Friday, September 24, 2004

Akme's autumn offensive

Andrew Malcolm has sent me a link to what he calls the Akme autumn offensive, and, as usual, the web site makes for an interesting read.

Back in the mists of time, Oxford University Press managed to upset Andrew Malcolm pretty severely. He sent them a work of philosophy which, in the eyes of some eminent judges, was perfectly sensible and worthy of publication. At first OUP said that they would publish it. Then they said they wouldn't, and told him to push off.

Many writers have experienced a similar disappointment. I was once in New York to see a publisher who had happily agreed to publish a crime novel of mine. I rang up on a Tuesday to make an appointment to see the editor, and when I arrived for my appointment on the Wednesday morning she told me that she had just been made redundant. ('They are letting me go,' she said. Which I had to have translated.) The book never appeared. Well it did, but not under that publisher's imprint.

Faced with such an event, most of us just swallow our feelings, or go out and get drunk or whatever. But Andrew Malcolm decided that he just wasn't going to take this shit without fighting back. Ever since, he has been exposing the foolishness and follies of Oxford University Press, and its parent University, at every opportunity. And believe me, opportunities come thick and fast.

The immediate subject of Andrew's autumn offensive is the University's (probably illegal) reluctance to publish proper accounts, and to make them available to the public at a reasonable cost. This is not something which will interest many writers. However, if you have any writing ambitions or experience (and whatever your nationality), you would be well advised to explore the Akme web site in some detail. It requires patience, and ideally you need some prior understanding of the book trade. But there are many valuable pieces of information to be found there.

To give just one example: if you scroll down towards the bottom of the first page, you will find a link to an interesting account of how HarperCollins's (US) practice of dividing the income from foreign sales has been successfully challenged. Like all publishers, HC took the major slice for themselves and threw a few crumbs in the authors' direction.

Further down the page, you can find a link to the 'Akme law library', which is described as 'a unique resource for all authors'. And for once the word unique is, I think, justified. I do not know of its equal. It constitutes an extremely valuable service to writers, and it is free.

And there is much more. But you will have to take your time and devote a little effort to the search, because there's an awful lot there.

I admire Mr Malcolm's energy.

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