Nostalgia City Mysteries

Mark S. Bacon

Tag Archives: Vestal Review

Authors, publishers get a reprieve;            What will happen next?

Third in the series.

So, readers and writers are in for a change.  But it may not happen as soon as has been predicted.  Plans for the resale of “used” ebooks were set back last week as a federal judge in New York ruled in favor of Capitol Records and against a company selling previously purchased digital music files.

Businessweek reported that Redigi relied on the Copyright Act’s first sale doctrine.  That principle says that someone who owns a copy of a copyrighted work is free to resell it.  Redigi reportedly asserted that the doctrine applies to digital media as well and a ruling in favor of the online seller could have opened the doors for the sale of used ebooks as well.

As reported earlier, Amazon and Apple also have drafted plans to sell used ebooks online.  Authors reacted with alarm figuring that used sales will replace new sales, and used prices will eventually tumble.

Some of the proposals and, at this point, industry rumors, have it that publishers and authors could receive compensation from the sale of used ebooks.  All remains to be seen, especially in light of the recent court ruling.

Sunday in the New York Times, author and president of the Authors Guild, Scott Turow, wrote that America’s “literary culture” was at risk.  He cited not only the proposals for the sale of used ebooks, but a court decision authorizing the importation of foreign editions of American works, often cheaper than domestic editions.

He earlier sounded an alarm after Apple and Amazon patents for used ebook sales were announced, and he said Sunday that used ebook sales will be found to be illegal.

What is going to happen to the spread of ideas, the entertainment, the inspiration that books bring us?  Change is inevitable.  Some thoughts:

— Writers will still write.   We have to.   Several authors, including best-selling sci fi writer John Scalzi, recently have said that as royalties dry up readers may be surprised to see authors finding new forms of employment.  Sadly, in most cases that will not happen.  I say sadly, because writers, if they’ve been at this any time at all, know the rules.  You write because you must.  You write books because you receive satisfaction from it (when you like what you produce) and not because you see it as a way to make a decent living.  Writers need second jobs and working spouses/partners.  Or to put it the way a writer friend of mine explained, “Writers have always gotten the short end of the stick and we’re used to it.”

In the Sunday New York Times piece Turow rightly noted that mid-list authors–not the best-sellers–will  be most hurt by plummeting book prices.   The workaday scribes who eke by cranking out books will have it tough.

–Book prices–for all formats–will come down.  A little reduction would not necessarily be a bad idea for all parties.

–Unlikely this year, a used ebook marketplace, in some form, will happen.  Publishers and/or corporate online sellers may restrict the number of times an ebook may be resold.  Legal hurdles will be higher than some expect.   It will take time, but unless some unexpected technological development or legislative change alters our present concept of books and ebooks, a used marketplace will happen.

–Copyright protection, world-wide, will continue to erode.

-The big, traditional publishers still control much of the book market and thus will influence any future used ebook marketplace.  Although Amazon, Smashwords and others are both publishers and sellers,  the big-money authors–and aspirants–will be found at Random House, HarperCollins, etc.  (According to Publisher’s Weekly, Random House income for 2011 was $2.2 billion.)

–The authors who may fare best are established writers who switch from big New York publishers to ebook self-publishing.  If authors already have a sizeable following based on paper book sales, they can bring their readers with them to the ebook marketplace.  Amazon presently gives 70% of ebook sales to publishers.  If the author is also the publisher, that beats the standard author royalty many times over.   Authors who do not yet have enough of a following to sustain ebook sales also will be successful if they become adept at social media marketing and other avenues to attract readers.   Some best-selling authors will decide to remain sheltered by their agents and one of the big-six publishing houses.

–As book sales that produce royalities decrease, many authors should focus on the contractual aspects of their advance.  It might be the only book income they ever see.

–Another author friend suggests that increased exposure via a used ebook market could be beneficial–provided the price of ebooks doesn’t tank.


Businessweek reports on Redigi decision

Scott Turow sounds off

Largest publishers in the world


This blog will continue to cover these developing issues while also providing samples of flash fiction, books reviews and articles about flash fiction writers and publishers.


Congratulations to flash fiction journal Vestal Review.  It just celebrated its 13th birthday.

 Vestal Review

How long is it? Part 2

A short story, by any other name, would still be short.  But would it be flash fiction?  Last time, we looked at the myriad names for flash fiction.  Now we turn to the requisite length for a flash story.   Not surprising, there’s little agreement.

Many editors,  including Grant Faulkner of 100 Word Story,  say flash fiction is 100 words.  Lee Masterson, writing in Writing World,  has a tidy categorization for stories of limited length: up to 100 words, micro-fiction; 100-1,000 words, flash fiction; 1,000-7,500 words, short story, and up to 20,000 words is a novelette.

A neat classification, but many editors say flash fiction encompasses even the tiniest of stories.  Among the many online and print flash fiction journals are those that limit writers to 66 words, 55 words, 50 words, and some limit writers to a specific number of characters.  One writer has called character-limit stories Facebook fiction.  At the short end of the scale, Smith Magazine limits stories to only six words.  Smith has published a variety of books featuring six-word stories, each written by a different person.

At the long end of the scale are those editors who consider flash fiction to reach up to 2,000 words.   It would be difficult to read that many words in a flash.  Vestal Review, which advertises itself as the, “longest running flash fiction magazine in the world,” (it started in 2000), limits flash fiction to 500 words.

 “I don’t think labeling helps anything creative,” says Tara L. Masih,  editor of The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction.  “…people shouldn’t get caught up on word counts and names.”

New England flash fiction writer Doug Mathewson agrees.  “You can’t put a number on it, really,” says the widely published writer and editor of his own journal, blink ink.  “Its not so much a word count as a feeling.  I want [readers] to read it, enjoy it and be done with it.”


100 Word Story

Writing World

Smith Magazine

The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction

Vestal Review

blink ink

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