A fascinating article by Judith Tarr on how the world of publishing has changed since the heyday of the 80's, and the traps that well-established authors have been falling into. Worth a read even for newbies, because it helps frame the advice that these veterans give.
Tuesday, 04 June 2013
And now we come to the portion of the year where I offer hopefully-interesting blog posts of links, resources and images with very little commentary for about two months, because all of these have been created in advance while I'm off at Odyssey.
To start us off, a recent post by maverick musicion Amanda Palmer, famous for her $1 million kickstarter campaign and generally revolutionary approach to making music and getting paid for it. She talks about being an artist in a commercial world. It's a long read, but a well worth it.
Monday, 03 June 2013
If you're new to the notion of self-pubbing, or even if you've been considering it a while, here are two great articles on what NOT to do:
Anne R Allen on 12 things not to do, from publishing solitary, stranded books, buying phony reviews, marketing to the wrong audience and biting the hands that might help you up.
Sarah Woodbury on getting fixated on the publishing thing instead of the writing thing - she has a host of great links to follow in her article, as well as some great advice.
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
I am getting seriously sick of the tall-poppy business practices. BigCompany got to be really successful by doing very smart things very quickly, and working very hard. Smaller companies start to feel the pinch of culture and technology changes and instead of finding a way to adapt, they cry and complain and whinge and call for BigCompany's knees to be cut off because it isn't fair that they're stealing all the business. Just because they offer what people want and we can't think of a way to do it better, nor a better way to survive! He's doing too well and he should be punished for it!
No prize for guessing who BigCompany is.
This time, it's an Aussie book retailer offering people a $50 voucher to turn in their kindles and buy whatever nonspecified ereader the bookstore is selling, which I'm going to bet costs quite a bit more than $50^. Because it isn't fair that Amazon has lured them into a walled garden with convenience, great customer service and cheap prices. Oh, and they don't pay Australian tax - that's my favourite one. Of course they don't, they're not an Australian company. Why should they? Tax is paid where the goods are sold - that's a server in whichever state of the United States doesn't have sales tax - not where they're bought. That's how the e-economy works.
^For those playing in other countries, Aus is actually quite an expensive place to live. While our dollar has been flirting either side of US parity for several years now, $50 isn't that much money. For reference, the cheapest model of iPhone starts at about $800 here. I couldn't even fuel my car for $50, and I drive a Corolla. In that context, a $50 cash-back on the almost-certainly-inflated-to-cover-it price of the undisclosed e-reader, which is likely of poorer quality (and poorer customer service guanrantee) than the kindle you'd be giving up... yeah this just make me laugh.
Monday, 22 April 2013
IndieView, which I just discovered through the comments of another useless article posing whether self publishing has lost its stigma yet (newsflash: it only ever had a stigma to the people inside the industry. Readers don't care as long as the book is good. Hell, most readers would be hard pressed to name more than three of the "big six" publishers, let alone know if a publishing house is "legitimate".) has a great list of book bloggers who accept self-published books. If you have a new noel and you're looking for a review, it's a good place to have a nosy.
Inkling is someone trying to make books into an activity rather than an experience - Books 2.0, cloud-based, basically taking all of the current 'new' and 'in' things that businesses are trying to do and put them in a blender. I think they have the wrong angle. The comments over at the Passive Voice post on it are well worth a read, especially the thread started by commenter Tom Simon.
Some other choice comments:
William Ockham:I think what people fail to understand is that there is an important difference between being and doing. The biggest failures have been trying to turn “being” pastimes into “doing” pastimes. Reading for pleasure, watching a movie, and watching television are “being”. Having to “do something” is disruptive to the entire experience. Tom Simon: [...]The well-known phenomenon of being ‘bounced out of a story’ happens when your attention is taken off of the events of the story and drawn back to the text itself. Incompetent or pretentious writers do this all the time, which is one of the chief reasons why they fail to win a significant audience. When you try to make books interactive, you are yanking people’s attention back and forth between the story and the delivery mechanism on purpose, with the result that they can never concentrate fully on either one. It’s an easy recipe for frustration and disengagement.
I'd have to agree with the general sentiment - making interactive art is an awesome idea, but I think you're aiming at the wrong base medium. Things aren't made automatically 'better' just because they're interactive, especially if they were intended to be a passive pasttime in the first place. If you want to make a book "interactive", it's no longer really a book. It's not the same kind of experience at all, and you'd probably do better to stop trying to advertise it as such.
But oh, wait - if you don't call it an interactive book, then people might realise you're not really doing anything that's new... Oops.
And for no other reason than it's awesome: a cover of Macklemore's Thrift Shop that I actually prefer to the original song:
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
Elizabeth Markham tagged me for The Next Big Thing, giving me a chance to talk about the novel that's currently decorating my loung room wall.
1. What is the [working] title of your book?
Shadowren. It’s the first in a many-world epic fantasy series.
2. Where did the idea come from for the book?
That’s almost impossible to say - so many different components came from so many places, and over so many years. Some of the characters’ internal journeys were inspired by watching my (and other people's) characters change and grow during lengthy roleplaying campaigns; a lot of the worldbuilding by random articles or documentaries on the oddities of our own world. The plot itself has always been fluid and designed to suit what I wanted to explore in character and world.
3. What genre does your book fall under?
4. What actors would you choose to play the part of your characters in a movie rendition?Emilia Clarke as Mia Tom Hardy as Brin Sean Maher as Hamoth Aleksander Skarsgård as Darsk Matt Smith as Alron
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
The one-sentence synopsis is a killer for epic fantasy; by necessity it removes all the flavour that marks it apart from any others and turns it into a flat “A wants B but can’t because C” story. Unless you’re adept at writing Joyce-ian sentences, I suppose - I’ve never been a fan. But here goes:Mia, a young woman held hostage to her own magical strength, is searching for her missing lover when she’s pulled through to a desolate world that is clinging to life by brutal means; here, she must learn to accept and master her power or bring destruction on this and every other world in the realm.
6. Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?
At the current state the industry is in, the book will likely be self-published. I much prefer to maintain creative control over my work. But I will take a hard look at where things are at when it’s time to publish and consider the decision fully.
7. How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?
About four months, but the original story would be unrecognisable as the current - it has evolved so much since I started writing it that it’s very much “the axe of my great-great-great-grandfather”, to paraphrase Pratchett. All of its pieces have been replaced over time, but to me, it’s still the same story.
8. What other books would you compare this story to within your genre?
I found this one near-impossible - though I suppose if you feel your book is exactly like X or Y, there’s not much point in writing it. But if I had to find books that were vaguely kindred to mine, I’d pick:Celia Friedman’s Coldfire series Jacqueline Carey’s Kushiel’s Dart (and series) Brandon Sanderson’s Mistborn series
9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
This sounds suspiciously like a “where do your ideas come from” question. It’s been about twenty years since I started writing this book; the actual inspiration is long lost in time. But I remember reading Katherine Kerr’s Deverry series when I was about eight, and I loved the notion of “reincarnated” characters that would return, in a way, throughout a series and be recognisable to the reader. I also loved how she played with time to tell their stories, diving back and forth through their incarnations and making a world rich with history and easter eggs as she did so. Both of those ideas made it into the book, but have evolved beyond recognition in the meantime.
10. What else about the book might pique the reader's interest?
The main character is a strong female who retains her femininity - she’s both vulnerable and kick-arse, afraid and courageous, and she doesn’t sacrifice her female nature in order to be “strong”, as so many female heroes do in modern storytelling.
For those who enjoy worldbuilding, it’s a multi-world story, each of them with vastly different but connected cultures, physiologies and physicalities.
Thanks to Elizabeth for tagging me. Unfortunately, anyone I would have tagged to continue the circle either doesn't keep a blog, doesn't currently have a novel, or has already taken part. If you'd like to be tagged, though, feel free to leave a comment so I can link your post here.
Monday, 07 January 2013
People read your work. They possibly like it. They possibly go look for other stuff you've done. Steve donates some money to help out the young lady who originally ran Spect The Halls, who has since had a lot of Big Life Events happen.
If you have something you'd like people to read, here is a good (and charitable) way to reach new readers. Note there is no payment for this publication.
Monday, 03 December 2012
I was wondering how long it would take for something like this to come about. There have been a few start-ups try something similar (even I had a notion for creating something like this, back before iPads and tablets were much of a 'thing'), but these guys seem to have a fairly solid idea what they're doing.
They're called ReadCloud. A warning that the first five seconds when you click that link may make you dizzy - I wish people didn't feel the urge to get crazy with their HTML. It's a way of creating 'fenced-in' social reading. Groups of people (eg, a class of students) can read an ebook and add or read annotations (which can be anything - videos, a work sheet, a link to a website or blog, pictures - not just text) put there by their teacher or by other students. There's an article giving a rundown on the Sydney Morning Herald, or you can look at the videos on their site.
They seem to offer "booksellers" (no word if this includes self-pubbers) either a dedicated page on the readcloud store or an API to integrate a readcloud store into their own site. Rumour has it you pay a $2000 fee for being "whitelisted" in this manner (not sure for which, though they bill their readcloud page as a lower-cost solution - but that just might refer to your own development costs in using their API). Presumably this is an effort to reduce the crap that people might otherwise fill the bookstore with, but it sits a little awkwardly with me. Surely readcloud take a percentage of the sale price, so why are they charging their suppliers fees to start doing business with them?
If you want to sell online courses, this might well be a great new avenue, but I'm not yet sold on what it gives the average indie-publisher that's worth $2k. They don't have the exposure or leverage (yet) to justify the cost, especially when there are plenty of channels that are arguably more lucrative that have no startup fees.
It's an interesting notion, and I'll be keeping tabs - though it doesn't seem to deal with the secret elephant, of what happens to your school wireless network when hundreds of students are downloading videos, schoolbooks, and websites (not to mention less-than-scholarly content) over your network. (Hint: it's like trying to route a freeway through a sidestreet. The schools just don't have the infrastructure yet to cope with it.) But it is nice to see companies embracing ebook possibilities rather than trying to shield against them to protect the old ways.
Tuesday, 09 October 2012
There's a belief that goes hand-in-hand with capitalism: if people don't have to pay for things, they won't. If there is a mechanism for people to get your stuff for free, then everyone will do that, and you won't make any money. The logical follow-through from that is that you must therefore lock down all mechanisms through which people could get your stuff for free, so that they'll pay for it, one way or another.
This clashes horribly with the more socialist aspects of our society, like libraries. The whole point of libraries is that you get things for free. Because the philosophy is that books increase education and awareness of individuals, and a community with a greater proportion of educated and aware individuals is a healthier, more progressive society. Therefore we should make it as easy as possible for individuals to gain access to books. So we'll let people have them for free.
Publishers didn't mind so much when books were physical items. There's a limit to how many copies of Harry Potter could be checked out at once, and most people would go and buy the book instead of waiting. But that falls apart with ebooks, because there are no physical limitations to a bunch of ones and zeros. So publishers decided to invent some, to support the logical follow-through up above: if libraries can lend unlimited books to unlimited people, no one will buy any books.
Let's ignore the fact that this is patently ridiculous. After all, there's already the equivilent of this mythical library, and it's not going away. It's called the Internet. You can find (almost) any book digitised for free, available for download, if you take the trouble to look. And yet, people are still buying books. I'm not going to go into the reasons why - this post is not about piracy (though Steve Saus has a great argument to make to pirates, when you find them: Pirating means you hate the thing you claim to love. Go ready.)
No, this is about ebooks and libraries. Ursula Le Guin, over at Book View Cafe, has an excellent summation, and I think Konrath's solution to it is pretty much spot on, except for one point - purely for purposes of quality control, and ensuring new readers aren't put off by terrible formatting issues or the like, I would amend point 5 to be: if a new ebook format comes out that the library wants to support, I will provide it, or they can send me the converted file for my approval.
But yes - the capitalist approach to socialist scenarios really doesn't work. I don't know why we keep thinking it will, to be honest.
Tuesday, 04 September 2012
(From here).That sounds like an impressive number, right? Three days. Hell, if I managed that kind of money in three years I'd be ecstatic. It's apparently better than they were hoping for. But when you do the maths, I really have to wonder if what they were hoping for was worth the cost.
Let's look at the numbers: Three days, $1,500,000. That's $500,000 a day.
But that's half a million over seven books. Now, I'm going to work with the bundle price, because that's the most generous calculation I can give (in terms of number of books purchase - it's the cheapest way to buy them), and I think it's a reasonable assumption that anyone going to the effort of creating an account at Pottermore is probably going to buy the lot. Currency conversion as of April 7th (I write these posts beforehand) has the potter bundle at US$60. Half a million over 60 is about 8333 bundles a day.
Even with the crazy-wacky assumption that all of those sales were made up by the cheapest book (the first one) at US$8, that's still only 9,000 sales per book.
Now, 9000 is nothing to sneeze at. 9000 books a day is someone clicking 'buy' about once every ten seconds. As before, I'd be delighted to get 9000 sales in a year. But I'm not Ms Rowling. This is Harry Potter. The series that has sold over 400 million copies worldwide. Less than 30,000 books in three days is very surprising.
Yes, the ebooks are 'secondary sales' - people who already have the physical books and want a portable version. 9000 books a day - and already tapering off, apparently - is lower than I would have expected, even with pottermore's issues.
Rowling doesn't get the advantage of the bestseller lists, here. No "customers who bought this item also bought". No recommended lists - none of the advantages that come with getting your book onto Amazon or B&N. And honestly, I think it's really showing.
Tuesday, 10 April 2012
A writing friend recently sent a new “publishing opportunity” to me. I’m not going to name-and-shame the particular company, because I don’t think they’re being malicious in this case, merely naive, but it’s a great example of a terrible trend in this industry. Here’s the opportunity, scraped from their site (non-relevant information cut):Enter our competition for the opportunity to have your book published in 2012. [...] Should your entry be successful, a publishing contract will be offered to you. [...] The books will be published through Lightning Source Australia and distributed through Dennis Jones and Associates. Morris Publishing Australia will handle all cover design and setup for printing, and develop a marketing campaign for the book, all at no cost to the author. We are looking for books in the following groups: Confident readers (7+) - generally between 8000 and 20,000 words. Independent readers (9+) - generally between 25,000 and 50,000 words Teenage readers (12+) - generally between 40,000 and 80,000 words Young adult readers (14+) - generally between 40,000 and 80,000 words. Adult fiction.
Can you see what’s wrong with it?
Tuesday, 29 November 2011
So, there's crazy drama in the publishing world right now. Bestselling author Barry Eisler has walked away from a half-million dollar book deal to self-publish. Cue several hundred blog posts on this being a huge wake up / nail in the coffin / natural-disaster-of-your-choice for the publishing industry, including one very interesting though overlong (really overlong, guys. Nobody has time for a thesis on the internet. But most of the good stuff's in the first half or third) conversation between Eisler and self-pub-king Joe Konrath on the publishing industry and self-publishing.
Barely two days later, news breaks that self-publishing-darling Amanda Hocking has been shopping one of her novel series around to traditional publishing, with bidding reaching over $2 million before she signed with St Martin's Press. And an avalanche of blog posts condemning, supporting, analysing and foretelling springs forth before Amanda posts her own reasons for her decision.
Tuesday, 29 March 2011
I followed a chain of "X has a post abut Y's psot about Z's post about..." to find a great little article by Stephen King on writing. Originally written in 1986, the advice still holds (although the jury's still out on #11 - but to be fair, when this was written, agents were for legal things and self-publishing was for people with more money than sense.) It's lightly funny and it's to-the-point, a good read.
Joe Konrath has another post about ebook pricing, this time explaining why he thinks the new ebook price is $2.99, and why that's a good thing. I'll admit, having considered buying vairous ebooks, the near-paperback price of most of them has always turned me away. I think he has a number of good points, there.
As for pricing, how about free? Michael Stackpole has a great post on Project Gutenberg (Philip K. Dick? Yoink.), and the number of classic sci fi authors that can be found there for free - and what publishers should be keeping in mind with their pricing models.
Speaking of free, Jane Friedman on Writer Unboxed has a few words to say about giving your work away for free (as promotion, natch) - what to consider. Like anything, really, it's not a matter of just throwing things around and waiting for magic to happen - it needs careful strategy and follow-through behind it.
And finally, a great post on how to answer that question that we all hate (except if it's from an agent): "So, what's your book about?" without sounding like you're reading from the dullest plot in history.
Thursday, 30 September 2010
Following up from previous links to Henry Baum's experience with the Kindle Nation (and the subsequent delisting thanks to Amazon's draconion price parity policy), Smashwords CEO Mark Coker ventures his thoughts on the impact of Amazon's enforcement of their policies. In essence, it works to Amazon's steep advantage, discouraging authors from even listing with other retailers lest said retailers drop the price below Amazon's, and works against authors' interests. Coker calls on Amazon to review their policy, but unfortunately fails to provide a reason that it would be in Amazon's interest to do so. Still an interesting read, though.
Still on Amazon, S. G. Royle has published a great guide on some of the tax and legal issues for foreign authors wanting to publish on Amazon (so many forms!), while Steve Saus examines some key factors to success in digital publishing, and another Steve from York Writers is rebutting Phillip Goldberg's article (Huffington Post) about what writers really need. Steve has some great points to make about the illusions of advances, and how they might not be such a healthy thing after all.
Thursday, 09 September 2010
AussieCon runs this week, Thursday to Monday, with about a bajillion panels on everything from fantasy cities to cyberpunk feminism. I've gone through the program, marking the panels I want to attend (and wishing that I had a few shared-mind clones to see the ones that clash), and wondering how the whole process is going to work for people who can't take an entire morning off to register tomorrow... eek. Ah well.
In actual news, Wylie's lost his fight against Random House for the ebook rights. The rights return to Random House - a strong reminder to read your contracts carefully for which rights revert when and why.
Jessica at Dystel and Goderich muses on intellectual property vs creative commons. There's long been the argument that IP exists solely to protect a wealthy nation's ability to make money at the expense of poorer nations. While the argument's obvious with pharmaceutical companies, it also covers authors' copyright. While I'm a strong advocate of copyright, there does seem to be an issue to resolve, here.
Joe Konrath is musing on some of the possibilities that self-publishing grants in terms of creative control - releasing different versions of books, for example, or revitalising the 'choose your own adventure' style of novel into a more literary concept. I'll admit, I'm intrigued by the notion of playing with the format like that.
Henry Baum gives us a brief impression of his day on Kindle Nation - complete with supposed SNAFU by Amazon. Amazon disabled his buy-button in the middle of the promotion because Kobo had undercut the price of the book in a way that wasn't in Baum's control. Mini-Macmillian-dummy-spit all over again.
And on a completely unrelated note, because someone asked me the other day: Nathan Bransford explains to us what 'High Concept' actually is - and it's not what it sounds like.
Thursday, 02 September 2010
So the publishing industry's wobbled again. This time, with Andrew Wylier and Odyssey Editions. Essentially, an agent publishing his client's backlist titles exclusively with Amazon, and the Big Boys are less than impressed, saying it's against the interests of everyone from the author to the man who makes the coffee down the road - a little hard to fathom, really, given the current deals offered by the Big Six for ebooks, and their habit of sitting on intellectual property that could be making money for both them and the authors, but alright. Mike Shatzkin has an excellent post on the issue over here.
At the same time, we have IndieProse, a site that's claiming to be the gatekeeper for self-publishers. Definitely a wait-and-see, in my book - the authors pay to be listed on the site, and as Henry Baum points out on SelfPublishingReview, with no costs other than bandwidth, and no financial consequences should they back a less-than-stellar title, it's difficult to see how they're resist the temptation to accept that sign-up money from all authors regardless of quality.
Lastly, colour e-ink capable of displaying movies is edging closer, with the development of electro-wetting, a concept that uses coloured oil droplets suspended next to a water layer that move within 10 milliseconds in response to current directed through said water layer. I think I've mentioned this tech before - I've certainly seen it before, but unfortunately there still doesn't seem to be a working demonstration available, for all the claims on liquavista's site.
So agents are turning publisher, new gatekeeping models rear their heads, and the technology marches on. It's going to be a fascinating few years.
Wednesday, 28 July 2010
There's been some hooplah lately in the blogs I read about giving your work away for free. Arguments for, against and sideways abound, and it's getting so that use emerging authors feel totally lost when it comes to advice about promotion and free stuff.
As I see it, there are two basic arguments, and a whole host of nonsense:Giving stuff away for free can raise your profile, help build a following, get people interested in your work. It lowers the cost of entry for people to try your stories and writing, which will (assuming you've given them the good stuff) lead to more readers, and hopefully paying readers. Giving stuff away for free snarfs your first publiaction rights, so your chances of a traditional publishing deal with that material are pretty much lottery-level.
There's been a lot of carping that the idea of 'first publication rights' is antiquated, and doesn't fit with today's online era. That we authors need to show publishers the error of their ways in adhering to this outmoded idea. Excuse me while I snort into my coffee.
Monday, 03 May 2010
Following yesterday's post about what publishers really offer in the quasi-digital age, let's take a look at what you can manage without a traditional publisher behind you. There've been some excellent and inspiring posts out recently. So, what benefits can you gain from going solo?
Tuesday, 09 February 2010
I've been reading Holly Lisle's watch-me-work novel Talymania, where readers sign up to receive emailed chapters hot from her fingertips. It's not the first time an author has tried a new method of publishing on the internet (think back to the start of the century, and Stephen King's failed e-serial experiment) but most authors aren't willing to spotlight their scruffy first drafts for the world, and with good reason.
Saturday, 02 January 2010