie. And I thought, "No way. Apart from all these human beings populating the galaxy, this is really offensive garbage." 

People ask me why I don't like Survivor, my third novel. And it's because it feels a little bit like that. Some humans go up to another world, and immediately begin mating with the aliens and having children with them. I think of it as my Star Trek novel.

While Butler never stopped using science fiction tropes as allegories, she stayed away from the stereotypes invoked in Survivor after that.

Find out which other famous books were rejected by the authors who wrote them here.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Self-Censorship in Reporting the News

This post appeared last fall on the Author's Guild site. The investigation, sponsored by PEN, and conducted by the FDR Group makes for some interesting reading.

If journalists are self-censoring with the anticipation that writing about, or even talking about, certain subjects will land them in trouble, then our version of reality is tinted by rose-colored glasses. By not talking about the Middle East or Northern Africa, or military affairs, or certain languages (which ones?) these topics essentially cease to exist.

In many ways, self-censorship is worse than overt institutional censorship. There is nobody to challenge, and nobody to sue, because those who censor themselves have chosen not to exercise their Constitutional right to free speech.

If you don't use it, you lose it.

The Big Chill: Authors Avoid Controversial Topics in Wake of NSA Revelations, PEN Survey Says

Author's Guild, November 13, 2013

Fear of government intrusion is influencing how some American authors and journalists do their jobs, causing them to avoid researching, writing about and even privately discussing many of the most newsworthy topics, according to a report by the PEN American Center, Chilling Effects: NSA Surveillance Drives U.S. Writers to Self-Censor:
“Writers reported self-censoring on subjects including military affairs, the Middle East North Africa region, mass incarceration, drug policies, pornography, the Occupy movement, the study of certain languages, and criticism of the U.S. government. The fear of surveillance—and doubt over the way in which the government intends to use the data it gathers—has prompted PEN writers to change their behavior in numerous ways that curtail their freedom of expression and restrict the free flow of information."
The report, based on a survey of PEN members, measured how writers had changed their behavior because they thought the government was monitoring their communications. Among the findings:

• 16% have avoided writing or speaking on a particular topic, 11% have seriously considered it.

• 28% have curtailed or avoided social media activities, 12% have seriously considered it.

• 24% have avoided certain topics in phone or email conversations, 9% have seriously considered it.

• 16% have refrained from conducting Internet researches or visiting websites on topics that may be considered controversial or suspicious, 12% have seriously considered it.

• 13% have taken extra steps to disguise or cover their digital footprints, 11% have seriously considered it.

• 3% have declined opportunities to meet (in person or electronically) people who might be deemed security threats by the government, 4% have seriously considered it.

Conducted in October with the help of research firm FDR Group, the survey tracked the responses of 528 PEN members. Questions touched on the experiences, concerns and attitudes of writers in the wake of revelations about National Security Agency surveillance that began with documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

In follow-up conversations, some writers talked about dropping projects out of fear of becoming surveillance target. Others said they’re already a target:
“‘Selected’ for a special security search returning to the United States from Mexico twice last summer, I learned I was on a U.S. Government list. I was searched for ‘cocaine’ and explosives. I suspect … that I must have been put on the government list because of an essay I wrote … in which I describe finding a poem on a Libyan Jihad site, and ultimately express some sympathy for young men on the other side of the world who are tempted into jihad … one can see how [the poem] might be a comfort to jihadists.”
The survey found 85% are worried about government surveillance of Americans, while 73% say they’ve never been as concerned about privacy rights and freedom of the press as they are now.

Survey results showing a high level of concern about being compelled to reveal sources are especially timely as the Senate considers federal shield law legislation. PEN doesn’t mention the legislation by name, but it does call on on the government to enact limits on surveillance and improve transparency, reforms similar to those found in the Free Flow of Information Act.

One particularly intriguing aspect of the report is how it reveals writers to be much less tolerant of having their communications monitored than Americans overall. Asked their opinion of “the government’s collection of telephone and Internet data as part of anti-terrorism efforts,” only 12% of PEN members said they approve, compared with half of respondents in an earlier survey of the general public.

As the PEN report concludes, the cost of government surveillance is largely hidden.
“Part of what makes self-censorship so troubling is the impossibility of knowing precisely what is lost to society because of it. We will never know what books or articles may have been written that would have shaped the world’s thinking on a particular topic if that are not written because potential authors are afraid that their work would invite retribution.”

Monday, May 5, 2014

How to use Kickstarter and other services to fund your book

Start small, but think big ... Oh, heck. Start big.
I ran across the article below in Publishers Weekly, and it got me to thinking.

Does it make any sense to crowdfund a book that, if self-published electronically, could cost you less than $100?

The answer is no. But, that does not mean you should rule out crowdfunding as part of a larger strategy.

What if you set your sights higher than publishing a book?

For example, if you intended write a series, wouldn't it make better sense to put your crowdfunding efforts into something more attractive than a single publication? A writer with a series of cookbooks, or themed children's books, or sci-fi books, could use crowdfunding, not to fund a single book, but to start a publishing company.

Most small publishing houses started out as a means for a writer to publish his or her books. I can't see any reason why a crowdfunding platform can't be used to accomplish that, or, in fact, why several authors couldn't use Kickstarter to start a publishing house.

After all, that is the way Random House began - just a few writers who decided to publish some random books.

Helpful articles

Best Crowdfunding Platforms for Authors to Publish Books

Is Crowdfunding a Book Right for You? A Radically Transparent Crowdfunding Case Study for Authors

DIY: Crowdfunding 101 - How to use Kickstarter and other services to fund your book
By Jennifer McCartney, Publishers Weekly, Apr 14, 2014

Without an advance or the support of a publisher’s art, publicity, and marketing departments, securing funding to publish and publicize a book can be an uphill battle. Because of this, many enterprising indie authors have turned to crowdfunding platforms -- which pair artists and projects with donors -- to support their publishing efforts. Crowdfunding can be a fun and creative way to raise money to support a new book.

There are book-specific crowdfunding sites well worth checking out such as Pubslush, which calls itself a "global book club with a cause" and Though these have a smaller audience, the advantage is that funders are specifically looking to support publishing projects. The two largest and most popular sites, however, are the more established Kickstarter and Indiegogo.


Kickstarter is the most popular crowdfunding platform. Via Kickstarter’s user-friendly interface, an author creates a profile for her proposed book that includes a short description, how much she wants to raise, and what exactly she plans to do with the funds. This can cover everything from printing and shipping costs, layout and design fees, ISBN registration, photography expenses, the hiring of an illustrator, or editing and proofreading expenditures. Authors can upload images and post a personal video to add interest to their listing. The site offers helpful tips for creating the best page possible to showcase your idea. Authors should follows these guidelines to ensure that their pages are as engaging as possible.

If the project is fully funded by Kickstarter’s deadline (30 days is the recommended length of time for a project) the author receives the money minus the company’s 5% fee, as well as a 3 to 5% processing fee that goes to Amazon Payments. Contributors can receive rewards from the author based on their level of funding. Authors should think of creative rewards to offer potential funders -- such as a Skype chat for a book club, a bookmark, or signed copies of the finished book.

To begin, authors should check out the Kickstarter guidelines and note that the self-help genre (including business, health, and relationship advice) is not eligible as a Kickstarter project. Authors must also be a U.S. resident with a Social Security Number, U.S. bank account, and credit or debit card, and they must be 18 or older.

Ariane Roberts is using Kickstarter to fund her illustrated children’s book Jamie Loves Her Natural Hair. Her advice to authors is: “plan, plan, and plan!”

“Before you even start your campaign, have your contact list ready to notify everyone about your project once it has launched,” says Roberts. “Make sure you are building a list of contacts that you feel will be genuinely interested in sharing your project with their audience.”

Kate Agnew, who is hoping to fund her Donuts: A Photo Book project through Kickstarter, says her desire to have total ownership over her project led her to the crowdfunding site. She advises potential authors to do their research before setting up their campaign, citing the two to five day waiting period before the project goes live as an example of something for which authors need to plan.

Both Agnew and Roberts cite getting word out about their campaigns to be the hardest challenge. Roberts cautions, “You may need to do some foot work by getting out and speaking to people or groups that could potentially become supporters of your project.”

Crowdfunding also gives an author a sense of how popular her book might be. “It is kind of like testing the water before jumping in, which made it a good fit for me,” Agnew says. “While safe in some ways, I'm still putting myself out there -- still taking the risk. That's what writing is all about.”


Indiegogo is a popular crowdfunding site that’s available to anyone in the world with a bank account, making it an option for authors based outside the U.S. Unlike Kickstarter, Indiegogo allows users to keep the funds they raise even if they don’t make their funding goal with a program called Flexible Funding. The site takes a fee which is 4% of the money raised if an author’s funding goal is met or 9% if it’s not met. Authors are also charged 3% for credit card processing, plus a $25 wire fee for campaigns outside the U.S.

Indiegogo also offers something called the Gogofactor, which measures the activity of an author’s campaign with an algorithm, rewarding active authors with newsletter or blog mentions and better search rankings.

Linnie von Sky successfully crowdfunded her first children’s book Our Canadian Love Story with Indiegogo and is following that success with another campaign for an anti-bullying children's book.

"Running a campaign is a full time job," von Sky says. Most funders are people in her extended social circles, but she notes that, given the broad appeal of the anti-bullying message of her second project, she was able to attract funding from people she doesn't know. She says the key to making a campaign successful is to be be fully engaged on all social platforms. "Defending your idea and its place in the crowded crowdfunding universe is an excruciatingly exhausting effort," von Sky says.

While crowdfunding isn’t for every author, it can be an essential tool for the right project -- if an author is willing to work hard to promote her book.

Jennifer McCartney is a freelance writer, editor, and author of the novel Afloat. Follow her at @jennemem.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Never Underestimate the Power of a Book Review

Amazon Phenomenon: NYT Article Boosts Obscure Book to Bestsellerdom

By Matthew Kassel, NY Observer, 04/21/14

This past weekend, a little-known book called All God’s Dangers: The Life of Nate Shaw was resurrected from obscurity when it surged to the top of Amazon’s rankings and became the bestselling book in America.

The reason for the sudden boost in popularity was a New York Times article by the book critic Dwight Garner, which appeared online on Friday and on the front page of the New York edition of the Times arts section on Saturday. By Saturday evening, the book was No. 1 on Amazon’s best sellers list, and its sales numbers had surged by a staggering 1,542,000 percent, according to the website’s Movers and Shakers list.

All God’s Dangers is a 600-page oral history, compiled by Theodore Rosengarten, of a black Alabama sharecropper named Ned Cobb. (Nate Shaw was a pseudonym.) It won the National Book Award in 1974 and was well-reviewed. “But it seems to have vanished from the culture at large,” Mr. Garner wrote in his critical appraisal.

Until now, that is. Garrett Kiely, director of the University of Chicago Press, which has published All God’s Dangers in paperback since 2000, said the article—and the concomitant boost in sales—was a welcome surprise.

“We vaguely knew something about the New York Times interest in the book because they’d asked us for copies to check some details,” he told the Observer. “But we didn’t quite know what it was, and it was nice to see.”

Mr. Kiely said that most copies of the book are sold for courses at the university level: history and African-American studies, for instance. “It wasn’t off our radar,” he said. “It was just off everybody else’s radar.”

This isn’t the first time that academic books from the backlist have gained momentum due to a mention in the news cycle.

Friedrich Hayek’s The Road to Serfdom, a seminal book of economics also published by University of Chicago Press, had languished in academic circles until a positive mention by Glenn Beck sent it to the top of Amazon’s best sellers list in 2009.

Another book of economics, Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century, published by Harvard University Press, is the current best-selling book in the United States, according to Amazon. It appeared in the No. 2 spot alongside All God’s Dangers over the weekend, possibly boosted by Paul Krugman’s glowing review in the latest issue of The New York Review of Books. (As Mr. Kiely noted, it was a rare treat to see university press books at the top of the listings; All God’s Dangers, as of this writing, remains in the top 100, at No. 17.)

Mr. Garner, who, as one of three daily book critics for the Times, maintains what is perhaps the most influential perch in American literary taste-making, said he had never in his years as a reviewer seen one of his articles affect a book’s sales in this way.

“Being able to give a small boost to worthwhile books is easily the best thing about being a critic,” he said in an email to the Observer. “But no, I’ve never seen anything like this. We’re not talking about a new Michael Lewis book here; we’re talking about a 40-year-old autobiography of an illiterate sharecropper in the deep South. This is deep Americana.”

He added: “Ned Cobb is worth every bit of the attention, and I suspect he’d love it.”
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