Saturday, June 11, 2016

Interview with David Alan Binder

Hey, I'm interviewed today by David Alan Binder. Check out his blog. I say somethings about writing, publishing, how the market has changed, and what I have learned over the course of twenty years doing this. Check it out!

https://sites.google.com/site/dalanbinder/blog/clairejohnsoninterviewwithdavidalanbinder

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Piracy

A good friend of mine wrote a brilliant post about the issue of piracy: Dear Broke Reader: Your Sense of Entitlement Is Killing Me. As writers, it threatens all of us, from the best-selling author to the no-name author like me. It affects ALL of us. Even before my books were published, there were pirated copies available on the Internet. I suppose they took arcs apart and scanned them, who knows, but it's across the board obviously. Complaining to Google could be a full-time job in itself.

I think that Sarah's blog is so well written that I can't add anything to her central point. But what I do want to point out is that not only are authors losing $$$, they are also losing clout. Your sales are not just about the dollars. It's also about generating clout in the marketplace. It's about getting that contract renewed for additional books. It's about getting speaking gigs to further your presence in the book buying market. It's about publishers being interested in you and wanting to further your career because it makes them money for them. In short, piracy is the gift that keeps on taking. Not only do you lose sales, but you also lose market share in an extremely competitive sphere.

I honestly do not think that the publishers are quite aware of how pervasive this practice is. Seriously? The Austen pastiche I published is available for free on some torrenting sites! It affects everyone who has ever put a finger to a keyboard.

I have no solution to this. I just know that I have been impacted by it and so has every writer I know. Once books became digital objects, then the writing cows were out of that frigging barn and scampering across the fields. You might as well close THAT barn door.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

More Hitting Head Against Brick Wall

So, if there are any writers in the crowd, this article will confirm what you already know: the title says it all. Income for U.S. authors now has fallen below the poverty line. News? HAHAHAHAHAHA! The usual culprits are trotted out, the number one villain of course being amazon, who has single-handedly destroyed the book market. I understand that indies are sort of making a comeback, but that's basically a drop in the bucket compared to all the stores that went under in response to amazon's predatory pricing.

Some juicy quotes include:

Analysing responses from 1,674 authors in its first survey since 2009, the US organisation found that the median income from writing for an American author in 2014 was $8,000, down 24% from $10,500 six years ago. The majority (56%) of writers, it said, earned less from all of their writing-related activities than the $11,670 judged in 2014 to have been the minimum income needed by a one-person household in the US.

and

Earnings for full-time authors dropped 30% between 2009 and 2014, from $25,000 to $17,500, while the median income of part-time writers fell 38% over the period, from $7,250 to $4,500. Thirty-nine percent of respondents to the survey said their sole income came from writing.

Another interesting tidbit is that even if you are forced to self-publish (like I was):

Thirty-three percent of author reported self-publishing at least one book. Educational authors with traditional publishers, meanwhile, had the highest writing-related income in 2014, at $17,750, followed by traditionally published trade authors, at $10,250; self-published respondents earned $4,500. The biggest decline in income over the period was for traditionally published trade authors, at 28%; earnings for self-published authors were down 25%.

with the depressing conclusion that:

The rise of indie authors and their fan bases may be taking sales away from traditional publishers,” said Rasenberger. “Self-publishing may be a good way forward for many authors, but by and large indie authors are not making much money yet.

There you have it. That sound you hear is my head hitting the brick.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Dear Hillary Letter No. 1

Dear Hillary: I have listened to a number of debates between you and Mr. Saunders, and I think we all know your positions on most things. Your criticism of Bernie is falling on deaf ears because you are so determined to get out your policy points that you're letting him get away with murder. Instead of hammering home your position, start using your debate time to ask him questions that the moderators are ignoring. He is increasingly sounding like he alone will make these changes. That he ignores the fact that all these promises he makes, unversal health care, free colleges, etc., that nine of this is possible in the current political climate. That the hard fought battle over the current health care model, which is still being undermined by the GOP, is nothing compared to the fight that would ensue in a bill for single payer health care system. How he keeps making promises he can't keep, only fanning the flames of an electorate that is sick and tired of being told they can have the moon.

Book Review: Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood

I have three historical periods and the writers of that era that I'm somewhat obsessed with. One is the explosion of writers (mostly gay men) who wrote in the aftermath of WWII. This includes Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, and Tennessee Williams, only to name a few. The second is the mostly British expat community in Kenya in the 1920s and 30s, Isak Dinesen the obvious draw there. And the third is the ex-pat community of writers in Paris in the 1920s, of whom Fitzgerald and Hemingway loom the largest.

So I'm writing this review with something of a caveat because I know the personal history of Hemingway extremely well (it's a little embarrassing how many biographies I own of Hemingway and Fitzgerald and their circle) and mentally I could be filling in gaps. Another reader might feel that parts of this book feel thin or there isn't enough, but all readers bring their own history to the page--we can't help that. Thus, I felt it only fair to start this review with that warning.

Mrs. Hemingway by Naomi Wood presents the POV of the four Hemingway wives as their marriages to him begin to disintegrate. All four POVs--from Hadley Richardson, Pauline Pffeiffer, Martha Gellhorn to Mary Welsh--have a distinct voice. If you're interested in the history of this period, this is not that book, but its character study of each woman is excellent. The greatest strength of this book is a seamless back and forth between the ending of their marriages and all the unfortunate emotional history leading to the end of their marriages. This back and forth is exceptionally hard to do without giving a reader mental whiplash, and I think that Ms. Wood does an admirable job of weaving in various episodes. The language is lush and descriptive, and on nearly every page there was a sentence that I would read and say to myself, wow I wish I'd written that.

Hemingway was something of a serial husband. He always had a woman waiting in the wings before he disposed of the previous wife, so these stories all overlap. I think the weakest "wife" in the book is Ms. Wood's portrayal of Martha Gellhorn, but then she would, IMO, be the hardest to mentally coral. A war correspondent in her own right, Martha Gellhorn was the only one of his wives who didn't have a somewhat synchophantic relationship with her husband. And, naturally, she's the only one who left him.

By and large the book seems historically factual to a point. The section where the most liberties have been taken are with Martha Gellhorn (wife no. 3). Based on the several biographies of hers that I've read, an extended scene that takes place at the end of their marriage never occurred, but other than that, it reads as historically accurate to me. But the history here isn't the point.

What is the point is the evocative language, the deft handling of four distinct voices, and the masterful weaving in and out of their respective histories. This was a wonderful read.

If you're interested in a more historical and in-depth treatment of Hemingway's wives, I highly recommend Bernice Kert's The Hemingway Women. This is a superb history on the various women who loomed large in Hemingway's life. I can't recommend this book more highly.

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Open Letter to Salon.com

I am an extremely political person. I try to keep politics off this blog because given the state of politics in this country and the obstructionist mentality of the GOP and the hijacking of the GOP by racists, homophobes, and sexists, there really doesn't seem any point on commenting about them. When you have major candidate in this race--who is THE front runner--waffling on the support of a white supremacist, then these truths are self-evident, as they say.

I'm curious what the fate of the GOP will be after this election. I doubt it will survive intact, because this election has exposed "the base" to be unrelentingly racist at the expense of the traditional bean counters. I imagine this election will split the party in two. Because, hello, the genie is out of the bottle. The Tea Party isn't about small government. It's about hating anyone who isn't white. End of story. Will the Eisenhower model emerge or the racist contingent? Clearly there isn't room for both.

However, something interesting has been happening on the Democratic side. Salon.com is a fairly left site that I read for political and entertainment value. It's an echo chamber more or less, and I freely admit that. But not so much anymore. It has become the Hillary bashing site. The number of articles that paint Hillary Clinton as nearly as horrendous a political choice as either Trump, Cruz, or Rubio are growing in direct proportion to her seemingly inevitable win of the Democratic nominee for president. The Super Tuesday election has brought the knives out. Wow, it's getting uglier and uglier by the day. The number of photos of her appearing smug, angry, arrogant, and insert a modifier in here of your choice that is highly unflattering are increasing. You get the "picture."

And yet, when Hillary Clinton was a senator she and Bernie Saunders voted in unison on issues 83% of the time. Okay, let's repeat that; 83% of the time. And yet as she begins to sew up the nomination, you'd think that she was basically Ted Cruz's older sister.

The progressive left has begun to paint her as a war monger. I don't see her as a war monger. I can see a rational argument being made for toppling bat-shit insane dictators like Khadafi, where there is a hope that one can now have democratic elections in a country that has suffered under the rule of the type of man who had no compunction in blowing up airplanes, who had a long history of terrorist acts and who was, by all accounts, INSANE. Hillary is being pilloried for voting for the war and yet Bernie Saunders voted for U.S. troops in Afghanistan--the country where no invading country has won a war in something like 400 years. So there's that. 

Speaking of pictures. The really distasteful part of this whole campaign against Hillary is that at its heart it's beginning to feel misogynistic. Have you noticed how much the press shows close-ups of her face, All the lines, the puffiness, the general hallmarks of an older woman. It's becoming on par with the sort of ridiculous photographs they show of Trump. 

Salon, stop it. In your zeal to champion Bernie Saunders you're losing my respect. Again, I like Bernie, too. But there is never any discussion of how someone like Saunders, who is so much more left than probably 90% of his colleagues in the Senate, is actually going to govern when even a majority of his own party cannot support his platform. When you have a sitting President, who in another era I would consider a moderate Republican, is basically inert because of an obstructionist Congress, how is someone as progressive as Bernie Saunders going to govern? How? How does Bernie plan to implement all these pie-in-the-sky programs. The current president can't even get bridges fixed and the roads paved. How is Bernie going to PAY FOR ALL OF THIS?????

These questions are never asked, and I think they are as legitimate as someone asking of Ted Cruz: since many of the people in this country are not religious (and increasingly are not religious), how can Ted Cruz possibly govern when a huge percentage of the electorate is not evangelical?

You have a bias. You like Bernie Saunders. I like him, too. Politically, he's much closer to my viewpoint than Obama. But Hillary and Bernie are VERY CLOSE politically. The first debates were marked by the other saying, "I agree..." So cut this shit out. Champion Bernie. He's a man with a tremendous amount of integrity and smarts. That should be enough. You don't need to stoop to what is becoming a sexist, stealth smear campaign against Hillary. I'm going to say this again. Stop it.


Monday, February 29, 2016

Goodbye Lands End

Dear Lands End:

I have bought clothes from you for forty years. A lot of clothes over time. Gifts for people, clothes for my kids, clothes for me. Get it? A LOT OF CLOTHES. Given your response to pressure from conservative groups and pulling your ad campaign featuring Gloria Steinem, I've decided to stop buying clothes from you. I realize that this is a form of my own financial guerilla terrorism, but this is the only tactic I have at my disposal to let you know that this is not cool. I suppose that you feel you can't win this war of political correctness and by pulling her it is probably the least of all evils. But, you know, Land's End, you siding with the people who are loud but they are not great in number. They are bigoted, they hate equal rights for women. You sell far more clothes for women than you do for men in your company. Think about that. You haven't replaced Ms. Steinem with anyone else who might be an excellent representative for the older women you're trying to court. You didn't consider that the women that she might appeal to (older women like me) would feel totally and justifiably dissed at your decision to pull her ad campaign. You probably feel you've waded into a mine field in this polarized society. Tough. You've just lost a valuable customer.

Claire M. Johnson