Sunday, July 31, 2011

Trusted Intellectual Property (IP) Lawyers: A Directory


Thanks to Dean Wesley Smith, I've learnt about a directory of trusted literary lawyers created by Author Laura Resnick. A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of attending a conference where Laura was the keynote speaker. In that one day I learnt more about the business of writing than I had in the last decade.

Laura writes:

I was getting so many requests for referrals via private email, I decided to put a directory of literary lawyers on my website. Just posted. These five lawyers can all be considered personal referrals from me, if anyone’s interested. I will update the list as I get more recommendations from friends who’ve dealt with other literary lawyers.

Here is a link to the Directory of Literary Lawyers.

Dean's comments on Laura's announcement are here.

Congress says: Amazon must pay tax



Congress is getting involved in the vexatious dispute over Amazon's refusal to collect state taxes.

On Friday, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) introduced legislation that would require Internet-only retailers to add sales taxes to customers' bills, just as their competitors with bricks-and-mortar stores do. Rep. John Conyers Jr. (D-Mich.) plans to introduce a similar measure in the House.

The congressional effort is aimed at closing a legal loophole created by a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision that freed online and catalog sellers from the obligation of collecting sales taxes if their businesses had no physical presence in the state where a buyer lives.

Excerpt taken from, Congress takes up Amazon sales tax issue, by Marc Lifsher, reporting for the Los Angeles Times.

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Stephen King On What A Successful Novel Should Be


Stephen King has written an introduction to a new edition of Lord of the Flies by William Golding. Here is an excerpt:
To me, Lord of the Flies has always represented what novels are for; what makes them indispensable. Should we expect to be entertained when we read a story? Of course. An act of the imagination that doesn’t entertain is a poor act indeed. But there should be more. A successful novel should erase the boundary line between writer and reader, so they can unite. When that happens, the novel becomes a part of life – the main course, not the dessert. A successful novel should interrupt the reader’s life, make him or her miss appointments, skip meals, forget to walk the dog. In the best novels, the writer’s imagination becomes the reader’s reality. It glows, incandescent and furious. I’ve been espousing these ideas for most of my life as a writer, and not without being criticised for them. If the novel is strictly about emotion and imagination, the most potent of these criticisms go, then analysis is swept away and discussion of the book becomes irrelevant.

I agree that “This blew me away” is pretty much of a non-starter when it comes to class discussion of a novel (or a short story, or a poem), but I would argue it’s still the beating heart of fiction. “This blew me away” is what every reader wants to say when he closes a book, isn’t it? And isn’t it exactly the sort of experience most writers want to provide?

Nor does a visceral, emotional reaction to a novel preclude analysis. I finished the last half of Lord of the Flies in a single afternoon, my eyes wide, my heart pounding, not thinking, just inhaling. But I’ve been thinking about it ever since, for 50 years and more. My rule of thumb as a writer and a reader – largely formed by Lord of the Flies – is feel it first, think about it later. Analyse all you want, but first dig the experience.

Read the entire article: Stephen King on 'Lord of the Flies'

Friday, July 29, 2011

Google Plus Widget


A few days ago I was invited into the Google Plus beta. I was so excited, not much writing got done that day! There was, and is, a lot to learn but I'm enjoying it. Facebook never worked for me, probably because I have very diverse groups of friends.

Today I went looking for a Google+ widget but it wasn't easy to find one. "Ah!" I thought. "This is a topic for a blog post!"

The widget is called Google Plus Widget and if you'd like to add me (does that sound desperate? lol) here's a link.

If you scroll down this page a bit and look on the right margin you'll see what the widget looks like on my page. It was too big at first so I made the background transparent.

It was very easy to add the widget to my site. If anyone has trouble let me know and I'll do a blog post that steps through it.

Dean Wesley Smith's Advice to Writers: Self-Publish


Dean Wesley Smith:
- On agents: You don't need one. He writes:
Don’t have one. Period. You don’t need one in indie publishing and if you do have one, just drop back and ask them to do nothing. See how your agent gets through these coming years. In other words, leave them alone.

- On traditional book publishers:
Put on hold unless approached. Or unless you already have a contract.

Stop mailing to them, stop giving your agent anything to sell. Just hold. Don’t pull books or do anything stupid like that. Just hold and finish your contracts.

- On self-publishing/independent publishing:
Go here and go here as quickly as you can.

To sum up:
Avoid agents, hold on traditional publishing until things settle, and move to indie publishing.

Here's the link to DWS's article: The New World of Publishing: Traditional or Indie? What To Do Now? It's well worth the read.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

South Korea Embraces Electronic Books: Paperless by 2015


I had to read this paragraph twice to make sure I'd read it right.

... millions of books will, soon enough, be online only. And that will mean the same kind of ability to buy chapters or extracts that music-buyers have enjoyed courtesy of itunes. Bundling is all but dead - along with warehouses full of expensive, slow-moving stock, and many wholesalers and retailers. At the leading edge is, among others, a San Francisco start-up called Inkling which is offering interactive, multimedia-rich iPad versions of more than 100 textbooks by the chapter or complete book. As ever, you have to look East to see the leaps of progress and the South Korean government this month announced all its schools would be paperless by 2015 with "perennially-updated" online textbooks. And the recent snaffling by Pearson (owner of Penguin and Dorling Kindersley and academic imprints) of online operations from failed booksellers Borders and Angus & Robertson speaks errr volumes. [Emphasis mine]

From the article, Cooking the Books: Harry Potter Rushes into the new World, by Colin Morrison

Death of the Oxford Comma


Mary Elizabeth Williams writes:

Grammar lovers today were saddened, shocked, and mightily displeased at the news that the P.R. department of the University of Oxford has decided to drop the comma for which it is so justly famed. As GalleyCat reported, the university's new style guide advises writers, "As a general rule, do not use the serial/Oxford comma: so write 'a, b and c' not 'a, b, and c'." Cue the collective gasps of horror. The last time the nerd community was this cruelly betrayed, George Lucas was sitting at his desk, thinking, "I shall call him Jar Jar."

View the rest of the very funny impassioned argument in favor of using the Oxford Comma here: Don't kill the Oxford comma!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Agents Becoming Publishers: Sharks in the water


Courtney Milan, a writer with a background in law, has written two excellent posts on the subject of the conflicts of interest that can arise when agents act as both a client's agent and publisher.

For example, say Alice is a writer and Sue is her agent. Sue is negotiating with ABC publishing for the rights to Alice's latest book: A Tale of Three Cities. The agent has just opened up an publishing division for electronic books. If Sue thinks that Alice's book is going to be a bestseller and wants it all to herself, how hard do you think she is going to work at getting Alice a deal with ABC publishing? How hard do you think Sue is going to work at getting any other publisher interested in the manuscript?

Further, if Alice decided to publish with her agent rather than a traditional publisher, what motivation does the agent have to get the best possible deal for her client? None, since the more money her client gets, the less money she gets.

Courtney's first post: a mea culpa
Courtney's second post: agency publishing and conflicts of interest

Passive Guy, a retired attorney, has this to say about Courtney's posts:

Passive Guy congratulates Courtney on presenting the conflict of interest issues in a way that any non-lawyer should be able to understand. She describes real-life situations for agents and authors and how the conflict inherent in the agent-as-publisher can poison those relationships even if both parties have the best intentions.

Had you sat through as many legal ethics presentations as PG has, you would have a greater appreciation for Courtney’s achievement.

Here's the link to PG's post: Agents Who Publish Their Clients are Engaging in Unethical Behavior – Courtney Drops the Hammer.

Update: In PG's comments, Pat Chiles kindly posted a link to, The (Publishing) Times They Are Achanging, by accordingtohoyt. Another good read.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Foreign Rights: A Rosy Future For Self-Published Writers

Foreign rights represent a barely tapped market for self-published authors. This is the message of Joe Konrath's last blog. He writes:

Times have changed. The potential to make money world-wide is an unprecedented opportunity for vast riches that makes current ebook sales pale by comparison. There are billions of people in 196 countries. More and more have acquired computers, cell phones, and mp3 players. Ereaders will come next.

Read the article here: Thinking Global

David Baldacci On Writing

David Baldacci On Writing
Crime writer David Baldacci chats about his novel, The Sixth Man, on BBC Breakfast. David gives a great tip on how to guess who the killer is in a crime novel.

(I attempted to embed the video, but it's not working. To watch the interview, click here.)


Link: Author David Baldacci on crime writing

Photo credit: "Sunrise on Dundas Square" by Laura D'Alessandro under Creative Commons Licence 2.0.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Blogging Tips

I'm always trying to write a better blog post so when I looked at The Book Designer and saw the article Writers’ Blogs: 5 Essentials for Engaging Your Readers I read it with interest.

Writers know blogging is important, and not just because we have to build that mysterious thing called a platform, but also because it's a great opportunity to fulfill the first rule of writing: writer's write. But still, again and again, the question looms large: what to write about?

The following points are inspired by The Book Designer's post.

What to do:


1. Figure out what your blog is about


When I began this blog I thought I might write about the experience of writing and post excerpts from stories I was working on. I also thought about making my blog focus on one small area such as, say, apps for the iPad.

I guess it's about both those things since I decided to focus on anything writing related with an emphasis on topics relevant to the self-published writer.

Unfortunately (or perhaps fortunately!) that excludes as lot of subjects I think are important (the debt crisis) or worthy of coverage (the famine in Somalia) or just downright cute.


2. Post consistently


This is something I have trouble with. I shoot for twice a day with a tweet or two thrown in if I come across an article I think would interest my readers.

Of course--as anyone who reads this blog knows!--intentions are one thing and execution quite another. If I blog and tweet once a day, I'm happy. (If anyone comes across an article they think would be good material for this blog, send it to me!)


3. Be considerate


If someone takes the time to leave a comment, thank them for it.

Also, I think being considerate means taking points (1) and (2) seriously. Even though I think this video of Big Dog is amazing (and a little bit creepy) doesn't mean my readership wants to see it.

Similarly, just because I watched I Am Number Four last night and feel it would be a public service to tell everyone it was the worst movie in the history of bad movies, doesn't mean that's something I get to include in my blog. (Unless, that is, you can find some way of sneaking it in. ;))


4. Google Analytics is your friend


Your best friend.

Blogging can be lonely. How do you know if anyone is reading your blog? How do you know if your numbers are going up or down? When people do read your blog, what do they most want to read about?

Google Analytics can help you answer all of these questions, and many, many, more.

I was going to say a few words about how to use Google Analytics but that is a series of posts all on its own!


5. Get feedback directly from your readership


After all, who knows what they want to read about more than your readers!

Comments are already available on most blog posts but it's easy to give people polls if, for instance, you're trying to decide between book covers and would like feedback.


6. Be lucky


Blogging is like anything, you can do your best and results can take a long, long, time in coming. Sometimes you might wonder if it's worth it. As long as you persevere, keeping steps (1) through (5) in mind, you'll develop a readership.

Photo credit: "Maximum Comfort" by Alan under Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Writing and Self-Sabotage


This morning I was excited to receive an email containing an, apparently, new blog post by Lawrence Block. I read it and enjoyed it and immediately knew I wanted to blog about it so I headed on over to LB's site to copy and paste a teaser paragraph when I found out the post wasn't new at all!

That's okay, the topic of the post is timeless so it doesn't matter. The subject of LB's post is negative thinking and that is something I have been guilty of for many, many, years.

Toward the end of his post LB writes:

Each of us has a ruling negative principle to which we’ve proved as loyal as the Shreveport Schlepper to his. Any of these ring a bell?

I’m not good enough.

It’s not safe to let people know the real me.

Writing is a struggle.

I’m boring.

I’m too old.

No one wants to hear what I have to say.

I’m stupid.

Success would separate me from the people I love.


I’d go on, but you can figure out yours on your own. And why not? It’s been running in your head all your life.

All. Your. Life.

When I read the negative affirmation, "Success would separate me from the people I love," it was eerie, that's exactly what I believed for years.

And then it happened anyway. It felt as though God, or the universe, or fate, or I-know-not-what decided to take that particular excuse away from me and give me a kick in the pants.

So I'm writing now and my writing is about the only thing I do have but, you know what? It feels good.

Oh, in the quotation LB referred to the Shreveport Schlepper. That's explained in his post and it's one of the best stories I've ever read.

Link:
The Power of Negative Thinking

Saturday, July 23, 2011

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread: Amazon's Text Stats


Update (Oct 30, 2012): Apparently Amazon's Text Stats have disappeared. A shame.

Text stats at Amazon aren't new, they've been around since 2007, but I never knew about them until I read Gabe Habash's article, Book Lies: Readability is Impossible to Measure.

Apparently, for every book in Amazon's "Search Inside" program you can see its readability statistics as well as how these stats compare with other books.

Gabe Habash writes:
One of Amazon’s best and little-known book features is its “Text Stats” page, a tiny link that’s tucked three-quarters down a book’s page under the “Inside This Book” heading. Clicking the link takes you to a page with graphs and numbers, the most interesting (and objective) of which is word count. It’s always fun to compare War and Peace’s word count (590,000) to major textbooks, and to see that Tolstoy smashes most of them with his stern Russian will.

But there are other figures on the page, and these are meant to tell you, as close to objectively as possible, how readable and how complex the book is. We put these measurements to the test to see how accurate they are in determining how readable and how complex a text is. The six books we sampled are Finnegans Wake by James Joyce, Where I’m Calling From by Raymond Carver, The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, The Memory Keeper’s Daughter by Kim Edwards, The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell, and Moby-Dick by Herman Melville.

As an example, let's take Great The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne.

Here's the book page for The Scarlet Letter. About 2/3 down the page you'll come to the heading: Inside This Book (this is after both the Customer Reviews, and the Customer's Also Bought headings). Here you will learn what the first sentence of the book was as well as various statistically improbably phrases, capitalized phrases, a concordance of 100 most common words and (drum roll please) a link that will take you to a place called "Text Stats".

If you click this link, you will learn that the Fog Index for The Scarlet Letter is 14.1 (the number of years of education you need to understand the text), the Flesch Index is 14.3 (90-100 would indicate a book very easy to read, 10 would indicate one abominably difficult) and so on.

Now, what's really fun is comparing books. The first thing I did is look at Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, but it didn't have readability statistics. In a mischievous mood I pulled up Twilight, but while it did display certain readability statistics, the text stats were missing.

Disappointed I headed on over to The Vampire Diaries: The Return: Midnight but that one didn't have text stats either.

Not to be put off, I looked at Great Expectations and was not disappointed. Apparently you need four less years of education to read Great Expectations than you would for The Scarlet Letter and the words Dickens used are, overall, 4% less complex than the ones Hawthorne chose.

I'm not sure how useful this is, but it would have been fun to compare, say, the text stats of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone to Twilight.

Links:
Book Lies: Readability is Impossible to Measure
The Scarlet Letter
Text Stats for The Scarlet Letter
Great Expectations
Text Stats for Great Expectations

Indie Film Makes $200K in iTunes Sales


An Indie film, made with absolutely no money and a DSLR camera, has grossed over $200,000 and climbed into iTunes Top 100 Movies.

Read the story here.

Just the other day I was wondering why I hadn't heard about a no- or low-budget movie that made good money from being sold on iTunes. Speak of the devil.

Of course, that it had Stana Katic in it didn't hurt.

As the technology to make films becomes ever cheaper, and avenues of distribution for indie projects expands, it seems likely that movie fans will encounter an increasing number of movies made well outside the Hollywood system. We’ve seen under-the-radar hits in recent years – from Robert Rodriguez’s El Mariachi to The Blair Witch Project on to recent sensation Paranormal Activity – but those films still eventually had studio involvement before they hit it big. Such is not the case with For Lovers Only.

The film, which was helmed by twin filmmakers Michael and Mark Polish, had a production budget of $0 and an advertising budget to match. The title, which is a black- and-white tale of old lovers reconnecting in Paris, was shot with two actors (one was Castle’s Stana Katic, the other Mark Polish) and on a Canon EOS 5D Mark II still camera. Thanks to Twitter and word of mouth, the film currently sits in the number 2 slot in the iTunes Romance category, the four slot on the indie films chart, and is in the top 100 in rentals on the mega site. Oh, and it’s made $200,000 so far.

While the Polish brothers talk of the film as a way to “get back to the real energy of filmmaking,” this isn’t your father’s version of the movie business. The filmmakers’ experiment revolved around the idea of shooting a film for nothing and then letting an audience find it through the magic of new media. So far, it’s been a complete success. Star Stana Katic’s tweets about the project ignited a firestorm amongst her fanbase – who then spread word far and wide across the Internet.

Read more at Movies.com, 'For Lovers Only' Demonstrates No-Budget Films Can Become Hits in the Internet Age

Links:
No Budget Indie Film Has Grossed $200K in iTunes Sales
'For Lovers Only' Demonstrates No-Budget Films Can Become Hits in the Internet Age
How the Polish Brothers Are Raking It In With a Stealth, No Budget Movie

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Flipboard: Best Free App Ever


Actually, Flipboard is one of my favorite apps, whether free or paid, and the one I use most often.

I love the way the app displays twitter feeds like a virtual newspaper, taking the links tweeted and displaying the first part of the article so I can easily scan it to see if I'm interested in viewing the whole thing.

From Flipboard's description in the App Store:

Named Apple's iPad App of the Year and one of TIME's top 50 innovations of 2010, Flipboard is a fast, beautiful way to flip through the news, photos, videos, and updates your friends are sharing on Facebook, Twitter, Google Reader, Flickr, and Instagram. See your social media in a magazine layout that is easy to scan and fun to read. Catch up on the latest stories, videos and posts from popular publications and people such as National Geographic, The New Yorker, Wired, Rolling Stone, Oprah, Forbes, Robert Scoble, and Brain Pickings' Maria Popova. Share articles and photos, comment on posts, and like or favorite anything. Customize your Flipboard with sections created from your favorite news, people, blogs, and topics.

Well said. I know this might sound like a paid advertisement, but I'm not receiving anything in exchange for this review. Truth is, I was going through my feeds on Flipboard and having trouble coming up with a story or topic that grabbed me when it came to me: Blog about Flipboard! It really is, for me, a killer app and the unbelievably great thing is that it is free! Something that is important to me as a starving artist. :)

If you're interested, go check it out at the iTunes store.

Link:
Flipboard at the iTunes Store

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Lawrence Block has a blog!


The first book I read by Lawrence Block was, "Telling Lies for Fun and Profit."  It was great!  I highly recommend it, not only for writing tips but because it is a pleasure to read.

Now, thanks to John Locke, LB has his own blog! He writes:

... John Locke got a ton of press for selling his one millionth Kindle book. And, as soon as he did, he released a book he’d had waiting in the wings all along. He called it How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months, and offered it not at his usual price of 99¢ but $4.99 (or $9.99 in paperback).

Yeah, right, said the snarky voice that lives inside my head. Who could resist paying five bucks to learn how to write mediocre fiction?

I told the voice Thanks for sharing and ordered the book. This was on June 21, and I started reading it on my Kindle that night. I read the rest of it the following day, and started re–reading it the day after that. And the next day was June 24, my birthday, and I started the day doing something I’d been absolutely certain I would never do. But what the hell, I figured I was finally old enough. So I joined Twitter.

Because John Locke told me to.

That day or the next, I asked my web guy to set me up with a blog. Five years ago I was on a book tour in aid of The Burglar on the Prowl, and each night I made myself write a newsy paragraph on the day’s events, and emailed it for him to post on my website. It was a pain in the ass, and it didn’t accomplish anything, and that was the end of my blogging. But now I wanted a real blog, one I could manage myself, and that’s what I asked for.

Because John Locke told me to.
....
John Locke’s background is in sales, and he blogs and tweets with the aim of increasing his own sales. He wants you not only to buy his books, but to help him get others to buy them. As he explains, the actions he takes online are frankly manipulative; he outlines a method of gaining a reader’s allegiance and illustrates it with a blog about Joe Paterno and his mother that leaves one gaping. The damn thing seems so calculating. . .

But here’s the thing. It’s not cold and calculating. It’s warm and calculating.

Read the entire blog post here.

I had been wondering if I should buy John Locke's book; after reading LB talk about Locke I don't see how I can not buy it.

Links:
Telling Lies for Fun and Profit
Block's Amazon Author Page
Lawrence Block's Blog
Thanks to Dean Wesley Smith and @PassiveVoiceBlg for spreading the news about LB's blog.
How I Sold 1 Million eBooks in 5 Months

Joe Konrath's Indicators of Quality Writing


Here's another great post by Joe Konrath. There has been a lot of talk lately about the criteria for good writing. Here's what Joe has to say:

According to my criteria, a novel is a success if:

1. The writer intentionally sets out to do something within the story.

and

2. As a result of deliberation and execution, the story meets the writer's expectations.

And also:

So, to recap:

If you're a writer, make sure you understand why you're writing what you write, and have a clear idea of what you want those words to do. Then you'll never write crap.

If you're a human being, make sure you truly understand why you say and do the things you say and do. An unexamined life ain't worth living. And an unexamined life that tweets or posts reviews on Amazon is a big waste of carbon. And oxygen.

Go Joe!

Link:
Be Deliberate

Sunday, July 17, 2011

One Star Reviews And What To Do About Them


Sometimes great discussions get going in the comments section of a post. This often happens on Dean Wesley Smith's blog and I'd like to share one short exchange with you because, even though I haven't yet received a one star review, it resonated with me.

Blarkonon 15 Jul 2011 at 1:25 am

If you’ve got a couple of novels up and you write one that is, not to put to fine a point on it, reviewed like a turd, should you pull that one because it’s damaging your “brand”? (you’ve mentioned that writers can’t really tell how good their work is, which is how this hypothetical book gets up their in the first place – how do you crap filter your own stuff if all writers are bad judges of their own work?)

I’m guessing the strategy of working to get a large number of novels published is an effort to “cast a bigger net” and establish a “Brand” of sorts – catch a reader with one and you might get them to read others. If you have a book that seems to be attracting horrible reviews, is it worth it to keep it up there? (as it might scare curious readers away from reading your other works, even if they’ve liked some of them)
Dean's reply:

dwsmithon 15 Jul 2011 at 1:31 am

Blarkon, wow, the day I start reacting to any review by a failed writer is the day I hang up my computer keys and run away. Reviewers are failed writers. Who cares what they say. Leave the book alone and keep writing is my suggestion because you give those idiots power, you are lost in your own head.

Sorry to be so blunt, but I’m a long-term writers. I have had fantastic reviews and ugly, nasty reviews and couldn’t care about either to be honest. I just keep writing and that’s what I do.

Link:
The New World of Publishing: The Death of an Indie Writer’s Career

12 Million Kindles, 38 Million iPads and 80 million iPhones: That's a lot of ereaders!


According to Digitimes,

Foxconn currently is also likely to produce 12 million units of Kindles for Amazon, and 38-40 million units of iPads as well as 80-85 million iPhones for Apple a year ...

That's a lot of ereaders! If this is any indication, the trend toward ebooks is going to continue.

Link:
Foxconn reportedly lands 10.1-inch tablet PC orders from Amazon

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A Quirky Success Story


I love reading about success stories, so I owe a thank you to PG over at the Passive Voice Blog for posting about Brunonia Barry's article, "Adventures in Self-Publishing".

Brunonia was one of the pioneers of self-publishing, having published her first book, The Lace Reader, in 2007.

She writes:

The Lace Reader has been pretty successful. It’s a New York Times and international best seller, and it was the first American novel to win the International Women’s Fiction Festival Baccante Award. It has been translated into more than 30 languages.

I don’t believe that any of this would have happened if we hadn’t self-published. Obviously, I am thrilled that we did it the way we did. The self-publishing to big publisher success story gave the book a marketing hook that it would not have otherwise had. But there was so much luck involved along the way. All told, this was a very expensive process. When our invoices were tallied, it cost us more than $80,000. Even so, we did not have the kind of marketing budget it would have taken to sufficiently spread the word to readers. Without a great deal of luck and timing, we could easily have lost our money.

Her story, her path to success, is fascinating reading.

Friday, July 15, 2011

How To Get Smashwords Files From Your Computer To Your iPad


When I bought my iPad the first thing I wanted to do was transfer Kindle books from my computer to my iPad. It's easy to do this with kindle books on your Amazon account, but not so easy to do it with books downloaded from Smashwords. Well, if you have a PC, here's what you do (hopefully it isn't very different for a mac):

1) Attach your iPad to your computer with the cable provided and launch iTunes on your computer.


2) In iTunes there is a blue ribbon on the right side of the screen with headings like LIBRARY, STORE, DEVICES, etc. Under DEVICES you should see your iPad. Mine shows up as "karen's iPad". Highlight this.


When you highlight the name of your iPad the main window will change and, at the top of the screen you will see the headings: Summary, Info, Apps, Music, TV Shows, Podcasts, Books, Photos.


3) Highlight "Apps"


4) The screen will change to show the apps you have on your iPad. The apps that allow file sharing will appear at the bottom of the screen.


Highlight the Kindle app.


5) At the bottom of the screen, on the right-hand side, you will see an "Add ..." button. Press it.


6) There should be a folder named "My Kindle Content" in your Documents folder. Navigate to it.


Open up this folder, select the mobi and mbp files of your choice and lick "Open".

That's it! The book or books of your choice will now be downloaded onto your iPad.

If I've missed something, let me know.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Azul Media Player for iPad: 5 out of 5 stars


One of the reasons I bought my iPad 2 was to have a portable device that could play video files. Some folks listen to music when they write -- and I do that as well -- but my favorite thing is to listen to old TV shows I've watched dozens of times. I don't feel any curiosity about what will happen next, but I like the background noise.

Anyway, when I bought my iPad I was new to the apple universe but the App store was easy to navigate and I found a media player quickly. Perhaps too quickly. I'm not going to say which media player I bought, but I wasn't happy with it because it didn't play AC3 sound files. There is a file conversion program that will convert sound files into another format, but I didn't have good results.

I began to think about spending $100 for a media player I could hook up to my television but I didn't want to spend the money, and I wanted something portable, so I decided to try The App Store one more time. After reading many reviews, chose Azul.

* insert trumpet sound *

Every AVI file I have tried to play on my iPad using Azul has worked perfectly! Interestingly, even some of the converted files that the other media player had trouble with, Azul has been able to play just fine.

Links:
Azul Website
Azul on iTunes

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Mike Bennett: One Among the Sleepless


Careful, this podcast is addictive. I was going to listen to just one episode, to get the gist. Then I was sucked in by Mike Bennett's marvelous voice and prose and, before I knew what had happened, found myself listening to episode number four.

I've been interested in podcasting lately and have thought about using the medium to record a short story and wanted to get a feeling for what sort of podcasts were out there so I stopped by podiobooks.com. After listening to Mike's podcasts ... well, he is definitely a tough act to follow.

"One Among The Sleepless" is a contemporary fiction novel set in Brighton, England about sex, death and noisy neighbors: a thriller with a rich vein of dark humor that flows from both the narrative and the dialogue of the characters. It's a largely character-driven story; the people and their various shifting relationships compel the plot forward through sometimes subtle, sometimes brutal plot twists towards the final, nail-gnawing climax.

Mike Bennett has other podcasts up on his site, and even a few videos.

Links:
Mike Bennett Podcast.com
One Among The Sleepless
Podiobooks.com

How To Get A Free Canadian ISBN Number


One of the great things about being a Canadian writer is that ISBN numbers are free. Unfortunately, the process of obtaining an ISBN can be frustrating and, until today, I hadn't found a good step-by-step guide.

Randolph Lalonde has written a brilliant guide to what can be, especially the first time, a bewildering process.

Here are his steps for obtaining an ISBN number for an electronic book:

Step 1: Head on over to http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ciss-ssci/index-e.html
Step 2: Click “Join CISS” (CISS stands for Canadian ISBN Service System)
Step 3: Click Yes – I Accept (Unless you disagree with the conditions on that page)
Step 4: Fill in the publisher registration information. If you’re an independent in Canada, you’re still considered a publisher, so you’re in the right place.
Step 5: Click SUBMIT and follow the instructions on the following page. There’s nothing complicated there. You’ll eventually be asked to wait for an email from the administration.
Step 6: You should receive that approval email on a workday (Mon-Fri). If you get an email telling you that your account wasn’t approved, read it carefully for a reason and either re-apply (if you chose a publisher name that was already in the system, or filled in the form incorrectly, for example), or give the number in the Email a call if there is a more complicated problem. [The current number is 1-866-578-7777 (Select 1+7+3), and God help you.]
Step 7: After you receive the Email with your ISBN prefix and publisher name (keep that Email forever!!) head on back to http://www.collectionscanada.gc.ca/ciss-ssci/index-e.html and login using your new username and password.
Step 8: Edit your profile if there’s anything you need to alter.
Step 9: Click on MANAGE LOGBOOK (Left hand panel)
Step 10: Click ASSIGN NEW ISBN
Step 11: Fill in the form according to the particulars of your product.
Step 12: Send a copy of the product to Library and Archives Canada. The current address is on the site, I won’t post it here just in case it changes.

EBOOK SPECIFIC INSTRUCTIONS
There are special instructions for eBook publishers, I verified these with the Government rep on the phone, step by step, even though she was impatient and rude during the entire process.

Step 1: For eBooks the Product Form is [Electronic Book Text]. The term EBOOK is not in this site’s vocabulary yet, but I was told via Email and on the phone that “Electronic Book Text means eBook”)
Step 2: You skip [Product Form Details] entirely, don’t change it.
Step 4: Enter in the [Title] [Subtitle] [Subject] [Publisher Name] normally.
Step 5: For [Projected Publication Date] enter the date you expect your work to be published OR the date it was published.
Step 6: I was told I didn’t have to fill in [Publication Date] but I did anyway because the website insists. I suggest you fill that field in, otherwise the site will probably reject the form.
Step 7: Set [Publication Status] to [Active]
Step 8: Leave [Number of Pages] at 0, since eBook pages are different from one reader device to the next. (The rep on the phone told me 0 is the correct setting for eBooks as well).
Step 9: Leave the Replacement ISBN Information section empty if this is the only ISBN you’ll be using for the eBook. If you’re using this ISBN to replace another, please email the administration through the form at the top of the page. I’m not going to make any assumptions regarding that option.
Step 10: Fill the [Contributor Information] in normally. If you’re the author, select [By (author)] and fill in your name. Skip the rest of that contributor form unless you have to add other contributors by clicking the [ADD] button.
Step 11: Select the language the book is written in under [Language Information].
Step 12: Under [Rights Information] leave it set to FOR SALE WITH EXCLUSIVE RIGHTS IN SPECIFIED COUNTRIES and select [Canada]. According to the representative, only the Publisher sees this setting, and it has no impact on international use of your ISBN. I asked more than once, which she found really irritating.
Step 13: Skip the entire section called [Supplier Information]. (The rep was insistent that I didn’t change or enter anything into that section).
Step 14: You should get a message telling you that you’ve successfully created an ISBN for your eBook. Click on [Manage Logbook] to see it listed on your account.
Don't forget to submit a copy of your work to Library and Archives Canada (Randolph Lalonde has instructions for that as well).

For writers in the USA, I've also written an article with information about purchasing ISBN numbers in the States.

Good luck!

Links:
Getting Your Free ISBN In Canada, by Randolph Lalonde
Library and Archives Canada

Until Death: My First Urban Fantasy Novel


I'm excited! It has taken me about two years, but I've finally published my first full length urban fantasy novel.

Here is the summary:

Darla longs to work magic but when, on her 18th birthday, a demon reveals to her she is a sorcerer, one of the most powerful creatures of magic that can exist, she discovers that nothing comes without a price. Long ago, the Council of Mages declared that sorcerers were too powerful to exist and hunted them almost to extinction. Her family pleads with Darla to renounce her powers, but can she give up what she has sought for so long? Faced with a choice between death and giving up the only thing she has ever wanted, Darla desperately searches for a third option. Perhaps, with the help of a good demon, she can discover how to change her fate.

Until the end of the month I'm running a promotion on Smashwords, giving the book away for free (offer ends August 1, 2011).

Here is the first chapter:

Nervous, I peeked into the break room. It was vacant. I realized I had been holding my breath and exhaled. Hands shaking, I set out my spelling regents, lit incense, purified the area, grounded and then readied myself to cast the spell. It would work this time. It had to work. If it didn't ... I shuddered. I couldn't think about that, it could jinx the spell.

I cast a circle of power, starting in the north then working my way through east, south, west and then back to north. Feeling the circle close I called the guardians of air, fire, water and earth. As the last guardian was invoked I felt a stirring of power, like a light electric charge, infuse the incense laden air.

It was an encouraging beginning but I'd come this far before only to have the spell fall flat as a soufflé on an artillery testing range.

Shaking myself -- no negative thoughts! -- I began the main spellwork. Since all spellwork is fueled by magical energy I needed to raise some. There are as many ways of raising energy as there are magical practitioners. Certain ways are faster than others but almost any repetitive activity will work if you stay focused and keep at it long enough. I love to sing and dance and so used my body and voice to shape the rising currents. This was another reason I wanted privacy.

When the hum of building energy plateaued I began to weave the spell. The idea was that at some point the energy would peek and, at just that point, the last part of the spell would be spoken and the energy raised would be directed into it to fuel the working. If there wasn't enough energy, or if the timing was off, the spell wouldn't have a power source and would be as useful as a cell phone with a dead battery.

This last bit was the tricky part, the part I had never been able to pull off. People were beginning to whisper that I was a mundane -- a person not able to bind energy into a spell. Sure, I could invoke spells someone else had bound to an energy source and stored in an object, a wand for instance, but even a mundane could do that.

As I sang and danced around the break room I could feel the tingle of magical energy glide over my skin. The energy was building. I smiled. It was close. So close.

Keeping my awareness on the magical currents, I uttered the last words of the spell and gave the push of will that would drive the two together, sending the spell to feed off the energy raised and release itself into the world. Only a little more ... There! As I uttered the last syllable of the spell I felt something begin to swirl around me like a breeze. It was working!

And then .... nothing.

At the last moment a wash of cold radiated from my solar plexus, driving the hot airy currents of energy down, grounding them. For a moment I felt the spell reaching for the hot energy, hungering for it, but then it began to unravel.

I fell down on my butt, tears in my eyes. Why! Why did this always happen? I had been so close that time. So close. But close is never good enough, is it?
Noises outside the door, garbled words. Eli's voice. Crap! I lunged toward my spelling supplies and tried to extinguish the burning incense. I wasn't supposed to be spelling in the break room. It had been banned last year after a neophyte practicing an implosion spell had destroyed half the school.

The door opened. My supervisor, Eli, was talking with someone in the other room. "... means we don't have much time, call in Wallace and ...," It took Eli a couple of seconds to notice what I'd been doing in the break room. "What the hell? Waters you know neophytes are banned from spelling in here and, besides, aren't you supposed to be working? Being part of the work-study program is a perk, I can take it away. Is any part of that unclear to you?"

I cringed. To say that Eli was not my biggest fan was the understatement of the century, perhaps the millennia. "I know, I know, it's just that everyone was out and I thought I'd practice."

Oliver, a third year neophyte like myself, pushed into the break room after Eli, fixed me with a malicious eye and grinned. Oliver was the kind of person who lived to create discord. "Don't worry boss, we all know she's a mundane, ain't nothin' going to happen."

My blood froze. Mundane. I felt blood rush to my cheeks.

"Shut up Oliver, when I want your opinion I'll let you know," Eli said.

"Yea Oliver, eat shit and die," I said.

"That's not what he said." Oliver's eyes were an icy blue that became lost in the doughy whiteness of his face. When he became upset, which was often, angry red blotches mottled his skin making it look almost scaly.

"Sure it was, you just weren't listening," I said, grinning at him like I didn't care about him or what he had said. That was false of course. It was stupid, but I did. I knew he was saying what people were thinking, that I was one of the pitied few who would never develop the ability to bind a spell.

Mundanes were social outcasts. Of course there were justifications for treating them as less than. Mundanes, by definition, couldn't bind a spell so certain professions were automatically beyond their reach. Obviously a mundane couldn't become a mage, but that was just the tip of the discrimination iceberg. Any profession that used magic in any significant way -- and most did -- was closed to them.

I'm a runner, a regent runner. Or at least I will be when -- make that if -- I graduate from The Runners Institute in six months. I go out and get magic workers what they need for their spells, no matter how exotic or ... let's just say 'unconventional' and leave it at that. Runners go wherever the regents are so we routinely end up in hostile conditions, whether that is near the mouth of an active volcano in Ecuador harvesting new lava or gathering hairs from a lion's tail at midnight on the new moon. We need to be able to protect ourselves from extreme conditions and extreme predators, not to mention poachers: those people from rival agencies who want to sabotage us by stealing our regents and our customers. For all those reasons and more, we need to be able to use magic.

If it turned out I was a mundane and not just a late bloomer ... well, it was bye, bye career and hello McDonalds.

Just as Oliver was about to come back with what he thought of as a brilliant retort -- probably something along the lines of 'suck it Waters' -- the emergency siren went off. That was bad. The only time the siren went off was if a nuclear bomb was about to explode or a demon servant was on the loose.

Eli walked over to the intercom and pushed a button. "Wallace, come in." He waited. Oliver and I stood where we were and looked at him, unsure what to do. Eli nodded at something someone, presumably Wallace, had said. "Meet me in the communication center." Eli paused a moment longer and then barked, "Now!" I jumped.

Without waiting for a reply Eli clicked a button ending the conversation, then he punched the big red button on the wall, the one that would project his voice over every speaker in the school. "Listen up! There's a demon servant out there carving up our city. Just like the drills people. We hang back to let the police and first responders in and then we back them up, giving them whatever support they need. No one panic and we're all coming home." Eli closed his eyes and I saw his lips move in a silent prayer, then he swiveled on his heel and walked toward the door.

Cleaning the break room of my ritual apparatus went from being a very high priority to completely forgotten. "Eli, who's my partner, I didn't get an assignment." My partner had dropped out of the program months ago and Eli had been dragging his heels assigning another one to me; if I didn't have one I wouldn't be allowed to participate. Partners watched each other's backs, kept each other safe. No one without one would be allowed out on this operation.

Eli was almost out the door before he reluctantly stopped and turned back. He smiled at me but the smile was no more than the corners of his lips curling up, it didn't reach his eyes. It was a mask, a mask I'd seen him wear dozens of times before telling someone something they didn't want to hear. "We've got this covered but, if you want to help, we're going to need all the Brimstone charms we can get so we'll need grave dirt and it better be old. Go to Jamison's Cemetery on 5th ...,"

I felt my pulse spike and I clenched my hands into fists. "Please don't keep me out of this Eli! This is the first demon servant to run amuck since I've been in the program, I want to at least observe runners in action. I won't interfere, I promise. I need the experience!" Truth was, I just wanted to be treated like everyone else. What with my powers coming in a bit late -- okay, really late -- I wanted some reassurance that I was still on track, still part of the team.

Eli scowled at me. "We need people who can do magic, and that's not you." He turned to leave. "Radio the dispatcher when you have the grave dirt," Eli said. As he spoke Eli walked out of the break room and into the hall, his gait oozing with purpose.

Oliver was staring at me, his too-blue eyes boring into me. His smirk was back.

Oh no he doesn't! I ran to the door. " You're keeping me out of the action because you think Oliver was right, you think I'm a mundane. Okay, maybe my magical powers have been a bit slow in coming ...," Oliver snorted and looked at the ceiling, "... but I can handle myself! And, besides, even if I was a mundane ... which I'm not! ... I have a gun and know how to use it and I have pre-invoked amulets and talismans that even a mundane could use. Not that I am one. I get the job done and I should be treated the same as every other recruit!"

Eli stopped walking down the hall, turned on his heel, and glared at me as he ran his hand through his graying brown hair. People like me had put the gray there. "Waters, you really don't want to get into it with me. Not now. I don't have time for this."

"Maybe it's your loyalties he's not sure of," Oliver said, his mouth turned up in a cruel smile. "After all, most demon servants are mundanes. Eli doesn't want your help because he can't trust you not to have sympathy for the poor misunderstood demon servant and screw up when you're needed." He looked at me, studying me, relishing the effect the information was having.

I felt as though my face had been slapped. "Is that true?" I asked, turning to Eli. "You all think I might side with the Demon Servant?"

I felt my heart pounding, felt the blood in my cheeks.

Oliver smirked. "Why not? Don't tell me you've never thought of making a deal with a demon for some magical juice, even just enough to appear normal?"

Oliver was a dickhead, this much was not news, but I had never, ever, thought even he would accuse me of contemplating making a deal with a demon, for any reason. In order to draw on one's own life-energy the demon had to change you, transform you to be more like it, and that tended to drive humans insane. You had to be stupid, or desperate, to sell your soul for a death sentence and I was neither.

A dangerous cast had crept into Eli's gaze. "Waters, you want to be treated the same as every other recruit?"

"Yes," I said, but I wasn't sure anymore. Eli's voice had a feel of barely repressed rage that made me think I'd gone too far.

"Good. That's it Waters, you're outta the program. I don't know why I put up with your shit as long as I have, I need to have my head examined ...,"

"... but ... No. Hold on Eli, I didn't mean ... Don't do something you'll regret."

Eli laughed and it was laughter that I can only describe as bitter. "Oh, I don't see myself regretting this. Waters, it's true that no one wanted to partner with you. That sucks for you and I'm sorry but sooner or later you've got to face the fact that you can't do magic. That's okay, it doesn't make you less as a person but to work here, to be a runner, you need to be able to bind energy into a spell and cast it. Eli shook his head and shrugged. "Yes, okay. Yes. If you really want to know the truth, no one wants to work with you and I can't say I blame them."

Tears stung my eyes.

Eli paused and took a deep breath. I may not be precognitive but I knew I didn't want to hear what he was going to say next. "That's why, as of now, you're out of the program."

It felt like someone had just slugged me beside the head with a baseball bat. I swallowed but my throat wasn't working right. I staggered forward, going nowhere, my eyes seeing shapes but not understanding their significance. I reached out as though to steady myself. Dizziness. The world was turning white. I crouched so as not to fall. I would not give either of them the satisfaction. A moment later I realized Eli was still talking.

"... seen it coming, but we still need grave dirt for the brimstone charms. Since you're no longer in the program I'll pay you what I would pay a real runner for the job, which is a 25% cut of what The Runners Institute makes. Consider it your severance package, just be sure to deliver it before sunrise. I mean it Waters. If we don't receive the grave dirt by sunrise, don't bother," Eli turned on his heel and strode down the hall.

I wanted to yell at him, to scream obscenities, but I was frozen. Cold. Mundane. I ran the word around my mouth and tasted bitterness. Was that what I was? Who I was?

I didn't remember getting into my car, I was just suddenly sitting behind the wheel holding my keys in my hand staring off into space. I considered blowing off the job and going home.

Pam, my adoptive sister, was getting a Ph.D. in Magical Studies next week and her academic supervisor expected her to land a mage's apprentice job soon after. It was a great honor, only the most powerful magicians were considered for those positions. If she was chosen she would work closely with a mage. Sure, she would be an unpaid laborer and general lackey for years until the mage judged she was ready for her initiation trials but, if she passed, she would become the first female mage in history. I was glad one of us was making something of herself.

I sighed, started the car, and headed toward Jamison Cemetery to gather some very old grave dirt.

* * * *

Get the book on Smashwords for free until August 1, 2011.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

John Green: Unpublished book hits #1 on Amazon


I wanted to title this blog, "Nice work if you can get it," but -- although true -- that wouldn't have been informative.

From The Wall Street Journal:

In a feat that even the best-selling writers might envy, young-adult author John Green's latest novel is No. 1 on Amazon.com and Barnes & Noble.com even though he's still working on it from his comfy La-Z-Boy in Indianapolis.

Here's how it happened:

Mr. Green's runaway train started like this: On Tuesday afternoon, he posted the title of his new book on Twitter, Tumblr and the community forum YourPants.org. An hour later, he upped the stakes by promising to sign all pre-orders and the entire first-print run, while also launching a YouTube live show. Mr. Green discussed his plans for signing the book and also read a section to give viewers a sense of what "The Fault in Our Stars" would be about. (It's a story of two young cancer survivors.)

The announcement then assumed a life of its own. Fans began to make and post hundreds of potential dust jackets for the book, which doesn't have one yet. They also turned to Twitter and Tumblr to discuss pre-ordering the books. The book then began a steady climb up the charts, says Mr. Green. It hit No. 1 on Amazon before 9 p.m., and No. 1 on Barnes & Noble.com an hour or so later.

John Green has over a million Twitter followers and over half a million people watch his YouTube videos. Very nice.

Link:
Tweeting from a La-Z-Boy, An Unfinished Book Hits No. 1

Google+


Circles, hangouts and huddles, oh my!

Writers can be out of the information loop, so focused on their little patch of the news world that big news events can take them by surprise.

Or perhaps it's just me.

Until yesterday I had never heard of Google+. Since then I have diligently read up about it (see the links below for articles I thought were informative) and am very excited.

Facebook never worked for me, perhaps because I have groups of friends with very different interests. My writing friends aren't interested in my personal life and many of my closest friends don't read, so you can imagine how interested they are about developments in the book world!

From what I've heard about Google+ it also seems to be an especially good fit for a writer who has more than one pen-name. Writers can organize their readers into groups and send each group only the information they would be interested in. Less spam might mean more satisfied readers, and that would be great.

Links:
The Google+ Project
What is Google+?
Google takes on Facebook with the Google+ project
Google Makes Facebook Look Socially Awkward

Saturday, July 9, 2011

How Do You Know If Your Book Is Good Enough To Be Published?


Here's what Dean Wesley Smith has to say:

1… How many words have you written in fiction since you started trying to write? Mystery Grand Master John D. McDonald used to say that all writers starting out had a million words of crap in them. I started selling stories just short of the million word mark and have sold some of my stories that I wrote between half-million and that first million. However, because of a house fire, I can’t look back on any of the words before that.

But if you have a bunch of stories done, maybe a novel, and have been working at writing for a time, I think you are more than safe to let readers be the judge.

2… Realize that you may have paid your storytelling dues in other areas besides fiction. Say if you have written a couple dozen plays and had a couple produced, your storytelling skills are probably pretty good. If you’ve been a reporter or worked nonfiction. Things like that. Lots of other areas transfer over into fiction writing. In that case you might be writing quality fiction right from the first hundred thousand words.

3… How much are you studying writing to become a better storyteller? If you only have three how-to-write books on your shelf and have never even listened to a professional writer speak at a conference, you may be way ahead of yourself in thinking of publishing.

Publishing and telling stories that readers want to read does take skill and craft and it takes some study to even learn the basics. For example, a couple of the writers who attended this last novel workshop brought first-written novels, and wow were they good. But the key is they had spent a lot of time writing other things and were avid learners, which is why they were here in the first place.

In other words, in short, what I am talking about is a learning period, and the learning must go hand-in-hand with the typing.

It’s called “practice” in any other art. In writing you need to practice as well.

But when in doubt, put the story up and let the readers decide. Writers are always the worst judges of their own work.

And readers who pay money always trump any other source of feedback.

So grow a backbone and trust your work and get it out there, either to a traditional publisher or electronically and POD published.

And, just because it is too good not to quote, here is Dean's advice to beginning writers:

1) Never stop writing and learning. Never think you know it all after a few sales. Never believe you are good enough. Learning in this business never, ever ends.


2) Get rid of the early words, the first hundred thousand words. Then after that keep your work for sale somewhere, either on editor’s desks in New York or self-published or both. You are like an artist with your work hanging in an art gallery or a musician working a small bar. You are practicing and earning from your skill as it grows. It might not be much at first, but if you keep learning and practicing, the sales and the money will come with time.

3) Don’t be in a hurry. This is an international business. You can’t get there overnight. Put your work out for sale one way or another and then focus on the next book. Never look back. Leave the book up and alone.

4) Grow a backbone. Believe in your own art without cutting off the learning. No writing is perfect and maybe a few people out there will think it works just fine and enjoy it. No book is perfect.

5) Never do anything that gets in the way of the writing. Stay away from stupid, time-wasting self-promotion beyond your own web site and social media, and just write the next story and the next book. In other words, be a writer, a person who writes.

6) And most of all, have fun. If you are not having fun while at the same time being scared to death, get off this roller coaster. The ride only gets more extreme and more fun the farther you go along the track.

I would encourage you to read the whole article, here's the link: New York Works as a Quality Filter.

Amazon Buys the Book Depository


I know this is old news, but when I first heard about Amazon's acquisition I didn't know the Book Depository was considered to be Amazon's largest rival. This makes me think of a story I heard not too long ago. In the 90s Barnes and Nobel offered to buyout Amazon and, when their offer was rejected, the comment was made that Barnes and Nobel was going to crush Amazon but that it wasn't personal. Perhaps the story is entirely fictional, but I kinda hope it's not; it's just too good.

I don't mean to suggest that Amazon is perfect, but because of places like Amazon many independent writers earn a decent living and that's wonderful.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Amazon Piracy and Ruth Ann Nordin


A few days ago I wrote about Ruth Ann Nordin's troubles with Amazon.com. Someone had uploaded copies of two of her books and was selling them without her permission. From what I could find out Amazon reacted fairly promptly and took the stolen copies down a couple of days later.

I was very happy to learn that Amazon had acted quickly. Just imagine if this issue hadn't been addressed. What would stop thieves from stealing an author's entire line of books? Why bother writing, if you can take an electronic file of another author's work and sell it without their permission and keep all the profit from the sale?

I imagine that large publishers have lawyers on retainer for just this sort of eventuality but independently published authors do not have the deep pockets that large publishing companies do.

Given this, I was distressed to learn that another one of Ruth Ann Nordin's books, The Path to Christmas, had been stolen and that Amazon was slow in removing the book from its site.

Passive Guy has done an excellent job of documenting this unfolding story so I will point you toward his summary post, Amazon Piracy -- Bumped.

Before I started writing this post I checked to see if The Path to Christmas was still for sale on the Amazon site and discovered that the page had been taken down. I looked for an update on this issue at Ruth Ann Nordin's site and elsewhere but didn't find one but it seems as though Ruth's book is no longer for sale on Amazon and that the issue has been resolved.

As a soon-to-be independent author I would like to thank everyone who drew attention to Ruth Ann Nordin's plight and did something to get the word out.

Links:
Amazon Piracy -- Bumped
Ruth Ann Nordin

Renting Electronic Textbooks


According to Inside Higher Ed, some university presses are renting textbooks as ebooks.

For example, instead of buying a paperback or e-book for $20 at the Stanford University Press website, students and scholars can pay $5 to access an e-book for 14 days, or $10 for 60 days.
....
Stanford is not alone. Academic presses at several other universities are running similar rental programs, including the presses at the University of Chicago, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, and Ohio University.

Links:
Link to original article at Inside Higher Ed
Link to referring article: Academic Presses push ebook rentals to spur interest in the format
Link to PassiveVoiceBlg where I learnt of this article.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Red Riding Hood: Pages withheld


Red Riding Hood, a book by Sarah Blakley-Cartwright and David Leslie Johnson, does not have an ending. The story has an ending but the publisher decided to not print it.

Doesn't make sense, does it.

You can buy the book but you can't read the last few pages because the publisher has withheld them. It isn't that the author decided to end the book on a cliffhanger -- something that is done often enough -- it is that the publisher intentionally withheld that part of the book.

The kicker is that readers aren't informed of this fact before they buy the book.

Why is the publisher doing this? It seems to be an ill-conceived publicity stunt. After the movie was released readers could go to a website and read the ending.

Many of the one star reviews on Amazon.com mention this publicity stunt as the main reason for their low rating of the book (2.5 stars).

The first thing I thought of was: What would people have said if a small independent publisher had done this rather than Poppy, an imprint of the Hachette Book Group?

Here are the reviews on Amazon.com, they are interesting reading.

Are Gatekeepers Necessary?


Occasionally I read a post by an author and they not only nail what I have been thinking and feeling about a subject but they express it more eloquently than I ever could. Kristine Kathryn Rusch has done just that with her article, "The Business Rusch: Slushpile Truths", a response to Eric Felten's article, "Cherish the Book Publishers—You'll Miss Them When They're Gone", that appeared in The Wall Street Journal.

She writes:

Let me tell you, Mr. Felten, as a person who read slush for a decade, discovered lots of new writers, and won both a World Fantasy award and a Hugo award for her editing work, the slush pile isn’t some growing, breathing, horrible thing to be avoided. It’s a tower of hope, of dreams, of writers who want to do something with their lives.

Yep, there’s bad stuff in it. But the bad stuff is less common than the dull stuff, the mediocre stuff, the unoriginal stuff. The bulk of the slush pile is boring, not terrible. You start reading one of those manuscripts, your eyes glaze, and you set it down, and move onto something else.

Sound familiar, readers? Of course it does. The slush experience mimicks your own reading experience with traditionally published books. Yep, you folks do it with books that have already been published. [Italics in original]

Go Kris! She nailed it. "The bulk of the slush pile is boring, not terrible."

I have heard folks say things like: Indie authors write crap, just pick up 10 indie published books, you're lucky if you find one you'd want to read. I don't disagree, but the same is true for traditionally published books. The books I'm not interested in reading are not terrible books, they just failed to grab my attention.

One last quote:

Why am I taking this guy on? Primarily because so many of you sent me this silly piece, which just goes to show how many of you read The Wall Street Journal as opposed to the more obscure bloggers on the NPR website. (They covered this issue last summer.) I think a bunch of you also sent it to me because you agree with him, because you’ve bought that piece of swampland in Florida with the sign that says “Professional Gatekeepers Necessary.”

That was my much needed laugh of the day. Thanks Kris. Looking forward to next Thursday.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

When is a book crap?


Joe Konrath blogged yesterday that

Some people believe the ease of self-publishing means that millions of wannabe writers will flood the market with their crummy ebooks, and the good authors will get lost in the morass, and then family values will go unprotected and the economy will collapse and the world will crash into the sun and puppies and kittens by the truckload will die horrible, screaming deaths.

Or something like that.

This is bullshit, of course. A myth. A fabrication. One rooted in envy and fear.

He titled his blog, "The Tsunami of Crap". It is a good and very funny read.

Antoher good read on the same subject is Michael A. Stackpole's blog, "When is Crap, crap?" He writes:
So, how does a writer know when what they are writing is crap—not relatively, but purely and deeply?

I think every writer knows, in his gut, when he’s put his heart and soul into a story. If he hasn’t been working hard; if he hasn’t been making the tough choices; if he doesn’t love the characters enough to let them grow; if he’s thinking more about the paycheck than the story—then chances are that what he’s turning out is crap. The story won’t have heart. It won’t have characters that readers will want to follow, or shed a tear over. If a writer thinks of a story as just a little “fluff” piece, or has to resort to the invocation of literary criticism to identify and justify the story’s worth, it’s crap.

As Joe says, Don’t. Do. That.

....

If, after ... working as hard as you can on a story, you’ve made the story the best you can possibly make it, it isn’t crap. It might not be the most polished story in the world—developing your skills and voice may take some time—but it’s a better story than you started out with. And if you keep working hard, the next story will be better, and the one after that better still. By offering potential patrons free samples of your work, you let them decide if they want to read you; and they’ll be able to come back and chart your progress to the point where their desire to read and your skill at delivering a story coincide.

If you do that, your work will never sink. It will be good. Folks will notice. They’ll share their discoveries with others. Again, this is not a sprint, this is all about longevity. Keep working, keep writing stories that you’d love to be reading, and you’ll do just fine.

I like that. If a writer works on a story and does the best they can, if the writer has poured her heart and soul into it, then it isn't crap. Nice definition.

Joe's article
Michael's article