Writer's Bloc
My SFWA Bulletin Column

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers

from The SFWA Bulletin #178, August-September 2008

The International Association of Media Tie-In Writers

    If you sometimes have cause to think that the genre of science fiction don’t get no respect, think of the plight of those who labor, often anonymously, in the world of tie-in novels.

    Moving Pictures magazine ran an article in its December 2006 issue titled “Novelization is a Nasty Word.” Among the writers it interviewed was Max Allen Collins, a veteran of dozens of novels in his own worlds and a variety of franchises.

      "The term ‘novelization' is tossed around a lot, though in the field we tend to call them movie or TV tie-in novels. Novelization is an unfortunate term that tends to diminish the process, or, anyway, the end result." Collins recently co-founded the International Association of Media Tie-in Writers (IAMTW.org), "in part to get the Rodney Dangerfields of publishing a little respect."

    So I want to welcome the IAMTW to the list of writers organizations that I’ll be covering in Writers’ Bloc. Collins is the president of the organization, with co-founder Lee Goldberg as vice president. Although neither officer is associated with f&sf, not surprisingly the organization’s membership is heavily populated by SFWA members and other denizens of our writing community. Our new president, Russell Davis is a member. (He’s also a member and formerly on the board of the WWA, and is pictured in the June 2008 Roundup Magazine.) More to the immediate point, Jean Rabe, who will be taking over from me as Bulletin Business Manager as I transist to the role of SFWA Handbook editor, is not only a member but also the editor of Tied-In, the IAMTW newsletter. She kindly sent me an electronic bundle of them to get me up to speed.

    Information about the purpose of and qualifications for the IAMTW can be found on their website.

      The IAMTW is dedicated to enhancing the professional and public image of tie-in writers...to working with the media to review tie-in novels and publicize their authors...to educating people about who we are and what we do....and to providing a forum for tie-in writers to share information, support one another, and discuss issues relating to our field (via a monthly e-newsletter, our website, and our active yahoo discussion group). Our members include authors active in many other professional writer organizations (MWA, PWA, WGA, SFWA, etc.) and who share their unique perspectives with their fellow tie-in writers.

      Every major industry has an award for excellence in their field...not just books, movies, records, and TV shows. Awards are a demonstration that people take pride in their work and strive to constantly do better. Respect from ones peers is important...and, up until now, tie-in writers haven't even been able to enjoy that, despite our impressive sales. Our Scribe Awards will celebrate excellence in our craft and, at the same time, draw attention to tie-in writers among publishers, booksellers and readers.

      Who Qualifies for Membership?

      You do if you've written licensed fiction based on a TV show, motion picture, computer game, stage play, comic book (or strip), radio serial or other dramatic work as long as you were paid for it and it has been published (or is about to be). The membership committee will determine, on a case-by-case basis, what qualifies as "other dramatic work" (for instance, a series of books based on a toy or doll).

      It doesn't matter whether you've written forty novels or one short story, whether it was published last week or thirty years ago, you qualify for membership as long as you were paid for your licensed work and it was published (or is about to be).

      Fanfiction does not qualify.

      Membership dues are $35 per year, payable to "I.A.M.T.W," and should be sent to PO Box 8212, Calabasas, CA 91372. Dues can also be electronically transferred using PayPal via the contact form at www.iamtw.org/join.html.

RWA’s Code of Ethics

    SFWA created a Code of Professional Conduct a few years back. These were purely voluntary goals for members to live up to rather than an enforceable set of policies. Despite, or perhaps because of, that fact the CPC created sufficient friction that the Board decided to drop them last year.

    The underlying issues that led to the creation of a code affect all writers groups. The RWA similarly found the necessity to put its expectations of its authors into fixed, written form in the Code of Ethics.

    The Code was printed in the June 2008 RWR and can be found online in the public area of RWA’s website at www.rwanational.org/cs/code_of_ethics.

      The principles of this Code are expressed in broad statements to guide ethical decision making. These statements provide a framework; they cannot and do not dictate conduct to cover particular situations.

      • RWA members strive for excellence and integrity in the profession of romance writing.

      • RWA members strive to treat fellow members, RWA staff, and others with respect.

      • RWA members observe and adhere to all of RWA's Bylaws, policies and other rules.

      An RWA member shall be subject to disciplinary action if the actions of such member are determined, in accordance with the Disciplinary Procedures in the most current edition of Robert's Rules of Order Newly Revised, to constitute one or more of the following:

      1. Intentionally making false or misleading oral or written statements about RWA where such statements are injurious to the organization, its reputation or its purposes.

      2. A finding of liability against an RWA member by a court of competent jurisdiction or an administrative tribunal, or public admission by the member of unauthorized copying, whether verbatim or substantially similar, in whole or in part, of the written work(s) of others with an intention to claim such work(s) as the member's own.

      3. Finding of liability against an RWA member by a court of competent jurisdiction or an administrative tribunal, or public admission by the member of infringement of copyrighted or trademarked material, including but not limited to books, other published material, manuscripts, graphics, illustrations, trademarks or logos.

      4. Intentional copying of the written works of others (including but not limited to books, articles and/or manuscripts) with an intention to claim such work(s) as the member's own.

      5. Unauthorized use of another member's intellectual property, including but not limited to such other member's name, logo, trademarks or service marks, and/or copyrighted information.

      6. Intentional misrepresentation of RWA membership qualifications or credentials to RWA or to the public.

      7. Repeatedly or intentionally supplying false or misleading information to RWA.

      8. Unauthorized use of RWA property, including but not limited to RWA's name, logo, other trademarks or service marks, copyrighted information, and membership listings.

      9. To the extent not otherwise addressed above, repeatedly or intentionally engaging in conduct injurious to RWA or its purposes.

Business Briefs

    In the May 2008 NINK, Sally Hawke reported a major initiative from OverDrive. I checked their press release for more details.

      OverDrive® (www.overdrive.com), the leading digital book distributor to online retailers, libraries, and schools, announced today that it will expand its catalog of download audiobooks to include titles in MP3 format without DRM. Borders, Inc. will be the first bookseller to offer OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks without DRM at audiobooks.borders.com and at Digital Centers inside select Borders store locations. OverDrive MP3 Audiobooks will be compatible with nearly every MP3 player and mobile phone on the market including iPod, Zune, iPhone, and Creative Labs products.

    Borders has been making news in other, less favorable ways. In March it suspended its dividend and announced that it was looking for a buyer. The stock as of this writing is down by 50% over the last six months. Speculation immediately centered on Barnes & Noble as a buyer, even though that might create anti-trust issues. At the same time, however, Borders announced it was ending its failed joint online venture with Amazon.com and creating a new independent Border.com website for selling its books. Borders Rewards customers will be able to use their Borders Bucks on the new site.

    Another brief summarized results from Bowker’s PubTrack Consumer, which uses a weekly online survey of 10,000 American adult readers about their buying habits. The following numbers are for new book genre purchases from January through September 2007:

      Fiction is 49% overall, with Mystery Detective 17%, Romance 11%, Espionage/Thrillers 4%, Science Fiction 3%, Fantasy 3%, and Horror/Occult 2%. As for where the survey participants are buying their books? Chain bookstores 33%, Internet 20%, Book clubs 12%, Mass merchandisers 9%, Wholesale Clubs 5%, Other Retail 5%, Independent bookstores 3%, Grocery Stores 3%, Discount stores 1%, Drugstores 1%.

More Publishing Numbers

    Ninc held its first members conference this year. Panels looked at all aspects of writing and publishing. One featured some especially interesting numbers.

      What’s New in the World of Publishing with Daisy Maryles, Executive Editor of Publisher’s Weekly; Dennis Loy Johnson, one of the publishers of Melville House; and Carl Lennertz, Director of Marketing for HarperCollins.

      Daisy began by laying out some facts: there are currently an estimated 86,000 publishers in the United States, publishing more than 200,000 titles each year. In 2006, these publishers had a net revenue of $35 billion. By 2011, this is expected to rise to $41 billion. In 2006, 560 new titles made it onto PW’s weekly hardcover, paperback, and adult bestseller lists.

      In 2004, Bookscan tracked 1.2 million book titles. Of these, 950,000 sold fewer than 99 copies. Two hundred thousand sold fewer than 1000 copies. The average book tracked sold fewer than 5000 copies.

      Change can only happen through the combined efforts of everyone affected. Agents, publishing professionals, and writers are urged to utilize and contribute to the database maintained by RWA. Permission to forward this release is granted and strongly encouraged. For more information or questions regarding RWA’s list of Internet piracy sites, contact Carol Ritter, Professional Relations Manager, at (832) 717-5200 ext. 127.

      On the more depressing side of the statistical ledger, American households’ spending on books is at a 20-year low. The average adult spends seven minutes a day reading vs. two hours a day watching television.

      But the good news is more teens are reading. And consumers do want books, though not necessarily in book form. “The digital era has transformed the nature of reading,” Maryles concluded.

      Carl Lennertz shared that Target is the fastest growing bookseller in the United States.

    Susan Salzman Raab, in her “To Market” column in the March/April 2008 SCWBI Bulletin, reported on “two surveys conducted with publicists and online content providers about how online publicity is being used to promote books.” The surveys were taken from Publishing Trends, a newsletter about the book industry.

      On the PR side, when asked what percentage of company publicity resources went to online marketing, 39.8% said “a little” and 31.3% said “most.” Publicists said that the biggest obstacle to doing more online was, according to 67.1% of the respondents, that it was “too time consuming to explore.” At the same time, blog tours were reported to be on the rise, while traditional author tours were declining. Visit www.publishingtrends.com for more information.

Markets Outside the Box

    The Market Update in the June 2008 RWR gave the following change in what Dorechester Publishing is currently “actively acquiring:”

      [H]istoricals, time-travels, furturistics, paranormal, outrageous romantic comedy, and any combination thereof.

    In the June-July 2008 issue of Tied-In, a squib mentioned the magazine Escape Velocity, published by Adventure Books in Seattle. It’s looking for original f&sf short stories an articles, poetry and other features. The magazine includes a media focus for nonfiction. Guidelines can be found at www.escapevelocitymagazine.com.

Too Good Not to Be Shared

    Don’t write what you know. From Campbell Geeson’s “Along Publishers Row” column in the Winter 2008 Authors Guild Bulletin.

      Amok by Krystian Bala, published in Poland in 2003, described a victim whose corpse showed torture and signs of starvation. There was a noose around his neck.

      The similarities to the body of a businessman fished from the Oder River in 2000 were so remarkable that Bala, 35, was found guilty of planning and directing the killing. He suspected that the victim was having an affair with his estranged wife. Bala, the Associated Press reported, was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

    Organization, Publication, Address, Web Address

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

    International Association of Media Tie-in Writers, Tied-In, P. O. Box 8212, Calabases, CA 91372, IAMTW.org

    Novelists, Inc., NINK, P. O. Box 2037, Manhattan KS, 66505, www.ninc.com

    Romance Writers of America, Romance Writers’ Report (RWR), 14615 Benfer Rd., Houston, TX 77069 [new address], 77379, www.rwanational.com

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

    Western Writers of America, Roundup Magazine, MSCO6, 1 University of New Mexico, Albuquerque NM, 87131, www.westernwriters.org

    Copyright 2008 by Steve Carper

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