ASJA Annual Conference 2013, Plus Tidbits

Posted by Victoria Strauss for Writer Beware

I was in New York this past weekend for the 2013 ASJA Annual Writers Conference. I participated in two panels with Writer Beware-er Richard White: a Writer Beware panel (of course) on schemes, scams, and pitfalls in the publishing industry; and a panel on breaking into science fiction and fantasy publishing.

We had a good and engaged crowd for the Writer Beware panel. Rich and I presented on Writer Beware, what it is and does, and the kinds of schemes and scams we track and warn about. The Authors Guild's Jan Constantine spoke about poor contract terms, payment problems, and other issues confronting writers who publish traditionally; and marketing expert Penny Sansevieri spoke on scams in the marketing field and how to avoid them.

The SF/fantasy panel had sparser attendance, but was still a good discussion, with Rich and I talking about our experience as writers, and editor Sheila Williams and former editor/current agent Shawna McCarthy providing an industry perspective.

As usual, the Writer Beware-hating wingnuts at The Write Agenda  had a hissy fit about my and Rich's participation in the conference. However, ASJA staff know wingnuts when they encounter them, and provided an appropriate response--which, predictably, provoked a fresh explosion of indignation. I only wish I had the arcane powers TWA ascribes to me.

P.S., wingnuts: hurrying from the train to the hotel where the conference was taking place, I stepped in a pothole and sprained my ankle. Now you can do another post on karma biting the ladies of Writer Beware. You're welcome.

Turning to other matters...here's some recent publishing news that caught my eye.

- Last year, complaints began to emerge about Noble Romance Publishing, including poor sales, non-payment of royalties, and poor communication. Then, last July, owner Jill Noble walked out without notice, leaving the company to a new owner, Jean Gombart. Since then, things have only gone further downhill. Recently, author Margie Church blogged about the continuing problems and broken promises at Noble Romance. Despite every sign that Noble Romance is "a business in its last vestiges of life," Gombart adamantly refuses to relinquish book rights back to authors.

- The always-insightful Porter Anderson provides perspective on a major Twitter freakout of last week: some literary agents' angry reaction to Barry Eisler's keynote address at the Pike's Peak Writers' Conference, in which he stated that print distribution is the only thing traditional publishers provide that self-publishers can't obtain on their own. I don't entirely agree with him--in the best publishing experiences, there's a synergy among all the various parts of the process that can't be duplicated when you piece them out--and I also think that the potentially substantial costs of creating a really professional self-published book should be emphasized more. But he makes provocative points that are well worth considering.

(I do wish, though, that we could we could get rid of the term “legacy publisher.” It's a term that embodies an assumption about the state of traditional publishing that hasn’t yet been proven [a legacy system is a system that has been supplanted by new technology but is still in use]--plus, it was coined by self-publishing evangelists as an epithet, and has a negative connotation that I don’t think adds to serious discussion.)

- Last February, several independent booksellers filed an anti-trust lawsuit against Amazon and several large publishing houses, alleging that by requiring the use of DRM on the Kindle, Amazon and the publishers have colluded to restrict the sale of ebooks. Now a judge is considering tossing the suit, citing a lack of evidence of any conspiracy.

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