Monthly Archives: May 2009

E-Reads Offers Book Deal to Dick Cheney

Dear Mr. Cheney:

I read today that you are seeking a publication deal for your memoirs. E-Reads, a ten-year-old publishing company of which I am president and CEO, invites you to consider bringing your book out under our imprint. We offer a number of advantages over conventional publishers, particularly instant release of your book in both e-book and print on demand format.

We are prepared to offer a substantial advance and an unprecedented royalty percentage for the privilege of publishing your story. If you require the services of a professional co-author we have access to many superb professional writers with ghost-writing or co-writing credentials.

Naturally, before we sign a binding commitment it would be mutually beneficial for us to spell out the content and “voice” of your book. A paramount consideration is the degree to which you can be candid about your personal life and political career. Though I realize you’re a newcomer to the publishing process, I’m sure that as a businessman you will appreciate that the more frank you can be, the higher the commercial value of your book. A memoir perceived as self-serving (such as public statements you have made since leaving office, if I may be so frank) will simply not enable us to recoup our investment. I’m afraid we can’t count on foreign rights revenue as responses to feelers made by our agents abroad have not been encouraging. It seems that the willingness of the Coalition of the Willing does not extend to acquiring rights to your story.

If however you are prepared to produce a forthright account of your term in office, we are prepared to demonstrate our earnestness with a compensation package far beyond the $2 million you are reported to be seeking.

As for the contents, I’ve made some notes about topics that we would like to see covered in your book. Here’s a partial bulleted list:

  • How you assisted President Bush deceive Congress and the American people into buying into a connection between Al Qaeda and the Iraq government under Saddam Hussein
  • How you misrepresented available intelligence
  • How you outed covert intelligence officer Valerie Plame and got your Chief of Staff Scooter Libby to take the fall
  • How you steered no-bid government contracts to Halliburton, a company in which you have a multimillion dollar interest that has appreciated by thousands of percent since the war began
  • How you undermined the Constitution
  • How you suspended the right of Habeas Corpus
  • How you subverted the rule of law
  • How you instituted secret wiretapping and email monitoring of American citizens
  • How you scammed America’s allies with Saddam’s “weapons of mass destruction”
  • How you created a secret cabal of oil and other energy lobbyists
  • How you sent thousands of young men and women to death and maiming in the prosecution of a “phony” war whose real goal was to exploit Middle East oil
  • How you leveraged your office to create a policy of torture and brutality

As I stated at the outset, if this book is to succeed commercially it must be completely candid. If you are uncertain about the meaning of that term, let me recommend a book that might serve as your model. I’m thinking of The Surrender: An Erotic Memoir by former dancer Toni Bentley whose candor about her sex life was painfully frank. In particular she rhapsodized about anal intercourse. We don’t feel that discussions about your sex life are necessary to make this book a success (though, needless to say, if there were any revelations of that nature that you were willing to share with your readers “it wouldn’t hoit!” as they say). Nevertheless, you might find anal intercourse to be an effective metaphor for your conduct as Vice-President. I don’t want to put words in your mouth but if you were willing to talk about giving it to the American people “in the ass” we would probably raise our first printing another 100,000 copies in the blink of an eye.

In the hope that we’ve persuaded you to cast your lot with us, we’d like to discuss titles, and I think we’ve got one you’re going to love. Ready?

GO FUCK YOURSELF
My Life in High Crimes and Misdemeanors
by Dick Cheney

We’ve already picked out some great cover photos for you to review and we’ve even taken the liberty of producing a sensational Web promo built around your priceless “Go Fuck Yourself” pronunciamento. We’re dummying up a book jacket with some great graphics spun off that theme and I guarantee it’s a knockout.

Please get back to me with your response to our proposal, and, if you agree to our approach and are confident you can deliver a truthful account, have your authorized representative contact me to hammer out details. I look forward to hearing from you and, I hope, working with you.

Yours Truly,

Richard Curtis
President and CEO
E-Reads

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A Self-Published Author Shows the Difference Between Vanity and Pride

Jason A. Spencer-Edwards has won the writer’s equivalent of the trifecta. He’s sold some 50,000 copies of his self-published books, he’s gotten them picked up by the New York City school system, and – most important of all from his viewpoint – his tales of black kids struggling for survival have inspired school children from disadvantaged backgrounds and helped them to fall in love with reading.

New York Times reporter Anne Barnard writes that “Mr. Spencer-Edwards’s stories of young black teenagers struggling with peer pressure, poverty and the temptations of money and crime have captivated students who have trouble relating to the white middle-class suburban world of Judy Blume or Sweet Valley High.”

“You can hear a pin drop when we work on his books,” a teacher said.

Spencer-Edwards’s books – Jiggy, I’ve Got It Made and Patrol Boy – are captivating. But there were few readers to captivate until he persuaded New York City’s Department of Education to approve his books, and if you know anything about getting books adopted by the New York school system, you will appreciate how extraordinary his feat was. Once the books were green-lighted he began promoting them to principals, teachers, parents and children. His charisma and mesmerizing story-telling style took it from there, and the rest is a heart-warming story of a remarkable man who does well by doing good.

You can learn more about him here.

RC

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Hachette Dispatches Pirate-Busters to Scribd and Other Peer-to-Peers

Hachette Book Group, tormented by pirated and other unauthorized use of its copyrighted books, has taken aggressive measures to curb these practices, including a face to face meeting with Scribd, the peer to peer file sharing website. Though Scribd has pledged cooperation, its prophylactic protection remains porous enough to alarm many authors, agents and publishers. HBG is pressuring another site, Wattpad, and enlisting the publisher community to join the action.

Hachette has circulated a statement via email to the publishing industry. Below is the text in full.

RC
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As Hachette Book Group’s CEO, David Young, noted in a recent New York Times article, online piracy is “exponentially up.” The rapid growth in e-books has resulted in a dramatic increase in pirated or unauthorized editions on peer-to-peer file sharing websites that allow users to upload, share and download content of all kinds, free of charge. Two such websites, Scribd and Wattpad, are particularly active. While some of the content appearing on these sites is lawful and user-created, an alarming number of unauthorized book titles are uploaded by people without authorization and shared for free on both sites.

HBG is firmly committed to combating this type of blatant online piracy, and our Legal Department reviews those sites on a periodic basis for unlawful copies of a sampling of HBG titles. The Legal Department sends various document sharing sites, including Scribd and Wattpad, numerous copyright infringement take-down notices each month. In addition to the checks being made by our legal department and our editors, we hope that authors and agents will check frequently for infringements and report them to us. The most efficient method of reporting piracy is to complete the Online Piracy Report Form attached and email it to HBG’s Legal Department at piracy@hbgusa.com. We will then pursue the take-down process. If an author or agent is unable to complete the form for any reason, they should notify their editor.

HBG has sent stern legal letters to some of the sites, alerting them to the potential legal recourse for permitting or hosting repeated infringements. HBG is also a member of the AAP’s Online Piracy Working Group (“OPWG”), which coordinates anti-piracy efforts among member publishers. Despite these efforts, we recognize the daunting challenge we all face in combating online copyright infringement. Even when we succeed in getting an author’s titles removed from a site, the same titles can easily pop up again, uploaded by new users.

In an attempt to address the problem head on, HBG recently initiated a face-to-face meeting with Scribd to discuss its antipiracy efforts. Scribd described to us its newly implemented text-matching copyright protection system, which Scribd claims been highly effective at detecting and removing hundreds of unauthorized uploads every day (although it admits that its system is not perfect). Scribd also committed to us that it disables, without notice, the accounts of repeat infringers on a “three-strikes” basis, and that all documents previously posted by that infringer are automatically withdrawn. Scribd pledged that it has a zero tolerance policy for users who post advertisements offering to send pirated e-books to personal email addresses. We discussed ways to strengthen Scribd’s text matching filter and Scribd has recently published a more complete set of antipiracy policies. Scribd recently met with the AAP’s OPWG to discuss its procedures in detail and agreed to follow-up on a number of questions and issues raised by the OPWG.

HBG hopes to persuade Wattpad to implement more robust procedures. Wattpad confirmed recently that they have begun implementing their own text matching filter. We hope that pressure from HBG, other publishers, and the OPWG will cause document sharing sites, such as Scribd and Wattpad, to address this problem proactively.

Thank you for your attention to this urgent issue. Should you have questions about online piracy, please email us at piracy@hbgusa.com.

This may contain confidential material. If you are not an intended recipient, please notify the sender, delete immediately, and understand that no disclosure or reliance on the information herein is permitted. Hachette Book Group, Inc. may monitor email to and from our network.

Click here for Hachette’s Online Piracy Report Form.

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Another E-Book Reader with a Dumb Name

We realize that crazy names for digital startups are fashionable. The reasoning is that a weird word sticks in your memory and if it catches on, the recognition factor can be priceless. Google, anyone?

On the other hand, funky names can be a disadvantage if they are also disagreeable or hard to pronounce, particularly if you’ve created a product that you are hoping will supplant the sonorous and aptly named Kindle. That’s why, for example, we’re skeptical that the world is going to beat a path to a gadget called the Flepia. Discussing color e-book readers we recently wrote:

It’s hard to take an e-book named Flepia seriously. First of all, no one knows if it’s Fleh-pia or Flee-pia (it’s Fleh, I’m reliably told). Second of all, “Flepia” sounds like one of those junk fishes hauled up with a tuna catch.

The Flepia is made by Fujitsu, and if anything would induce us to utter the word “Flepia” aloud at the sales counter of an electronics store it’s the fact that it’s the first full-color commercial e-book reader. But it would still be embarrassing.

Another Japanese e-book reader named by a marketing genius with a tin ear is Panasonic’s WordsGear. It too is in living color, and comes in at half of the intimidating $1000 price of the Flepia. But it’s hard to see myself reading a book on something called a WordsGear.

The Japanese don’t have a monopoly on inept nomenclature for e-book readers. From a UK outfit called Interead comes the Cool-er. It boasts a number of advantages over the competition, among them price (at $250, it’s a third cheaper than Kindle and Sony) and weight. “The Cool-er weighs 5.6 ounces – compared to 10 oz of the Sony Reader and 10.2 oz of the Amazon Kindle 2,” writes Priya Ganapati for Wired.com’s Engadget. “That means the Cool-er is nearly 40 percent lighter than its biggest competitors.”

It also comes in eight colors. But does that make it a color reader? No, just the frames are colored. The text is good old black and white E-ink. Which brings us to the name. Aren’t consumers going to be confused by a b&w reader that sounds like “Col-or”? Or is it supposed to suggest the device is cool. Do you pronounce the word like the refrigerated water dispenser commonly found in business offices? Or do you come to a full glottal stop, thus: Cool. Er. No matter how you say it, it’s awkward, cacophonous and meaningless.

The dark horse in the Dumb Name Derby is the e-reader developed by Plastic Logic. Despite its imminent release it still doesn’t have a name. Because of its thin, flexible design – you can roll it up like a scroll – it is a keenly anticipated device. But what will it be named?

One hopes that the company’s management will learn from the unfortunates described here and give us a name we can utter joyously and proudly. Or how about a name we can utter at all.

RC

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Wait! Come In Off That Ledge! Dave Eggers’ Hotline for Suicidal Publishers

The New Yorker’s “Book Bench” feature reports a Tribeca Rooftop celebration to honor author and McSweeney’s founder Dave Eggers, whose nonprofit 826 National is devoted to turning children on to writing and assisting them to develop writing skills.

Eggers gave an impassioned and inspiring speech that will send chills down the spine of any who despairs that the printed word is finished. But if you’re still ready to climb out the window, he offers an email hotline to talk you back inside, where you can inhale the intoxicating aroma of ink on paper, listen to the crinkling of newsprint, and rejoice to the crack of a book’s spine the first time it’s opened. Here’s an excerpt, including the special email address:

Nothing has changed! The written word—the love of it and the power of the written word—it hasn’t changed. It’s a matter of fostering it, fertilizing it, not giving up on it, and having faith. Don’t get down. I actually have established an e-mail address, deggers@826national.org—if you want to take it down—if you are ever feeling down, if you are ever despairing, if you ever think publishing is dying or print is dying or books are dying or newspapers are dying (the next issue of McSweeney’s will be a newspaper—we’re going to prove that it can make it. It comes out in September). If you ever have any doubt, e-mail me, and I will buck you up and prove to you that you’re wrong.

RC

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Reading Rights Coalition Statement on Random House and Kindle Text-to-Speech

NEW YORK, May 20 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/

The Reading Rights Coalition, representing more than 15 million print-disabled Americans, has denounced publishing giant Random House, which has turned off text-to-speech on all of its e-books available for Amazon’s Kindle 2 reading service.

Dr. Marc Maurer, President of the National Federation of the Blind, said: “When Random House turned off the text-to-speech function on all of its e-books for the Kindle 2, it turned off access to this service for more than 15 million print-disabled Americans. The blind and other print-disabled readers have the right to purchase e-books using this service with text-to-speech enabled. Blocking text-to-speech prohibits access for print-disabled readers and is both reprehensible and discriminatory. We urge President Obama, whose e-books are now being blocked from over 15 million Americans, to either demand that access be restored or to move to a publisher who does not engage in discrimination.”

Dr. Cynthia Stuen, Senior Vice President of Policy and Evaluation for Lighthouse International, said: “Having the technology available to give people with impaired vision and other print disabilities equal and timely access to the printed word should be celebrated and encouraged in a civil and just society for all.”

Andrew Imparato, President and Chief Executive Officer for the American Association of People with Disabilities (AAPD), said: “Random House is callously disregarding the right of American consumers with disabilities to get access to the same content at the same price at the same time as everyone else. Random House’s decision to turn off the feature that makes this content accessible to millions of print-disabled Americans is a bad business decision with real human consequences and it must be corrected immediately.”

Mitch Pomerantz, President of the American Council of the Blind, said: “The recent action by Random House disabling text-to-speech on e-books is the latest and most egregious discriminatory action against the nation’s 15 million print-disabled individuals. Random House either doesn’t care or doesn’t understand the impact this will have on those who would otherwise have equal access to books and other printed materials in the same manner as our non-disabled peers. We must work collaboratively to do everything possible to assure such access for this growing constituency.”

James Love, Director of Knowledge Ecology International (KEI), said: “KEI is disappointed that Random House is turning off text-to-speech on its Kindle 2 e-books. In a world where access to knowledge is central to everything, Random House certainly understands this action will isolate and marginalize many persons with reading disabilities.”

K. Eric Larson, Executive Director and CEO of National Spinal Cord Injury Association, said: “All Americans have the right to equal access and many people living with paralysis use text-to-speech capabilities in order to gain that access. Our members are also consumers and ‘turning off’ text-to-speech means that some will not buy books they would otherwise purchase.”

John R. Sheehan, Chairman of the Xavier Society for the Blind, said: “The Xavier Society for the Blind is committed to the notion that ALL books should be accessible to all people. When a book about Mother Teresa is among those whose text-to-speech functions have been disabled, we fear that we are seeing the beginning of a blanket cut-off of a function that should be open and available to all, especially (but not exclusively) to those with visual impairments or other problems that limit access to printed materials.”

When Amazon released the Kindle 2 e-book reading service on February 9, 2009, the company announced that the device would be able to read e-books aloud using text-to-speech technology. Under pressure from the Authors Guild, Amazon has announced that it will give publishers the ability to disable the text-to-speech function on any or all of their e-books available for the Kindle 2 service. Random House is the first publisher to turn off text-to-speech on all of its e-books and thus deny the rights of print-disabled people across America.

The Reading Rights Coalition includes the blind, people with dyslexia, people with learning or processing issues, seniors losing vision, people with spinal cord injuries, people recovering from strokes, and many others for whom the addition of text-to-speech on the Kindle 2 promises for the first time easy, mainstream access to over 270,000 books.

For more information about the Reading Rights Coalition, please visit www.readingrights.org. To sign our petition, go to http://www.thepetitionsite.com/1/We-Want-To-Read. If you are an author who supports our cause, please send your contact information to readingrights@nfb.org.

SOURCE National Federation of the Blind

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You Can’t Look It Up

“Can a socialite kill a book?”

That’s the question that journalist Jesse Kornbluth asked on Huffington Post in a chilling look at the campaign waged by socialite Annette de la Renta and her white-shoe law firm (“sending threatening letters on 60-pound bond”) to have Michael Gross’s provocative book about the Metropolitan Museum of Art “removed from circulation and corrected.” The “corrected” refers to descriptions in Gross’s book of de la Renta who, Kornbluth asserts, is “generally regarded as Brooke Astor’s successor as the Social Empress of New York. She’s Blue Blood and Old Money. Her husband is a fashion designer who specializes in First Ladies and Ladies Who Lunch. She serves on the most prestigious board of trustees in New York, that of the Metropolitan Museum of Art.”

Gross’s book has been widely ignored in the media, and Kornbluth suggests that a sort of Gentleman’s Agreement among heavy-hitter members of de la Renta’s august social circle is the reason why. “I am not a conspiracy theorist,” writes Kornbluth, “but the media coverage — or lack thereof — of this dustup and of ‘Rogues’ Gallery’ could certainly make me think of becoming one.” You can read all about it in Kornbluth’s blog as well as Gross’s own account of the sordid maneuvers to chill his book.

I’m not a conspiracy theorist either, but what started as a routine inquiry about the availability of the book in the New York Public Library system has definitely pushed me several notches closer to paranoia. It seems that the book is simply not there. You can see for yourself by calling your local librarian or visiting the Library’s website and entering the title and author into the Search box.

It’s interesting to note Annette de la Renta also serves on the Board of Trustees of the New York Public Library.

Richard Curtis

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Copyright Asteroid Hurtling Toward Earth, Impact Due 2013

Evan Schnittman observed it as a smear of light on the fringe of our galaxy, but it took media guru Mike Shatzkin to fully articulate its significance. And significant it is, a possible game-changer in the internecine struggle among authors, publishers, and Google. It has to do with a little-known provision of the US Copyright Act of 1978.

Schnittman, a Vice President of Business Development and Rights for Oxford University Press, mentioned it almost as an afterthought at the end of “There Will Be Disintermediation”, the final installment of a brilliant three part analysis in his Black Plastic Glasses website. “Mark your calendars, folks,” he declares, “the disintermediation begins on January 1, 2013. What happens on January 1, 2013? See for yourself in the US Copyright Act of 1978, section 203. {…Termination of the grant may be effected at any time during a period of five years beginning at the end of thirty-five years from the date of execution of the grant…}” [bold print is Schnittman’s.]

“What if this change,” asks Schnittman, “was so significant that it could possibly even spawn an industry wide reset of the way we do things?” He leaves us panting for an answer, and Shatzkin provides it:

“It turns out there is a clause in the 1978 copyright law that allows any author to reclaim any copyright despite any contract with a publisher, simply by serving notice. The copyright can be reclaimed no less than 35 years and no more than 40 years from the book’s original publication. So books published in 1978 can be reclaimed by their authors from 2013-2018.”.

“One wonders” Shatzkin ruminates, “how many agents are aware of this law and are preparing for it.”

Actually many agents have been aware of it for years, and a number have invoked it. It’s commonly referred to as the “Widows and Orphans Provision,” because it entitles immediate family members to recover from publishers or certain derivative licensees (like movie companies) the copyrights to works published by a deceased author. (Don’t worry, men, widowers are included!) What some agents may not be aware of is that an author doesn’t have to be dead for the reclamation to take place; he or she simply has to live long enough to take advantage of the provision. For books licensed to publishers after January 1, 1978, the law is effective “thirty-five years from the date of publication of the work under the grant or at the end of forty years from the date of execution of the grant, whichever term ends earlier.”

What surprises Shatzkin is that Article 203 has not come up in discussions about the Google Settlement, and we owe him and Schnittman a debt of gratitude for placing it on the table.

Until recently we’d have said that (except for a small number of evergreen backlist books) most titles coming up for reclamation under the Act are worth little or nothing. But with Google’s push to monetize old books, even moribund ones may have value either to their authors, their publishers, or Google. As Shatzkin puts it, for some old books “it looks like a new payday has been set up.”

For the full text of Article 203 of the 1978 Copyright Act, click here.

Richard Curtis

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Hachette Book Group Online Piracy Form

Online Piracy Report Form

In order to report an incident of piracy (unauthorized publication) of our books, please provide the information below. One form should be used per website (for example, you may include all titles or multiple posting of your titles that appear on that same website, but please complete a separate form for each individual website). HBG is only authorized to send take down notices for works where we control the rights; if the pirated work or infringement is of an edition we don’t control (like a translated edition), the foreign publisher authorized for that language is the proper party to send take down notices. Please send the completed request forms to piracy@hbgusa.com. To ensure accuracy of URLs, where possible, please copy and paste URLs directly from your browser address bar.

Author’s Name:

Title of Book:

HBG publisher imprint (Grand Central Publishing, Little, Brown and Company, Little Brown Books for Young Readers, FaithWords, Center Street, Orbit, etc.):

Description of all infringing material (such as, full book posted; excerpt of book posted; cover/artwork/photos posted). If multiple URLs are reported, please list the description next to each URL below:

Links to infringing material (please specify the exact URL where the infringing material is located):

Email or fax number for website hosting infringing material:

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What Part of Paradigm Shift Don’t You Understand? Part I

E-book sales stats for the first quarter of 2009 are in, and we’re running out of superlatives. Trade sales were close to $26 million, exceeding last year’s Q1 by 131%. In one month alone – March ’09 – the $10 million in sales matched the total for the first three months of 2008.

The true sales numbers may be even higher than the above chart indicates. Michael Smith, Executive Director of IDPF (International Digital Publishing Forum) reminds us that:

  • This data represents United States revenues only
  • This data represents only trade eBook sales via wholesale channels. Retail numbers may be as much as double the above figures due to industry wholesale discounts.
  • This data represents only data submitted from approx. 12 to 15 trade
  • publishers
  • This data does not include library, educational or professional electronic sales
  • The numbers reflect the wholesale revenues of publishers
  • The definition used for reporting electronic book sales is “All books delivered electronically over the Internet OR to hand-held reading devices”
  • The IDPF and AAP began collecting data together starting in Q1 2006

RC

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