Archive for July, 2011

Congress is getting involved in the vexatious dispute over Amazon’s refusal to collect state taxes.

On Friday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced legislation that would require Internet-only retailers to add sales taxes to customers’ bills, just as their competitors with bricks-and-mortar stores do. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) plans to introduce a similar measure in the House.

The congressional effort is aimed at closing a legal loophole created by a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision that freed online and catalog sellers from the obligation of collecting sales taxes if their businesses had no physical presence in the state where a buyer lives.

Excerpt taken from, Congress takes up Amazon sales tax issue, by Marc Lifsher, reporting for the Los Angeles Times.

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Stephen King has written an introduction to a new edition of Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Here is an excerpt:

To me, Lord of the Flies has always represented what novels are for; what makes them indispensable. Should we expect to be entertained when we read a story? Of course. An act of the imagination that doesn’t entertain is a poor act indeed. But there should be more. A successful novel should erase the boundary line between writer and reader, so they can unite. When that happens, the novel becomes a part of life – the main course, not the dessert. A successful novel should interrupt the reader’s life, make him or her miss appointments, skip meals, forget to walk the dog. In the best novels, the writer’s imagination becomes the reader’s reality. It glows, incandescent and furious. I’ve been espousing these ideas for most of my life as a writer, and not without being criticised for them. If the novel is strictly about emotion and imagination, the most potent of these criticisms go, then analysis is swept away and discussion of the book becomes irrelevant.

I agree that “This blew me away” is pretty much of a non-starter when it comes to class discussion of a novel (or a short story, or a poem), but I would argue it’s still the beating heart of fiction. “This blew me away” is what every reader wants to say when he closes a book, isn’t it? And isn’t it exactly the sort of experience most writers want to provide?

Nor does a visceral, emotional reaction to a novel preclude analysis. I finished the last half of Lord of the Flies in a single afternoon, my eyes wide, my heart pounding, not thinking, just inhaling. But I’ve been thinking about it ever since, for 50 years and more. My rule of thumb as a writer and a reader – largely formed by Lord of the Flies – is feel it first, think about it later. Analyse all you want, but first dig the experience.

Read the entire article: Stephen King on ‘Lord of the Flies’

A few days ago I was invited into the Google Plus beta. I was so excited, not much writing got done that day! There was, and is, a lot to learn but I’m enjoying it. Facebook never worked for me, probably because I have very diverse groups of friends.

Today I went looking for a Google+ widget but it wasn’t easy to find one. “Ah!” I thought. “This is a topic for a blog post!”

The widget is called Google Plus Widget and if you’d like to add me (does that sound desperate? lol) here’s a link.

If you scroll down this page a bit and look on the right margin you’ll see what the widget looks like on my page. It was too big at first so I made the background transparent.

It was very easy to add the widget to my site. If anyone has trouble let me know and I’ll do a blog post that steps through it.

Dean Wesley Smith:
– On agents: You don’t need one. He writes:

Don’t have one. Period. You don’t need one in indie publishing and if you do have one, just drop back and ask them to do nothing. See how your agent gets through these coming years. In other words, leave them alone.

On traditional book publishers:

Put on hold unless approached. Or unless you already have a contract.

Stop mailing to them, stop giving your agent anything to sell. Just hold. Don’t pull books or do anything stupid like that. Just hold and finish your contracts.

On self-publishing/independent publishing:

Go here and go here as quickly as you can.

To sum up:

Avoid agents, hold on traditional publishing until things settle, and move to indie publishing.

Here’s the link to DWS’s article: The New World of Publishing: Traditional or Indie? What To Do Now? It’s well worth the read.

I had to read this paragraph twice to make sure I’d read it right.

… millions of books will, soon enough, be online only. And that will mean the same kind of ability to buy chapters or extracts that music-buyers have enjoyed courtesy of itunes. Bundling is all but dead – along with warehouses full of expensive, slow-moving stock, and many wholesalers and retailers. At the leading edge is, among others, a San Francisco start-up called Inkling which is offering interactive, multimedia-rich iPad versions of more than 100 textbooks by the chapter or complete book. As ever, you have to look East to see the leaps of progress and the South Korean government this month announced all its schools would be paperless by 2015 with “perennially-updated” online textbooks. And the recent snaffling by Pearson (owner of Penguin and Dorling Kindersley and academic imprints) of online operations from failed booksellers Borders and Angus & Robertson speaks errr volumes. [Emphasis mine]

From the article, Cooking the Books: Harry Potter Rushes into the new World, by Colin Morrison

Mary Elizabeth Williams writes:

Grammar lovers today were saddened, shocked, and mightily displeased at the news that the P.R. department of the University of Oxford has decided to drop the comma for which it is so justly famed. As GalleyCat reported, the university’s new style guide advises writers, “As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write ‘a, b and c’ not ‘a, b, and c’.” Cue the collective gasps of horror. The last time the nerd community was this cruelly betrayed, George Lucas was sitting at his desk, thinking, “I shall call him Jar Jar.”

View the rest of the very funny impassioned argument in favor of using the Oxford Comma here: Don’t kill the Oxford comma!

Courtney Milan, a writer with a background in law, has written two excellent posts on the subject of the conflicts of interest that can arise when agents act as both a client’s agent and publisher.

For example, say Alice is a writer and Sue is her agent. Sue is negotiating with ABC publishing for the rights to Alice’s latest book: A Tale of Three Cities. The agent has just opened up an publishing division for electronic books. If Sue thinks that Alice’s book is going to be a bestseller and wants it all to herself, how hard do you think she is going to work at getting Alice a deal with ABC publishing? How hard do you think Sue is going to work at getting any other publisher interested in the manuscript?

Further, if Alice decided to publish with her agent rather than a traditional publisher, what motivation does the agent have to get the best possible deal for her client? None, since the more money her client gets, the less money she gets.

Courtney’s first post: a mea culpa
Courtney’s second post: agency publishing and conflicts of interest

Passive Guy, a retired attorney, has this to say about Courtney’s posts:

Passive Guy congratulates Courtney on presenting the conflict of interest issues in a way that any non-lawyer should be able to understand. She describes real-life situations for agents and authors and how the conflict inherent in the agent-as-publisher can poison those relationships even if both parties have the best intentions.

Had you sat through as many legal ethics presentations as PG has, you would have a greater appreciation for Courtney’s achievement.

Here’s the link to PG’s post: Agents Who Publish Their Clients are Engaging in Unethical Behavior – Courtney Drops the Hammer.

Update: In PG’s comments, Pat Chiles kindly posted a link to, The (Publishing) Times They Are Achanging, by accordingtohoyt. Another good read.