Monday, December 28, 2015

Konrath's New Year's Resolutions for Writers

Every December I do a post about resolutions for writers, and every year I add more of them. They've changed a lot; after all, when I began this, there was no Amazon Kindle, self-publishing was a bad idea, and this blog was for writers eager to find agents and land deals with the Big 6.

But a lot of the advice from a decade ago still holds true, so take these resolutions for what they're worth to you.


Newbie Writer Resolutions
    I will start/finish the damn book
    I will always have at least three stories on submission, while working on a fourth 
    I will attend at least one writer's conference, and introduce myself to agents, editors, and other writers  
    I will subscribe to the magazines I submit to  
    I will join a critique group. If one doesn't exist, I will start one at the local bookstore or library  
    I will finish every story I start  
    I will listen to criticism  
    I will create/update my website 
    I will master the query process and search for an agent  
    I'll quit procrastinating in the form of research, outlines, synopses, taking classes, reading how-to books, talking about writing, and actually write something  
    I will refuse to get discouraged, because I know JA Konrath wrote 9 novels, received almost 500 rejections, and penned over 1 million words before he sold a thing--and I'm a lot more talented than that guy
Professional Writer Resolutions 
    I will keep my website updated  
    I will keep up with my blog and social networks  
    I will schedule bookstore signings, and while at the bookstore I'll meet and greet the customers rather than sit dejected in the corner  
    I will send out a newsletter, emphasizing what I have to offer rather than what I have for sale, and I won't send out more than four a year  
    I will learn to speak in public, even if I think I already know how  
    I will make selling my books my responsibility, not my publisher's  
    I will stay in touch with my fans 
    I will contact local libraries, and tell them I'm available for speaking engagements  
    I will attend as many writing conferences as I can afford  
    I will spend a large portion of my advance on self-promotion  
    I will help out other writers  
    I will not get jealous, will never compare myself to my peers, and will cleanse my soul of envy 
    I will be accessible, amiable, and enthusiastic  
    I will do one thing every day to self-promote  
    I will always remember where I came from


    Keep an Open Mind. It's easier to defend your position than seriously consider new ways of thinking. But there is no innovation, no evolution, no "next big thing" unless someone thinks differently. Be that someone.  
    Look Inward. We tend to write for ourselves. But for some reason we don't market for ourselves. Figure out what sort of marketing works on you; that's the type of marketing you should be trying. You should always know why you're doing what you're doing, and what results are acceptable to you.  
    Find Your Own Way. Advice is cheap, and the Internet abounds with people telling you how to do things. Question everything. The only advice you should take is the advice that makes sense to you. And if it doesn't work, don't be afraid to ditch it.  
    Set Attainable Goals. Saying you'll find an agent, or sell 30,000 books, isn't attainable, because it involves things out of your control. Saying you'll query 50 agents next month, or do signings at 20 bookstores, is within your power and fully attainable.  
    Enjoy the Ride. John Lennon said that life is what happens while you're busy planning other things. Writing isn't about the destination; it's about the journey. If you aren't enjoying the process, why are you doing it?  
    Help Each Other. One hand should always be reaching up for your next goal. The other should be reaching down to help others get where you're at. We're all in the same boat. Start passing out oars.


I Will Use Anger As Fuel

We all know that this is a hard business. Luck plays a huge part. Rejection is part of the job. Things happen beyond our control, and we can get screwed.

It's impossible not to dwell on it when we're wronged. But rather than vent or stew or rage against the world and everyone in it, we should use that anger and the energy it provides for productive things.

The next time you get bad news, resolve to use that pain to drive your work. Show fate that when it pushes you, you push right back. By writing. By querying. By marketing.

I Will Abandon My Comfort Zone

The only difference between routine and rut is spelling.

As a writer, you are part artist and part businessman.

Great artists take chances.

Successful businessmen take chances.

This means doing things you're afraid of, and things you hate, and things you've never tried before.

If, in 2008, you don't fail at something, you weren't trying hard enough.

I Will Feed My Addiction 

Life is busy. There are always things you can and should be doing, and your writing career often comes second.

So make it come first.

Right now, you're reading A Newbie's Guide to Publishing. Not A Newbie's Guide to Leading a Content and Balanced Life.

You want to get published and stay published? That means making writing a priority. That means making sacrifices. A sacrifice involves choosing one thing over another.

If you can't devote the time, energy, and money it takes to pursue this career, go do something else.

I Will Never Be Satisfied 

Think the last resolution was extreme? This one really separates the die-hards from the hobbyists. 

While an overwhelming sense of peace and enlightenment sounds pretty nice, I wouldn't want to hire a bunch of Zen masters to build an addition on my house. 

Satisfaction and contentment are great for your personal life. In your professional life, once you start accepting the way things are, you stop trying.

No one is going to hand you anything in this business. You have to be smart, be good, work hard, and get lucky.

Every time you get published, you got lucky. Don't take it for granted.

When something bad happens, it should make you work harder. But when something good happens, you can't believe you earned it. Because it isn't true. You aren't entitled to this career. No one is.

Yes, you should celebrate successes. Sure, you should enjoy good things when they happen. Smile and laugh and feel warm and fuzzy whenever you finish a story or make a sale or reach a goal.

But remember that happiness isn't productive. Mankind's greatest accomplishments are all tales of struggle, hardship, sacrifice, work, and effort. You won't do any of those things if you're satisfied with the status quo. 

Who do you want on your team? The kid who plays for fun? Or the kid who plays to win?

If you want this to be your year, you know which kid you have to be.


This year I'm only going to add one resolution to this growing list, but if you're writing for a living, or trying to write for a living, it's an important one.

I Won't Blame Anyone For Anything

It's tempting to look at the many problems that arise in this business and start pointing fingers. This is a slippery slope, and no good can come from it.

Do agents, editors, and publishers make mistakes? Of course.

You make mistakes too.

Hindsight is 20/20, so we can all look at things that didn't go our way and fantasize about how things should have gone. 

But blaming others, or yourself, is dwelling on the past. What's done is done, and being bitter isn't going to help your career.

So try to learn from misfortune, forgive yourself and others, and make 2009 a blameless year.


I Will Be Wary

The medium in which stories are absorbed is changing in a big way, and it will continue to change. 2009 will go down in publishing history as Year Zero for the upcoming ebook revolution. Writers should explore this new territory, but we need to understand that Print is still King, and any goals and dreams a writer might have regarding publication should be focused on getting into print.

That's not to say that ebooks shouldn't be explored and experimented with. They should be, and in a serious way. Erights are a very long tail--one that can potentially continue long after our lifetimes.

Don't forsake print for ebooks without understanding what you're giving up, and don't give away your ebook rights to get a print deal.

I Will Be A Pioneer

Remember the old saying about how to recognize a pioneer? They're the one with the arrows in their backs and fronts.

I've tried to be forward-thinking in my career, rather than being content with my role as a cog in a broken machine. Your best chance for longevity is to question everything, test boundaries, experiment with new ideas, and be willing to change your mind and learn from your mistakes.

Your job is to survive, by any means necessary. So pull out the arrows and forge ahead. Discover the difference between determination and stupidity by being an example for one or the other or both.

Though this may seem at odds with the previous resolution about being wary, it's actually quite simpatico.

Q: What do you call a wary pioneer? A: Still alive.

I Will Read Books

I'm surprised I haven't mentioned this in previous years. If you're a writer, you must be a reader. I don't care if you read on your Kindle, or on stone tablets. Reading, and giving the gift of reading to others, is essential. Period.

I Will Stop Worrying 

Worrying, along with envy, blame, guilt, and regret, is a useless emotion. It's also bad storytelling. Protagonists should be proactive, not reactive. They should forge ahead, not dwell on things beyond their control. Fretting, whining, complaining, and bemoaning the state of the industry isn't the way to get ahead.

You are the hero in the story of your life. Act like it.


I Will Self-Publish

Just twelve short months ago, I made $1650 on Kindle in December, and was amazed I could pay my mortgage with ebook sales.

This December, I'll earn over $22,000.

The majority of this is on Kindle. But I'm also doing well self-pubbing in print through Amazon's Createspace program, and will earn $2700 this month on nine POD books. I'm also finally trying out B&N's PubIt program, which looks to be good for over $1k a month, and I'm doing okay on Smashwords, with Sony, Apple, and Kobo combining for another $1k.

This is nothing short of revolutionary.

The gatekeepers--agents who submit to editors who acquire books to publish and distribute to booksellers--are no longer needed to make a living as a fiction writer. For the first time in history, writers can reach readers without having to jump through hoops, get anointed, compromise integrity, or fit the cookie-cutter definition for What New York Wants.

I'm not saying you should give up on traditional publishing. But I am saying that there is ZERO downside to self-pubbing. At worst, you'll make a few bucks. At best, you'll make a fortune, and have agents and editors fighting over you.

But remember: even if you are being fought over, you still have a choice.

DO NOT take any deal that's less than what you believe you could earn in six years. If you're selling 1000 ebooks a month, that means $144,000 is the minimum advance you should be offered before you consider signing.

It blows my mind to think that way, let alone blog about it. I got a $34,000 advance for my first novel, and even less for my last few.

Currently, I have seven self-pubbed novels, each earning more than $24k a year. In six years, at the current rate, I'll earn more than one million bucks on those.

But I don't expect them to maintain their current sales.

I expect sales to go up.

Ebooks haven't saturated the market yet. But they will. And you need to be ready for it. Which leads me to...

I Won't Self-Publish Crap

Just because it's easier than ever before to reach an audience doesn't mean you should.

I can safely say that I'm either directly or indirectly responsible for thousands of writers trying out self-publishing. The majority of these writers aren't making the same amount of money that I am, and are scratching their heads, wondering what they're doing wrong.

Luck still plays a part in success. But so does professionalism.

Being a professional means you make sure you have a professional cover (, and you have been professionally formatted for ebooks ( and for print books (

Being a professional means you're prolific, with many titles for sale, and that you diversify, exploiting all possible places to sell your work (Kindle, Createspace, Smashwords, iBooks, iTunes, Sony, Nook, Kobo, Borders, Android, and no doubt more to come.)

But most of all, being a professional means you won't inflict your shitty writing on the public.

Self-pubbing is not the kiddie pool, where you learn how to swim. You need to be an excellent swimmer before you jump in.

If your sales aren't where you'd like them to be, especially if you've done everything else I've mentioned, then it's time to take a cold, hard, critical look at the writing. Which segues into...

I'll Pay Attention to the Market

To say I'm excited about the ebook future is putting it mildly. But that doesn't mean I have carte blanche to write whatever the hell I want to, and then expect it to sell.

Yes, writers now have more freedom. Yes, we can now cater to niche tastes, and write novellas, and focus on more personal projects.

But if you want to make a living, you still have to understand your audience, and how to give them what they want.

Self-pubbing is not an excuse to be a self-indulgent egomaniac. On the contrary, it's a chance for you to learn what sells.

For the very first time, the writer can conduct their own real-world experiments. By trying different things, learning from mistakes, and constantly tweaking and improving, we have more power than ever before to find our readers.

A lot of folks know how much money I'm making. But how many know:

I've changed or tweaked cover art 45 times.

I've reformatted my books five times each.
I've changed product descriptions over 80 times.
I've changed prices on each book two or three times.

Unlike the traditional publishing world, where published books are static, self-publishing is dynamic. If something isn't selling as well as you'd like, you can change it. The work doesn't end when you upload your ebook to Kindle. The work is never-ending, and vigilance is mandatory.

Self-publishing is a wonderful opportunity to learn and to grow. This means you MUST try new things.

2011 is going to be a turbulent year for publishers and bookstores and editors and agents. Change is coming, and many of the stalwarts of the industry aren't going to be around for much longer.

But savvy writers will be safe from harm. In fact, they'll thrive like never before.

For the first time in the history of publishing, we have control. Embrace that control, and make 2011 your year.


Hard to believe this will be my sixth year offering New Year's Resolutions to writers. Even harder to believe is how much the publishing industry has changed during that time.

When I first began this blog, it was about helping authors find an agent and a legacy publishing deal. And once they did, it was about working with your publisher to sell as many books as possible by understanding how to self-promote and market.

Now, writers are much better served learning how to upload their work to Kindle and write a product description than learning how to write a query letter or do a successful book signing.

So is there still anything left for me to say?

Yes. There's plenty.

I Will Experiment

Don't let fear prevent you from taking chances and trying new things. I'm talking to all of you who refuse to raise or lower your ebook prices. I'm talking to all of you who pass judgement without any experience to back up your position. I'm talking to all of you who insist that your way is the right way without ever having tried any other way--or in some cases, knowing nothing about the path you want to take (I'm looking right at you folks still chasing legacy deals.)

The goals you set should constantly be adapting and changing as more data comes in. But don't be a lump, expecting data to come to you by surfing the net, or reading this blog, or praying Santa Claus helps you out.

You need to be the one actively trying different things, taking different directions, and learning through trial and error.

In the past, there were a lot of gatekeepers who could hold you back.

Today the only one holding you back is you.

I Will Help Other Writers

If you learn something, share it. If you have some success, show others how to follow your lead. If you fail miserably, warn your peers.

Writing and publishing were once solitary, private matters, and everyone played their cards close to their chests. No one knew how much anyone else was earning, or how many books they sold, and this suited the publishers just fine. The dark ages are all about being kept in the dark.

Well, let there be light.

The more we share, and help one another, the more our collective base of knowledge can grow.

Self-publishing is an open source project. Add to the database.

I Will Control My Fear

There will always be doubt and uncertainty, because luck plays such a big role in success. I know there are writers who are doing everything right, who still haven't found readers.

But don't let fear own you.

It is easy to get frustrated.

It is easy to get envious of those doing better.

It is easy to dismiss the success or failures of others.

It is easy to worry about the future.

It is easy to ignore good advice. It's also easy to take bad advice.

It is easy to make snap judgments and quick dismissals.

It is easy to make predictions without evidence.

It is easy to give up.


Yes, it is the greatest time ever to be a writer. But no one owes you a living, and no one promised that even if you write a great book and promote the hell out of it you'll get stinking rich.

Not to get all Yoda here, but fear leads to doubt, and doubt will take you down the wrong path.

Controlling fear is easier than you might think. Just accept that failure is part of the process.

Nothing worthwhile is ever easy. All major success stories are filled with setbacks and mistakes and bad luck. But all successful people persevere.

We've all heard that luck favors those who are prepared. So be prepared, and stay prepared, for as long as it takes for success to find you.

Remember that. You don't find success. Success finds you.

This is especially important when you realize this truism:

What Goes Up Must Come Down

I've had a lot of writers email me that their sales are down. Mine are, too. Because ebooks are so new, no one knows what this means, and it is easy to let fear cause doubt.

Here's a mantra for you to help you get over it.

1. Ebooks are forever, and shelf space is infinite. Once you're published, you'll always be selling.

2. Ebooks are not a trend. They are the new, preferred way to read, and mankind will always have the need and desire to read.

3. Ebooks are global. Doing poorly in the USA? That's okay. There are plenty of other countries where you can make money.

4. Sales fluctuate. Always. And there is often no logical or discernible reason why. Riding high in April, shot down in May, that's life.

5. This is a marathon, not a sprint. You're a writer. You're in this until the day you die. As long as you continue to write good books, you'll find readers.

2012 is going to be a very interesting year. We'll see unknown writers get rich. We'll see big name writers leave their publishers. We'll see more and more people buy ereaders throughout the world. We'll see some companies go out of business. We'll see other companies start growing market share.

We're part of something big, and it's going to get even bigger. And while everything that goes up must come down, we've got a very long time before that happens with ebooks.

And when it does? That's okay. Formats and gadgets come and go.

But the world will always need storytellers.

Have a great 2012.


I've lived long enough to see my advice become obsolete, and that gives me hope for the future.

Back when I began, this business was all about finding an agent, finding a publisher, then doing whatever you could to promote yourself.

This blog spoke at length about social media, and book tours, and partnering with your publisher.

Things have changed. 

I have 10,000 followers on Twitter, but I only use it occasionally  Facebook? Haven't been on there in eight months. I witnessed the rise and fall of MySpace. I've opted out of Google+ because I saw no benefits. LinkedIn? I can't even remember my password.

I'll never do another book tour. I doubt I'll ever do another official booksigning. I've stopped speaking in public, stopped attending events. Once it was important to meet fans and network with peers. Now I can do that just fine via email. 

Partnering with your publisher? Why would you do that, when they offer so little? 17.5% ebook royalties with them, vs. 70% on your own. 

I haven't blogged or Tweeted in months. I've been busy doing what writers should be doing: writing.

And guess what? My sales have remained constant. 

Many times this year, I took industry practices to task. I saw stupidity, or unfairness, and I did my best to discredit it. I fought, tooth and nail, for what I believed, and wasted untold hours arguing with pinheads.

Which brings me to my resolution for 2013.

Get Over Yourself

I have turned off Google Alerts, and don't Google my name or my pen names.

I don't go on message boards.

I don't read my book reviews.

I don't care what people are saying about me, good or bad, in blogs or on Twitter or in the media.

There will always be people who don't like you, and don't like your books.

Ignore them.

Trust me, it is liberating to be free of the opinions of strangers. We all need to focus on our writing. Because the millions of readers out there don't care about your blog. They aren't searching for you on Twitter and avoiding your books based on the comments of others. They aren't taking one star reviews seriously.

It's very easy to obsess in this business. But I haven't seen a single shred of evidence that obsession helps careers.

The thing that I have seen, over and over, is people finding success by writing good books.

I really think it is possible to make a very nice living by writing and not worrying about anything else.

We all want to believe we're doing something good for our careers, so we abuse social media, buy ads, rigorously defend our good name, cultivate media contacts, make appearances, and celebrate our own very minor celebrity.

Let it all go. Spend your time working on your books. That's the only thing that really matters, and the only thing you have control over.

I hope everyone reading this has a very successful 2013. Happy new year.


I'll get all of my real-life shit together.

That means:

1. Incorporating and paying quarterly taxes.

2. Creating a will, including a living will.

3. Making sure the will includes provisions for your literary properties.

4. Keeping accurate track of business expenses.

5. Getting regular doctor check-ups so you don't die from something avoidable.

6. Remembering that future goals shouldn't come at the expense of enjoying every single day.

7. Appreciating the people you care about, and making sure they know it.

With luck, we'll all die very old and very rich.

But I've always said that luck favors those prepared. It's very east to get caught up in writing and promotion and ignore the stuff that only becomes obvious when you're in a life-or-death scenario.

Don't wait for the life-or-death scenario. Take care of it now. It doesn't matter if you're 18 or 108, death and taxes are unavoidable. The more you do now to prepare for them, the less painful they'll be.

If you die tonight, will it be with regrets? If so, sort that out immediately. Don't leave loose ends. Don't leave things unsaid. Don't leave a mess for others to clean up.

Now go take care of business, and have a great 2014.


I skipped this year, and did this post instead.


This year, I'm boiling my resolutions down to the essence:


It's so easy to get caught up in different aspects of a writing career. I've had phases where I tried to help other writers, started my own company, blogged, collaborated, fought the publishing world, evangelized, experimented, promoted, tried to figure things out, and spent a whole lot of time doing stuff other than writing.

I'm happy I did all that. But it has taken me away from the thing I like most.

I might be a blogger, and a teacher, and an innovator, and a pundit. But first and foremost, I'm a writer.

And writers write.

So for 2016, I'm going to write more than I've ever written before. I'm going to finish those stories I've put aside, I'm going to break new ground, and I'm going to get back to my roots. I've spent a lot of time tending to my career. And for good reason. A backlist is a garden that needs attention to grow and prosper.

But now I'm going to spend the lion's share of my time planting more seeds. 

I'm looking for 2016 to be my most productive year ever.

So, did I miss any resolutions? What are yours?

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Guest Post by Nick Kristof

I want to start this post by thanking Joe for offering the Tess Gerritsen blog post challenge.  You might not remember it, because it happened all the way back in July of 2013, but the gist was this:  If an individual donated $200 to a gofundme campaign by author Tess Gerritsen in support of Alzheimer's Disease research, Joe would allow that person to guest post on his blog.  Great deal -- and many people took advantage of it.  I immediately realized the potential in having that opportunity.  At the same time, Alzheimer's struck very close to home for me personally.  It is a cause to which I have donated money on many occasions.  Needless to say, I jumped at the opportunity.

I have always wanted to be a writer.  I had not really considered it, having a full-time career and a family to look after, until I stumbled across A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.  Joe's blog inspired me to go for it.  My reading tastes cover the gamut, but I have a special place in my heart for science fiction and fantasy, so I decided to write some fantasy.  Now, 180K words later, I can at least call myself a fantasy writer.  The story, which I am going to publish as two novels, is called The Ramparts of Tharrenton Deep.

My intention in July of 2013 was to complete my novel, which I had been working on for over a year by that point, and then post about my experiences.  Needless to say, things did not quite work out that way.  My single novel grew to be two, and then life got in the way:  The writing came in fits and starts.  I relocated to another country across an ocean.  I started in a new position that required lots of travel.  And so on…

Well, two and a half years later, those two novels are finished.  In all, it took me four years to write them, and I am now in the final stages of preparing them for publication.

Quick aside:  I believe that one of the strengths of Joe’s blog is that he and his guest posters almost always include tips or advice for would-be authors.  Let’s face it:  That’s why so many of us come here repeatedly.  Well, here’s my advice:  Don’t ever quit.  Don’t.  Ever.  Quit.  I certainly didn’t expect my story to take four years to write.  But it did.  There were many occasions where I thought to myself, “Self, Just put it away.”  But I ignored that voice, persevered, and it is done; I am extremely proud of the result.

With the writing complete, I knew I wanted to produce a professional book for publication.  I knew that in order to do that, I needed to spend some money—professional editing, proofreading, E-book design, and cover art all cost money.  A glance to the right will show you who I am hiring for those tasks: 52novels for E-book design, Grammer Rules A to Z for proofreading, and You’re Published for print design.  I will also be purchasing original art for my cover.

These services do not necessarily cost a lot of money, but for someone on a tight budget, it is a not-insignificant amount.  It was for this reason that I chose to attempt to fund the publication of my novels with a Kickstarter campaign.  Kickstarter has its supporters and detractors, but I have watched numerous publishing projects successfully fund over the past few years.  My campaign is live right now; I don’t know if it will be successful, but I’m going to give it a shot.

If you have a spare moment, please go check it out.  And if you don’t, thanks for at least reading to the end of this post.

Now get back to writing.  And remember:  Don’t ever quit.

Joe sez: I've been out of the blogging loop for a month, working on some novels. I hope to get back to blogging soon. In the meantime, let's use this guest post as an opportunity to discuss funding campaigns for books.

I've never done a Kickstarter, though I've thought about it. Who reading this has tried Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or similar? What has you experience been?

Also, throw a few bucks Nick's way. His contribution to Tess's campaign was generous, he's a soldier serving out country, and someday you might be the one needing money. Pay it forward. 

Monday, October 19, 2015

Fisking the Authors Guild

The Authors Guild just lost one of their ongoing cases against Google. The Guild have been whining that Google Book Scan--a service meant to digitally scan every book so the entire world could gain searchable Internet access to all of that info--is in fact violating copyright and stealing from authors. 

Hey, Authors Guild! Why not also charge readers a fee every time they recommend a book via word of mouth? If you want to give the middle finger to free discoverability, why not go all in?

The Authors Guild has lost similar battles. During Authors Guild vs. Bill Smopey, they sued him because he'd sat in a Barnes & Nobel and read half of The Terror by Dan Simmons but hadn't bought it. Smopey's defense, "After the first 500 pages, the monster wasn't even in it anymore, and I got bored and put it back." The Guild claimed that Smopey owed Simmons's publisher half of the cover price for reading without paying, and for partially crinkling page 342. The court dismissed the case, on account of it being really fucking stupid.

With Authors Guild vs. Janet's Mother, they sued because Janet bought a full price hardcover of Stephen King's The Cell, then loaned it to her mother to read. The Guild demanded Janet's Mother pay Stephen King a royalty, because she had no right to read what she hadn't bought for herself. Janet's Mother's legal team dazzled with the famous, "Well, what about libraries?!" defense and the suit was dropped.

That lead to Authors Guild vs. Libraries, where the Guild insisted that every library extract a pound of flesh from patrons who borrowed a book, in lieu of collecting royalties. But unlike the impossibility of separating blood from flesh,  making the acquisition of a pound of flesh quite impossible, the court did decide it was possible to separate the experience of reading a book with the fiduciary duty of monetarily compensating the author for having done so. Yep, you can read without paying.

In Authors Guild vs Used Books, the Guild assembled its hydrocephaletic brain trust to waste more members' dues to institute law that used book sales are illegal. Since authors only make royalties for the first sale, anyone who reads a book any other way is literally going into that author's house and stealing food from their starving children's mouths, which doesn't make much sense because no one wants to eat something that has been pre-chewed. The case was dismissed when it was discovered the AG legal team was relying on language they'd found in a 2011 edition of Black's Law Dictionary, which they'd bought used on

Other failed cases include supporting Wendy Dobesky's claim of copyright infringement by Star Wars LLC. In 1976, Wendy claimed to have a dream about some people fighting in space with bright swords, and some guy frenching his sister. She didn't write any of this down, but when she saw Star Wars she knew George Lucas must have used a Thought Stealing Machine on her. The case was dismissed when Discovery failed to find anything thought-related in any of Lucas's notes or outlines. Years later, the Authors Guild again supported Dobesky who said, after seeing Twilight, "Damn! I dreamed about sexy vampires before! Someone owes me fifty million bucks!" That suit was also a waste of members' dues. 

Perhaps it is time to rethink copyright in this digital age? But I've beaten this dead horse before.

The Guild recently remarked on their latest loss, to follow. Their nonsense in unreasonable bold italic font. My replies in sensible plain font.

Today, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals released its decision in Authors Guild v. Google. “The Authors Guild is disappointed that the Court has failed to reverse the District Court’s faulty interpretation of the fair use doctrine,” said Mary Rasenberger, Executive Director of the Authors Guild in New York. 

Apparently making all books discoverable on the Internet, which would not only add to the collective knowledge of the world, but help interested parties find the right books to buy, wasn't fair use. That it would help people find more books to buy seems lost in the fear that people would rather surf the internet and piece together a book random page by random page at great frustration and time cost to get a maximum of 16% of the full title, out of order no less. We all love reading like that, don't we?

“America owes its thriving literary culture to copyright protection. 

Actually, America owes its thriving literary culture to writers who are compelled to create. Copyright doesn't ensure a writer makes money. Readers do. And if the readers can't find the writer because--let's take a wild leap here--the writer's work isn't searchable on the world's biggest search engine, then copyright isn't going to put one cent in that writer's pocket.

Someone explain to me how a text searchable on Google differs from a text on a shelf at a local library? I'll tell you how. A library book can be loaned and read dozens of times, cover to cover. A Google scanned book cannot be read cover to cover. But Google is the bad guy.

It’s unfortunate that a Court as well-respected as the Second Circuit does not see the damaging effect that uses such as Google’s can have on authors’ potential income.

Yeah, damaging. Someone Googles a topic, and it leads to a free except of my book. Every author wants people to browse a bookstore and find their book among the thousands of others. But to be able to do this online, 24/7? That's stealing.

There are many ways to read a book without compensating the authors. Buy used. Go to a library. Borrow from a friend. Steal online. Use a paperback exchange. Read fan fic. 

Authors shouldn't fear being read. Being read will eventually lead to getting paid. Authors should be worrying about not being read, because readers don't know they exist. Google Book Scan wants to show the world books that the world hasn't ever seen before. The Authors Guild wants to micromanage this boon to authors and readers by collecting royalties.

Can someone call Mary Rasenberger on her landline, or if that's too technologically advanced for her, send her a telegram, and let her know the rest of us are living in 2015.

Dead trees are limited in reach because of scarcity (how many there are), proximity (how close they are to a reader), and dicoverability (how a reader searching for that type of book is able to find it). Google Book Scan solved all those problems.

So let's sue them.

Most full-time authors live on the perilous edge of being able to sustain themselves through writing as a profession, as our recent income survey showed, so even relatively small losses in income can make it unsustainable to continue writing for a living. 

What are the losses incurred when no one knows your book exists?

I write funny books about cops chasing serial killers. If Google scanned my books, anyone searching for "funny serial killer thriller" could learn about my titles, read excerpts, and perhaps become interested enough in them to seek them out.

Fair use? Hell, if I paid for Google to do that very same thing, I could write it off on my taxes as advertising.

We are disheartened that the court was unable to comprehend the grave impact that this decision, if left standing, could have on copyright incentives and, ultimately, our literary heritage. 

Because our literary heritage is dependent upon corporations squatting on the rights for Sherlock Holmes and Buck Rogers and Happy Birthday so other writers can't use them in their own work without paying a squatter's fee. 

I'm not saying that copyright still doesn't have a purpose. I'm saying, in a digital world, it needs to be reformed. Writers don't need to dwell on DMAC takedown notices. They should be dwelling on getting as many readers as possible. Even readers who don't pay. Because there is a whole bunch of entertainment out there, for free. Being discovered is a matter of numbers. Restricting access to your writing IN ANY WAY reduces your chances of discovery.

As for money? Show me anyone revered by a large group of people who isn't able to earn a living. If your writing is being widely read, the money will come. There isn't any better advertising for your work than 1M people pirating it. 

But if you can't stand the idea of someone Googling some random term and it leading to your novel which can then be read, in non-consecutive chunks up to 16%, then maybe you need to switch your art to something you have control over, like stoneware. You can decide who touches your stoneware on a case-by-case basis and otherwise keep it locked in a box so no one can steal it. 

Unless, of course, someone takes a picture of your stoneware, puts it on Pinterest, and you get thousands of likes. I mean, think how horrible that would be for your stoneware business...

We trust that the Supreme Court will see fit to correct the Second Circuit’s reductive understanding of fair use, and to recognize Google’s seizure of property as a serious threat to writers and their livelihoods, one which will affect the depth, resilience and vitality of our intellectual culture.”

Calling Google's book scanning initiative a "seizure of property" is like suing a hospital for "unwanted physical contact" when they intubated, catheterized, and pushed IV fluids and meds after the ambulance brought you in. I mean, what were those doctors thinking, trying to save your life without your permission? They have no right!

If you don't want your work read without your permission, write on paper and keep it locked up. But once you try to sell it, you can't put the genie back in the bottle. Some people will read it without paying you. There's no way around that. Suing the companies that give your work free exposure is stupid. 

Or perhaps the Authors Guild only wants "intellectual culture" to exist behind closed doors, at invitation-only events, far away from the prying eyes of the unwashed masses. Because there is nothing so threatening to the vitality of our literary heritage than a bunch of readers looking for stuff to read.

If I joined an Authors Guild, this is what I'd want.

1. A group that would fight for and pay to make my books visible and easily discoverable on Google, Amazon, Facebook, Twitter, and other places where readers search for books. Why doesn't the Authors Guild have a BookBub-type service? Wouldn't dues be better spent on that than suing Google or petitioning Congress

2. A group that DEMANDED new contract terms from publishers, including better royalties, no non-compete or next option clauses, and automatic rights reversion after a set amount of time. The Guild's much touted Fair Contract Initiative is nothing more than navel-gazing mutters that things aren't fair. Even Oliver Twist grabbed his bowl asked for more gruel. He didn't blog about starvation being unfair, while plaintively hoping things will change soon--but no naming any names here! Grab your bowl and demand what you're owed, you chickens.

3. A group that studied and experimented with piracy to expand awareness of books. I'm still waiting for any controlled study to measure the effects of piracy on an artist's income. I only am able to find a lot of hot air, coming from the Authors Guild hellbent on making sure they collect royalties if someone mentions a book title in a Skype conversation, and the fear mongering of companies who get paid for fighting piracy. 

4. A group that tried to reform copyright for the better of humanity, and authors.

5. A group that can be looked upon by authors with pride, rather than as the punchline to jokes about the tragically outdated,

Until the Authors Guild gets their collective head out of 1985 and learns about the Internet and ebooks and how their role has changed from majordomo to the Big 5, they will not survive. 

Take a cue from Authors United, who have taught us that a group of major bestselling authors, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, can be embarrassingly ineffective when their agenda is so self-serving and stupid.

You can try to sue the clouds for raining on you. Or you can make a fortune selling umbrellas. Which is smarter?

Amazon, ebooks, and piracy are here to stay. No law can ever work if it goes against what people are going to do anyway. The spread of digital media must force us to study how it is being used, so we can benefit from it. It isn't something you can control. It's something you observe. Prohibition didn't work for alcohol, or the war on drugs. Net neutrality will remain, and piracy will always be a part of it. Treat Google as a partner, rather than as an adversary. The same with Amazon. Treat the Big 5 as adversaries, until they reform their contracts. Use the media to push a positive agenda. Hire Data Guy at to teach you how to conduct your own studies or the marketplace. Abandon the status quo, drop your preconceptions, and start fresh, figuring out how all of your poverty-level members could have a shot at making a living.

If I were in charge, it would take me a week to put the Authors Guild on the right track. 

My first job would be to give the current Board of Directors new responsibilities, the sum total of which would be a daily meeting at Dennys spent brainstorming, and the notes generated will serve as an example of what not to do.

Then I'm bringing in a bunch of young, smart writers to get shit done. Such as:
  • An advertising partnership with Amazon to feature AG members' titles.
  • An advertising partnership with Facebook to feature AG members' titles.
  • An advertising partnership with Google to feature AG members' titles.
  • Letters to the Big 5 demanding better contract terms, and a media campaign held in the court of public opinion exposing the unconscionability of publishing contracts. If it leads to litigation, all the better.
  • Letters to the Big 5 to demand lower ebook prices, for both retailers and libraries.
  • Petitioning Congress to reform copyright law.
  • Health care.
  • Conducting actual studies on piracy.
  • Fighting SOPA and other threats to free speech and net neutrality.
  • Striking if needed.
The Authors Guild isn't beneficial. It isn't neutral. It's harmful. Every time Robinson or Ravensberger whines in the media, they spout nonsense that less-informed readers and writers accept as truths. Until this bullshit stops, and real problems start getting addressed, the Guild will exist to ensure the Guild continues to exist, and do very little for the authors it purportedly helps. If your average member is earning $10k a year, stronger piracy laws aren't going to help. Advertising, better contract terms, and teaching alternative forms of publication will help. Biggering discoverability by saturating the Internet, social media, and retailers with Guild books will help. Relaxing copyright law so more IP can be used by all.

Unfortunately, change won't happen overnight. And it is unlikely it will happen from within. So the best thing an author can do is quit the Authors Guild. Don't lend your name to their weight, or your dues to their war chest. If membership drops enough, and they become weak enough, and orchestrated coup could seize power and rebuild them as an effective tool in protecting authors' rights. Until that happens, ignore them. Or look upon them as you look upon the many mistakes found in history books. 

Just don't get those books on bit torrent. The Authors Guild will send a takedown notice.