More on republished classics

I discussed previously my shock at discovering that some enterprising persons were taking out-of-copyright classics and turning them into new publications on Amazon. The example I discussed was a Jack London book, but now I have found any number of classic cookbooks which are appearing on Amazon for sale, in facsimile editions without any mention of who is in fact selling these books. Some are pretty good – the facsimile of American Cookery, 1796, which seems to be a Dover book reprinted from a facsimile published by Oxford University Press in 1958 looks at least legible. But recently I paid for a print copy of The English and Australian Cookery Book and when it arrived it was indeed a perfect facsimile but so small it was almost impossible to read at all. Someone – but who? – is making money from these books and there is nobody to complain to about the fact that some at least are virtually useless.

One would think Amazon, who is distributing most of them, should take responsibility for the quality of the books they sell. If it is a hapless indie author who has made some mistakes about which readers complain his account is likely to be suspended. What happens to these legal pirates?

Page 53, “Puddings and Pies”, from The English and Australian Cookbook, 1864, anonymous facsimile edition.

Copyright and Communists: the cover art for Revolutionary Baby

When I began to think about the cover for Revolutionary Baby the poster image by Nina Vatolina came to mind. I knew this image but I couldn’t recall where I had seen it. I thought it could be modified easily with title and author information inserted where the Russian text was. It was easy to find via the Big G. It is in the Tate Modern collection, under the following title:

 Fascism – The Most Evil Enemy of Women. Everyone to the Struggle Against Fascism, August 1941; Nina Vatolina 1915-2002; DK0029

Nina Vatolina’s original poster: Fascism: the Most Evil Enemy of Women, 1941.

This powerful image appears all over the Internet and has already been used for the cover of one published book and I naively assumed it would be copyright free. However this was not so. The image is available for purchase from the Tate which has access to it on licence. Reproduction rights are subject to the usual requirements including payment for the use of a high quality image provided by the Tate. However, the Tate itself does not hold full copyright, only the licence to reproduce the image. The picture itself is subject to the artists own artistic copyright.  The situation was investigated by Chris Suthens of the Tate and I would like to thank him for his helpful advice (below, email of July 24th 2019).

I can let you know that the reproduction fee to include the Tate photography DK0029 on the front cover of a single printed edition, plus electronic use on the cover of a parallel e-book edition, world rights, English language, available on demand up to a total combined unit run of 5,000 copies/downloads will be £229.

If you find these terms agreeable and wish to go ahead please do let me know, confirming the name and address to be included on your invoice/licence and I shall send it over as soon as possible?

I’ll then be able to supply the hi res file as soon as payment is received.

I must mention that Nina Vatolina’s work is also still subject to her artistic copyright so you would need to obtain additional permission from the artist’s estate or their representatives. Unfortunately we haven’t been able to locate any contact details available for us to pass on so Tate’s own use has been on a risk management basis. We are happy to proceed and license the reproduction of the Tate image file though must stress that it would be the responsibility of yourselves to ensure that you have made every effort to identify and contact the artistic rights holders where possible and on the understanding that the use in relation to the artistic copyright would be at your risk. In the very unlikely event of a holder coming forward you may need to be able to demonstrate that due diligence has been conducted.

So even if I paid the required fee to the Tate to reuse the image, with my own modifications, I would still be in potential breach of the artist’s own copyright. But without being able to read and write Russian, and/or go to Russia to investigate who might be the holders of her estate, it is impossible to be sure that copyright requirements have been met.

How mad is this? I am sure Nina Vatolina, a sincere and committed Communist, would find it completely bizarre that nobody is now able to reproduce her art-work in any form without paying a fee to an August British art institution in the heartland of Western capitalism. I am grateful that the Tate does hold reproducible images of art works, don’t get me wrong, but I don’t think it would be in the spirit of Nina’s ideological or political thought that her work cannot be shared by others.

So I abandoned all idea of using this image and commissioned my Mexico-based illustrator Keith Johnson [Keith Draws] to create something for me. In the event, he created the cover for the second volume of stories, Radiant Sands, at the same time, and many thanks to him for his great work.

Meanwhile, though, I became fascinated by the situation of Communist artists such as Nina Vatolina, and did some additional research on the subject, shortly to appear on my art-writing site

Just as a taste, here is one of her poster illustrations featuring Stalin.

Nina Vatolina: Grandpa Stalin brings Christmas gifts to the children of Mother Russia: lovely bombs and warplanes!

News from the Writing Zone

So after weeks of stifling heat, many days over 40 Celsius (104 F), ravaging bushfires, impenetrable smoke, unavoidable dust and ash inhalation causing nausea and headaches, constant obsessive anxiety looking at bushfire maps and a state of acute mourning for the losses, especially the wildlife, we now have buckets of rain, floods, drinking-water fears and blackouts. But there you are, dear friends, this is Australia and here we are and we love it (even though a lot of people have been talking about migrating to New Zealand).

The first sign of the Ruined Castle fire near Katoomba, 3 December 2019: it burnt out 40,000 hectares over the next seven weeks and was not put out finally until 5th February 2020. Photo A. Hamilton.

So as you might gather this was not great for the writing. In fact, I stopped writing altogether. Even my red daily diaries, which I have been assiduously adding to for over two years now, still rest untouched on the bookcase. I wanted to write about how this summer felt, but I just couldn’t. It was too awful, too terrifying yet somehow also familiar. We have been told for years now that the world will end in a conflagration, well here it was and it was right on our doorstep.

The red skies, the relentless approach, flames leaping, everything alight

You have to start asking why you would write at all. If the world is perilously close to a terminal phase, what good is writing? What good are books? If you saw that movie The Day After Tomorrow that scene in the New York Public Library will no doubt be burnished into your synapses: the brave survivors holed up inside tearing up the entire contents of the library, all the world’s books which could at least keep them warm. One old guy was trying to keep the Gutenberg Bible intact, as I recall, but the rest of it was just good for fuel.

What books are really good for … The Day After Tomrrow.

My writing associate Obelia is now completely convinced that are now only a couple of decades left. She stopped writing as well.

But time passes and in spite of doubts and fears I really have to produce the books I have been working on for so long now. In the next couple of months I have plans to see at least two or maybe three of the front-runners hit the deck. The two volumes of short stories and the memoir are pretty much ready to go. So stand by for some more advance notice: covers are done and all that remains is the playing with Vellum which I hope will allow me to pull them all together very quickly.

Another thing I have done over this horror summer is read a number of very interesting memoirs (loosely identified) and I am going to write a little about them, not so much reviews as reflections on the thoughts and feelings they created as I read them in this heightened state of alarm and anxiety, pushing me once again up against the complex questions about what memoir writing really is and can do, and where is the Real in writing.

And so another year …

Yes, it has been a long time since I last wrote here. So much has happened. I have filled up three diaries already and it isn’t over yet. My first book of the memoirs project Regret Horizon seemed to disappear over the Regret Horizon and into the mists of past time. Where I thought this was a final volume, turns out there will need to be at least one more, to take us from the end of Regret Horizon to the actual genuine real end, and we know there will be one. It is one which I can foresee and expect but cannot know when it will arrive, or how it will turn out. Most estimate a few years, but anything can happen. I will write a post or two about this very strange experience when I can, next year probably. And maybe I’ll be writing the actual volume by then.

But here is the good news. I have finished revision of the two books of short stories, Keith has done the covers for the ebooks (still finalising the print books) and all going well they should be available in early November through Amazon in both print and Kindle versions, as well as other ebook retailers and in paperback through Ingram Spark. You can order from your local bookstore if you are in Australia and hopefully there will be a Paypal button on this site at least. Website orders for customers in Australia only.

And Regret Horizon is nearly finished too. I am going to have a special order made from a local printer on quality paper for signed orders and my own gifts and maybe the local independent bookstores will stock some as well. I had such a struggle knowing what to do about getting feedback from the people in it, but finally I decided to give up on that and let the cards fall where they may. Still thinking about the final cover, now it looks pretty boring next to Keith’s fabulous cover art for the short stories (below).

So I guess this is a kind of pre-launch announcement. Congratulations to me – but there is still a way to go before I can push the “publish” button.

Final cover images for Revolutionary Baby and Radiant Sands, September 2019.
Copyright Keith Draws/Annette Hamilton

Regretting “Regret Horizon”

Honestly and truly, I don’t know what led me to think I could write this memoir, edit it and publish it by the beginning of 2019. Now it is almost May and I have so far only managed to edit and rewrite the first opening chaper – or maybe it’s a Forward – about a hundred times. Now I realise I have to write an Afterward. Or is it an Afterword? Both, I guess. So I have spent weeks angsting about whether or not to send the current draft out for comments but I haven’t done it. Indecision and procrastination rule.

Meanwhile all I can think about is photography and painting. I said I would do that this year but it still hasn’t led to any actual paintings either. Of course the memoir and the photographs are producing interesting interactions but the overlapping memory-work is exhausting. Has anybody written a good account of the interior state of writers as they get to the end of a project? If so, please let me know asap! I think Gaspar Melchios was having a few doubts about the wisdom of the thing.

Gaspar Melchor de Jovellanos, a Spanish writer depicted with the tools of the trade.

The Priceless Princess in print : available now for order in Australia

As many of you know, I have been struggling with ways to make print copies of The Priceless Princess available in Australia. I have obtained quotes from commercial printers which will produce a much better quality product, but at a far greater cost than the print-on-demand copies I have paid for from Createspace. I wanted to get some copies into bookshops, so children who like the book in their school library can get someone to buy them a copy. I don’t think children, or their parents, particularly care about the quality of the paper or the type of glue used on the binding, but bookshops do.

Happily though the print-on-demand version is now readily available in Australia and can be ordered through Angus and Robertson and the Book Depository.

Although the main character is a girl, boys are loving the story too. They like the young Wizard of Spume.

PP the Wizard of Spume

The Wizard of Spume with the Green Tree Snake




More cautions for Australian authors: Amazon reviews and a conspiracy theory.

I don’t know if I’ve missed something people have already commented on in other blogs or forums – should I have known this already?  – anyway, I have just grasped another big problem for Australian authors publishing on Amazon. If your Australian readers are in, buy your e-book and leave a review, that is where it will appear. Australian reviews will not appear on the US site. So unless you find a way to get  readers to leave reviews specifically on the US site, your book will languish unattended in the world’s biggest English-language market. Why don’t the Australian reviews appear on the US site? Why has Amazon apparently co-operated in recreating the kind of geo-restrictions which global digital communications was supposed to end?

I am generally not given to conspiracy theories, but it does look to me like some kind of deal was done when Amazon first made a push to enter the Australian market. I recollect there was vast opposition from the regulation publishers and literary players – oh dear no, we don’t want that horrible Amazon behemoth here, we must preserve our national cultural authenticity – now it turns out that the only books available through Amazon here in Australia are Kindle versions.  Since Australian readers have been brainwashed to believe that print books purchased through bookshops are far more worthy than e-books anyway, this ensures that traditional print publishers retain a dominant position in the market.

I worked this out just recently when I was reminded to get hold of the late Bob Ellis’s collected/curated writings, posthumously published in late 2016. bob-ellis-book-coverIt is a collection of previously published articles and personal memoirs, many going back to the 1970s, assembled by his wife Anne Brooksbank as a kind of memorial volume.

Googling, there were plenty of paperback copies available from different booksellers in Australia. The price was uniformly above $30.00. Booksellers’ sites listed only the print version. Kinokuniya in Sydney listed the on-line price at $34.99. At first I thought this referred to an e-book version but no, that was the price if you ordered the print book online as against through the bookstores “card members” price.

As far as I could see, there was NO e-book version available through any of the Australian booksellers. As I have a firm policy of never ever buying a print version if there is an e-version available, I thought I would try Amazon.  I have always kept the US site as my main site. So there it was: Bob Ellis In His Own Words at $11.87.  That is pretty high for a Kindle book, but way better than $34 or $35. And yes, there is a Kindle version on the Australian site, at $16.14. It is also available on Kindle Unlimited in Australia, for subscribers. But the US paperback is priced at US$34.99, which would make it over $40 for an Australian purchaser who would then also have to pay the very expensive postage.

So somehow Amazon is able to trade in Australia without significantly disturbing the traditional publishing ecology. Publishers and booksellers maintain the impression that there are no e-book versions. Amazon offers a Kindle version in Australia, but no print version, and in the US the print version is priced too high for any Australian purchaser to bother with it. A kind of cartel agreement, or just a happy accident to keep the Australian publishers happy? Whatever, the total effect is to disenfranchise Australian authors trying to write and publish outside the limits of the good-old-boys-and-girls publishing environment in Australia. So if you want to be a success at independent publishing, you really need to get up there on the US site and attract the  US readers. Your e-book will turn up on the Australian Amazon site but only if the reader knows to look for it there.  How this assists our national cultural authenticity I don’t know, especially when Australian publishers are unwilling to publish anything from new writers and are reducing their lists all the time.











by firstly deciding not to make any self-published Create Space books available in Australia

Making Contact

I used to love emails and couldn’t wait to visit my in-box for my various email addresses. The commercialisation of everything has degraded the experience. With the endless torrent of emails, mostly trying to get you to spend money, makes it too tiring a task to go through them all every day. Then your email disappears to the bottom of the page and pretty soon disappears altogether. But a letter with a personal signature becomes something I care about and really want to read and respond to. So if you want to find out more, drop me a line using the “Contact” address.

Blackwing Press will have its own website and email address soon, along with a “buy” button so people in Australia can buy books published by the press using PayPal if they don’t have an Amazon account. Meanwhile, drop me a line, send me a postcard, and I’ll respond as soon as I can.