Monthly Archives: July 2011

Please Don’t Dump Our Reps

In connection with our posting (see Repjep) about the endangered species called traveling sales reps, we’ve just come across a moving open letter to publishers on the subject, issued by the New Atlantic IndependentBooksellers Association (NAIBA). We feel it’s worth reprinting in full.

An Open Letter to Publishers from NAIBA

We are alarmed with what appears to be a trend in the sales division of publishers – the removal of field sales reps to independent bookstores. This draconian move against our bookselling segment will be responsible for the disappearance of book culture.

Field sales reps are a crucial part of our business. Each regional independent booksellers association and Publishers Weekly honors an outstanding field rep each year. We can’t think of another publisher position that gets this recognition. We devote countless hours at conferences refining the sales rep/bookseller relationship. They are that crucial to us. Restricting field reps to large stores will give publishers a skewed view of what is a very diverse world –independent bookselling.

Sales reps take the time to know our stores, what our customers like, and what is on our shelves. They are the industry worker-bees, travelling the region, taking ideas and trends and pollinating other stores. We learn about other stores from them, what others are reading and loving; what is selling; marketing tips; event ideas; what the publisher is doing; and what authors have books coming out in the next season. They make fans for authors out of our frontline booksellers. They cut through the catalogs to make sure we carry what we’ll be able to sell, and their endorsements are why we buy what we might have ignored. These reasons are why cuts in field sales reps devastate us. Have you really thought about what this stricture will mean to you? Fewer books sales.

Without a doubt, we are not ordering as much through telemarketing. We are definitely not focusing on your backlist through tele-sales, and we definitely miss titles from the frontlist. We also don’t buy as much direct, which makes independent bookselling a less profitable business. The vicious cycle is that we buy less because we don’t have sales reps, and then you devalue our business because we aren’t buying as much as we used to.

We understand the corporate need to save money. There are more efficacious and less exclusionary ways to cut your budgets. You know what they are because independent bookstores have been telling you what they are for years. Cut multiple ARC mailings. Do away with promotional gimmicks that go from mailbox to garbage can. Consider publishing fewer titles, fewer hard covers, fewer copies. Take a hard look at celebrity advances.

We exist to sell your books, those unique and hard to place titles, not just the established authors. Field sales reps are the tools we need to do that for you. As much as you would like to think a tele-salesperson is doing the same job, you are sadly mistaken. A field sales rep is far more than a person filling in an order form. Don’t cut our lifeline to your books.


The NAIBA Board of Directors



Publisher Offers Pig in a Poke

Sirloin? Or puppy?

Do you trust me? I’m holding a bag with meat in it and I’m telling you it’s choice sirloin. But it could be dog. It’s yours for twenty dollars. No, I won’t show it to you until you’ve paid me. I’ve always leveled with you and I’m leveling with you now. So? How about it?

This odd offer is actually the basis for the expression “a pig in a poke.” It’s “a confidence trick originating in the Late Middle Ages, when meat was scarce, but cats and dogs (puppies) were not,” Wikipedia informs us. “The idiom pig in a poke can also simply refer to someone buying a low-quality pig in a bag because he or she did not carefully check what was in the bag.” (“Poke” is related to the French poche, a bag.)

The reason we bring this up is that Little, Brown is offering bookstores the equivalent of a sealed bag, promising “the inside story of life with one of the most controversial figures of our time” but won’t tell whom it’s about or who wrote it.  They want the stores to trust them that it’s prime stuff, but all they will tell you for now is that the title is Untitled and the author is Anonymous.

“In its e-mail the publisher promised a ‘massive media rollout’ with a confirmed ’60 Minutes’ appearance,” writes New York Times book beat reporter Julie Bosman. “Bookstores were instructed to comply with a highly orchestrated release on Nov. 14, with no sales permitted until then, an embargo arrangement typically reserved for splashy debuts of political memoirs or Bob Woodward books.”

Little, Brown is the furthest thing from a fly-by-night bunco operation, and if there is any publisher whose word I would trust it’s they. Which is why I’m happy to fully disclose that I do lots of business with them. But they’re really pushing credence to the limit in asking store buyers to accept a sealed bag containing an object shaped like a blockbuster bestseller but could be a penny dreadful.

Bosman reports that at least one bookstore owner “reluctantly ordered 10 copies of the book after receiving the publisher’s e-mail. ‘I hate these books,’” the proprietor was quoted as saying. “‘But you cannot not buy it.’”

I never thought a day would come when I said it’s a good thing that books are returnable, but in this case stores can take advantage of that option if Untitled turns out to be la viande de chien.

Okay, your turn to guess what’s in the poke. Read A Publisher Plays Coy With Book Release

Richard Curtis


Dan Simmons’ Nightmare Scenario Frighteningly Predictive of Today’s Government Crisis

For Americans and their lawmakers the looming financial and government crisis is terra incognita.  But not for Dan Simmons, whose just-published Flashback projects a dystopian future launched by a collapse identical to the one that is unfolding in our nation today.

In the author’s words, “Flashback posits the possibility that the United States of America, if it continues accruing debt without rethinking its spending and social welfare programs, could implode in sudden and total bankruptcy, losing not only its position in the world but its own sense of self for hundreds of millions of its citizens. In Flashback, this canary also imagines a cheap and available drug called flashback; a drug that allows hundreds of millions of Americans to find an escape hatch from life in such a damned and dismal future simply by reliving the good parts of their former lives. Over and over. And over.”

Simmons’s dark view of the world around the corner from today is controversial and has raised some hackles among fans and critics who like their futures to be politically correct. They obviously have confused dystopian and utopian. Simmons hasn’t.

But, taken for what it also is, a futuristic thriller packed with beautifully limned characters and a mystery that can only be solved by drug-induced time-travel, it is another triumph by the author of The Terror, Hyperion, Carrion Comfort and Summer of Night.

In a starred review Publishers Weekly says “Simmons makes some logical if depressing extrapolations from current political and economic developments in this outstanding mystery thriller set in a near-future dystopic United States.” Booklist calls it “Another winner from Simmons, whose imagination seems to know no bounds.”

Simmons has addressed a long letter to his fans detailing the thinking processes behind a book that will be debated for a long time to come. You can read his message here.


Where is Abbie Hoffman When You Need Him?

We posted this item discussing the most stolen books a while ago but the topic has become hot again, so we reprint it – with an update.

Book theft just isn’t what it used to be.  Thieves are neither as selective as they once were, nor as imaginative.

That seems to be the conclusion reached by author Margo Rabb (Cures for Heartbreak) in an article she wrote for the New York Times Sunday Book Review, Steal These Books.

From all she is able to learn, the most purloined title is The Bible. “Apparently,” Rabb writes, “the thieves have not yet read the ‘Thou shalt not steal’ part — or maybe they believe that Bibles don’t need to be paid for. ‘Some people think the word of God should be free,'” an Austin, Texas bookstore owner tells her, and for a Springfield, Oregon bookstore manager, it is free. “If a person asks for a Bible,” says Rabb, “they’ll be given a copy without charge.”

New Yorkers are more secular in their shoplifting tastes. A Manhattan bookshop reports the disappearance of fiction masters like Martin Amis, Charles Bukowski, William S. Burroughs, Raymond Carver, Don DeLillo and Jack Kerouac.

Note that no female authors are on the hit-list. “’It’s mostly younger men stealing the books,’” a Brooklyn store owner told Rabb. “They think it’s an existential rite of passage to steal their homeboy.’” The manager of operations of the famous Tattered Cover in Denver reported the same thing. “’Our arrest record is very male.’”

Bookstores may inadvertently be accessories to these crimes. For an Austin store called BookPeople, the books promoted by the store are the ones most likely to be nicked. “I feel like our staff recommendation cards should read: ‘BookPeople Bookseller recommends that you steal ________.’” the head book buyer told Rabb.

You can get arrested for stealing a book from a store, but that’s not as bad as stealing an e-book, for which you can possibly be sued.

Of all the titles you would imagine are most likely to be stolen, Abbie Hoffman’s 1971 classic Steal This Book is the most obvious. At this writing a mint copy can cost you over $50.00. Stealing that copy of Steal This Book would be considered a felony in many states.

Publishers Weekly recently updated the Most Stolen list but some familiar candidates, like Jack Kerouac, are still there. New on the list is Paul Auster, whose New York Trilogy seems to get lifted wholesale. One bookstore owner reported “I had a whole stack once of about 20 or 30 copies of The New York Trilogy that somebody just came in and took the whole stack.”

Richard Curtis


Après Steve Jobs, Le Board?

Ultimately, the boss

Which is more effective, an autocracy or a democracy? A monarchy or a republic? A fiat by one person or decision by committee?

That’s the question raised by Randall Stross in the “Digital Domain” feature of the New York Times.  He was referring to opposing business models governing two colossi of the tech world, Apple and Google.  Apple’s model is clearly autocratic, a hierarchy topped by its founding genius Steve Jobs. Google on the other hand operates on more democratic principles where decisions are reached by something like consensus.

“One person is the Decider for final design choices,” Stross writes about Apple. “Not focus groups. Not data crunchers. Not committee consensus-builders. The decisions reflect the sensibility of just one person: Steven P. Jobs, the C.E.O. By contrast, Google has followed the conventional approach, with lots of people playing a role. That group prefers to rely on experimental data, not designers, to guide its decisions.”

Though his analysis is fairly balanced, Stross clearly favors the Apple model for its efficiency in converting its boss’s brainstorms into beautifully modeled, handsomely packaged, brilliantly marketed products, and it would be hard to quarrel with that assessment.  But he has omitted one downside factor that balances, and maybe outweighs, all the flaws in Google’s groupthink approach to decision-making.  If – when – something happens to Jobs, what will become of Apple?

Early in 2009, when the indispensable Jobs’ was forced to temporarily give up leadership to combat pancreatic cancer, we reminded our readers of Charles De Gaulle’s grim remark: “The graveyards are full of indispensable men.”

“Every business captain,” we said, “needs to post that quotation on the wall in front of his or her desk as a reminder that great leaders must be great delegators. Steve Jobs, CEO of Apple, is as indispensable as corporate heads can possibly be, but adverse health has forced him, as it did De Gaulle, to look at his mortality and relinquish to others tasks that threaten to sap the energy he needs to restore his health.” (See My Irreplaceable You.) Jobs’s medical leave in ’09 was enough to depress the value of Apple’s shares by 2% in the domestic stock market and as much as 7.9% overseas.

We need to look at the Apple strongman’s mortality and see beyond today. Though he has populated his company with gifted managers, Apple’s fate might well be encapsulated in the bon mot uttered by another brilliant and indispensable autocrat, choreographer Georges Ballanchine: “Après moi le board”.

“At Apple,” says stross, “one is the magic number.” But one is succeeded by an infinite string of numbers, and whether all of them add up to the effectiveness of Apple’s Number One in creating and producing astounding technical wonders, we will inevitably find out.

The Auteur vs. the Committee by Randall Stross.

Richard Curtis


Highlights of Dorchester Contract Amendment

E-BOOK (F.2.g.) – Until the Work has earned out, Publisher shall pay royalties to Author for Publisher’s sales of the Work in electronic form at a royalty rate equal to twenty five percent (25%) of net receipts, and a royalty rate of thirty five percent (35%) of net receipts thereafter. These royalty rates shall be applied on all statements calculated after the signing of this amendment; previously contracted royalty rate(s) shall apply and remain unchanged for any prior statements. “Earned out” is defined as the Author having accrued total royalties at least equal to the advance paid to Author in anticipation of future sales, such total royalties accrued at appropriate rates from sales of the Work in whatever form, including collected monies for the disposition of rights. “Net receipts” are defined as one hundred percent (100%) of all amounts actually collected by Publisher from its customers, distributors and agents, on account of the reproduction, distribution, or display of E-Books.

TRADE PAPERBACK (F.2.) – On trade paperback copies sold in the English language above Publisher’s cost, Publisher shall pay to Author the higher of the following two rates: 1) the originally contracted rate for mass-market paperbacks, or 2) a royalty rate of seven and one half percent (7.5%) of the retail cover price. No royalty shall be paid on copies sold or distributed below Publisher’s cost.


1. No later than sixty (60) days after the next due date specified in the original contract for the Work, Publisher shall furnish Author with a statement of royalties due in accordance with the terms of paragraph F. Subsequent thereto, Publisher shall provide Author with a like statement no later than sixty (60) days after the close of any following 6-month period during which royalties become due.

Concurrently with each such statement, Publisher shall remit to Author any royalty or other payment due Author hereunder for the respective period covered by such statement, save when the balance to the credit of the Author at the end of any statement period shall be less than twenty-five dollars ($25.00), at which point no payment shall be rendered and the amount due shall be carried forward. Any statements rendered hereunder shall be final and binding upon the Author unless objected to in writing, setting forth specific objections thereto and the basis for such objections, within three (3) years after the date the statement was rendered.

2. At the time of each statement, Publisher shall withhold from royalties due on non-electronic copies a reserve for future returns based on copies shipped, whichever sum is greatest: 50% of the copies shipped within the past 6-month period, 20% of the copies shipped within the past 12-month period, 15% of the copies shipped within the past 18-month period, 3% of the copies shipped within the past 24-month period.

Time will be of the essence with respect to the payment of all monies due and the rendering of accounts by the Publisher to the Author under this Agreement. Should the Publisher fail to pay monies due, including but not limited to any and all advances and royalties, or to deliver statements as agreed (unless such failure is due to a good-faith dispute between the Author and the Publisher) within the times provided for in the paragraphs above, Author shall be entitled at anytime thereafter to give the Publisher a
written demand by registered mail demanding the statement and/or payment then overdue. If the Publisher fails to provide the statement or payment then overdue within forty-five (45) days of such demand, then the Author shall have the right to give notice in writing by registered mail that this Agreement be canceled and demand that all rights in the Work granted herein shall revert to the Author forthwith, without prejudice to monies due to the Author from the Publisher.

The Author may upon written notice examine the Publisher’s records insofar as they relate to the Works for the period of three years immediately preceding such examination. Such examination must take place during normal business hours under such conditions as the Publisher may reasonably prescribe.

If an error is discovered as a result of any such examination, the party in whose favor the error was made shall promptly pay the other the amount of the error. Any such examination shall be at the Author’s expense unless errors of accounting in the Publisher’s favor amounting to 5% or more of the total sum paid to the Author under this Agreement are found, in which event the Publisher shall contribute to the cost of the examination up to the amount of the error determined as a result of the examination. Any
mutually agreed underpayments discovered in the course of an audit will be paid within thirty (30) days of discovery and agreement.

In any six (6) month accounting period subsequent to the eighteen (18) month statement, if NEITHER: a print edition of the Work in volume form other than through on-demand services is available for sale in the United States in a full-length English language edition through regular trade channels and/or the Publisher’s order department, such edition under the imprint of Publisher or a licensee, published or licensed by Publisher, NOR: the Work is under option or contract for equivalent publication by a third party in the English language, THEN: if fewer than two hundred fifty (250) copies of the Work in ondemandprint and electronic formats have been distributed, Author shall have the right to make written demand on Publisher to provide within six (6) months after receipt by Publisher of such written demand,
one of the following, at Publisher’s option: (1) adequate stock to meet the then normal print demand for the Work; (2) arrangement of a reprint or book-club edition to be published within twelve (12) months of its receipt of Author’s written demand; or (3) arrangement of a promotion for its print-on-demand and electronic formats generating at least two hundred fifty (250) copies in sales within the next full six (6) month accounting period. If the Publisher fails to provide any of the above three options, then the Author
shall have the right to give notice in writing by registered mail that this Agreement be canceled and demand that all rights in the Work granted herein shall revert to the Author forthwith, without prejudice to monies due to the Author from the Publisher.
Author Date
Author’s Agent Date
Authorized Agent Date
of Dorchester Publishing Co., Inc.


What’s Happening at Dorchester?

Below is the full text of Dorchester Publishing’s information release to authors and agents July 22, 2011



Dear Author, Agent or Publishing Colleague:

It’s been a crazy but productive year for Dorchester Publishing, like it has been for the entire publishing industry. After the cessation of our mass market paperback program last August, there were a number of other major changes to occur, including the naming of new CEO Robert Anthony, the appointment of a new accounting staff (Loretta Folk, controller, and Brian Chinn, royalties accountant) and serious strides into both trade paperback and electronic publishing. In case you haven’t been watching with baited breath, we would like to take a moment to bring you up to date on factors or developments that may directly affect you, your titles, and earnings both past and future.

Our top priority remains bringing royalty payments up to date. The lifeblood of any publisher is its authors, so our focus is first on those writers still active in our publishing programs—though we are confident that slowly but surely we will make good on all debts caused by our former administrative difficulties. We are again sending out accurate statements as a matter of course. As stability returns, Dorchester can refocus on its original purpose: discovering and growing new talent in all forms of genre fiction.

Our dynamic Trade publishing program began in January through the distribution arm of Ingram Publisher Services. The program contains titles culled both from our back list and original content, and it will take advantage of advanced technology to provide much more accurately targeted distributions. Early 2011 boasted several successful new releases, including Leanna Renee Hieber’s Perilous Prophecy of Guard and Goddess, the third book in her critically acclaimed Strangely Beautiful series, and The Bonaparte Secret, the newest Lang Reilly thriller by Gregg Loomis. Readers were wowed by movie tie-in editions for The Woman, a spine-tingler by Jack Ketchum and Lucky McKee that took bookstores and Sundance by storm, and House of the Rising Sun by upstart Chuck Hustmyre is set to win him readers for life. Yet to come is The Unforgiven, the first of New York Times Bestselling Author Joy Nash’s Watchers series, and offerings from Gord Rollo, John Everson, and L. J. McDonald. Sorceress, Interrupted, the continuation of A. J. Menden’s super hero series (Elite Hands of Justice) was highly anticipated, and S. Craig Zahler’s brilliant new Western, A Congregation of Jackals, has already been tapped for several national awards. Working with Ingram, we have produced around 50 books in trade format, and another 60-70 should be available by year’s end. The program is only growing.

At the same time as we increase our trade presence, we continue to work on making our authors’ backlists available to their entire readership, including those readers caught up in this year’s fantastic electronic publishing boom. Renee Yewdaev, Dorchester’s head of production, is converting backlist to e-book format in a systematic fashion that assures both speed and quality, and which allows titles to retain recognizable branding established in their original print format. After redeploying several persons in-house to focus on this conversion push, we anticipate having several hundred additional titles in e-book format by the end of the year.

After the changeover from LibreDigital to a partnership with Ingram’s Lightning Source books, our electronic distribution channels have smoothed out. We continue to aggressively market through Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Baker & Taylor, Indigo (Canada), Borders, Sony, and a number of other well recognized e-book vendors, and we are pleased to announce that we have just signed direct agreements with Apple and Google to further expand the number of platforms and consumers our product can reach.

Our website,, has been redesigned and now sells both trade and e-book titles.

Dorchester is confident in our new programs, and we recognize that the publishing landscape is changing. For that reason, a project was embarked upon to update royalties to new industry standards. An amendment was created for all interested authors with existing contracts. In addition to firming up some other, the amendment will:

a) Raise any lower rate on trade royalties to 7 1/2% of cover price

b) Raise the royalties on e-books to 25-35% of net sales

c) Increase the frequency of royalty reports and payments to every 6 months.

Any author who has not received an amendment should contact either their literary agent and/or Samantha Hazell at Specific questions can be directed to Dorchester’s editorial director, Christopher Keeslar, or to Tim DeYoung, VP, Sales & Marketing.

2011 has seen a number of ups and downs, but the future seems brighter every day. This will be a decade where authors are more powerful than ever before, especially those authors who have the resources and connections to take advantage of the industry’s new opportunities. We look forward to partnering with those authors. And while rebuilding is a slow process, we plan to shine in genre fiction for many years to come. We eagerly anticipate your thoughts and feedback.


Comeback of the Year: Dorchester Offers Significant Contract Improvements to Authors

Expressing its determination to turn over a new leaf after its 2010 annus horribilis, Dorchester Publishing has announced a wide range of improved royalties, practices and policies, and has issued an amendment to put its money where its mouth is.

In a newsletter sent to Dorchester authors and agents the company described the course set by CEO Robert Anthony and his financial and editorial team.  Among the highlights are: bringing royalties up to date, improved e-book and trade paperback royalties, shift from mass market to print on demand trade paperbacks, more responsive royalty accounting including a clear statement of reserves against returns, and provisions for recovering rights in the event of Dorchester’s failure to report and pay royalties on a timely basis.

For the summary statement click here, and for the actual terms of the amendment, click here.

Anthony and his staff have expressed their determination to create a streamlined new company responsive to conditions of the 21st century. We hope this is the beginning of a turnaround for an excellent genre publisher that, like every other publisher today, is reinventing itself in the Digital Era.

Richard Curtis



Rip Her Bodice? Dude, You Wouldn’t Know Where to Begin

Sorry, m'dear. After removing your corset I'm exhausted

Guys who fantasize themselves heroes of steamy Victorian romances had better bone up on the protocol for removing their mistress’s garments.  By the time you strip her to the buff she will have fallen asleep and your stallion lust will have flagged to the consistency of a biscuit dipped in tepid tea. The afternoon quickie, known as a nooning in those days, must in truth have been a painful slowie, unfolding from afternoon to tea time before all was in readiness for a frolic as milord fumbled with milady’s hooks, eyes, buttons and bows.

The truth is, a Victorian lady’s clothes and underwear were more complex than the equation for the Higgs Boson and no easier to solve.  How do we know this?  Romance novelist Deanne Gist acquired a collection of Victorian couture and donned it, then considered what it would take for a lover to remove it with as much alacrity as romance writers impute to the ardent male of the time.  Her conclusion made her rethink her own sex scenes and will certainly make her colleagues re-imagine theirs.

“At the recent Romance Writers of America’s annual convention in New York,” reports Daisy Dumas of the Daily Mail, “period novelists watched Ms Gist squeeze herself, with help, into 12 layers of imitation Victorian garments. Starting in nothing but her ‘unmentionables,’ Ms Gist’s aim was to illustrate just how historically inaccurate many period novels are. Taking an hour to dress, it would have taken the same amount of time to undress – and help in the form of a ladies’ maid would have been absolutely necessary.”

Geist’s experiment in seductive couture can be seen in this video. You’ll readily see that if you imagine being thrown back to the Victorian era for the opportunity to assault milady’s virtues, you’d best bring your Blackberry with you to follow the instructions for disrobing her. The corset alone is harder to pick than a brass padlock.

Romance novelist buys full set of Victorian undergarments to understand what makes a bodice-ripper

Richard Curtis


Forget Her Birthday? No Problem. Web Will Remember For You

Human memory is atrophying and will one day join our tailbone as a useless vestigial organ. After all, what’s the point in remembering anything when the Internet remembers for us?

That’s the conclusion drawn by a team of psychologists after their experiments demonstrated that, in the words of Patricia Cohen in the New York Times, “the Internet has become our primary external storage system.” In one trial, “The subjects were significantly more likely to remember information if they thought they would not be able to find it later.”

The trouble with that is, there is little information we cannot retrieve online. So why bother to bear it in mind at all?

Even the team leader, Dr. Betsy Sparrow, admitted that she happily relies on an outside memory bank, only in this case it’s her spouse. “I love watching baseball,” she told the Times, “But I know my husband knows baseball facts, so when I want to know something I ask him, and I don’t bother to remember it.”

Details in Internet Use Affects Memory, Study Finds

Richard Curtis