Thursday, March 26, 2009

Fanfic writer thinks copyright doesn't apply to HER

I was gonna blog about something completely different (it was going to be on David Fickling guest lecture for the Children's publishing module) but then I ran across this topic at the Absolute Write Watercooler and I stole the title :P

You want to stop drinking now if you don't want to spray it all over your screens.

A fanfic writer who goes by Lady Sybilla has written a sequel to Stephenie Meyer's Twilight books (titled: "Russet Noon") and has self-published it under the pretense that the characters have entered "the public psyche" and are therefore not copyrightable and that "Characters are only copyrightable if their creator draws them or hires an artist to draw them". Cue snorting and drink spraying, I told you not to take that sip.

She's sent out press releases, she has Youtube trailers (at least 2 that I know of) and apparently has sent out a casting call for a Native American hotty to take pictures of as whats-his-name-werewolf-boy.

And you know what's really hilarious? Her "publisher" AV Paranormal has opinions and is trying to "educate" people on copyrights but, get this, AV Paranormal is registered to an organisation called... Lady Sybilla! Also, when you google AV Paranormal you get a website about some ghosthunting TV show. Huh?
So when she refers to her "publishers", she's really talking about herself in the third person, 'nuff said.

No legit publisher (and most non-legit for that matter) would touch this one. They'd be as crazy as Lady Sybilla if they did. The copyright sharks are closing in. They're busy laughing their arses off right now.

I've written the occasional fanfic myself as well as a "proper" writer of my own original work. I don't think fanfic is a bad thing or that it should be stamped out but most fanfic writers are honest, creative folks who just want to play around a bit with something that's touched them and know that trying to make a profit from someone else's work is theft. However, not everyone is as informed as I am and this can only make it harder for the good people writing fic who are just as outraged by Lady Sybilla's behaviour.

I'm not a big fan of lawsuits, especially when it's between fans and authors/publishers (I find that often it's the copyright holder being too touchy) but this time around, I'm gonna be eating popcorn and watching for some serious fallout - and I will be siding with Stephenie Meyer's lawyers.

Youtube trailers: 1 and 2.
Russet Noon website
Russet Noon Press release

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Visit to Oxford University Press

On Friday we had a "visit" to Oxford University Press (OUP) for the children's module. I put visit in quotation marks because, well, they took us to a meeting room and gave us a marketing lecture. I was disappointed, I really wanted to see some of the building.

Still, the lecture was rather interesting although it only covered publicity and marketing. The marketing assistant did our M.A. last year too which gives me hope.

One of the things they insisted on was how much things cost. They handed out covers of two of their books and ask how we would market them and how much we thought everything would cost. We never got it right. Even something as small as a bookmark or a postcard was ridiculously expensive. Actually, it came up that sometimes it was the same price for bookmarks as for rucksacks! Mainly because of all the safety testing that needs to be done on anything that might go to children. Which I guess makes sense but sometimes it can be a little exaggerated.

Also, they gave us some figures for marketing budgets for individual titles. I know this is gonna kill some author who'll stumble by this post but: some books have big marketing budgets and some have none. And quality doesn't necessarily come into the equation. Publishers have to do those books that are easier to market widely and that's not always the quality book but the one with an author who's done something interesting or who's a great public speaker. With the kind of money available, you have to get value for money.

I know it is unfair. I'm something of a writer myself and someday, I hope my book will be one with a marketing budget.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Not all interviews are equal

Here's an account of an interview from just this year by Brianna. Clearly the methods have changed somewhat as it doesn't sounds like anything my current coursemates have told me their interviews were like (or maybe it's because it's early in the year and the interviewers aren't tired of the same ol' answers yet ;) Who knows?). The lesson to draw from this, IMO, is that no one can tell you exactly what the interview will be like.

In spite of her experience with the interview, Brianna did get accepted at OBU by the way :)


The interview day began kind of poorly for me as I confused the time
change difference and found the interview was scheduled 2 hours before
I had planned. As I arrived to my regular 8 to 5 job, I received a
phone call from my interviewer and promptly had to reschedule, while
attempting to hide the purpose of the phone call from my boss and
coworkers who don't know I am considering graduate school. Luckily, my
interviewer had some extra free time later that day and I managed to
leave work for that purpose. Still, it ruined my built-up idea of the
interview going smoothly and I felt more nervous when the actual time
came. The lesson here is that if you are an international student, pay
close attention to the time difference!

I already felt stupid and apologized immediately when OBU called. I
had prepared for a week to answer questions based on my strengths,
weaknesses, interests in the school and general publishing questions.
I expected to be asked about what jobs I would see myself doing in the
industry and I also expected a lot of questions about my background.
What I found, though, was that the background meant little except for
clarification purposes.

I was asked what certain phrases meant regarding my honors courses and
my grade point average (GPA) - which I assume they don't use in the
UK? The previous week had been spent skimming stories on Publisher's
Weekly and The Bookseller, but the questions I received were much more
pointed. I had no questions about strengths or weaknesses, what I
thought publishing was, why I liked OBU, etc. My questions were very
focused on specific events and lawsuits within the publishing
industry. I don't want to give away details, but the stories I was
asked about have been in the news for years and I had never heard of
them. I felt completely lost and utterly stupid as I fumbled for
opinions. The important thing is that I gave opinions. Interviewers
will not mind if you have a differing view. They want to see that you
can speak clearly and form your own ideas. I even told the interviewer
that I had never heard the news story in question and she gave me some
key points to research.

Overall, it was a stressful interview. I did not feel comfortable, but
I felt like I did the best I could with the knowledge I had. I would
just suggest that anyone who is considering grad school in a specific
subject should know, in detail, the most pressing current events. I
thought I did, but should have dug deeper. Everyone should write a
thank you letter after the interview and send it immediately. I
usually have no problem with interviews and do not get stressed
easily, but for some reason I did. Not every interview is going to be
perfect, so you shouldn't expect it to be. Just do the best you can
and make sure you have a genuine interest in the topics. Relax.:)

Friday, March 6, 2009


Another post! Aren't you surprised? :D Me too!

I got another email from the person who asked about interviews. She asked another question and I figured it wasn't a bad one for the blog. Hey, if you email me, chances are I'll post it up. It's a fair exchange, right ;) ?

I know you are well traveled, so if you had the choice would you study in Oxford again? And having gone through most of the program, would you seriously recommend it to other people? The thing is, I'm trying to decide if it worth my time and money (I'm financing it myself). Your honesty would be truly appreciated. Also, do you feel like you have any time for travel? My travel outside the U.S. consists of one backpacking experience through Europe. I would love to see more of the UK.

Yes, I would totally redo the course if I had the option again. In all honesty, this is probably the happiest I've been in my entire life. Sure it's hard sometimes and there's a lot of work and pressure. There are people in the course I don't like to work with (although they are not bad people, just people I have no chemistry with) and I can't wait to be done with it and in the real world again. But that's true of every academic course :D
We have a lot of fun as a group and although we're hardly ever all together anymore, when there's a large group of us in one place, we have a blast and that's as important as the modules themselves in a way.

Oxford itself is a very nice town. It has a nice, village feel rather than being a stuffy "old university" town. It's very pleasant and although I sometimes miss having a wide range of options for things to do in the evening or on weekends (England will seem very slow and sleepy in comparison to the US - everything closes ridiculously early!) but it's probably just as well budget-wise :) And London's practically next door anyway.

There is some time to travel too, I haven't but that's mainly because I'm trying not to spend my parents' money. I like to eat out with my friends so I find myself going through money very fast and I'd rather eat out regularly than take a really cool trip and have to be tight with the cash later. I figure I can always travel more later when i have a regular paycheck, lol.
But yeah, a lot of people from the course are traveling regularly all over
Europe, either to go visit their families or do some tourism. It's also easy to travel within the UK, plenty of airports that Ryanair goes to and also, buses. A bit expensive to my taste and the train aren't very reliable but it's doable. And again, with London next door, you can usually get just about anywhere in the country easily enough.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Dreaded Interview

Someone emailed me asking about the interview process. Fool that I am, I had forgotten my password for the gmail account in the "about me" box. I've just recovered it but I was too late to answer this reader in time for her interview. I'm SO SORRY! I'm such a doofus sometimes! Well, most of the time, I'll admit it.

But, it was a good question, so I'll answer it here anyway (can't believe I didn't do it sooner, after all my agony over it last year!).


Yes, I had an interview before I was accepted at OBU. Mine was done by phone (at the inhuman hour of 7 am) as I was living in Peru at the time. Some people had to come to Brookes for a face-to-face encounter.

Let me tell you from the start that there really isn't much to worry about. The Lecturers are all very nice and informal, we were on first name basis with all of them since before the course began :) They're not looking to reject you, quite the opposite. If you're asked for an interview, you're pretty much there already!

They'll ask you things like:
- How do you define publishing?
- What do you feel are your strengths?
- What do you feel are your weaknesses?
- Why did you chose OBU?
- Why did you chose Oxford?

It's a conversation more than an interview, really. At least, it was for me.

Here is some general advice on how to do this (bearing in mind I've only done this once): relax, the lecturers are your friends and want you to succeed. It's hard to believe but I know these people and I can say there isn't one of them that isn't a good person. Leander might be scary but she's really a teddy bear (just don't tell anyone I said that...). Be confident, publishing is a business, a tough one at that, where people juggle big sums of money every day. Shyness is normal, they understand that (and most people in publishing are naturally shy), but it's very impressive if you manage to fight it off when it matters. They also know you're gonna be nervous. Speak with conviction, doesn't matter if you're wrong or if they disagree with you. They'll respect you more for thinking for yourself. Don't be arrogant though, they don't tolerate fools easily (especially not Leander - can you tell she's one of my fave lecturers yet?).

Oh, and don't prepare too much or you'll get stuck if your interviewer deviates from the script you've imagined. Take it easy, it's mostly a formality.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Research Proposals

So, Research Proposals are the devil.

We have to write a 2000w. proposal for our dissertation. Based on this paper, they will assign us a supervisor. The thing is, the proposal assumes you've done some research on the subject already: how are you going to research the topic, what resources do you have/need, what's your schedule, how much money etc. I mean, most of us just decided on a subject at the very last minute.

BTW, mine is "Open Access and Creative Commons: Giving your Work Away for Free" . Working title only :)

So here I am, trying to write a proposal that will be acceptable (it's not graded but if it sucks, they don't let you do a Master's but you can still do a post-grad diploma - that's the course minus the dissertation/major project).

I'm not especially interested in Rights but as the proper Humanities scholar that I am, I'm more interested in the social aspects of this topic as well as how I can think of making it profitable to publishers (because I want a good grade on this project ;D ).

I'm kind of looking forward to writing my dissertation but I'd enjoy it more if I didn't have the mammoth NPD project at the same time, let alone the DMP blog to fiddle and update regularly (as my faithful readers will know, not my strong point) and a looooong essay for Children's. Oh, and work experience, which is getting progressively more boring and routine.

*sigh* I can't wait to finish the course and get a real job.

Oh and, I will try to post something other than me whining. I was thinking maybe a post on the history of Children's lit or something like that, distilled from my class notes. I just have to work up some motivation to do something course related. I need a holiday...