News & Updates - March 2023

Check out the Policy Advisory Committee's monthly column, "News & Updates," rounding up news and articles of importance to writers.


Writers Beware

Bad Contract Alert

From Writer Beware

A bit over two years ago, I wrote about two companies, A&D Entertainment and EMP Entertainment, that appeared to have been deputized by serialized fiction app Webnovel (one of the biggest players in the serialized fiction space) to recruit authors to non-exclusive contracts. The contracts from both companies were (and continue to be) absolutely terrible.

EMP Entertainment no longer appears to be active (it has no website and I’ve heard nothing about it since 2020), but A&D is still going strong, and over the past two years I’ve been contacted by a lot of (mostly very young and inexperienced) writers who are confused about its complicated English-language contract, or have changed their minds after signing up and want to know how to get free (as with the contracts of so many serialized fiction apps, there’s no option for the author to terminate).

A&D recruits via a bait and switch. Writers are solicited by an editor or Author Liaison who claims to have discovered the writer’s work on Amazon or elsewhere, and invites them to publish on the Webnovel platform (the bait).

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When Your Publishing Contract Flies a Red Flag: Clauses to Watch Out For

From Writer Beware

Today I’m blogging over at Writer Unboxed, an excellent writers’ resource with a wealth of information about the craft and business of writing.

Today’s post focuses on what comes after the excitement of a “yes” from a publisher: the job of assessing your publishing contract.

Facing down ten pages of dense legalese can be a daunting task, especially for new and inexperienced writers, who may not have the resources to hire a literary lawyer, or have access to a knowledgeable person who can help de-mystify the offer terms.

And it is really, really important to assess and understand those terms, because publishing contracts are written to the advantage of publishers. While a good contract should strike a reasonable balance between the publisher’s interests and the writer’s benefit, a bad contract…not so much.

In this article, I’m going to focus on contract language that gives too much benefit to the publisher, and too little to the author. Consider these contract clauses to be red flags wherever you encounter them. (All of the images below are taken from contracts that have been shared with me by authors.)

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Impersonating Strand Bookstore

From Writer Beware

Impersonation is an increasingly common tactic employed by the Philippines-based scams that have been taking up so much space on this blog for the past few years.

Impersonating literary agents. Impersonating publishers. Impersonating film producers, directors, and production companies. Impersonation scams extort anywhere from hundreds to tens of thousands of dollars from unwary writers, and damage the reputations of the individuals and companies whose names they falsely use.

A new impersonation scam doing the rounds appropriates the name of a famous bookseller: the Strand Bookstore in New York City.

As is typical with impersonation scams, first contact is via an email that uses a fake address ( and borrows the real website URL and the names of real people (in this case, current and former Strand staffers) in hopes of tricking the recipient into believing they are really being contacted by the Strand. The claim: the Strand wants to print and stock thousands of copies of your book and give you 80% of sales! All that’s needed to take advantage of this amazing offer is to “contribute” the cost of shipping and handling. The Strand will front the expense of printing.

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Penguin Random House Splits into Two Groups (Crown Publishing)

From Publishers Weekly

Penguin Random House has released the details of the new corporate-wide reorganization of its U.S. division. The highlight of the plan includes splitting the Random House Publishing Group (RHPG) back up into two groups, recreating the Crown Publishing Group (CPG)—albeit with some significant differences from its prior iteration, which was folded into the RH group in 2017.

Sanyu Dillon, previously chief marketing officer for PRH, has been named president of RHPG, and David Drake has been promoted to president of CPG. Both will report to Nihar Malaviya, interim global CEO of PRH. As PW previously reported, the new structure does not include a replacement for Madeline McIntosh as PRH US CEO. Dillon and Drake, along with a host of division heads, will instead report directly to Malaviya.

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Tor Launches Bramble; Skyhorse Launches Peakpoint Press

From Publishers Marketplace

Tor Publishing Group announced that it is launching Bramble, a new imprint “dedicated to a wide array of romantic stories for the modern reader.”

Pillai said, “Tor Publishing Group is the gold standard of genre publishing and it’s the perfect time to have an imprint dedicated to romance. Bramble will be the destination for exceptional love stories of all kinds. Expanding into romance gives our team and our readers another chance to do what we do best: get obsessed!”

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Ongoing A.I. News

A.I. Submissions Inundates Sci-Fi Company - Clarkesworld Halts Submissions

From Business Insider

Fantasy and science fiction magazine Clarkesworld has stopped taking submissions after it was swarmed by AI-written short stories.

The online publisher typically accepts short story submissions from new writers and pays them if it publishes their stories. It can pay up to $2,640 per story, at a going rate of 12 cents a word, per its website.

Among its published authors are Jeff VanderMeer, Peter Watts, and Sarah Monette.

But Clarkesworld's founding editor, Neil Clarke, said the magazine received more than 500 submissions flagged for plagiarism in the first 20 days of February.

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Snapchat Is Releasing its Own AI Chatbot Powered by ChatGPT

From The Verge

Snapchat is introducing a chatbot powered by the latest version of OpenAI’s ChatGPT. According to Snap CEO Evan Spiegel, it’s a bet that AI chatbots will increasingly become a part of everyday life for more people.

Named “My AI,” Snapchat’s bot will be pinned to the app’s chat tab above conversations with friends. While initially only available for $3.99 a month Snapchat Plus subscribers, the goal is to eventually make the bot available to all of Snapchat’s 750 million monthly users, Spiegel tells The Verge.

“The big idea is that in addition to talking to our friends and family every day, we’re going to talk to AI every day,” he says. “And this is something we’re well positioned to do as a messaging service.”

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Findaway Voices Halted from Using AudioBooks to Program A.I.

From Publishers Marketplace

Findaway entered into a contract with Apple to use/download audiobooks to license audiobook files to Apple for A.I. learning (Writer Beware Report) without authors’ permission.

The performers union met with Findaway and told the company that “performers’ voices may not be used beyond the distribution of the audiobook(s) they consent to narrate” and that “attempting to acquire permission from performers or in this case the author/publisher for machine learning, or digital simulation, is unenforceable until bargained directly with SAG-AFTRA.”

“Findaway and Apple immediately agreed to halt any/all use of files for machine learning purposes,” SAG-AFTRA national director, audiobooks Jane Love wrote to members. “This ‘halt’ covers all files dating back to the beginning of this practice.”

Microsoft, GitHub and OpenAI - Lawsuits/Class Action Lawsuits Increasing

From TechCrunch

Microsoft, GitHub and OpenAI are currently being sued in a class action motion that accuses them of violating copyright law by allowing Copilot, a code-generating AI system trained on billions of lines of public code, to regurgitate licensed code snippets without providing credit.

Two companies behind popular AI art tools, Midjourney and Stability AI, are in the cross-hairs of a legal case that alleges they infringed on the rights of millions of artists by training their tools on web-scraped images.

And just last week, stock image supplier Getty Images took Stability AI to court for reportedly using millions of images from its site without permission to train Stable Diffusion, an art-generating AI.

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Fraud / Plagiarism / Piracy


Here is the current issue with Kindle/KDP:

Books sold on Kindle are not always sold on Apple. Thieves know this.

So, what thieves are doing is presenting books to Apple as if they own them, then sell them, and pocket the royalties/earnings.

Authors Guild is asking Amazon and Apple to coordinate efforts to put an end to this practice, and punish offenders whenever necessary.

Mergers & Acquisitions

On Schedule, Paramount Restarts Sales Process for Simon & Schuster

From Publishers Marketplace

“Sources” confirm to Reuters that Paramount Global has begun shopping Simon & Schuster again through a financial adviser. Liontree advised the company on the sale to Penguin Random House that was blocked by the court. As expected, those sources also suggest the company is focusing on the clear, uncomplicated path to successful sale this time: “Paramount will court private equity firms as potential buyers of Simon & Schuster because they do not compete with it and would not raise competition concerns with U.S. regulators that led to the demise of the Penguin deal last year, the sources added.”

Of course, that does not foreclose potential bids from other publishers, including HarperCollins, Hachette Book Group, Vivendi or others. No one is commenting on the record.

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Legal News

Indie Authors Petition Amazon Kindle KDP

From Publishers Marketplace

Twenty-eight thousand indie authors have signed a petition against Amazon Kindle KDP for indiscriminately banishing title from their Kindle platform. They claim to cut back on piracy practices, but fail to admit the part they play in the illegal practice.

Authors Guild is following up with Amazon on their expelling people for pirated copies.

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Author Press Place Settles Lawsuit with Authors Guild

From Publishers Marketplace

Last month, Authors Guild sued this small press for nonpayment of royalties, provide royalty statements, or revert rights to the authors.

Owner Tony Ferraro agreed to revert book rights to plaintiffs, terminate their agreements so they may publish elsewhere, and provide the authors with all artwork, text, and design files free of charge.

Authors Guild CEO, Mary Rasenberger, said, “This settlement means Authors’ Place can no longer hold authors hostage while cheating them out of payments they’re owed. And it sends a clear message to other publishers that they’ll be held accountable for any attempt to take advantage of authors.”

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Publishing Activities

Harper and Union Reach Tentative Agreement

•    Increases minimum salaries
•    One-time $1,500 lump sum bonus to be paid to bargaining unit employees

If ratified, the contract will extend through FY 2025.

Harper plans to lay off 5% of its workforce by the end of June. Insiders are reporting anxieties over potential layoffs, exhaustion over the increased workload due to the strike, and feelings of being left out because of lack of communication from the top.


Macmillan Raises Starting Salary

They will increase entry-level salaries to $47,500, effective April 1st. Their starting salary was $42,000.  


Bill to Limit Library E-Book Lending Fails in VA Senate

From Publishers Marketplace

A bill failed in the Virginia state senate yesterday that would have prevented publishers from imposing limits on lending electronic material. The Committee on General Laws and Technology voted 15-0 to block the bill.

HBG Raises Base Pay to $47,500

From Publishers Marketplace

Hachette Book Group raised their entry-level pay from $45,000 to $47,500 for employees in high-cost locations. They added that “all HBG employees are eligible for bonuses which will be awarded as part of the compensation review process.”

The big five publisher with the highest base salary remains S&S, which pays $50,000 (for an expanded 40-hour work week).

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