Holt Uncensored

Holt Uncensored


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by Pat Holt

Wednesday, November 26, 2003


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Perhaps everybody knew this would happen except me (right, what else is new), but it was a shock yesterday morning to find buried in the news a "deal" between President Bush and members of Congress that will give more power to TV networks owned by conglomerates like Viacom, Walt Disney Co., General Electric and Rupert Murdoch's News Corp.

The "deal" arrives some months after a public uproar and a rebuke from Congress - as well as a stay by federal court - erupted last summer to stop the Federal Communications Commission from loosening rules on media ownership that would allow existing owners more power to control American media.

As you may remember (see #366), FCC chairman Michael Powell, the conservative son of Secretary of State Colin Powell, engineered an FCC vote that would, among other things, "allow TV networks to buy more stations," as the Washington Post put it today, thereby "expanding a network's potential national audience from 35 percent to 45 percent."

Although the 35 percent figure was (and is) bad enough (far too large), upping the reach to 45 percent is just asking for TV networks to grab more stations right and left. According to the Washington Post, CBS (owned by Viacom) and Fox (News Corp.) "each own groups of stations that reach about 39 percent of the national audience" and have "hoped to add more stations under the 45 percent cap." NBC (General Electric) reaches about 35 percent and ABC (Disney) about 25 percent, which means that if the FCC ruling stands, both "have room to grow." Gad, what language.

You'd have to bury your head in the sand not to worry about media monopolies dancing a jig over the FCC vote. Congress then attempted to slap the hands of Michael (just call him "Ostrich") Powell and roll back the national ownership cap to the original 35 percent, which in turn caused George ("O.") Bush to threaten a veto on any legislation that would support the 35 percent figure.

But recently a huge "impasse" occurred when Alaska Senator Ted Stevens (a Republican, no less) added a rider to the current $330 billion spending bill before Congress now - a rider that would keep the media ownership cap at 35 percent. Getting the $330 billion spending bill passed is a huge priority, which is why Bush struck the "deal," and guess what it is - a compromise between 35 and 45 percent,bringing the ownership cap to 39 percent.

What a convenient number. It means that CBS and Fox don't have to cut back on TV stations, since they're now right at 39 percent, and that NBC and ABC can start buying TV stations at will because their ownership is at 35 and 25 percent respectively.. And of course it means yet another a death knell for diversity and independence in local TV programming and ownership throughout the country.

But what shocks me is that figuring out a "deal" on the number of percentage points by which media conglomerates may gobble up TV stations is hardly the work we elected our president and members of Congress to do. It's not even the salient issue.

The issue is stopping the FCC from brazenly overstepping its bounds. The issue is keeping an ultra-conservative agency chairman from exploiting his position. The issue is the survival of free speech amidst a continuing "stampede of mergers" (USA Today) that is overtaking American media.

And for those of us in the book biz, the issue is a free exchange of ideas within the media from which books originate. When both the media *and* book publishers are owned by the same companies, you don't even have to be an ostrich to know how quickly dissent dries up, independent thinking goes out the window and people start thinking the Victoria's Secret sex slave TV program is news, maybe a book.

I think the most obvious indication that this has already happened was the placement yesterday of Bush's "deal" in the back pages of the New York Times and Washington Post. What was once a story of enormous political significance has been reduced to a "stumbling block," the cause of a "logjam" in the passage of a three-hundred-billion-dollar spending bill. Of course a compromise, a "deal," a battle of the numbers, is now the story. That's how legislation is passed, after all.



My concern about the high-ticket prices of $1000 per person for the National Book Awards (see #378) prompted Wilmington, North Carolina, bookseller Nicki Leone to write about the NBA's lifetime achievement award to Stephen King. (Thank heaven someone has voiced a critical view on this oddball NBA decision.) I've placed her message and the piece she read on local public radio station WHQR in LETTERS below.

In subsequent correspondence, Nicki referred to another high-ticket item, John Grisham's unbelievable lecture fee for an hour's appearance at the Novello Literary Festival in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Granted, Grisham does not do publicity tours or interviews and rarely speaks in public, but Nicki's commentary on WHQR makes one wonder: What does it take to bring a reclusive, spectacularly commercial writer into a public forum? Surely, I would have thought, for someone like Grisham, the appeal would not be money.

But read on: Here is Nicki's WHQR piece on the subject:

"When the Novello Literary Festival in Charlotte announced that John Grisham would be its keynote speaker for their 2004 event, a nervous murmur could be heard rippling outwards with the press releases.

"Grisham has sold more books than anyone except God and Stephen King. He is notoriously skittish about speaking and rarely makes public appearances. It took the State of Virginia to pry him away from his little league coaching to speak at the Virginia Festival of the Book. How had Novello, a book festival run by the Charlotte County Library, convinced Grisham to attend?

"By offering him $75,000 for an hour-long appearance. That's how. The size of the honorarium is staggering, especially in the world of books, where most authors are expected to speak for free on the grounds that people need to buy their books. (This has never stopped musicians from charging for concerts AND CDs, but ours is a weird and wacky industry that doesn't always do the most sensible thing). It was even more perplexing since the Novello committee admitted that even with a sell-out crowd (and John Grisham will certainly attract a sell-out crowd) the income from ticket sales wouldn't cover the cost of his fee.

"Their explanation was that Grisham's presence would raise the visibility of a very fine festival (which it has), and that Grisham was likewise the most requested speaker from festival attendees. Isn't it encouraging to know what lengths the festival will go to please its attendees? Not everyone was pleased. The last time I looked, library programs were fighting for funding.

"Not that I really begrudge a writer getting paid the kind of money usually reserved for rock stars and sports celebrities, but it is a wee bit hard to imagine what any person could say that would be worth $75,000/hour.

"I found the controversy to be ironic. Novello really is a premiere literary festival. It has a publishing arm, the Novello Press, which is as far as I know the ONLY library-sponsored publishing house in the country. They are committed to emerging writers, and they run one of the few literary competitions available for novel-length works. Last year the person who won the fiction competition was Anthony S. Abbott, a teacher at Davidson college and a prize-winning poet. This year, amid the swirl surrounding the Grisham announcement, Abbot's novel, 'Leaving Maggie Hope,' was published by Novello Press. It is one of the best things I have read in a long, long time...."

You can hear the rest of the piece at http://www.galleone.com/audio/novello.mp3



Could it be that many good "book towns" are thriving, as Sally Spooner suggests below in her letter about New Bedford, Massachusetts? Or are they few and far between?

I always thought Berkeley, California, would withstand the kind of assaults on its bookselling community that have cut the number of independent bookstores elsewhere in half. While it's still true that this book-loving university town continues to keep a wide range of independents in business - and that some bookstores are just not going to make it in the new century - news that the legendary Shambhala Booksellers, beloved by readers all over the world for its extensive inventory of spiritual books, will close today after 35 years has been painful to absorb.

You can read about the history of Shambhala and my interview with owner Philip Barry in January of 2000 in #123. Here are some of Philip's thoughts in his last "Open Letter" to customers:

"I have put this decision off as long as possible hoping that the economics of the book industry would stabilize and that of the community in general would improve. I have shared the grim realities of our situation with you in several previous 'Open Letters.' While many of our long-time friends have rallied to our support, market forces have proven stronger and the trend has continued to further weaken us.

"For some months now we have been unable to pay our bills in a timely manner despite rigorous efforts to cut overhead, reducing both hours and staff. The past two years have seen a steady decline in business -- a 20% drop in sales in 2002 (operating at a loss) and an additional 30 to 40% so far in 2003.

"Things, as they say, can't go on this way.

"There are many different factors that have contributed to this situation, but the principal two are the general economy and the current nature of the book industry. The downturn in the nation's economy has adversely affected small businesses all around the country, with perhaps a special focus on California and the SF Bay Area in particular.

"Still, 35 years is a pretty good run for a little bookshop. I have always treasured and have striven to continue the legacy of Shambhala Booksellers. It has added untold benefit to my life to have worked here these past 24 years. It has been a privilege to have served and worked with you.,,

"Hopefully we will see, as the elders have told us, with every ending comes a new beginning."



Dear Holt Uncensored,

You've opened up a veritable can of nematodes with your column on the National Book Awards.

I had a book up for last year's non-fiction NBA, so I dusted off my tux, inhaled deeply and compressed myself into it. Why does this item of clothing uniquely shrink so much?

The first illusion to be shattered (actually, the second if you count the tux) was that I was all set to enjoy a great evening out with my mates and acquaintances drawn from the New York publishing scene (I'm London-based, but work out of NY a fair amount too). In fact, I recognized a mere handful of people - quite obviously, the ordinary working editor is not welcome at such a rarefied event as this. Your calculations about the cost of the event for a publisher are accurate, and - no names, no pack drills - this can cause serious offence to the troops in the trenches when the chairman's wife decides she needs a few extra table settings for her personal guests.

Is this a "glamorous" event, then? No, not at all. The Marriott Marquis is a dowdy, hangar-like edifice with all the style of an airport departure lounge. There are very few "beautiful" people in evidence, but a great many publishing groupies... elderly, well-heeled but not necessarily well-read, and on the whole a very dreary bunch indeed (FYI I've had far better evenings at L'acajou, a real hard-core publishing hang-out, at 53 W 19th).

Like the Booker, the NBA generates press for publishing, bookselling and reading, and for that I suppose we should be grateful. Both awards seem to exist in a weird, parallel universe - it's publishing, but not as most of us know it. As for who is capable of the greater degree of publishing snobbery - the Brits or the Yanks - well, I'll wisely leave that one alone. The difference is too slight to compute.

Peter Cox

Dear Holt Uncensored,

Re: your suggestion that the National Book Award drop to $1,000, with the remaining $9,000 paid to writers to travel and teach. How about we give the Nobel winners $10,000 and hold the balance of the million bucks to finance conflict-resolution classes in grammar schools in Uzbekestan? That way the winners can take a break from the stressful negotiation of global anti-nuclear treaties and such. The few entities that give book prizes are not responsible for financing arts education. The government (remember the government?) used to do that -- and we shouldn't allow it to stop. Most writers already travel and teach more than they'd like. A substantial prize recognizes a writer for doing excellently the thing she does best. Judith Levine
Brooklyn, NY

Holt responds: If it weren't for the fact that the National Book Foundation has already established a number of programs involving authors traveling to schools, literacy centers, Native American reservations and other places to help students work on writing and reading skills, I probably wouldn't have suggested a redistribution of funds. But since these programs are in place, and since the invitation says the evening's program takes place "to benefit the educational outreach programs of the National Book Foundation," it seems to me the NBF should be grateful for such suggestions. And, you know, they're welcome.

Dear Holt Uncensored:

I have watched with some amusement the general brouhaha that seems to rage every year when the National Book Awards are announced. As a bookseller, I like the awards. Meaning, that I can usually count on liking the books that win, which is more than I can say for other literary awards (like the Pulitzers). Why the NBF engenders so much controversy is a little mystifying, but I can at least console myself with the thought that intellectual debate is alive and well in the community that pays attention to such things.

But I agree with you about outreach. So I thought you might be interested in a commentary I wrote for our public radio station, WHQR 91.3, on the subject of the NBF and Stephen King. Text is below, but you can here it on audio here:


Thanks for your columns, which always make me think!

Nicki Leone
Bristol Books
Wilmington, North Carolina 910.256.4490

Stephen King, Rex Literati?
(c) 2003 by Nicki Leone

While the rest of the reading public has been wondering who the heck this JM Coetzee guy is that just won the Nobel Prize for literature, I have been watching a different storm raging in a different teacup. This is the season that the National Book Foundation gives out its National Book Awards for best books of the year.

I like the NBF, which was created way back in 1950 with a mission to "enhance the public's awareness of exceptional books written by fellow Americans." They have done this by giving awards to writers whose work has represented the very best of the year. They have "enhanced the public's awareness" of writers who are now considered American masters - like John Cheever and Toni Morrison. They have singled out writers whose books took literature to new levels of excellence - like Philip Roth.

And more recently, the NBA has apparently been dedicated to recognizing books so obscurely written, they were possibly unreadable: Many were aghast as Jonathan Franzen stepped up to accept his award for "The Corrections" (a novel that, if my customer feedback is any guide, was tossed in the trash as often as it was actually finished). It was the Franzen award that turned criticism of the National Book Foundation - always at a murmur - into a dull roar. The NBAs were accused of being elitist and out of touch with the reading public; more concerned with sentence structure than the little things that make a novel good - like a plot.

Writers (and readers) of genre fiction glumly point out that although people like John Grisham or Stephen King are read and loved by millions, they don't have a chance in hell of winning any prizes for literature. And they are right. Or, they were right until this month, when the NBF saw fit to give its award for "distinguished contribution to American Letters" to none other than Stephen King.

People still howled. The NBF was now accused of pandering to public opinion. One of the people who howled the loudest was Harold Bloom - a standard bearer known for his vitriolic defense of the "Canon" - all those dead white male writers who fell out of fashion, sadly enough,over the last twenty years.

Bloom called the award to Stephen King "another low in the process of dumbing down our cultural life." King he called "an immensely inadequate writer on a sentence-by-sentence, paragraph-by-paragraph, book-by-book basis." And he expressed horror - no pun intended - that Stephen King would receive "a lifetime award that has previously gone to the novelists Saul Bellow and Philip Roth." (And also to Ray Bradbury, the science fiction writer, and Oprah Winfrey, but let's not quibble).

One might argue that King's body of work does indeed fit the criteria for the award: The recipient is supposed to be a person who has enriched our literary heritage over a life of service, or a corpus of work. And Stephen King has caused more people to sleep with the light on than any other writer, ever. That should count for something.

But I am with Harold Bloom on this one, because I find it ironic - even hypocritical - that King was given a "lifetime achievement" award from a group that has never considered his books eligible to win anything else. It is like McDonald's receiving an honorary five-star rating for its invention of the Big Mac. Bloom is wrong about King's writing - his early novels will scare the pants off you. But he is not wrong to complain that the National Book Awards are about something else. They are supposed to ENHANCE the reading public's awareness of American writers.

Stephen King is a writer who enjoys rock-star-like devotion from his fans. He has more than 300 million books in print. His novels have been turned into over 70 films. I'd say he doesn't need much more enhancing. -- Nickie Leone

Dear Holt Uncensored,

Unfortunate misspelling in #378: "the American Booksellers Association's best seller list (www.boorweb.org) ..."

The ABA's website is http://www.bookweb.org.

Robin Blum

Dear Holt Uncensored,

Your diatribe against the ticket price for the National Book Awards dinner reminded me of an incident in my own very checkered career as an author, editor, critic, teacher, broadcaster and bootblack. This all happened several decades ago, but the event remains burned into my cerebral cortex.

A certain mid-level publisher had just brought out a novel of mine, having paid me a pittance for the book and having spent not one shekel on promoting or marketing it. Oh, all right, the publisher was Putnam/Berkley; my contract called for a hard-soft package deal.

Being a conscientious type, I suffered occasionally from pangs of conscience when I called my editor. Was it fair, I wondered, to call collect? The money wouldn't come out of the editor's pocket; it was absorbed by the company, whereas if I paid for the call it came out of my children's dinner. Even so, what was the right thing to do?

Just about as my book hit the shelves it was reviewed kindly in Publishers Weekly. I was pleased about this although still somewhat miffed over my publisher's unwillingness to spend any money to push my book, no less to pay me a living wage.

After I'd read my review seventy-five or a thousand times, I leafed through the rest of the issue. There was a glowing report of a cocktail party thrown by my very publisher to celebrate the publication and enhance the sales of a (ghosted) autobiography of a prominent politician.

PW didn't give the numbers on how much that party cost, but they described it in lavish detail, and with a little inference I figured that the party alone must have cost that publisher roughly ten times the amount I had been paid to write an entire blankety-blank novel, which that publisher then permitted to languish unsupported despite the good reviews that it earned.

Unfortunately there wasn't much that I could do about the whole situation, except to make sure to reverse the charges the next time I called my editor.

I wonder, though. At this late date, several American cities (most recently San Francisco) have adopted ordinances mandating a "living wage" rather than a "minimum wage" for some if not all workers. I wonder if there's any way we could get this for authors.

Nah, probably not.

Dick Lupoff

Holt responds: Can I ask you 1) Did your editor accept the charges when you called collect, or were you disappointed at that level, too? 2) do you really think the publisher should be responsible for "paying a living wage"? 3) How many small-advance books have you published anyway? (To readers: Lupoff has written about 50 books ranging from science fiction paperbacks to expensive coffee-table gift books.)

Lupoff replies: I did call my editor collect after the incident I described, and he did accept the call. But he didn't seem entirely comfortable about it. I'm sure he was under budget constraints.

Should publishers be responsible for paying a living wage? Tough question. Authors aren't employees, they're vendors. Minimum wage or "living wage" laws don't apply. Publishers are customers. They want to get the best product they can at the lowest price they can arrange. One hell of a lot of books get bought cheaply, are published cheaply, receive little or no support, and sell poorly.

A solution - emphasize "a solution," not "the solution" - would be for publishers to trim their lists way down, pay better prices for fewer titles and give those titles adequate support.

I would endorse this policy wholeheartedly if my own books were among those for which the publishers paid lots of money and which were then marketed to the max. Yes, a great idea. Publish a quarter as many books and quadruple the authors' advances and marketing budgets, and make very damned sure that Dick Lupoff's books get primo treatment.

On the other hand, if I were one of the authors being dumped as part of this policy, clearly the policy would be unwise, unfair, and immoral.

BTW, there was one time in my entire career that my kids got really excited about the publication of one of my books. This happened when they were pre-teens. They came running into the house jumping up and down and squealing with enthusiasm. "Dad, Dad, your new book is on the rack next to the cash register at Safeway!"

Dear Holt Uncensored:

In your recent newsletter you wrote about a National Book Foundation program, as follows:

"* The Book That Changed My Life - a nice list of NBA finalists and winners talking about the first book that influenced them for a lifetime. I hope it's been circulated widely to school libraries and bookstores, but there's no indication on the page."

Just thought I'd pass along the information that it's also a book, available "at bookstores everywhere" (it's a Modern Library paperback, published in Sept. 2002 - ISBN is 0679783512).

Dan Fernandez

Dear Holt Uncensored,

Thanks for your article on the NBA. Let's see, a grand for dinner and "show," another grand and a half for bed, food and drink for the weekend, another $500 to $1200 for transportation and, oh, let's see, exhausting as those events are, another day or two off, maybe a little trip to Cape Cod...hmm... Well, $3,500 should do it. When I look at all that and multiply it times all the VIPs the publisher's gotta bring along, I can't help but wonder, "What would happen if they put some of those dollars into the Sales & Promotion budget to reach the independents? Ignoring indie booksellers, as most publishers are doing these days, is hurting all of us. Being an author as well as a developmental editor, I deal with a large sampling of editors, from small independent houses to the New York corporate houses. Over the past few years, I've asked the same question over and over: "How much time and energy do you put into reaching independent booksellers?" The answer ranges from, "About 1% of our budget," to "If they send us an order, we'll fill it." And these answers come as often from independent publishers as they do from the big corporate houses.

The corporatization of American publishing requires that anyone NOT caught in the mainstream current has got to start developing a stronger voice. BookSense is one direction. But much more has got to be done, perhaps along the lines of what independent grocers and co-ops do--using the power of collective purchasing to win bigger discounts they can pass along to their customers. Why is this so important? It's not only to keep small independents in business, it's bigger than that. At the present time, chain stores directly or indirectly dictate what gets published. Smaller independent booksellers have traditionally been responsible for discovering new writers and new trends. It's sort of like Darwin's theory that small groups of individuals, off away from the crowd, found new niches, adapted to them and developed new attributes, ultimately either strengthening the larger collective or starting new species. Diversity is critically important for any culture's survival, and where books are concerned the indies have always played a big part in this.

A modest proposal: Put pressure on publishers to pay more attention to indies, and develop the independent booksellers' equivalent of "The Associated Grocers," or maybe a co-op movement for bookstores. There is power in numbers. Hopefully, there are still enough indies to raise a ruckus.

Hal Zina Bennett

Dear Holt Uncensored: Re: The 10 Mistakes List, #376

Excellent advice for the most part on avoiding overuse of empty adverbs, except you have gone too far to suggest banning the word "actually" from all writing, even in dialogue. How is it possible to think that the words "actually" and "really" have entered American conversation in a trendy way? Trendy? Trends in America last one fashion season. Actually, I've been saying "really" since I was three years old, and really, I'm no spring chicken. This is actually the language my family and friends have used since the 1950s. Hardly (forgive the adverb) a trend. Now that you have banned the word "actually," I predict a huge increase in its use. There is nothing like a series of ironclad rules to invite rule-breakers. Really.


Holt responds: I call it a "trend" because the word "actually" appears so often in newspaper articles, news broadcasts, conversation and books in the last five years or so that one could say its use has become fashionable, or trendy. "Really," on the other hand, seems to be on the way out.

Dear Holt Uncensored:

About correct usage of words despite their popularity: The "usage pardons all" argument is a philosophical position adopted by people incapable of philosophy. :-)

George Hersh (faithful reader who promises not to send you a manuscript, ever)

Dear Holt Uncensored,

Your "10 Mistakes" piece was a helpful article about the repetition of words when writing. I try to watch it carefully, but I find a problem in writing dialogue. How many times can you use "she said," "he replied," "she quipped," "He responded," at the end of a sentence. This appears to be the area - at the end of a conversation - where I repeat words. Any suggestions?

Diane Dean White

Holt responds: I don't think there is a problem with "he said," "she said." Most of the time, the reader just wants to know who's talking and doesn't mind - in fact appreciates - the repetition. When you try to say, "he mumbled," or "she sneered," you just slow the eye as it scrolls down the dialog page. Breaking it up is worth it if you're adding new information - for example, "he paused, fiddling with his keys as though impatient to leave, before he said..." or something like that. But don't worry about the "said" repeats. This is one of the few repetitions that are allowed, I believe.

Dear Holt Uncensored,

You wrote: "Just about every writer unconsciously leans on a 'crutch' word." Here's another: In "Empire Falls," he sat there like he was "gut-shot." So many times!


Dear Holt Uncensored:

I think that the Authors Guild article about Amazon.com's new "Search inside the Book" function has moved to


Something to do with a site redesign.

Michael Rosenthal

Dear Holt Uncensored,

You might be interested in this exchange of correspondence I've had this week with Amazon.com concerning their new feature that gives you access to text pages of many of the books they carry. I should preface it with a note that, although I use Amazon.com at times, my primary loyalty remains with the independent bookstore.

You'll find below, first my original e-mail; then their response, and finally another comment by me.

To: Bezos, Jeff
Subject: Your new "sample pages" feature

Dear Mr. Bezos:

I think your programmers need to rethink Amazon's new feature which allows users to see sample book pages in which their search terms appear.

This morning I had occasion to search for "garrett hardin", the noted human ecologist who died recently. When I entered his name in your search box, I was given 350 hits. I gave up after the first 160 hits did not lead me to any books he authored.

I tried refining my search strategy, as I knew a word ("commons") from the title of at least one of his writings.Your search engine gave me 349 hits, a reduction of only one title from my earlier search.

I then went to Left Bank Books (St. Louis) BookSense site, entered "garrett hardin", and was given seven titles, all of which he authored, co-authored or edited.

I tried one other search refinement: using the terms "garrett hardin" and "ostrich", as I knew he had written a book titled "The Ostrich Factor". Amazon gave me 39 hits. None of them led me to the book in question.The same search in BookSense led me right to the title I sought.

Now which online bookstore do you think I'm going to order his books from? Isn't it feasible to rearrange the 350 Amazon hits I was given so that books he actually authored appear on the first page or pages?

I've a feeling your new feature will discourage all but the most intrepid from finding the titles they think, especially if they're seeking an author who is frequently quoted by others.

While the intention of this new feature is a good one, I think it needs a fair amount of tweaking before it does nothing more than alienate potential customers.

Jim Reed

Here's the reply I received.

Dear Jim, I hope you don't mind my responding on Jeff's behalf. Although he does read his own email his schedule doesn't allow him to respond personally.

Your email has been forwarded to the Chief Algorithms Officer.

It's the goal of every new feature we roll out to make our site more useful, functional and helpful. By sending us your thoughts you help us achieve that goal. We monitor all the feedback and use it to help us decide what our next steps are.

Thanks for taking the time to send us your thoughts. Although we have no intention of "rolling back" what we're doing it will constantly evolve as we work hard to make our site the best place to search for anything and everything!

Kind regards,
Alice Powers

And, finally, I re-ran my "garret hardin" search on the Amazon.com Website. The problem seems to be resolved. Amazing!

Dear Holt Uncensored,

I'm doing a survey of freelance rates for Writer's Market 2005 (I've written several of the past rate chapters for WM, including 2004). I'm trying to reach as many writers - especially professional writers - as possible. I'm sending out the notice below to various listservs to which I belong, and I know I'll get a decent response, but I'd always like more.

I don't know whether it's possible or appropriate for you to include a note about this with my email address in one of your columns, but if you could, I might be able to tap some extra input that would help make the numbers more realistic and valuable.

Here's the note:

Dear Fellow Writers,

I'd like to ask your help in providing input for the 2005 Writer's Market listing of Freelance Rates for Writers & Editors. Many of you were invaluable in helping me update the 2004 edition (which is, I think, a considerable improvement over some past attempts). I'd like to make 2005 even better.

This is a general survey. It doesn't compare with the proprietary information available to members of professional writers organizations, which is far more detailed and publication-specific. Still, as working professionals it is in our best interest to keep these public rates as accurate as possible. They help new writers and writers new to a specialty, as well as those who buy from freelancers.

Please respond to me at lwasnak@fuse.net, and I'll email you a survey (In .rtf, .doc or PDF format, as you prefer). I'd especially like more input on video, audio, cartooning and some of the esoteric areas of writing-related activities, so please forward this request or the survey itself to any other writers you know (beginners through experienced) who might not see this notice elsewhere.


Lynn Wasnak
Phone 513/751-8020 FAX 513/751-8060

Dear Holt Uncensored,

This isn't a response to any column in particular, but a plug for my community of New Bedford as a book friendly place.

Every time I read an article about how today's book scene is dominated by the big names and how hard it is to get published, I think, not here. Here the independent book store is the dominant name in town, surviving while some chain stores have not. Self-publishing thrives, although it certainly isn't a road to riches.

We have Spinner Publications, a wonderful non-profit publisher that solicits and gets stories from the community. Just about every gift shop in town carries a few books, usually Spinner books, and the arts scene in general is very lively. The public/private partnership goes on full steam ahead. I thought it was that way everywhere until a few years ago when I began to read more about publishing and books.

I have spent a lot of time wondering how it came to be that our community is so book-friendly, and I still don't know. Some of the elements may be: a long history of bookstores, printers who have welcomed self-published works, the sea, "Moby Dick" of course, wealth coming and going, waves of immigrants who still turn to book publishing to preserve their stories, the Quaker influence and a newspaper that supports the arts.

I wrote a story about some of the elements that make it book-friendly for OP Magazine. Publisher Scott Brown deserves a lot of credit for putting the article together and improving it with photos, as I turned it over to him in a kind of raw and overly long form.

What I am thinking, though, is that there must be a lot of communities like this, and there must be a way to find them and to discover the common elements that give books such great grass roots support and then find a way to develop that kind of support in other communities. Too idealistic, I suppose.

Sally Spooner

Holt responds: OP Magazine, though devoted to the subject of antiquarian and out-of-print ("OP") books, turns out to be quite a gem for anyone in the book business. The same issue (November-December) featuring Sally Spooner's article offers a riveting if nightmarish (for booksellers) story about a knowledgeable book thief who's been swindling the savviest op book dealers in the business; a beautifully illustrated look at collecting holiday books and a column, "Shop Talk," critical of John Ashcroft's remarks that the ACLU is "hysterical" and that librarians have been "duped" into fearing the Patriot Act. See more at http://www.opmagazine.com.

Holt Uncensored provides this forum for the free and uncensored exchange of thoughts and ideas from writers of all callings. The opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of Pat Holt or the Northern California Independent Booksellers Association.

"Holt Uncensored" is an online column by Pat Holt
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