Friday, July 8

Amazon Piracy and Ruth Ann Nordin

A few days ago I wrote about Ruth Ann Nordin's troubles with 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.

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.

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

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 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, 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

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

Monday, July 4

Self-Publishing Will NOT Hurt Your Chances Of Being Traditionally Published

So says agent Rachelle Gardner. She writes:

Self-publishing probably will not hurt your chances of traditional publishing.
[T]he lightning-fast turnaround of the “perception” of self-publishing is nothing short of astonishing. Most of us in “traditonal” publishing no longer think of it as a negative thing ...

You can read the whole article here.

Thanks to Passive Guy for the link.

iA Writer for the iPad

I am always on the lookout for a cool new app for my iPad, but for a writing app to tempt we away from Pages it would have to be darn good. iA Writer looks like it may be that app.

What has me particularly excited is the two finger swipe, right and left, for the "do" and "undo" functions. Also very nice is the keyboard extension bar which lets you, among other things, advance word by word either backward or forward as well as character by character. Also, no longer do iPad users have to tap the ".?123" button to get to the ";" and ":" keys. A little thing but oh so very nice.

For more information about iA Writer for the iPad, click here.

On the con side (it can't be completely great, nothing ever is) some users have lost formatting (line breaks, etc) when emailing files.

For anyone interested in reading reviews of minimalistic word processing programs, head on over to The Book Designer and read his post on 7 Distraction-Ree Writing Environments for Authors.

Thursday, June 30

Writers Despair

Writers Despair

Kristine Kathryn Rusch writes:
[W]hat I've seen this past month from established writers is an abundance of despair. I got a sad phone call from a friend, had a lot of sit-down conversations with writers who were ready to give up their dreams, and a nine-page single-spaced e-mail from a hell of a writer of dozens of published books, wondering whether or not to quit altogether.
What are these writers despairing about? Lots.
Books that would have sold five years ago don’t sell now. Series that are growing are getting bounced from their publishers for not growing enough. Agents, unable to sell product, are telling their mystery clients to write romance novels and their romance clients to write thrillers. Other agents are starting backlist e-pub companies and robbing their clients blind. Still other agents are blaming the writers for the fact that nothing is selling well and encouraging them to sign terrible book contracts.

Bookstores don’t carry paper books any longer. New York Times bestsellers can’t find their backlists in stores. American authors with bestselling novels overseas are being told that foreign countries never pay the promised royalties, only advances.

Traditionally published bestselling writers look at their royalty statements, see that their e-books sell only 30 or 100 or 200 copies in six months, and wonder how the hell upstart self-published writers whose books have ugly covers and whose interiors need copy editing manage to sell tens of thousands of e-books each month.

Editors who once had to tiptoe around their biggest authors are telling those writers to change what they write because their sales have decreased, and clearly, their writing has gotten worse over the years. Writers whose rabid fan base numbers 10 or 20 or 50K get told that their books no longer sell to that fan base even though the writer is constantly getting e-mails from that base and is signing brand new books for that base.

Publisher sales figures are impossible to get. An estimated laydown of 50,000 becomes an estimated 17,000 one month later. On the royalty statements issued six months after that, that laydown then becomes 5,000 books with another 5,000 in the reserve against returns. But, that same book, tracked by Bookscan (which only covers 50%-70% of the book market [and maybe less now]), shows sales, sales (not books shipped), of 30,000.

But even if Bookscan’s numbers are true, the book’s editor says, thirty thousand is pretty insignificant for that genre or for that particular series or for that particular writer. The writer will have to take a smaller advance and accept worse contract terms. Or the writer doesn’t get offered another contract period.

And of course, of course, it’s the writer’s fault. The writer misread the numbers, wrote down the wrong amount in the initial phone call with the editor on the laydown. Oh, it wasn’t a phone call, but an e-mail? My bad, the editor says. It was a typo. I didn’t mean 50,000. I meant 5,000.

So, the writer says, if you only printed 5,000 and I sold 5,000 and the book is still in print and still being ordered, then my book is doing well, right?

Wrong. We overpaid your advance, the editor says. We never ever should have paid that much money on a book that would only sell 5,000 copies.
What's the solution?

First: Know that
It’s not you. You’re fine. Your writing is as good as ever. The business is changing and you’re caught in the crossfire. It’s not personal, even though it feels personal. You are caught in the middle of a nightmare. The rules are changing, and no one knows where any of this is headed. Talk to other writers. You’ll see. It’s happening to all of us.
Second: Read Kristine's article.

Photo credit: "Between life and death" by Kathryn under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0.

Saturday, June 25

Stockholm Syndrome for Agents

Passive Guy has written another article about contracts, this one focusing on the question: Why would a good agent, one who knows how to read a contract, let their client sign a contract that contained one or more 'gotya' clauses in it?

PG writes:
Ultimately, for an agent, publishers are more necessary than any author.

When a publisher says an obnoxious clause like the Non-Compete Clause we discussed a few days ago must be in a contract and explains why the publisher needs the clause, how does the agent explain this clause to her client? Probably using much the same rationale as the publisher does. “I know you don’t like it, but the publisher needs this because . . . .”

After explaining the obnoxious clause 100 times to 25 authors, will the agent have a tendency to accept the clause as “the way things are done these days” or “the new standard?” Will describing the clause as something “every publisher is requiring in new contracts” be a better way to get a publishing deal and advance for the author and the agent than trashing the clause?

Since agents and attorneys who work for agents are not regulators, we don’t have Regulatory Capture here. How does Agent Capture sound? Joe Konrath talks about authors succumbing to The Stockholm Syndrome in their dealings with publishers. There may be something like that going on with agents as well.

Here is a link to PG's blog post, it's a good read.

Thursday, June 23

Pottermore: Harry Potter Digital Books and Audio Files

It looks like JK Rowling has set up the site,, to -- among other things -- publish her own ebooks and audo files of the Harry Potter books.

Having an ebook copy of the Harry Potter books will be wonderful! Unfortunately, it seems as though the site won't be open to the general public before October but I'm sure we will be receiving more news about what Rowling has in store for us before then.

More links:

JK Rowling Will Self-Pub Harry Potter Ebooks
(Post by Joe Konrath at A Newbie's Guide to Publishing.)

Physical bookshops frustrated with Pottermore
(Thanks to JM Cornwell for posting this link.)

J.K. Rowling, Indie Author – Roundup
(Passive Guy's Links on this topic.)