Thursday, October 29, 2009

October Links & Things

I'll be attending the World Fantasy Convention in San Jose this weekend (Friday through Sunday, possibly this evening as well), so I'm posting my Links column a couple days early. My schedule has been extremely hectic this month: in the past two or so weeks I was contacted by three different publishers all wanting projects completed by mid-November; I think I've negotiated my way around all of them, but only time will tell. Said hectic-ness also explains why there hasn't been any blog post this month, and also why this Links post isn't as long as it typically is; it takes a lot of time to read hundreds of Twitter posts and RSS feeds daily, and then select only those links that I feel are of some value to include here.

Speaking of Time... This is when I wish I had Hiro Nakamura's power, which would allow me to stop time, and then get a lot more work done.

I'm hoping to have a "big announement" soon (big, at least for me) and it will hopefully provide a lead-in to a new blog post. Until then, here are my links and such for the month of October. I've listed them here, all in one post, and with additional detail and comment. You can receive these links in real time by following me on Twitter: @martyhalpern.

  • At the top of my list this month is the new Federal Trade Commmission guidelines (a downloadable PDF) for bloggers, and how it impacts the "little" book blogs (or the "little" music blogs, or the "little" clothing blogs, or...). Richard Cleland, of the Bureau of Consumer Protection (i.e. the FTC), states in an interview: "If a blogger received enough books, he could open up a used bookstore." This guy has got to be kidding, right? The FTC expects bloggers to return, or throw away, or donate every single free book they receive; otherwise, the book must be declared as compensation, and noted in the blog that it was received for free. Also, any commercial link(s) on a blog for a book that has been reviewed must be removed. BUT, these guidelines do not apply to newspapers, magazines, and other such commercially sponsored blogs: their reviewers, who are getting paid to review, can keep their books, and any commercial links on the page are okay. Does it sound like the newspaper and magazine industries -- because their buisnesses are hurting -- have been hustling the government for support against these competing "little guy blogs"? If you are a blogger, or you support individual blogs, you need to read this material.

    Here's the
    Dear Author blog with a piece entitled "The FTC and the Unreasonable Case of Disclosure"; and from Jeff Jarvis of the BuzMachine blog: "FTC regulates our speech." Be sure to read the comments on this latter blog, which at this time number 150 and are as important as the article itself.

    And Jack Shafer at takes a shot at these new guidelines as well, with a great piece entitled "The FTC's Mad Power Grab: The commission's preposterous new endorsement guidelines." (Note: all these blog links on the new FTC guidelines via @RonHogan)

    After the blogosphere shitstorm that arose with the announcement of the new FTC Guidelines, Richard Cleland clarifies some points with PRNewser via "We have never brought a case against a consumer endorser and we've never brought a case against somebody simply for failure to disclose a material connection." Of course, Elizabeth Lordan, FTC Public Affairs Specialist, also clarified that the per offense "$11,000 figure is old information that used to be a part of the boilerplate in our press releases when court order violations were announced." The current per offense figure is $16,000.00! We appreciate the clarification, Ms. Lordan!

    And a last update (I promise!) from
    Publishers Weekly on 10/19/2009: Mary Engle, an FTC lawyer, spoke recently at KidlitCon 09, a conference of children"s book bloggers. She stated that the FTC "never intended to patrol the blogosphere....We couldn't do it if we wanted to and we don't want to." She went on to say that these guidelines "are intended to put meat on the bones of the 'endorsement and testimonial' guidelines first issued in 1980." She used a Proctor & Gamble campaign, called "Vocalpoint," as an example. According to PW: "Either clarifying or backpedaling from [Richard] Cleland's statements [see above], Engle said Saturday someone with a 'personal blog, writing a genuine or organic review,' did not need to disclose how they got the book or assign it a value."

  • If you are an author, an editor, a publicist, a publisher -- anything! -- you absolutely must read this special piece in The New Yorker on modern book publicity. It's the "Shouts and Murmurs" column and the article is entitled: "Subject: Our Marketing Plan." Here's how the article begins: "Let me introduce myself. My name is Gineen Klein, and I've been brought on as an intern to replace the promotion department here at Propensity Books." A must read...

  • Literary agent Nathan Bransford answers the question: "What Do Literary Agents Do?" which may indeed surprise you. Bransford's blog post breaks down the lit agent's responsibilities into these headers: The Filter, Pre-submission Editing, Submitting to Editors, Negotiating Offers, Negotiating Contracts, Keeping Track of the Publication Process, Subrights, Career Shaping, and The Ultimate Advocate. Bransford writes: "This is just a basic list, and there's often more to it than this. It's quite a catchall job, one that requires a long apprenticeship, time in the business, a strong work ethic, a good eye, and a passion for books.... For all of these tasks the agent receives income based only on commission -- again, the agent is only paid if/when the author is paid." As of this posting, there are 84 comments; most worthy of your time as well. (via @inkyelbows)

  • And speaking of agents, Colleen Lindsay (@ColleenLindsay) dissects a "successful" query letter she received in February from Kelly Gay, author of The Better Part of Darkness. Colleen discusses Kelly's query letter, point by point, and with commentary. The query letter led Colleen to request to see the manuscript, and the rest, as they say, is history. As an added treat, author Kelly Gay discusses the query letter from her own perspective on her blog. A must read for any author who has a query letter to write soon (or an author who has had a recent query rejected).