The link below is to an article that looks at the decline in author income and its causes.
Who makes the money in publishing? Nobody. This often repeated dark joke highlights a serious issue. The most recent figures show that Australian authors earn just $12,900 a year from writing work (the median, at $2,800, was even worse). Indeed, authors can gross less than $5,000 for Miles Franklin-nominated titles that took two or more years to write.
Fixing this isn’t as simple as reaching more deeply into publisher pockets, because most of those are empty too. While the major international houses are thriving (Simon & Schuster and Penguin Random House recently reported 16% profits), publishing Australian stories can be financially perilous.
In independent publishing, 10% of the book sale goes to the author, perhaps another 10% to the printer, and up to a whopping 70% for distribution. What’s left has to pay the publisher, editor, marketers, admin staff and keep the lights on.
But we can improve our approach to author rights. Here are five lessons we can learn from elsewhere to help Australian writers earn more money.
#1: Give authors stronger out of print rights
Traditionally, contractual “out of print” clauses have let authors reclaim their rights when a print run has sold out and the publisher doesn’t want to invest in another. But in our recent analysis of almost 150 contracts in the Australian Society of Authors archive, we found 85% of contracts with these clauses allowed authors to reclaim their rights only when the book was “not available in any edition”.
These days, books can be kept available (at least digitally or via print-on-demand) forever – but that doesn’t mean their publishers are still actively promoting them.
A better approach is to allow authors to reclaim their rights towards the end of a work’s commercial life, determined with reference to objective criteria like the number of copies sold or royalties earned in the previous year. The Australian Society of Authors recommends authors only sign contracts that have this meaningful kind of out-of-print clause – but many publishers still try to get authors to sign up to unacceptable terms.
A growing number of countries (including France, Romania, Slovenia, Spain, Macedonia and Brazil mandate author rights based on objective criteria. The French law is an interesting model. There, authors can get their rights back if a book has been published for at least four years, and they haven’t been credited royalties for at least two. This opens up new possibilities for the author to license it to another publisher, or even sell it directly to libraries or consumers.
#2: ‘Use it or lose it’: return author rights when they’re not being used
Publishers take very broad rights to most books: in our recent archival analysis we found 83% took worldwide rights, and 43% took rights in all languages. It’s easy to take rights – but if publishers do so, they should be obliged to either use them or give them back.
To that end we can learn from the “use it or lose it” laws that bind publishers in some parts of Europe. In Spain and Lithuania, for example, authors can get their rights back for languages that are still unexploited after five years.
#3: Introduce a ‘bestseller’ clause to contracts
Of course, it’s not always the case that there’s no money in publishing: sometimes a title that was expected to sell 5,000 copies sells 5,000,000. That changes the economics enormously: but in many cases, the contract only provides the same old 10% revenue for the author. For works that achieve unexpected success, we can learn from Germany and the Netherlands (and the proposed new EU copyright law). They have “bestseller” clauses that give authors the right to share fairly in unexpected windfalls arising from their work.
#4: Legally enshrine the right to fair payment
Even where there’s not much money to be made, the author should still receive a fair share. Again, Germany and the Netherlands lead the way on this. There, authors are entitled to “fair” or “equitable” payment for their work – and can enforce those rights if their pay is too low.
These laws don’t set a dollar amount, since what is “fair” depends on all the circumstances. However, such laws at least provide a minimum floor. If the contracted amount is unfair or inequitable, authors have a legal right to redress.
#5: Put time limits on transfers
In Australia, copyright lasts for the life of the author, and then another 70 years after that. Publishers almost always take rights for that full term – only 3% of the contracts between publishers and authors we looked at took less. But publishers don’t need that long to recoup their investments. In the US, authors can reclaim their rights from intermediaries 35 years after they licensed or transferred them.
In Canada, copyrights transfer automatically to heirs 25 years after an author dies. We used to have the same law in Australia, but it was abolished for spurious reasons about 50 years ago. If we reintroduced a similar time limit on transfers, it would open up new opportunities for authors and their heirs (for example, to license or sell to a different publisher, libraries or direct to the public).
It’s true that there’s often not much money in publishing. But by changing our approach to author rights, we can help writers earn more and make Australian books more freely available.
The link below is to an interview with the author of ‘Fear – Trump in the White House,’ Bob Woodward.
The link below is to an article that looks at 5 things not to say to authors (they are a touchy mob).
The link below is to an article that takes a look at mistakes authors make when connecting with readers.
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You likely recognize that the depiction of Latin American immigrants in politics today – as a menacing mass of recalcitrant Spanish-speaking invaders – is overwhelmingly negative.
What you may not know is that stereotypes suggesting that Latin Americans represent a threat to United States culture are not just morally repugnant – they’re also historically inaccurate. Spanish-language literature actually predates the Puritans’ writing in English by nearly a century.
As my research reveals, many renowned Latin American writers actually produced some of their finest work while living in the United States. Latina and Latino writers have made exceptional contributions to American literary history.
For a fresh take on what it means to be a Latina or Latino in the U.S. today, check out these five literary luminaries.
1. José Martí (Cuba, 1853-1895)
For Cubans, José Martí is the equivalent of George Washington, Ralph Waldo Emerson and Walt Whitman combined. Born in 1853 in Havana, Cuba, Martí wrote the bulk of his 28 volumes of prose, poetry and speeches in late 19th-century New York.
Working as a diplomat, translator, Spanish teacher and journalist, Martí interpreted current events and cultural questions from his office on Front Street, in lower Manhattan’s South Street Seaport.
He witnessed immigrants arriving by the boatload to New York – except the Chinese, who were banned in 1882. He knew about the lynching of black Americans and of atrocities against Native Americans. These stories found their way into Martí’s thinking about Latin America and its diaspora in the United States.
Martí also wrote dazzling accounts of New York, his adopted hometown, likening the cables of the brand-new Brooklyn Bridge to sated “colossal boa constrictors” resting atop towers.
Upon the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty in 1886, Martí alluded to the fact that his distant island home, Cuba, remained a Spanish colony: “Those who have you, O Liberty, do not know you. Those deprived of you must not merely talk about, they must win you.”
Martí died in 1895, fighting for Cuba’s independence. In 2018, he was inducted into the New York State Writers Hall of Fame, alongside local luminaries Colson Whitehead and Alexander Hamilton.
2. Julia de Burgos (Puerto Rico, 1914-1953)
Puerto Rico’s greatest poet also migrated from her Caribbean home island, where she was a teacher, to the isle of Manhattan. Julia de Burgos recounts this literary journey in one of her most famous poems, “Yo misma fui mi ruta” – “I was my own route.”
De Burgos’ inventive, daring poetry did indeed forge a new path for feminists, Latina and otherwise, in the early 20th century.
Against pressure to identify as white, the mixed-race de Burgos proclaimed her African heritage, calling herself “Black, of pure tint.”
In one experimental 1938 poem, de Burgos addresses the distance between her liberated identity as a writer and her constricted role as a woman.
“You in yourself have no say; everyone governs you; your husband, your family,” she writes in “To Julia de Burgos.” “In me only my heart governs, only my thought; who governs in me is me.”
In 1953, de Burgos was found dead, without identification, in uptown Manhattan and buried anonymously in a potter’s field on Manhattan’s Hart Island. A month later, her compatriots retrieved her remains and reburied her in Puerto Rico.
The New York Times featured de Burgos – a “poet who helped shape Puerto Rico’s identity” – in its overlooked women’s obituary series in May.
3. Gloria Anzaldúa (Texas, 1942-2004)
The poet and essayist Gloria Anzaldúa came from a family of Mexican-American farm laborers.
Her ancestors had for generations lived in Texas’ Rio Grande Valley, near the border that Anzaldúa memorably defined as “an open wound where the Third World grates against the first and bleeds.”
Anzaldúa’s work often celebrates her community’s bilingualism. She portrays it as an act of survival against the “linguistic terrorism” of the U.S. public school system, which required English-only teaching and offered “accent elimination” classes in a part of the U.S. that used to be Mexico.
Anzaldúa found such insults to her nonstandard way of speaking excruciating. “Until I can take pride in my language,” she once wrote, “I cannot take pride in myself.”
Anzaldúa is increasingly recognized as one of the 20th century’s most influential feminist and anti-racist essayists.
4. Sandra Cisneros (Chicago, 1954-present)
No list of Latino authors is complete without Sandra Cisneros, author of the beloved “The House on Mango Street,” which has sold nearly 6 million copies and has been translated into over 20 languages.
My favorite of her novels is “Caramelo.” In this transnational coming-of-age story, a Mexican-American woman digs into her family history.
Learning from her abuela, Soledad, she discovers hidden truths about family tensions, border crossings and why her doting migrant papá, Inocencio, is not so innocent after all.
5. Cristina Henríquez (Delaware, 1971-present)
Cristina Henríquez, who was born in the U.S. after her Panamanian father went there to pursue graduate studies, is the best novelist you’ve never heard of.
Featuring first-person perspectives of Central and South Americans and Caribbean migrants, her books dramatically expand the popular conception of the U.S. Latino, long centered on Mexican-Americans and Puerto Ricans.
“The Book of Unknown Americans” tells the story of recent arrivals from Paraguay, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Panama, Puerto Rico and Mexico who live in a dingy apartment complex, enduring the back-breaking labor of harvesting mushrooms. Sometimes, after a 12-hour shift in the dark, they eat only oatmeal for dinner.
The teenage love story between the characters Maribel and Mayor – written in prose that The Washington Post says rises “to the level of poetry” – may help American readers appreciate the myriad reasons why Latin Americans migrate north, including dictatorships, a lack of specialized health care and violence.
That is, I think, Henríquez’s hope. As one Mexican character angrily states, in the U.S. he feels both invisible and vilified.
“I want them to see a guy who works hard, or a guy who loves his family,” he says. “I wish just one of those people, just one, would actually talk to me. … But none of them even want to try. We’re the unknown Americans.”
The link below is to an article that looks at how male named authors earn more than female named authors.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at the subject of author photos.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at how to visit dead writers, or better still perhaps, on how to find them.
The link below is to an article that takes a look at whether an author’s dying wishes should be observed.