Thursday, May 31, 2007


I have a guilty pleasure to confess. One known by only my nearest and dearest.

Every year, I block out a Saturday morning/afternoon to sit down and watch the Scripps National Spelling Bee on television. I love watching those young kids work their way through words that would stump a Ph.D. in Literature.

I was especially looking forward to this year's broadcast tonight on ABC. Probably because of the popularity of the movie Akeelah & the Bee last year, the event was switched from Saturday morning to prime time tonight.

Why was I so excited?

Because my spelling hero and the favorite to win, Samir Patel, was going for his fifth and final try at the championship. Samir is a Texan and lives only thirty miles from my home.

I first saw Samir when he tied for third place at age nine in 2003. The word "boudin" stumped him. He was an audience favorite and received a thunderous applause.

At age ten, "corposant" left him tied for 27th place in 2004.

At age eleven, "Roscian" left him in second place in 2005, his best showing.

Last year, Samir tied for 14th place when he couldn't spell "eremacausis."

I was so looking forward to him taking the prize tonight. Instead, he was knocked out of competition in the fifth round in this year's biggest upset. He cannot compete again because of his age.

Samir's downfall? The word "clevis."

Tonight just won't be the same.

Read on. This is a three-post day.

Of Promises and Rainbows

I think I've mentioned a time or three that my early school years were spent with the nuns. My mother is a rosary-a-day type, and no child of hers was going to set foot into the world without a firm grounding in Catholicism.

It didn't really take. Not because I lacked faith, but because I had too many questions not covered by the parochial school texts, which were long on dogma and short on specifics. The nuns kept referring me to the priest for answers. By sixth grade, both Father Maguire and I were tired of the dance, and we were both relieved when my family moved to Florida from New Jersey and I transferred into public school.

I mention this because remnants of my Catholic education still pop up at odd times.

Like this morning when I looked out at a dark and dreary world with yet more storm clouds gathering in the west.

We have had the wettest spring I can remember since moving into my present house more than ten years ago. It has rained nearly every day in May. My next door neighbor had a tree topple over this weekend--not from winds, but because the ground was soaked and the tree was top heavy from all the rain.

As I looked out on what will be yet another day of rain, I remembered Sister Mary Herminia saying that, following the Flood, God promised the world will never end by water again. The rainbow is a sign of that promise.

I, for one, am glad to know that.

Read on. Today is a two-post day.

A Word To The Wise

Recently, there's been more than the usual anxiety and turmoil in the e-publishing world.

In April, Venus Press--an e-publisher specializing in romance since 2004--abruptly closed its doors. Although there had been rumors about the company for some time, the closure still came as a surprise to many people.

On May 21, I posted a blog titled "Print versus e-Book" here. I referenced comments by executives of some of the most popular e-publishing houses who pointed out that, in order to attract authors, they found themselves obliged to provide print books as well as e-books.

Angela James, Executive Editor of Samhain, a relatively new e-publisher, summed the subject up nicely when she said, "Adding a print program provides another source of revenue and, as I said, access to a new market of readers and buyers, but it also adds another layer of cost, commitment and responsibility . . ."

Not all e-publishers have managed to balance the dual responsibilities of e-books and print books. In recent months, several e-publishers have announced they would be slowing down the timetable by which they took e-books to print.

Among the e-publishers who changed their print schedules was Triskelion, a RWA-approved publisher. Despite the fact that a guarantee of print publishing wasn't in their contracts, a number of Trisk authors became disaffected at the news that their books would not be coming out in print as soon as they'd anticipated.

I can see both sides of this issue: the publisher has a fiduciary responsibility to make responsible decisions, but--at the same time--any author who has been gearing up for a print release (and perhaps spending money to publicize the book) would certainly be angry.

Unfortunately, the problem snowballed as authors began complaining about late royalty payments. In a statement here, Triskelion acknowledged some problems were caused by a new accounting system and by authors' failure to understand that if royalties didn't exceed $25, checks would be cut on a quarterly basis rather than on a monthly basis.

We've all played the game "Rumor" and know how easy it is for things to get twisted and blown out of proportion. I'm sure there were legitimate complaints, but I'm equally as sure the rumor mill scared some authors into anticipating *future* problems.

Some Triskelion authors went to RWA and complained. RWA, no doubt feeling the burden of having named Triskelion a RWA-approved publisher, went out of its way to explain that this label was NOT an endorsement of a publishing house.

RWA's Executive Director, Allison Kelley, sent a statement to the RWA membership in March that said in part:

RWA standards for publisher recognition determine which publishers will be allowed to attend RWA’s annual conference and listed in RWA’s Market Update to solicit works written by RWA members. Unfortunately, the standard has been construed as a “stamp of approval” by RWA. That was never the purpose in setting the standard.

A publisher’s recognition by RWA is not a guarantee of an author’s publishing success. RWA’s standards merely indicate that the publisher pays royalties, is not a subsidy or vanity press, has been in business a minimum length of time (1 year) and has sold a minimum number of copies of one romance title (1500 hardcover or trade paperback or 5,000 in any other format). Each author must evaluate the company, carefully read the individual publisher’s contract and decide if they are willing to accept the conditions put forth in the contract.

In a statement posted on the Dear Author site two weeks ago here, Allison Kelley confirmed that "due to the ongoing problems authors are reporting with Triskelion Publishing, and the company's latest announcements regarding print titles, changes in editorial staff and management, the invitation for Triskelion Publishing to participate in workshops and editor appointments at RWA's 2007 conference in Dallas has been rescinded."

Of course, this news is very disappointing to all the RWA members who had editor appointments scheduled with Trisk at the upcoming conference. A number of happy Triskelion authors were also very angry at what they saw as Triskelion being unfairly targeted in a way that other publishers had not been.

To compound and complicate the matter, Gail Northman--Triskelion's highly respected Editor-in-Chief--resigned over the Memorial Day holiday. Gail, who was scheduled to become Triskelion's publisher on June 1, has admitted to being under a lot of pressure from a lot of directions. However, the timing of her resignation did not help Trisk, and the company found itself besieged by authors with long memories of other houses going belly-up and who are now demanding their rights back.

I'm going to stop here and get to the point of this post.

Life doesn't come with guarantees. The man who seemed like Prince Charming when you were eighteen may look more like Homer Simpson when you're thirty-five. The used car that ran like a top will die on the highway ten miles from the lot where you purchased it.

Because life has no guarantees, it's incumbent upon us to do as much as we can to lessen our risks. That's why we have insurance, warranties and contracts.

I spent a fair amount of my previous life reading contracts and making decisions about what was an acceptable level of risk for the companies that employed me. I've learned--to my regret--that if a contract is not carefully written, it can have very ugly consequences.

I have been astonished at the cavalier approach some writers take to signing contracts with agents and/or publishers.

When I was considering signing with an agent (as much as I love and respect her), I had my attorney vet the contract. When I sold the rights to my first book to a publisher, even though my agent and her contracts person vetted it, I still read and asked questions about the contract.

You live or die by the language of your contract. Unless you want to be surprised later, you need to know exactly how you'll be paid, when you'll be paid and what will happen if your book is bumped from the publisher's schedule. You also need to understand the language pertaining to the reversion of rights, and what will happen if you and your publisher/agent get crossways. How will those disagreements be resolved? WHERE will they be resolved? If the contract doesn't include language about audits or about quarterly reports, add it. Everything is negotiable.

There are lots of writers out there whose books are in limbo because their publishers went under.

Act defensively. Don't wait until your agent or editor is in trouble to read your contract and find out what will happen if they go belly-up.

I've heard good things about Triskelion from my friends who write for them. I hope that all this uproar will soon settle down for all concerned.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Tom Wayne, Bookseller, Part II

I find this utterly fascinating.

As of this month, Technorati is tracking more than 71 million blogs. This little corner of the blogosphere has less than 40,000 hits, and it's currently ranked as number 152,754 in Technorati's rankings, certainly not a world-beater by any standard.

By contrast, Tom Wayne of Prospero's Books has gone from less than 1,000 hits on Google 24 hours ago to 44,000 tonight. That's pretty amazing. Of course, he had help from CNN, ABC, Fox, and all the other media outlets that jumped on his book-burning up there in Kansas City, Missouri. Browsing the hits my Google search brought up, I got all the way to 60 before I ran out of the book-burning story. A very impressive result.

But what I find almost as interesting is the fact that two of Mr. Wayne's supporters found their way to THIS little blog to challenge my viewpoint of the shameless publicity stunt Wayne pulled over the holiday.

In the interest of balanced reporting, I'm going to quote those two comments below. Here's the first one from Hex with my comments in bold:

Tom wanted to start a dialog about literacy and the waning importance of the written word in our culture.

It worked.

Are you upset that Tom sold books? They were a buck a piece--sales from the to-be-burned pile amounted to $400 bucks, roughly 400 books. It was probably more as stacks of 20 or more books were going for 10 bucks. Hardly recompense for the cost of storage and lugging these things around for up to ten years. {I thought this was about literacy, not about Mr. Wayne's inability to sell his stock}

And if YOU are serious about giving books away to hospitals, armed service, etc., I suggest you run down to your local Half-Price Books and peek in the dumpster behind the store. There you will find more than enough books to donate to whoever (sic) you like. Libraries, too. Barnes and Noble, Borders. These books will end up in a landfill otherwise. Save your outrage for them. {Interesting. I've frequently found that people with a weak defense go on the offensive. I believe the tactic is called a red herring.

One of the reasons I admire Half-Price Books is because of their strong stand on literacy (see here) and the environment (see here). Half-Price doesn't need me to defend them. Their record speaks for itself.}

I find it interesting that the most vocal opponents of Tom (sic) actions (and the rudest) have come from writers. You've had this blog since 2005 and a simple Google search shows that you've only mentioned the word "literacy" six times. Six times. {That would be six times MORE than Tom Wayne mentioned the word during his interview with the Associated Press} No offense, but Tom did more in one day to "kindle" the debate about literacy in this country than you have in 2 years. {Please note my previous statement. Wayne never mentioned the word "literacy." He did, however, point out that the fire was "a good excuse for fun."} You can argue with his methods but his madness seems to have struck a chord. Unfortunately, some people's only response is to tell them to "do more" -- as if running a bookstore and a small press, putting on literary events and offering a venue for new writers for 10 years wasn't enough. I'm not attacking you -- {Gosh, could have fooled me} I'm sure you participate in literacy-promoting events -- but if your only advice here is "stop provoking people to think" {Oh, please} then I don't know what to tell you.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am a friend of the bookstore and managed the phones {Quite a friend} on Memorial Day as hundreds of phone calls came in from around the country. 90 percent of them "got it" {90% of them were probably media, looking for a sensational story on a quiet news day meant to remember our fallen military.} and were supportive. The other 10 percent, after they calmed down, understood where Tom and Will were coming from and wished us well. Of course, they were only readers {Ohhh, but we're not attacking, are we?}

Best of luck on your forthcoming book.

I read Hex's comment and debated whether to just ignore it. While I was still thinking about it, we had ANOTHER one of Wayne's supporters, or perhaps "business partner" is a better term. Here's comment #2:

This "jerk" is my husband's partner at the bookstore . . . i'm quite amused by the repeated attempts by many bloggers to paint this as a mere publicity stunt {Check the news stories. Your husband's partner was the one who initiated the story and who promised monthly fire sales in the future}. here was goal (sic) , that was clearly stated from the beginning: prosperos was seeking to create a community dialogue on readership continually dropping in america. that is all. it has snowballed into a worldwide discussion. {Again, the word "literacy" did not appear in any of the stories I read}

they tried, repeatedly, FOR YEARS to give these books away after trying to sell them on the shelves. they are in great condition. this was not a shameless plug for a memorial day book sale. how sadly cynical we have grown . . . {Then, why, when people arrived did you sell the books instead of giving them away?}

Best of luck with your forthcoming book and congratulations {Thank you. Best of luck with your bookstore. I appreciate and support independent booksellers. There are too few of them these days.}. i hope that there are people that will read it. {So do I :)} and good for you for stepping up and doing something -- that was the point of all this, after all. {Best wishes to you as well. I admire women who have their husbands' backs.}

I have nothing new to add. I'll let readers of this blog make up their own minds.

By the way, if you're interested in the National Endowment for the Arts' report, please go to my blog of August 4, 2006 here. It answers the questions you might have with respect to whether people are reading less.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Tom Wayne, Bookseller Jerk of the Month

I saw something on the 5:30 news on ABC last night that really torqued me. I checked Yahoo News for the story, which came to them from the Associated Press.

It seems there's a bookseller in Kansas City by the name of Tom Wayne who held a book-burning on Sunday, supposedly because he "couldn't even give away books to libraries or thrift shops."

Wayne claims that he has 20,000 excess books in his warehouse that he needs to clear out. When no one would take them, he decided to burn them.

"'This is the funeral pyre for thought in America today,' Wayne told spectators outside his bookstore as he lit the first batch of books."

I'm sorry. I think this is a bunch of horse pucky, as we say here in Texas when we're being polite. I think this was a shameless promotional plug for a Memorial Day booksale.

Why do I think that? Wayne didn't give the books away to people who came by. HE SOLD THEM.

Just for grins, I checked to see if Kansas City has a Half-Price Bookstore, which traditionally runs a 20% off sale on Memorial Day weekend.

Guess what? There's a Half-Price Bookstore on Westport Road, less than a mile from Wayne's Prospero's Books. What a coincidence! Knock me over with a feather.

If Wayne is serious about wanting to GIVE the books away instead of selling them, let me make a couple of suggestions:

  • Hospitals or rehab units
  • Libraries or schools in depressed areas
  • Our troops overseas

By the way, Wayne announced he's going to do these book burnings monthly--his own version of a "fire sale," I guess.

I hope Kansas City has better sense than to accommodate such nonsense.

P.S. I've sent emails to the Mayor of Kansas City ( and to Half-Price Bookstores (, suggesting that they pick up the "unwanted" books and ship them to people who would appreciate them. I promised to contribute a check toward postage and shipping if they do so.

Would someone please call this jerk's bluff?

Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day

The war in Iraq is one of the most divisive issues in America today.

But no matter what position you have on the subject, this is the day we devote to remembering those who have served us at great cost to themselves and their loved ones. No matter how partisan our views, we must never forget the sacrifices made by these warriors and their families.

Late last night, I read a story about "[a] Democrat and a Republican. A pacifist and a soldier. A Catholic and a Protestant. They were a Shakespearian tragedy even before they were an item."

Read the story here.

As you go about your holiday activities on Monday--whether having a family barbeque or a swimming party--give some thought, and perhaps a prayer, for those who have put themselves in danger to protect our way of life.

And, no matter how you think about THIS war, never forget this quote by John Stuart Mill:

"War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing he cares about more than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature who has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

Interested In Selling Your Used Books?

Alibris, the California online bookseller (pronounced "uh LEE briss," not "ALI breeze") has started a new service they're calling Basic whereby individuals can sell their used books.

Frankly, the site didn't give enough information to satisfy me. It says:

You love books, so why not sell books on Alibris? Now you can turn used textbooks and your new, rare, out-of-print, and used books into cash, and into someone else's literary treasures.

You can list up to 1,000 items for sale, and you only pay $1 plus a small commission for each one that you sell. If you don't sell anything, you don't pay anything except the annual subscription charge of $19.99. But with millions of readers searching Alibris for books, you're certain to sell a lot.

They don't explain how much the "small commission" is, nor do they address the matter of shipping. If the seller has to absorb the shipping costs and the $1 plus that small commission (not to mention the $19.99 a year), I'm not sure how much profit there is in it.

If you'd like to check out the service, go here.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

Questions To Start A Holiday Weekend

I get one or two emails every day from aspiring writers and would-be writers. (Note I'm differentiating between "aspiring" as in "really wants to write" and "would-be" as in "really wants to be famous"). I also get about one email a month from someone with an idea for a book who wants to give it to me so that I can write the manuscript and then we'll split the profits 50/50 (!)

I thought I'd cover some of the questions I get most frequently, beginning with the most popular one:

How do I become a writer?
The only way I know is to W*R*I*T*E. I've met people who worry about film rights, who start blogs to promote their planned book and who want the names of publicists, but who haven't written the first word of the proposed manuscript. You HAVE to write.

Should I write fiction or non-fiction?
You need to write the manuscript you're likely to finish. Dan Poynter reports on a survey in which 81% of the population claimed they had "a book inside them." Writers Digest reports their average reader has been writing for 14.6 years.

Don't bother trying to write a book because you've heard the subject matter is hot right now. By the time you finish and find a publisher, any trend will probably have ended. Write the book you CARE about. If you care about it, you're more likely to finish it. You'd be amazed at the number of writers who get five or ten chapters in and then abandon the effort. It's NOT easy.

How soon should I start querying agents and editors?
One of the biggest mistakes aspiring writers make is to write "The End," and immediately put their first query letter in the mail.

"The End" is just the beginning. You need to hone and polish that manuscript until it glows like a nova. I personally believe you need critique partners--not family, not friends--to give you independent reviews of your work. You have to be willing to slash and burn in order to create a lean, mean manuscript, and you have to have people who will point out where the slashing and burning needs to happen.

What are the biggest mistakes new writers make in their first chapters?
There are a slew of them. The biggest are probably: (1) Getting off to a slow start. You need a hook to catch the reader's interest immediately; and (2) Including a ton of backstory. Eeek!

I know you can point to a dozen great books that didn't start in the moment with here-and-now action, but, I promise, in today's tough publishing world you'd better be ready to get right into your story without a lot of yadda yadda yadda.

If you want to read a great hook, go to the first chapter of Lee Child's latest book, Bad Luck and Trouble here. I defy any reader not to read on after that opening. It leaves you needing to know what happened.

Good luck to you. You haven't picked an easy profession, but it's a great one.

Friday, May 25, 2007

Authors Guild Strikes Back At S&S

On Wednesday, I printed the press release from Simon & Schuster here in which they took a swipe at the Authors Guild. Now it's Authors Guild's turn at bat again.

Here is the new Authors Guild press release sent to its members last night:

Simon & Schuster is irked that we went public with our information about their unannounced new contract language. They’ve sent a release accusing us of “perpetrat[ing] serious misinformation.”

That's a heavy charge, so we went back and double-checked. We stand by every word of our statement.

Simon & Schuster’s release pretends that the argument concerns “print on demand.” That isn’t the issue. We like print on demand: we encourage publishers to sell books in every permissible way. You wouldn’t know it from reading its release, but Simon & Schuster already has the rights – as they have for years in their standard contract – to take advantage of print on demand and e-book technologies.

The issue is what happens when a book goes out of print, when the publisher is no longer selling it in meaningful numbers. Traditionally, rights then revert at the request of the author, who often is able to give the book a new life elsewhere. Simon & Schuster is trying to change the rules of the industry so that they never have to admit that a book is out of print.

We meant what we said in our press release and our alert to members:

1. Simon & Schuster’s new contract would indeed allow it to retain exclusive rights to a book even if it were no longer in print. Simon & Schuster’s contract says, “The Work shall not be deemed out of print as long as it is available in any U.S. trade edition, including electronic editions.” Having a book available for sale in some database – without the obligation to sell a single copy – is not keeping a book “in print” as common sense and the industry have defined that term.

2. Simon & Schuster would, under its new contract, be empowered to exclusively control your rights even if your books aren't available for sale through traditional bookstores. E-book availability (read any good e-books lately?) would be enough to fulfill Simon & Schuster’s contractual commitments under its interpretation of “in print.” Roy Blount is plainly right, this contract would allow Simon & Schuster to squirrel away rights.

3. Simon & Schuster’s press release avowals about its promotional efforts as it pursues “incremental income” for backlist titles are not legally binding. Simon & Schuster goes on at some length about efforts to market backlist titles including “regularly review[ing] inventory opportunities with all our accounts” and engaging in the “distribution of online assets (cover, bios, synopses, chapters) and data feeds about basic information” on backlist titles to retailers. Whatever the merit of these efforts, Simon & Schuster carefully avoids committing to them on behalf of authors with books relegated to the backlist.

4. Simon & Schuster’s efforts to alter the true core deal of a trade book contract – that a publisher controls the right to sell an author’s book only so long as the publisher effectively exploits that right – demanded exposure. Agents reported to us that Simon & Schuster had slipped the change into its contracts without alerting agents to the alteration, which was quite subtle and easily missed. Agents also reported that when they discovered the change and questioned the publisher about it, Simon & Schuster played hardball, saying the clause was non-negotiable and wouldn’t be discussed. In its release, Simon & Schuster seems miffed that we didn’t discuss their new contractual language with them before exposing it to sunlight. Engaging in discussions with a conglomerate playing hardball while authors may have been unwittingly signing rights away would, in our view, have been irresponsible.

We welcome and will take Simon & Schuster up on its offer to discuss this matter. We hope to report soon that it has rejoined the ranks of publishers who behave as responsible stewards of their authors’ copyrights.

In the meantime, if you have an offer from Simon & Schuster, remember that the publisher has now said it will negotiate this clause on a book-by-book basis. If you’re fortunate, Simon & Schuster will offer you a reasonable out-of-print clause. (Feel free to discuss this with us or talk to your agent about the adequacy of the clause.) If not, it’s in your interest to explore your options – other publishers have reaffirmed that they’re not following Simon & Schuster’s example. If you have a manuscript that may be auctioned, it’s in your strong interest to ask your agent to exclude Simon & Schuster imprints unless they agree before the auction to use industry standard terms.

Here’s Simon & Schuster’s release in its entirety, which we forward to you at the publisher’s request.

Feel free to forward and post this alert. The Authors Guild is the oldest and largest organization of published book authors in the U.S.

So What's Google Been Up To?

Since I told you about Amazon yesterday, I thought we'd talk about Google today.

Lots going on in Google World and the Birmingham [England] Post (BP) is all over it.

The BP reports that Google is about "to combine its online search services into one 'Universal Search' that will present web sites, news, video and other results on one page."

The story quotes an analyst with Global Crown Capital saying, "The thing everyone is wondering right now is what will an advertiser be willing to pay for a video link."

Google has spent years building "silos of information." Their plan is to integrate these various databases for news, video clips, books, local information and images.

The company is also readying a translation service that "will translate queries in any of a dozen languages into English, find additional search results, then automatically translate those back into the language of the original query. This will give users in any supported language a broader view of information on the web."

Now when you search on Google, you'll be able to pull up relevant video clips from YouTube, Google Video and independent sites like Advertisers are going to love it.

In a second story, the BP has this to say:

Google's relentless march to take over the world has been well documented in this column. It's always amusing to see which industry Google is going to take apart next--that is until you find out it's the one you're in!

Its recent acquisition of DoubleClick signals its intention [to] get into traditional advertising.

DoubleClick represents a departure from Google's text advertising approach. According to BP, Doubleclick "controls one of the largest networks of banner ad space, using the network of independent sites that allow it a traditional 'display' advertising model, where brands pay for their graphical ads to be pasted on websites, like posters on billboards."

Display advertising is attractive to Internet users because it doesn't require them to click away from whatever site they are viewing when they see the ad. Web surfers are notoriously stingy about giving up their clicks to advertisers.

It will be interesting to see what Google's latest moves do to the advertising world.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

I Told You So

On Sunday, May 20th, I said the following in a post talking about Simon & Schuster:

Giant printing presses are no longer the key to the kingdom of publishing. The large houses face competition on two fronts: from the Internet giants and from the e-publishing industry.

When I say Internet giants, I'm talking about Google,, Yahoo, eBay and Microsoft. Of the five, I suspect the biggest direct competition will come from either Google or My money is on Amazon. The biggest dark horse IMHO is eBay.

As I mentioned last night, the Internet companies were the first to realize the power the Internet had to change the face of publishing. Both Google and Amazon started by offering to help traditional print houses market their print books. However, I don't think that either company will stop there. It is not a big stretch from marketing other companies' books to marketing original content yourself.

Amazon already owns a POD company and is developing an e-reading device capable of using different formats. Google already has its search engine for marketing and digitizing equipment. Either one could easily produce both print and e-books.

Well, three days after that post, Amazon is announcing the acquisition of Brilliance Audio, "the largest independent publisher of audiobooks in the United States" according to Investrend.

According to Amazon's press release dated 5/23/07: "The acquisition will enable Amazon to work closely with the book publishing community to further expand the number of books produced in audio format and provide customers with an even greater selection of audiobooks to find, discover and buy."

Keep an eye on Amazon.

2006 Net Book Sales

Latest News: The Association of American Publishers (AAP) has released their estimate of 2006 book sales. They indicate that U.S. publishers earned $24.2 billion, which was down .3% over 2005's $24.26 billion in net sales.

The data isn't perfect. Only 81 publishers' data is included. Publishers Lunch points to "flaws and incompleteness." Shelf Awareness gave an example of incompleteness when they reported: "for religious books and e-books, data includes sales information from the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association and the International Digital Publishing Forum respectively."

According to the Los Angeles Times: "Religious book sales fell 10.2% to $745 million while audio-books dropped 11.7% to $182 million. Spurred by progress in digital technology, sales of e-books jumped 24.1% to $54 million."

More On Simon & Schuster

A fellow author and writers' loop member, Linda, posed some interesting questions. Rather than make myself crazy trying to address them in the narrow comments box, I decided to do a follow-up post on the S&S letter.

What is the downside if a writer signs the proposed S&S contract?

Obviously, I’m speculating here because this letter is NOT clear. Given the fact that it is so murky, I’m going to take the Authors Guild interpretation: That is, when a writer signs with S&S, the contract says S&S will retain rights as long as the book is available for sale, even if only in their online database.

I can think of several scenarios where there's a downside. Here's one:

It’s axiomatic that, for most writers, it takes several books to build a readership. Obviously, there are those special few who have a blockbuster right out of the gates, but that isn’t the norm. For most writers, ordinary wisdom says that it takes five or six books to develop a fan base. Once that happens, fans—like you, Linda—often go looking for an author’s earlier works. I remember Janet Evanovich saying during a talk in Fort Worth that she didn’t hit big until her thirteenth novel, the first about Stephanie Plum.

Under the present system, maybe the rights revert back to our author after seven years or maybe they came back after five years when only a few devoted fans were buying his books, the minimum sales threshold wasn’t reached and the author wrote the required letter, requesting return of the rights.

Anyway, for the sake of argument, let's say the rights went back to the author and then the writer got big and interest in those early books piques. If S&S decided after ten years they want to re-release the first book, they’d have to re-negotiate the original deal. And I promise you, they’d have to up the royalty percentage on that re-release.

However, if the writer signed that S&S contract, there is no going back and re-looking at the deal for those earlier books. The writer is locked into whatever lowly royalty percentage he agreed to a decade earlier. Yes, he will continue to earn royalties, but only at the originally agreed upon rate.

Once the lack of sales by S&S triggers the revision of rights clause to the author, what else can he or she do with the book? Are there companies willing to pay advances to authors for a book that isn't selling? That, in fact, has a proven track record of not selling (which is why the book rights are available)?

Okay, you're making a leap here when you say the book "has a proven track record of not selling." Maybe the book had respectable numbers in its original release, but now it's three years later. S&S isn't doing anything to promote it; the book is just sitting out there on its database in the hope someone stumbles across it, or that a reader like you goes looking for it. That doesn't mean the book is a loser; it just means it's been off the bookshelves for three years and nothing is driving traffic toward it.

Publishing has trends the way every other industry does. Books and genres come in and out of vogue along with movies and television programs. Say your author goes with a new publisher who decides to re-package a series of vampire novels that were originally sold as horror, but will now be sold as urban fantasies.

With a new cover and a new publisher pushing it, the book might find a whole new life. It's happened. I can think of multiple instances when I have picked up what I thought was a new book by a favorite author only to find it was a very old book with a new title and a new publisher. At least once, I actually purchased a book only to get home and find it was re-packaged with a new title.

Would the author have to go to a POD company and pay them to make it available? If so, then isn't S&S saving them money?

While I think there's a day when self-publishing may make sense for writers, right now there are only very specific groups for whom I think it makes sense. For those groups, go here. Only the last three listed are viable reasons to me. So this question is a non-starter for me.

I'm sure there are writers who are so desperate to be published that they will essentially sell their manuscripts to S&S. As you say, every writer must make his or her own decision.

After decades of centralization, I wouldn't be surprised to see the publishing industry begin to fragment again. The Internet and POD technology will make it possible for small boutique publishing houses that serve specific niches to emerge.

In the same way that new options are springing up for readers, I think new options may become available for writers.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Simon & Schuster Issues A Letter

Simon & Schuster issued a letter yesterday in response to the brouhaha created by the Authors Guild last week. Here's the letter. I've numbered and bolded the places where I have a comment. My comments will follow the letter:

To Our Colleagues in the Author and Agent Community

The Authors Guild has recently perpetrated serious misinforma-
tion regarding Simon & Schuster, our author contracts and our commitment to making our authors' books available for sale. Unfortunately, these distortions were released by the Authors Guild without their having undertaken any effort to have a dialogue with Simon & Schuster on this topic.

In recent years, Simon & Schuster has accepted, at the request of some agencies, contract language that specifies a minimum level of activity for print on demand titles. Our experience with the current high quality and accessibility of print on demand titles indicates to us that such minimums are no longer necessary. Our position on reversions for active titles remains unchanged. (1) As always, we are willing to have an open and forthright dialogue on this or any other topic.

When considering this issue, we ask you to please keep in mind these important points:

  • Through print on demand technology, publishers now have the ability for the first time in history, to actually fulfill the promise which is at the core of their contracts with authors--to keep the author's book available for sale over the term of the license.
  • We view this progress as a great opportunity to maximize the sales potential for slow moving titles (2), and some of the best news for authors and publishers in a long time. The potential benefit for all concerned in incremental income for the publishing partnership far outweighs any imaginary negatives purported by the Authors Guild.
  • We and others are investing heavily in digitization so that authors and publishers can reap the maximum benefit of publication over the long term. New technologies including print on demand will extend the life of a book far beyond what has been possible in the past.
  • Contrary to the Authors Guild assertion, using technologies like print on demand is not about "squirreling away" rights, not does it mean that "no copies are available to be ordered by traditional bookstores." Print on demand is simply a means of manufacturing a book, making it widely available to retailers and consumers. (3)
  • Publishers must and will continue to invest in sales and marketing organizations that work on behalf of its books regardless of how they are manufactured. Among the activities that publishers regularly undertake for backlist titles (4):
  • Keeping them available for sale everywhere books are sold, through brick and mortar and online stores.
  • Our Sales team regularly reviews inventory opportunities with all our accounts.
  • Distribution of online assets (covers, bios, synopses, chapters) and data feeds about basic information to both online and traditional retailers.
  • Books are cataloged and regularly featured and solicited in category promotions.
  • Re-promotion of books to tie in with seasonal and current events.
  • Re-promotion of an author's backlist titles together with new frontlist releases.

  • Print on demand, digital archives, and virtual warehouses support greater flexibility and effectiveness in making books available. Simon & Schuster has already had instances where a high level of sales activity of print on demand titles has led us to go back to press for larger quantities.

More importantly, we hope you know that we view authors and agents as our partners in the publishing process. We have always been open to discussion and negotiated in good faith at every point in the life of a book.

Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.


My comments:

(1) "In recent years, Simon & Schuster has accepted, at the request of some agencies, contract language that specifies a minimum level of activity for print on demand titles . . . Our position on reversions for active titles remains unchanged."

Of the entire 568-word letter, these are the only sentences that I found interesting. This appears to echo their original statement last week, that nothing had changed.

Are they saying that the minimum threshold levels will be maintained for active titles? If so, has S&S been offering to use POD technology to keep certain titles in print once the publisher was unable to maintain the minimum sales thresholds in order to keep the rights??? If so, does the author have the right to opt in or out at that point?

If that's the case, then Authors Guild made a big flap over nothing. If that isn't the case, I can't make sense of this part of the letter.

(2) "Through print on demand technology . . . We view this progress as a great opportunity to maximize the sales potential for slow moving titles"

I find S&S's emphasis on POD technology very interesting. The fact of the matter is that POD technology does make it possible to print a single copy economically. However, five years after a book is released, POD technology is NOT going to bring that book to readers' attention. It's the combination of the POD technology AND the use of the Internet to market and make titles easy to find that is the huge break-through. But this letter only mentions the Internet in a very peripheral way by later references to online stores and retailers.

Additionally, I find it interesting that S&S narrows the "great opportunity" to slow moving titles. Why? A title that moved briskly a few years ago would benefit as much as a slow moving title by being kept alive.

When I was a child, my Uncle Frank performed as a magician and hypnotist. He explained to me once that most of magic is really misdirection. The reference to "slow moving titles" feels like misdirection to me.

(3) Print on demand is simply a means of manufacturing a book, making it widely available to retailers and consumers.

The first half of this sentence is absolutely true. POD technology is simply a means of printing a book.

The second half of this sentence feels like misdirection. Once the book is printed, it sits there. Its mere existence doesn't make it "widely available." Otherwise, why do publishers pulp and remainder their stock? They do this because there are not enough brick-and-mortar bookstore shelves or warehouse capacity to hold copies of all books indefinitely. Only on the Internet's virtual bookshelves is there room for hundreds of thousands of titles.

And even virtual bookshelf space isn't enough. There has to be something that drives traffic to that space on the bookshelf for the older book to sell. Without marketing, the book will sit out there in cyberspace forever. POD without marketing means nothing. Unless S&S commits to continue publicizing the book (and immortalizes that commitment in written form in a contract), having the ability to print one or two books has no special value.

(4) Among the activities that publishers regularly undertake for backlist titles:

This is a very neat bit of sleight of hand. They're not promising anything. They're saying that among the things they might do is yadda, yadda, yadda.

That's like me saying among the healthy choices I might make for my life is to run two miles every morning before breakfast and give up my 3:00 PM Weight Watchers cookies-and-cream ice cream bar every afternoon. And we all know how likely that is.

And therein lies my problem. Except for #1, the rest of this letter says nothing.

If S&S is saying that their future contracts for active titles will offer minimum threshold levels, but, at the point they cannot justify the minimum threshold level any more, they will OFFER the author the right to go POD with no promises, that's very different from what the Authors Guild said. Then the author is given the choice to pull her title from S&S and go elsewhere, or to leave the rights with S&S and take a chance that they'll promote it enough to sell.

However, if that's what S&S means, why not simply come out and say it--without all the rest of this mumbo-jumbo?

Something ain't right here.

Disregarding #1 for the moment, S&S sounds as though they want to retain rights without promising the author ANYTHING. Not a minimum number of sales per year, not a guarantee of promotion, not an indication that they will pay an additional advance, NOTHING.

They have given no explanation for why they don't want to offer minimum levels of sales per year in order to retain rights. If POD is this great panacea for publishing, why doesn't S&S put their money where their mouth is?

Why not change the language of the contract to say that they will maintain a threshold level of sales OR pay the author an additional advance to hold the rights? Then the author knows S&S has a reason to promote the book because their money is on the line. Then the writer might feel safe investing in S&S because--make no mistake--if an author goes along with a contract that has no date for reversion of rights, or no minimum sales thresholds to hold the rights, that author IS investing in S&S.

Personally I don't see the upside for the writer. Why choose to sign with S&S? They're asking you to accept on faith that they will promote your book while holding your rights. I might trust my father (were he still alive), but I'm not trusting a corporate behemoth that can't even write a straightforward letter.

This letter creates more questions than it answers. It feels like Bill Clinton parsing the word "is".

Hey, Simon & Schuster, you're digging yourself into a hole. This is NOT the answer you want to give the writing community. You need to talk in black-and-white, in a manner in which everyone can be comfortable they know what you're saying. This ain't it.

Oh, and by the way, making people write a snail mail letter to reach your corporate office isn't exactly a great example of "we have always been open to discussion" either. If I'm going to do that, I might as well send the letter to the president and CEO of your corporate parent, CBS (Leslie Moonves, CEO, CBS Headquarters, 51 West 52nd Street, New York, New York 10019-6188) instead. Or maybe to a member of the CBS Board of Directors listed here, using the same address.

I did send an email to your customer service department this morning. Funny thing. I noticed they've now removed the drop down choice of "feedback" (which was there last week) from their menu. Must be a computer glitch. I chose "order cancellation" instead.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

I've Been Tagged

I'm mostly sick in bed today. Some kind of stomach bug. And, Sherrill Quinn took advantage of my weakened state to tag me :)

Rules first. 1) Each player starts with eight random facts/habits about themselves. 2) People who are tagged need to write their own blog about their eight things and post these rules. 3) At the end of your blog, you need to choose eight people to get tagged and list their names. 4) Don't forget to leave them a comment telling them they're tagged, and to read your blog.

Let's see. Eight random facts about me.

1) I seem to have a natural affinity for orienting myself to the directions of the compass--even without the sun as a guide. I do much better with north-south-east-west directions than with turn-right-turn-left directions.

2) I have a huge Beanie Baby collection. It started as a way to amuse my young nieces when they were small, and then just got out of hand. I think it's a combination of the fact that I'm incredibly competitive and that I wasn't allowed to have a Barbie as a kid (Mom didn't have the cash to buy all the clothes).

3) I'm afraid of water. I can swim if I have to, but--like a cat--I prefer not to. I won't even put my face under the water in the shower.

4) I love violent, escapist movies, and I'm not talking Die Hard or Lethal Weapon. I'm talking Pulp Fiction and Grindhouse.

5) I am incredibly accident-prone. My friends claims it's because I do everything too fast, and they're probably right. On a sunny day in February, 2003, I slipped on an icy hill while cleaning out flowerbeds, slid down the hill and knew I'd broken my leg. When we arrived at the emergency room, the staff asked me to give a number to my pain. Looking at all the people moaning and groaning around me, I said, "I don't know. If I don't move it, it's probably a 4 or 5. So they left me sit for between one and two hours (the time gets longer with each retelling of the story).

When the technician got me up on the table and began the X-rays, I heard him say, "Holy Sh*t!" I asked, "Is everything okay?" He said, "Yeah, yeah. Just lay still, okay?"

Turns out I'd broken both bones in my left leg in two places. I spent a week in the hospital, three weeks in a rehab unit, and six weeks in a wheelchair with two surgeries on either end of my rehab. The good news is that the left leg is great today. However, now I'm doing physical therapy twice a week on the right leg because I tripped during the great Electricity Blackout at the beginning of this month. The surgeon who operated on my left leg (and on my broken thumb a year later) says I have a moderate sprain in my medial collateral ligament.

6) I had carrot-colored hair while I was growing up--it matched all the freckles. My father's Italian family would look at me and shake their heads in disbelief. They only recognized me as theirs because I had my father's green eyes.

As soon as I could, I began coloring my hair a darker, less obnoxious hue--more auburn. I've been coloring it ever since. This month, my hair is Preference by L'Oreal 7G.

7) I've had season tickets to the Dallas Symphony for about fifteen years, but my favorite piece of classical music is one I think of as being somewhat unsophisticated. In the Hall of the Mountain King by Grieg. It's the theme from Peer Gynt. You can hear Peer tip-toeing into the Mountain King's castle and then hear him running away when the trolls give chase. Its delightful creepiness appeals to something very dark in me.

8) I am the least girly-girl you know. My hair is very curly so I keep it short. I wash it and let it dry on my head in the morning. I hate lipstick, but will wear eyebrow liner. Can't imagine doing anything like Botox even if my face ends up looking like a shar pei's someday.

Thank God, I came up with eight things.

All right. My turn to tag: Sherry Davis, Kelly Fritz, Yasmine Phoenix, B.E. Sanderson, Joyce Scarbrough, Marie Tuhart, Grace Williams, and Maria Zannini.

Tag! You're it!

And be warned: I'll kill the next person who tags me again.

Congratulations to Michael

I'm not feeling well so I'm getting ready to pack it in. I'll be back tomorrow (or later tonight if I can't sleep). In the meantime, here's an upper.

On Saturday, I told you that my young friend, Michael Richardson, had entered the Fire on the Strings contest in Houston. This was the finals in Texas to determine who the state will be sending to the National Guitar Flat Pick Championship in September in Winfield, Kansas.

As I explained, Michael is a fifteen-year-old. He was competing with guitar players who had many years more experience than he, but he came in second place. The first place winner was a man who has spent years on the circuit, playing in contests.

Michael won $300 for second place, but--more importantly--the first place winner deferred to him, giving Michael the coveted spot at the Nationals in Kansas.

Michael is over the moon. In 113 days, he'll be playing at the Walnut Valley Festival in the 35th National Flat Picking Championships here. Be sure to click on "Contests" and then on "Luthiers and Prizes" to see the various competitions that will take place.

Congratulations to Michael and to his parents, Julie and Charles.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bump It Up

I heard Jane Graves speak on Saturday at my RWA chapter meeting. Jane writes romantic comedy and her fifteenth book, Hot Wheels and High Heels, goes on sale July 1.

Jane talked about receiving a rejection letter a decade ago that told her "there's nothing wrong here, but you've failed to rise above the other 850 submissions I got this month."

Stung, she approached half a dozen agents and editors and asked what helps a submission to rise above the rest. They used words like "original," "spark," and "something I haven't seen a million times before."

Using their advice, Jane decided she needed to "bump it up," and she's been doing that ever since.

She used the manuscript of her latest novel to help explain what she meant.

There are lots of books out there with a heroine who is on the ropes--whose husband has left her for a younger woman. Jane's heroine, Darcy McDaniel, is almost forty, and she's been married for fourteen years.

Bump it up.

Darcy was once the trophy wife. She has no marketable skills.

Bump it up.

Her husband leaves her while she's in Mexico on vacation with a girlfriend.

Bump it up.

She returns home to find he's emptied their bank accounts, run up their credit cards, and sold their house and all its furnishings before skipping the country.

Bump it up.

Coming in from the airport, Darcy walks into her house to discover another family eating dinner at her table.

Bump it up.

Her no-good husband took her jewelry, and her clothing has been donated to Goodwill. "She raced to the front entry and scrambled up the stairs, images of street people filling her mind. She saw them huddled in doorways wearing her Emilio Pucci pants and smoking Camel nonfilters. Stretched out on park benches, using her Gucci jackets as pillows. Carrying drug paraphernalia in her Fendi bag."

Darcy goes ballistic, running around her house, trying to collect HER French art deco vase, silver candlesticks and Waterford clock. The new owners don't try to stop her; they dial 911. Darcy is escorted off the premises of her own home by the police.

Bump it up.

Enter the hero. An ex-cop named John Stark who can't stand high maintenance women. He operates a repo company, and he's after Darcy's Mercedes Roadster.

See what I mean?

Jane says the secret to a successful novel is to have C*O*N*F*L*I*C*T on every page. That's right. Every page. Keep throwing pressure at your characters. Don't let them relax or get comfortable.

She also said you need to be very specific: specific in describing your characters, specific in your dialogue and specific in your introspection. "She pulled to the side of the road in front of the double-wide on lot 38G, a vinyl-clad structure with plastic shutters and a limp metal awning. A pot of pink geraniums sat beside the front door, wilting in the heat, and Christmas lights drooped over the picture window in the living room. Clayton, take down the damned lights, her mother would say, and her father would say, not if I'm gonna have to put them up again next year."

To read the first chapter of Hot Wheels and High Heels, go here. I promise; it's a delight.

And remember . . . bump it up . . . and be specific.

Another two-post day. Read on to the next post.

Print versus e-Book

One of my favorite things about doing a daily blog is that, over time, readers have started to direct my attention to items they think I might find interesting. It's very helpful--especially on days when I'm searching for a blog topic.

That happened yesterday morning. Marie Tuhart pointed me toward the Dear Authors site to read the discusson on e-publishers and print books.

Jane--one of the two Ja(y)ne owners--spoke with Patty Marks of Ellora's Cave, Angela James of Samhain and Treva Harte of Loose ID (pronounced "lucid"). All three e-imprints began as e-publishers only. All three are now converting e-book titles into print books sold by retailers like Borders.

According to a July, 2006 article in Publishers Weekly, Ellora's Cave (EC) is "a force in the industry," meaning the erotic romance industry. EC was the first e-publisher to be acknowledged by the Romance Writers of America as a RWA Recognized Publisher and the first e-publisher to be invited to contract for print copies of their titles by a national bookstore chain (Borders in 2004).

Patty Marks, speaking for Ellora's Cave, told Jane that EC recently upgraded their print-on-demand printing equipment. Among other things, she indicated that the POD equipment gave EC more control over quantity, timing, and needed changes.

When Jane asked if success with in-print books was necessary for a publisher to be viable, Patty responded that it wasn't necessary for financial success (EC's e-books sell more than their print books), but that it was necessary for EC to continue to attract authors.

Angela James of Samhain, a relatively new e-publisher, echoed Patty Marks' comments about authors wanting to see their books in print. Angela said, "Adding a print program provides another source of revenue and, as I said, access to a new market of readers and buyers, but it also adds another layer of cost, commitment and responsibility . . ."

The challenge for an author when choosing a publisher is to balance conflicting priorities. There's no question that it's easier to get e-pubbed than print pubbed and probably easier to build an audience as well. People who are inclined to read e-books are also more inclined to read blogs and reviews online that recommend a specific book or author. Also, online Yahoo groups are a huge help for an e-author to build an audience.

Although print books give an author something tangible to hold in his hand, it takes a loonnngggg time to go from contract to actual publication in print. In the interest of fairness, my e-book author friends are complaining that the most popular e-publishers are taking much longer than they once did to get a story online.

Traditional print publishers do offer advances--according to a recent article in the New York Times--publishers generally offer 10% of what they expect the book to earn.

The reading audience for any specific e-publisher varies widely. If an author sells to a large e-publisher like Ellora's Cave, the reading audience can be substantial. However, this is not the case with all e-imprints.

As e-publishers move into print and traditional print publishers begin to market online, the once-clear lines between the two business models begin to blur.

To read the Dear Author post, go here and check May 19.

To read a Labor Day, 2004 interview with Patty Marks of Ellora's Cave go here.

One interesting note: That interview with Patty Marks contains a photo of Patty, the mother of the founder of EC, standing with the EC chief operating officer, Chrissy Brashear. A little over a year after this photo was taken, Chrissy opened her own e-publishing house: Samhain, which just celebrated 18 months in business.

Thanks to Marie for directing me to Dear Author. Read Marie's blog here.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Caterwauling Before Dawn

There's a new post about Simon & Schuster below this one, but first I had a bad scare this morning.

Woke up out of a deep sleep around 4:00 this morning to one of the most god-awful sounds in the world: the noise of a full-out catfight.

I've had cats for the majority of my life. Occasionally one of mine will get into a fight with a strange cat outdoors. My little cowards run straight home, screaming for reinforcements as they retreat. I run outside and drive the intruder off. I've never had to deal with anything more than a scratched ear (on the cats, I mean).

Lately, now that Bob is moving toward twenty pounds (eek!), he doesn't tolerate any strange cat setting foot on grass within two houses in either direction of mine.

In my experience, cats simply don't engage in the kind of prolonged to-the-death fights that dogs do. They tend to posture, scream warnings and retreat when both feel they've satisfied their personal honor.

The noise at 4:00 AM INSIDE my home was terrifying. I could hear bodies rolling and lots of screaming. I stumbled out of bed and raced to the front of the house.

Some background. Tribble, my calico Manx, is working on age twenty-two. She has some age-related issues, including arthritis, excessive water drinking and an inability to retract her claws.

I don't know what the claw thing is about, but it's mostly an annoyance. She gets caught on the fabric of a chair and cries until I come release her. She will walk across my laptop keyboard and sometimes pop a cap off a key because her claw will get caught. I spent hours one day searching for the top of my letter "e".

For the last few months, every time I've returned home, I've expected to find her tiny dead body, but she just keeps going. Tim, my marvelous vet, assures me she's in no pain; her body is just gradually wearing out.

Tribble has taken up a post on the right side of my laptop. She spends almost all day and night there except for the occasions--once or twice a week--when she asks to go outdoors. There she stays on my front porch on a pillow on the glider.

She avoids the other two cats who are increasingly hostile toward her. However, Tribble is enough of the grande dame that she can still force them to back down. I've seen her hit the kitten hard enough to send Dinah flying. When she swats Bob, who is now three times her weight, he respectfully backs off even though I've no doubt he could wipe the floor up with her. It appears to me that they are testing her to see if she's still got it.

When I reached my entry hall and switched on the overhead light, at first it looked like Tribble was swatting Bob. However, they were both screaming bloody murder. As I approached, Bob backed off and I realized he was dragging Tribble with him across my faux marble hall floor.

That's when it dawned on me. Her right claw was hooked into his cat collar. They were linked together, and neither could get free.

Both were so hysterical that they hissed at me as I approached. Soothing words didn't help. I had to shout to get them to freeze. While they were still in that Oh-my-god-did-you-hear-what-she-just-did frozen state, I unhooked Tribble. Her claw was actually caught in the little round hook that holds Bob's name tag.

The minute they were free, both went flying in different directions
--Bob toward the dining room table; his favorite retreat is under the tablecloth. Tribble ran for her litter box in the hall bathroom.

I followed Trib and peeked inside the covered top of the litter box. She was just sitting there, trembling. Not wanting to intrude upon her safe place, I sat on the edge of the bathtub and cooed nonsense at her for nearly four minutes until she came out to me, seeking comfort.

She continued to tremble so I brought her back into bed with me. She lay on my chest--small, bony and shaking--for another few minutes before pulling herself together. She left, going down the steps to the side of my tall bed, passing Bob who was now sitting there watching us.

I heard her return to my study, hop up on my chair and then onto the desk.

Bob made one big leap and landed on top of my mattress beside me. He whimpered, "What about me? I was scared, too." I cooed over him until he let out a big sigh and settled down under my arm.

We fell into an exhausted, relieved sleep.

Today--as much as she hates it--I need to trim Tribble's claws.

Read on for part two of my Simon & Schuster post.

Apology To My Readers

When I'm writing my posts, I sometimes publish them while they're still unfinished so I can proof them. I find it hard to proof in the editing mode.

While I was doing so with the following post, my computer froze, leaving an unfinished post on the screen for nearly two hours.

The problem is now corrected, and you have my apologies.


Simon & Schuster, Part II

I ended my post about Simon & Schuster last night saying that I believe publishers are going to have to start offering BETTER deals to writers, not worse ones.

Regular readers of this blog will remember that I've talked about this before.

In the traditional business model, the writer provides the artistic talent and the publisher provides the capital to turn the writer's work into a printed book. All the power is in the hands of the publisher since most writers don't have the financial resources to produce the printed book themselves. The game belongs to the publisher.

However, the Internet and POD technology is changing that dynamic. Instead of one publishing business model, the new technologies have splintered the market into three models. I'm going to call them: traditional print, e-publishing and self-publishing.

We already know how the traditional print model works. Let's talk about e-publishing next.

E-publishing is only about ten years old. Compared to traditional print, it is much less expensive to become an e-publisher. An investment in a website and web designer is relatively cheap. There's also no shipping, warehousing, and bookstore returns to mess with. Because of this, the royalties paid to writers are much higher than in traditional print. Writers working for e-publishers expect to receive a minimum of 33% in royalties.

The problem for writers is that the e-publishing market is still new and developing. Attracting enough readers to build a name is the challenge.

E-publishing found its first readers among the sci-fi and romance markets. But e-books are still enjoying double digit increases in sales. In February, 2007, e-book sales rose by 44.7% with sales of $2.5 million for the period.

Still, the lack of a viable e-reading device (inexpensive, easy on the eyes and simple to operate) has slowed the growth of e-publishing. Once an e-reading device captures the public's imagination the way the iPod did for the music industry, I'm betting e-publishing will take off.

Traditional publishers have finally begun to take notice. As more and more people become comfortable buying print books on the Internet, publishing houses began to realize two things: (1) They could market their print books via the Worldwide Web, and (2) Younger readers were beginning to move away from print copies to digitized downloads.

The big seven publishers are actively digitizing their stock and demanding e-publishing rights in their contracts. However, there's a problem here.

The traditional print houses have become so accustomed to "owning the game" that they have not yet realized the Internet and POD technology may mean the end of their control over publishing. The move by Simon & Schuster to demand indefinite rights to books is a perfect example of that arrogance.

Giant printing presses are no longer the key to the kingdom of publishing. The large houses face competition on two fronts: from the Internet giants and from the e-publishing industry.

When I say Internet giants, I'm talking about Google,, Yahoo, eBay and Microsoft. Of the five, I suspect the biggest direct competition will come from either Google or My money is on Amazon. The biggest dark horse IMHO is eBay.

As I mentioned last night, the Internet companies were the first to realize the power the Internet had to change the face of publishing. Both Google and Amazon started by offering to help traditional print houses market their print books. However, I don't think that either company will stop there. It is not a big stretch from marketing other companies' books to marketing original content yourself.

Amazon already owns a POD company and is developing an e-reading device capable of using different formats. Google already has its search engine for marketing and digitizing equipment. Either one could easily produce both print and e-books.

Remember, the reason traditional publishing gained all that power was because they were the only game in town.

That's changing. In addition to the Internet giants, there are already dozens of tiny e-publishers. While e-publishing is still in its infancy, it's probable that one company will move ahead of the pack.

Moving to electronic publishing offers other powerful financial incentives to traditional publishers beyond merely keeping up with its migrating reader base. E-publishing frees them from costly print runs, warehousing and shipping expenses, and the headache of bookstore returns.

Up until now the big houses have used the Internet only for marketing. But that's already changing. On April 13, I reported that Penguin, Random House, HarperCollins and Mills & Boon have all signed up with ICUE, a British company that can transfer books into mobile phone-friendly content. See here for the story.

I'm not convinced that traditional print publishers understand that, as they continue to move toward e-publishing, they lose their competitive edge and, more importantly, their bargaining power. On the electronic playing field, they face lots of competition. Competition that offer higher royalties.

If the big seven aren't going to offer higher royalty percentages, they need to offer writers other incentives--more promotion, more marketing, more service, more formats. If they don't, they're going to find those writers deserting them for other companies who WILL sweeten the pot. The question is whether those companies will include an Internet giant like Amazon or Google.

The unknown for me in the equation is the impact of self-publishing. In November, 1999, Barnes & Noble bought a 49% stake in iUniverse. Borders is now talking about offering self-publishing services. Other companies are bound to jump into the business.

The two biggest obstacles self-publishing faces are its poor image and the lack of a filtering system. Vanity presses polluted the pool by printing any crap that came along as long as it was accompanied by cash. Until the self-publishing industry develops a filter system to weed out the poorly written stuff, every self-published writer, even the ones writing good material, will bear a stigma.

I've said it before: I suspect the lines between publisher, distributor, bookstore and author are going to start blurring. Unusual agreements among the different parties are likely to emerge. It's possible for an Internet bookseller or marketer to sign a contract with a writer, leaving the traditional publisher out of the picture altogether. And what's to stop a group of authors who already have name brand recognition from joining together to market their e-books?

That's why Simon & Schuster's posturing doesn't bother me. They're standing on shifting soil.

It will be interesting to see what does happen.

Saturday, May 19, 2007


Today was the monthly meeting for my RWA chapter. I sat at a table with fellow writer Shelley Bradley. Shelley and I met two years ago when we were involved in helping to found the Passionate Ink chapter of RWA. Her website is here.

I mentioned that the placeholder was up for my forthcoming book on the Amazon and Borders websites, but not Barnes & Noble. Shelley said, "Oh, your placeholder is up on B&N, too. I checked earlier this week. I'm waiting for yours to go up because my next book is due out thirty days after yours."

I came home to check, and there it was here.

Can the cover be far behind?

Shelley also told me to encourage pre-orders to B&N rather than Amazon or Borders because it will force my ratings up.

Going out to dinner. I'll be back later tonight with tomorrow's post.

Odds and Ends

This is a two-post day. As promised, I've given further comment on the Simon & Schuster debacle below.

Miss Snark has announced her retirement here. After almost two years of reading her blog every day, I'm feeling lost. She was kind enough to send me an email beforehand, but it still hasn't really sunk in yet.

A friend, Michael Richardson, a 15-year-old bluegrass guitar prodigy, is playing in the Fire on the Strings competition in Houston this weekend during the Bay Area Bluegrass Association Festival here. Michael first played on the stage at the Grand Ole Opry at age six, and I'm sending good wishes his way. His mother, Julie, a good friend, has promised to call me from Houston when the judging finishes around 1:00 PM today.

And I just had to open my big mouth. Earlier this week, I said that Dinah, my black-and-white kitten has been losing her collar and nametag on an average of once every six weeks. Well, she achieved a new personal best by losing her latest collar and tag in F*I*V*E days. Guess that will teach me. And I'll be making another trip to Petco this weekend.

Keep reading below.

Authors Guild and Simon & Schuster

I was out Thursday evening and got home late. I saw the emails about the Authors Guild press release and had an immediate negative response. I finished the post I had started in the morning and added a second one on the Authors Guild alert before going to bed around 1 AM.

Friday morning I awoke, refreshed, with that press release on my mind. I remembered how badly the Authors Guild mishandled the Google Book Search initative in 2005. On 9/5/05, they filed suit against Google, claiming copyright infringement. You can find an independent analysis of that lawsuit here.

The last I heard on that lawsuit, Authors Guild v. Google had been pushed back to January, 2008. I just checked with here and found this: "Motions for Summary Judgment, if any, shall be filed Tuesday, March 11, 2008. The pretrial conference previously scheduled for 3/12/07 is adjourned. (Signed by Judge John E. Sprizzo on 1/3/07)."

In the event you don't agree with that analysis and would prefer a viewpoint from a layman, take a look at this article dated 11/8/05 from USA Today here. Kevin Maney, the technology expert for USA Today , had this to say about the lawsuits brought against Google: "The misinformation and misguided attempts to stop these projects are mind-blowing. The Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers (AAP) have sued to shut them down. Writers have been pounding out angry op-ed pieces."

Sound familiar?

I remembered all that Friday morning, and also remembered the posts I'd written in the two years since. I sat down at my laptop and wrote a short post at 7:30 AM, saying I needed more time to think about this whole matter.

Item: Up until very recently, books that were not bestsellers had a very short shelf life and, once they were removed from retailers' bookshelves, the only way to buy them was from used bookstores.

And, with the advent of the Internet, locating and buying used books got a whole lot easier. You can find a used book online and purchase it in less than five minutes without ever leaving your house.

The Book Industry Study Group (BISG) did an exhaustive study on used books about 18 months ago. They projected that, within five years, the number of used books sold will be one out of every eleven books sold.

As every writer knows, a used book purchase might eventually win you a new fan, but it doesn't put money in your pocket immediately.

Item: Then the Internet came along. Think of it as a virtual bookstore with unlimited shelf space. A book never needs to go out of print in this virtual store.

Item: Beside the Internet, another advance came along that offers to revolutionize publishing. Print-on-Demand, a digital printing technology, offers publishers an economic way to publish as few as one or two books at a time instead of having to invest in costly print runs.

Despite the vanity presses' attempts to co-op the term "Print-on-Demand" in an effort to make it synonomous with self-publishing, POD is simply a technology, not a business model. All publishers are waking up to the fact that POD can save them a LOT of money.

Not only were the old printing methods costly, there was the additional expense of warehousing the books and then dealing with all the returns when bookstores failed to sell them.

Of course, the Internet conglomerates were the first to realize the enormous potential the Worldwide Web and POD technology offered to the publishing industry. Google jumped to position itself with its Book Partners program. Read Google's invitation to publishers here.

Although some publishers screamed copyright infringement in a companion case to that of Authors Guild, a check on here indicates there hasn't been a filing in the case in more than six months.

And, more interesting to me, less than eighteen months after filing suit, all five of the publishers listed in that second lawsuit have given permission for books to be listed with the Google Book Partners program.

Business makes strange bedfellows.

In an aside, Publishers Lunch announced on Friday that Google now has over a million full-text searchable books on display. has also been positioning itself to make inroads on the publishing industry. Amazon purchased a POD company, BookSurge, in 2005. Exactly a year ago today Amazon began talking about a new service for publishers here. Amazon announced the program this way: "Books are printed as they are ordered, providing publishers an easy and economical way to bring back out-of-print titles and introduce new, lower-volume titles."

This is Chris Anderson's The Long Tail at work. Anderson argued that, over time, a mid-list book on the Internet could sell as many copies as a best seller does in a couple of weeks. To read more about Anderson, go here.

Amazon is saying, "List your book with us instead of doing a costly print run, having to warehouse the books, and then wait for bookstores to return half of them to you for disposal. We will only print and ship a book when an order comes in for it. You'll have a 100% sell-through."

And don't forget eBay. By its purchases of PayPal, Skype and a dozen auction sites, eBay has been very direct in describing its role in Internet commerce: "eBay CEO Meg Whitman told investors in a conference call that she hoped a power trio of eBay, Paypal and Skype would deliver an 'unparalleled e-commerce and communications engine'." (C/Net News)

Many readers now go to eBay first when seeking to buy a used book. eBay hasn't made the kind of direct approach to publishers that Google and Amazon have. Frankly, I suspect eBay could turn the self-publishing world on its ear by offering marketing services to self-pubbed writers.

Item: Although it took them a while to catch on, the seven largest publishers are quickly making up ground. Both Random House and HarperCollins have developed widgets to allow them to offer their own versions of the "Search Inside" program. Over the last year, I've reported on many other upgrades and plans to move into other forms of media by all the big publishing house.

Item: Friday's Publishers Lunch (PL) had an interesting statement in its post about the Author Guild/Simon & Schuster issue:

The practical question for agents and authors, yet to be given a thorough test from agents we spoke to, is whether this is a revision of starting contract language or a firm move towards a new policy. Indeed the standard S&S boilerplate agreement did not include minimum sales thresholds, though this clause was readily negotiated.

In other words, PL is saying the current S&S contract doesn't include the minimum sales language either. It's negotiated on a case-by-case basis as authors and authors' representatives are smart enough to bring it up.

I believe this because my contract also did not contain that language. My agent had it added.

I'm not an agent or an attorney, but it strikes me that, so far, this affair has been a tempest in a teapot. Sure, Simon & Schuster would be advantaged to keep control of your rights as long as possible. But that's why writers have agents. To negotiate these things.

I also think it's a great idea that authors are being warned about the need to read their contracts carefully--the whole contract. And to pay special care to the issue of reversion of rights. I've been saying the same thing for at least a year, most recently four days ago here.

I've spent twenty years reading contracts in a variety of jobs, but I still had an attorney vet my agent's contract, and I'm grateful to have my agent vetting my publisher's contract. No one should sign a contract without due diligence.

I'm going to stop here. I'll return to this subject tomorrow with why I believe publishers are going to have to start offering BETTER deals to writers, not worse ones.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Simon & Schuster Takes A Bold Step

7:30 AM--I wrote this post at midnight last night. Since then, it has occurred to me that the Authors Guild were the ones who sued Google for its Book Search program. And, quite frankly, they had NO idea what they were talking about. See my explanation here.

As I think about it now, it's probable that they are knee-jerking again. I'll explain more later today after I have time to think about it.


The Authors Guild, which bills itself as "the nation's largest and oldest society of published authors," issued a press release today.

The release said, in part:

NEW YORK-- Simon & Schuster [S&S], one of the largest book publishers in the U.S., has altered its standard contract with authors in an effort to retain control of books even after they have gone out of print. Until now, Simon & Schuster, like all other major trade publishers, has followed the traditional practice in which rights to a work revert to the author if the book falls out of print or if its sales are low.

The new contract would allow Simon & Schuster to consider a book in print, and under its exclusive control, so long as it’s available in any form, including through its own in-house database -- even if no copies are available to be ordered by traditional bookstores.

With the new contract language, the publisher would be able stop printing a book and prevent the author from publishing it with any other house. "A publisher is meant to publish, to get out there and sell our books,” said Authors Guild president Roy Blount Jr. "A publishing house is not supposed to be a place where our books are permanently squirreled away.”

All major trade publishers have been willing to acknowledge the requirement of some minimum level of economic activity in order for them to retain exclusive rights to a manuscript. Typically, such clauses obligate a publisher to sell a few hundred books a year. Simon & Schuster has been signaling, however, that it will no longer accept a minimum sales threshold.

This is huge. Now, when you sign a contact with S&S, you are essentially giving them ownership of your work. You can no longer place it with other publishers--EVER.

In my present contract, my agent inserted a clause indicating that--unless my publisher sells a certain number of books per year--the rights revert to me upon my written request for their return.

I can understand S&S's thinking (without agreeing with them). I've been talking about the concept for nearly a year. What it boils down to is: With the Internet, a book can remain "in print" forever. They're simply trying to take advantage of that and use their new contract to lock in a right they're not entitled to. AND by removing the requirement that they sell a certain number of books a year, they're making it impossible for you to ever get your rights back.

This approach even removes any requirement that they include your book in an online catalog of their offerings to encourage readers to find and purchase the book. That's a crock.

IMHO, reality is that the Internet has the capacity to make publishers redundant, meaning, the Internet may make it possible for writers to be in a position to publish their work without the assistance of a publisher.

I'll talk about that more tomorrow.

In the meantime, read on. This is a two-post day.

Woman, Thy Name Is Frailty (Sorry, Will S)

I am not among those snobs who denigrate television. I regard my television the same way I view my microwave, Mp3 player, gas grill and stereo--tools to make life easier or more pleasant.

Having said that, my television viewing is limited, simply because I consider it a huge suck-hole for time--time I can put to better use by writing.

Apart from the 7 AM news and the 10 PM news, I confine my viewing to specific shows, which I faithfully watch EVERY week:

Tuesdays: NCIS, House, and Boston Legal
Wednesday: Criminal Minds
Saturday: SNL and Ebert and Roeper
Sunday: Meet the Press, The McLaughlin Group, Nature and Masterpiece Theater

I'm not a fan of reality shows or comedies. Both type of shows leave me cold although I have caught and enjoyed episodes of Earl and Two and a Half Men.

All this is a lead-up to a story in the May 5th edition of The New York Times (NYT) titled "The New Modern Woman, Ambitious and Feeble."

The article states that there's been "a turning point in the devolution of women’s roles in television comedy — the moment when competent-but-flaky hardened into basket case."

To support this contention, the NYT points to the women of Ally McBeal and Grey's Anatomy. The article claims "it is troubling that even in escapist fantasies, today’s heroines have to be weak, needy and oversexed to be liked by women and desired by men."

Let me say at the outset, I'm not a prude. For heaven's sake, I write erotic thrillers. An over-sexed heroine doesn't even register on my alarm scale. At the same time, after watching a couple of episodes of both shows--Ally McBeal and Grey's Anatomy--I crossed them off my viewing list.


Neurotic women annoy me. Self-absorbed drama queens send me screaming into the night. Watching a show where the female characters are dizzy, chatty, "ever confused and self-doubting" is not entertainment to me; it's torture.

The article also reminded me of a post I did last year about my history with the film Pretty Woman. Read it here.

To paraphrase, I agree with the Times: Self-deprecation should not be replaced with self-denigration.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Cussler Lawsuit Ends

After nearly fourteen weeks, the cross lawsuits between novelist Clive Cussler and Philip Anschutz (and his production company Crusader Entertainment) have come to an end.

Following eight days of deliberation, the jury returned verdicts--although they reported coming close to telling the judge they were hung.

For background on this case, go here.

Here's what the jury decided:

1) They found that Cussler had breached his contract and must pay Crusader Entertainment (now Bristol Bay Productions) $5 million.

2) They found that Crusader still owed Cussler for the second book in his $20 million two-book deal. However, instead of awarding Cussler the $40 million he was seeking, they gave him $8.5 million.

3) They found that Cussler had fraudulently misrepresented the number of books he's sold during negotiations, but that no harm had been done. Therefore, the jury did not award either actual or punitive damages. Anschutz was asking for $115 million.

Of course, both sides are claiming victory. According to the Los Angeles Times, Cussler's attorney said, "We feel like Cussler is the clear winner."

Meanwhile, Anschutz' lawyer said, "It's a complete victory" for his client.

It sounds like the jury didn't have any sympathy for Anchutz' claims to have lost over $100 million on the movie Sahara. When you make a stupid deal, you can expect to pay.

At the same time Anschutz can take comfort in having seen Cussler thoroughly embarrassed day after day during his testimony on the stand.

Read on. It's a two-post day.

An Archeology Dig, Metaphorically Speaking

I save every receipt I'm given--every grocery purchase, every clothing purchase, every restaurant meal and every gas station receipt.

Why? There's a deduction to be had for the sales tax. As an example, in Texas, every gallon of gas comes with a twenty cent sales tax.

Over time, I've found that I can deduct more than $500 a year for sales taxes, depending on how faithfully I've collected those receipts. A couple of times a year, I sit down to run a calculator tape on a batch of receipts.

The task would go much faster if I would just total the sales tax numbers. But I frequently find myself stopping to look at the items purchased. With the distance offered by several months of not having seen the receipts, the exercise is almost like looking at items unearthed during an archeological dig. You also note patterns you don't pick up on while you're making the purchases.

Some of my discoveries:

1) An inordinate amount of money spent on dental floss. I'm a passionate flosser. To this day, I've never had a crown or root canal, and I'd like to shuck off this mortal coil forty years from now in the same condition.

2) Since Dinah's arrival at my house, I've replaced her collar and name tag on an average of once every six weeks. When she first came to live with me, based on lots of experience with kittens, I purchased three collars and tags at once. I buy break-away collars so that the cat doesn't end up strangled by a tree or fence post when the collar snags. And, like their lost mittens, kittens never bring their collars home.

Dinah lost all three of her new collars in two months. Each collar plus engraved name tag costs $16 ($1.30 in sales tax).

The good news: If Dinah runs true to form, by the time she is two years old, she'll stop losing her collars, meaning she'll learn to crawl through only those holes that her whiskers can clear. Tribble's twenty-one and has worn the same collar for the past ten years.

3) Seafood. Until I looked at the receipts, I hadn't realized how much seafood I eat. If I'm eating alone at home, I'll toss shrimp in a pan and sautee it with green peas, green onions, water chestnuts, pine nuts and spinach and eat it over fettucine. I don't eat fast food--with the exception of Long John Silver's. I love their fish fillets. When I go out to dinner with friends, invariably we eat seafood at Pappadeux's or Joe's Crab Shack. My poor body has probably accumulated enough mercury to make me glow in the dark.

4) Books. Big surprise. I spend A LOT of money on books (both new and used) every month. Fortunately, now that I'm writing professionally, in addition to the sales tax, I can now deduct the cost of some of the books.

5) And, finally, there's the soup. If you've been reading this blog for any length of time, you know about my obsession with soup. If not, read here.

Some day an archeologist is going to review my pile of receipts and conclude that I was a lonely librarian with gorgeous teeth, sitting home alone eating soup and fish and abusing pets to the point that they constantly ran away.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Time Picks The 100 Most Influential People

It's been about a year since my rant over Time's picks for the most influential people of 2006. You can read it here.

Once again, Time gamely tries to convince me that they know the 100 people who shape MY world. And, once again, I have a bone to pick with them. But first, I want to mention an interesting article in the May 13th edition of the Christian Science Monitor. Here's a quote talking about Time:

A few months ago, the venerable newsmagazine announced that it will cut the number of paying readers that it guarantees to advertisers from 4 million to 3.25 million. Publicly, at least, Time doesn't care if 750,000 subscribers throw all those pesky renewal notices in the trash.

On the other hand, Time is reaching out to its most loyal readers through a beefed-up website, a new arrival date on newsstands, and a stable of spotlighted writers who fill its pages with commentary instead of traditional news reporting.

Why the extreme makeover? While the magazine industry is doing well as a whole, Time and its rival newsweeklies are struggling to stay afloat. Gutted by staff cuts and suffering from sluggish circulation, they're trying to figure out how to avoid the grim future facing the newspaper industry.

Time's solution is to adopt the philosophy that's ruled the wider magazine industry for years: Don't try to please all readers all of the time. Instead, just make some readers happy most of the time.

You can read the entire article here.

In thinking about the above quote, I realized that Time is hedging its bets in their choices for the 100 people that shape the world. While it includes some very righteous choices, it also includes a sprinkling of celebrities sure to please the readers of People magazine.

As we did last year, let's start with the Artists and Entertainers. Twenty-two people are listed under that category. Let's look at the demographics, shall we?

Eighteen white (82%), three black (14%), and one Hispanic (4%). Thirteen male and nine female. Twelve (more than half) are involved in the television or movie industry as stars, producers or directors. Six musicians, two writers, two in the clothing industry (designer and model). Not a single visual artist. No painter, no sculptor, no architect.

But here's the best part: the picks.

Kate Moss. Yes, that undernourished waif who has appeared on over 300 magazine covers as well as some newspapers (where she was pictured doing coke). Yeah, that's influential on a cosmic scale. The reason Time gives for her inclusion: "Her kind of prolonged cool takes not just hard work and great bones, but also an infallible chic-tracking system." Sweet mercy.

But I can top that. Another of the entertainers who shape my world: Justin Timberlake. Time's justification: "It's as if Justin had been born 26 years ago to deliver music to the world."

I kid you not.

Words fail.

Let's move on to the Heroes and Pioneers before I commit hara-kiri with a rusty spoon.

Demographics first. Nineteen total. Eleven white (58%), five black (26%) and three Asians (16%). Thirteen men and six females.

This is a little bit of a funky category because Scientists and Thinkers have their own category. So you don't have any scientist or philosopher pioneers here. What you do have are five heroes: an American military officer; the man who threw himself over another man on the New York subway tracks; two people (Michael J. Fox and Elizabeth Edwards) who are handling progressive, fatal diseases; and a man sent to Syria by the U.S. government to be tortured as a potential terrorist.

There are also four obligatory sports heroes, plus a crusader against tobacco use, a Chinese blogger, a man documenting the genocide of Cambodians and an Egyptian urging Muslims to live in peace with the west.

Oh, by the way, Tyra Banks has been promoted from her standing as an Artist and Entertainer in 2006 to a Hero and Pioneer in 2007. The reason: Her willingness to "speak out to girls and young women about embracing their bodies in all sizes."

I look forward to seeing her listed as a Scientist and Thinker next year.

If you want to read the whole 2007 list, go here.