Monday, April 20, 2009

Brit Touts 'United Authors' Concept

British writer/blogger/tweeter David Hewson asks, "Is 'United Authors' the future of publishing?" Read Hewson's intriguing essay at

Hewson's case for a publishing structure modeled after the "United Artists" of the early film industry is compelling but modest. After 15 years of reading futuristic bluster, I find a little humility refreshing. "Could it work?" he asks. "Hell, I'm a writer. What do I know? But, speaking as an ignoramus whose business experience amounts to once having been an executive director of a struggling and now disappeared small magazine company, the potential advantages, it seems to me, are many."

This much I know. The freelance settlement (whose objections I started) is in critical condition in the courts. The Google books settlement (from which I am opting out, while urging others to do the same) is getting flayed in the court of public opinion from a variety of perspectives. Links to examples are in recent posts here.

Meanwhile, all the big chickens of the digital age of publishing, after a decade of hiccups, are coming home to roost. Newspapers really are suffering commercial death by a thousand cuts. Though I personally haven't yet held a Kindle, I haven't heard anyone who has given it a bad review; clearly, the era of the e-book is at hand.

Like Mr. Hewson, I don't pretend to have the all right answers. But I do know that the freelance settlement has all the wrong ones, and I know that the Google deal has most of the same ones. Some day soon, somehow, writers will be able, at a minimum, to empower themselves somewhat in their relationships with publishers. Signing off on paradigms that give away rights by default is not the way to get from here to there. It is a way to give away the game before the game even begins. And it has to be stopped.

Irv Muchnick


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