Thursday, July 30, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- Emerging Writer Awards

This week I've gotten several questions about something called the Emerging Writer Awards. Writers of poetry, short stories, and unpublished book length fiction may enter to compete for two grand prizes: $2,000 and a possible publishing contract from Triom Publishing for book manuscripts, $1,000 for short subjects. Both prizes include "national promotion through Emerging Writer Magazine." The deadline for entries is August 31, 2009.

(Obligatory pedantic aside: "emerging writer," a term that is often used instead of or interchangeably with the odious "pre-published," is one of my euphemism pet peeves. You are an emerging writer if you've published a couple of books and are getting increasing sales and attention. You are not an emerging writer if you merely aspire to publication--just an unpublished one.)

Why wouldn't you want to enter this contest? Sure, you've never heard of Triom Publishing or Emerging Writer Magazine, but the prizes are rich and the website is slick (well, sort of). The Awards even have their own logo. What's not to like?

For a start, the entry fee. It's $40. That's steep even for a book manuscript contest. For short stories or poems, it's way too high. Check out the number of eligible categories, also. There are more than 50 of them. Granted, the fees must fund the prizes--but if there were just two entries in each category, the contest sponsor would make a cool $1,000 profit.

There's also the fine print of the rules. Accepted entrants must grant "one-time serial rights" (for book manuscripts--defined, not quite accurately, as "rights to print excerpts of a book before publication") and "one-time publication rights" (for short works) to the Award's sponsors, Emerging Writer Magazine and Triom Publishing. These entities are "under no obligation" to publish, yet there are no provisions for releasing the rights of works they don't use. While an active claim on serial rights by an obscure publisher and ezine is unlikely to prevent you from marketing your book manuscript elsewhere, the grant of one-time publication rights for short works takes other publication off the table. In other words, if you enter your short story or poem in this competition, you won't be able to sell it elsewhere.

Let's take a closer look at the Awards' two sponsors. Emerging Writer Magazine doesn't seem to have yet published any issues. In fact, it's so new that it doesn't have its own website, merely a placeholder on the website of its parent company, Triom Publishing--which makes one wonder how effective that "national promotion" will actually be. Triom also seems very new--as yet, it has published just one book, Children of the Anunnaki, the start of a fantasy series by author Mark Barnette. Who is Mark Barnette? Well, for one thing, he's the owner of Triom's URL--which strongly suggests that Triom is an expansion of a self-publishing endeavor, and raises the question of how much of a prize a publishing contract from this company would be.

Whether the Emerging Writer Awards are a moneymaking venture, an effort to promote a brand-new micropress, or a genuine attempt to establish a writers' award, a win is unlikely to carry any prestige for future publishing purposes. And while the cash prizes would certainly be nice, you must also factor in the size of the entry fee, and the less-than-desirable provisions of the contest rules.

Just another example of why I believe that in most cases, writers' time is better spent submitting for publication than contest-chasing.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- Wake Up.. and Pay (Redux)

Nearly two years ago, I did a writeup on a vanity anthology scheme called Wake Up...Live the Life You Love.

Just for agreeing to buy 200 books for $2,697, or 500 books for $5,497, authors could have their 1,000-1,200 word story or article included in the latest Wake Up book (a series of inspirational compilations along the lines of Chicken Soup for the Soul), along with "some mega-best selling authors, speakers, trainers, mentors and world class business leaders." The result: "Instant Credibility (tm) with your clients and customers...because, with a book, you will be considered a 'celebrity' in your industry as a best selling co-author." And if that weren't enough, a lucrative affiliate program allowed "co-authors" to earn up to $1,000 per head for referring others to the program.

Now the Wake Up folks have branched out: into "private author publications" (a.k.a. vanity publishing) and contests.

Wake Up Publishing is a Full-service Publishing House. We offer all the services of larger publishing houses with two key exceptions: Wake Up develops books under a model of author-based control and author-based speed of production...Gone are the days of the “12 month plus” production calendar. Speed in no way diminishes the quality of the end product; it merely allows you to move ahead with your intended purpose for the book.

Uh huh.

Wake Up Publishing offers a smorgasbord of services that may be purchased in bulk or a la carte (including the obligatory junk mail-style marketing), plus additional "courses" on sales and marketing and training and development--no doubt at fat additional prices. Speaking of prices, money is not mentioned anywhere on the website--but per a report I've received, authors can wind up paying as much as $10,000 for just a few hundred books.

The Wake Up Celebrity Author book contest seeks to give recognition to authors who successfully promote their books. You see, having a great book is very important, but equally important - especially these days - is knowing how to go out and market your book.

All you have to do is register, pay a truly outlandish entry fee of $50, upload your book cover and a 300-word description, and then get people to vote for you. (Official contest rules are here.)

The book with the most votes by September 25, 2009, wins a BarnesandNoble.com best-seller placement package from Wake Up, valued at $12,000. Per the contest FAQ, this is "a focused and comprehensive direct mail campaign targeting people interested in the specific genre your book is in...invit[ing] these people to come and buy your book on a specific date to push your book to a higher rank than other books in your genre--" i.e., a version of the familiar Amazon Bestseller Campaign, workshops on which are offered by many online consultants and promotional services for hefty fees, but way less than $12,000.

Second prize is a book distribution package from contest sponsor Authors on the Net (an "author's community" that also sells book marketing services), which will take the author's book to "40 book fairs in the Salt Lake City, Utah market." Again per the FAQ, "These book fairs occur in large corporate offices, board rooms, factories, hospitals, colleges and other venues." Not prime bookselling territory, I'm thinking--and what if the book isn't Mormon-friendly? Purportedly, this package is worth $2,000.

Third prize is "lifetime membership to Authors On The Net's social media coaching program and the Self-Publishing in a Box kit," a $400 value.

Interestingly, the contest entry fee is due not to the Wake Up people, but to Authors on the Net. And Authors on the Net's owner, Phil Davis, has entered his own book, How To Become a Total Failure, in the contest--though the FAQ explains that this is just "beta testing," and "this book is not eligible to win any of the prizes." All in all, I'm guessing that the real prize in this contest--apart from the fees--is the business that Authors on the Net may be hoping to get from entrants.

There are only about 30 entries so far. Many are, as you might expect, self- or micropress-published, but the contest also seems to have been seeded with some commercially-published books, including one by Jennifer Crusie (I wonder if she knows?)--for whom, if she were to win, the B&N bestseller package would surely be a bit redundant.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- Moon Publicity

So okay, this doesn't have to do with writing (unless of course it sparks an idea for a story. Or a publicity strategy). But it's so bizarre I couldn't resist featuring it.

Advertising is everywhere. It bombards us at every moment and from every side (if you have an ebook reader, watch out--it will soon be there as well). There's a dilemma for advertisers, though--the more advertising there is, the more desensitized to it we become. So what's an advertiser to do? What new publicity frontier might blast through ad overload, and seize the public's tired eyeballs?

How about the moon?

A company called Moon Publicity is promising to use robots to create advertising images on the moon. The company's "Shadow Shaping" technology will create "several small ridges in the lunar dust over large areas that capture shadows and shape them to form logos, domains [sic] names or memorials."

Never in the history of advertising has the possibility of penetrating every market on Earth, reaching every person on the planet, and touching them at emotional level only possible with the beauty of the moon on a starlit night, been made available. Twelve billion eyeballs looking at your logo in the sky for several days every month for the next several thousand years.

Specifics are notably lacking from Moon Publicity's website, including technical specifications (although allegedly the technology is patent pending), how the robots will be manufactured and delivered, when this might happen, and who exactly is behind the company--although the website does identify various important challenges, such as...gravity. "Shadow Shaping robots will need to be lightweight and compact, at least during transportation."

Nevertheless, "Exclusive transferable licensing is being made available for 44 regions of the visible side of the Moon." (This handy, clickable Guide breaks the regions down.) Bidding began July 20, and closes October 20. Minimum bid, for one of the regions at the very bottom: $46,000. For the most desirable area--the Mare Vaporum, smack in the middle of the moon's visible side--it's a bit higher: $602,000, to be precise.

Are they kidding???

A bit of digging reveals that the Moon Publicity URL is registered to David Jones of MegaNova, a Utah company that appears to be a creator of educational websites. According to this brief bio, David Jones is a software developer and engineer who "has engineered infant life-support devices, bomb detectors, robots, military training systems, and satellite communication systems."

Only in Utah, I'm thinking.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- It's Anti-Plagiarism Day

Jane Smith, who operates the very helpful How Publishing Really Works blog, has declared Friday, July 17 Anti-Plagiarism Day, with a post that provides a sampling of notorious plagiarism cases, a roundup of writings on the subject, and some thoughts on plagiarism in general. Check it out--it's fascinating and thought-provoking reading.

I've written about plagiarism a number of times on this blog, mostly from the perspective of reporting on frivolous plagiarism lawsuits and debunking writers' common fear that submitting their work to agents and publishers is just asking for theft (it's not--reputable professionals won't risk their reputation by stealing; disreputable people aren't interested in manuscripts at all, and couldn't do anything with them even if they were dumb enough to try to pilfer them).

But though publishing professionals aren't likely to rip off aspiring writers, aspiring writers aren't always so scrupulous about thieving from their peers, or even from already published books. Even more troubling is the epidemic of plagiarism among college students, who often "borrow" freely from online sources. It's such a problem that many colleges and universities subscribe to anti-plagiarism services. My stepmother, a college professor, experiences it regularly (once, several students in one of her courses plagiarized the same source, reproducing the exact same sentences and paragraphs in their papers). Not only does this anger and discourage her, it eats up her time, for when she suspects plagiarism, she feels obliged to try and track it down.

It's impossible not to be influenced by our environments, by what we see and read. As writers, we are constantly exposed to others' ideas, themes, subjects, and even styles of writing, and all of these things combine in our work with our own original thoughts and expression. But Oscar Wilde's oft-quoted (and often mis-quoted) aphorism--"Good writers borrow, great writers steal"--isn't meant to be taken literally. Plagarism is profoundly dishonest, both ethically and intellectually. Don't do it.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- Publetariat Vault

Recently I blogged about IndieReader, an online bookstore/distributor that is attempting to raise the visibility of self-published books and authors. In the process of researching that post, I discovered Publetariat Vault, which is also attempting to bring attention to self-published books--though in quite a different way.

The Vault is a project of Publetariat, an online community for self-published and small-press authors founded by self-publishing evangelist April Hamilton. Sporting the same revolution-referencing socialist realist graphics and wordplay as its parent site, the Vault is designed to promote successful self-published books to commercial publishers and film producers. From its Welcome page:

The Publetariat Vault provides a groundbreaking service: the opportunity to get your indie book in front of the publishers and producers who are seeking proven books for low-risk acquisitions. If you've ever thought that if publishers or producers only knew how much readers like your book, or how well it's selling, or what a great job you're doing to promote both it and yourself, they'd sit up and take notice, then the Vault was made for you.

The Vault, which opened for listings last month (here's the official press release), will provide a searchable database of self-published books whose rights are available for acquisition (here's the search form). Each book will have its own page, which will include info about the book and author, publication data, reviews and publicity, relevant links, and actual sales figures (a sample listing can be seen here). To seed the site, the Vault is offering its first 300 listings free for the first 90 days after it opens for publisher searches--which, to offer users some depth of content, it won't do until the 300 listings are in place. Thereafter, the rate for each listing will be $10 per 30 days. If a sale results from a listing, the Vault reserves the right to report the sale, but takes no percentage or commission. (These and many more details can be found at the Vault's extensive FAQ.)

The Vault is based on the familiar concept of the manuscript display website, which once was widely touted as the new paradigm for manuscript submission. While display sites seem to work reasonably well for screenplays, they haven’t historically proved very effective for book manuscripts, and most of the dozens of book-focused display sites that sprang up during the late 1990's are now gone and forgotten (except by wonks like me). I'm also not quite convinced by the logic in the Vault's press release--that publishers and producers "would prefer to acquire the rights before a book breaks through, when it's trending positively but not yet on competitors' radar." Still, with its focus on self-published books that are actually selling, and its all-in-one-place functionality, the Vault offers a unique twist on the display site concept. Together with the fact that no one else (as far as I'm aware) is doing anything similar, this may make the Vault more attractive to professional users than the display sites of old--especially since it's becoming increasingly fashionable for publishing people to profess enthusiasm about the potential of self-publishing.

Of course, the Vault's success depends on several things.

- Can it attract reputable professional users? This has been an area in which book manuscript display sites have fallen short--not just in their failure to persuade agents and publishers to visit online slush piles, but, often, in their inability to recognize and bar disreputable users.

I asked April Hamilton what she's doing to publicize the Vault. She tells me that she's been networking, both on her own and at conferences, and that she has lined up news coverage once the Vault opens for searches. Her efforts, she says, have resulted in expressions of interest from several publishers and agents--though she asked me not to print the names, since she feels that to identify them at this point "risks alienating those potential searchers since they're not officially registered and my publication of such a list could be construed as using those industry names to promote a service they have not yet endorsed."

As to the issue of disreputable users, she feels that the Vault is an open marketplace, and it’s authors’ responsibility to research any contacts they receive as a result of a listing, just as they research the agents and publishers they query. But authors are often very poor at research, especially where their hopes and dreams are involved--plus, many writers who use the Vault may assume that publishers' and producers' membership is an endorsement of their legitimacy. In light of that, it seems to me that the Vault--like any listing service or display site--does have a responsibility to make sure that its professional users really are professional.

- Can it ensure accurate sales reporting by authors? One of things that makes the Vault unique, and potentially attractive to publishers and producers, is members’ disclosure of actual sales figures. But how good are authors' records? How tempted may they be to tweak their figures to make themselves look better? If publishers and producers find they can’t rely on the information in the Vault’s listings--and they may feel that’s the case if even one or two authors are found to be less than honest or accurate--they won’t come back.

Hamilton is aware of this issue. The Vault's listing form instructs authors to be truthful, reminding them that they must be able to provide copies of actual sales reports to any interested publishers; and the Terms of Use requires authors to warrant that "All content provided in your listing is accurate and true to the best of your knowledge." Authors who are found to be lying or fudging will face consequences. Says Hamilton, "[S]ince reporting false information is a violation of the Vault's Terms of Use, such an author will be banned from the site and his listings will be removed without any refund of listing fees."

- Are reported sales numbers actually worthy of notice? Per the Vault's FAQ, anyone can join, as long as they’re the rights owner. Hamilton tells me that some of the listings she's received so far show impressive sales stats, including one author who has sold over 1,200 copies just in the past three months. But such figures are the exception in self-publishing, and if the Vault becomes clogged with writers who think that selling 400 copies over the course of a year makes them commercially viable--i.e., if most searches are going to throw up large numbers of listings that are of no interest to professionals--publishers and producers may stay away.

Can the Vault surmount these issues? We'll have to wait and see. As with any brand-new service, authors should consider carefully and be sure to read the fine print. But all in all, it’s an interesting and, I think, innovative experiment--though certainly, there's a very complex irony at work in the tension between the criticism self-pubbed authors so often level at commercial publishing, and a website that's designed to feed them into that very system.

In the meantime, Hamilton finds herself caught up in the same cycle of doubt that has caused so many people to react negatively to IndieReader.

"So on the one hand I have the searchers, looking forward to trying the service but unlikely to use it unless it's filled with good listings," she says. "On the other hand I have authors withholding their listings until they are convinced searchers will use the service. I anticipated this issue, and that's why I've made the first 300 listings totally cost- and risk-free to authors for 90 days, but...the word on the street is that while the Vault may eventually turn out to be a good thing, authors should maintain a wait-and-see attitude until some success stories are forthcoming. Few listings = no searches = no success stories."

Friday, July 10, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- Some Interesting Recent Blog Posts and Articles

Below, links to some interesting and useful articles and blog posts that I've encountered recently in my travels round the Web:

- On Nathan Bransford's blog, guest blogger Eric, a sales assistant at a major book publisher, provides a primer on how publishers sell books into bookstores. An eye-opening post that points up, among other things, the vital importance of sales reps.

- As a new author, you're an unknown quantity--which means (from publishers' and agents' perspective) that you're a risk--but also, possibly, that you could break big. Once you're published, however, you are largely defined by your sales numbers. If you're a US-published author, how do publishers and agents know your sales numbers? From Nielsen BookScan, which tracks about 70% of all bookstore sales in the USA. Bad BookScan numbers can torpedo your next sale--and if you think you can just change your name, or slide on over to a new agent or publisher, think again: they have BookScan too.

But how accurate is Bookscan, really? It doesn't, for instance, track sales from big-box retailers like Walmart, so if you're lucky enough to get placement for your novel in one of those stores, those numbers will be missing from your BookScan total. Even for bookstore sales, BookScan may not tell the whole story. This interesting series of posts from agent Andrew Zack, sparked by his discovery of a major discrepancy between the BookScan numbers for one of his authors and the author's actual royalty statements, explores that issue.

- From the Shelftalker blog, the do's and don'ts of promotional emails--very good advice for authors (and publishers) looking to promote their books.

- From Editorial Ass, a balanced post on when, why, and possibly why not to hire outside editorial assistance.

- Ever wondered what the heck a blog tour was, and how to organize one? The Book Publicity Blog answers all your questions.

- From John Scalzi, why "new" novelists are often kinda old.

- For the procrastinator in us all, a wonderful essay from author Ann Patchett on the scariness of starting a new book: Why Not Put Off Till Tomorrow the Book You Could Write Today?

- What do writers really do with their time? Novelist J. Robert Lennon lets you in on the secret. I absolutely adore this article--if anyone ever asks me about my writing process, I'm just going to refer them here.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- Authorfail: When Authors Attack

Last week, the Twitter- and blogosphere were abuzz with two tales of authorial bad behavior: much-published author Alice Hoffman's Twitter meltdown over a poor review (Hoffman tweeted several angry messages about the review, including one that provided the reviewer's phone number and email address and encouraged fans to "Tell her what u think of snarky critics;" Hoffman's publisher subsequently yanked her Twitter account, and Hoffman issued an apology); and philosopher and author Alain de Botton's blog explosion (de Botton posted an angry comment on the reviewer's blog, concluding "I will hate you till the day I die and wish you nothing but ill will in every career move you make"; he, too, subsequently apologized, excusing himself by saying "It was a private communication to his website, to him as a blogger...It's appalling that it seems that I'm telling the world." Well, duh).

Although you can blame these errors in judgment on the social media phenomenon, which encourages us all to tweet (or comment, or post, or email) before we think, they are hardly isolated incidents. Authors wigging out over criticism is nothing new.

This past April, a Russian court ordered a journalist to pay compensation to a writer who objected to the journalist's review of his novel. Compensation amounted to US $1,000; the writer had originally demanded much more. Per the news report of this incident: "Observers have commented that this judgment creates a very dangerous precedent, opening the way for lawsuits based on subjective opinion. Some have even suggested that if a book reviewer can be sued, a reader who did not like a book can sue the author for making a bad quality product." Holy frivolous lawsuits, Batman!

A recent article on the Hoffman debacle from Salon.com provides several more examples of authors behaving badly over criticism. Authors Caleb Carr, Jonah Goldberg, Stanley Crouch, and Richard Ford have (respectively) written invective-laden letters to, blogged obsessively about, slapped the face of, and spit upon/shot holes in the books of reviewers to whose analysis they objected (one of those reviewers, ironically enough, was Hoffman herself).

In 2007, Stuart Pivar sued blogger PZ Meyers for libel for Meyers's negative review of Pivar's book Lifecode, which proposed "an alternative theory of evolution." Most observers dubbed the charges "frivolous" and "empty." Pivar eventually dropped the suit.

Also in 2007, author Deborah Anne MacGillivray organized a virtual lynching of an Amazon reviewer who gave MacGillivray's book just three stars. Despite the reviewer's attempts to notify Amazon of harassment by MacGillivray and her posse, Amazon suspended the reviewer's posting privileges (though not, apparently, her privilege of spending money on Amazon products).

MacGillivray isn't the only author who has cracked up over Amazon. In 2004, bestselling author Anne Rice posted a long, angry, barely coherent screed addressed to negative Amazon reviewers, testifying, among other things, to her "utter contempt" for them. So weird was this rant that some people speculated it might be a hoax, but Rice herself confirmed it in a later message on her website.

Then there was the late Michael Crichton, who struck back at a reporter who wrote a less-than-flattering article about him by making the reporter a character in his 2006 novel, Next--a really disgusting, evil, morally corrupt character. At least, the reporter thought so.

In 2001, author Jaime Clark contacted a list of literary editors, offering a $1,000 bounty to anyone who would tell him the name of the author of a negative review of his book in PW. (No word on whether anyone did, or what Clark planned to do with the information.)

In 1998, science fiction author Robert J. Sawyer sent an angry letter to a Canadian magazine protesting negative comments about his latest novel, alleging that the reviewer was waging a vendetta due to Sawyer's earlier criticism of the reviewer's own writing. The reviewer turned the tables, suing Sawyer and the magazine for libel.

I've been on both sides of this issue. As a novelist, I've gotten negative reviews--some of them thoughtful, some misguided, some just stupid (such as the one from a major review publication in which it was clear that the reviewer did not read the book). Do they upset me? Yes, probably much more than they should--especially the more thoughtful and intelligent ones, the ones that make points worth considering. Am I ever tempted to respond--by contacting the reviewer, bitching in public, getting Amazon to take down the review? Never. Never ever ever. Bad reviews go with the territory. If you launch yourself into the public sphere, you have to expect that not everyone will appreciate you. You need to learn to suck it up and act like an adult. A bonus of behaving professionally: the sense of moral superiority it can confer, especially if the review is really dumb. (It can take a while for this to kick in. But trust me, when it does, it helps.)

As a reviewer, I've written negative reviews (though I have to say that over time, I became ever more reluctant to do so). I had some rules for those, however. I never wrote a review--negative or positive--of a book where the author and I had a connection, either personal or professional. I never reviewed a small press or self-published book unless I could mostly say nice things about it (small press and self-pubbed authors have enough to contend with already). Large press-pubbed books were fair game, but I never wrote a negative review without fully reading and carefully considering the book--in other words, I did my best to write the kinds of negative reviews that I, as an author, could respect. Over my nearly 10 years of reviewing, I heard from just two authors whose books I criticized; both disagreed with my criticisms, but thanked me for taking their books seriously.

Bottom line: all of us need to remember how little privacy we really have professionally, especially those of us who are active on the Internet--not only because of how widely any bit of information can now be disseminated, but because of how long it can stick around to haunt us.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Victoria Strauss -- It's Official: DOJ Investigates Google Book Settlement

Yesterday, the US Justice Department confirmed that it is opening a formal investigation into the Google Book Settlement.

A quick recap: Several years ago, Google entered into agreements with a number of libraries to scan the books in their collections. The books were then listed online via Google Books, along with publishing info and, for books still in copyright, limited "snippets" of text (for public domain books, the entire text was available). Claiming that the scanning was fair use, Google argued that it didn't need to seek copyright holders' permission first. Authors disagreed, and in 2005, a group of publishers and the Authors Guild filed suit to stop the scanning.

Last October, the parties in the suit reached a settlement--a mind-numbingly complicated arrangement that, depending on whom you ask, is either the first step toward a universal world library or the next step in Google's quest for world domination. Much like desperately ill patients forced to research their own health care, authors were faced with the prospect of taking a crash course in Googlenomics in order to decide whether to opt in to the settlement--in which case they'd receive a small amount of money for Google's use of their work, but potentially give up a good deal of control of that use--or opt out, in which case they would get no money and potentially lose all control.

Originally, the deadline to opt in or out was May 5, 2009. But, responding to a petition from a group of authors, Judge Denny Chin of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York extended the deadline to September 4. Along with increasingly vocal opposition to the settlement from a variety of groups, the delay seems to have spurred the interest of the Justice Department. Over the past couple of months, there've been reports that the DOJ has been contacting Google and publishers with questions about the settlement.

Now it's official. Judge Chin, who issued the deadline extension, has released the letter he received from the DOJ, along with his order that the government present its findings by September 18, 2009 (ahead of the settlement's October 7 fairness hearing). The letter begins:

The United States writes to inform the Court that it has opened an antitrust investigation into the proposed agreement between Google and representatives of publishers and authors which forms the basis of a proposed settlement of a pending class action in The Authors Guild Inc. et al v. Google Inc., Civil No. 1:05-CV-8136. The United States has reviewed public comments expressing concern that aspects of the settlement may violate the Sherman Act.

There's no way to know what the investigation will reveal, or whether the settlement will stand, change, or be struck down as a result of the fairness hearing. But whatever happens, the deadline for authors to opt in or out falls before both the DOJ deadline and the fairness hearing--which means that authors must decide on the basis of the current settlement terms. Authors absolutely owe it to themselves, therefore, to be as informed as possible, so they can make the best possible decision--whatever that decision may be.

If you're tempted to do nothing (which I suspect many authors will be, given the complexity of the settlement and the issues surrounding)--resist. As in the health care metaphor I used above, doing nothing is the worst of all possible worlds, since, if the settlement does stand, you will gain neither the possible benefits of participation (which include the right to tell Google to remove your books from its database), nor, if you decide to opt out, the moral satisfaction of giving Google the finger.

To assist with the decision process, I'm re-posting some of the resources I compiled in an earlier discussion of the settlement, along with a few others I've found since. These are resources that I personally found helpful; I hope you will too.

- The Google Book Settlement website.

- What the Google Book Settlement Means for Authors and Publishers--An admirably clear and concise (given the complexity of the settlement) summary of the settlement's key points from Joy R. Butler. I guarantee you'll find something here you didn't know.

- From the Ashley Grayson Literary Agency, a guide to your options under the settlement and how (and whether) to exercise them.

- From the Dear Author blog, a roundup of info on the settlement plus links to more articles.

- The Google Book Search Settlement: Ends, Means, and the Future of Books: A thoughtful summary of issues of concern--including the huge control over orphan works Google could gain from the settlement--from James Grimmelmann of the American Constitution Society.

- Law professor Pamela Samuelson discusses the orphan works issue, as well as the potential monopoly the settlement may give Google, in The Dead Souls of the Google Book Search Settlement.

- More on the potential Google monopoly from Cory Doctorow at BoingBoing. The comments are interesting as well.

- From the Books and Corsets blog, a summary of a Columbia Law School-sponsored symposium on the settlement. Worth reading, because it highlights some issues that other sources don't seem to have picked up on.

- Mike Shatzkin has questions about the distribution of revenues generated by the settlement.

- An article in Time magazine details librarians' concerns about the settlement.

- The other side, from (respectively) readers', researchers', and publishers' perspectives: a defense of the settlement from columnist Mark Gimein, another from John Timmer at Ars Technica, and another from Tom Allen of the Association of American Publishers.

- And finally, for the technophiles among us, NPR reveals details of Google's patented scanning process.