Encouragement from another’s rejections

Posted: August 19th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , | No Comments »

Publishing lore is filled with tales of famous authors having their work rejected repeatedly by agents and publishers only to find long-lasting success and appreciation in the long run. I’ve shared many such stories with talented clients and friends disheartened by the arrival of a “thanks, but no thanks” response to their latest submission.

Today’s New York Times provides another example: Kurt Vonnegut. In describing plans for the Vonnegut Library that will open this fall there’s this:

“We have boxes of rejection letters,” Edie Vonnegut, the author’s oldest daughter, told The A.P., “letters saying ‘You have no talent and we suggest you give up writing.’ He did not have an easy time of it, and I think for anyone who wants to be a writer, it will be important for them to see how tough it was for him.”

Vonnegut Library to Open in the Fall

Coauthor entanglements

Posted: June 12th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Ensuring that coauthors, coeditors, and other collaborators have a clear understanding of their respective rights and responsibilities can be difficult under the best of circumstances, which is why I always counsel my clients to memorialize the terms of their work together as early as possible.

Often, creative partners delay doing so for a host of reasons, some of which are actually the best reasons to formalize an agreement:

“We’re best friends, so we don’t need a written agreement.” Sadly, a creative project gone awry can bring an end to even long-term friendships. When trust is broken, or when one person feels taken advantage of, the hurt may not only be financial or professional, but also emotional.

“We’ll set up our own agreement once we know whether a publisher is interested.” Another path to conflict, and a way to put a project in limbo. What happens when one author believes that all the income will be shared 50-50, and the other author believes he’s entitled to a larger share of income? Top billing? Sole credit? Discussing these and other issues openly at the start of a project, and memorializing what’s agreed, can make later disagreements more unlikely.

“We never agreed to call ourselves coauthors, so we’re not.” Depending on the circumstances of your collaboration, you may not have the law on your side. Joint authorship is defined in the U.S. Copyright Act, and there is a hefty body of case law that elaborates of what elements create joint authorship. Don’t assume that your definition of coauthorship is the one that will hold up in court should a dispute reach that point.

These are just a few of the situations that arise all too often.

One problem that is often not considered is what happens when a coauthor becomes unavailable. Illness, death, or other events can profoundly affect the working relationship. (Less likely–but not impossible: Your coauthor is alleged to be involved in a murder for hire. And you’re not writing a literary work about crime…)

Another Google-related action

Posted: April 8th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , | No Comments »

The National Law Journal is reporting this morning that another action has been initiated in connection with Google’s massive digitization project. After their attempt to join the ongoing action again Google was denied, photographers, illustrators, and eleven photograph and graphic arts organizations are suing Google, claiming copyright infringement.

The case is The American Society of Media Photographers, Inc. v. Google; a brief summary is available via law.com.

Publishers are feeling the effect of Apple’s review

Posted: March 15th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: | Comments Off on Publishers are feeling the effect of Apple’s review

Eric Pfanner, writing for The New York Times, shares the views of several German publishers who are less than pleased with Apple’s restrictions on nudity and its rejection of content some individuals find objectionable.

“What is obscene?” is a loaded question, and one that’s answered in different ways in different communities. What has come to be known as the Miller standard (from Miller v. California, 413 U.S. 15 (1973)) involves a three-pronged analysis to determine whether a particular work is obscene:

1. Whether the average person, applying contemporary community standards, would find that the work, taken as a whole, appeals to a prurient interest;
2. Whether the work depicts or describes, in a patently offensive way, sexual conduct specifically defined by the applicable state law; and
3. Whether the work, taken as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value.

There’s a lot of wiggle room in those three prongs: “the average person,” “community standards,” “patently offensive,” “serious literary, artistic… value.” Clearly, what may meet the standard easily in one community may not meet the standard in another community. While driving cross-country last summer I was surprised at what magazine covers were largely blocked from view on some supermarket newsstands, covers that would not garner a second glance in Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, or dozens (hundreds? thousands?) of other cities across the U.S. So what happens when you make the entire world (via the internet) your newsstand? That’s the question we’re facing now.

I share this not to suggest that what Apple is doing is prohibited by law. Apple is a private actor, and there’s no constitutional guarantee of having one’s application or other creative work offered for sale in the App Store or the forthcoming iBookstore. If anything it’s a reminder that in the discussion of when and why to restrict access because of sexual (or sensual) content there aren’t a lot of bright lines.

Apple is opening itself to much-deserved criticism by applying standards in a way that seems capricious or motivated by the market power of the developer/publisher submitting content for review and sale. If a seller of bathing suits has their application booted for showing too much skin, how can Apple continue to offer the Sports Illustrated app with pics from its swimsuit issue, where girls are pouring out of their bikinis? The din’s going to get much louder…

Curious about Miller v. California? Information, including .mp3 files of the oral arguments and links to the Court’s opinion are available at Oyez, an excellent resource for information from and about the U.S. Supreme Court.

My idea of a great book trailer

Posted: March 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: | Comments Off on My idea of a great book trailer

Book trailers were a hot topic of conversation some time ago. Authors are being asked to do more of their own marketing and promotion than ever before, and I recall several conversations with weary authors who asked plaintively, “What? I have to produce a movie, too?”

As with most things, there were book trailers that were great, that caught one’s attention in the best way, and others that looked cheesy and poorly made. I’d shake my head at those, feeling sorry for the authors and publishers who had spent money on a video that might actually turn potential readers away from the book.

Just the other day I had the pleasure of watching the book trailer for Kim Severson’s memoir, Spoon Fed. I’m a regular reader of Kim’s contributions to The New York Times and find her writing consistently informative, timely, and engaging. I’m also very involved in the sustainable food movement, so a book about how Kim had been influenced by other women in the food world was already on my books-to-buy list.

But the point of this post is the book trailer, and my hat is off to whoever produced the one for Spoon Fed. I think it’s wonderful: In a few minutes you know what the book is about, you have a real sense of Kim’s voice (and not only because she’s the one talking), and if you’ve lived a while, you’ll likely recognize the story Kim shares.

Don’t take my word for it: Watch the trailer yourself:

Apple’s starts the iBook rollout

Posted: March 14th, 2010 | Author: | Filed under: In the News | Tags: , , , | Comments Off on Apple’s starts the iBook rollout

While Apple’s iPad and iBookstore aren’t news—they were announced several weeks ago to much fanfare—Apple on Friday supplemented its own website with an iBooks features page.

While much key information about the details of iBook development and distribution have remained cloaked by NDAs and limited to key partners, macrumors.com provided a useful summary of what has been confirmed and also shared information about the supposed categorization of iBooks: Approximately 20 primary categories, and 150 secondary categories. The mention of an Erotica subcategory is interesting for those of us who have been following Apple’s rather capricious acceptance and rejection of iPhone applications in its App Store.

Many developers have cried foul when their apps were rejected or accepted and subsequently removed by Apple only to learn that their recourse is limited: Apple’s agreement gives it extraordinary discretion to determine what’s sold in its store. Last week the Electronic Frontier Foundation made public Apple’s iPhone Developer Program License Agreement. Will Apple’s agreement for the iBookstore be substantially similar, or will books get different treatment than apps? Will works published by large trade houses be able to skip past or receive preferential treatment in Apple’s review process? Or will all works with content that might not be suited to younger and more sensitive readers (to borrow a phrase from broadcasters) be unwelcome?

Stay tuned. More as the iPad launch date—3 April— draws closer.