Writer's Bloc
My SFWA Bulletin Column

Get Your Books Reviewed

from The SFWA Bulletin #166, Summer 2005

Getting Your Books Reviewed In PW and LJ

    Getting a book reviewed in Publishers Weekly or Library Journal is harder now than ever before, especially if your publisher does not send it out. A panel at a recent Ninc Conference, summarized by Terri Brisbin in the July 2005 issue of NINK, gave an insiders' look at the process.

    Panelists were Daisy Maryles, Executive Editor, PW; Peter Cannon, PW Associate Editor: Mystery and Science Fiction, Fantasy/Horror; Brianna Yamashita, PW Associate Forecast Editor, Review Annex, Mass Market and Audio; and Wilma Williams, LJ Book Review Fiction Editor for popular fiction, Christian fiction, romance, science fiction, and mystery.

    Williams said that galleys are needed two to three months in advance, and that the quality of galleys is a consideration when an author self-submits. Self-published books are not reviewed, however. Authors should include a cover letter and "be persistent but not a pest." First novels and first different novels – cases in which authors are switching genres – are of special interest. Mass market paperbacks are reviewed. Authors should not approach a columnist directly, but always go through Williams. [Note: Jackie Casada writes the LJ column on f&sf.]

    Williams, who said that popular fiction reviews are in demand by LJ's readership, announced a new bestseller list feature, for the best circulating books in libraries. LJ also announces upcoming books being reviewed in an email list that can be subscribed to by sending a blank email with SUBSCRIBE as the subject line to: ljreviewalert@readbusiness.com.

    Despite – or perhaps because of – its weekly format, PW needs galleys and ARCs farther in advance, at least three to four months. Manuscript pages should be sent even earlier. "Pages/ARCs should not be held together with rubber bands, but should be in a presentable format and include a cover letter with the following information: ISBN, price, and publicity contact information."

    PW has reduced the number of popular fiction reviews it does. Yamashita, who reviews paperback originals, can do only about 20 per month, and Cannon is limited to six per week. Extra books just get a mention as "Notes." Smaller presses are not routinely reviewed. PW is trying to increase the number of sf reviews, though. Cannon assigns reviews to a pool of 20 freelancers and edits for accuracy, fairness, or over enthusiasm or harshness.

    Maryles also had an announcement about a new feature. Authors can send in information ("something new or different about their book: rights, sales, promotion, photos, etc.") to PW for major books to be used on four "bestseller pages" along with info on six other books on outside columns.

Freelance Writers Settlement Announced

    On March 29, 2005, The American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Authors Guild, and the National Writers Union announced the filing of a motion for court approval of an $18 million settlement in a class action suit they and 21 freelance writers filed on behalf of thousands of freelance writers whose stories appeared in online databases without their consent.

    Under the terms of the settlement, publishers including the New York Times, Time Inc., and the Wall Street Journal, and database companies including Dow Jones Interactive, Knight-Ridder, Lexis-Nexis, Proquest, and West Group agreed to pay writers up to $1,500 for stories in which the writers had registered the copyright in accordance with timetables established in federal copyright law. Writers who failed to register their copyrights will receive up to $60 per article; the organizations believe that many such writers will have valid claims for hundreds of such articles.

    By the time you read this, the Court should have made its ruling whether to approve the motion. However, writers have until September 30, 2005 to file a claim. Two websites contain information on the complexities of the case and on the Claims Form.

    FreelanceRights.com (www.freelancerights.com/) is a site put together by the writers groups involved in the suit. The official settlement documents, including a Canadian Authors Notice, can be found there.

    The Copyright Class Action Settlement Website (www.copyrightclassaction.com/) has downloadable claims forms, as well as an FAQ that gives a host of details about the suit and the claims that can be made.

    Authors can also call toll free: 1-800-330-0516 or +1-941-906-4892; or write: The Garden City Group, Inc., P.O. Box 9000, #6250, Merrick, NY 11566-9000.

Authors Registry Looks for Authors

    Speaking of getting money to authors, the June 2005 Roundup Magazine carried a reminder that the Authors Registry is seeking help to locate about 300 writers owed more than $100,000 in royalties. The Registry is a not-for-profit clearinghouse that distributes royalty payments from overseas rights organizations to American authors.

    The complete list of authors can be found at their web site, at www.authorsregistry.org/pay.html. The Estate of Roger Zelazny pops out at me from that list.

    They say: " We have contact information for most of these authors, but they have failed to respond to our mailings in spite of our repeated efforts.

    If you are one of these authors, or if you know the whereabouts of any of them, please contact Terry King at the Authors Registry (tking@authorsregistry.org) or encourage the author to contact us.

Banned Books Redux

    Two entries in Kay Murray's Censorship Watch column in the Spring 2005 Authors Guild Bulletin provide some good news and some bad.

    The bad news is that magic has claimed another title. Norwood, CO School Superintendent Bob Conder not only banned a book he admitted he didn't finish reading, he gave all of the district's more than two dozen copies to the complaining parent to destroy. The book is Bless Me, Ultima, a 1972 young adult novel that includes both profanity and a character that uses herbs and magic to heal. Condor said that some parents were offended by its "obscene language and paganistic practices…. It's less a matter of censorship than a matter of sponsorship. That's not the kind of garbage I want to sponsor at this high school."

    However, the U.S. Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has rewritten its regulations on editing and publishing works by authors from sanctioned nations in response to a lawsuit brought against it by publishers and Iranian Nobel Peace Prize Laureate Shirin Ebadi.

    Americans are now explicitly permitted to engage in "all the transactions necessary and ordinarily incident to the publishing and marketing of manuscripts, books, journals, and newspapers in paper or electronic format." This means that American publishers and editors may now "substantively edit and market written works, collaborate with authors from sanctioned nations, and pay advances and royalties to them."

Children's and YA Market Information

    Connie Epstein's Publisher's Corner column in the May-June 2005 issue of SCWBI Bulletin announced that Scholastic is adding a graphic novels imprint called Graphix. It lead off with he spring publication of Jeff Smith's fantasy adventure story Out from Bonesville. Vice President and Publisher Jean Feiwel and Creative Director David Saylor will produce two to four projects a year. "Outside queries from previously published author-artists as well as those represented by an agent or with complete work to show" will be accepted in the future. Write to: Sheila Keenan, Graphix/Scholastic, 557 Broadway, New York, NY 10012.

    The children's field also has a number of outlets for non-fiction work about writing for children. Erika Dreifus listed the main paying markets in the January-February 2005 SCWBI Bulletin.

      Children's Writer Newsletter, 93 Long Ridge Road, West Redding, CT 06896-0811. www.childrenswriter.com/guidelines.htm

      Cross & Quill – The Christian Writers Newsletter, The Tots, Teens & In-Betweens Department, 1624 Jefferson Davis Road, Clinton, SC 29325-6401. www.cwfi-online.org/crossquill.html#guidelines

      Horn Book Magazine, 56 Roland Street, Suite 200, Boston, MA 02129. http://www.hbook.com/publications/submissions.asp

      SCWBI Bulletin, 8271 Beverly Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90048. www.scbwi.com/pubs/bulletin/masthead.htm

      Smart Writers Journal (online only). www.smartwriters.com/index.2ts?page=journal#guides

Why We Ain't Got No Respect

    Two items from Campbell Geeslin's "Along Publisher's Row" column in the Spring 2005 Authors Guild Bulletin make for an interesting juxtaposition.

    James Sallis, who has been known to commit science fiction, wrote in his Boston Globe column that "Quite aside from blind chance and catastrophic climate change such as wiped out the dinosaurs, there are many reasons a writer fails to receive the recognition he or she warrants…. He may, like Theodore Sturgeon, work in a genre that marginalizes him a priori."

    What then is the fate of Brutus1? In a New York Times essay, Daniel Akst was stunned to learn that the human hand may not be necessary in the delicate art of fiction, assuring us:

    "This is not science fiction. With little fanfare and (so far) no appearances at Barnes & Noble, computers have started writing without us scribes. They are perfectly capable of nonfiction prose, and while the reputation of Henry James is not yet threatened, computers can even generate brief outbursts of fiction that are probably superior to what many humans could turn out – even those not in master of fine arts programs. Consider the beginning of a short story dealing with the theme of betrayal:

      Dave Striver loved the university – its ivy-covered clock towers, its ancient and sturdy brick, and its sun-splashed verdant greens and eager youth. The university, contrary to popular opinion, is far from free of the stark unforgiving trials of the business world: academia has its own tests, and some are as merciless as any in the marketplace. A prime example is the dissertation defense: to earn the Ph.D., to become a doctor, one must pass an oral examination on one's dissertation. This was a test Professor Edward Hart enjoyed giving.

    "That pregnant opening paragraph was written by a computer program known as Brutus.1 that was developed by Selmer Bringsjord, a computer scientist at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and David A. Ferrucci, a researcher at IBM."

    Alas, poor Brutus1. A sad fate awaits.

Random Unverified Industry Stats for Fun and Profit

    Everybody's talking about the publishing industry and nobody's doing anything about it. Except Sharon Wildwood, who in the June 2005 InSinC compiled a long list of putative stats from a million sources, many of which were too good not to repeat here.

    • Between 1966 to 1986, I read an average of 200 manuscripts each year and bought 20 (10%). In 2003, the average editor reads 5,200 manuscripts and buys 5 (0.096%). (Barbara Norvill, agent)

    • In 2004, there were 15 million self-defined writers in the U.S. (U.S. census figures)

    • PublishAmerica: Number of titles: 7,500; Top seller: 5,000 copies; Average print run: 133 copies; Average royalties/author: $200. (Washington Post article, Jan. 2005)

    • More than 160,000 books were published in 2003. (AP story, May 2004)

    How times have changed. A May 24, 2005 press release (press.namct.com/content/view/1342/2/)from Bowker, the Books in Print firm, announced that a full 195,000 books had been published in 2004. More from Bowker:

    • The catalyst for growth in 2004 was adult fiction, which reversed a three-year plateau and increased a staggering 43.1%, to 25,184 new titles and editions, the highest total ever recorded for that category. Adult fiction now accounts for 14% of all titles published in the U.S., the highest proportion since 1961.

      The number of new titles released by the largest trade houses increased 5.4%, to 24,159, their largest increase since 2001.

    • New juvenile titles continued to rise in 2004, increasing 6.6% to 21,516, a new high for that category.

    • In 2004, the average suggested retail price for adult hardcovers released by the largest trade houses decreased 10 cents to $27.52; adult fiction hardcovers held steady at $25.08; and adult non-fiction hardcovers decreased 29 cents to $28.49. Adult trade paperbacks increased 11 cents to $15.76; adult fiction trade paperbacks increased 7 cents to $14.78; adult non-fiction trade paperbacks increased 15 cents to $16.16; and adult mass-market paperbacks increased 14 cents to $7.35. The average list price for juvenile hardcovers increased 26 cents to $16.09.

    • 11,458 new publishers registered with the U.S. ISBN Agency in 2004, an increase of 5.3% over 2003.

    • Novels published by the large trade houses averaged 359 pages in 2004, a growth of 24 pages since 1995, and 43 pages since 1990.

    And yet, according to the Romance Writers Report in the May 2005 issue, total bookstore sales in 2004 fell 0.8%, to $16.67 billion. Even the all-important December sales were flat, at $2.12 billion. Why? Greg Josefowicz, CEO of Borders Books, said at the AAP Annual Meeting that a study of customer behavior showed that two-thirds of people go into a bookstore with "no specific purchase intent"; that 80% are "regularly seeking help to frame their buying decision"; and that about half of purchases are "on behalf of someone else."

Organization, Publication, Address, Web Address

Authors Guild, Bulletin, 31 E. 32nd St. 7th Floor, New York, NY 10016, www.authorsguild.org/

Mystery Writers of America, The 3rd Degree, 17 E 47th St, 6th floor, New York, NY 10017, www.mysterywriters.org/

Novelists, Inc., NINK, P.O. Box 1166, Mission KS 66222-0166, www.ninc.com

Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers’ Report, 16000 Stuebner Airline Dr., Suite 140, Spring, TX 77379, www.rwanational.org

Sisters in Crime, InSinC, P.O. Box 442124, Lawrence KS 66044, www.sistersincrime.org

Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, Bulletin, 8271 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048, www.scbwi.org/

Western Writers of America, Roundup Magazine, 1012 Fair St., Franklin, TN 37064-2718, www.westernwriters.org

Copyright 2005 by Steve Carper

Back to the top of the review

Back to Science Fiction and Me
Back to Home Page