Sunday, May 8

Authors Can Now Sign Ebooks!

In her article, Would You Sign My Kindle, Stephanie Rosenbloom shares how a digital autograph signing would work:

... a reader poses with the author for a photograph, which can be taken with an iPad camera or an external camera. The image immediately appears on the author’s iPad (if it’s shot with an external camera, it’s sent to the iPad via Bluetooth). Then the author uses a stylus to scrawl a digital message below the photo. When finished, the author taps a button on the iPad that sends the fan an e-mail with a link to the image, which can then be downloaded into the eBook.

Saturday, May 7

Smashwords to Release Books as Apps

Through Smashwords' partnership with ScrollMotion they will be able to "create, promote, merchandise and distribute Smashwords ebooks as mobile applications."

These apps will be sold in Apple's App Store, the Android Market and the HP App Catalog. Smashwords estimates that the "Revenue from customers buying and downloading apps to smartphones and tablets will reach $38 billion by 2015."

Further reading:
Smashwords Press Release
Smashwords Partners with ScrollMotion to Deliver Indie Ebooks to Major Mobile App Marketplaces

Friday, May 6

Writer Beware: Contracts

I consider myself relatively knowledgeable about the business of writing, which is why Kritine Kathryn Rusch's post this week shocked me. I used to think of an agent as a writer's advocate, someone who would, among other things, help the writer negotiate her contract with a publisher, someone who would have the writer's best interests at heart.

In Advocates, Addendums, and Sneaks, oh my! Kristine writes that, for the most part, this is no longer true. For example:

I hadn’t realized until a few months ago that the adversarial relationship that sometimes existed between writer and publisher had moved into the agent/author relationship.

My first glimmer came when I looked at a former student’s agency agreement. Honestly, when the student contacted me to look over a contract clause, I thought the clause was in a publishing contract—at least that’s how it read in the e-mail. Then I saw the entire agreement and realized who had issued it.

The agreement called for the agent to have the right to represent the writer’s work in all forms for the duration of the copyright of the work, even if the relationship between the agent and the writer was terminated. I blinked, damn near swallowed my tongue, and told the writer not to sign the agreement. Even though the agency was a reputable one, this clause was horrible.

Too late, though. The writer had signed the agreement a year before I looked at it, and something had happened between writer and agent to call that clause into question.

I would urge anyone who is considering getting an agent to read Kristine's article. As I understand it, she isn't saying, "Don't get an agent," as much as she is saying that writers need to learn how to read contracts and then read them. She gives several examples of clauses to watch out for, as well as some rather nasty tricks that might fool even an experienced writer.

Saturday, April 30

eBooks promote reading

Carolyn Kellogg, writing for the Los Angeles Times, notes that:
... getting an ereader can lead to more reading. Thirty-four percent of Californians surveyed said that with an ereader, they read more books than they did before.

That's good news for authors. :)

On a completely unrelated note, when I read this next article I had to read the first paragraph twice, it seemed incredible. Here it is:

Wildlife is thriving in lakes contaminated by the Chernobyl disaster, with both overall numbers and species diversity holding up well. Any harmful effects from the radiation appear to be dwarfed by the benefits of having no humans in the area.

As Michael Marshall, writing for New Scientist, explains,

The area around Chernobyl was evacuated after the disaster ... this has been a boon to the local wildlife. Endangered European bison and Przewalski's horses have been introduced successfully.

Here is a link to the article.

Friday, April 29

Flee, by Joe Konrath and Ann Voss Peterson

Flee is a fast paced, well-written thrill ride. Easy to read and impossible to put down it takes the reader into a world of spies and espionage. This book kept me on the edge of my seat the whole way through. If you like reading thrillers or detective fiction, this book is for you.

If you like Flee, or books like Flee, you might also like Joe Konrath's Jack Daniels stories. Jack is a woman -- I hadn't known that! -- and a very cool character; she reminded me of Sam Spade. I'm looking forward to reading these.

Tuesday, April 26

Book Country by Penguin Group

Update (August 16, 2016): It looks as though Book Country no longer exists.

Penguin Group's latest venture is Book Country, a website for writers of genre fiction. According to a New York Times article by Julie Bosman, Penguin says that the site is intended to help build a community of writers by, among other things, giving them the ability to comment on and critique the manuscripts of other writers.

In addition to forming a community of writers and telling them a about how the traditional publishing industry works; agents, agents and publishers can swing by and look for new talent, giving writers who use Book Country a way to get in contact with industry professionals that they wouldn't otherwise have.

One thing I was curious about. Penguin said that in a few months time they will attempt to generate revenue from the site by giving members of Book Country a way to self-publish their books for a fee by ordering printed copies. I'm not sure what that means. However, given the recent success of ebooks as a publishing format I wonder why Putnam is putting emphasis on printed copies which are far more expensive to produce and store than electronic copies.

It will be interesting to watch and see what happens.

Sunday, April 24

How to write a query letter: the paint-by-number approach

How to write a query letter: the paint-by-number approach

Writing a query letter is hard work—nearly as hard as writing the book! That was my experience at least. Nathan Bransford's blog got me through it and helped me produce a query letter I was happy with. I highly recommend this post to anyone writing a query letter: Query Letter Mad Lib.

Skeleton Query

Dear [Agent name],

I chose to submit to you because of your wonderful taste in [genre], and because you [personalized tidbit about agent].

[protagonist name] is a [description of protagonist] living in [setting]. But when [complicating incident], [protagonist name] must [protagonist's quest] and [verb] [villain] in order to [protagonist's goal].

[title] is a [word count] work of [genre]. I am the author of [author's credits (optional)], and this is my first novel.

Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you soon.

Best wishes,
[your name]

Nathan Bransford's Post About Writing Query Letters

Nathan Bransford has several other terrific posts about writing a query letter:

Happy querying!

Other articles you might like:

- Query Letters: How To Write Them And Who To Send Them To
- Query Tracker: Keep Track Of Your Stories
- How To Structure Your Story

Photo credit: "Student and Teacher" by Wonderlane under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Friday, April 22

Are Big Six Publishers Stealing Royalties?

Kristine Kathryn Rusch says the answer may be yes, if her royalty statements are anything to judge by. She writes:

I had looked at my royalty statements from a Big Six publisher, and could not believe the e-book number. It wasn’t in the realm of reality, particularly given the sales of novellas in the same series that I had put up on Kindle myself. According to all the information I had access to, the novellas sold fewer copies than the traditionally published e-book. The royalty statement, however, indicated that my indie e-books had outsold the traditionally published one ten times over.
I knew that wasn’t possible, and started researching the numbers behind the scenes with lawyers, accountants, agents, writers, and other friends inside the publishing industry. I learned that I wasn’t seeing something unique to me: I was seeing an industry-wide problem that no one was talking about.

That is what Kristine Rusch shared in her April 13th blog post. In her April 20th post Kristine Rusch announced that other traditionally published writers had read her blog, checked their own numbers, and told her that they had found the same thing. Kristine Rusch concluded that,

Apparently, some of the Big Six publishers are significantly underreporting the actual number of e-books sold on writers’ royalty statements.

Wow! But that's not all.

I heard from dozens upon dozens of traditionally published writers last week, and to a person without exception, they had all looked at their royalty statements and found discrepancies like the ones I found. …
Because of my blog post, at least a dozen writers sat down with numbers and calculators in hand. These writers compared the sales of their self-published e-book titles to the sales of their traditionally published e-book titles, and found startling discrepancies. Even adjusting for price differences (Big Six e-books were priced higher than the self-published books), these writers discovered that their Big Six publishers reported e-book sales of one-tenth to one-one-hundredth of their indie-published titles.
Some of these writers are bestsellers. Their bestselling frontlist novels (released in the past year)—with full advertising and company wide support—sold significantly fewer copies than their self-published e-books, books that had been out for years, books that had no promotion at all.

I say again: Wow! I am not a traditionally published author, but, if I was, I would be concerned. It is mind-boggling that some writers discovered that their Big Six publishers reported e-book sales of one-one-hundredth of their indie-published titles. One-one-hundredth!

If the royalty statements Kristine Rusch mentions are incorrect and publishers are withholding significant amounts of royalties from authors, then authors have been cheated out of a lot of money, especially if this has been going on for some time.

Let me play devils advocate for a moment. What if the royalty statements are correct? Independently published titles generally sell for much less than those published by the Big Six. Generally an ebook published by one of the Big Six is priced around $10 while a title from an independent author usually sells for under $5, usually well under $5. Speaking for myself, most of the ebooks I have bought have been under $3. That means that I can afford to buy about three times as many independently published ebooks as those that have been traditionally published.

Of course, that still wouldn't account for those cases where where the reported sales of traditional ebooks was one-one-hundredth of the independently published ones.

I'm looking forward to Kristine Rusch's next blog post about this. Stay tuned.

Kristine Kathryn Rusch's April 13th post
Kristine Kathryn Rusch's April 20th post

Thursday, April 21

John Locke: The power of 99 cents

I didn't know who John Locke was—the author, not the 17th century philosopher—until I read Joe's March 8th blog. Still, I didn't grasp the significance of Locke's success until, this morning, I read Jeffrey Trachtenberg's article, Cheapest Ebooks Upend the Charts.

Trachtenberg writes that successful independent authors, many of whom price their books below $5, are drawing readers away from brand name authors.

A case in point is writer John Locke. Mr. Locke, an independent author who primarily writes thrillers, published his first 99 cent paperback two years ago at age 58. In March of this year, Mr. Locke earned $126,000 dollars from his books.

Mr. Locke says:

When I saw that highly successful authors were charging $9.99 for an e-book, I thought that if I can make a profit at 99 cents, I no longer have to prove I'm as good as them. Rather, they have to prove they are ten times better than me.

I had thought of entitling this blog: John Locke and the rebirth of pulp fiction.

Tuesday, April 19

Does Book Piracy Affect Sales?

According to Neil Gaiman the answer is a resounding "No!"

I was going to post this link a while ago and then reconsidered because I know that many published authors, some of whom I know personally, are deeply offended by the piracy of their work. I can understand this and feel for them but I think the point that Neil Gaiman is addressing isn't about the ethics of piracy as much as it is about the impact of piracy on an author's book sales.

I decided to publish this link after reading a blog by Timo Boezeman entitled, Fighting Piracy is the dumbest thing you can do. He made what I thought were interesting points about the financial impact of piracy.