Ask The Editor

June 25, 2009

Do we need celebrity authors?

My post about Elisabeth Hasselbeck being accused of plagiarism generated a comment that struck me as odd and, I felt, deserved a bit of commentary of its own:

I am very happy that Elisabeth is using her celebrity status to bring awareness to gluten sensitivities.

It reminded me that another celebrity, Chris Anderson, is being accused of borrowing passages from the web and from others’ books in his new book, FreeWaldo Jaquith of the Virginia Quarterly originally discovered that Anderson had “re-purposed” some material from Wikipedia and blogger Edward Champion, following up, found hints of the unattributed work of several more writers between the book’s pages.

Anderson doesn’t deny that not all the words are original to him although he’s not admitting to intentional copying. Like Hasselbeck, he also has his defenders.

But it made me wonder: why do we even give these people the opportunity to “author” books if they have nothing new to say? Is it just because they’re famous? Is that sufficient reason to make space available on the bookshelves?

(Before you post your answers to the “comments” section, the above is a rhetorical question.)

Celebrity authors are sort of the Burger Kings of the publishing world. They’re everywhere, filling the shelves, and providing about as much intellectual nourishment.

Let me suggest that you give yourself a treat this weekend and read a book by an author with original ideas instead.

– Anita Bartholomew

Advertisements

June 23, 2009

“The View” star accused of plagiarism

Susan Hassett, a self-published author of a book on celiac disease, claims that “The View” star Elizabeth Hasselbeck’s book on the same topic borrowed heavily from hers.

Hassett’s lawyer’s letter to Hasselbeck, which you can download at the TMZ site, cites a number of similarities.

There’s one line in each that jumped out at me. Each book talks about how shoppers should “shop in the outer isles [sic] of the supermarket.”

I can’t and won’t pass judgment on the claim as a whole but, how likely is it that both authors would misspell the word “aisles” in the same way?

Hmm.

– Anita Bartholomew

June 17, 2009

Off-topic: the rigged Iranian election and the courage of the people

Filed under: Commentary — editorialconsultant @ 6:57 pm

I can’t remember when I’ve been so moved by something in the news. Every day, hundreds of thousands of Iranians peacefully march, demanding that their votes get counted.

As I watch these people risking their safety for the sake of greater freedom and a more open society, I’m also profoundly grateful that my own country was wise enough to elect Obama instead of “Bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb, bomb Iran” McCain.

I’m aware that there is nothing that Obama — or any of us — can do for them. Even a word of encouragement from official U.S. quarters may put the demonstrators in danger of being labeled agents of a western power.

So, we sit and wait and hope that they get the democracy they crave.

Meanwhile, two of the best sites for updates on events in Iran are:

The Tehran Bureau and Andrew Sullivan’s Daily Dish.

– Anita Bartholomew

June 15, 2009

Group sues for the right to burn “anti-Christian” book

Filed under: Commentary,News — editorialconsultant @ 9:55 am
Tags: , ,

Just when you thought we were safely into the 21st Century, along comes a group that wants to turn back to a time they like better. They demand the right to burn a children’s book  they deem offensive — which they’d certainly be entitled to do if they bought a copy. But they don’t want to burn just any copy. They want to set aflame the specific copy of the book in their local library.

As the American Library Association reports:

Describing the YA novel by celebrated author Francesca Lia Block as “explicitly vulgar, racial, and anti-Christian,” the complaint by Braun, Joseph Kogelmann, Rev. Cleveland Eden, and Robert Brough explains that “the plaintiffs, all of whom are elderly, claim their mental and emotional well-being was damaged by this book at the library,” specifically because Baby Be-Bop contains the “n” word and derogatory sexual and political epithets that can incite violence and “put one’s life in possible jeopardy, adults and children alike.”

June 9, 2009

Pay the writer, damnit!

This, fair warning, is going to be more a rant than a typical post.

There are a number of “content providers” trolling the web, offering writing “opportunities” that are merely opportunities for the so-called content provider to exploit those who write.

Among these are Demand Studios, which had the audacity to send an acquaintance, who queried in response to their offer of writing work, a reply that included the following:

“As the articles get indexed by search engines and  build traffic, payouts increase. By the third month, average monthly payout per article is $1.24.”

Yes, average payout of $1.24 after three months. Amazingly enough, that means that writers may actually earn less than $1.24 per article.

And some writers are taking this!

Helium runs another of these exploitation rackets. My friend and colleague, Erik Sherman, decided to calculate what Helium may be paying its writers, based on the figures it makes public.

His estimates?

“The average story will make 80 cents.”

Do not write for these people. You are not doing yourself or your career any good and you’re actually making matters worse for other writers by driving down the perceived value of writing. I’m pretty sure most people could earn more begging on a busy city street than they would writing for one of these outfits and would earn about as much respect (because as soon as it comes out that you write for peanuts — hell, make that peanut, singular — you’ve established your value to future potential customers).

I don’t care if this is the first opportunity you’ve ever gotten to write anything for anybody. You’re worth more. Demand more. Don’t sell yourself or your talents so cheaply.

And this is for the cheapskates who are pulling this crap. Back in the 1840s, editors paid writers from $2 to $12 per page. How can you so shamelessly offer a fraction of what one could have earned about 170 years ago?

Listen to Harlan Ellison . And pay the writer, damnit!

Anita Bartholomew

Blog at WordPress.com.