The Authors Guild Class Action Against OpenAI

The Authors Guild and a number of well-known writers have brought a class action against OpenAI and its various subsidiary corporations and partnerships alleging violations of copyright law in its use of materials to develop its large language models (LLMs), including ChatGPT.

For eight years I made my living as the primary legal editor of a publication that covered class actions and while that was some years back, I still know a lot about the subject. So I read through the complaint — you can find it here in PDF form — and have some thoughts.

Here’s the court record if you want to look up more information.

First of all, this action was brought by a very sophisticated and prominent firm of class action lawyers, Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein. Headquartered in San Francisco, the firm has been a major player in complex litigation since 1972, handling among other things some of the major tobacco cases, litigation over the Exxon Valdez, and other major product liability and class actions.

The other firm in the case, Cowan, DeBaets, Abrahams & Sheppard, is very experienced in copyright and technology law, according to their website.

Secondly, the case was brought in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Given the number of publishers located in New York, that’s an obvious place to bring an action related to copyright. It’s assigned to Judge Sidney H. Stein, who was appointed by Bill Clinton.

A quick google search indicates that Judge Stein has handled a number of copyright cases.

Thirdly, this suit is only against OpenAI (in its many legal forms) and over ChatGPT and the other versions of that software. Given that there are other companies doing the same thing, I have no doubt that more suits will follow.

Fourth, this case is strictly over violations of copyright law in using work by authors of fiction. The proposed class includes works of fiction covered by registered copyrights that have sold at least 5,000 copies and that were used in programming the LLMs.

Again, this leaves out a lot of copyrighted materials that could be the subject of other suits, including nonfiction and books that sold fewer copies but were still used in developing the software.

And fifth, because they’ve restricted the case to books with properly registered copyrights, they can seek statutory damages based on violation of copyright law. That allows them to get around a major problem in class actions of a huge number of class members with very different actual damages. Continue reading “The Authors Guild Class Action Against OpenAI”

Raised in a Barn: Martha, My Deer

I do not hunt. I never have (I’m not against it in a general way–it’s just not where I want to put my energy since I don’t rely on hunting to put protein on the table). But I grew up around (minor) weaponry. We had BB pistols and 22 rifles, as well as bows, arrows, and an archery target on the lawn to the side of the patio at the Barn. My brother and I were, um, desultory archers at best; my father was much better. I was an okay shot with the 22, but the rule was no shooting when Dad wasn’t there to superintend, and he was elsewhere a lot of the time. So, while I’m not averse to weapons, they weren’t a huge part of my growing up experience.

Dad had this idea about hunting bow hunting; we had rifles in the house, but if there was a pest to be dealt with he often opted for the bow. In at least a couple of cases the pests in question were porcupines, which set up camp on the lawn across the driveway. If the porcupines could not be encouraged to go elsewhere, it meant that letting the dogs out off-leash was not going to happen. Despite several faces-full of quills, our dogs could be persuaded to leave the big, slow-moving prickly things alone. So Dad would deploy the bow and arrow, which was effective at a distance, and provided a useful lever, post mortem, with which to move the corpse. But what Dad really wanted to hunt was deer.

Every December when deer season arrived he would gather his bow and a quiver of arrows, stuff his pockets full of Baker’s German Chocolate bars, and take a Thermos of coffee up the mountain to sit in the cold (often in the snow) waiting for a deer to amble by. I think he only loosed an arrow once or twice a year, and he never actually hit a deer, but there was something about the man-vs.-the-elements thing that appealed to him.

Still, we had a mounted deer head in our tack room. How did this happen?

I think I was eight or nine when Dad went out with a local guy who routinely took tenderfoots (which is to say non-locals who did not hunt) out in deer season. I’m not sure what kind of rifles they used, or whether the four or five guys used their own or had them supplied by the local guy. What I do know is that Dad got spectacularly lucky: he took down two deer with one shot. The one he was aiming at he hit amidships; the other one was behind that deer and running for her life; the bullet went through Deer One and caught Deer Two from behind, hitting her right under her tail. If he’d tried I don’t think he could have accomplished it. Pure fluke.

The rules around deer hunting at the time were that you could only take one deer–well, Dad had only meant to take one deer, but fortune had handed him a second. So someone else took home Deer One, and Dad brought home Deer Two. What this meant in practice is that the deer were handed over to someone who butchered them and dispatched the rest of the body to a taxidermist, who mounted the head and processed the skin. Out of this my father got a doeskin vest, which he wore with pride, many pounds of venison which went promptly into the freezer to be consumed on special occasions, and the deer head, which was christened Martha.

I cannot find a photo of Martha, who hung in the entry room to the Barn. She was beautiful: no points (which is to say, no antlers), but with a graceful tilt to her head, and a pacific, thoughtful expression. As a kid I was disappointed at the rather coarse feel of her fur–something that graceful and beautiful looks like it should be soft and velvety, but Martha’s fur was functional: meant to protect her from the elements, not to please the tactile requirements of a 9-year-old. 

On those Occasions of State when venison was served (chops, ground meat, a roast, and on one occasion a crown rib roast!) my father would go down to the freezer, bring up a well-wrapped chunk of meat to defrost, and announce proudly “We’re eating on Martha tonight!” Okay, macabre. But totally in character for my father; in his way I think it was a way of acknowledging the deer, and a wish to use all of the gifts that it had provided.

When the Beatles’ song “Martha, My Dear” came out, she was thereafter Martha, My Deer. My father took his opportunities as he found them.

Fairies and Sarcasm

I misheard someone talking about the fairies in their garden as “I’ve got theories at the bottom of my garden.” And I do. So many of them. There are people who cannot deal with me for more than ten minutes at a time because that’s the limit they have for the way my brain works. I also have friends who love to talk with me for hours because I apparently say interesting things.

I’m not going to do that today. Not so much theory. Just a smattering of reaction that may one day become theory.

Yom Kippur is over and my life is the better for it, but I’m wrapped into how Australian Jews are represented on the public broadcaster responsible for multicultural services in Australia. My latest email from them told me (on Yom Kippur, though obviously I didn’t read it until afterwards) which shows are being moved from their streaming service. One of the two lead shows that is being taken down, as announced on the Jewish Day of Atonement, is David Baddiel’s “Jews Don’t Count.”

This is the same broadcaster that, when I asked what TV programming they had for the High Holy Days last year, sent me to a Hebrew radio show (hint: Hebrew is not the standard language of Australian Jews, English is).

This year, the special show they had just before our New Year was set at (in their regular email about programming), they explained, a Jewish funeral. It may have been a comedy set at a funeral, though the detailed description sounds as if it was set in the mourning period immediately after a funeral. I don’t know for sure because it was, honestly, not something I wanted to start my new year with. I’m assured by a non-Jewish friend that it’s a good show. If they put it on again, I’ll watch it and find out. I’ll watch the Baddiel tomorrow, though, because these programming decisions make me feel very much as if there are fairies at the bottom of the broadcaster’s garden, that Baddiel’s title sums up what needs to be said about it, and that I’m far safer with my theories than watching public television right now.

The good news is that some of my thoughts will be words at a bunch of places in October: at the Irish National Convention (I’ll be presenting online), at a Melbourne academic conference, quite possibly at the World Science Fiction Convention (again online), and elsewhere. I won’t be bored. (And if you want details of where I’ll be, let me know and I’ll post them as they are finalised.) I also won’t be able to see if SBS finally sort out why I wax sarcastic about them. They stopped replying to my emails when I pointed out that sending me to Hebrew radio was about the same as sending Australian Catholics to Latin radio.

I may be full of ideas these days, but I used to be such a nice person. I suspect sarcasm comes with menopause. Just suspect, mind. I now want to read a proper and carefully researched scientific study of the relationship of sarcasm to menopause. I shall go to bed and dream of such a study…

Political Ageism

I keep seeing newspaper columnists and others tut-tutting about Joe Biden’s age. Despite the fact that he’s doing a good job – better than I expected even if he isn’t doing some of the things I consider important – some suggest he shouldn’t run again.

Meanwhile, the Republicans are apparently planning to nominate the failed former occupant of the White House who tried to hold onto his job despite losing an election, a grifter who is under indictment for multiple crimes, someone who has proved that he is incapable of doing the job by the complete mess he made of it.

By the way, that con man is only three years younger than Biden, which certainly makes him no spring chicken. If anyone was raising the age question seriously, they’d be discussing it in reference to both men.

As someone a little, but not a lot, younger than both of them, I am aware that older people are at greater risk of health conditions that can keep them from doing a job than younger ones. But that is far from my first consideration when it comes to evaluating someone who is running for office.

I’ve never been a fan of maximum ages for jobs. If you can still do the job mentally and physically, why should you be forced to stop?

I do suspect that one reason people use age as a proxy there is that it’s messy to determine whether someone is still capable of doing work if you have to evaluate them. Plus there’s still plenty of ableism out there, plenty of efforts to push someone aside because they are disabled in some way.

Old people are likely to have accumulated some health conditions. My partner keeps telling me that we’re going to reach a point where we spend all day taking medications, doing physical therapy exercises, and making doctor appointments. He’s joking, but it is true that older people can’t ignore their health the way we did when we were young.

Here are some questions to ask about politicians with health issues:

  • Can they do their job around it?
  • If they can’t, will they be able to once they’ve had treatment?
  • Are there reasonable accommodations that will make it possible for them to do their work?

Based on what I can tell about Senators Feinstein and McConnell, my answers to those questions suggest that both of them should retire.

Joe Biden’s doing fine. Continue reading “Political Ageism”

Minority Cultures

I asked on Facebook if anyone wanted a short essay on how to check if something is reliable for the group that it’s attributed to and why it matters to let me know and they did. It was a good thing to write early into my New Year.

Today is when I introduce the wider issue. Over the next year, I’ll focus on specific cultural elements and, gradually, I will introduce cultural relativity, so that anyone following the series can understand the difference between how they see a given culture and what that culture is, in reality. Today, I shall use an Australian Jewish example in honour of the year 5784 and also because what happened in Australia over the last week is a really good introduction to why cultural relatively and precision is important.

What happened in Australia? A major public broadcaster in Australia formally celebrated Jewish New Year only on their Hebrew radio channel, according to their own search engine. SBS has a Yiddish channel (which has a report on antisemitism that I’d love to hear… but my Yiddish is very small, and learned as an adult) and a Hebrew channel that contains most of their publicised Jewish content. These two radio shows are the focus of programming for SBS for those they identify as Jewish Australians.

Programming outside these two radio shows includes the occasional recipe on the food site, news about antisemitism, news about Israel (often showing a worrying bias) and, from time to time, aspects of Jewish history and life as part of regular TV. There is an upcoming series that talks about how a part of Australia nearly became Israel, and has a Jewish presenter (whose father I once made laugh, but that’s another story). A Jewish comedy thing has just been shown, and I’ll get to that in the next paragraph.

The capacity to product culturally fair and supportive material lies within all this, but SBS gets things wrong, almost every time. Late last week, for instance, it advertised a new show with a Jewish theme. “Just in time for New Year!” I thought. I was prepared to admit publicly that I had been entirely wrong in my assessment of SBS.

The show is all about things that happen at, as the promo explains, “a funeral service.” When I looked at the detail about the show, it’s not a funeral service… it’s what SBS thinks is a Jewish funeral service. And it’s a comedy. Programming that includes anything Jewish is rare and special, but a comedy that revolves around death is not appropriate as the sole Jewish offering for the Jewish New Year. It’s the time when we celebrate life and talk about the living future.

What else has SBS done that includes Jewish Australia but also hurts it? SBS had a report on the first Australian cookbook (I’ve written about it elsewhere, Abbott’s heavily plagiarised volume) and mentioned the Jewish recipes… but the presenters had no knowledge that the recipes were all plagiarised from a very famous Sephardi London cookbook. The most crucial aspect of Jewish Australian history represented in the book was missed. This aspect is that Jews have been in Australia since the First Fleet, that nineteenth century Australian Jewish culture was heavily from London ie from an entirely different corner of the Jewish world to current stereotypes, which are mainly American.

I asked SBS themselves about their Jewish programming, a while back. They sent me to the Hebrew radio show. The languages of those two radio shows (Yiddish and Hebrew) support the stereotype that all Jews are sufficiently other that, regardless how long someone’s family has been in Australia (in my case, between 105-158 years), English won’t be their mother tongue. That became a bigger problem when the broadcaster itself sent me to the Hebrew radio show when I asked about Jewish programming. When I asked SBS about why they’d sent me to Hebrew programming, I also asked them if they sent all their Catholics to Latin radio shows. They did not reply.

The whole of the Australian multicultural broadcaster sets up a view of Jewishness that applies only to a minority of Australian Jews. The view does not reach past stereotypes or challenge racism or accept Jews as fully Australian, and they do not know how to culturally focus. They don’t even have a 101 in this: when I looked up “Jewish New Year” in the food section, I found recipes for long, plaited challah. It is not a New Year dish. We eat a round, white challah at this time of year, because we want to have a good and sweet year. This challah is readily available in those supermarkets that stock kosher food, so it’s not that hard to find out about. The problem is not the challah. It’s the conflation of search terms and the assumption that Jewishness is simple and doesn’t need focus.

The lack of focus on what Australian Jewishness is, leaves out the wider Australian community. Most people who rely on SBS and who do not speak Hebrew have no idea that it’s New Year for us. The article in a Canberra newspaper this year was inaccurate, but interviewed a Jewish local leader, so reflected some aspects of Judaism better than the publicly-funded national broadcaster.

Why is this so important? And why do I appear so consumed by it?

I used to advise government bodies on these issues (not just on Jewishness, but how to see and devise sensible government policy for multicultural Australia and its many different communities ie how to get past stereotypes and into reality), but they told me I was not someone they wanted advice from. This was when the Howard government came into power. The Howard government left a legacy that later governments took up. When I worked with SBS (on a different issue, but this subject came up in discussions) they were very aware of issues that they now ignore entirely. Some communities are more visible and have better representation than others. Jewish Australians are now part of the othered groups, and we’re a very good canary in the cultural hate coalmine.

SBS’s lack of understanding is a good template. It demonstrates a wider problem. That lack of focus, of seeing people for who they are, applies to many cultures in novels, in music, in TV, in cinema, in news reports. Given this, the skills I used to teach – how to see outside one’s own cultural boundaries and how to do this respectfully – may be handy again.

I’m going to find some of my old teaching materials, and work, bit by bit through them here, on this blog. I’ll also do interviews of writers, but not as many as I had planned. And this is my New Year promise to you. There will be silly posts, and lazy posts, but there will also be some very useful ones, that take up my past work and update it, and present it to anyone who needs it. It’s not the same as the day-long workshops or than the consultations that are in my past, but if my posts help even one person not create the sort of mess a very well-intentioned public broadcaster has made, a mess that unintentionally supports antisemitism through its support of stereotypes, then that’s a good outcome for a New Year resolution.

Decline and Fall

I grew up learning that the Roman Empire fell because of decadence. This was intertwined with Christianity as interpreted in Texas small towns. I don’t actually know much about Rome and my father, who was fascinated by Roman history, is no longer around to ask.

A quick Google search indicates that, as with many things, the collapse of the empire was the result of many things and decadence is unlikely to have been a major factor. And of course, these days cries of “decadence” come from right wing extremist talking points about drag queens and the idea that women control their own bodies.

So it’s a word one should use with caution.

But I read this Lyz Lenz Substack piece and felt so horrified that my first response was that the world was decaying around me.

What shocked me wasn’t the bros coming out to defend their rapist friend – I knew that happened. It was that there was a TV show called Punk’d over 20 years ago that was a nasty version of Candid Camera on steroids.

The show did appalling things to people for a joke. The one that really got me was the one that set up the pop star Mýa to go on a date with a guy who pretended he was obsessed with her in a very creepy way.

The people who did this had to know about the real problems famous people have with that kind of stalker, not to mention that this kind of obsession is one of the terrible things that happens to many women. But they put it on anyway and then called it a joke.

They got rich making “jokes” like this. And lots of people apparently watched this on television.

Now I think that’s decadent: making entertainment out of people’s very real fears. Continue reading “Decline and Fall”

365 Days in a Year

Bear with me here.

• On January 12, 1932, Hattie Caraway becomes the first woman elected to the US Senate.
• On February 7, 1497, followers of Savonarola burn art and books–even cosmetics–in what becomes known as the Bonfire of the Vanities.
• On March 23, 1857, the first elevator is installed at 488 Broadway, NYC (yes, designed and installed by Elisha Otis).
• On April 30, 1492, Christopher Columbus is given his commission of exploration by the crown of Spain, named “Admiral of the Ocean Sea” and viceroy and governor of any territory he discovers.
• On May 9, 1946, actress Candice Bergen is born.
• On June 19, 1865, two years after the Emancipation Proclamation, news reaches the slaves of Galveston, Texas, that they are free (and have been for two years).
• On July 5, 1810, PT Barnum was born.
• On August 20, Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture debuted in Moscow.
• On September 11, 1609, Henry Hudson arrives on Manhattan Island.
• On October 28, 1818, Abigail Adams dies.
• On November 17, The crew of Japan Airlines Flight 1628 sight a UFO over Alaska.
• On December 15, 1161, After a military defeat, officers assassinate emperor Wanyan Liang of the Jin dynasty.
• And not to skip leap years: February 29, 1940: Hattie McDaniel becomes the first African-American to win an Academy Award, for her performance in Gone With the Wind.

There are 365 days in a year (okay, 366 every four years). And noteworthy things happened on all of them. Births, deaths, assassinations, political coups, technological triumphs, victories for humanity and victories for oppression. Books published, paintings finished, plays debuting, cathedrals built, sculptures completed.

My birthday is December 7, a date that Franklin Roosevelt cited as a Date that Will Live in Infamy. Growing up, I heard about this–the big jokes (“December 7: two bombs, Pearl Harbor and Madeleine,” because grade school kids are so clever and subtle). And I’m writing this on September 11, another day which will live in infamy. I have a friend who called me after 9/11 because it was his kids’ birthday, and he wanted to know how I’d coped with having a birthday on a problematical date. By the time he asked, December 7 had been gentled by time, but I did point out that there’s only so many days in a year. Good and bad things are going to happen on each of them. 

I do not downplay the horror or the tragedy of either Pearl Harbor Day or 9/11, both of which led to war and more tragedy and horror. But it’s good to remember that in addition to those infamous events, there were also perfectly ordinary births and deaths and graduations and brisses and promotions and quinceaneras and baseball games and dance recitals and first steps and last breaths. So much life. I hope I can always remember the losses and the terror and the outrage of terrible events, never lose sight of the joys any day can bring.

Turning problems into plot

This week my post is for writers. This post is just as handy for readers (since, by reading this, you are a reader and yes, this is a day for bad jokes) but if you want to think of it from the reading perspective you need to look backwards to translate. We see the results of all these writing decisions as readers. This post is about those decisions themselves. It’s like taking a picture of a mountain and imagine you’re standing on that mountain looking down, rather than standing below the mountain taking its picture. Right now, I am sitting in a room at the foot of a mountain and typing. I can’t see the mountain, but I know it’s there. How I see it is the critical question. What view am I describing for my readers?

The view of characters changes depending on where we stand. But that’s not the only discrepancy. What do we know about the private lives of the characters we  invent? How do we explain them when we write? Are there any discrepancies between those private lives and their public selves? And how do we see and interpret all of this, as a writer? I’m not talking about personality. Your character might be a raging genius in public and terrifyingly incompetent around the home. That’s fine. But not today’s subject. What I want to think about today is the difference in culture between someone’s culture in the home (idioculture, private and personal and only really shared properly with people who belong in that small group – think of the Brontë children and their private invented worlds and secret shared language) and how they share or don’t share or are not permitted to share with the rest of a community.

This is as much about privilege as privacy. Where one’s private life matches public expectations of that private life, for good or ill, people know how to interpret it. That’s privilege, because, even if that active interpretation is unkind, we know we’re going to have to deal with it so we can develop tools to deal with it. Knowledge about such things is power over one’s life. Your character can benefit from being treated well because they live like someone important and are seen as someone important. This enables them to fight the racism and prejudice they see, if they see it. Your character might become a suffragette or fight for access to modern washing machines if they know that the vote or the machine will improve their life.

Most people face invisible prejudice, and this is harder.  Think of a character who uses a wheelchair. They might be left out of group activities because of the assumption that people in wheelchairs cannot enjoy them. Or think of a character who faces bigots and is being attacked (quietly, privately) by others. There are no simple ways of explaining what’s wrong because, from the outside, they look helpless or angry and the attackers are playing the long, slow, quiet game. Everyone seeing this from outside tangles things and turns bad to shockingly worse because they assume the victim is the problem. Then there are cultural differences: where your Australian Muslim character has far more in common with everyone else than the Christian characters think, but said Christian characters invent differences anyhow.

This kind of everyday (and it is everyday – some of it is literally my everyday, some of it is the everyday of friends) is really handy for plotting and planning a novel. It can explain why the reader knows and understands something, but other characters don’t. It can give a reason for betrayal, for social activism, for rebellion.

Know the discrepancies between your character’s home life and how they are seen in public and your story blossoms.

Zentao Verses from 2023

The last third of the year seems like a good time to share some of the daily senryu I write and share on social media. I call them “zentao” with the intent of echoing both the spiritual traditions of Zen Buddhism and Taoism as well as the more western joke “that was Zen, this is Tao.”

Like many people, I started the year with a resolution:

Do your little bit
to fix our broken systems.
Also, enjoy life.

I must confess that I have not done as much to address either of those resolutions as I would have liked. The broken systems are still ascendant and at times they affect my ability to enjoy my life.

My verse for January 1 was also about finding the good things. It’s a good one to remember when you’re confronted with options:

Doors open and shut.
Go through ones that lead to joy.
Slam the others hard.

A lot of my posts are social commentary of some kind, which is in part why they fit better under the term senryu than haiku, even though they have the same syllable count. Haiku are traditionally more about nature; senryu have room for sarcastic comment on things that are happening now.

Here’s a sarcastic one:

Nothing’s working right.
Phone. Weather. Health care. Housing.
And, of course, Congress.

And here’s one that recognizes the importance of imagining that something can be done about the problems we face:

First we imagine
capitalism will end.
Then we can do it.

And another about the power of imagination:

Now is the time to
use our imaginations
and remake the world.

Here are a couple that get at my core philosophical beliefs, drawn from Aikido and other studies. I strongly believe that all the life on Earth evolved to be in balance with each other and our planet, and that centering ourselves in relation to that is how we end up with happy lives.

Living in balance.
It’s not to be virtuous.
It’s how all life works.

Re-enchant the world.
Find the harmonies of Earth.
Stay centered with that.

And here is my response to the way far too many people with some power in this world approach things:

No one gets wealthy
by fixing our real problems,
so they don’t get fixed.

And the frequent reminder that humans are social creatures:

Working with others
can be hard, but it’s also
how we get things done.

This one might be more of a haiku. It was inspired by driving down to San Diego from the Bay Area after our very wet winter:

Snow on coastal peaks.
Green hills and flowing rivers.
Flowers everywhere.

And then this one from the way back home after another storm rolled in. Note that it is impossible to get from San Diego to Oakland without crossing mountains at some point unless you go along the coast. The coastal highway was flooded, and there was snow in the mountains we had to cross, so we went way east to the desert and then angled back west to cross the mountains when things cleared. The geography of California is fascinating, but not meant for travel in bad weather.

Winter storm travel:
Green desert, flooded highways,
avoiding trouble.

And a combination of weather and politics:

High winds. Heavy rain.
Glad to get home and inside.
Some folks live outside.

Some political advice from Aikido:

Don’t struggle and fight
where the opponent is strong.
Find their weakest point.

And here’s a good one to end on:

I’m always waiting
for another shoe to drop.
Life in modern times.


Auntie Deborah’s Writing Advice

What would you do if you found out that someone had stolen your idea for writing a book and published it under their name?

First of all, ideas can’t be copyrighted, but I must add—with emphasis—that there are vanishingly few original ideas. What makes a book uniquely yours is what you do with that idea. The vision and skill in execution that make it personal.

So what would I do? I’d cheer them on for having a great idea and for having gotten it in print. And then I’d write my own interpretation.

The best short story rejection I ever received was from a prestigious anthology. The editor loved my story but had just bought one on the same theme (mothers and cephalopods, although mine was with octopodes and the other with squid)—get this, from one of my dearest friends, a magnificent writer. Did I sulk? Did I mope? No, I celebrated her sale along with her! And then sold my story to another market.

In other words, be generous. If you do your work as a writer, this won’t be the only great idea you get.


 How can you tell if a book needs an editor or a proofreader?

It does. Trust me on this. It doesn’t matter how brilliant the story is or how many books you’ve written. None of us can see our own flaws, whether they are grammar and typos or inconsistent, flat characters or plot holes you could drive a Sherman tank through. Or unintentionally offensive racial/sexist/ableist/etc. language. Every writer, for every project, needs that second pair of skilled, thoughtful eyes on the manuscript.


 How do I get a self-published book into libraries?

If your book is available in print, the best way is to use IngramSpark and pay for an ad. Libraries are very reluctant to order KDP (Amazon) print editions. Same for bookstores.

If your book is digital only, put it out through Draft2Digital (D2D), which distributes to many vendors, including a number that sell to libraries.

Submit review copies to Library Journal. Consider paying for an ad if your budget allows.

Now for the hard part: publicizing your book to libraries. Besides contacting local libraries, assemble a list of contact emails for purchasing librarians (there may be such a thing already, so do a web search). Write a dynamite pitch. Send out emails with ordering links.


Is it better to title my chapters, or should I just stick to numbering them?

There is no “better.” There are conventions that change with time. Do what you love. Just as titles vs numbers cannot sell a book, neither will they sink a sale. If your editor or publisher has a house style, they’ll tell you and then you can argue with them.

That said, as a reader I love chapter titles. As an author, I sometimes come up with brilliant titles but I haven’t managed to do so for an entire novel, so I default to numbers. One of these years, I’ll ditch consistency and mix and match them. Won’t that be fun!