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The truth about book sales and authors' income

Updated 8-19-18) Warning: The news is not good but this is just a sampling.
Why Authors Are Earning Less Even As Book Sales Rise (Adam Rowe, Forbes, 8-11-18) Book publishers incomes are rising "partially due to rising digital audiobook and ebook sales," but authors' incomes are declining, says the Authors Guild, about this article: "The disparity between book sales and author salaries isn’t news. But seeing the statistics laid out simply on the page can help develop an understanding of where the money is going." Quoting the Forbest article: "Overall, revenues appear to be holding steady, as traditional publishers double down on the latest trend or format (which are political tell-alls and digital audiobooks, respectively, if anyone's wondering)....But thanks to the effects of price points set by the largest publishers in response to Amazon, industry corner-cutting, and book piracy, those authors behind the stories that power the publishing industry are earning increasingly less for their efforts."
• "Only 39% of authors supported themselves exclusively through writing-related work," according to The Wages of Writing: Key Findings from the Authors Guild 2015 member survey. Author incomes are down, hybrid authorship is up, and authors are spending more time marketing than ever before. (Hybrid authorship is the practice of self-publishing while also being traditionally published.) Authors spend more time on marketing, less on writing books. Traditional publishers’ promotional budgets have all but dried up,  Read More 
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30+ sites for fact-checking political debates and other occasions for lies, rumors, hoaxes, misinformation, and inaccuracy

to keep on hand during the next political debates (and other occasions for doubt). Assembled by Pat McNees for her Writers and Editors website

FactCheck.org (Annenberg's excellent nonpartisan political fact checker--monitors the factual accuracy of what is said by major U.S. political players in the form of TV ads, debates,  Read More 
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Channeling rage to produce change

"Bearing witness is not a passive act," said [Terry Tempest] Williams.* "This story took such a toll," she said of the work she did in the Gulf. "There are certain things I wish I hadn't seen. Flying over the Gulf of Mexico, as far as you could see, from horizon to horizon, was oil.  Read More 
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Memoirs of war and conflict: A reading list

First They Killed My Father: A Daughter of Cambodia Remembers by Loung Ung. "Twenty-five years after the rise of the Khmer Rouge, this powerful account is a triumph."~PW
What You Have Heard Is True: A Memoir of Witness and Resistance by Carolyn Forché. “Why would a naïve 27-year-old American poet, who speaks Spanish brokenly and knows nothing about the isthmus of the Americas, accept the invitation of a near-stranger to join him in El Salvador, on the brink of war? And why would this rumored lone wolf/communist/CIA operative/world-class marksman/small-time coffee farmer invite her? Those questions animate Forché’s dramatic memoir about her transformation into an activist for peace, justice, and human rights. Forché vividly recounts how she became enmeshed with the mysterious, politically charged man and with clergy and farmworkers as violence ensued, in a fierce narrative punctuated with short prose poem vignettes that she notes are ‘written in pencil.’"—The National Book Review
With the Old Breed: At Peleliu and Okinawa by E. B. Sledge. "He ... turns the extremes of the war in the Pacific—the terror, the camaraderie, the banal and the extraordinary—into  Read More 

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Essentials of self-publishing

Practical tips and insights, pros and cons, do's and don'ts, of self-publishing. Self-publishing is thriving, but if you are going to do it, go into the venture with your eyes wide open and be willing to hire the professionals needed to help you do an acceptable job. Here, from a special issue of Pasatiempo, are key passages  Read More 
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How to shape a book

by Pat McNees (updated 11-20-16)
Developmental editors help authors find the right shape for their book. You can also learn a lot about structure from the following pieces, among others:
Telling science stories…wait, what’s a “story”? (Bora Zivkovic, A Blog Around the Clock, 7-13-11). " In the Inverted Pyramid approach to journalism, the first couple of sentences (the “lede”) provide the next most important information, and so on, with the least important stuff at the end. In many ways, it is the opposite of a narrative – the punch-line goes first,  Read More 
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Authors' options in the changing book publishing game

In January 2015, SPJ and ASJA hosted an event focused on New Options for Authors in the Changing Book Publishing Game. Nell Minow and Tom Allen spoke at the beautiful Fund for American Studies in Dupont Circle. Here, by request, is the handout, helpful links from my Writers and Editors website.  Read More 
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Media perils and liability insurance 101

by Pat McNees, updated 6-12-19

First of all, freelance editors and writers are often sent boilerplate contracts that include clauses requiring liability insurance--which might make sense if you are rebuilding a wing of a building, but rarely make sense for a writer and certainly not for an editor. My advice (gained from others' experiences): Cross out that clause and tell the client that it isn't relevant because (if true) you don’t have employees, work onsite, travel on behalf of the client, see clients in your home office, operate heavy equipment, endanger the general welfare, and so forth. (H/T to Ruth E. Thaler-Carter for the wording.) If you raise an objection based on common sense, the client is likely to tell you just to strike the clause. If they don't and the fee is low, it probably won't make financial sense to sign the contract, or at least I would not do so. See also what Will MacPheat reports, in the Comments section.

Meanwhile, here's the best round up of information I have come up with for if you DO find yourself in a situation where you need to buy the insurance. Media perils liability insurance (or publishers liability insurance) may provide you with protection for such traditional claims as  Read More 

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Seniors Today interview about personal histories

Want to know what a personal history is and what personal historians do? So did Austin Heyman, who interviewed Debbie Brodsky and me for a Montgomery County, MD, cable show, Seniors Today.  Read More 
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Memoir, biography, and personal histories (how-to resources)

Here's a gateway to life story telling resources, whether you're doing it yourself, hiring a pro, or helping others tell their stories.

Telling your story

Articles, stories, websites, and other resources about how people have told their own, their family, or their company stories)
The art and craft of interviewing
Great interview questions and guides
Audio recording and editing equipment, software, and tutorials
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