Sunday, March 25, 2012

Pinterest - Terms of Service

We’re planning a wedding. For those of you with daughters, you know how exciting and frustrating that can be. This is our second wedding and I’m trying to apply the lessons learned from our older daughter’s wedding. Stay calm, pick your battles, and clearly establish the limits. Both my daughters are wonderful and the wedding plans are realistic, so far.
My daughter has been on a pinning frenzy. Since she doesn’t live at home, and while we do talk almost every day, she’s been sending me pictures via email and text messages. When I missed the emails with wedding gown pictures she told me to get a Pinterest account. I opened and she walked me through what to do and how to do it. I thought it was pretty neat. To start my account I added one picture, my book cover.
Over the last several weeks I received Pinterest invites from many of my author friends. I’ve been writing my next book and while doing research have come across some wonderful pictures that I find inspirational. I had plans to pin some of those inspirational pictures into my Pinterest board that is until I read an article about copyright infringement and Pinterest. According to the article, Pinterest has shifted all the liability of copyright infringement onto the Pinterest user.
As an author who has worked to get my book off pirate sites I understand the issues around intellectual property. Most of the pictures I’ve found are in Google Images or within research documents. I’ve not worried about copyright thinking… well maybe I wasn’t thinking. After reading the article written by a photographer, Kristen Kowalski, who is also an attorney I have to rethink whether or not to use my Pinterest account or, at best, how to use it. Her post generated nearly 600 comments.
Here is the article-she’s given permission to share.
Pinterest has been reviewing it's terms and conditions. New ones have been developed and go into effect April 6, 2012. I've included them below.

Do you have a Pinterest account? What do you think of the copyright issues and the new terms of service? 

Updated Terms of Service

Over the last few weeks, we've been working on an update to our Terms. When we first launched Pinterest, we used a standard set of Terms. We think that the updated Terms of ServiceAcceptable Use Policy, and Privacy Policy are easier to understand and better reflect the direction our company is headed in the future. We'd encourage you to read these changes in their entirety, but we thought there were a few changes worth noting.

  • Our original Terms stated that by posting content to Pinterest you grant Pinterest the right for to sell your content. Selling content was never our intention and we removed this from our updated Terms.
  • We updated our Acceptable Use Policy and we will not allow pins that explicitly encourage self-harm or self-abuse.
  • We released simpler tools for anyone to report alleged copyright or trademark infringements.
  • Finally, we added language that will pave the way for new features such as a Pinterest API and Private Pinboards.

We think these changes are important and we encourage you to review the new documents here. These terms will go into effect for all users on April 6, 2012.
Like everything at Pinterest, these updates are a work in progress that we will continue to improve upon. We're working hard to make Pinterest the best place for you to find inspiration from people who share your interest. We've gotten a lot of help from our community as we've crafted these Terms.
Ben & the Pinterest Team

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Letter From Scott Turow: Grim News

There is a lot of discussion about the Justice Department filing and antitrust lawsuit against the five major book publishers and Apple. After reading this open letter from Scott Turow, President of the Author’s Guild, and the comments it generated I knew I had to share it with you. I’ve included his message in its entirety. Here is the link to his original post where you can read the comments,
We can clearly see Scott’s position and those of the commenters. How do you feel about the subject?

Dear Member,

Yesterday's reports that the Justice Department may be near filing an antitrust lawsuit against five large trade book publishers and Apple is grim news for everyone who cherishes a rich literary culture.

The Justice Department has been investigating whether those publishers colluded in adopting a new model, pioneered by Apple for its sale of iTunes and apps, for selling e-books. Under that model, Apple simply acts as the publisher's sales agent, with no authority to discount prices.

We have no way of knowing whether publishers colluded in adopting the agency model for e-book pricing. We do know that collusion wasn't necessary: given the chance, any rational publisher would have leapt at Apple's offer and clung to it like a life raft. Amazon was using e-book discounting to destroy bookselling, making it uneconomic for physical bookstores to keep their doors open.

Just before Amazon introduced the Kindle, it convinced major publishers to break old practices and release books in digital form at the same time they released them as hardcovers. Then Amazon dropped its bombshell: as it announced the launch of the Kindle, publishers learned that Amazon would be selling countless frontlist e-books at a loss. This was a game-changer, and not in a good way. Amazon's predatory pricing would shield it from e-book competitors that lacked Amazon's deep pockets.

Critically, it also undermined the hardcover market that brick-and-mortar stores depend on. It was as if Netflix announced that it would stream new movies the same weekend they opened in theaters. Publishers, though reportedly furious, largely acquiesced. Amazon, after all, already controlled some 75% of the online physical book market.

Amazon quickly captured the e-book market as well, bringing customers into its proprietary device-and-format walled garden (Sony, the prior e-book device leader, uses the open ePub format). Two years after it introduced the Kindle, Amazon continued to take losses on a deep list of e-book titles, undercutting hardcover sales of the most popular frontlist titles at its brick and mortar competitors. Those losses paid huge dividends. By the end of 2009, Amazon held an estimated 90% of the rapidly growing e-book market. Traditional bookstores were shutting down or scaling back. Borders was on its knees. Barnes & Noble had gamely just begun selling its Nook, but it lacked the capital to absorb e-book losses for long.

Enter Steve Jobs. Two years ago January, one month after B&N shipped its first Nook, Jobs introduced Apple's iPad, with its proven iTunes-and-apps agency model for digital content. Five of the largest publishers jumped on with Apple’s model, even though it meant those publishers would make less money on every e-book they sold.

Publishers had no real choice (except the largest, Random House, which could bide its time – it took the leap with the launch of the iPad 2): it was seize the agency model or watch Amazon's discounting destroy their physical distribution chain. Bookstores were well along the path to becoming as rare as record stores. That’s why we publicly backed Macmillan when Amazon tried to use its online print book dominance to enforce its preferred e-book sales terms, even though Apple’s agency model also meant lower royalties for authors.

Our concern about bookstores isn't rooted in sentiment: bookstores are critical to modern bookselling. Marketing studies consistently show that readers are far more adventurous in their choice of books when in a bookstore than when shopping online. In bookstores, readers are open to trying new genres and new authors: it’s by far the best way for new works to be discovered. Publishing shouldn’t have to choose between bricks and clicks. A robust book marketplace demands both bookstore showrooms to properly display new titles and online distribution for the convenience of customers. Apple thrives on this very model: a strong retail presence to display its high-touch products coupled with vigorous online distribution. While bookstores close, Apple has been busy openingmore than 300 stores.

For those of us who have been fortunate enough to become familiar to large numbers of readers, the disappearance of bookstores is deeply troubling, but it will have little effect on our sales or incomes. Like rock bands from the pre-Napster era, established authors can still draw a crowd, if not to a stadium, at least to a virtual shopping cart. For new authors, however, a difficult profession is poised to become much more difficult. The high royalties of direct publishing, for most, are more than offset by drastically smaller markets. And publishers won't risk capital where there's no reasonable prospect for reward. They will necessarily focus their capital on what works in an online environment: familiar works by familiar authors.

Two years after the agency model came to bookselling, Amazon is losing its chokehold on the e-book market: its share has fallen from about 90% to roughly 60%. Customers are benefiting from the surprisingly innovative e-readers Barnes & Noble's investments have delivered, including a tablet device that beat Amazon to the market by fully twelve months. Brick-and-mortar bookstores are starting to compete through their partnership with Google, so loyal customers can buy e-books from them at the same price as they would from Amazon. Direct-selling authors have also benefited, as Amazon more than doubled its royalty rates in the face of competition.

Let's hope the reports are wrong, or that the Justice Department reconsiders. The irony bites hard: our government may be on the verge of killing real competition in order to save the appearance of competition.

This would be tragic for all of us who value books, and the culture they support.


Scott Turow
The Authors Guild | 31 E 32nd St | Fl 7 | New York, NY 10016 | United States

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Common Fiction Writing Mistakes

I found an article I thought would interest you. It was on the How To Write A Fiction Novel site. I admit some of the things made me cringe when I read them. Others I agreed with and moved on. All are a good reminder. Let me know which ones you can identify with or that you have overcome. If there are any missing from the list, by all means please share them with us.

Here is the entire article.

Are you guilty of any of these common fiction writing mistakes?
  • No Hook
  • No Hero
  • No Motive
  • No Clue
  • No Point
  • No Meaning
  • No Research
  • No Punch
Well, no more excuses. Here is a list of the most common fiction writing mistakes and how you can avoid them all.

Where's the Hook?
Ever read a book that makes you yawn by the end of page one? Yeah, me too. Usually, I'll try another page or two, but if the author hasn't gotten to the tension by then, I give up.
So, rule number one: make sure you have a hook. Start at a point of drama or tension. Drop us off the cliff into the conflict on page one, or we'll walk.

Who's In Charge Here?
Along the same lines... have you read any books that start with a meandering description of the room or the scenery, maybe with an unnamed character somewhere on the tapestry that's being woven, but otherwise "lifeless"?
Right. Mistake number two. Not introducing your hero or heroine right away. Within one or two pages max.
Or, if you want to live dangerously - and you can do it well - show us your antagonist right away, instead. Plotting something devious or committing a crime. Remember, dump us into the action.
Either way, get with the program and let us know who this story's about!

Why Did She Do That?
I'm sure you've seen the next of the common fiction writing mistakes, too. You're reading along, minding your own fantasy when out of the blue, your favorite character turns 180 degrees south when she should have been going north.
Why did she do that?
Don't be caught with your character's pants down. Make sure they have a motive for their actions. Or we're going to toss that book aside for the next episode of our favorite TV slop.

Who Said That?
"I like them hot," she said.
"I like them cold," she said.
"I like them tagged properly," I said.
Confused? So will your readers be, if you don't write dialogue that's either tagged with the speakers identity somehow, or, if you're a real pro, sounds like only one character in your book.
Tags will make your dialogue clear when you have too many speakers to keep track of otherwise. The more fun way (in my eyes) to keep dialogue making sense is to be sure at least your main characters all speak their own way.
Not different languages (I don't like too much translating), but just different turns of phrase and common figures of speech they're - like - guilty of using frequently. Do this well, and your readers will love you for it.

What's Your Point?
Another mistake writers make is to use description when they don't really know what they want to say next. Going on, and on, and on, and... Yeah, it might be exquisite prose, but if it doesn't move the plot along or illuminate a character's character, out it goes.
Make your point without confusing us with lack of detail, too. Tied into the above discussion about dialogue, if you don't leave enough detail for us to know who did what, we're going to flee in confusion. End of story.

You Again?
Another bee in my bonnet comes from "I'm-gonna-get-rich-quick" writers, who use cliches throughout their novels and stereotypes for all their characters. You know who I'm talking about.
The dumb blond - with stars in her eyes - who kisses the hunk-of-the-day - and feels fireworks explode as she melts in his arms.
Ooohh! I'm gonna gag.
If you can't think of a better way to put things than cliches, dig deeper. It's there, and you can find it by playing with words. (No, your mom won't yell at your for playing with your words. Only for playing with your food.)
And if your characters are all stereotypes from overused story ideas, you better be writing some very sharp fiction humor books. Otherwise, it's notfunny. Nor entertaining.

Am I Dumb (Or Are You)?
Other common fiction writing mistakes related to language usage come under the category of talking wrong to your readers. Especially in genre fiction, the avid readers are going to know what you mean if you talk about commonly known facts.
For example, what science fiction reader doesn't know that FTL means "faster than light"? If you say "faster than light", you're going to tick them off. (Or make them think you're a dumb blond.) There goes that book again. Straight to the dung heap. So to speak.
So go for great description, but don't define things your readers already understand.

But What About...?
It's the home stretch. You're almost past all the common fiction writing mistakes without a hitch. Just dodge these bullets and you'll be home free. Or your hero will be, anyway.
Remember that hook we talked about? Make it snap. Make it fast, make it pick us up by our lapels and give us a good shake. Whatever you do, don't drag it out into oblivion.
Same goes with your middle (no, I don't care if you've got a beer belly). No sagging allowed. Or is that no sagging aloud? If your middle doesn't keep us zipping right along, you need to trim it until it does.
Wow, you've made it to the end, your heroine's poised on the brink and... "they all lived happily ever after..."
Boo, hiss! That's no way to end your story! Don't be lazy here. We'll catch you if you are.
And while we're at it, if Aunt Agnes had a subplot going, you better tie her loose ends up, too. Or we'll never trust you again.