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Writers and Editors (Pat McNees's blog) RSS feed

Podcasts about health, health care, medicine and medical science

Aging (Hear Arizona, KJZZ-FM) What it's like to grow old in Arizona.
AMA Podcasts (AMA Moving Medicine, Making the Rounds, AMA Doc Talk)
America Dissected (host Dr. Abdul El-Sayed, on Crooked Media)
Anamnesis (MedPage Today) The story side of medicine. Personal stories from clinicians that baffle, delight, and might make you cry.
AP Cardiology Andrew Perry, MD, hosts a cardiology podcast for internists, residents and medical students.
An Arm and a Leg (A podcast about the high cost of health care, KHN)
Armchair Expert Dr. Nadine Burke Harris
Annals On Call (Annals of Internal Medicine)
A Second Opinion Rethinking American Health with Senator Bill Frist, MD
Aspen Ideas to Go

Be a Powerful Patient (NPR) Two doctors share insider tips from the medical world to help you take control of your health care.
Behind the Knife: The Surgery Podcast
Bedside Rounds (host Dr. Adam Rodman)
Ben Greenfield Fitness (for hardcore exercise junkies)
Better Health While Aging
BMJ Talk Medicine
Broome Docs
Business of Health Care (KWBU)

Cancer.net (American Society of Clinical Oncology, or ASCO)
Catching Health (Diane Atwood)
Contagious Conversations (CDC Foundation)
Conversations on Health Care Co-hosts Mark Masselli and Margaret Flinter lead in-depth discussions on health policy and innovation with industry newsmakers from around the globe.
Diabetes Core Update Presenting and discussing the latest clinically relevant articles from American Diabetes Association's four scholarly journals, monthly.
Don't Touch Your Face (APIC) Infection prevention.
Dr. Death (Laura Beil, Wondery) A scary story about a charming surgeon, 33 patients, and a spineless system--about Christopher Duntsch, an accredited but incompetent Texas neurosurgeon who was convicted of gross malpractice after 31 of his patients were left seriously injured after surgery, and two others died during it. See also Laura Beil Dissects a Criminal Doctor’s Surgical Rampage (Rachel Zamzow, The Open Notebook, 1-22-19)

Empowered Patient (Karen Jagoda) A window into the latest innovations in digital health and the changing dynamic between doctors and patients
Epidemic (Dr. Celine Gounder)
Everyday Emergency (a podcast about Doctors Without Borders/Medecins Sans Frontieres, bringing you true stories from people on the frontline of humanitarian emergencies across the world.
Ethics Talk (AMA Journal of Ethics) Illuminating the Art of Medicine

FOAMcast: An Emergency Medicine Podcast
Food Sleuth Radio (KOPN via PRX and Pacifica) Melinda Hemmelgarn,interviews experts who connect the dots between food, health, and agriculture (30-minute format). See Food Sleuth Radio archives
Fresh Air (Terry Gross, Why An ER Visit Can Cost So Much)
The Future of Healthcare

Healthcare Is Hilarious (Casey Quinlan, an advocate for more open access to one's own patient data).
Health Literacy Out Loud Helen Osborne interviews those in-the-know about health literacy.
Health Report (Dr. Norman Swan, Australia)
Healthwatch (Medpage Today) Listen or read.
Hidden Brain (NPR)
The Hilarious World of Depression (John Moe, host, APM Podcasts) "Frank, moving, and, yes, funny conversations with top comedians who have dealt with this disease"

The Impact (Vox-- a weekly narrative podcast about the consequences that laws have on real people's lives)
Inside Health (BBC Radio 4) Dr Mark Porter demystifies health issues, clarifying fact from fiction on conflicting health advice, with GP Margaret McCartney
Intelligent Medicine Dr. Ronald Hoffman on alternative/preventive medicine, integrative health, and natural healing.
Invisibilia (entertaining stories that explore why we think, act and feel the way we do)

Johns Hopkins Medicine Podcasts
Kaiser Health News (KHN) podcasts
Legends of Surgery

Mayo Clinic Radio
MJA (Medical Journal of Australia)
NEJM This Week (Audio Summaries by the New England Journal of Medicine)
Only Human (Mary Harris, host, WNYC)
The People's Pharmacy (pharmacologist Joe Graedon and medical anthropologist Terry Graedon talk to experts about drugs, herbs, home remedies, vitamins and related health topics, NPR, North Carolina Public Radio)
QUESTioning Medicine (produced by two residents, this podcast encourages healthy skepticism of medical convention, which arose from residents and hospitalists wondering why seemingly straightforward cases gave rise to so many varying opinions)

Radio Health Journal
RadioLab (WNYC, investigating a strange world)
The Recommended Dose (with Dr. Ray Moynihan, produced by Cochrane Australia and co-published with the BMJ) In particular, try this one (interesting backstory on Cochran Collaborative) New is not always better; more is not always better; and so on.
Reset (Vox) Every story is a tech story. We live in a world where algorithms drive our interests, scientists are re-engineering our food supply, and a robot may be your next boss.Every Tuesday, Thursday, and Sunday morning \Arielle Duhaime-Ross explores why — and how — tech is changing everything.

Science Friday (Ira Flatow interviews guests on a range of subjects)
A Second Opinion (Rethinking American Health with Senator Bill Frist, M.D.)
Second Opinion (KCRW, an examination of medical ethics and the practioners who define them.)
The Short Coat Podcast (A Podcast By Medical Students, For Medical Learners of All Kinds)

TED Talks About Science and Medicine
Think: Health (Jake Morcom and Cheyne Anderson, 2SER, Australia) Examines new thinking and new evidence from researchers and academics.
This Podcast Will Kill You Ecologists and epidemiologists Erin Welsh and Erin Allmann Updyke tackle a different infectious diseases each episode, from its history, to its biology, and finally, how scared you need to be.
Track the Vax (MedPage Today) Listen or read.
2 Docs Talk (Medical Radio for Smart People, 15-minute podcasts about healthcare, the science of medicine, current issues in medicine and health policy, and everything in between--cohosts Kendall Britt and Amy Rogers, MDs)

The Undifferentiated Medical Student
The Weeds (Vox's podcast for politics and policy discussions). Every Tuesday and Friday, Matthew Yglesias is joined by Ezra Klein, Dara Lind, Jane Coaston and other Vox voices to dig into the weeds on important national issues, including healthcare, immigration, and housing.
What the Health? (excellent Kaiser Health News podcasts about health news and policy, with Julie Rovner and journalists from the Times, Washington Post, Politico, and other news outlets)
The Workaround (Side Effects Public Media) Stories of the difficult and sometimes shocking things people do to work around roadblocks in the U.S. healthcare system. On NPR's Shots program, for example, To Get Mental Health Help for a Child, Desperate Parents Relinquish Custody

Hat tips to Karen Brown, James Bullen, Joe Burns, Dave Rosenthal, Janice Lynch Schuster, Sue Treiman for suggesting some of these podcasts. Go here for a wonderfully full set of links from Covering Health, "Monitoring the pulse of health care journalism," from which I have borrowed liberally.

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Gems from Biographers' International 2021 Zoom conference

Links to BIO's excellent notes on what was discussed on various topics at the 2021 Zoom conference of Biographers International Organization (BIO):


One Subject, Three Ways: Agatha Christie Moderator Laurie Gwen Shapiro kicked off the session with the question, "How does the form chosen to tell a subject's life shape its content?" In this case, the subject was Agatha Christie. Exploring Shapiro's question were three panelists Zooming in from England and France


The Art and Technology of Interviewing Moderator James McGrath Morris and panelists Claudia Dreifus, Brian Jay Jones, and John Brady presented similar views about successful interviewing in this panel. They agreed that a biographer should find out as much as they can about the interviewee and be equally prepared when something unexpected arises in the conversation and pursue that topic. 


Researching Underdocumented Lives This panel continued the morning's plenary discussion, delving deeper into the particular challenges and rewards of researching overlooked and marginalized lives, particularly people of color and those who identify as LGBTQ. Moderator Kavita Das kicked off the discussion by asking what drew the panelists to their subjects.


How to Pay for It, or Funding Your Biography Moderator Heath Lee started the session by noting that advances, even from major publishers, have been declining in recent years, and she hoped the panel (Carla Kaplan, Mark Silver, and Steve Hindle) would help biographers find other ways to finance their work.


Writing the First Biography of Your Subject Panelists Justin Gifford, Abigail Santamaria, and Carol Sklenicka, along with moderator Debby Applegate, explored some of the challenges and rewards of writing the first biography of a subject. With Raymond "Carver, Sklenicka heard there was a 'big rift' between his two former wives, which may have put off potential biographers. Publishers like to know that you have the cooperation of a subject's family or estate, but she said the lack of it is not necessarily a roadblock."

Swipe Right for Your Subject: How Do You Know It's the Right One?  Moderator Gayle Feldman asked panelists Mary Dearborn, Eric K. Washington, and Gerald Howard how they have chosen their subjects, quoting Jean Strouse: "If you want to do biography the right way, and get it right, you'd better have chosen the right subject." 

What Biographers Can Learn from Obituary Writers Along with Margalit Fox, moderator Bruce Weber and panelists Adam Bernstein and William McDonald have all written and/or edited obituaries.  Obits are "not the whole life" but "the kernel is there," making an obituary "a really good first stop" for a biographer.

Do I Know Enough? Navigating the Relationship Between Research and Writing Both Kai Bird, author of a recent biography of Jimmy Carter, and 2017 BIO Award-winner Candice Millard, working on a book on the search for the headwaters of the Nile, agreed on the need for extensive amounts of research before beginning to write, but once they reached that point, the two writers couldn't be farther apart on how they work.


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Are fictional characters protected under copyright law?

Let me know if I am missing anything relevant to and important about this topic.

Are Fictional Characters Protected Under Copyright Law? (Kathryn Goldman on Jane Friedman's blog, 7-14-21) Goldman, an intellectual property lawyer, writes: "Jack Ryan, the analytical, yet charming CIA analyst, made an appearance in federal court in Maryland earlier this year. The heirs to Tom Clancy’s literary legacy are fighting over him. Unlike in the movies, he’s not in a great position to fight back....

      "Here’s the crux of the current court battle: When Clancy mistakenly transferred his copyright in the book Red October to the original publisher, did the copyright to the character Jack Ryan go with it? Or did Clancy retain the character copyright? In normal practice, the sale of the right to publish a copyrighted story does not stop the author from using its characters in future works. "Courts have held, in certain circumstances, that fictional characters are protectable in their own right."...

     'The “well-delineated test” is the most widely accepted legal test used to decide whether a fictional character is protected by copyright, but it is not the only one....

      'A character is protected under the “story being told” test when he dominates the story in a way that there would be no story without him." An excellent account of the issues on an important topic. Be aware of the implications, especially if the character you create might appear in a movie one day.

Protecting Fictional Characters Under U.S. Copyright Law (Richard Stim, Nolo) Fictional characters can, under U.S. law, be protected separately from their underlying works as derivative copyrights, provided that they are sufficiently unique and distinctive. This is based on the legal theory of derivative copyrights. A survey of court cases, among other things.

Copyright protection for fictional characters (Wikipedia) An overview of the issues and court cases. "Historically, the Courts granted copyright protection to characters as parts of larger protected work and not as independent creations. They were regarded as ‘components in a copyrighted works’ and eligible for protection as thus. Recognition of characters as independent works distinct to the plot in which they were embodied came about only in 1930 in the case of Nichols v. Universal Pictures. Following Nichols, the American judiciary has evolved two main tests to determine whether a character in a work can be eligible for copyright protection": The Well-delineated test and the Story being told test.

Copyright in Characters: What Can I Use? Part I Bryan Wasetis, Aspect Law Group, 5-9-14) Learn how copyright law affects video game characters, and ways to avoid copyright infringement. The first part in a three-part series. See also Part II (12-22-15, What are fair use exceptions) and Part III (8-4-18), about characters and trademark.

Marvel and DC’s “Shut-Up Money”: Comic Creators Go Public Over Pay (Aaron Couch, Hollywood Reporter, 7-16-21) "The star writers and artists behind major comic book characters are becoming increasingly outspoken about "paltry" deals that don’t account for their work being adapted into billion-dollar blockbusters.... Conventional wisdom within the comic book industry is to go to Marvel and DC to build your personal brand, then leave, bringing that audience over to publishers that allow you to retain character rights....Creators working at Marvel and DC sign work-for-hire contracts granting the publishers ownership over their characters and storylines."

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The man who invented "Guided Autobiography" (aka GAB)

Jim Birren and Cheryl Svensson

 Cheryl Svensson wrote a tribute recently to the late James Birren, a pioneer in the field of gerontology. Jim wrote the first Psychology of Aging textbook (1964) and founded the first school of gerontology in the nation. With Jim as dean, USC's school and gerontology center flourished. Best of all, he invented the "Guided Autobiography" approach to memoir writing. Here's Cheryl's story of how GAB came into being:

"One summer in the early 70's, Jim Birren took a sabbatical and taught a Psychology of Aging class at the University of Hawaii. The class consisted of for-credit students and older retirees who were part of the extended learning program on campus.


"As Jim told the story, the class was 'flat', dull, and not engaging. One day in frustration, he threw up his hands, told everyone to go home, write two pages on a 'branching point' in their lives and then be prepared to read it aloud in class the next day. This was an 'ungraded' assignment. Jim said that the next day, after they had all read their stories, the class came alive. The older people were talking with the younger students; they were making connections with one another that lasted throughout the remainder of the class sessions.


"Jim knew he was onto something but was not sure what it was. He returned to USC and gathered grad students (including his son Jeff) into a seminar class to research and study the history of autobiography, expressive writing, small group process, etc. From this he created Guided Autobiography, a small group process to help people write their life stories. Guided by a facilitator with 'priming' questions based on life themes, the students write two pages at home, return to class, and read them in their small group. The reading and sharing life stories in the small group is where the magic of GAB takes place.


"Jim Birren, the scientist, made a sharp turn in his own career path, a new branching point. His colleagues and peers must have looked at Jim--who changed from respected scientific aging researcher to soft academic interested in writing, life stories, group process--and wondered what happened? Jim was unfazed....


"Over the past 40 years, Jim has written three books on GAB, conducted many research projects beginning as early as 1980, and written countless articles. In the late '90s, a group of friends and colleagues of Jim's gathered around him at UCLA. By then he had retired from USC (a word Betty always said Jim knew how to spell but didn't know what it meant.) We formed the GAB workgroup (Birren disciples, when there were actually 12 of us), and sought ways to develop and extend GAB into new venues. We met as a group frequently and became best of friends. We created spinoff classes such as GAB II, Life Portfolio, Family History, and even an online e-GAB writing class. We built a website. We created a DVD legacy to Jim, we won the ASA award for most 'Innovative Older Adult Learning Program,' and Jim and I presented GAB workshops across the nation. We followed Jim's command to, 'Launch GAB!' "


Reprinted by permission.



See also:
Why I love teaching Guided Autobiography by Lisa Smith-Youngs
Guided Autobiography (The Birren Center)
Telling the Stories of Life Through Guided Autobiography Groups by James E. Birren
Writing Your Legacy: The Step-by-Step Guide to Crafting Your Life Story by Richard Campbell and Cheryl Svensson. As of June 2021, Cheryl has trained 546 GAB instructors from 26 countries.
Telling Your Story, dozens of useful links to resources for capturing your life story or someone else's.

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Nicknames of the major Western demographic generations

Nicknames and birthdate ranges for the major demographic cohorts of the United States, with links to the excellent Wikipedia entries for each. See Wikipedia's excellent Generation timeline.

Lost Generation  Born 1883-1900, came of age during World War I. Gertrude Stein coined "You are all a lost generation" and Ernest Hemingway popularized it in ~coined by Gertrude Stein and popularized as the epigraph for his novel The Sun Also Rises.
Greatest Generation Born 1901-27. Also known as the G.I. Generation and the World War II generation.
Silent Generation Born 1928-45. The "Lucky Few" Small because of the Depression and World War II
Baby Boomers     Born 1946-64. The Me Generation.
Generation Jones Born 1955-1965 "Keeping up with the Joneses"
Generation X or "Gen X" Born 1965-1980. The "baby bust" because of smaller numbers; sometimes called the "latchkey generation."
Xennials              Born 1977 -1983. A "micro-generation" or "crossover generation," with an analog childhood and digital adulthood.
Millennials           Born 1981-1996. Gen Y and the "echo boomers" as children of boomers; sometimes called "digital natives" as growing up familiar with the Internet, mobile devices, and social media,
Generation Z or Gen Z or iGen  Born 1997-2012. Sometimes called "Zoomers." "The second generation after Generation X, continuing the alphabetical sequence from Generation Y (Millennials)."
Generation Alpha or Gen Alpha  Born in early 2010s-mid-2020s. First to be born entirely in 21st century and to live through the Covid-19 pandemic.


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Here's the deal with ISBNs: A note to authors who self-publish

guest post by Maggie Lynch


ISBNs are required with print books, unless you are only selling direct (out of your car or from your website) and not distributing anywhere else. ISBN stands for International Standard Book Number. ISBNs are used all over the world as a unique identifier for your printed book. Think of it like your book passport. The unique ISBN number carries a lot of information--the area where your book was created (e.g., North America), the language of your book (e.g., English), the name of the publisher name issuing the ISBN, a mathematically calculated identifier for your book that includes the title, the format, and edition number. And finally a check digit to ensure it is unique.

That last part of the identifier (title, format, and edition number) is also a cue as to what you can and can't change without getting a new ISBN. If you change your title, your format (ebook, paperback, hardback, large print, audiobook), or do a new edition you will need a new ISBN number. If you are re-issuing a book where you have received rights back from a traditional publisher, you will need a new ISBN number.


It used to be that ISBNs were required for ebooks. Amazon was the first company not to require them, coming up with their own inventory system (ASINs). Amazon assigns the ASIN once you load your book for sale. I can't remember when the other major distributors stopped requiring them, maybe six years ago or so.

So, a lot of people ask why should I buy an ISBN for an ebook? The answer for me is tracking.

Certainly, you can let each distribution entity assign an ISBN or use their own inventory control system for your books. All the major ebook distributors and aggregators (D2D, Smashwords, Publish Drive, etc.) no longer require you to have an ISBN. However, it makes it a lot harder to track your book's distribution from one distributor to another if you don't. It also makes it difficult to track how a widespread promotion is working over various distributors because they each have a different number assigned to your book. Finally, for those who are career authors building a brand for their publishing imprint, when you use the ISBN offered by Amazon or Ingram or Lulu or whoever you use for self-publishing, it is their name associated with your book on that ISBN, not yours.


On print books, IMO, it is even more important that you control your ISBN for the following reasons:

• You have complete control over what is entered in your book's metadata—that is, the descriptions and categories, the keywords and editorial 'pull quotes'. All of these help libraries, bookstores, retailers, and readers around the world discover your book and decide whether they want to purchase it. In today's digital world, your book's metadata can hugely impact its chances of being found and purchased by your target audience. When you own the ISBN you can get in and change this metadata whenever you want. (For ebooks, this is not as a big a deal because when loading to ebook retailers you are already filling out all that metadata information online.)

• As you are the publisher of record, your ISBN will remain unchanged even if you change your publishing service company or publish with multiple companies. If you decide to do a second edition (something often done with nonfiction books) you again have complete control over taking the first edition off sale or leaving it, and tying the two books together.

• Any individual bookstore or organization with larger orders or inquiries about your book will approach you as the publisher of record rather than a publishing service company (e.g., Amazon,, Ingram, Book Baby, LuLu, Books Fluent, etc.) that may not have your sense of urgency or care about how to respond to these requests. For me, I'd rather be approached directly instead of through a publishing service company.


Since shifting from traditional publishing to becoming a publisher myself, I have always purchased my own ISBNs because I've always looked at the long game for my career. However, for those who are only publishing a single book or perhaps plan two or three in their lifetime, using the free ISBN provided by a distributor or publishing services company is perfectly fine with very little downside.


You can purchase ISBNs at any time and then use them as you need them. The key is to complete the information needed once the book is released.


For example, I purchase 100 ISBNs at a time for my imprint. Because purchasing ISBNs can be expensive (i.e., $125 to purchase one or $275 to purchase ten) it is best to purchase more instead of one at a time. Some years, we have enough authors publishing that I use all 100 in a year. Other times it has taken two to three years to use all 100 before I make my next purchase.


On the other hand, if you are only writing one book, it may be beneficial to use the free ISBN provided by most distributors  (Ingram Spark, Amazon, D2D and many other print and ebook distributors will provide a free ISBN under their name.)


What's your experience?


Maggie Lynch




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Should Norton have unpublished the Philip Roth bio?

Could there be a better topic for debate? Meat for discussion:
•  Philip Roth: The Biography by Blake Bailey. Note the many glowing reviews quoted on the book's Amazon page.
Norton Takes Philip Roth Biography Out of Print (Alexandra Alter and Jennifer Schuessler, NY Times, 4-27-21) The publisher also said it would make a donation to sexual abuse organizations equal to the advance it paid Blake Bailey, the author accused of sexual assault.
• Author Guild Statement about W.W. Norton's Removing Blake Bailey's Books from Circulation (AG, 4-29-21) W.W. Norton issued a memo on April 27 that it will permanently take Blake Bailey's biography of Philip Roth out of print in response to credible allegations that Mr. Bailey sexually assaulted multiple women and behaved inappropriately toward his students when teaching eighth grade English. The Authors Guild condemns sexual assault and sexual harassment. Nevertheless, we are deeply troubled by W.W. Norton's decision to take Blake Bailey's books, including the recently published Roth biography, out of print.
Blake Bailey's Life as a Man (Katha Pollitt, The Nation, 4-28-21) "The disgraced writer's Philip Roth biography is a document of a misogynist literary world. But I had to read the book to get the whole story."

I Was 12 When We Met (Eve Crawford Peyton, Slate, 4-29-21) "Blake Bailey was my favorite teacher. Years later, he forced himself on me. Why did I seek his approval for so long...One by one, women from many different years of his class started sharing our stories. There were so many of us.

Rebecca Traister on the Connection Between Power and Abuse (Amanpour & Company, PBS, 4-28-21) Bailey faces accusations of his own: that he sexually assaulted multiple women and "groomed" underage students prior to making advances once they came of age.
Why stopping the distribution of the Philip Roth biography was a bad idea (Alyssa Rosenberg, Washington Post, 4-22-21) Better to publish than to squelch.
What We Lose When Only Men Write About Men (Ruth Franklin, NY Times, 4-30-21) The recent uproar surrounding Philip Roth's authorized biographer, Blake Bailey — whose book has now been taken out of print in the wake of accusations of sexual assault and inappropriate behavior — has refocused attention on literary biography's man problem and the question of who is allowed to read and quote from a writer's materials, and under what terms.
Philip Roth and His Defensive Fans Are Their Own Worst Enemies (Jeet Heer, The Nation, 4-30-21) Why did it take a sexual assault scandal to raise red flags about a deeply flawed biography?
The Philip Roth biography is canceled, Mike Pence’s book could be next — and publishing may never be the same (Ron Charles, Book World, Washington Post, 4-27-21) Even by the standards of the #MeToo movement, Bailey’s descent has been precipitous...."Critics will claim that Bailey, Pence and others are being silenced, but that ignores the reality of our marketplace. Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) had no trouble finding another publisher when Simon & Schuster dropped him for promoting falsehoods about the presidential election. Even Woody Allen found another publisher!"
If the Author Is a Bad Person, Does That Change Anything? (Judith Shulevitz, The Atlantic, 4-27-21) "Bailey’s comeback to his former students’ complaints—that his behavior was deplorable but not illegal—indicates a Humbert Humbert level of narcissistic detachment. As it happens, Bailey taught Lolita at the New Orleans middle school where he is said to have groomed his students."
The Blake Bailey Fiasco Implicates Everyone (Jo Livingstone, New Republic, 4-23-21) Philip Roth hand-picked Blake Bailey for the job of writing his biography. He was jealous of his legacy, and had fired a previous biographer who had a “mean, insatiably vilifying spirit,” according to the great writer. What effect will accusations of sexual assault have on the acclaimed biographer’s champions?
Philip Roth’s Revenge Fantasy (Laura Marsh, New Republic, 3-22-21) The novelist wanted his biography to settle scores. It has badly backfired.



I intended to give links to stories that provide a broad overview of the Roth-Bailey biography and the issues that arise because of it. Let me know if I've missed something important.


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Research: Knowing where to look and when to stop


"Historian Barbara W. Tuchman on the "Art of Writing"

'The most important thing about research is to know when to stop.… One must stop before one has finished; otherwise, one will never stop and never finish.… I… feel compelled to follow every lead and learn everything about a subject, but fortunately I have even more overwhelming compulsion to see my work in print."


"Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research."
~ Albert Einstein


"There are known knowns; there are known unknowns, and then there are unknown unknowns."
~Donald Rumsfeld, former U.S. Secretary of Defense

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What discounts to offer for self-published POD books

Guest post by Maggie Lynch.


In an Authors Guild discussion group, author Maggie Lynch provided an excellent explanation for self-published authors who want to know how to work with wholesalers. I reprint it below with Maggie's permission.


It's important to understand critical information about WHO are wholesalers and their role (e.g., Ingram is a wholesaler who takes 15% of retail price of every book they print on demand). They also fail to disclose how the discounts really pass down to bookstores. Finally, they make it sound like you get to choose one discount for online retailers and a different discount for small bookshops. Not true. You choose one discount. Period with a print-on-demand (POD) vendor (e.g., Ingram Spark).

Which Companies Are Wholesalers?
Ingram is one. As I said they take 15% of retail.
Amazon is another one for those who go to Amazon direct via KDP print. They take 40% of retail.
Gardners in the UK is another one. They distribute to smaller bookstores and to libraries.
These are just the major ones, but there are hundreds of smaller ones as well. Every one of them takes some percentage of retail, usually in the 10-15% range.

What Do Bookstores Actually Get the Book for When They Order from Ingram?
Let me share a story of local bookstores in the Portland, Oregon area where I've done a number of events and know the owners. The story of what the bookstores get depends on where the book originates (Amazon, Ingram, another indie printer such as Lulu, Xlibris, BookBaby, etc.).

Originates with Amazon and is printed by Ingram
You set discount at 60%, the only option with Amazon POD
Amazon takes 40%
Ingram takes 15%
Bookstore orders book and has only a 10% discount not including shipping.
     NOTE: Most bookstores won't order from Amazon direct (a few do).

Originates with Ingram Spark
You set discount at 55%, the recommended discount with Ingram POD.
Ingram takes 15%
Bookstore orders book and gets a 40% discount. Most bookstores have an agreement with Ingram to get free shipping if they order 10+ books (not necessarily all the same book).
     NOTE: This discount is traditionally what bookstores expect and they have the room to discount the book in the store if they wish and still make a profit. Three small bookstore owners I've spoken with told me they traditionally discount a new release 20% in order to compete with Amazon. That leaves only 20% for them to pay their overhead costs and realize a profit.

Three Notes of How I Handle Discounting and Pricing for POD

I always choose the 55% discount at Ingram Spark for the reasons above. I support small bookstores and libraries and I value what they do to serve the public.
I do upload to Amazon direct for print, but I DO NOT select expanded distribution because Ingram is handling that for me. That makes my print book available on all Amazon sites with a 60% royalty to me (minus the cost to print the book). I upload to Ingram for everyone except Amazon. I choose the 55% discount. Ingram makes my book available to wholesalers, retailers, small and large bookstores both online and in person, as well as libraries anywhere in the world they distribute.

     I price my Amazon book and my Ingram book exactly the same. If it is $14.99 at Ingram, it is also $14.99 at Amazon. Some people price the Amazon book lower because they are getting a higher royalty and they want to compete with traditional books. IMO this is a mistake because they are, in effect, negating the purchase of the book at any small bookshops and driving traffic to their book on Amazon. You might as well not load to Ingram if that is what you are going to do. I price the same for both. Sure, I make more if someone buys on Amazon than from some other online or local retailer. But I push local bookstores as much as I can because I actually have a higher reach with them.

     Bookshop owners have told me how, in the past five years, they've watched potential customers come in the store, look at the books on the shelf and then immediately call up Amazon to see if they can get it for less. If so, they leave the store and purchase it online. It makes me very sad that some people put no value in the services of their local bookstore.

For more information about Maggie's business helping authors self-publish their books, see POV Author Services.

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What the December pandemic bill does for freelancers

Let me know about articles I've overlooked (in holiday haste):


Buried in Pandemic Aid Bill: Billions to Soothe the Richest (Luke Broadwater, Jesse Drucker and Rebecca R. Ruiz, NY Times, 12-22-2020) The voluminous coronavirus relief and spending bill that blasted through Congress on Monday includes provisions — good, bad and just plain strange — that few lawmakers got to read.
The Second Stimulus Package: Here’s What’s Included (Zach Montague, NY Times, 12-22-2020) Smaller stimulus checks, targeted aid for small businesses, and funding to buy and distribute vaccines are among the main components of the latest pandemic relief package.
Relief Deal Would Give Small Businesses a Shot at a Second Loan (Stacy Cowley, NY Times, 12-21-2020) The stimulus package being negotiated in Washington includes $285 billion for a renewed Paycheck Protection Program.
Rental protections, nursing home funding, food stamps: Here’s what’s included in the stimulus bill. (Zach Montague, NY Times, 12-23-2020) Smaller stimulus checks, targeted aid for small businesses, and funding to buy and distribute vaccines are among the main components of the latest pandemic relief package.
What the latest coronavirus relief package does for freelancers (Freelancers Union, 12-21-2020) Congress passed a $900 billion coronavirus relief package. Here's what it contains.
How the new relief bill will affect your taxes (Jonathan Medows, Freelancers Union, 12-22-2020) The financial and tax implications of the latest COVID-19 relief bill.

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