Wednesday, October 13, 2010


(NOTE: A writer apologizes many times through the course of his or her career for mistakes being caught by watchful readers and personal gaffes made in public. Humility is important when making the apology, except when blame can be assigned. This situation allows the application of slander and libel to avoid responsibility. When in the silly position of having to make an apology, remember that somewhere else someone is getting away with what you got caught doing. Take comfort in knowing that the next time your vile behavior may go unnoticed, or even be accepted.)

After private screeds and foul-tempered blog entries that called down the Furies to attack the digital greed-heads, THE DOG WALKED DOWN THE STREET is now available in a Kindle edition. What happened, why this change in attitude? Simple. I didn’t read the contract.

When Cynthia Frank, the publisher of Cypress House (hereafter known as the “Publisher”), and I went through contract details during a dinner at Pane e Vino, most of my concerns were about having the book set in Bembo. This is a fine classic typeface, revived by Monotype in the early twentieth century, and never looks weak, weary, or dull. THE DOG must have a bookish look, I said, since it is about the making of books. Other parts of the contract were glossed over on account of I could not see making a fuss over film rights (still open to anyone willing to make the investment) or audio or translation or any other minutia that crowd into standard boilerplate contracts. The publisher trusted me to deliver the manuscript on time and I trusted her to produce a well-designed book, but we were not dumb enough to enter into a partnership without a contract. Even the most solid of friendships has limits.

Imagine my horror at finding out THE DOG was in the process of being converted to a Kindle edition. What is a book, especially my book, without type and paper and cover? Nothing more than a bunch of text floundering in search of a form. Respite from the digital world is necessary for any attempt at writing, whether another cookbook or free-ranging novel of insights and goofy dreams, and THE DOG was meant to have its spine broken and be stuck on a writer’s desk right next to Merriam Webster’s Medical Desk Dictionary, last used to look up the correct spelling for “anaphylactic.” With a fire-hose blast of abuse at the ready, I was drawn back to the contract. In twelve-point type under “Secondary Rights” glared my defeat:

The rights granted to Publisher, and Publisher’s licenses, under this Agreement include (in addition to all other rights described herein) the right to prepare, publish, use, adapt reproduce sell and otherwise distribute electronic versions of the Work.

Darn. She had me. The section went on to list “any and all physical media now known of or hereafter devised including, without limitation, magnetic tape, floppy disks, CD-ROM, DVD, game cartridges, laser disk, optical disk, IC card or chip, eBook, sound recordings, programs for machine teachings, ephemeral screen flashings or reproductions thereof, Internet downloadable books, PDF, Adobe Reader, Microsoft Reader, SoftBook, and any other human or machine-readable medium….” Slap me twice and call me silly. A little bit of attention in the right direction would have saved me from this embarrassment.

Now I have to give the proper support to my publisher and book by touting this new edition. For those who enjoyed the physical book comes the latest leap in digital thrills: THE DOG WALKED DOWN THE STREET: AN OUTSPOKEN GUIDE FOR WRITERS WHO WANT PUBLISH (Cypress House, $13.95) is available in a Kindle version for the low sum of $9.99. No more lost Post-It notes or water stains and every page is a clean page for your perusal and delight. A backlit DOG is yours for the asking at Buy early and buy often. Batteries not included.

(On a budgetary note, Amazon does not give free copies to publishers or writers of any Kindle edition. This is kind of cheap and shows a lack of interest in developing goodwill. Not like I’d read THE DOG in any form but paper.)

NEXT: Water dog on dry land

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Blogger Cynthia Frank said...

Saw this and thought of The Dog Walked Down the Street:

5:09 PM  

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