Thursday, February 25, 2010

Celebristory Update

John Grisham's first novel, A Time to Kill, was inspired by the actual testimony of a twelve year old rape victim at the De Soto County Courthouse. The novel was rejected by a number of publishers before finally being picked up for a modest advance. The film rights for A Time to Kill eventually sold for a reported six million dollars.

John Grisham has now joined the ranks of children's author. Penguin Young Readers Group in the U.S. and Hodder & Stoughton in the U.K. announced today that they will be publishing a middle-grade series that focus on 13-year-old Theodore Boone, a legal whiz kid. In the first book, THEODORE BOONE: KID LAWYER. Theo gets caught up in a high-profile murder trial in his town. Personally, I've really enjoyed Grisham's stories, though I found that his later work tended to beome a little formulaic.  I hope his children's books are not the same, with just the protagonist's age being changed to 13 instead of 40.

Theo is scheduled to be released by Dutton Children's Books on May 25, and on June 10 by Hodder in the U.K. The second book, as yet untitled, is scheduled for release in 2011.

Protect your IP

E-mail is copyrighted as soon as it is sent or saved.

All the talk of Google and copyright infringement got me thinking about a worry many writers have -- Will our work be stolen? As an intellectual property (IP) consultant, we usually don't do a lot of copyright work -- mainly patents and trademarks. As an author, who's created a piece of IP in the form of a book, I knew that my work was  protected once I wrote it down. So copyright protection for a work begins when the work is fixed in some sort of "tangible form." This included writing, typing to paper, and saving it on a computer, but here it is in detail, courtesy of SFWA:

According to the Berne Convention (the international source for copyright law), an original expression is protected by copyright as soon as it is fixed in tangible form. In other words, the moment the words leave your brain and land on paper or the computer screen, you’re protected, and no further action–including registration–is required. The term of copyright guaranteed by Berne is the lifetime of the creator plus 50 years.

Specific copyright laws vary among the more than 90 countries that are signatory to Berne. In the USA, for instance, copyright applies to economic rights only, and the moral rights provisions enacted in other nations, intended to help protect the personality and reputation of the author, don’t exist. Many countries have also extended the term of copyright–in the USA and much of Europe, the term is the creator’s lifetime plus 70 years.

Berne ensures copyright protection without requiring any formalities (such as copyright registration) as a prerequisite to bringing an infringement suit. As a result, most countries have no formal copyright registration process. If you’re a US or Canadian writer, do you need to register? If you’re submitting book-length work to literary agents or publishers, the answer is no. Registration confers no additional copyright protection; all it does is give you legal standing to sue for infringement. But infringement is not something you need to worry about at the submission stage. Theft of unpublished work is so rare as to be functionally nonexistent.

In the USA, there are a number of online services that will register copyright for you with the US Copyright Office, for a fee. You can even purchase software that provides you with addresses and copyright forms. Don’t waste your money–it isn’t difficult to register copyright yourself, and it will cost you a good deal less than the services (currently, registration costs between $35 and $65, depending on whether you register online or on paper). For freelancers and others wanting to register more than one piece, the US Copyright Office offers a multiple-registration option.
So don't worry... your work in protected!

Monday, February 22, 2010


The latest celebrily entrant into children's writing is Tori Spelling with PRESENTING TALLULAH. She is the latest addition to a string of celebrities turning their hand to writing - From Madonna to Kylie, John Travolta, Bill Cosby, Julie Andrews, Jay Leno and Whoopi Goldberg, A-list actors, comics and singers are reinventing themselves as children's authors.

Celebs writing children's book is in itself not new. Shirley Temple wrote a series of books1930s, and Elizabeth Taylor wrote NIBBLES AND ME in her teens about a pet squirrel. In the 50s, Broadway star Kay Thompson wrote ELOISE, about a little girl who lives in New York's Plaza hotel. Even politicians like President Jimmy Carter wrote THE LITTLE BABY SNOOGLE-FLEEJER, a story about a disabled boy who is befriended by a monster known as, yes, a snoogle-fleejer.

Some efforts are quite good, but others... not so much.  As Anita Silvey, author of 100 BEST BOOKS FOR CHILDREN puts it: "Celebrity books are one of the great negative features of children's publishing in the 21st century. If I were still a publisher, as I used to be, none of these manuscripts would make it past my slush pile." Okay, maybe that's a bit harsh, but many children's authors, those who've  burned the midnight oil, put in endless hours and struggled through the traumas of getting published, feel a tad bit resentful that celebrities get glittering book deals based seemingly on their name alone. Esteemed writer, Jane Yolen bemoans the fact that celebrity children's books command large advances, get lots of publicity and generally muscle the smaller authors out of bookshelf space at your local shop.It seems as if being famous can give you the leg up for anything, even getting a lucrative book contract.

Well, can we blame publishers? At the end of the day they are in the business of selling books to make the bottom line, keep their jobs and their shareholders happy. If they have a product by a well known name, they are guaranteed sales (for the most part). Madonna's THE ENGLISH ROSES instantly became the biggest and fastest selling book ever by a first-time children's author. The book debuted at number one on the New York Times Bestsellers List for children's picture books in 2003 and remained there for eighteen weeks. Combined, Madonna's first three children's books have sold over one and a half million copies worldwide.

So maybe we shouldn't blame the celebrities or the publishers but consumers - they're the ones buying them.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Judge Chin Put Off

The Google search engine receives about a billion search requests per day

Over the past few months I've been watching the Google Books brouhaha over their digital book settlement to create the world's largest on-line library. At the center of the fray sits U.S.District Judge Denny Chin, who said during Thursday's hearing, that he did not know when he would issue a ruling on the proposed settlement, which has already been revised once to satisfy concerns raised by the Justice Department. Chin said he had received volumes of comments from the public that merited careful consideration.

As an writer with a published work coming out soon, and a someone who's grown up in Silicon Valley and reviews technology and innovation for a living, I'm stuck in the middle -- I believe an author's works should be protected, while I love the fact that books live on via technologocial advances, like Google Books, on-line.

During a marathon hearing before Judge Chin, lawyers representing the Justice Department, children's book authors, privacy advocates and business competitors said Google's agreement with some authors and publishers should be rejected because it would violate copyright laws. The opponents also argued that the $125 million settlement -- which would allow Google to scan and publish millions of out-of-print titles -- could give the company an unfair edge over other online publishers in the nascent but exploding market for digital books.

While Judge Chin did not offer clear guidance into his thinking during the hearing, several lawyers said subtle clues could be drawn from his questions. The sometimes impatient judge took many notes and asked lawyers for Google and its settlement partners -- the Authors Guild and the Association of American Publishers -- about a controversial portion of the settlement that would automatically include the holders of rights to titles unless they voluntarily opt out of the program.

The judge also asked about so-called orphan works, whose authors and rights holders can't be found. Google and its critics have sparred over how many books fall into that category, with estimates from a few million to tens of millions of titles. Google has said it would try to find rights holders of these works, but critics say the deal is designed to give Google exclusive rights to these works and protect it from lawsuits from rights holders.

So, now we wait and see what judge Chin has to say...

Tuesday, February 16, 2010


The smallest member of the horse family, donkeys have become the "all-terrain vehicle" of the horse kingdom.

For the past ten years, Luis Soriano, a teacher in the small town of La Gloria, Colombia, has been following the same ritual. Every week-end, he gathers his donkey in front of his house, straps on the “Biblioburro” pouches to its back, and loads them with a selection of books from the eclectic collection he has acquired over the years. Soriano began loaning books from a stash of 70; now his collection consists of more than 4,800 titles. “This began as a necessity; then it became an obligation; and after that a custom,” he explained in an interview with The New York Times. “Now, it is an institution.”

Off on his mobile library, he travels into the hills and through the fields to the villages beyond where children await his visits impatiently. He firmly believes that bringing books to people who don’t have access to them can improve the country and open up possibilities for the future generation of Colombia.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Kirkus - Alive and Well

Life is pleasant. Death is peaceful. It's the transition that's troublesome - Jimi Hendrix
Herb Simon, Chairman emeritus of Simon Property Group, owner of the Indiana Pacers and a co-owner of Tecolote Books in Montecito, CA, has purchased Kirkus Reviews. Chief executive of Calendar Holdings and the other partner in that bookstore (as well as former Barnes & Noble employee) Marc Winkelman will be ceo of the new Kirkus Media and hold a small stake in the operation, with Elaine Szewczyk and Eric Liebetrau remaining in their leadership roles. He indicated to the NYT that "the company would continue to publish Kirkus as a print magazine while beefing up its digital offerings. He said he planned no immediate changes to the print edition, but hoped to make improvements over time.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010


In 1919, the Macmillan Publishing Company hired the first children's book editor in the United States - eHow
Move over ebooks, enter Mobi Stories by Still Motion Media. They take existing children's picture books and repurpose them for the digital screen. Their books are professionally narrated, have sound effects and original music, kind of like a a mashup of eBooks and audio books with a dash of cartoons to create children's picture books. It is viewable on iPhones, iPods, computers or other digital devices that play audio or video.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Feel the Love

In honor of Valentines Day, the Class of 2k10 is giving away signed copies of THE SECRET YEAR by Jennifer R. Hubbard, LEAVING GEE’S BEND by Irene Latham and ISLAND STING by Bonnie J. Doerr and other good stuff.
To enter, give a shout-out to someone you love – maybe the librarian who first showed you where to find the good books, a teacher who encouraged you to write, or a fictional character who got your through a tough time.Contest ends midnight February 14. Open to US/CANADA residents only. Must be at least 13 years old to enter. Winner announced February 15. Good Luck!
To enter go to:

Friday, February 5, 2010

Unwanted Phone Call

Yesterday I picked up the phone and got news you never want to hear. I learned that my good friend Victor had passed away. I had known him nearly two decades and he was like a brother to me. He was there through good times, tough times, birthdays, graduations and my wedding. Although we weren’t in touch as much as I’d like over the last few years, he was often in my thoughts. He was one of the smartest guys I knew – after college he went on to be Vice President of one of the most esteemed financial institutions in the country, one of the youngest to ever hold such a position. But he won’t be remembered for his academic and professional successes - it may sound like a cliché, but he had a heart of gold. No matter how busy he was, if you needed him, he would be on the first flight over. Victor left behind a network of friends that extends across the globe – we remember him for his humbleness, generosity, sense of humor, humanity, charitable giving and that funny laugh that no matter how bad the joke, got everyone laughing.
If you have a friend, someone you think of and haven't talked to in a while, pick up the phone, schedule lunch, have a drink. Catch up, laugh, enjoy each others company. Victor, you will be missed.

At every instant and from every side, resounds the call of Love:
We are going to sky, who wants to come with us?
We have gone to heaven, we have been the friends of the angels,
And now we will go back there, for there is our country.
We are higher than heaven, more noble than the angels:
Why not go beyond them? Our goal is the Supreme Majesty.
What has the fine pearl to do with the world of dust?
Why have you come down here? Take your baggage back. What is this place?
Luck is with us, to us is the sacrifice!...
Like the birds of the sea, men come from the ocean--the ocean of the soul.
Like the birds of the sea, men come from the ocean--the ocean of the soul.
How could this bird, born from that sea, make his dwelling here?
No, we are the pearls from the bosom of the sea, it is there that we dwell:
Otherwise how could the wave succeed to the wave that comes from the soul?
The wave named 'Am I not your Lord' has come, it has broken the vessel of the body;
And when the vessel is broken, the vision comes back, and the union with Him.
-- Rumi

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Keep Your Day Job

Writing is the hardest way of earning a living, with the possible exception of wrestling alligators - Monica Ali

A friend of mine teaches middle school and one of her students, an aspiring author, wanted to interview a writer for a paper. Of course, I said yes… moments later I had thoughts of… Egad… she wants ADVICE? From me? I don’t even know what a dangling participle or a preposition is (really, my critique group had to tell me)
Well she rang me a few days later and we sat down to chat. We covered the usual things – where did I grow up (San Francisco, Saudi Arabia, London), when did I want to be a writer (age eleven), who were my literary influences (innumerable), so on and so forth. Then she asked me what I had studied in college. I told her accounting. She paused, a bit confused. (I could tell she was expecting me to say English, creative writing or literature)
Uh, why? Didn’t you want to be a writer?
I told her yes, I did, but I was also passionate about new technologies and products, and the reality of it was that a job in the business field actually gave you a dependable paycheck. On the end of the line I heard dead silence… I could hear dreams shattering. I felt terrible. I softened my approach and told her the realities of becoming a published author – the statistics on actually finishing a novel (a novel that is well written and the material is hot for the current market), landing an agent, AND getting a deal with the publisher are pretty miniscule. AND, if you do all that, as a debut author you will probably not make enough to pay your bills.
Sad… but true. There are very few JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyers and other overnight phenomenas out there – many of these writers, we later learn, also paid their dues and built successful writing careers, one book at a time, over many years. So, I told her, you could one day become an amazing, successful author who does manage to do it for a living, but it will take time – so get a day job in something else you feel passionate about. This is what Tamora Pierce told me - it took her a couple of years before she gave up her day job and wrote full time.
I told the student that her day job could still be in the field of writing – she could go into publishing, technical writing, or maybe even become a librarian. But honestly, I told her go to college and pursue a career in something else. I don’t know if I convinced her or not, but she said that that made sense. I told her that the majority of writers I know have a day job. Some make a decision that writing is all they will do, and that’s okay, but usually there is a spouse working or a trust fund involved. Writing, first and foremost (for me anyway) is about personal fulfillment. If it turns out that you become published and your book does well, that is the icing on the cake. And then, if you can write full time, that is truly awesome.