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Archives: September 2008

Platforms Are SO 2007: How’s Your Personal Branding?

julia-allison-angled.jpgmediabistro.com still has spaces left in next week’s “personal branding” workshop, where $75 ($65 if you’re an AvantGuild member) will get you 90 minutes of advice and insights from Wired cover girl Julia Allison (left), online video star Loren Feldman, and Wine Library founder Gary Vaynerchuk on how passion and authenticity can help you build a significant following. Ostensibly, this conversation is going to have a lot more to do with the online world than the world of book publishing, but if you’ve been reading GalleyCat for a while, you know that we consider these principles applicable to authors as well.

If your office can handle a little strong language, here’s a short speech Vaynerchuk gave recently at the Web 2.0 Expo that may or may not be a sneak preview of the mediabistro.com event.

Writing Without Insurance

gavel.jpgAs our publishing culture leaves the safety of the print-based culture and moves into the wilderness of online publishing, most writers ignore a fundamental problem. New media writers–from self-published scribes to blogging authors–aren’t protected against libel lawsuits.

According to the Citizen Media Law Project, lawsuits are increasing against online writers. David Ardia, the director of that project, explained the problem facing the next generation of writers:

“Unfortunately, if you lack the money to carry out a vigorous defense, your only option may be to settle (perhaps agreeing to take down the offending content or even your entire site) regardless of the merits of your defense.”

Ardia also analyzed how writers’ insurance is evolving to cope with these new realities, studying the Media/Professional Insurance offered to members of the Media Bloggers Association.

We Are Living in a Badly-Written Novel

Like Alaska watchdogging Russia, GalleyCat readers are tirelessly patrolling the literary frontiers of political discourse for mixed metaphors. Over the weekend, a few readers wrote in with examples of muddled symbolism ripped from the headlines of the Zeitgeist.

An alert reader from Manic D Press caught this in a recent speech from Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger: “…let’s fix the budget problem once and for all. Let’s not kick that can down the alley and let someone else be responsible for it.”

Novelist Ed Park singled out this chilling quote from The New York Times: “Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican, said he was ‘resolute’ in his opposition to the measure because it would betray party principles and amount to ‘a coffin on top of Ronald Reagan’s coffin.’”

Another alert reader spotted this on an episode of Heroes: “It was like a long night after a bad taco.” And, as that above clip shows, Saturday Night Live had fun with Sarah Palin’s metaphorical gymnastics, as Tina Fey delivered a thicket of competing imagery: “We’re gonna promote freedom, usher in Democratic values and ideals and fight terror-loving-terrorists.”

Keep emailing your favorite crazed metaphors. Soon we will have conclusive proof that we are all characters in a pulp fiction novel being typed by monkeys.

What Do 325,000 People Want To Read?

phone.jpgBased on an informal email survey last week, the majority of GalleyCat readers who use the iPhone or iPod Touch to read digital books are using the Stanza application as their platform.

With that growing audience in mind, we caught up with Neelan Choksi, Chief Operating Officer at Lexcycle, the company that produces the most popular book reading application at the Apple Store–outlining what the company can offer the 325,000 “possible users” who want to read content on their phones.

“I think many people are not aware that they can pair up the Stanza Reader (for the iPhone/iPod Touch) with Stanza Desktop to upload other reading materials; for example, Word files, HTML files, unreleased books. See the following review as an example of that. We are offering some non-book content on Stanza currently, like daily news, magazine articles, and serialized novels,” he said.

More after the jump…

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Burning Question

burn.jpgWhat’s the one book that burned bridges during a disastrous date or failed relationship?

Everybody has a story: the time your geeky speech about private detective novels fizzled the romantic flame or the time your passionate defense of Anais Nin sparked a fiery argument.

Today, that bad memory can win you a new book. The first 50 readers to email GalleyCat with the title of the book that torched their romances will win a free copy of An Arsonist’s Guide to Writers’ Homes in New England–a spiffy copy from Algonquin Books.

Just include your mailing address in the email, and GalleyCat will take care of the rest. We’ll post again when the contest is closed. Feel free to share the story of your book-doomed romance, GalleyCat will reprint our favorites in an angst-ridden, enlightening post.

Authors Guild to Courts: Don’t Judge Laura Albert So Harshly

Last summer, the New York Post reported that the Authors Guild had helped Laura Albert find attorneys to handle the appeal of the fraud and breach of contract judgment against her after she was sued by Antidote Films, the production company that had bought the rights to Sarah, one of several literary works Albert published under the pseudonym “JT LeRoy” (the crimes then being determined to be that she led the world, and Antidote Films, to believe that LeRoy was an actual person). Now GalleyCat has obtained an amicus curiae brief filed by the Guild on Albert’s behalf, stating that “the decision of the United States District Court for the Southern District of New York with regard to Plaintiff’s breach of contract claim, was not only inconsistent with the evidence presented at trial, but also will have negative repercussions extending into the future for many authors… The district court’s decision which holds that Laura Albert’s use of pseudonym breached the Option and Purchase Agreement, is one that will have a chilling effect upon authors wishing to exercise their right to write anonymously.”

According to the argument outlined in the Guild’s brief, “Antidote… received all the necessary rights it sought in order to prepare a motion picture version of Sarah” even though Albert signed her contract with the company as JT LeRoy; the lawsuit is furthered described as a “far-fetched action” aimed at obtaining “the life story rights of the author,” presumably because those would make for a commercially viable motion picture.

“The purpose of the ‘sole author’ clause is not to assure the purchaser that the listed name of the author is or is not a pseudonym or pen name,” the brief explains. “Rather the purpose is to assure the purchaser that it has acquired all the necessary rights to be able to make the film, and no third party can come forward to claim any rights in the property.”

AvantGuild: “An Omnivorous Appetite for Nonfiction”

rita-rosenkranz-headshot.jpgThis week’s installment of mediabistro.com’s “Pitching an Agent” series features a profile of Rita Rosenkranz, who’s been running her own agency based primarily on a nonfiction-writing clientele for 18 years. “Rosenkranz looks for projects that are well-paired to the author for personal or professional reasons,” writes M. David Hornbuckle. “She is attracted to projects that present familiar subjects freshly, as well as those that present lesser-known subjects commercially… Generally, she represents health, history, parenting, how-to, popular science, business, biography, sports, popular reference, cooking, spirituality, theatre, music, film and general interest titles.”

ag_logo_medium.gifThis article is one of several mediabistro.com features exclusively available to AvantGuild subscribers. If you’re not a member yet, you can register for $59 a year, and start reading those articles, receive discounts on mediabistro.com seminars and workshops, and get all sorts of other swell bonuses.

Finally, Some Novelists Who Like John McCain!

authors-for-mccain.jpg

Over at Jacket Copy, the book blog of the Los Angeles Times, Carolyn Kellogg is just as stymied as we are by the overwhelmingly disproportionate displays of support for Barack Obama in the world of American literature—so she went looking for authors who support John McCain, and she found six. But half of them (Bill Bennett and two Ivy League economists) were nonfiction writers, which whittled the list down to just three fiction writers: Brenda Joyce, Linda Bruckheimer, and Nelson DeMille (clockwise from top left). And Kellogg only determined that they had made individual contributions to McCain; as yet, we’ve still seen no evidence of authors banding together to encourage others to donate to his campaign as well.

Meanwhile, reports of literary support for the Democratic nominee are now coming in from New England: Steve Almond is hosting an “Obama-thon” in Boston on October 14 featuring, among others, Anita Diamant, Claire Messud, and Robert Pinsky; four days later, Almond joins Michael Lowenthal and William Giraldi for a New Hampshire fundraising rally. “New Hampshire was the only state that swung from red in 2000 to blue in 2004,” Lowenthal emails, “and we’re trying to keep it from swinging back.”

(photos: Bruckheimer: Getty Images; DeMille: author’s website; Joyce: Shannon Emmel)

We Must Act Now to Save American Poetry

charles-bernstein-buyout.jpgAt a reading last week celebrating the publication of Best American Poetry 2008, Charles Bernstein read a satirical statement calling for a bailout of America’s bankrupt poetry culture—well, satirical except that we think maybe he wasn’t entirely kidding:

“Let there be no mistake: the fundamentals of our poetry are sound. The problem is not poetry but poems. The crisis has been precipitated by the escalation of poetry debt—poems that circulate in the market at an economic loss due to their difficulty, incompetence, or irrelevance.

Illiquid poetry assets are choking off the flow of imagination that is so vital to our literature. When the literary system works as it should, poetry and poetry assets flow to and from readers and writers to create a productive part of the cultural field. As toxic poetry assets block the system, the poisoning of literary markets has the potential to damage our cultural institutions irreparably.”

“We are convinced that once we have removed these troubled and distressed poems from circulation, our cultural sector will stabilize and readers will regain confidence in American literature,” Bernstein added. “We estimate that for the buyout to be successful, we will need to remove from circulation all poems written after 1904.” (OK, we’re willing to concede that might not be meant to be taken literally…. still, keep in mind, Bernstein is the guy who alerted us to the fact that, back in 1989, New Yorker poetry was all wet.)

(photo: Harper’s/Star Black)

Sherry Jones Reacts to UK Jewel of Medina Firebombing

jewel-medina-beaufort.jpgLate Friday night, the north London home/office of Martin Rynja, publisher of the independent UK press Gibson Square, was firebombed in what is being treated as a terrorist attack, of which police had advance warning, which is how they were able to warn Rynja to leave the premises for his own safety, stake out the building, and arrest three men shortly after the house was bombed; the small fire it created was quickly put out. (A fourth arrest was made later in the day.) Gibson Square is the UK publisher of The Jewel of Medina, Sherry Jones‘s controversial novel about A’isha, one of the wives of the Islamic prophet Muhammad, which was dropped by Random House after Islamic studies professor Denise Spellberg warned the publisher the book would incite violence by Muslim extremists (after which she did everything she could to make sure those potential terrorists knew the book was coming).

sherry-jones-headshot.jpgDuring a telephone call Sunday afternoon, Jones said she plans to call upon Spellberg to recant her description of The Jewel of Medina as “soft core pornography,” saying that this public assessment had to have been a factor in the bombing. “The planting of that bomb is Martin Rynja’s letterbox was not about my book,” Jones said, noting that the novel was not yet available in Britain. “It’s not about the content of my book. It’s not about the ideas in my book. It must be about the rumors and innuendos… [This is] obviously a response to the misinformation.” Would she go as far as to blame Spellberg’s incendiary rhetoric for the attack? “I feel that the people who resorted to violence are responsible,” Jones emphasized. “But her use of the word ‘pornography’ has done nothing to help the situation.”

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