About Me

A blog wherein a literary agent will sometimes discuss his business, sometimes discuss the movies he sees, the tennis he watches, or the world around him. In which he will often wish he could say more, but will be obliged by business necessity and basic politeness and simple civility to hold his tongue. Rankings are done on a scale of one to five Slithy Toads, where a 0 is a complete waste of time, a 2 is a completely innocuous way to spend your time, and a 4 is intended as a geas compelling you to make the time.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Good Bad Ugly

So over the past several weeks I've been spending more money week in and week out at the comic book store than I've done in a long time, mostly on account of the DC Retroactive series of comic books. This send off for the old DC Universe ahead of the New 52 that launched today with Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1 was one of the more delightful ideas to come around. There were 18 issues, six each for the '70s, '80s and '90s, which paired a "new" story from the era in question with a classic reprint. The first few I tried were enjoyable enough that I decided I'd stop leafing through to decide which I should buy, and instead just went for all of them, $4.99 a pop, three a week, several weeks running. Not all of them were entirely successful, some had a good reprint but a so-so new story, others had a good new story paired with a so-so reprint, but the overall was just a lot of fun. Favorites might have been the Green Lantern story with the Jon Stewart GL, where someone learns why secret identities are supposed to be kept secret. Marv Wolfman wrote a Superman that fit in beautifully as a long lost prequel to Crisis on Infinite Earths. There was a Len Wein Batman story that fit hand in glove perfectly with its time period. I wanted to like Mike W. Barr's Batman contribution a little more than I did, but I knew before I got to it that it would be a fair play mystery where the reader would be challenged to find the clues before Batman did, because that's what Mike W. Barr did.

But the big thing here was that these stories were all fun.

And to me, that's the challenge for DC's New 52. Can they bring the fun back to reading comics? Can DC take advantage of the opportunity it's given itself, to tell good fun stories that don't require a master's degree in continuity, that won't insist on getting bogged down in crossovers or big company wide events? Where you're as likely to decide to skip an issue because it's skipping whatever it is you're liking in the comic to tether itself to some other thing that requires reading 9 other comics to properly enjoy? Because you know, even though I'm in my upper 40s now, the kind of guy who can enjoy a serious Vertigo book like DMZ because of the adult pleasures it offers, I'm still likely as not to get my greatest enjoyment out of a good issue of Simpsons Comics or Futurama Comics that are just, you know, fun.

And speaking of which, it amazes me still how often I can enjoy a Futurama comic considering I never liked the show so much. The latest issue there had the gang working at a chain restaurant as big as a planet, which is a silly idea done with its tongue always in cheek that was a delight from first page to last. And there've been a couple great Simpsons issues recently, one where Homer goes off to Canada and discovers it's full of donut shops, as delightful an experience for Homer as when David Bowman goes through the infinite and discovers that it's full of stars. Only, this is way funnier. Or the most recent issue, where Ned Flanders is off on a cruise and finds love, while his kids are finding something else with Homer taking care of them.

Fun.

I want to read comic books for fun, or for some kind of adult intellectual pleasure.

What I don't want to read comic books for?

Sadly, that's what I found today in the dreary dismal disappointing messes that are Flashpoint #5 and Justice League #1.

I read the first issue of Flashpoint, didn't find it interesting enough to keep going, but decided to come back for the finale because after all this is the big lead-in that puts a boot kick into the reboot for the New 52.

But the story doesn't make any sense. Maybe it would make sense if I'd read the three missing issues here, but I think the creators of this issue should have made an extra effort to get it to work on its own just on account of readers like me who'd decide to get in on the last seconds of the old New Year on the way to ringing in the New.

What there is of a story just isn't very interesting.

If it does lead in to the reboot, it requires looking at the fine print of what characters are featured in the art that aren't mentioned or discussed much in the story, There's this double-page spread where "and the RESISTANCE" is in big letters to tell us that the Resistance is important, and we can carefully try and figure out which characters are included because none of them are named. And then there's a Speed Force "Boooo ooooom" and the Resistance is gone a few pages later.

The cover says "It All Changes Here." Um, what changed? I didn't notice. Shouldn't I have?

Then we pick up Justice League #1.

Even though this is a reboot, there isn't much said about who Batman is. Or who Green Lantern is. If I didn't know who they were because I've been reading about them for 35 years, there's nothing in this issue that would explain why I should be reading about them.

I'm not sure why the two of them hook up, what their goal is, what their plot problem is.

There are seven superheroes on the cover. We spend time with two of them -- 2, only! -- in 24 pages, with a third making an appearance on the final page, and another who is in a pre-origin state. The JLA Retroactive reminds that it is possible to tell a good story with half a dozen heroes in 26 pages, so why does this original story deal with only 2 heroes in 24 pages? This doesn't make me want to come back again in a month to see more, it makes me think there are better ways to spend $4 than on overly attenuated stories that just go on, on, on, on in an inefficient and uninteresting kind of way.

Jim Lee's art does nothing for me. This is one of the things that will almost certainly keep me from enjoying a lot of the New 52. I do come from an era when art was supposed to be about storytelling. In my own experience, we can look back to Todd McFarland's run on Infinity Inc. as a prime example of how storytelling skills started to give way to a collection of pin-up pages, but at least I often enjoyed looking at the pin-up poses McFarland would give to the characters in that super team.

Look at page 20.

You can do what the first two panels attempt to do, Blake Edwards does this in Victor Victoria when he cuts from inside a restaurant to showing the aftermath from outside the restaurant viewed through the windows, but he carefully establishes the inside of the restaurant and gives visual cues to connect the shots. If you look at what we see inside the office on panel #1 and then try and match that with what we see in silhoutte of the office in panel #2, you can't make that match. Most of the characters close to the window have their back to it, the next shot has all the characters showing a profile to the locker room.

Going from panel #2 to panel #3, the character has his back to the phone in one panel but then has done a 200 degree turn to now have one hand resting on the phone.

Panel #3 to panel #4, we have another reverse angle, and it looks like the character is hanging up the phone with the left arm, whereas the previous panel had him holding the phone in the right hand. Do people often switch hands to hang up a phone? I also believe that in panel #2 the cord for the payphone goes in to the right side of the phone, while in panel #4 it looks like the chord is going into the left side, or that there isn't a cord any more. Either would be a mistake.

The physique of the character in panel #5 looks different than that same character in panel #1. The arms seem bigger in relation to the torso in #5.

Here and there, a nice piece of business. Pages 13 and 14, let's say. Green Lantern is ridiculing the idea that Batman is just a guy in a bat costume, then Batman shows who's boss by removing GL's power ring when GL loses focus and concentration and provides the opportunity.

The sad thing is that I know that Geoff Johns is capable of writing a good script, but he hasn't here, he tends to do his best work when he does a good people story about the people that are superheroes. But in his role as the co-creative-poobah of DC Comics, he doesn't let himself write those scripts. He focuses on doing the big crossovers, where he's occasionally capable of a good first issue and rarely six of them, or to doing something like this. But he can do better.

I don't know if Jim Lee could do better, I haven't looked at enough of his art to make that call. Of course, he is the co-publisher of DC Comics, so I'm not sure if there's anyone at the company who's going to take the time to tell the boss that he can't have the phone cord moving from the left side to the right side, can't have the characters all with their back to the window in one panel and their profiles to it in the next, that he should make some effort at continuity and storytelling. Maybe his people will never look like actual people or even like the muscular exaggerated versions of people that we accept in superhero comics, but some of this other stuff, all it takes is the effort.

You know, it's hard to let go. But I've tried to do it in running my business. My employees come to me and say they're ready for e-mail queries, I'm capable of telling them "you know, I don't have a dog in this hunt," instead of pretending that I'm still the one who looks at the query letters. Not at DC, Geoff and Jim might be the people who are supposed to be in charge, who are supposed to be the ones who be sure their editors are making each of these new 52 truly wonderful, and instead they have their own un-editable selves launching it.

Well, I'm sure that there will be better comics than this in the New 52, and I'm sure I'll still give a sampling to a decent chunk of them.

For all my negativity here, I think the idea of the reboot, of the New 52, is not a bad idea in and of itself. It is an opportunity to do great things for DC and the industry at large. In fact, I'm as negative as I am because I see the problems with Justice League #1 as a betrayal of what the New 52 could be, what it should be, what it needs to be.

For a much sunnier take on these two comic books, you can read the thoughts of award-winning sf writer Michael Burstein, who did a review for SF Scope. Click here.

And if I read Crisis on Infinite Earths today, would I still like that? Or is it not so much that comics have changed as that I have? Am I Gloria Swanson in Sunset Blvd., decrying that the movies have gotten smaller?

The Noon Report

So on the tennis-related front, the #6 seed Robin Soderling withdrew from the US Open with an undisclosed illness, and his spot in the draw was taken as a "lucky loser" by Rogerio Dutra Da Silva. This would appear to be good news for Soderling's opponent, qualifer Louk Sorensen from Ireland, who goes from playing a top 10 player in his first round match to playing essentially another qualifying round match. However, Sorensen lost the first set 6-0 and has just taken a game to start the 2nd set, he couldn't be doing any worse against Soderling. Sorensen looked pleasant enough in the qualifying, but Da Silva is clearly the better player of these two. That said, I would expect the match will tighten up a little. It's a great opportunity for either player since the second round match will be winnable at least. The 3rd round match with Isner or Baghdatis less so, but one of these players has a good shot to be in the 3rd round of the Open.

And Vasek Pospisil is just demolishing Lukas Rosol, that match is at 6-1, 5-1, the first set took all of 19 minutes and the second set will likely be under 25 as well.

To interrupt this tennis post with some actual business news, we are told via publisherslunch.com that Waterstone's in the UK is ending the "3 for 2" book promos that have been a fixture of UK bookselling for years and years. Here in the office, Eddie's first reaction is that this is an awful decision being made by the new owners, since this has been such a fixture of the trade. I'm not so sure. I've found UK bookselling to be generally in a very boring state in recent years, with the plethora of endless 3-for-2 tables all stocking all the same books at all the same stores to just be deathly dull In any event doing the same thing for years and years can get boring and should sometimes be changed for the sake of it. But then again, if they'll just be replacing endless tables of 3-for-2 with endless boring same-everywhere tables of books being promoted in some different way, it ends up making no real difference. I guess we'll see how it shakes out.

For those not so good at math a 3-for-2 discount is the same as Buy 1-Get 1 50% Off promo that we've had on a lot of trade paperbacks in the US, and which in fact Borders might have imported as a variation from their UK stores.

As I typed those last two paragraphs, Pospisil took the 2nd set 6-2 and Sorensen and Da Silva are on serve after three games of their second set.

And here is a post from the NY Times Straight Sets blog about Malek Jaziri, the Tunisian qualifier who is facing top-rated American Mardy Fish in a 2nd round match tomorrow.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

I, Again, Oracle

Click here for a post from the NY Times Straight Sets blog about Ukrainian qualifier Sergei Bubka, who defeated the Austrian Adrian Haider-Maurer in their first round main draw match on Tuesday. I correctly predicted Bubka could win this. I also said the Rochus/Lisnard match could go either way, and indeed the qualifier Lisnard did emerge at the winning end of this first round match. Ir's easy enough to predict every qualifier to lose, you'd be right most of the time, I'm quite pleased so far to be pretty good this year in choosing the ones that will win.

Vasek Pospisil has his first round match at 11AM Wednesday on Court 10. This is rather annoying to me, because this court doesn't have TV coverage (Ashe, Armstrong, Grandstand, 11, 13, 17 do) so I won't even be able to watch on ESPN3.com on my computer at work. I guess I'll have to set up the thing that live tracks the score, I am really curious and eager to see if Pospisil can beat Lukas Rosol. There are only five men's singles matches tomorrow without TV coverage, so you can see just what a huge major priority this match is the world at large.

Another match with a qualifier, Joao Souza of Brazil against American Robby Ginepri, is on the Grandstand. Not an easy match, but I did tag this one as a possible win for the lower-ranked player.

I, Oracle

So I think I did OK in judging the chances of the US Open qualifiers to play on Day One. Jaziri won his first round match, which I'd suggested could happen if didn't outright say would. All the other qualifiers to play on Day One lost, most in straight sets, none huge surprises. I did give De Veigy a chance of beating Tommy Hass, he didn't but he took a set and it was a competitive match.

Alas for Jaziri, his next round opponent will be Mardy Fish, the highest ranked American player who has been on fire this summer. So Jaziri had best be prepared for enjoying the moment of playing on Arthur Ashe Stadium, because that's likely to be the best part of the day.

The NY Times tells me I watched history being made when I saw Louk Sorensen qualify. The two Irish qualifiers this year may be the first ever players from Ireland to play in the main draw of the US Open.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Looking Ahead

So the qualifying has concluded, and the draw has been filled out. Let's look selectively at what the qualifiers face in the days ahead...

The "top half" of the draw, the one with main #1 seed Novak Djokovic, got 10 qualifiers into it.

Romain Jouan and Augustin Gensse have both drawn seeded top 32 main draw players and are not likely to advance to the second round.

American qualifier Michael Yani has a first round match against a young Australian, Bernard Tomic, who made a strong run at the Australian Open this year and is considered to be a real up-and-comer. However, he's often a bit up-and-down, and plays a game that's based as much on taking his opponents out of their rhythm as on having a great rhythm of his own. Michael Yani doesn't have a particular rhythm, he's just happy to be in the main draw of a grand slam. Tomic should win, but it's not unthinkable that Yani will.

Jonathan Dasnieres de Veigy has drawn Tommy Haas. Haas was a top 10 player, as high as #2 in the world in fact, but he's 33, he's struggled to come back from a lot of injuries in recent years. This isn't a bad draw, you've got to think, if you're de Veigy.

Sergei Bubka has an excellent draw. His opponent is Andreas Haider-Mauder, an Austrian who was in the qualifying a year ago, and is ranked in the 70s. He's not that good a player, and Bubka can win this match.

Marsel Ilhan and Frank Dancevic are lucky, they got a Q-Q match, i.e., two qualifying players getting to play one another in the first round, which is a guaranteed opportunity for one to get into the 2nd round. And the two players are just two years apart in age. But Dancevic, he's a player I followed in the qualifying for a year or two, he had his one big year in 2008 when he made it to the finals of a summer tournament and had a winnable match against Marat Safin a round or two into the US Open that he lost mostly because of lack of experience in Grand Slam situations. I feel he's 26 but on the wrong side of the career arc. Ilhan is only a year or two younger, but my instinctive feel is that he's still climbing. My money would be on Ilhan, won't complain if I'm wrong. This is a Court 14 match at 11AM in the morning.

Go Soeda of Japan faces top 40 player Kevin Anderson, who's currently playing the best tennis of his career.

Malek Jaziri has drawn Dutch player Thiemo De Bakker, who is top 50 but doesn't have the kind of name to inspire fear in anyone. This is Court 8 at 1PM, and could be a match. Or maybe I'm being a little bit of an optimist.

Flipping to the "bottom half" of the draw, Ireland's Louk Sorensen has top 10 player Robin Soderling, advantage Soderling.

Joao Souza of Brazil has Robby Ginepri from the US, and that's a match the qualifier can win.

Pospisil, he has a match that he can definitely win, against a Czech player Lukas Rosol who is currently ranked in the 60s. Rosol's rank is based entirely on a few good challenger tournaments where he beats qualifying level players, which Pospisil is distancing himself from, and a good run at this year's French Open. I'm a Pospisil fan, and expect he'll have a 2nd round match against the #25 seed.

Jesse Huta Galung has drawn James Blake. This match should go Blake's way.

Jean-Rene Lisnard has a match against Olivier Rochus, whom I've seen in the qualifying. This could go either way.

Robert Farah against Nicholas Mahut -- edge, Mahut.

Lucas Lacko got into the main draw as a "Lucky Loser," chosen by lots as a seeded but defeated qualifier to replace a late withdrawal from the tournaments. Odds are one or two other players will end withdrawing before their first match.

Not counting players I saw in qualifying this year only, there are close to 20 players in this year's US Open whom I've seen in qualies over the years.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Tennis Anyone, IV

And to close...
The second set of the Pospisil match was anything but routine. It was one of the longest sets of tennis I've ever seen, 68 minutes for a 12 game set, vs. 41 minutes for the13 game tiebreak set Pospisil had with Guccione two days before. There was an epic game early on with Brezak struggling hard to hold serve. Pospisil, whose serve can be so strong, was having games go to 0-40 or 0-30 against and then struggling to fight back into it. Finally, at the very tail end, Pospisil managed to get a break and win the match. It was good tennis!
And as long as our 2nd set is, the Meffert/Farah match on the next court just keeps dragging on and on and on, but you get the sense that's a match that's interesting solely because it endures, not because either play is especially interesting. If neither player has the weapons and tools to really end a point, the points can go on. And on.
Next stop was over to Court 11 to find Dennis Kudla playing Romain Jouan, both of whom we'd seen previously, in a 3rd round qualifying match. This was decent enough tennis, but a rung or three below the highest level. Kudla is 19 -- and just -- and has been a Juniors finalist and a hitting partner for the US Davis Cup, and the good news for American tennis fans is that he looks good on the court, saw that when I saw him when earlier in the week and saw that again today. But holding one's own is nowhere the same as winning, and he just didn't have the oomph or the firepower of the 25 year-old French journeyman he was playing against, who won in two fairly quick and fairly routine sets.
During the first part of the match, I was standing atop the stands at Court 11 and looking down on Court 14, where the #3 qualifying see Marcel Ilhan was playing Lucas Lacko. Ilhan was looking pretty good as he took that in two fairly easy sets.
I was also able to watch people erecting the Citizen side above the south video board in the new stadium that is going by the rather prosaic name of Court 17. I wonder how many years that name holds. In any case, the world will know that Citizen is an official sponsor and official timepiece of the US Open.
I then wanted to see the 3rd round match for Vasek Pospisil, but this had been put on to one of Court 14 with limited bleacher seating, and one side of that was unusable because of the setting sun. Too crowded to find a good perch. I ended up drifting back to Court 8 to watch the Brazilian Rogerio Dutra Da Silva, whom I said yesterday I might want to watch more of, playing his 3rd round match against Sergei Bubka from Ukraine. This is decent, but it's lacking something. I'm pulling for Da Silva, who goes down in the first set, comes down to take the second, then goes down a break in the third. Sometimes you go in rooting for one player and end up a fan of another, as on Day One when I found myself going for Middelkoop over Janowicz, but there's nothing about Bubka that makes me enthuse about his winning over the player I'm rooting for. Toward the very end of the match there's a ball on the sideline I'm sitting on that's reasonably close and is called in. Everyone else near me thinks the ball is out, I'm not so sure myself, and then it has to be not that the call was wrong but that it was grotesquely wrong, that the ball was six inches out, way out. Which just isn't the case. The call's against Da Silva, it's the difference between being at 30-30 and maybe having an opportunity to break back or being 15-40 and staring death in the face, and the crowd's reaction only serves to make Da Silva just a little bit more certain he's getting the royal screw-over. It's the kind of call that makes you wish they had Hawkeye to allow challenges on every single court, so the player can make his challenge and get an answer and kind of get over things instead of stewing in the feelings of injustice. In any event, Da Silva ended up losing.
That match complete, I drifted back to Court 14, where the sun had now gone down far enough that the other bleachers could be sat in, and I found an open seat on the front row toward the start of a third set between Pospisil and a 24 year old Slovenian Grega Zemlja, who was the #8 seed in the qualifying.
What a way to end the tournament!
It was an incredibly tight third set, ended up going 75 minutes which is about as long a set as you can get. Sitting where I was, in the twilight, you could actually see the spin on the balls, and there was a lot of it. The players were both trying to get their shots as low over the net as they could get away with, so it looked as if every ball was in danger of being hit into the net. I was rooting pretty strongly for Pospisil, so it was disappointing when he went down a break fairly early in the third set, and wasn't getting a break back. You start looking at the scoreline, and realize time's starting to run out. But Pospisil did manage to eke out one break and go back on serve, and we headed into a deciding tiebreak. And I can't remember the last time I've been so caught up in a game of tennis I've been watching in person. Pospisil gets a mini-break, Zemlja gets it back, every single shot by both players especially sitting right at court level looks like it's going to go into the net. Every single shot. Except most of them somehow manage to motor their way over and sink toward the ground for a hard pickup of a really really low ball at the other end of the court. And so much, so much, at stake. And finally, Pospisil prevails. Phew!
It was a great day of tennis. In the third round of qualifying even the bad matches are played at a higher and overall more competitive level than in the earlier rounds, which in part explains why the tennis is just about as long in duration with 54 matches on the schedule as the first two days with 64, or one extra per court.
Often I'll savor the moment and linger on the grounds after the final point of the qualifying, today with Irene on the way I hastened ASAP out of the tennis center so I could hit the Lemon Ice King (strawberry banana) and then subway into Manhattan to Midtown Comics to get the Wednesday arrivals. Then I looked for a copy of The Onion, and headed up to the Borders at Penn Plaza and picked up half a dozen client books to refill shelves now that they were 50% off, and then treated myself to a fancy dinner at Keen's Steakhouse. I knew I wouldn't even have the choice of getting into Manhattan again until Monday...


1:05 PM
Pospisil looks awfully good taking first set 6-1

12:30 PM
Underway! Charles-Antoine Brezac vs Vasek Pospisil, reenacting the French Canadian wars!!

12:05 PM
The slow moving women's match on Court 8 has hardly progressed. I am now sitting between 8 + 9 watching Robert Farah (Columbia) and Dominik Meffert ( Germany) on 9 while waiting for 8 to end. Gensse won the Court 16 match.

11:50 AM
Sorensen won routinely, late break in first set and after a trade of breaks at the start of the second by two breaks 6-2. Next match I want to see is on Court 8, but there is time to watch the finish of a match on Court 16 between Portugal's Joao Sousa and France's Augustine Gensse. On serve 4-4 in 3rd set. While I watch the match I can listen to a test of the sound system on the new stadium on the site fo Courts 17 and 18 and also watch installation of the Citizen sign atop the north end video board in the new stadium.

10:35 AM
Around six hours of sleep. Took subway home and didn't have to wait long for train, did walk back this ,owning since I wad up in time. Hot and muggy so I did change my original plan to skip the Lemon Ice King. Cost around six or seven minutes but the mint chip was more satisfying than the handful of minutes of tennis would have been.
I decided to go the Grandstand court which is scheduled for two matches today. It is so intimate you can reach out ant give noogies to lines judges, and a rare treat to have it in use for qualifying. During the main tournament those front row seats are claimed like the land rush in Far and Away.
We are on serve 3-2 Portugal's Gastao Elias serving to Ireland's Louk Sorensen.
.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Tennis Anyone 33 1/3

To Finish
Well, what a delightful final full match of the day. Donskoy won the first set 6-1, blink of an eye, thought we were headed for a rout. But somehow midway thru the second set Dennis Kudla finds another gear, and it's like the ball coming at him is as big as a pumpkin. He breaks Donskoy, rather to my surprise. Then Kudla starts grunting, as if that will find him another gear still. Grunting or not, he wins the second set 6-3. The third set sees each player break once and goes into a tiebreak, Kudla goes down a mini-break, comes back, takes the tie-break 7-5 and the match. This was very high quality tennis. There weren't many winners, the match statistics say there were only 11 of them between the two players. But there weren't a lot of errors, either, I'm not even sure I can trust the count which is only 1 of them for the whole match, except that it's hard to think of too many. There were balls that missed, but it does seem that almost all of them were off of really good shots by the other guy that weren't easy to get back. Very high quality. The difference in the match looks to be the differential on first and second serve, Donskoy was 70% getting the point on his first serve but only 43% on his second serve. Kudla was more consistent in that metric. Even though this match went to Kudla, I do expect we may see more from Donskoy, who is just 21 and talented. Kudla just turned 19, and is showing some signs of making a breakthrough this summer. Qualifying for the Open could easily lift him 200 spots in the rankings.
There was one match unfinished, so I watched the final games of a 23 year old Croat beating a 34 year old Italian. Not great stuff, probably could have skipped, but having waited out a six hour rain delay why not see some more tennis...
The answer is that play begins in 8:30, I've got to get to bed!
But it will be a very full day, as speculated earlier the plan for Friday is to have 22 remaining 2nd round matches, 21 3rd round matches with the Thursday winners, and then to trot out the 22 winners to play their 3rd round matches as well, two matches on the day, to be sure of having the qualifying done in time. Tour rules require a half hour between matches, and even the top players in the world sometimes have to do two in one day when rain backs things up badly at a tournament. The qualifiers can do it Friday. It's unfair in equal measure to all of them, at least, none of the morning winners Friday will end up facing someone who won Thursday and has the benefit of a night's rest.


10:40 PM
Musical entertainment! Sound check/practice from Arthur Ashe blasting over grounds. Just what tennis players want during big match at 10:30 at night.

10:15 PM
Lacko won the first set in a tiebreak. He is too one dimensional in his game to pose a real threat to anyone, baseline only. That set ended just a few points into the start of the Court 11 match between Dennis Kudla (US) and Evgeny Donskoy (Russia) which I shall stick with, I think. Fewer than 30 unattached spectators, maybe 10 or 12 more coaches/family members. Kudla just made an incredible leap to get his racket on a high smash bounce that nobody ever tries for, I was shocked to see a racket in front of me at my perch in the endzone seats. There is a reason no one goes for those, his shot went up 30 feet and backwards. But I admired the effort. Donskoy is quickly up two breaks, doubt this will be a long match. A few others started around the same time, if any of those are the three tight tiebreak sets which this likely not could be tennis until 12:30-1:00 AM.

9:10 PM
The matches on 15 + 16 ended within a few minutes of one another. Jaziri won his 6-2 in the 3rd set. This made me happy; I think Jaziri is fun to watch. I was watching right next to his coach who wad taking notes in Arabic, and either cheering on his player in Arabic or "get them in" in English. Ryderstedt offered his congratulations as he left the court. I wasn't as caught up in the other match which Bozoljac won 6-3 in the 2nd set, but I would probably take any of these 4 players over the ones on Courts 7 + 16.
Wandering one walkway over I watched the final games of a match between Rogerio Dutra Da Silva from Brazil and Adrian Menendez-Maceiras from Spain. Both were very big grunters and both seemed to my eyes to have especially powerful groundstrokes, Da Silva especially. He is the #5 seed, and won the match in straight sets. Maybe try and catch more of him tomorrow.
After grazing the buffet, I have settled back at Court 15 to watch Marius Copil (Romania) vs Lukas Lacko (Slovak Rep.)I think Lacko is the younger and with more main draw results, in any event are on serve and 15-15 Copil serving 2-2 in the first.

7:50 PM
Court 15 Serbia's Ilija Bozoljac wins first set tiebreak 6-1 over Germany's Andreas Beck
Court 16 Jaziri takes 2nd set, we go to a third
Will hang out between the two courts!

7:40 PM
The plan now is to get in 3 matches on each court, including the Grandstand which is used during the qualifying only in emergencies. That will be 42 matches out of 64 scheduled. Tomorrow play will start an hour early. With rain scheduled to arrive at some point on Saturday I don't know if they plan to have some players do both 2nd and 3rd round matches tomorrow or hope to get in 11 3rd round matches Saturday. The ballperson crews are down one since the youngest can't work overtime which is a problem when all courts need to go long into the evening.

7:33 PM
Back at Court 15 for Jaziri vs Swede Michael Ryderstedt. Jaziri lost the first set 6-2 but up a break in 2nd. Both of these players seem peppier than the others I have been watching.

7:30 PM
Middelkoop won in a 2nd set tiebreak. Not sure how good he really is, but at least good enough to march rou first two rounds here.
Walked over a few paces to Court 11 where Klahn had gone up a break and watched final two games of that match. Hard to believe Ebden is the person who won a 6-0 set yesterday. No game at all today. Klahn was serving very well, and had slightly better places groundstrokes, but not very compelling. Ome court next to the Vioka rooting section, at another found myself standing next to Dennis Kudla's coach. Kudos plays Evgeny Donskoy later.

7:15 PM
Ebden was broken and lost the first set 6-4. The lackluster second set saw both players broken with Ebden taking in a tiebreak. I was bored, after wandering a bit I am settled between Courts 15 and 16 watching the end of 2nd set of Matwe Middelkoop's match against Italy's Matteo Viola while Malek Jaziri plays on the next Court over.

5:20 PM
The match I am now once again watching play having resumed aroun 5:13, is the second round match for American Bradley Klahn and the rising Australian Matthew Ebden. It was scheduled for Court 11, which is one of the largest used for qualifying and thus has priority for drying. Players are just sitting down on the adjacent Court 12, which will resume play some 20 minutes after us, and dryers are still going on Court 16. It is 2-2,and Ebden is facing a break point.

5:08 PM
Since it may be a late night, eating on the grounds. The lamb haandi from Indian stand isn't bad. Have rad 150 pages of Benjamin Tate's Well of Sorrows, and a few issues of Variety.

5:05 PM
Sun has shine a bit, some courts near to dry, and teams of ballpersons are heading out to their assigned courts. May yet be some tennis today!

11:55 AM
Players back to locker room, I am under the overhang on the Grandstand Court near the ball person perch, Andy Murray just left the court after an aborted practice session. Rain really coming down now.

11:15 AM
Grim news, forecast for an afternoon thundershower but there are already a few drops of rain. With Irene coming our way this weekend it might be a challenge to finish the final two rounds of qualifying.
More Grim News: there are mo soap dispensers in the men's restrooms at Court 7 and Court 11. Can someone call the CDC or NYC Dept of Health or something and get that fixed muy pronto.
Grimmer News: A brief rain shower right at start of first match. Iffy day weather wise.
More Grimmer News: When they updated the schedule on the web site as the evening progressed they never updated the printable PDF version which has endless TBD on the later matches, not even "winner of this vs winner of that," just TBD vs TBD. With the weather we should be so lucky as to get to those matches today.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Tennis Anyone, The Second

To Close
Michon loses to Ram in a tight first set and a not so tight second. Not many weapons. PiƱa colada ice, Thai dinner.

8:50
Michon is sinister! I mean, a lefty!! Playing a lot to Ram's backhand and trying to construct points. On serve 4-3 in first set.

7:30 PM
Settling in for last full match of day. Could have watched Ricardo Hocevar and Carsten Ball on Court 6, but just didn't find either player all that exciting. So Court 13 has whenever seats, and I know nothing about the French player Axel Michon, who contends against American Rajeev Ram. So the match might be awful, but will have thrill of the new. Did watch a couple games of the Ashleigh Bart match whole waiting for this one to start.

6:50 PM
Shocker! Guccione is up 40-0 serving for a tiebreak at 5-6. And he loses. Five straight points to Pospisil. One is a winning lob off of a net cord, the kind of thing you can't teach that's about instinct and reaction and quick hands. The final point of the match is a double fault by Guccione, which is the srangest of ways to end a match that's been almost all about big booming serves.

6:40 PM
Gootch Guile. Serving at 4-5 Guccione starts to come to the net as often as he cans. This earns him two break points in the 5-5 service game, but Pospisil shows some poise and serves his way out. Another tiebreak moments away...

6:15 PM
Second game second set, Guccione faced two break points and four deuces, but Pospisil couldn't convert. On serve 2-1, but these three games have taken an entire 15 minutes!

6:00 PM
Pospisil wins in a tiebreak 7-5 to take the set 7-6. The latter half of the set had a little more danger with 40-30 games but no deuces or break points. Pospisil clearly has the better ground strokes than Guccione and with his own potent serve is a definite threat and likely to move up quickly. That said, lots of people in the men's game have really strong serves, he hasn't made much of a dent on Guccione's and may be up a set but hardly has this match in hand. The first set flew by in under 45 minutes, a set that goes to a tiebreak will often be an hour long affair, sometimes more, 45 minutes shows how quick these points and games have been.

5:35 PM
different kind of dull, both players have great serves, would be great if there was a radar gun here, neither doing much on the return games, so holding serve 4-3 no break points hardly any rallies.

5:15 PM
So I have no interest in seeing Australian Chris Guccione who has been around a bit without making an impression, but his young Cacadian opponent Vasek Pospisil is supposed to be an up and comer. He had some wins over the summer in main draw, and is the #20 seed in the qualifying.

5:00 PM
Match on Court 10 dull, watching a bit on Court 5 while I wait for things to get underway on Court 6. This is Ireland's Lpuk Sorensen against Spain's Arnau Brugues- Davi. Sorensen won first set in tiebreak. On serve early in 2nd.

4:55
big wooden boxes containing the ESPN "Steve Set," which has magically appeared since yesterday on a platform next to Arthur Ashe stadium entrance.

4:10
what a letdown, the third set went down 6-1 in about as much time as doing my post about the match.
Hard to know when Canadian up and comer Vasek Pospisil will start on Court 6, so I am on Court 10 for the start of Charles-Antoine Brezac (France) vs Daniel Kosakowski (US). If good watch all of it then Australian 15-year old Ashleigh Barty, who is recommended to me by Australian writer Joel Shepherd, will follow. If I don't like this match, will check Court 6 after first set.

3:55 PM
Capdeville now up two breaks. Epic is fizzling in its third act.
Thing I hate most about iPad is that it wants to turn every its into an it's.

3:40 PM
Finally have my epic!
Naso wonmy second match pretty handily, but in a high quality way. In the key games in the second set, both players were winning points with good clean winners.
There was only one choice of match after, which wad the Chilean journeyman Paul Capdeville in warmups on Court 13. Capdeville has been around forever and rarely above the ranks of qualifiers. But at least it was Court 13 with the nice endzone seating, and playing an Israeli, Amir Weintraub, so an opportunity to exorcise Jewish guilt.
It's been a lot of good tennis from both sides. Weintraub went upan early break, frustrating Capdeville, who is the #2 seed and expects to advance But Weintraub couldn't hold on and then played an amazingly sloppy game to cough up the set 6-4 to Capdeville.
At 2-2 in the second set it was Capdeville who got sloppy, but Weintraub then wnetdown 0-40 on his own serve game, came back to deuce, but ultimately lost the game and we stayed even into a tiebreak. Weintraub there had at least three match points at 6-2 orr 6-3, lost them all, but this time recovered to take the breaker 9-7.
So now we are in a third set, but Weintraub again lost focus getting instantly broken in the first game of the final set. Ultimately focus or lack thereof is the difference in the match. Multiple long rallies have ended with a complete mishit by Weintraub, ten or twelve at least. He has had consistent trouble allowing himself to hold an advantage. I do not know if Capdeville is actually better, but he has vast reservoirs of match experience and can take this when its being offered.

1PM
First match ended with a 6-0 second set, ended so early the only choice of next match was next door on Court 5 where another match went by real quick. So I am watching two Italians, Gianluca Naso and Thomas Fabbiano, in a match that looks like an instant replay. Naso had two breaks to take first set 6-2 though it seems it should be closer. Lots of long rallies and good tennis, just that one player is ending up on the winning side way more consistently. One thing for sure, I haven't chosen any great epic matches so far!

11:47 AM
Ilhan has just taken first set 6-2. High quality, both players look good, Ilhan does look 6-2 better.

11:45 AM
is the man two rows back helping, raring or evaluating the ballpersons?

11:25 AM
I got a watermelon ice from the Lemon Ice King onmy way out. Nothing exciting at the Barnes & Noble. Typically mediocre service at Unos, adding ten to twenty minutes to the meal, but the food was what I wanted.

The weather yesterday was about as perfect as you could want for tennis.  Around 78, low humidity, gorgeous. Can't remember when I have visited a water fountain less. Today is a few degrees higher and definitely more humid but still comfy, tomorrow more heat and humidity and a chance of a thunderstorm. 

Rarely are the first round qualifying matches great tennis, and yestefay was no exception. But none of the matches were actually dull. 

Today was a mint chip morning. 

I am settled in on Court 4 watching #3 seed Marsel Ilhan from Turkey against Poland's Marcin Gawron. Looks like some high quality tennis, albeit with a strong chance for trading breaks of serve in the opening games... Yep, traded as I post.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Tennis, Anyone, Day 1

& to close...
Romboli lost the second set 6-1 as well. Odd thing is, I think the match was closer than the score line in this case. It's just that Romboli was making a lot of errors, some inexplicable and some because Jaziri was hitting a very low ball a lot of times that wasn't easy to pick up and get back over net going the other way, but fewer errors it at least would have been a much tighter match.
After that, I watched another American who, Blake Strode, playing against a Serb, Nikola Ciric, in the last act of the second set. I chose this match over another men's match that was midway through because Court 13 has elevated endzone seating that gives a great view of the match, and I'd gone through the day without seeing anything on one of those three courts. Strode won, 6-3 and then in a tiebreak. I'm not surprised Stode is still struggling through the qualies in his mid-20s, however.
Looking at the far court, he seemed awfully spindly for a tennis player. When he came to the near court, I could see that the thigh muscles weren't that much smaller if any than everyone else you see with pro tennis player physique, but the ankles are like toothpicks. One of them was taped up. I doubt he can hold up to the rigors of the tour without really strengthening the ankles quite a bit.
No more men's matches, I watched half a set of one women's match, could have watched more of another final match still going at 8:55, but decided I'd push off. Once upon a time bookstores were open to 11PM, now the B&N in Forest Hills is one of many that don't stay open that late, and if I was going to get over to it and then enjoy an Unos dinner in Forest Hills, couldn't stay. This was probably a good call. Checking the score now I see that the match which hadn't yet finished set #2 went into a 3rd set, which went 72 minutes. So, yes, I would have been at the tennis center til after 10pm and gotten a medal for staying the entire day, but I think the viewing experience would have been torturous.

7:38 PM
Next door on court 6 we had just in its first game Fernando Romboli of Brazil against Tunisian Malik Jaziri, so that's where I am now. Both players seem solid and energetic, but after losing the first set 6-1 Romboli has gone to regroup on a bathroom break.

7:35 PM
The match of the day for me was 4th up on Court 8, featuring Jerzy Janowicz from Poland, the #18 seed and a player I'd watched and enjoyed last year. Very young, good serve, decent ground strokes, not yet fully formed but you think can grow into a better game. He didn't qualify last year but came close, he's had a few main draw matches over the year since.   I roamed the grounds and kept an eye on the women's match preceding on the court, glad it didn't go to a third set.  
Well, his opponent was a Dutchman, Matwe Middelkoop, and by the end of the match my allegiances had shifted.
Janowicz played one abysmal game in the first set, double faulting at least twice, and lost the set 6-3. 
The second set was hard fought, tight, went to a close tiebreak that Janowicz pulled out 7-5. 
But over the two sets I wasn't seeing any spark, any sign he was doing anything better this year than last. Which isn't what you want to see in a player this young.  Middelkoop wasn't playing great, but he was playing a solid, calm, controlled game, good and relaxed court presence and no mistakes. 
Janowicz went down a break early in the third set and the outcome seemed clear. Hadn't had even a break point against Middelkoop that I could recall. Janowicz knew it. He started gently dropping his racket three times on a trip down the baseline. 
Final score 6-3 7-6 (5) 6-2 Middelkoop. 
Maybe just a bad day at the office for Janowicz, tennis players can have the match of their lives and they can have the anti-match. But I have to entertain the prospect that Janowicz may be a journeyman in training instead of a rising young star. Neither player, I think, does well against a Richard Berankis or an Evgeny Donskoy no matter how close the rankings of the day might look. 

5:48 PM
Chair umpire Carlos Ramos has just taken the next seat over from me watching on Court 8!

4:45 PM
Gael Monfils doing pushups after a practice session on Grandstand.

4:20 PM
2nd set was a tad more competitive than the first, Ebden won 6-3 with ine break, but not as competitive seeming as that score might suggest. Hanging out at Court 6now, watching the highly regarded Lithuanian and #12 seed Richard Berankis closing out Spaniard Guillermo Alcaide. I came in start of second set, first went to Berankis 6-2, and the 2nd set may be the same. I was right on the Fratangelo match, 2nd set was also a 6-2 win for Wolmarans.

3:35 PM
Ebden match is a demolition derby, he gave Lemke a bagel (6-0) in the first set. Not much fun to watch, thou you can tell Ebden is good hard to tell how good when so little opposition on offer.

3:30 PM
So it wasn't kids shaking the stands. I didn't notice so much but the Richmond earthquake was felt at the tennis center. Begemann won a pointing to the Ebden match, Ebden up a break in first set.

3:10 PM
Wolmarans won first set 6-2, up a break in second. As a rule I watch full matches but have left that behind to see #14 seed from Australia, Matthew Ebden, playing James Lemke, another Aussie. While I wait for that on Court 15 taking a quick look in on Court 14 where Michael Venus from New Zealand is probably about to lose to Andre Begemann from Germany. Did I watch Begemann last year? As to Fratangelo, he isn't bad but Wolmarans is simply better, at net and on serve and I felt pretty safe leaving Court 7 that no miracles were in store.

2:15 PM
The match on Court 12 ended 6-2 Jouan in a game where all the points were decided on unforced errors, I.e., people making mistakes instead of great shots. Matsukevich had four of those errors to get broken. Basically, not very good tennis. Match time around an hour or so, Da Silva would beat either. Delic on Court 7 is around 30, now plays as a Bosnian instead of an American. His opponent from Russia is the 24th seed and in his very early 20s. Final set was a bust, Delic's game collapsed leading him to a ball abuse warning and I believe a point penalty for racket abuse. I was rooting for Donskoy, shall we say, hard to judge his game when his opponent's was going so far south. The first set was won by Delic in a tiebreak with at least four breaks of serve along the way. Final score 6-7 6-4 6-2. I am staying at court 7 to watch another young American, Bjorn Fratangelo, against Fritz Wolmarans from South Africa.

1:45 pm
settling in for final set of Amer Delic (US) and Evgeny Donskoy (Russia).

1:10 Matsukevich complaining to chair ump, likely since there is now even louder work being done by the "Chase Center" sign atop the nearby indoor tennis center.

12:55 PM
Jouan has the first set 6-2, but in a way I feel Matsukevich has been dictating the play with his errors, and that if he plays tighter it is still anyone's match. Court 12 is adjacent to the new small show court and there is a man two feet away drilling in concrete to make for a convivial tennis playing atmosphere. When I arrived at this court I was next to Jack Sock, an up and coming US player with a wild card into the main draw.

12:40 PM
I am on Cort 12 now, watching Russian Denis Matsukevich against Romain Jouan from France. Chose this because it was still in the first game when I was looking for a new match, so counts as a full. Jouan is up an early break 3-0 in first set.

12:35
Da Silva won in a tight 8-6 2nd set tiebreak. Good match.

11:50
Next page in the paper of man next to me is a USTASHI Line Evaluation Form. Isn't "evaluate" more a synonym for "rate" than for "help?". First set tonDa Silva 6-4. On serve in second, Da Silva just came to net, now 2-2 in 2nd set.

11:36 AM
Da Silva to serve for set. Man next to me in stands making notes tells me he isn't rating the lines people, he is "helping" them. I must remember that nice euphemism.

11:25 AM
The US Open is allowing iPads, so I can blog during the tennis day!

Though I niw live a mile further from the Tennis Center, Google Maps found me the quickest route to the Lemon Ice King of Corona, which makes up for it. Large vanilla chip.

On the grounds, a small new show court is now where courts 17 and 18 once were. The video boards on the grounds are working from day one instead of being tested, which will make it easier to check matches in progress as the day progresses. Armstrong and the Grandstand are open for people to watch practices from day one as wel.

I am on Court 6, watching the #5 men's seed Rogerio Dutra Da Silva from Brazil against Clement Raix, from France. Raix just double faulted to go down a break on the first set. I like that he is coming into net now and again However, in the early going Da Silva is clearly the better player and serving quite quite well, maybe even half a dozen aces in the first six games.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

B&N cuts back

So it's possible you've heard from different places, a blog somewhere or your editor trying to explain why your new offer is so low, that Barnes & Noble has cut back their orders.

Boy, are they!

B&N has long had a fixture called the New Mass Market Tower. It's the square thing that usually sits in the central aisle of the stores that's around six feet tall, four rows across and maybe eight or so down, with new mass market books.

A publisher pays to put your new mass market on the new mass market tower, of course B&N also has to agree they'd like it there because there are only so many books that can go on it over the course of the month and way more to choose from than that. But your publisher has to want it there.

And for all those years, it used to be that being on this fixture meant that pretty much every Barnes & Noble was going to get 8 copies of your new sf/fantasy book, other than for the really most awful stores for sf/fantasy where they would put in an initial order of 6 copies.

Those are nice numbers. You could certainly fill one pocket on the tower, maybe even fill two pockets, and maybe even have a copy or two left over to go back into the section.

Well, not any more.

Now a publisher is paying to get a book on to the New Mass Market Tower, and B&N is ordering 3 copies for the bad stores, 5 copies for somewhat better stores, dramatically fewer copies.

So, big picture, where once B&N might routinely have ordered 6000 copies in exchange for a New Mass Market Tower placement to cover store stock and a ready reserve for the warehouse, now it could be more like 4250 or 4500.

Little picture, let's look at those bad-in-genre stores that had gotten 6 copies and are now getting 3. Well, 3 isn't going to fill 2 pockets, so maybe you'll only get one. For thinner books, 3 copies might not even fill a pocket. Either way, there's no extra copy to go in section, so some dedicated genre fans who bee-line to the section might not notice your new book on the Tower. If one copy sells, all of a sudden there are only 2 copies in a pocket that can fit 3 or 4 so it's harder to see the book on the Tower, the display looks forlorn and lonely. B&N has a great supply chain and can get more copies of a new book from warehouse to store in a couple of days, but if demands at any of these stores is way stronger than expected you're still looking at maybe having only one copy for a day or two or maybe even going clean before the 72 hours it might take to get a box opened. To have this happening now... I can think of some B&Ns where demand might uptick because a nearby Borders has closed, it's a bad time to decide to be less robust in your ordering.

Will these things cost sales? Of course! If the initial order is down by 25%, if some stores are getting 50% fewer copies -- well, it doesn't matter if you have the same placement, this is going to have an effect.

But not to worry, you'll still find plenty of ways to accessorize your Nook.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Harlequin and e-royalties

There was a bit of controversy in June because Harlequin was sending out letters to "increase" their e-book royalty rates, but to levels that were in some instances less than what had become the industry standard. They've now sent out a second round response to some of the complaints that had been received, which I thought I'd comment upon.

The Harlequin offer is that they will pay the current industry standard of 25% of net receipts for books in their "single title" program. These are books that come out under Mira or Luna or other imprints that are under the branding of an imprint just like a Del Rey book from Random House or an Obsidian book from Penguin, but not under a broad 4-in-a-month numbered series umbrella like Harlequin Nocturne or Harlequin American. For in-series books, their offer is a scaled royalty of 15-20% of net receipts with escalations based on total digital revenue for the books. They explain this lower royalty by saying, essentially, that they are special. That their series are so heavily branded, and sales so dependent on the readership that buys their Harlequins every single month in their series of choice, that the author just isn't as important to the success of things.

If I had a stable of romance authors, I might say... Just in general, there are other publishers that have distinct marketplace impressions. Baen, Daw, Ace military SF, a Berkley Prime Crime book, these are some examples of publishers that have really strong identities in the marketplace. And even within a series there are books that will sell better or worse because of the identity of the author or quality of the manuscript. What if a book is first published as a series, the author takes off, Harlequin repackages outside the series to give the author a longer ongoing life resting more on the author name than series name? There are a gazillion other things that could be said about their offer, the letter explaining it.

But what fascinated me most is this part of the FAQ:

Q: When an older contract provides that the digital royalty is 50% of NAR [Net Receipts], how does that work in practice?
A: Our authors contract with Harlequin Books SA (“HBSA”), our related Swiss company. HBSA licenses the right to publish an author’s work in print and digital to our operating companies and to third party publishers, which then bring books to market in their country (incurring costs of translation, production, distribution, marketing, branding, etc.). In return, HBSA receives a license fee. The NAR is the license fee. For editions where the author is to be paid 50% of NAR, the author’s royalty is therefore 50% of the license fee received by HBSA. The license fees are expressed as a percentage of cover price. Historically they ranged from 6% to 8%. The author’s 50% share of that fee would then equal 3% to 4% of the cover price.


This is where Harlequin explains why it is better to get 15% or 25% of something, where you might otherwise think you are entitled to 50% of that exact same something.

Which -- guess what -- isn't entirely correct.

There are a lot of Harlequin contracts from the early 2000s that, per this FAQ, treat an e-book as a subsidiary right that Harlequin clearly has, but more as a right to be licensed to someone else instead of sold directly by Harlequin. Thus, instead of having a royalty rate, they lump those in with rights like book club or large print or audio that are most often, when given to a publisher, split 50/50 with the author. This is a general situation that pops up in publishing more often than you might think, when a publisher develops the capability to exploit a right that once required a third party.

The right to sub-license within Harlequin isn't as blanket a right or ability as the FAQ would suggest. Sometimes there will be language in a contract that says that licensing within the family has to be done on an arms-length basis, or on terms reflective of what one might get from licensing to a third party (loophole alert: who gets to decide what terms are reflective?), and even without the specific language there is a body of law on fiduciary duty that says you can't be too egregious in doing things that undercut the position of somebody who's entitled to a share of your income.

So let's look at how I as agent might discuss this FAQ, and what alternate answers might be given:

1. If you license your book to Rosetta Books, or to Open Road, or to eReads, you are going to get something like 50% of that third party e-book publisher's net receipts. If you go to Amazon's KDP platform, you might get 50% or 70% of the e-book list price that you establish less small deductions for delivery fees or the like.

2. If you're in the single title program, Harlequin is offering an industry standard royalty rate. You have a problem with that? And 25% is half of the 50% if Harlequin did all its e-books via Open Road, Rosetta, etc. There are many restrictions on using KDP and the similar e-book platforms, no major publishers are using those.

3. If you are in a Harlequin series, where they want to offer you a starting royalty rate of 15% of net receipts instead of the currently more customary 25%, things get a little more interesting but still to only a limited extent. The idea that you sign for 15% of net because it's better than the 3-4% of cover we'd have to pay under that 2002 contract doesn't look so good, but I'm sorry to say the argument isn't entirely that easy for the author or agent to make. As an example, if Harlequin did a broad license with an Open Road, can they say that some percentage of the customary e-book royalty was going to be allocated to granting Open Road the right to use Harlequin's series trademarks and branding, and that this was worth a fraction of the royalty? Probably, it might depend in part on just how much use or co-branding there was, but yes, there are probably ways to do this. Suddenly 50% of net receipts becomes 33% or 40% or 45% of net receipts that are actually allocated to the underlying rights to the book, the rest allocated toward use of the valuable branding or trademarks, and getting one-half of that would look very much like the offer Harlequin is making.

4. The biggest pitfall for Harlequin that I can see is on the question of whether it's a bona fide sublicense if Harlequin publishes a Harlequin e-book. The argument that can be made here is that Harlequin pays a full cover royalty in North American when their editors in NYC sign up a book for a contract that you negotiate with their Ontario-based contracts person, and that even if the contract is with Harlequin S.A. they don't claim that Harlequin S.A. is publishing the book under license to Harlequin in North America. If they don't make that claim for the mass market, how can they make it for the e-book? If that argument were successfully made, Harlequin might not be able to publish the e-book without having a specific royalty rate amended into these older contracts. Since that would be more of a Mexican stand-off, maybe Harlequin would sweeten their offer for the series titles.

5. But even then, there are alternative approaches Harlequin could take. As an example, the precedent is very much that not every Harlequin imprint around the globe does every book that Harlequin does in North America, so if they had e-books done through an Australian or British subsidiary that has a track record of exercising selectivity, and if the web sites that sell those e-books don't have tight territorial controls over where they sell...

In the course of publishing events, authors have made point #4s, and publishers have found point #5s. As an example, in the late 1990s (if memory serves) Harper settled an action over how much money Harper US received selling books to Harper Canada. If they sell the books to themselves for less, the net receipt is smaller, the author royalty is less. The authors "won" this, and Harper stopped selling books to Canada intracompany at artificially low rates. Then Harper decided to offer a lower royalty on those sales moving forward, and to be very firm on keeping to that lower royalty rate. The victory was ephemeral.

This post isn't to say that everyone rush to sign on Harlequin's dotted line, nor to say you rush to their attorney ready to make my point #4 regarding their 2002 contract. I'm admiring, in a way, because the Harlequin offer on series titles might be low, but at the same time just high enough that it's hard for the average author to say no. It's the velvet glove version of "make him an offer he can't refuse."