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Innovations in Publishing and Selecting a Subtitle
Episode 9419th March 2024 • Writing Break • America's Editor
00:00:00 00:14:07

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Rosemi Mederos:

If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.

Today we are looking at innovations in book publishing and discussing subtitles. The Writing Break cafe is open, and we have a lot of publishing news to get through today, so let’s grab a drink and a snack before settling in at our usual table.

In:

Well, it seems he’s back on board with Audible after managing to negotiate better terms for himself and for all self-published authors. While Sanderson says that he did not get all of the things he asked for, he thinks it is a step in the right direction. Audible will now have to be more transparent about royalties, which means paying royalties monthly instead of quarterly, paying more predictably on each Audible credit spent, and providing authors with a spreadsheet showing how they split up the money received. There will still be a royalty penalty for titles that are not sold exclusively through Audible, but there will be improved royalty rates for self-published audiobooks.

The Authors Guild had another big win for authors last month when Findaway Voices and Spotify updated their terms of use and tried to sneak some questionable terms past its users. The updated terms required authors and narrators to grant Findaway and Spotify rights to“translate, modify, [and] create derivative works” from their audiobooks. The terms also said that user content could be used in training and modeling in connection with Spotify services.

Several members of the Authors Guild worried that Spotify would be given too many rights to their audiobooks, including the right to create new books based on their titles and the right to use an AI-generated version of human narrator voices. Once this was brought to the attention of the Guild, the Guild spoke with executives at Spotify about the proposed terms of use, and they were successful in getting Spotify to agree to not translate the audiobooks or create derivative works from them. Spotify also will not be able to use the audiobooks to train AI.

The new contract now states “these Terms do not authorize Spotify to use User Content to create a new book, ebook or audiobook, or to use User Content to create a new, machine-generated voice without your permission.”

Spotify will still be able to use the audiobooks for marketing and fraud prevention purposes. The Authors Guild will keep an eye on the situation.

There’s a new interactive crime novel coming out called "Can You Solve the Murder?" written by Antony Johnston. This book sparked a 5-way bidding war among publishers. The publisher Transworld emerged victorious, acquiring the rights to this unique book.

Here's what makes it special: readers get to play the detective! You choose who to interview, what leads to follow, and ultimately, who to suspect. Every decision has consequences, leading you down different paths in the story. Some choices might be dead ends, while others reveal crucial clues.

Johnston is not new to storytelling. He is a seasoned author and a game writer behind popular titles like "Dead Space" and "Resident Evil Village."

I was a fan of those choose-your-own-adventure books, so this kind of innovation in publishing sounds fun. What do you think?

Speaking of innovation in publishing, Maven, a Dutch publisher, created a new format for reading books using AI books. I’m not sure this counts as reading, but here’s the deal. Instead of reading text from start to finish, you chat with the AI book through WhatsApp. This means that the book is a contact in WhatsApp, and you message the book in a conversational way. You can ask the AI book questions about the book or how to apply the book's knowledge to your life. Authors are involved in creating the AI version of their books to make sure they accurately reflect the original books. AI books are legally similar to ebooks and are priced at around 10 euros. Currently, there are only a few AI books available, but there are more in development. I would love to hear what you have to say about this. What are your thoughts as an author? What are your thoughts as a reader? Let me know.

For a long time, authors and publishers have been frustrated by Amazon selling counterfeit copies of their books. This includes not just imitation books, but also workbooks, summaries, and other materials that might be illegal or exploit copyright loopholes.

David Goggins, a successful self-published author, is suing Amazon to get money back for these fake sales. He argues that Amazon profited from these sales, just as they would have with real copies of his books.

Goggins has been publicly upset about this issue for a while, even calling out fake copies on social media. The lawsuit claims Amazon only stopped selling the fakes after his public post. This makes it seem like Amazon could have acted sooner, but didn't until pressure mounted.

The outcome of this lawsuit is uncertain, and while a public trial might be ideal in order to address this wider issue, a settlement outside of court is more likely.

There is also a rise in people selling AI-generating books to capitalize on a celebrity’s death. These books are unauthorized biographies, and in some cases they appear for sale on the very day the person died. In all cases, they are filled with inaccuracies and grammatical errors. Ay.

The London Book Fair took place March 12fth through the 14th. Here are the highlights: Artificial intelligence was a hot topic, of course, and there was some mention about how AI might change the publishing industry for the better. Palestinian literature was a major theme, with discussions about supporting Palestinian writers and the challenges they face. There was a focus on books featuring neurodiverse characters, reflecting a growing trend in publishing. Greek mythology retellings remain a popular genre, with publishers acquiring new books in this area. Romance novels, especially those with fantasy elements, also known as romantasy, were popular with publishers, likely due in part to the influence of social media. Sustainability in publishing continues to be important, and discussions were held about how to reduce the industry's environmental impact.

Prize for Fiction launched in:

I know we covered a lot of news today, so we’ll have to skip the bookstore. Instead, let’s get another round, and we can enjoy it on the Overthinking Couch while I share today’s writing tip.

As an author, you feel that your book is classic, timeless, for the ages, and as your editor, I agree with you. However, we are living in the here and now, and you need money to pay for food, shelter, and other essentials today, which is why I cautiously, reluctantly bring up trends in books. I want you to be proud of the published version of your book, but I also want you to eat. So if that means your books should have a certain kind of book cover or title, I will bring it to your attention. You, of course, can do as you wish in the end.

Trends exist in book covers and titles for fiction and nonfiction alike. Actor Tajja Isen recently wrote a piece about finding the right subtitle for her collection of essays, called Some of My Best Friends.

The subtitle, Isen explains, is a chance to market your book. When Some of My Best Friends was published in hardcover, the subtitle was Essays on Lip Service. As the publisher was getting ready to release the paperback version, Isen’s publishing team started to feel that the subtitle was too vague. It didn’t have the humor that the rest of the book had. The word ‘essays’ gave “bad vibes”, and the term ‘lip service’ was deemed too academic. After weeks of brainstorming, it was a friend and fellow writer who offered Isen a suggestion over dinner that put her near the bullseye. The new full title reads Some of My Best Friends: And Other White Lies I’ve Been Told.

It’s clear, it’s punny, it’s trendy, and, most importantly, it gives the reader a good idea of what to expect when they read that particular collection of essays. If the idea of changing your book’s title or subtitle for marketing purposes makes you feel icky, you are not alone. I’ve worked with many authors who prefer to be true to their artistic creativity than worry about marketing. I’m not here to make you compromise your ideals or hide your brilliance. I’m just here to tell you what’s going on in publishing. However, if you are open to modern advice from a fellow author, check the show notes for a link to Isen’s article.

All right, break’s over. Get back to writing. As always, thank you so much for listening, and remember, you deserved this break.

If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at podcast@writingbreak.com.

Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.

Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at writingbreak.com or contact us at podcast@writingbreak.com.

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