In this week's Self-Publishing News Special, ALLi News Editor Dan Holloway celebrates Clare Flynn's win at the Romantic Novelists' Association Awards.
Do listen to October's Self-publishing News podcast here. We talk about Amazon's recent change in returns policy and take a deep-dive into BookTok. This week's #indieauthorchat is in its usual Wednesday slot, at 8pm UK time, 3pm Eastern Time. Tim will be guiding us through a discussion of last week's headline news and subject of the next podcast Howard and I do: should authors keep using Twitter?
Congratulations Clare Flynn: Romantic Novelists' Association's 2022 Indie Champion
I am absolutely delighted to report this week following the awards ceremony. This year’s indie champion award goes to ALLi member Clare Flynn. Clare has been a pioneer for award-winning indies for some time. She won the 2020 Selfies Award for adult fiction with her book The Pearl of Penang. You can listen to her talk about that book on the ALLi podcast here.
Congratulations also to us, ALLi, who were also shortlisted in the Indie Champions category.
DeviantArt Community Hits Out at AI-Generated Art, and Platform responds with Changes to Consent Policy
AI-generated art continues to stir passionate feelings among artists. And the latest place to feel the full rumblings of discontent is DeviantArt. DeviantArt is one of the oldest creative communities on the internet. I have met several fabulous artists there over the course of a decade and a half. And many writers find cover artists there. It is a site that came of age at the same time as Tumblr, Reddit, and many fanfiction sites and has always felt as though it has something of the same vibe to it. Fabulous unbridled creativity, village-style communities, and a fair share of fighting and controversy.
As Tumblr proved years ago, sites like that and their communities can make things really awkward for owners who take a platform too far from its roots. (We’re seeing something of that on Twitter, of course). When that happens, any internal factions suddenly align against a bigger enemy. So DeviantArt found itself in the firing line when it introduced its own AI art generator, DreamUp. The biggest complaint was around DeviantArt's general approach to AI training. Artists had no simple way of expressing their consent or otherwise to the use of their work for training AI. And that was true whether the AI was DreamUp or any other platform. This is the same issue we have seen come up again and again. Artists receiving nothing for having their work used to train an AI that could base images on it, the creators of which would themselves be paid.
How hard is consent for platforms to manage?
DeviantArt responded as platforms for such communities often do. It changed its consent policy. Artists can now choose whether their work will train AI or not. The process is simple, and encompasses all of an artist's work. In theory, external AIs who want to keep using DeviantArt at all have to abide by that consent. It will be very interesting to see how this pans out in practice. One might imagine an artist using an AI platform to create art for which their DeviantArt user name is a keyword, and seeing what comes back. If the policy works, it will make it much harder for all those platforms saying consent is just too difficult.
Penguin Random House/Simon and Schuster Ruling: $250,000 advances a significant market sector!
Now we finally know what the reasoning was behind the ruling that Penguin Random House could not take over Simon and Schuster. You can read 80 pages of legal thinking here (with thanks to Publishers Weekly for making a pdf available).
The angle, and the figure, that really stands out is the same one that’s caught the eye throughout this extraordinary case. $250,000. The courts have always been particularly concerned with what a merger would mean for the payment of advances of $250,000 and more. They defined books that brought such payments as “anticipated top-selling books.” Much of the argument has focused not only on the impact of the merger on these titles, but on whether or not they make up a substantial and identifiable market segment.
“Anticipated top sellers” account for 75% of all monies paid to authors?!
Most authors have, unsurprisingly, looked on flabbergasted at these figures. Publishers, meanwhile, have somewhat torturously tried to argue both that such advances represent a negligible portion of the market and that high advances are so commonplace that they couldn’t possibly be threatened. What the judge decided was that this was a highly significant market segment. She noted that these advances amounted to 75% of all such payments to authors. Definitely a figure of interest!
If the merger were to have gone ahead, the resulting company would have captured 49% of this “anticipated top sellers” market. That compares to just 25% when it comes to lower advances. It’s interesting that in discussing the problems this could lead to, the judge cites the case made some time ago against Apple.
One point of particular note is an example Judge Pan gives of the kind of abuse that might become more widespread if the merger went ahead. That is the forced bundling of rights. She cites an instance where Simon and Schuster essentially used its muscle to force an agent to bundle audio rights in with other publishing rights against the author’s wishes or, she argues, interests.
It’s all a reminder of what a strange world publishing outside of Indiedom can be. One thing that’s so valuable as an indie, in particular, is the ability to sell our rights separately. And to make the best choices for each format and market according to what works for its own circumstances. Bundling things together may be easier. But seldom creatively or commercially the best thing to do.Self-publishing News: Congratulations to Clare Flynn, RNA Indie Champion of the Year Click To Tweet