Thursday, December 31, 2009

REVIEW: Maid For Me

Title: Maid for me
Author: Kat Lieu
Genre: YA
Price: $11.00
Publisher: Nummyz productions
ISBN: 9780982188118
Point of Sale: Lulu
Reviewed by: Emily Veinglory

Attributing a numerical score to a review is a very arbitrary process. But this book illustrates one good reason for doing it. I want to say up front that I am giving this book an 8/10. This might seem odd because most of the rest of this review is going to be critical. How does this make sense? Basically, this book is charming and charm is an ineffable quality that has very little to do a book's tangible attributes. I don't know how many other readers would be won over by the book's charm or find it charming at all. That is the risk you take when you listen to someone else's opinion, be it in numbers or words.

The cover sums the book up nicely. It is a cheerful, minimalist YA romance with a strong manga style and some stylistic quirks and shortcomings (Cherchez the capitals? Why credit the artist on the cover?). The story starts very strong with teen protagonist Mina Lin confronted with her fragile mother's gambling debt, and the boy she is besotted with finding a shallow but gorgeous girlfriend. By a series of events that requires some suspension of disbelief Mina becomes the maid, bodyguard and pretend girlfriend of a gorgeous industrialist's son--a somewhat older boy who is being stalked and threatened by a mysterious villain.

Mina's good nature, plight and ugly duckling-to-swan moments are all very enjoyable--and probably the books strongest element is an authorial "voice" that is idiosyncratic, sweet and very self-assured. Qualities that would normally bother me, from head hoping to a complete failure to understand how to use an em dash, didn't seem like such a big deal, so long as Mina got to go to the ball. In the second half the book seems rushed, plot twists jump out of nowhere and the cast of characters doubles. My disbelief got a little less suspended as new characters blithely involve a young teen in solving a kidnapping and attempted murder. The story saves itself at the end by resolving the love triangle in a satisfying if unnecessarily violent way--although as the boys in question had only met once during the story it really was not much of a rivalry except in Mina's mind.

Maid for Me is an adorable but deeply flawed novella that could, with a little extra work, become a much more commercial YA novel. However I suspect the author is more interested completing the work to the standards of its existing fandom rather that moving it fully into the mainstream.


Happy New Year

From all of us here at the Pod People to all of you. Happy New Year. May your talent shine, and may your words rise up to meet you.

All the best in 2010. Here's to another great year for Indie Books.

We will return to our regularly scheduled Thoughts on The Craft on January 7th, 2010. Cheryl Anne Gardner needs a few days to get her freak on.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

New Book Review Site

Review the Book

Now this is an offshoot of Readerviews, so it is a pay for review site; although they label it administration fees. However, I found this rather interesting in their "Sign up to become a Reviewer" Q&A Section:

Deposit Fee
We charge a $75.00** deposit fee. (**Please note: If you can promise me that you will not flake out on me, I'll certainly consider giving you honorary membership immediately. Just contact me using the contact link on the top right hand corner.)Why do we charge? This is to eliminate those that only want free books to read. Yes, we know, it doesn't seem right. However, we have another review site and over the past years we've had reviewers that signed up, received books and then we've never heard from them again. The mandatory deposit fee is for us to know you are serious. If you flake out on us after receiving the books, we will deduct the cost of the book and the shipping from your deposit and send it to the author/publisher to cover their costs.
However, the good news is that if you are a reviewer in good standing for one year, we will refund your total deposit and you will then become an honorary reviewer. If you decide to quit before the year is up, we will refund the fee to you providing you are in good standing but we will keep 15% for our admin costs. Thanks for understanding why we have to do this; we are trying to be fair to everyone.
Interesting, very very interesting, and a good way to weed out the free book mooches from the serious reviewers, I suppose.

Monday, December 28, 2009

REVIEW: White Seed

Title: White Seed: The Untold Story of the Lost Colony of Roanoke
Author: Paul Clayton
Genre: historical fiction
Price: $17.95
Publisher: BookLocker
ISBN: 978-1609100018
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

According to his biography, Paul Clayton became a writer due to his experiences in Vietnam. Ironically, his first book, Calling Crow, has nothing to do with Vietnam, being rather a novel about the Indian experience under the Spanish settlement of the 1600s. This book and two sequels were published by Berkley. Paul then self-published his Vietnam novel, and re-released his older books. With White Seed, Paul returns to the historical fiction genre, focusing on the “Lost Colony” of Roanoke.

In the dedication to White Seed, Paul expresses his admiration for James Michener, who writes historical fiction at epic length. At 482 pages, White Seed is definitely at a Michener-esc length. The book is largely the story of Maggie Hagger, a seventeen year old Irish serving girl who signs on to Raleigh’s famed attempt to establish an English colony on the coast of what became modern North Carolina. Maggie, an attractive red-head, is fleeing criminal trouble in England, and she’s broke, so she becomes an indentured servant to the Governor’s daughter, and eventual nanny to Virginia Dare, the first European born in North America.

Not much is known of what really happened in the Roanoke colony, especially after Governor White departed early in the first year of the colony’s establishment. By the time he gets back with a relief force, three years later, the colonists are gone. Paul extrapolates from these few facts and the general conduct of European colonists to tell a tale of murder, betrayal, greed and stupidity. There’s also a love story, as Maggie and several other colonists marry into the Croatans, the only friendly Indians in the area.

Paul Clayton’s story is certainly plausible, and fits into both the known history and the persistent rumors of Englishmen living with the Indians that greeted the Jamestown settlement (1607). It’s at times not a pretty tale, with English class warfare and extreme greed for gold causing many of the problems facing the colonists. One of the subplots, that of White’s repeated efforts to mount a relief expedition, paints English society of the time in even poorer light. To be fair, Clayton’s Indians, especially the war chief Powhatan, aren’t painted as particularly noble either.

In general, I found the book to be entertaining, although I have a couple of writerly nits to pick. First, Paul uses an omniscient point of view, with the narrative thread jumping from head to head at will. I found it very difficult at times to keep track of whose thoughts I was reading. Second, the story, especially the middle third, tended to drag. There was not enough conflict or actions to drive the plot. Although I respect the epic novel form, I do think Paul could have trimmed the book significantly without losing anything. Sometimes, less truly is more.

Lastly, I felt a number of the characters in White Seed were uninteresting. Maggie made a sympathetic character, but she was at times too passive. Too many of the other characters blurred into one another, becoming faceless people about whom I cared little.

Having said all of that, I can recommend White Seed for anybody interested in historical fiction or the story of early American settlement. It’s an entertaining and at times informative work, and it stays very close to the known history of the Lost Colony.


Note – I received a galley copy of the book reviewed, which remains my property.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

Everyone has talent, what is rare is the courage to follow the talent to the dark place where it leads. -- Erica Jong

Happy Holidays to all our readers, especially the Indie authors who have had the courage to follow their talent. To persevere in the dark takes a lot of stamina. Many of the Indie Authors I have read this year definately have the talent and the stamina. I’ll just leave you with that this week.

Happy Holidays to all.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

The Art is Gustav Dore’s Illustration from the First Canto of Dante’s Divine Comedy 1857

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Smashwords Update -- c.anne.gardner

In a December 7 interview, Smashwords CEO Mark Coker says: "In the next couple months we'll start allowing some authors and publishers to bypass Meatgrinder [Smashwords's converter] and upload their own perfectly formatted files for certain formats such as PDF, EPUB and .MOBI."

Now this is great news. One of the biggest beefs I have with Smashwords, and I have a few, is the inability to upload your own perfectly formatted PDF files. When I sell a PDF, I want the labor intensive formatting in tact. My readers should get a digital copy of the print book, in my opinion. That’s what a PDF is for after all. It’s about the preservation of all native formatting, and that is why PDF was invented to begin with. I know, I was around when it came into being, and I worked in the desktop publishing industry at the time. I refuse to sell my PDFs on Smashwords for this very reason, and so I use Scribd for that. However, should Smashwords allow this in the future, my decision for distribution might change. Authors who use other word-processing programs to format their e-books might also benefit from direct upload of already formatted files.

As far as the other pet peeves I have with Smashwords, well, I would prefer that their book description allow for more than 400 words. Most cover copy is more than 400 words, and so I have to edit my copy down for the site, and it often compromises the descriptive edge. Lastly, I don’t like that Smashwords shows as the publisher of record with Sony and B&N. They are not my publisher. I am my publisher: I own my ISBNs, and Smashwords is my e-book distributor, one of many. Even with Kindle, my work is listed under my imprint as the publisher, as it is with Bowkers -- as it should be everywhere.

Smashwords is on the verge of becoming THE e-book distributor of choice, but only if they address these issues, which are much more than a nuisance.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Review: The Green Monster -- A Johnny Denovo Mystery

Title: The Green Monster: A Johnny Denovo Mystery
Author: Andrew Kent
Genre: Mystery/Detective Fiction
Price: $ 13.45
Publisher: Dog Ear Publishing, LLC
ISBN: 978-1608441150
Pages: 264
Point of Sale: Amazon
Review By: Cheryl Anne Gardner

When I received the review copy for this book in the mail, I was initially disappointed and said, “Shit, I didn’t know it was a baseball book. I hate sports books.” Of course, it’s not a baseball book, and the cover really isn’t a good representation of the story or the genre, so don’t be put off as I initially was by the packaging. The ballpark is a pivotal setting, but the story has nothing to do with Baseball.

As the book begins, neuroscientist/detective John A. Novarro and his sidekick Tucker, the kilt-wearing intelligence expert, are at a baseball game when they are approached by bio-tech mogul McNaught. McNaught is being blackmailed over a rather interesting extra marital affair and wants to enlist alter ego Johnny Denovo in order to expose the blackmailer and prevent his dirty laundry from being aired in public. At this point, we move very quickly into the detective genre with a light, fun, good for all ages mystery, replete with corporate espionage, eco-terrorism, double agents, false identities, and a Chinaman that makes the best wonton soup for those rare occasions when you are infected with a particularly nasty weaponized virus. No, I respect the genre, and so this review was carefully written: you won't find any plot spoilers here.

In this, the second of the Denovo mysteries, we aren’t given too much background on Johnny, but we get just enough that reading the first mystery isn’t necessary to keep the reader in the loop. We know that John Novarro was once a brilliant neuroscientist and was extricated from his past and given a new identity as Johnny Denovo. In this second adventure, Johnny has made quite a name for himself and has an almost celebrity reputation. But what struck me as interesting about Denovo is his rather peculiar deductive technique in which he translates metaphors in order to solve his mysteries. I liked that angle a lot, definitely a new approach. Use of metaphors, especially in language, are often subconscious tells, revealing hidden personality traits and motivations, so while Denovo isn’t Spiderman, he does have almost inhuman depth perception.

In Detective Fiction, the rules of the game – codified in 1929 by Ronald Knox -- declare that a detective story "must have as its main interest the unravelling of a mystery; a mystery whose elements are clearly presented to the reader at an early stage in the proceedings, and whose nature is such as to arouse curiosity, a curiosity which is gratified at the end."

In this, Mr. Kent achieved what he set out to do. The Green Monster is a fast-paced plot driven detective story, so you won’t get much depth of character here. Most of the characters are your typical detective story stereotypes: the sexy dame who loves and assists the detective, the analytical sidekick who has a penchant for witty banter, and the Chinaman restaurant owner who is depicted a lot like Alfred Pennyworth. The book has a five & dime-store Dick flavour to it -- you know, the fast paced detective thrillers you loved as a kid and could buy at the corner store for some change. Well, you could when I was a kid -- and Denovo would make a great comic series. The plot has enough twists and turns to keep it interesting even if the eco-terrorism/biological Agent Orange angle has been done to death.

I reviewed this book from a hardcopy supplied to me by the author, and I noticed a few technical/editorial issues straight away. The proofing was decent enough: I only noticed a few typos, missing words, and extra words here and there. However, I found some serious and rather pervasive editorial issues, specifically: the superfluous, redundant, and often intrusive dialog tags and the over-zealous use of participle phrases -- usage that was a true detriment to the prose, often creating unnecessary chop and implausible action. I also noticed a bit of repetition in that I felt the case details were repeated so often that it slowed the pacing of the story substantially for me. That of course is subjective, I only need to be told things once, so individual reader mileage will vary.

Aside from those technicalities, this is a light good-fun sort of detective story with a clear message, definitely a G rating. I don’t recall a single expletive in the book, and the story is devoid of graphic content. Like I said, it would make a great comic. The plotting was smooth and logical, none of the events seemed overly implausible -- except the phone in the water thing -- and the characters, while we never really get to know them, played their parts as expected. The last detective story I read was Bukowski’s “Pulp” or rather his satirical homage to bad writing. I loved it, but the Green Monster is not that sort of story. In truth, I am a Marlow girl, and I tend to like a grittier more intimate approach to my detective stories. I also like a heavier does of psychology, and I like lush beautiful prose, so this wasn’t entirely my cup of tea. I have read several BackwordBooks authors, and judging by those offerings, I suppose I was expecting something with a harder edge to it. Even so, it was still an enjoyable read, and the subject matter was topical without being overbearing. While Denovo is no Sherlock Holmes or Phillip Marlow, he has a certain intellectual campiness about him that’s very agreeable, even if his egotism gets in the way and he doesn’t call for backup when he should. All in all, with some strategic editorial guidance, I see a bright future for Det. Denovo and Mr. Kent. Very bright indeed.


I’ll be giving this book away during one of our upcoming 2010 Free Book Fridays, so stay tuned.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

The writing is about the writing. Publishing is about timing. -- The World According to Garp by John Irving

Garp happens to be one of my favourite novels of all time. It’s got everything: politics, fate, the women’s movement and feminism taken to the extreme. As a matter fact, the entire story is existentialism to the extreme. In the above quote, Garp is having a heated discussion with his publisher because he is upset that his mother’s book became an instant sensation, and yet his artistic work, which was much better written, seemed to have little value. Most savvy writers, self-published or not, understand this dynamic. The writing is about the art and the craft, but publishing is about making money. It’s a business. This became glaringly obvious over the past few weeks when I ran into this review of Crichton’s posthumously released “Pirates Latitudes” where the reviewer, Chad Roedemeier states: "It's pointless to complain about the cardboard characters, dreadful action-movie dialogue and wildly improbable plot points [...]. Sure, "Pirate Latitudes" has all that, in spades, but you don't buy a Crichton book for psychological acuity and dramatic realism. It's supposed to be disposable fun, a book that sits out front in bookstores and attracts readers with the author's name printed larger than the title."

Wow. Now that was a pretty harsh review -- accurate but harsh. I can't argue that much of mainstream mass-market fiction is simply pure entertainment. There is no higher calling beyond disposable fun -- a light read to lift the spirit -- and many writers like writing it and make a fine living at it. For James Bond type books, implausible is the name of the game, and not every writer can write implausible well. Yes, there is a craft to writing for the mass-market too, and one shouldn’t turn one’s nose up at it. It has its place in the world of the written word, and from time to time, I read a bit myself, even if I do like it when mass-market genre fiction writers wax literary. Probably why I adore Lindsay’s Dexter series so much. The writing is definitely mainstream kitschery -- not a real word, I am taking poetic license -- but thematically, it offers the depth of character that literary works are known for, sans the stylistic approach to the language. And this leads me to the argument often made by self-published authors that mainstream fiction is crap. Well, you know what, it isn’t ... if you look at it objectively. Most self-published authors would like to, I am sure, but the hypocrisy tends to chafe a bit. Self-published authors get slammed all the time for overindulgent and overwritten work with many of the same problems the reviewer found in Crichton’s work. Why is that? Why are self-published authors drawn and quartered for writing what mass-market readers have come to appreciate? On the opposite end, I also hear a lot of: “trying too hard to be literary, too purple, too complex, too confusing,” and sometimes, with self-published books, this is the case. However, often in mass-market fiction the same can be said in reverse, that the writers aren’t trying hard enough, that their standards are on par with the average crappy action film. No matter the diatribe on both sides, sadly, this isn’t a battle between Self-publishers and Traditionally published authors, this is a debate that has been raging for some time amongst readers and literary critics. The reason for the debate is simply that most readers don’t know what bad writing is and many critics/reviewers don’t either. A cliché is not necessarily bad writing; it depends on the context. To me, bad writing is a technical thing. Badly written means grammatically and conventionally unsound. Poor words choices, improper punctuation, ineptly placed clauses, poor story construction -- all this reduces clarity. Proust might have written sentences that were seven pages long, but you understand what he is saying. Speaking of Proust...

Over on Nathan Bransford’s Blog he made some very good points on the subject by saying: "When writers start thumbing their nose at dense and challenging literature solely because it's hard to read it really starts verging on reverse snobbery. I understand that everyone has different tastes, but there is no pride in ignorance of literary fiction. Genre writers can learn from literary fiction, just as literary writers can learn from genre fiction. There's a middle ground. Now. Does someone who wants to crank out genre novels need to spend all of their time reading Proust? Probably not. But to thumb one's nose at literary writing because it's hard to understand is to stop learning about what is possible with words. Writers ignore good writing at their peril."

Despite the choice of words, I don’t think that Mr. Bransford was stating that literary works are “good writing” compared to genre fiction which is in contrast “bad writing.” We all know what bad writing looks like, and just because some of the writing conventions are different between literary fiction and mass-market genre fiction doesn’t make one lesser than the other.

For me, as a writer of literary fiction, I often look to mass-market fiction to improve my technique when it comes to pacing in particular. Literary works can and often do get lost meandering about as they explore their thematic elements. There is poetic syntax, metaphorical conundrums, philosophical rhetoric, and symbolism out the whazzoo. With all of these wonderful artistic liberties at our disposal, it’s easy to get lost in ambiguity. I find that genre fiction helps me keep the writing tight and the story on mark. So, there isn’t anything wrong with a literary writer who goes light on the scenery and heavy on the action, and there isn’t anything wrong with a genre writer who gets a bit stylish and philosophical with their words. There are benefits to both approaches when it comes to story telling, and both can be combined to great effect.

So what I am saying here is that beyond truly bad writing, everything else is subjective. Don’t fall prey to the accusations being flung all tight-fisted in this debate. Just write what you love the way you want to write it. The trick is creating a believable illusion. To do that you need to mean what you say and say what you mean. Anything less is badly written. If you get fancy at the expense of clarity, you have made a wrong turn, and if you dumb it down too much, you wind up patronizing your readers. Writing conventions -- POV, plotting, character arcs, dialog, showing and telling -- and the rules of grammar exist for good reason. It’s about consistency and clarity. Grammar is not about control; it's about clarity, purely and simply. Now I am not saying one should not bend or break the rules occasionally. I am saying that a writer needs to know and understand the rules before they decide to throw their arms up in the air and declare that all editors are Nazis and are trying to oppress the “art.” Art is the abstract articulation of an idea. Ineptly placed clauses are not art. So, from an editorial standpoint, I advise all writers to learn and understand the writing conventions and the rules of grammar before they attempt to bend or break them. Understanding the rules and conventions means the difference between looking like an artistic anarchist and looking like an illiterate hack.

Cheryl Anne Gardner recommends that all authors own at least one “grammatical” style guide and one “literary” style guide. Good grammar is the foundation of good writing. In this case, I use “Words into Type” but you can use Strunk & White’s “Elements of Style,” “The Chicago Manual of Style,” or if you can’t afford to purchase one of these Purdue University has a nice basic grammar library online. Whichever you choose, read them until your eyes bleed. As for literary style guides, I am a rather vocal against literary style guides, but, you need to know the standard conventions, so I suggest all authors own one that at least covers the basics. You can get into advanced theory as you go along, if you want to, but as a starting point, I generally recommend “Self-Editing for Fiction Writers.” These books can help good writing become great writing. They will help you understand the rules so you can make educated decisions on the if, when, and how to bend or break them. Even authors with degrees in English and Literature still have to refer back to their guides from time to time, and even then, it doesn’t mean we won’t make the occasional misstep; it just means that the occasional misstep literally means occasional.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

REVIEW: Tea Party Revival

Title: Tea Party Revival: The Conscience of a Conservative Reborn
Author: Dr. B. Leland Baker
Genre: Political opinion
Price: $11.95
Publisher: Outskirts Press
ISBN: 978-1-4327-4917-0
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

Tea Party Revival is an unabashedly political book, and uses as its opening page a list of 12 goals entitled “Our Demands.” It then goes on to define what author Dr. B. Leland Baker considers the “conscience of a conservative.” Interestingly enough, Dr. Baker confirms what I have been arguing – the Tea Party movement is not the same as the Republican Party. In fact, throughout the book, Dr. Baker rejects both Republican and Democratic “elites” and their policies.

This is a difficult book to review. I do not share the Tea Partiers’ political ideas, something which even a casual reader of my personal blog would discover. But, since this blog is not my personal property nor is it intended to be a political blog, I shall attempt to keep my politics out of this review.

On a strictly technical level, the book is perfectly acceptable, and indistinguishable from a book by a major publisher. Dr. Baker’s writing is clear, concise (the whole book is only 111 pages, including 40 devoted to reprinting the entire US Constitution) and understandable. I found the book completely understandable and readable.

The content of the book is much more problematic. Dr. Baker is against the income tax, arguing “Americans have been under attack since the 1913 creation of the federal income tax by a federal government that no longer follows the rule of law.” He also argues that, “Socialism, or progressivism, is the path that has been followed by both Republican and Democrat political elites for the past 80 years (political elites, not necessarily the general membership).”

I don’t share these opinions, but it is not the purpose of a book review to take issue with the author’s opinions. Where I have issues it is with things Dr. Baker cites as fact which either actually are not a fact, or at best are a matter of political argument. I feel I would be remiss in not at least addressing the factual errors in a non-fictional work.

Dr. Baker’s argument is that the Constitution is a restrictive, not permissive, document. He quotes Thomas Jefferson in support of this idea, and states that our “Founding Fathers” looked upon the federal role as limited government. This implies a historical unity that simply did not exist. Jefferson represented one party, which did advocate for limited government. Hamilton, John Adams and, at the Constitutional Convention, James Madison, all advocated a stronger, more activist government.

In general, arguing that the Founding Fathers were united on much of anything is a stretch. Northern delegates wanted to abolish slavery. Small states wanted a legislature based on fixed numbers of seats per state, while large states wanted a legislature based on population. None of the delegates at the Convention wanted a Bill of Rights. All these parties ended up making political compromises.

Moreover, relying on Jefferson to argue for anything runs against the inherent contradictions of his life. Although Jefferson advocated for a limited government, and there is absolutely no authority to do so in the Constitution, he signed the Louisiana Purchase. Not only did he sign the deal, he borrowed the money (AKA “deficit spending,” another of Dr. Baker’s hot-button issues) to cover the purchase price.

Dr. Baker also relies on the 10th Amendment to argue that if some power is not specifically given to the Federal government, then the government cannot use that power without passing a constitutional amendment. Besides being violated by the very same Founding Fathers who passed it, the historical record shows that it was never intended as an absolute prohibition. There was a very similar clause in the Articles of Confederation, which preceded the Constitution. Except that older clause had the word “explicitly” in it, while the 10th Amendment as written does not.

The argument about limited government has been ongoing since the beginning of the Republic. The Federalists wanted the Bank of the United States. Southern states wanted to nullify Federal laws, and later argued that they had the right to leave the Union. That’s just in the 19th Century. To claim that “limited government” is somehow settled is to be ignorant of American history.

As Daniel Patrick Moynihan said, “Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.” Dr. Baker and his fellow Tea Partiers are free to advocate that government should conform itself to their opinion. They are free to get people sympathetic to them elected, and those so elected should work to implement their ideals. But the fact of the matter is that the US Constitution is largely silent on what kind of policy we as a nation should follow. What it does speak to, and the reason we’ve only had one Constitution for over 200 years, is how we should decide what kind of policy to follow.

Note – I received an electronic copy of the book reviewed, which remains my property.

Monday, December 14, 2009

A Brief Intermission -- 9 Songs

I wanted to talk a little about film today. I know this is a book review site, but I do think that good film can benefit fiction writers as well, especially experimental film that exploits non-linear narrative techniques and character driven storylines. I am not talking about a plot driven action movie blockbuster type movie here but true artistic film that fleshes out human pathology, more importantly that fleshes out human pathology from an unconventional angle. This film is about as unconventional as you can get.

It’s funny, I watch a lot of film, mostly Indie art house type stuff: gritty, psychologically disturbing noir type film. A lot of it foreign because, and this is my opinion here, the American prude filter is just set way too high. Anyway, I came across this film while watching a documentary about Sex in Film, and so when it arrived from Netflix, my husband and I watched it over the weekend. Mixed reviews abound, but here is my take on what I found to be so damn intriguing, and this is the same sort of rule-breaking and boundary pushing I like in literature.

The premise for the film 9 Songs is pretty standard fare in which the male protagonist Matt -- a glaciologist from London -- ruminates in an alternating first person/third person narrative on the intense but brief relationship he has with an American college student. One of the first things you notice about the film is its fragmentary feel and lack of a traditional storyline. Actually, there isn’t a story; the entire film is an interpersonal character study, one in which the pathology of both characters, specifically Matt, is exposed entirely through a voyeuristic look at their intimate relations. There is no dialog and very little between the scenes interaction. When there is real world interaction beyond the bedroom, the interaction is telling in a subtle and ghastly confrontational way without being intrusive or patronizing. I found it to be inhumanely human, neither esthetically satisfying, sexually gratifying, or emotionally pleasant. Just real people in a very real relationship -- albeit a shallow one -- with very real emotional needs kept in check out of an obsessive sense of vanity and insecurity.

The film is heavily edited and has an uncomfortable chop to it as it moves back and forth between intimate scenes, club scenes, and scenes of Matt drifting almost aimlessly in the Antarctic. The two extremes of his life juxtaposed offer a clarity so brutal we feel nothing but empathy for him really. The early stages of any relationship are supposed to be filled with self-exploratory grandeur, but here, this man feels nothing but cold isolation, which he articulates in one of many telling first-person narrative quotes: “Exploring the Antarctic is like exploring space. You enter a void, thousands of miles, with no people, no animals, no plants. You're isolated in a vast, empty continent. Claustrophobia and agoraphobia in the same place, like two people in a bed.” Sad, but for Matt, he sees the relationship as something real. He cooks for her, he takes her romantic places, declares his love for her in a poignant and sentimental way: naked in the freezing ocean – also very telling -- but for her, like the coke she snorts and the pills she takes, he is just another diversion and she just a tourist. When he offers to take an AIDS test so that they don’t have to use condoms anymore, she says, “Don’t bother, I like it this way.” The pivotal moment in the movie that really crushed me was when, after laboring to make her breakfast, he finds her in the bedroom masturbating and having a much better orgasm than she has ever had with him. Talk about defeating. Even with the art-porn explicit sex, this movie wasn’t pleasant to watch at all. The underlying futility of their relationship was so brutal that it tainted the eroticism, deliberately so. Bravo on all counts here. On a side not, yes, this movie has real actors having real sex, so if you can’t tolerate those sorts of camera angles and that sort of intimate nudity, then this is not the movie for you. If it were rated according to American standards, it would have been rated double or triple X.

As for the flaws some reviewers found, I am not convinced they were flaws at all. Some reviewers complained that the sex scenes were of low cinematic quality and that their grittiness took away from the beauty, but I don’t think any of this story was meant to be beautiful in an airbrushed Cinemax passion sort of way. This was NOT a romance, and it was NOT conventional porn. The female lead had a menacing aspect to her personality. She was almost predatory in a narcissistic way, and that made her unlikable, but again, I felt that was deliberate. The only flaw I felt was a true flaw was the seemingly inconsequential club scenes in which the bands perform the 9 songs. Maybe that’s because I haven’t figured out the relevance of the 9 songs yet, but it took away from the main focus of the film in a distracting way even if the soundtrack was kick ass and I loved all the bands.

Despite these perspective flaws, yes, I said perspective, what I found brilliant about the film was that all character development and exposition was done through intimacy. There was no telling of the life-story over coffee in endless contrived dialog, and there was no artificial outside conflict or influences to affect character development or the story’s outcome. I knew it was going to end badly from about half-way through this hour long film. I also enjoyed how the viewer is never explicitly told or shown anything. The ambiguity of the storyline is meant to be deceiving. Character development is so subtle that it requires a bit of psychological investment on the part of the viewer, and I liked that. I felt the characters were painfully exposed without even so much as a hint of confession. To me, that is pure genius. I hate when character motivation is so blatant that you feel like you are being bludgeoned to death with the stupid stick. A nonchalant viewer would miss all the subtle nuances and probably be disappointed, but a savvy insightful viewer who understands that much human relational psychology happens internally, just beneath the façade of love, would have been applauding the effort at the end as I was.

All in all, this film had an honesty to it. Art is all about being honest, it’s about articulating truth, no matter if that truth is poetic, vulgar, or frighteningly disturbing. Sometimes what might appear beautiful at first glance because we want it to be is inherently ugly at its core, and this is where the film achieved the highest merit in my opinion. So, if you like dark human drama and you don’t mind graphic sex, give this movie a watch. For a writer, it’s worth paying attention to for the non-linear narrative style, the use of flashback and introspection, and the ambiguous motivational aspects of the characters, or rather, how subtlety can be used to your advantage as a storyteller. Definitely a smart and deeply intense film.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Friday, December 11, 2009

REVIEW: The Worth of a Shell

Title: The Worth of a Shell
Author: M. C. A. Hogarth
Genre: science fiction
Price: $15
Publisher: CreateSpace
ISBN: 978-1449531652
Point of Sale: Amazon
Reviewed by: Chris Gerrib

M. C. A. Hogarth’s first novel, The Worth of a Shell, is a story of the Jokka, a bipedal horse-like race with three sexes: male, female and neuter. This species appeared in a short story published in Strange Horizons, and met with some critical acclaim. The story is narrated by Thenet, a neuter exiled from his house for a lousy reason. Thenet meets up with and has his life saved by a female, Dlane, who is also a fugitive.

The Jokka as a race have several issues, key of which is that the stresses of childbirth invariably afflict the females with the equivalent of Alzheimer’s disease. Dlane, a very intelligent female, fears this fate and wishes to travel to the Birthwell, a place from which the Jokka race supposedly came from. Although the Jokka currently are at a medieval level of technology, as the story progresses we get indications that they were once a more advanced race.

At times The Worth of a Shell feels like a romance novel, as Thenet, who starts as the voice of conservativism, discovers his love of Dlane. It’s not, and certainly does not have a conventional romantic end. Jokka society has very rigid sexual roles, and neuters are “forbidden” from being attracted to females. They are not forbidden from attraction to males, however. Hogarth’s book is full of these explorations of sexual roles, both allowed and forbidden. Structurally, the book is divided into four parts, corresponding to the parts of the journey of Dlane and Thenet.

I suspect that I am not quite the target audience for Hogarth’s work, but I did enjoy it nonetheless. Part of any good science fiction story is deciphering the mystery of the world, and in Worth of a Shell that’s a worthwhile undertaking. At over four hundred pages, the book is not a quick read, but it didn’t feel padded or plodding. Also, this is the sort of book one needs to pay attention to – characters met in earlier scenes will come back.

Although Hogarth is not explicitly claiming it, her work is an entrant in the feminist science fiction genre, and frankly one I found more enjoyable than Alanya to Alanya. Hogarth’s feminism is apparent without being preachy, and the anti-feminists have their reasons, which are presented fairly. Hogarth also avoided the obvious, “magic bullet” ending, which I’m sure took some fortitude on her part.

Overall, I found The Worth of a Shell a very enjoyable and readable novel. It would be enjoyed by anybody who likes a good story.


Note – I received an electronic copy of the book reviewed, which remains my property.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

Love knows no virtue, no merit; it loves and forgives and tolerates everything because it must. We are not guided by reason. -- Leopold von Sacher-Masoch

Masoch was the author of the infamous “Venus in Furs” a brilliant treatise on obsessive desperation in love. Masoch was also considered the poet of Masochism after having been awarded the illustrious title in 1886 by the Austrian psychiatrist Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing in his book Psychopathia Sexualis where he named this “sexual proclivity” after Masoch.

The quote struck me not because it speaks to the limitless bounds of love, or because I write about obsessive love such as Masoch did. No, it wasn’t that. It struck me because sometimes being a writer feels like an extremely masochistic endeavour. I’ll make a few changes to the quote and you’ll see what I mean:

The word knows no virtue, no merit; it loves and forgives and tolerates everything because it must. Authors are not guided by reason.

By that I mean the word allows for endless possibilities: poetry and magic, beauty and horror. We, as writers, are not guided by reason: we are guided by instinct. We write what we see and feel to be true, and the worlds we create have boundaries that are at best illusory. The substance, the pathology of a story -- its truth if you will -- is never more than a subtle betrayal hidden within the ambiguity of the word. Illusion. That’s what writing fiction is about, in my opinion. Suffering in the dark to create a believable illusion. How masochistic is that?

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Further Discussion on Rights -- c.anne.gardner

Last week, we discussed copyright and how a self-published author goes about securing this for their intellectual property, but there are a host of other rights that automatically belong to the author, and in most cases during the traditional publishing process, these rights will be transferred or granted to the publisher exclusively to be exploited in perpetuity or until the contract is terminated. Most self-published authors will only deal with a few of these rights, and most savvy self published authors will grant only non-exclusive licenses to their pod printer and distributor of choice, but I wanted to list all of the rights an author holds:

Primary Rights

1 “Hardcover Rights,” including the exclusive right to print, publish, distribute, sell, and generally exploit the Work, in the form of hardcover editions of the Work, distributed primarily through book trade channels such as bookstores and libraries.

2 “Trade Paperback Rights,” including the exclusive right to print, publish, distribute, sell and generally exploit the Work, in the form of “trade paperback” or “quality paperback” editions of the Work distributed through book trade channels such as bookstores and libraries.

3 “Mass-Market Paperback Rights,” including the exclusive right to print, publish, distribute, sell, and generally exploit the Work, whether as original editions or reprints, distributed primarily through the book trade, independent magazine wholesalers, direct accounts, and other customary channels of distribution.

4 “Translation Rights,” including the exclusive right to translate the Work, in whole or in part, into foreign languages, and to use, adapt, or otherwise exploit any and all of the rights in and to such translation(s) anywhere in the world.

5 “Periodical Publication Rights,” including the exclusive right to use and generally exploit all or any portion of the Work, in the form of excerpts, condensations, abridgments, or selections of the Work, in newspapers, magazines, and other periodicals, both in print and other media of publication, whether directly or through syndicates, either before (“First Serial Rights”) or after (“Second Serial Rights”) first publication of the Work in book form.

6 “Book Club Rights,” including the exclusive right to sell copies of the Work to book clubs, or to authorize book clubs to print and sell copies of the Work.

7 “Photocopying and Facsimile Rights,” including the exclusive right to grant or withhold permission for the duplication and transmission of all or part of the Work by photocopying, facsimile, or other like means.

8 “Microfilm Rights,” including the exclusive right to use, adapt, or otherwise exploit the Work, or any portion thereof, in the form of microfilm, microfiche, slide, transparencies, filmstrips, and like processes attaining similar results.

9 “General Print Publication Rights,” including the exclusive right to use and exploit all or any portion of the Work, in the form of condensed or abridged editions, bulk sale and other special sales, including but not limited to premium, promotional, corporate, and institutional sales; excerpts or selections of the Work in anthologies, compilations, digests, textbooks, and other similar works; Braille, large type, and other editions for the handicapped; book fairs; school editions and cheap editions; and unbound sheets.

10 “Direct-Response Marketing Rights,” including the exclusive right to sell copies of the Work in any edition or medium authorized under this Agreement, through any form of direct-response marketing, including but not limited to any form of television, electronic media, direct mail, and catalogs.

11 “Audio Rights,” including the exclusive right to adapt, use, or otherwise generally exploit the Work or any portion thereof in any form of sound recording and reproduction, including but not limited to audiocassettes, compact discs, digital media files, or other similar audio products of any kind or configuration whatsoever now known or hereafter devised, including but not limited to the following.

11.1 Unabridged Sound Recordings. The exclusive right to prepare and generally exploit unabridged non-dramatic sound recordings of the verbatim contents of the Work in its entirety without the addition of any material whatsoever.

11.2 Abridged Sound Recordings. The exclusive right to prepare and generally exploit abridged non-dramatic sound records of the contents of the Work, or any portion thereof, without the use of any other or additional material whatsoever except incidental musical interludes and spoken introductory and explanatory segments.

11.3 Dramatized Sound Recordings. The exclusive right to adapt and use the Work, or any portion thereof, in preparing and generally exploiting dramatized sound recordings of the Work, including scenes, dialogue, and additional material, whether based upon the Work or otherwise.

12 Electronic Rights,” including the exclusive right to use adapt, or otherwise exploit the Work or any portion thereof, alone or in conjunction with other matter, in computer-based and similar electronic and technologies for data entry, storage, retrieval, transmission, display, and output of any and all kinds, and/or like media and technologies attaining similar results, whether now known or hereafter devised. Without limiting the generality of the foregoing, “Electronic Rights” include but are not limited to electronic, digital, and computer-based media and technologies of all kinds, and the storage, retrieval, transmission, display, output, and reproduction of data through any such media and technologies, by way of example only, interactive media and multimedia in which the Work may be adapted and used in conjunction with other matter, whether such data is stored on hard drives or other fixed storage media, disks or diskettes, and other portable storage media, and/or remote on-line databases. “Electronic Rights,” as the term is used in this Agreement, include the following specific applications and uses of the Work in computer-based and similar electronic media and technologies for data entry, storage, retrieval, transmission, display, and output of any and all kinds, and/or like media and technologies, attaining similar results, whether now known or hereafter devised.

12.1 Electronic Books, including the exclusive right to use and generally exploit any and all content of the Work, but without the addition of any material whatsoever, in electronic versions of the Work that are reproduced in the form of portable storage media and offered for sale or license to the consumer.

12.2 Publishing-on-Demand, including the exclusive right to store, reproduce, transmit, and generally use and exploit any and all portions of the Work, but without the addition of any material whatsoever, in the form of “Publishing-on-Demand” products and services. By way of illustration only, and without limiting the generality of the foregoing, “Publishing-on-Demand” refers to the manufacture and sale of copies of the Work by means of storage, transmission, and output of the Work in which the end product is a single printed copy of the Work for sale to a consumer.

12.3 Databases, Networks, and On-line Services, including the exclusive right to store, reproduce, transmit, and generally use and exploit any and all potions of the Work, but without the addition of any matter whatsoever, in a remote electronic database, network, or other on-line computer service, or similar system attaining like results, for use by consumers who are licensed to access the database, network, or service, and display and\or download for their own personal use only.

12.4 Interactive and Multimedia, including the exclusive right to adapt and generally use and exploit any and all portions of the Work, whether alone or in conjunction other material, in an interactive or multimedia product or service in any of the media or technologies described above, whether now known or hereafter devised.

Secondary Rights

1 “Dramatic Rights,” including the exclusive right to use, adapt, or otherwise exploit the work or any element thereof (including but not limited to characters, plot, title, scenes, settings, attire, and physical characteristics) in one or more live theatrical or stage presentations.

2 “Reading Rights,” including the exclusive right to authorize the public reading of any and all portions of the verbatim text of the Work before a live audience, but without dramatization of any kind or the making of any audio, audiovisual, or other recording of the reading.

3 “Motion Picture and Television Rights,” including the exclusive right to use, adapt, or otherwise exploit the Work, or any element thereof (including but not limited to characters, plot, title, scenes, settings, attire, and physical characteristics) in the form of one or more motion pictures and/or television programs of any kind, including but not limited to the right to disseminate such motion pictures and/or television programs by means of distribution and exhibition in theaters or otherwise, broadcasting, cable, satellite, telephone or other land lines, pay-per-view, closed circuit, videocassettes, laser discs, digital video discs, and\or any other form of video transmission, exhibition, reproduction and sale, including but not limited to both analog and digital technologies and all other similar audiovisual media, whether now in existence or hereafter devised.

4 “Radio Rights,” including the exclusive right to use, adapt, or otherwise exploit the Work and any element thereof (including but not limited to characters, plot, title, scenes, settings, attire, and physical characteristics) for any form of radio programming, including but not limited to dissemination by broadcasting, cable, satellite, telephone or other land line, pay-per-view, digital, closed-circuit or other forms of radio transmission, whether now in existence or hereafter devised.

5 “Commercial Rights,” including the exclusive right to manufacture, sell and otherwise distribute products, by-products, services, facilities, merchandise, and other commodities of every nature or description, whether now in existence or hereafter devised, including but not limited to photographs, illustrations, drawings, posters, and other artwork, toys, games, wearing apparel, foods, beverages, cosmetics, toiletries and similar items, which may refer to and embody the Work, or any derivative works based on the Work, including but not limited to characters, plot, title, scenes, settings, attire, and physical characteristics.

6 “Future Media and Technologies,” including the right to disseminate, use, adapt, or otherwise exploit the Work, or to authorize others to do so, by any means or medium of communication now in existence or hereafter devised.

As you can see, an author owns a lot of rights with respect to the work. For authors going the traditional route with their work, their agent will negotiate the rights the author is willing to sell to the publisher, and in most cases, they will be exclusive rights in perpetuity. Self-publishers will normally only lease or license a few of these rights to their printer and distributor of choice: Lulu, Createspace, and Smashwords for example. So all self-published authors should navigate their contracts carefully to be sure they are granting non-exclusive license for the term of the Agreement: an agreement that can be terminated at will by the Author. You want to also be sure that the contract stipulates that you, the author, own all right, title and interest in and to the Content, including all patent, copyright, trademark, service mark, mask work, moral right, trade secret or other intellectual property or proprietary right (collectively, "Intellectual Property Rights") therein. In simple terms, you are only granting them non-exclusive license. You are not transferring rights as one would in traditional publishing. There are a lot of shady vanity/subsidy publishers out there who use standard traditional publishing boilerplate to exact exclusive rights from the self-published author, often tying up the author’s rights for years. So be very careful and read every word of every agreement you sign. The devil is in the details.

Cheryl Anne Gardner

Monday, December 07, 2009


Author Solutions CEO Responds to Harlequin/Nelson Flap
"Both Harlequin and Thomas Nelson are mentioned in the video, but the press release names only Harlequin--likely because Nelson has not, to date, been the target of the same level of criticism. This is unfair, in my view--I see no reason why, since Harlequin has been pilloried for DellArte Press, Nelson should be getting practically a free pass with West Bow Press."

See also:
* ASI CEO Responds To Harlequin/Thomas Nelson Paid-Publishing Debate With Statement
* Yes, Standards Exist

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Friday, December 04, 2009

Createspace Announces Enhanced Distribution

CHARLESTON, S.C. – Dec. 03, 2009 – CreateSpace, part of the, Inc. (NASDAQ: AMZN) group of companies, today announced a new agreement with Lightning Source Inc., the print on-demand unit of Ingram Content Group Inc. The collaboration between the two companies will expand CreateSpace's distribution options for its members beyond and CreateSpace eStores.

Under the new agreement, CreateSpace's Books on-Demand platform will allow members to print and then distribute their titles to thousands of bookstores, libraries and online retailers. CreateSpace members will have access to this enhanced print and distribution option as part of the CreateSpace Pro Plan, a program which gives members access to lower print pricing for their own book orders and better royalties for sales on

"With this expansion, CreateSpace members will not only be able to reach customers, but they can also reach the thousands of bookstores, libraries and online retailers that work with the Ingram Content Group, " said Dana LoPiccolo-Giles, managing director, CreateSpace. "With Lightning Source and Ingram, our members can make their titles available to the larger book marketplace while remaining inventory-free with print on-demand."

"At Ingram, we are passionate about books and the book industry," said Philip Ollila, chief content officer, Ingram Content Group. "Our new relationship with CreateSpace is a continuation of Ingram's long-term strategy to offer the broadest selection of books to our customers worldwide."

For more information about CreateSpace, please visit
Now this puts Amazon way ahead of the game when it comes to DIY publishing with expanded distribution. I was hoping for something like this to come out of the Booksurge/Createspace merger, and again, Amazon didn't disappoint. However, the pro-plan is a yearly fee, so if you sell more ebooks than print editions, it might not be the best option, but for print books it is a comparable option to going direct with Lightening Source, who charges roughly $80.00 for set-up, $30.00 for the proof, and $12.00 per year per book cataloging fee after the intial set-up fees. So, the Amazon pro-plan at $39.00 initially per book then $5.00 per year per book after that may be cost effective for some self-publishers. Again, my experience with Createspace has been stellar thus far, and this only shows that they are committed to the self-publishing experience. Not to mention they offer all the standard trade paperback sizes in their expanded distro model. That was my biggest beef with Lulu and many other DIY sites. Novellas and shorter fiction works just look like crap in the 6x9 size. Hardback books are 6x9 not paperbacks. Amazon offers the 5x8, the 5.25x8, and the 5.5x8.5 in their expanded distribution plan.

Yes, Cheryl Anne Gardner is pleased, very pleased.

Thursday, December 03, 2009

Thoughts on The Craft -- c.anne.gardner

An Artist might appreciate what he has been paid for his work, but he will never be made happy by it: for an artist’s self-worth -- his sweat, his blood, and his tears -- lies within the work, that which he has reached down into the depthless chasm of his own soul to create. -- Cheryl Anne Gardner

Now I don’t step into the debate much when it comes to Traditional Publishing versus Self-publishing. I am an artist out of love and a publisher out of necessity. I also believe that everyone has the right to pursue their passion in whatever way best suits them. There is a shit-load of diatribe on both sides -- not all of it accurate and much of it spin-doctored -- and I find it tiresome. So, when deciding whether or not to self-publish, authors need to tune out the static and take a long hard look at the facts, and they also need to take a long hard realistic look at their work. What kind of writer are you? If you don’t know that, then maybe you should keep filing those manuscripts away in a drawer for a little while longer. Why? Well, simply put, delusion is the number one reason for perceived failure in the self-publishing game. If you’re ambitious and seek fame, fortune, and a million dollar book deal, then self-publishing is not the route you should take. Mainstream fiction is ill-suited to self-publishing, so if your genre and your personal goal as a fiction writer is to get mainstream acknowledgement and exposure, then please, go that route because you won’t find what you seek here. Writing is hard work. Publishing is hard work, and self-publishing has a patina, a certain kind of futility to it, if you will, so it takes a good deal of stamina, especially when it comes to dealing with the stigma. A rejection letter can be shoved in a drawer; a form rejection letter can be dismissed entirely. Self-publishers can’t hide, and they take it on the chin a lot. It’s not hip, it’s not cool, it’s not a revolution, and it’s not for everyone. It takes a desire to do things right and a desire to be personally accountable for all aspects of the endeavour. It’s not about slapping a document up on Lulu or paying a vanity publisher to do the work for you. It’s a decision making process from start to finish: some of those decisions will be artistic ones and others will be made out of practicality. When did practicality become cool? It didn’t, so if your reason for self-publishing is because you think it’s cool and Indie and all that artist anarchy bullshit, then just don’t do it. The writing is the art and the anarchy, and the publishing is a whole different mindset.

Now, if your work is a hard sell in the mainstream market like poetry chapbooks, novellas, short story collections, or anything that might be deemed “too much” of this or that to be able to sell commercially, then self-publishing may be the answer for your artistic vision. However, to render that artistic vision into something that remotely passes for a real book is an undertaking fraught with an exasperating number of technical nuances that need to be addressed and need to be addressed competently. These are nuances that can and often do become issues, and these issues can transform your artistic vision into a steaming turd. It’s these turds that plague the self-publishing model. All self-published authors need to know that going in. You need to have an artistic vision, but you’ve got to have more insight than just a vision. You need to have a platform to build readership; you need to have the technical expertise to handle all of the backend work: the editing, the proofreading, the interior layout, the cover design, the registration of ISBNs and Copyrights, the creation of the appropriate digital print ready files as needed, web-site design ... the list goes on ad nauseam. And you need to actually like doing all those things. So if you answered yes I do with a huge satisfied grin on your face, then self-publishing, which is about a whole lot more than the writing, might be an option for you. How successful at it you are will depend on how much effort and skill you have to put into the venture as well as your expectations.

For me, personally, the choice was clear. I write novellas. Never received a rejection letter because I have never submitted for publication. Stand-alone novellas are cost prohibitive for major publishers: they don’t meet the word-count necessary to turn a profit. Now, e-publishers are very into novellas, but I am not interested in e-publishers for various reasons: novellas defined by most e-pubs are not true literary novellas, they are just short fiction, and some e-pubs are stigmatized just about as bad as self-publishing for churning out quantity not quality. Not to mention, I spent five years working in the desktop publishing industry, and I wanted to put all that wicked skill to some use. To me, layout, cover design, and all the other fiddly bits are artistically challenging as well. For me, it’s all about the art. Now don’t take all this to mean that I am not concerned about books sales. I adore my readers, but I don’t obsess over rankings and sales stats, and I am not much into marketing or self-promotion either. That’s not what this was about for me. Yes, I get all happy pants when I sell a book. I do, but as an artist, I feel that monetary value is not the true value of a thing. I feel that an artist's true self-worth is in the work, not the arbitrary price tag placed upon it. Royalties, for me, cover the cost associated with turning the vision into reality. The royalties barely cover the cost of the ISBNs, Copyright registrations, and software updates, but I supplement that by helping other authors with editing and interior layout design, and that, along with the meagre royalties, keeps me swimming in post-it flags and erasers. The sales make the publishing possible, not the writing. The writing is my artistic inclination. The publishing gets my art out into the world, and that is where the value is for me. Seeing it out there, seeing people enjoy it, connecting with those people who share a similar vision. The true value is in the reader commentary I receive. The publishing is just a means to that end. Those who want a writing career and expect all the trappings that supposedly come with said career won’t find the Indie arena to their benefit. It’s frustrating at best.

On a final note, there is no need to separate Church and State here. Yes, self-publishing, traditional publishing, and e-publishing can all exist together, will exist together, despite claims to the contrary. The industry will adapt, so will writers, and book readers will have more options and better price points. As it is now, many writers self-publish and pursue the commercial dream at the same time. I happen to think this is the best option for most writers who want a serious career in the business. Self-publish your artistic anarchy and keep on revising and submitting the commercially viable work to agents and editors. There is value to both sides of the equation for many. For me, not so much. It’s all about the art for me, and frankly, “commercially viable” is not in my vocabulary, and I am a lousy sales person. I couldn’t sell water in the middle of the desert, so a contract that requires participation in that respect would be akin to a prison term for me. Regardless of that inadequacy on my part, it’s really about principles for me: The words “art” and “contract” don’t fit well in the same sentence. Not in my world, anyway. I just could never face the thought that my labour of love could be someone else’s commodity. But that’s just me, so I do that which works best for me. I advocate self-publishing, but I can’t be a cheerleader for it because it just isn’t right for everyone. Trust your artistic instinct and know that anything done out of vanity or desperation is bound to disappoint.

Cheryl Anne Gardner is never disappointed.

Yes, I am using the “Ship of Fools” by Bosch again this week ... I know a lot of authors already on board.

Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Copyright, Publication Rights, Kindle, and YOU -- cannegardner

It recently came to my attention that Amazon is aggressively verifying licensing and copyrights for works published through the Kindle DTP Platform.

After taking a leisurely walk around the DTP message boards, it became apparent that Amazon instituted additional verification procedures beginning sometime in September 2009. While this might be upsetting to some who publish through Kindle, I am all in favor of proactive measures to ensure author’s rights are not being violated, so I wanted to talk about what this means for the self-published author.

As the author of intellectual property, the copyright to the work belongs to you. Even if you are traditionally published, you, the author, retain the copyright to your work. However, certain other rights may not remain exclusively with the author, such as publication rights or mechanical and distribution rights, including print rights and digital rights. In most cases, the self-published author will lease or license those rights to printers and distributors such as Lulu, Amazon, or Smashwords, for example. In traditional publishing, the author sells or transfers those rights to their publisher for a term set out in their contract: the rights revert back to the author in the event that the contract ends its term or is terminated for whatever reason.

Most of the rights a self-published author will license are non-exclusive rights to produce copies or reproductions of the work and to sell those copies, rights for which the author has the right to license at will and to terminate at will. Read your contract to be sure you retain control of the rights you are “leasing.” As for Amazon verifying such rights, you might receive a letter, as I did, in your email box that reads:

We are interested in making your title(s) available for customers to purchase in the Kindle Store, but we would like to first confirm that you are certain you are authorized to sell the title(s), and if you are certain that you are, receive documentation from you confirming your authorization. Please reply to within 10 days, with your confirmation and with appropriate documentation of your e-book rights for your title(s).

Specifically if you are not the author of the title, please confirm that you have all rights necessary to distribute the title in eBook format, and provide any written documentation you have from the author or other copyright owner of the title (such as a contract or other written authorization) which gives you all rights necessary to distribute the title in eBook format, or any other documentation or evidence you have of your copyright ownership (such as a copyright registration number).

If you are the author of the title(s) and you have retained the eBook rights to the title(s), please confirm that you are the author of the title and that you have retained the eBook rights to the title, and provide any documentation or other evidence you may have of your ownership (such as a copyright registration number).

If the title is also published in physical format, and you are affiliated with or otherwise have a relationship with the publisher of the physical book, please explain your relationship with the publisher of the physical book and provide any documentation you may have of your relationship.

Now, as a self-published author who owns their own imprint and retains all rights to the copyrighted work, this was not a difficult matter to address, so my title was held up for publication by a mere 24 hours. In my case, I just pointed Amazon DTP to my Createspace account, which is set up in the exact same manner as my DTP account: under my imprint, which is a legally registered business entity. Registered with my State and Local Government offices, and also registered with Bowkers. In this case, they had no problem verifying that I am indeed the owner of the imprint, the owner of the ISBN, and the Author of the work in question and that the print addition rights were leased by me to Createspace.

As far as documentation, I could have supplied my DBA paperwork and also my copyright registration number should they have required tangible proof beyond what I gave them. And this brings me to the legalities of being a self-published author, specifically: Proof that you own the work.

According to the US Govt. Copyright office: Copyright is secured automatically when the work is created, and a work is “created” when it is fixed in a copy for the first time. “Copies” are material objects from which a work can be read or visually perceived either directly or with the aid of a machine or device, such as books, manuscripts, sheet music, film, videotape, or microfilm and digital copies.

That’s all well and good, but should someone require proof that you own the work, your best option in this matter is to provide your copyright registration number. Back when I registered my work initially, the fee was $45.00, and, if the book was in print, two copies of the book to fulfill the mandatory deposit requirement with the Library of Congress. Now, the Copyright office has gone digital and you can register your work on line for $35.00 and submit your print copies within 30 days as required by law. If your book is in digital format only, you may upload a PDF of the work and be done with it. You will then receive a certification of copyright in the mail with a registration number. You should keep these in a safe place. While it’s not necessary to register the copyright to your work, it protects you in the event you need to sue for copyright infringement, and it also provides a measure of proof should your distribution provider require verification.

So, if you are a self published author and want to avoid a lot of grief should you be asked to verify the rights to your work, do yourself a favor and register. And if you use a vanity publisher or other DIY printing and distribution service, read your contract and be absolutely certain you own all the rights to your work before you take your publication on the road. Just putting a copyright notification on your matter page doesn’t verify a thing.

This information is of course for authors who are citizens of the United States. Copyright laws and filing guidelines can and do vary from country to country, so, if you are not a U.S. citizen, please refer to your particular country's filing guidelines.

Cheryl Anne Gardner