Thursday, March 31, 2011

Guest Blogger, Dan Cabrera: The Books Are All (Copy)Right: A Close Look At The Google Books Settlement

The battle over the fate of digital books rages on. Last week a judge rejected the Google Books Settlement, a proposed agreement between Google and numerous authors whose works were digitized and added to an online database operated by the search giant.

Before the Settlement, a class-action lawsuit had been filed against Google claiming that the company’s initiative of providing a searchable catalog of every book ever published violated copyright law. Most of these books were “orphans,” or books with no clear copyright holder. This includes older and out-of-print works and academic titles. The issue of public domain, however, is a different story. (To find out more about copyright laws and public domain, check out the embedded links. Oh, and this one too!)

What’s the big deal, then? By all appearances it seems that Google is doing the world a service by digitizing books that have fallen off the map. Google’s unofficial motto of “Don’t be evil” seems to fit nicely with their efforts to preserve the world’s literature. But there’s a big distinction between simply not being evil and actively being good. In this case, Google may be committing a sin of omission.

Or rather, a sin of excessive inclusion.

Google’s aim is to add every book—ever—to its online index. One of the main problems the authors, agents, publishers, and librarians have with Google’s efforts is that the company has chosen an opt-out feature. The feature, part of the Google Books Settlement, means authors and copyright holders would have to notify Google if they didn’t want to be included. Kind of like the Do Not Call registry or a subscription you try out but don’t realize you have to cancel after the trial period. It makes life easier for Google, but would mean constant vigilance on the part of publishers. In his ruling last week, Judge Denny Chin noted that an opt-in feature, where Google would have to wait for permission before scanning a book, may be a good compromise. Yet Google may not want to wait.

While Judge Chin remarked that he believed in an accessible, digital library of all books, he was sure to point out that copyright issues are driving this case. When orphan books are added to the Google library, Google often becomes then the sole distributor of that work since no one else seems to be stepping up. This creates a monopoly of sorts, an issue in itself, but it also returns us to the issue of copyright and who owns what.

Copyright is certainly a tricky problem. According to the U.S. Copyright office, an author retains the copyright for his or her lifetime plus seventy years. Granted, there are many facets to that rule, and if copyright was simple there wouldn’t be legions of copyright lawyers.

Copyright is an important part of protecting your intellectual property and making sure an artist or author gets recognition. But for many, recognition isn’t as important as remuneration. Everyone wants to make money off their ideas, and whether that means getting paid for your patent of a motorized ice cream cone or from copyrighting your Elvis sighting, selling your exclusive product is a safe way of bringing in the dough.

The question on many people’s minds: Is Google breaking copyright law?

So far, no lawsuit has been filed expressly for that reason, though part of the original claim against Google hinted at copyright infringement. Google published snippets of claimants’ scanned books, which caused quite a stir with authors.

The Google Books Settlement poses some interesting ideas about copyright and open access. Right now, major publishers don’t seem to be up in arms about Google’s plans. After all, Google has its own ebook store, similar to Amazon and the Apple book store. It is the digital library that is causing more headaches and is the focus of the settlement. The library is, in a way, an open-access database. Publishers both big and small are realizing the benefits of ebooks and the importance of having an online presence.

Some publishers, namely some specializing in STM (Science, Technical, and Medical publishing) have open-access sites where thousands of books and journals are available for free. Of course, they are free if you belong to an institution that pays handsomely for access to the content in the first place. Project Gutenberg has also been offering online versions of works in the public domain for some time. But the point is that the web makes it easy for information to be shared and more and more we are seeing a move to transparency and free dissemination of content.

There are those who believe all content should be free, no matter what. There are also those who believe governments shouldn’t keep any secrets. While these are noble thoughts, there are legal and ethical ramifications of seeing those staunch beliefs carried out to the letter. Bit-torrent and file-sharing sites like The Pirate Bay have been a thorn in companies’ sides for some time (though recently a court ruled that the site was guilty of facilitating piracy). Wikileaks, of course, continues to make transparency a hot topic of conversation.

The debate over digitizing orphan books will also continue, and Google will keep on scanning out-of-print titles and making them available for free. It’s hard to completely object to Google’s efforts to spread information and make books available to readers. For its ever-increasing dominance in our lives, Google has done wonders for the web and, by extension, our lives (guess which search engine was used to research this article?). But by the same token, authors deserve control of their work, not to mention some financial compensation.

In the end, Google may not be allowed to hold exclusive rights to their library, which means other companies or institutions will join the game (see this article from The New York Times for a good overview of the Google Books Settlement and a better look at what might, and perhaps should, happen next). It may not be great for Google, but with millions of free books available at our fingertips, it certainly isn’t bad for readers.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Cats and Books--Two of My Favorite Things

Dan just sent me this great YouTube link video called "Cat Library." I was stoked to watch it because I was expecting something hilarious. But as it unfolded, I crinkled my brow, slightly confused...

Then I realized: It's an advertisement for a piece of furniture! (Designed by Corentin Dombrecht)

And with that epiphany came another: I WANT ONE.

For more info, check out this post over at Mystery Fanfare.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

It's Official: Hocking Signs with SMP

The New York Times announced this morning that Amanda Hocking has officially been snapped up by St. Martin's Press, an imprint of Macmillan (my first publishing home, but that's neither here nor there haha). The deal occurred after a heated auction (with a number of the Big 6 publishers, I might add) sky-rocketed the bids into the 7 figures.

The final result? A four-book deal for $2 million, reports Julie Bosman from the NYT:

Amanda Hocking, the 26-year-old author who shot to fame by selling more than one million copies of her self-published books, has signed up with a traditional publisher for her next series.

St. Martin’s Press, part of Macmillan, will publish Ms. Hocking’s “Watersong” series, four books in the young-adult paranormal genre.

A heated auction for the rights to publish her books began early last week, and several major publishers, including Random House, Simon & Schuster and HarperCollins, dropped out as the price climbed into the seven figures.

The bidding eventually rose beyond $2 million for world English rights, said one publishing executive familiar with the negotiations. (St. Martin’s declined to comment.) Ms. Hocking was represented by the literary agent Steven Axelrod.

The first book in the series will be released in fall 2012, a spokeswoman for St. Martin’s said.

Ms. Hocking, who lives in Austin, Minn., began self-publishing her books last year, selling them through online retailers like and In doing so, she became a reluctant spokeswoman for the practice of self-publishing, which allows authors to sell their books directly to readers without the help of a traditional publisher.

Writing on her blog on Tuesday, the day after it was reported that Ms. Hocking was shopping her series to traditional publishers, she explained herself to her readers.

“I want to be a writer,” she said. “I do not want to spend 40 hours a week handling e-mails, formatting covers, finding editors, etc. Right now, being me is a full time corporation.”

See the original post HERE

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

A Little Hump Day Hilarity

Dan sent me a link from Time Magazine's TheNewsFeed last week that I just finally had a chance to check out--and boy, am I glad I did! Hilarity certainly ensued when I saw that someone published a book with blank pages...

Ever wonder what every man thinks about apart from sex? Apparently, the answer is quite simple: nothing. Or at least that's what author and comedian Sheridan Simove claims in his gripping book, What Every Man Thinks About Apart From Sex.

To demonstrate his position, Simove cunningly has filled the book with 200 blank pages. And even though you could say it is far from "well written", it's climbed the ranks of Amazon's charts to No. 744, and even outsold both Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code and J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. But who exactly is lapping up Simove's words of wisdom? Well, it turns out it's become a campus craze throughout Britain after a student at the University of Nottingham bought the book as a joke for her friend who brought it to class to take notes on.

Author Simove, a 39-year-old Oxford University psychology graduate, said he never expected his work to become a bestseller, but admitted his next project is a PhD on what women think about apart from sex. But let's face it, that might take him a whole decade to finish.

See the original article HERE
My question though--as funny as the concept may be, why on earth would anyone actually purchase it? Seems like an awful waste of money to me...

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Hocking Likely to Get Traditional Publishing Power

It's interesting to me that for all the support and success Amanda Hocking has given to the self-publishing world, news has now hit that she's shopping around her four-book series to a traditional publisher. With major publishers bidding over $1 million for World English rights, it's quite the turn of events.

The New York Times tells us more:

Amanda Hocking, the darling of the self-publishing world, has been shopping a four-book series to major publishers, attracting bids of well over $1 million for world English rights, two publishing executives said.

Ms. Hocking, a 26-year-old Minnesota native who writes young-adult paranormal and dystopian novels, began self-publishing her books last year. Since then, she has sold more than 900,000 copies of nine books, mostly in electronic form, she wrote on her blog.

On, her e-books sell for $2.99 or $.99, well below the price of a typical newly released book from a major publisher. It is a lucrative model for the author: for a book priced at $2.99, Ms. Hocking keeps 70 percent of the revenue, and 30 percent goes to the online retailer.

She is represented by the literary agent Steven Axelrod, who declined to comment. The auction could be completed by the end of Monday or Tuesday, one person close to the bidding said.

Ms. Hocking has been held up as an example of an author who has shrewdly circumvented the established publishing industry, selling her novels through retailers like and and promoting them on her Facebook page and Twitter feed. Her books have landed on the USA Today best-seller list.

But she has dismissed suggestions that her success is easily replicated.

“Self-publishing and traditional publishing really aren’t that different,” she wrote in a widely circulated blog post early this month. “One is easier to get into but harder to maintain. But neither come with guarantees. Some books will sell, some won’t.”

Read the original article HERE

Monday, March 21, 2011

Monday Morning Dinosaur Genre Talk (What???)

Good morning, friends--just wanted to say Happy Monday and give you all a little beginning-of-the-week chuckle with this comic from Dinosaur Comics (recommended by none other than guest blogger Dan Cabrera) about categorizing your fiction into genres.

FUN FACT: Choosing the appropriate genre can be tricky business, but it's important! Publishing is an industry where items do, in fact, fall into semi-strict categories and those categories determine a book's audience, which in turn determines how it is marketed, promoted, and sold. Categorizing a book improperly can lead to its downfall, even if it’s a well-written and entertaining book.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

"The Hunger Games" goes Hollywood--Finally!

So, it's official. Suzanne Collins's bestselling Hunger Games trilogy is being adapted for the silver screen.

I, for one, have been laying in wait for the casting to be announced. I've gotta say I'm intrigued by the choice: Jennifer Lawrence.

Nominated for an Academy Award this year for her leading role in Winter's Bone (which was pretty awesome and powerful, btw), Lawrence wasn't exactly who I expected for the role of Katniss. But I think she'll do a good job with the role--that is, as long as her acting range is as wide as we all anticipate. In Winter's Bone Lawrence really didn't have an opportunity to show us her ability when it comes to puppies and rainbows--aka happiness and love. WB is a dark, tormenting film, and while Lawrence was brilliant in it, Katniss's character will be a very different, somewhat more expansive, role for her. I'm excited to see what's to come from this newcomer. tells us more:

Academy Award nominee Jennifer Lawrence has landed the coveted lead role in Lionsgate's new franchise "The Hunger Games," TheWrap has learned.

The role caps a meteoric rise for the 20-year-old actress, who was barely known to the public a year ago when she came to prominence in a tiny film at Sundance 2010, "Winter's Bone."

The film, which won the festival's top award, went on to become a sleeper hit in the heartland states, and nabbed Lawrence an Oscar nomination for best actress for her performance as gritty young girl defending her family in a hardscrabble country landscape.

The lead in "The Hunger Games," based on the best-selling novels, was one of the hottest roles in town.

Lawrence was tipped as the "clear frontrunner" four days ago. She got the offer on Tuesday, and the details were hammered out for two days until the deal closed on Wednesday, according to an individual with knowledge of the deal.

Details of the deal were unavailable Wednesday night, but the actress presumably has signed on to stick with the franchise.

The studio plans the franchise as a trilogy which will include "The Hunger Games," "Catching Fire" and "Mockingjay," based on the best-selling young adult books by Suzanne Collins.

Lawrence will play the role of Katniss, a girl who joins a survival contest in order to save her community. The story takes place in the future, where teenagers are chosen by lottery to compete to the death in gladiator-like spectacles, the Hunger Games.

Lawrence, who was nominated for best actress for the 2010 "Winter's Bone," was one of about 10 actresses seeking the role. They reportedly included two other Oscar nominees: "True Grit's" Hailee Steinfeld and "Little Miss Sunshine's" Abigail Breslin.

Chloe Moretz, Lyndsy Fonseca, Saoirse Ronan, Emma Roberts, Kaya Scodelario, Emily Browning and Shailene Woodley also were reported to be under consideration.

Lawrence recently completed another franchise, "X-Men: First Class," in which she plays Raven Darkholme/Mystique.

She also has a role in "The Beaver," which debuted at the SXSW festival on Wednesday night, and in this year's Sundance winner, "Like Crazy."

Alex Pettyfer, who plays John in "I Am Number Four," is rumored to be under consideration for the role of Peeta Mellark, as are Josh Hutcherson ("The Kids Are All Right," "Bridge to Terabithia") and Hunter Parrish ("Weeds").

Gary Ross ("Seabiscuit") is directing the movie, which will debut on March 23, 2012.

Billy Ray ("Shattered Glass," "State of Play") wrote the screenplay. Nina Jacobson, Jim Miller and Alli Shearmur are producing.

See the original post HERE

What do YOU think about this casting choice? Who do you think is best for the part?

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Hocking Speaks Out

As you know, self-published author Amanda Hocking has been getting a lot of press lately. Hocking herself, however, hasn't shared many of her own opinions on the matter. Until this week, that is.

Hocking wrote a fantastic post on her blog, explaining her own reaction to the media frenzy her success has caused and why. It's honest, down-to-earth, and smart--check it out:
Oh, the internet is saying so many things about me. I don't understand why the internet suddenly picked up on me this past week, but it definitely did. My inbox has been flooded and I jumped up over 1,000 followers on twitter. Which was just in time for all my Charlie Sheen retweets.

The past few days have mostly been spent with me answering emails (and not writing - which makes me sad).

Meanwhile, I've been reading things written about me here and there, and hearing what everybody thinks this all means. I've been thinking about what I wanted to say about everything. Well, I've come up with it, and I have a feeling it will be a very long post.

I am not going to rehash things I've already talked about. Like how this happened. If you actually read back in my old blog posts, I was blogging as everything happened. I've publicly written down exactly what I've done. So if you're really curious about all that, check out my FAQs and scroll through some older blogs. I've got it all laid out.

What I'm about to say next is something I've been debating how to say. I think it needs to be said, but I know that I need to word it carefully. I want you all to know that I don't think I'm super awesome special or anything like that.

Everybody seems really excited about what I'm doing and how I've been so successful, and from what I've been able to understand, it's because a lot of people think that they can replicate my success and what I've done. And while I do think I will not be the only one to do this - others will be as successful as I've been, some even more so - I don't think it will happen that often.

Traditional publishing and indie publishing aren't all that different, and I don't think people realize that. Some books and authors are best sellers, but most aren't. It may be easier to self-publish than it is to traditionally publish, but in all honesty, it's harder to be a best seller self-publishing than it is with a house.

I don't think people really grasp how much work I do. I think there is this very big misconception that I was like, "Hey, paranormal is pretty hot right now," and then I spent a weekend smashing out some words, threw it up online, and woke up the next day with a million dollars in my bank account.[...]

Read the rest of the article HERE