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Wednesday, February 13, 2013

My Publishing Predictions (Partly) Come True

Last year, I made a number of predictions about what would happen in 2012 in publishing. Call me Cassandra, because they (partly) came true. Here's how I did with my prognostications:

Full-service e-books: I predicted that full-service shops would open up to assist writers who want to publish their own e-books, offering editing, cover design, formatting, special features such as links, matchmaking with illustrators, uploading to the major e-readers, and marketing. So far, there have been no takers on this model. Instead, publishing professionals have opened their own e-publishing companies rather than companies to assist writers. The big e-publishers like Lulu and Amazon also offer what they say are turnkey services. I think there's still room for some smart publishing professionals to pick up the slack in this huge market.

Consumer protection suits: I predicted we'd see more lawsuits claiming readers were misled. Sure enough, we've seen new consumer protection suits against authors and publishers, still mostly nonfiction, with consumers claiming they didn't get what they paid for. Lance Armstrong and Greg Mortenson have had the most highly publicized cases. I'm still waiting for suits saying a book advertised as fantasy was really sci fi, or a book advertised as good was really terrible.

Trademark suits: I predicted more trademark suits by authors, and I was right. Suits by comic book authors, dead authors and bestselling authors have claimed trademark infringement. It's one of those issues that will keep lawyers busy for decades to come as the publishing industry becomes more tight for money. The Fifty Shades people alone will create a boon for intellectual property lawyers.

Licensing: I predicted more publishers would make grabs for author rights in overbroad licensing language. Sure enough, publishers are making unprecedented moves to grab author rights. Beware contract language that may take away your rights. I've seen really broad licensing language proposed to me in contracts where I was writing free content. I find that most publishers, especially the ones who don't pay, are willing to negotiate when you call them on it.

Noncompete: As publishers insert more noncompete clauses into contracts, I predicted we'd start to see authors sued the same way employees are sued now – to keep them from going elsewhere. I haven't seen this yet, but I hear of more and more of these clauses. Since it takes a couple of years to get most books into print, it might be awhile before the suits come rolling in. What we are seeing, though, are suits where employers claim they own the copyright on books written by former employees based on contract language. Watch what you sign with your employers, as well as your publishers.

Alternate revenue sources: I predicted that publishers will insert links in ebooks to purchase items mentioned, like music, other books, and products. So far, while some e-books do have links, it looks like they are mostly for scam purposes, such as inserting malware. As publishers look for alternate revenue sources, advertisements are inevitable.

2012 certainly had its share of the usual libel and copyright litigation, along with a plethora of other legal issues that kept us busy on The Debriefer. Keep listening to us this year to hear the latest legal news in writing and publishing.

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