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Book News: Amazon Makes Direct Offer To Hachette Authors

Amazon packages.
Paul Sakuma

The daily lowdown on books, publishing, and the occasional author behaving badly.

  • The intrigue continues in the publishing dispute between Amazon and Hachette Book Group. On Tuesday, the retailer wrote directly to a handful of Hachette authors, asking for thoughts on a proposal that would give 100 percent of digital profits to authors while the fight continues. Amazon's vice president of Kindle content and independent publishing, David Naggar, wrote in a letter that the move "would motivate both Hachette and Amazon to work faster to resolve the situation." In a phone conversation with NPR, Hachette author Sherman Alexie dismissed the proposal as "a negotiating tactic," adding: "It's not real. It's just to get people talking." Hachette initially called the suggestions laid out in the letter "suicidal." After news of the letter to authors broke, Amazon sent the offer directly to Hachette, which rejected it, saying, "We believe that the best outcome for the writers we publish is a contract with Amazon that brings genuine marketing benefits and whose terms allow Hachette to continue to invest in writers, marketing, and innovation." Amazon, responding to the "suicidal" comment, said, "We call baloney. Hachette is part of a $10 billion global conglomerate. It wouldn't be 'suicide.' They can afford it. What they're really making clear is that they absolutely want their authors caught in the middle of this negotiation because they believe it increases their leverage. ... Our offer is sincere. They should take us up on it."
  • The CIA's style manual, which was released after a Freedom of Information Act request, recommends that writing be "crisp and pungent." (Crisp and pungent). As might be expected, the sample sentences tend toward the warlike or bureaucratic. (The manual was posted online a year ago, but only picked up by news outlets in the past few days.)
  • "Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill." — Nancy Andreasen looks at the sources of creativity in The Atlantic.
  • Jonathan Russell Clark considers the art of the first line: "[W]hat I love about opening sentences is the complete lack of rules."
  • In Guernica, Luis Alberto Urrea writes about people made "invisible by language, skin color, and class." He says, "[W]e have applauded ourselves for abandoning the whip. As far as I can tell, though, we don't offer them the great honor of a steady gaze."
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    Annalisa Quinn is a contributing writer, reporter, and literary critic for NPR. She created NPR's Book News column and covers literature and culture for NPR.
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