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Oct 26, 2010

4 Things the Publishing Industry Should Change

Io9 has a great piece on 15 science fiction and fantasy books the publishers rejected. Damn. I just knew spies told publishers to reject me.

Which leads a pundit at PC World to suggest four things the publishing industry should change:

1. Stop belittling or dismissing self-publishing. By thinking of self-published books in the same way you think of proposals, you can learn to view the self-publishing market for what it is: a farm program that is the key to your salvation.

2. Think about a book in the same way that a cloud-based service thinks about its product -- always a work in progress and never finished. Most nonfiction and even some fiction should be rereleased frequently with improvements, corrections and updates.

3. Stop thinking that a book is a bound stack of paper. A book has no physical form. It's a collection of ideas. It's intellectual property. You don't sell tree pulp. You sell stories and information, and you should sell it in any form and in any medium that the customer desires, without fear or favor and without trying to manipulate readers with release dates on different platforms. Just release every form as soon as you can and let readers pick.

4. Kill the advance. There's absolutely no reason to shackle yourselves with this investment. Change the model so that you invest only in proven winners. Force austerity on writers and on your own operations. By reducing the cost per author, the same money can support more authors and thereby increase chances for mega-hits.

I know of a couple of people who have found publishers this way. Boyd Morrison first published The Ark: A Novel on Amazon, after it was rejected by all the publishers. They came back pleading to publish it after it was a runaway hit. My friend Michelle Davidson Argyle found her publisher, Rhemalda, because of her success self-publishing the lovely darksome novella Cinders

In completely other news, Amazon says that ebooks now outsell print books 2-to-1.

Just a few months ago, Amazon announced its Kindle editions were outselling hardcover books. Now, the Seattle-based online retailer also announced that for its top 10 best-selling books, its customers are now buying the Kindle edition twice as often as print copies, even as sales of print books on continue to grow. According to Amazon's vice president for the Kindle Steve Kessel, Kindle e-book sales now also top print sales of hardcovers and paperbacks for its top 25, top 100 and top 1,000 bestsellers.

During the first nine months of 2010, Amazon sold 3 times as many Kindle books as during the same time period in 2009.

According to Kessel, Amazon already sold more Kindles so far this year than "during the entire fourth quarter of last year - astonishing because the fourth quarter is the busiest time of year on Amazon." The new Kindle, which Amazon introduced in July, has already surpassed total Kindle sales during the fourth quarter of 2009. The fact that Amazon dropped the price of the cheapest Kindle to $139 surely helped sales as well.

While we have not seen similar numbers from Amazon's competitors like Barnes & Noble and Sony, Amazon's sales seem to be ahead of the general e-book market. According to a recent report from the the Association of American Publishers, overall e-books sales grew 193 percent between January and August 2010.

I leave you with T.S. Eliot's reason for rejecting Animal Farm. I leave it to you to determine what relevance, if any, this has to the publishing industry in its present crisis: "After all, your pigs are far more intelligent than the other animals, and therefore are the best qualified to run the farm – in fact there couldn't have been an Animal Farm without them..."

Indeed. Indeed.

Oct 25, 2010

How Not to Juggle Multiple Responsibilities

The baby was sick last night (=no sleep) and it's a gray, rainy day. Result: depression.

There's an online service to track your mood I belong to called Moodscope. My only problem is that I only feel motivated to use it when, as now, my mood suddenly dips low. When I'm happy, I don't bother. As a result, the picture of my "average" mood is skewed.

I awoke to a message I had to redo my cover. In fact, I ended up having to redo the interior as well. I don't think it looks as good. But that may be just because I'm depressed. I've learned not to trust my own self-evaluations when I'm depressed. I can't even stand to look at my blog right now. It's so ugly I just want to delete the whole thing. (I won't.) I'm also experiencing "buyer's remorse" or, in this case, "self publisher's remorse" where I wish I had never put my book out there because I will only humiliate myself in public, blah yada blah. I won't bore you with my negative interior monologue; I'm sure any of you who have ever been depressed know exactly what I am talking about.

I attended a talk the other day for grad students. The panel of professors spent the whole time predicting that most of us wouldn't find tenure track positions at prestigious universities. The only chance in hell we had was to work our tails off 80 hours a week, schmoozing and publishing, building our academic platform. After that, they tried to assure us that if some of us decided we didn't want to be tenured professors at prestigious universities -- if we were content being professors at four year colleges, or administrators, or gdforbidit, business professionals -- that was PERFECTLY FINE.... after all, only a highly elite cadre of very special people were cut out to make it at the pinnacle of academia. We shouldn't feel bad if we couldn't hack it.

Riiiiiiiiiight. Thanks for that. I feel better now.

Anyway, they were absolutely right about the 80 hr work week. I think this is true for pretty much any highly competitive profession -- doctor, lawyer, entrepreneur. Most people probably wouldn't include "novelist" on that list, but I would. I think to excel at writing, you have to put time and sweat into it.

If someone were trying to do law school and med school at the same time, the rest of the world would rightly regard this as insane. I realize I am basically trying to do the same thing, although it is unlikely to be regarded as such by the rest of the world, which doesn't respect liberal arts PhDs or novelists as much as lawyers and doctors.

There are some superpeople out there who can do both with aplomb. I'm not one. I just end up doing both...poorly.

The logical thing would be to drop one and focus. But I feel like, even though I'm not as successful as I need I am more productive when I keep busy than when I'm less busy. So let's say that I accomplish 80 units of work on Endeavor A and 0 units of work on Endeavor B when I focus on just one thing. I only accomplish 60 units of work on Endeavor A when I split my focus. But I also accomplish 60 units of work on Endeavor B, so my total accomplishment is 120 units of work, much more than 80. The downside is that 60 units of work is not enough to earn a profit in either activity. So though I've invested more effort, I end up with squat all to show for it.

Speaking of squat all, what I should be doing is arranging a blog tour to promote my book. But I can't because I have to work on school stuff. I have another paper to write, and I haven't done any of the reading. I shouldn't even have been writing this blog post. Although now that I have, I feel a little less depressed. Thanks for listening, blog therapist.

Oct 24, 2010

CreateSpace To Do List

So here was my To Do List:

- Final edit on Word File/apply editor's corrections
-Write author's bio
-Learn InDesign
-Format file in InDesign
-Figure out page # of final document to calculate cover art template
-Find or ReDo cover art
-Upload interior PDF and cover art PDF to CreateSpace

And here's what I have left to do:

- Order Proof copy
- Correct Proof copy
- Upload corrections
- Go live with print book

Yeah, that whole "Learn InDesign" took a wee bit longer than expected. Go figure.

I took a crash course by signing up for a month's worth ($25) of training videos at I watched hours worth of videos and followed along on my own files. Great site, it saved my butt.

Also, I never did find my file for the cover art for the print book (which, unlike the ebook cover, included the spine and back copy). I had to redo it. Fortunately, I did still have the front/ebook cover.

Now I'm waiting to hear back from Amazon to hear if my PDFs were formatted correctly. I hope they were, otherwise, I shall have to redo them AGAIN.

If I were reading this as someone considering publishing through CreateSpace, I'd be thinking, "Wow, this sounds like a lot more work than I want to do." And I would be right.

Realize, however, that I brought a lot of this on myself. I hired myself as cover artist, so I had to do that job too. Then, after looking into some professional book interior designers, I decided to hire myself to do that too. I wanted to do a professional job on each one, so I used the tools I would if someone else were paying me (Adobe Photoshop, InDesign). But basically, this meant I was trying to do three jobs (author, artist, designer), all the hard way.

It has never been conclusively proven that I am sane.

# # #

Um, and at some point I need to smack my blog in the face with some Pretty. 'Cause right now it's pretty far from Pretty.

Oct 23, 2010

Whew...I think....

I think I did it... I actually managed to format my book in InDesign! Yeah! More on that tomorrow. Plus, maybe another Intrepid Writer comic.

I now have a clean PDF file for all of you who want a free copy to review.

I'm looking forward to taking a break from formatting and ISBNs and all that good stuff and having time to catch up on all the blogs I haven't been able to read in the last week.

Authors Just Wanna Have Fun

There are times I want to write something truly DEEP.

And then there's the rest of the time. I just want to write something fun.

Yeah, I know the battle between the four-armed rakshasa and the two-headed dragon isn't profound soul-wrenching stuff, but it would make for great eye-candy in the film version. Special effects! Explosions! Hot babes in chain-mail bikinis and bare-chested hunks waving swords! Add a kickass soundtrack.

Sometimes I like to write books that would be best watched drunk.

Is that so wrong?

Oct 21, 2010

Tara Maya, Intrepid Writer!

I wanted to do some xtranormal vids, like Zoe Who? but I haven't come up with anything yet. While doodling storyboard ideas, I came up with this comic. I have a couple of episodes, but I won't post them all at once.

(I don't know why it's so small. Help?)

Oct 20, 2010

My eBook Is Now Available for Sale! Plus, Win a Kindle!


This time I'm not messin' with ya'll. It's really, truly for sale. The description is still not showing on the .us Amazon, although it is showing on .uk for some reason. There are no reviews yet, of course. I'll be eternally grateful to anyone who will post a review.

The print version is still not available yet, but I am working hard to bring that to you.

I also signed in to Amazon Associates, so if you click through to Amazon from the link on my blog or webpage, I will get a referral fee in addition to my royalties. Man, I got three kids. Every little bit helps.

And while we're on the subject of shameless pandering, if you've been on the fence about buying a Kindle and the thought of reading my ebook has, inexplicably tipped you into buying one, then now would also be a good time to click through the link on my site and buy it.

Not yet? Well, I'll just stick it next to my blog posts in case you change your mind.

* * *


Meanwhile, I'm also holding a drawing to win a Kindle as part of my promotion. You can buy one or more "tickets" for the drawing:

1. Mention the book AND this contest with a link to the Amazon page on Facebook, Twitter or your blog = 1 Ticket (for each link)
2: Post a review on your blog, Goodreads or Amazon = 5 tickets (for each review)
3. Make a video about the book and post it = 25 tickets

Then comment here or email me and let me know you've done. (Link so I can pass the link on). Once I've sold 500 "tickets", I'll hold the drawing. The more tickets you've earned, the better your chances of winning, but even if you've only mentioned it once, you'll still have at least one chance in 500 of winning.

Someone is raising a hand. Question: "Tara, I already clicked through on your link and bought my own Kindle, yet I really want to make an xtranormal video acting out one of the stories from your anthology. What should I do?!"

My answer: "No problem! For those who want to enter the contest but don't need or want a Kindle, I will offer the option of giving an Amazon gift card of equivalent value."

Anyone who wants to read the book for free to do a review, just ask me and I'll send you the Word.doc. Of course, then you will miss out on my awesome formatting skills. ;)

Someone is raising a hand. Question: "Tara, I want to win a Kindle, but I'm too lazy and cheap to buy and/or read your whole book. Can I cheat and write a review?"

My answer: "No problem! I, too, am lazy and cheap, so I won't hold it against you. Here's how!"

On Amazon, you can download Kindle for the Web and read a sample of the book on your computer. It includes two short stories and the beginning of another story. Hey, you could just review those stories! And then assume your words of praise apply to the whole book. Or again, you can email me and I'll give you the whole thing for free, and you can just pick one or two stories that interest you and review those. I will give out a free copy to anyone who will write a review in any venue.

Another question: "Tara, I read your book, and I want to tell the world it stank like a halloween pumpkin left on the porch until Christmas. If I post a bad review can I still enter the contest?

My answer: "Of course. Until I get my mind-control devise working, I have no way of forcing you to have the good taste to like my book. Be honest."

Seriously, don't be afraid to give your honest opinions. I will still link to your review. I'd rather you mention the book than not. There's no such thing as bad publicity. Do think of the Golden Rule, and review others as you would like to be reviewed, for the sake of your soul and your karma, but that's between you and God, not between you and me. ;)

You can read a sample RIGHT NOW: Conmergence: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction

Or just buy the book. That would be cool too. :)

Oct 19, 2010

Two Other Ebooks Now for Sale

I've made my corrections and I'm waiting for them to go through the system. Once they do, I'll post the link here to buy the book. If you haven't bought it already, please hold off until then. Should be later today.

In addition to Conmergence, which I'm selling for $2.99, I've extracted two of the novelettes to sell separately for 99 cents. Each one is about 12,000 words. I hope people won't be angry that's too short. I clearly state the word count in the description, but you know how it is.

I wanted to do this to (A) have some 99 cent items, and (B) have fun with more covers. The cover of Conmergence is more of a mood piece and doesn't relate to any specific story. But these covers reflect the stories:

The cover art on Tomorrow We Dance is by Natalie Holkham. So the cover for this 99 cents book actually cost me much more than the cover for the anthology proper. I really love it though. Here's where you can find more work by Natalie:


Oct 17, 2010

Upload Update

The book is showing in the store, but none of the product information is there. In case anyone wishes to buy the ebook, I advise waiting a few more days, if you don't mind, because there are some changes I do intend to make. One of the things I intend to check is how easy it is to make those changes.

Sales do show up very fast, and I have to admit, that rocks.

Now I have to bust a gut and get the POD ready to go.

Oh, and I have one other version coming order to have a 99 cents offering on the table, I'm going to take just one of the novelettes in the story and offer it alone. I need to write a new introduction and acknowledgements for it. I found a badass picture for the cover and the artist was kind enough to let me purchase the rights to it. This will allow me to compare the effect of cover art and price points on sales. Should be fun.

* * *


I feel a little silly for announcing it's up but then warning people not to buy it yet. Um, sorry! Big Dork Tara. Well, don't worry about it. There are a few spots where I saw an extra space between lines. I know I am obsessing. But if you find any typos, let me know.

The only possibly significant change is that I have an alternative ending to Tomorrow We Dance. The ending in the 1 edition is fine -- I stand by it -- but there's another ending. This is the one I'm going to put out as a novelette for 99 cents. So if you are supercurious to know what the difference is....

For some reason my description still doesn't show.

Map of Online Sociality

Uploaded To Amazon

Well, I uploaded the book to Amazon. It could take "up to 48 hours" to show up in the store, so I don't know if it will actually be available by Monday. That's okay. I still have the POD to work on. I just wanted to see what it looks like "live" and make sure I could do the process.

I had a little trouble with my formatting. Some of the fancy internal links I had hoped to provide didn't show up as links, so I had to remove them. The chapter headings are left-justified instead of centered, and some spacing isn't showing up right. I don't know why, but it's 3:15 am as I write this, so I'll worry about it later. I think the version that's up is legible otherwise, with decent paragraph breaks and chapter headings in larger font.

Oct 16, 2010

Boarders Turns to Indie Authors

Boarders turns to indie writers for salvation from bankruptcy.


As eBooks have become increasingly popular, many major eBookstores have created ways to fill those eBookshelves not just with the titles of well known authors but with the works of any author willing to cough up the fees to have their projects published and distributed in this new format. And today, Borders throws its hat into the ring with a partnership with the Boulder-based startup BookBrewer, offering a service that will let independent authors publish and sell their eBooks via the Borders' eBookstore.

The deal with Borders will give authors who use BookBrewer a choice of two publishing packages: the $89.99 basic package and the $199.99 advanced publishing package.

With the basic package, BookBrewer will assign the book an ISBN - something that typically costs $125 value - and will make it available to all major eBookstores at a price set by the writer. Authors who purchase the advanced package will receive a full version of their ePub file, which they will own and may share with friends, family or submit on their own to eBook stores. An ePub file can be read with a variety of mobile devices, including the iPad.

...While there is a lot of competition in the eBook and self-publishing space, one of the key features of BookBrewer is the ability to turn an RSS feed into a book. This will have appeal not simply for independent authors, but for bloggers and for educators.

Indeed, just last week the Chronicle of Higher Education asked, "As Textbooks Go Digital, Will Professors Build Their Own Books?" For those teachers (and edu-bloggers) interested in battling the high cost of textbooks by creating open source textbooks, BookBrewer's services may be worth exploring.

Oct 15, 2010

Balance Sheet for Conmergence

I'm hoping to have the ebook edition of Conmergence up by Monday. I was going to bring the POD and ebook out at the same time, but I decided it's less stress to do it this way.

I promised I would log the steps of my journey for those interested. The big step I took this week was setting up a business account so I can keep my writing expenses and income separate from my personal accounts. It's too expensive to incorporate yet, although that is safer, so I have a sole-proprietorship. However, having a separate account should help me out at tax-time. I deposited $150 to maintain the account. Good practice would have been to deposit the money I needed in the account, then draw out my expenses. I haven't done that. I won't take any money for expenses out of the account until I see money actually going in.

I registered on Amazon's CreateSpace program under my business name and linked the royalties to directly deposit in the account.

I have kept an ongoing balance sheet:


Cover Art: $15
Interior Design: $10
Editing: $175

Subtotal: $200

Publishing and Distribution

Amazon Pro: $40


Webpage: $100 (one year at Wix)
Booktrailers: $0 (so far)

Subtotal: $140
Total: $340

I budgeted a maximum of $1000 and there are still some expenses I haven't had to pay for yet, but probably will. However, I originally thought editing would be $400. I was delighted when it was less. (Probably because a lot of these stories have been published before and needed minimum editing.)

Now, how much do I expect to make? The real answer is I HAVE NO CLUE. But that's not business-like, so I'll give you an OMAF (Out of My Arse Fact).

I read that one can expect a sell-through rate of about 3% on an average list. I have a list of about 1000 people -- that is how many people I can reasonably and reliably expect to tell about my book. If three out of every hundred who hear about it actually buy the book, I will sell thirty books.

Yes. Thirty. That's how many books I expect to sell.

I will be making $2 (net) on each ebook. So I expect to make $60.


60 - 340 = -280

That leaves me in the red to the tune of $280. This may be why my husband objects to my business plan.

I need to sell 170 books to break even.

Certain factors could improve this picture. I will do a blog tour, to try to tell more people about the book. And if readers like the book and start telling friends about it, that would be wonderful. I have no way of controlling word-of-mouth, besides trying to write as compelling fiction as I can, and packaging it as beautifully as I can afford. Even if I never earn out my advance (so to speak) I hope to give those who do read the book an enjoyable experience and a lovely object of art.

Another way I could do better is if I had a higher buy-in from my list. If out of my 1000 something internet buddies, there was buy-in rate of 20%, I could sell 200 copies, make $400 net, cover my costs and make $60 profit.

Bottom line, I don't expect I can make much more than lunch money on one book. That's why I already have plans to bring out more ebooks.

Of course, I hope my sales of Conmergence will be better than I've estimated. With ebook sales increasing by 193%, from $89.8 million for 2009 to $263 million in 2010 this is a great time to publish an ebook. But other people's success doesn't guarantee mine. Conmergence might do worse. I imagine it's possible a month could go by and find me selling only 3 or 4 copies. If that happens, I will cry. But I won't give up.

I am trying hard to behave like a grown-up and approach writing as a business venture, and I hope one day it will help me support my family. But I am still an artist, one with more hope than financial sense, and I'll keep trying even when a realistic look at the numbers dictates quitting now.

Oct 13, 2010

Meet Amazing People Through Kindle Singles

Kindle Singles is not a dating service.

I know. Sorry.

But what is it? What does it mean for readers? For writers Is this a reprise of Amazon Shorts for the Kindle?

Less than 10,000 words or more than 50,000: that is the choice writers have generally faced for more than a century--works either had to be short enough for a magazine article or long enough to deliver the "heft" required for book marketing and distribution. But in many cases, 10,000 to 30,000 words (roughly 30 to 90 pages) might be the perfect, natural length to lay out a single killer idea, well researched, well argued and well illustrated--whether it's a business lesson, a political point of view, a scientific argument, or a beautifully crafted essay on a current event.

Today, Amazon is announcing that it will launch "Kindle Singles"--Kindle books that are twice the length of a New Yorker feature or as much as a few chapters of a typical book. Kindle Singles will have their own section in the Kindle Store and be priced much less than a typical book. Today's announcement is a call to serious writers, thinkers, scientists, business leaders, historians, politicians and publishers to join Amazon in making such works available to readers around the world.

"Ideas and the words to deliver them should be crafted to their natural length, not to an artificial marketing length that justifies a particular price or a certain format," said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President, Kindle Content. "With Kindle Singles, we're reaching out to publishers and accomplished writers and we're excited to see what they create."

Right now I know a lot of indie authors who have novellas up as ebooks for .99 cents. In the future, must these be categorized with the "singles"? How about serialized novels? (I'm thinking of doing this.)

But will it be open to indie authors? Or, like the Shorts, will they require some proof of having been past gatekeepers? And how many gatekeepers? I was able to publish through Amazon Shorts because I had sales to traditionally published anthologies.
To be considered for Kindle Singles, interested parties should contact

Hm, that doesn't sound as though they want just anybody. Plus, Russ Grandinetti, the Vice President, Kindle Content, said "With Kindle Singles, we're reaching out to publishers and accomplished writers and we're excited to see what they create." [emphasis mine] In other words, self-published whack-jobs need not apply.

TechCrunch seems to think it will be open to all:

This new format is is important because Kindle Singles opens up a market for new authors. Singles gives bloggers and writers out there who don’t have time to write a book the opportunity to publish a pamphlet or shorter work. And it seems fairly easy for writer to publish these works. Amazon will work directly with publishers and writers to publish Kindle Singles. Amazon says that “Any rights holder can use the already popular Kindle Digital Text Platform (DTP) to self-publish work in the Kindle Store, and this include Kindle Singles.”

This makes sense if the real aim here is to do for journalists what CreateSpace has done for novelists.

If viewed through a magazine/newspaper lens, this could be the first step in letting journalists and writers produce their own work rather than having to be on staff or go through the tedious pitch process. While the press release did not discuss the business model, there is also the possibility that writers might even be able to earn more for their work by going straight to distribution and bypassing the publishers.

What I really noticed was what wasn't said. What price point does Amazon envision for these Singles? .99 cents? Less? The Shorts were .49 cents. Will Amazon bring that back? What about the possibility of micro-pricing? .25 cents? .10? .01? How about $200,000 (Zimbabwe) dollars? (About $0.0002 US dollars). I'm not sure what the point of that would be, of course. I just wanted to publicly mock Zimbabwe's currency.

The other number missing is what the split would be between the publisher/"accomplished writer" and Amazon. Right now Amazon offers a 30/70 split for ebooks priced between $2.99 and $9.99. Amazon is not price neutral; they make it clear that this is what they think is the right range for the price of an ebook. If a writer wants to offer a book for $1.99, for instance, because it is a novella, this means a drop from 70% royalties to a mere 35% and that stings. If you could offer that novella as a "Single" and earn 70% on a lower price, that would be sweet.

* * *

It's not much advantage to sell a novella for 10 cents. At least, I think you'd have to sell an awful lot of copies to make that worthwhile. But nonfiction? Basically, this is like directly monetizing a long blog post, or a single newspaper/magazine article. Something you could write in a few hours, or at most, a few weeks. It might be very much worth it to sell that for pennies per shot, if those pennies added up.

Let's play with some numbers:

Let's say you sell a Single for .20 and split it 50/50 so you make .10 cents a pop.

If you could sell one Single a week to 10,000 regular subscribers, that's $1000 a week. Not too shabby.

The price to the consumer: $10.40 for a year's worth of once-a-week content.

Ok, what if you can sell one Single a day, every working day, for a year -- about 260 Singles?

If you had 1,000 regular subscribers, that's $100 a day and $26,000 a year.

If you had 10,000 regular subscribers, that's $1000 a day and $260,000 a year.

Cost to the consumer: $52 a year.

F'kn brilliant.

Now, I'm sure some people will object with the usual, "But what about the mountains of crap!" As usual, the answer is simple. If it's crap, don't buy it.

Another possible objection is whether consumers will pay for this when they can just read blogs for free. Well, sure. But this is a bit of a longer of a read than a blog post. I think, as long as it's not terribly expensive, and the content is good, people will buy it.

All you out-of-work journalists who are presently employed by Demand Studios or Target...this could be for you!

* * *

What about fiction? Well, let's say my friends and I decided to get together and start our own novella and serialized novel publisher. Stories between 10,000-30,000 in length. I'm assuming it would be hard for any one writer to come up with that much content that fast, but a magazine with submissions, sure.

Apply the numbers above. Reduce by half to pay for overhead. (Reading slush for submissions, editing, advertising, etc.) Let's take the once-a-week scenario. $26,000 / 2 is $13,000 a year / 52 weeks, and the writer of an individual story can earn $250.

Not bad, though not great. But, here's the thing, the story can continue to earn royalties. Is it worth it to publish with a small publisher to get that initial list of 10,000 fans? Honestly, I don't know.

An alternative model would be that the writer sells only first rights, and after the story goes out to the list, rights revert back and the writer can continue to sell that story as an independent vendor on Amazon. In that case, I'd say it would be definitely worth the exposure for the writer to share 50% of the price with a publisher.

* * *

There's one other theory about the target audience:Academics.

Do you know who is going to love this? Academics, that’s who.

Which is exactly who Amazon is targeting with Kindle Singles....

“Serious writers, thinkers, scientists” and “historians” sure sounds like college professors to us, and the length of the Singles is about exactly what a serious academic journal article or research paper comes out to, isn’t it? Those articles certainly are “crafted to their natural length” more or less, and academic book publishers – unless the book is an edited selection of essays – don’t touch those kinds of article with a ten foot pole: they simply can’t sell them. In academic circles, however, journal articles are the meat in the college sandwich, and right now on the Kindle, these are mainly read as PDFs. However, give academics the opportunity to not only get their writings out to “readers around the world”, but also make some money (especially without having to give their cut to the publishers) in the process…they are going to line up to write Singles, and Amazon knows it.

That said, for right now, Amazon is playing nice with publishers by saying “we’re reaching out to publishers and accomplished writers” but that is just a nicety that Amazon has to do at this point. In the not-too-distant-future, we fully expect Amazon to open this up to many more people – especially hungry-to-get-published-academics. When those young, hip, professors and teaching assistants can point their students to their latest journal article/Kindle Single on, then we’ll start to see the real tipping point in academics towards ereading.

I hope to gd this is true. Really. I cannot tell you how many times in the last week, while trying to write an academic paper, I have come across papers hidden behind a ridiculous price wall. I have access to a university library; nonetheless, when I try to access an article for a journal which the library subscribes to I frequently encounter some blasted message telling me snidely that I can read the entire article for one day for a mere... $19.99.


For one article?

For one day?!


I shouldn't have to pay anything for that article, since, as I said, it should be in the library. But whatever. I would pay .99 cents or less to buy the article. (For all time, damn you, not a day. Sheesh.) But if I want to spend $20, I'd rather buy someone else's book on the same topic. So I won't be citing that article, sorry Journal of Antiquated Microbiology and Forensic Anthropology.

I wouldn't expect Singles to be a panacea to the many headaches of academic publishing. As nice as it would be as an academic to simply self-publish one's erudite brilliance, there's the problem of peer-review.

People might look down on self-published fiction authors, but money speaks louder than scorn. If novels sell, that's the only proof of success that matters in the end.

Academic writing is genuinely different. It's not just snobbery. (Though there is plenty of that.) Academic ideas are not supposed to gain acceptance just because they sell copy. (Though this happens more than academics would like to admit.) Ideas must be vetted by other authorities in the field.

Nobody is going to cite a self-published academic article, because that's the same as citing a popular magazine article with no peer review.

However, could peer reviewed journals sell through Kindle Singles? For, dare one hope, reasonable prices? That would be glorious.

* * *

Interesting times.

Oct 12, 2010

Why I've Been Too Busy To Blog

"Fortunately or unfortunately, the historian has not the novelist's freedom."

And the same goes for the grad student.

Oct 10, 2010

Oct 7, 2010

Frankfurt 2010 and Ebooks

Ebooks are a big topic at Frankfurt 2010. The questions are about how soon will ebooks take over? and who will dominate the market? Emphasis mine:

In a 2008 survey, some 40% of 1,000 industry professionals surveyed said digital content will overtake traditional printed book sales by 2018. Now, it looks like "it may be sooner than that," Mike Shatzkin [said]...

But the first session of the afternoon, on e-books, really captured the pace of change now hitting the publishing industry. Speakers included Brian Murray, CEO, HarperCollins; Evan Schnittman, managing director, Bloomsbury; Andrew Savikas, v-p, O’Reilly Media; and Rick Joyce, CMO, Perseus; and the panel was moderated by Google's Tom Turvey. All of the panelists noted explosive growth in e-book revenues. Murray said e-books made up about 9% of HarperCollins' total revenue, but when that number was adjusted to filter out things like children’s books or other materials not easily consumed digitally, closer to 20% of trade title revenue was now derived from e-books. The panelists agreed the growth was explosive, and that e-book revenues were now a significant revenue stream. In fact, with print revenues flat, nearly all of the industry’s growth can be attributed to e-books, another indicator of e-books' crucial role.

As to whether e-books were adding incremental growth or cannibalizing print sales, the panelists said it was hard to tell. Schnittman, however, said you can't measure that kind of thing on a title by title basis, but on a customer by customer basis. Once a reader makes a decision to read on a device, he notes, that customer is basically lost to print. There were thorny questions as well, with Turvey asking the panel if the industry standard 25% of net receipts royalty would change. Murray said no, defending the rate as a fair cut, adding that he saw nothing on the horizon that would change his mind on the subject.

A couple of points.

I would like to see the rest of the survey. If 40% think ebooks will overtake print by 2018, does that mean the rest think ebooks won't overtake print, or will do so sooner, later?

I find it really weird that they assume once a customer buys a reader "that customer is lost to print." I've had a reader for a year, and I still buy print. In fact, I often use my reader to "test" whether I want to buy a book in print, which is one reason it annoys me when the ebook is priced the same as a hardback or even a paperback. Admittedly, maybe I just do this because I grew up on print, and still enjoy seeing a hard copy on my shelf. It also has to do with my deep distrust for content that someone else might be able to take away from me after I've bought it... I expect ereaders to keep changing and I don't know if the Kindle books I buy today will be upgradable to tomorrow's device. I like to keep printed copies of my own wips for the same reason.

I actually see the revolution as two-fold. Ebooks are the biggie, yes, but I think POD is going to play an important transitional role. POD is going to keep treebooks circulating long after offset print runs are no longer profitable. Remember when everyone said email would mean a "paperless office"? Yeah, that happened.... oh, no, actually what happened was more paperwork than ever. (Trees, I apologize on behalf of my species.)

Final point: after all that, Murray thinks there is no reason to change his mind about the royalty rate?

Google Editions also made a splash.

This year, however, publishers seem eager for Google Editions, and most say they are happy to have Google enter the rapidly growing e-book market. At a CEO panel on the fair's opening day, Simon & Schuster president Carolyn Reidy praised the program for offering a way for small bookstores to sell e-books. "This is important," Reidy said. "We feel in the coming years a store that cannot hold on to their customers both physically and digitally will cease to exist." Other publishers, who asked not to be named because they are still in discussions, praised Google's flexibility in working with publishers and authors on sale terms, and its cloud-based program that allows books to be read on any device with a browser.

...A Google spokesperson said more than 35,000 publisher partners are now enrolled in Google's partner program, with more than two million books digitized through the partner program. Some 15 million books in total have been digitized by Google Books, in 100 languages.

So what's changed between this year and last for Google at Frankfurt? The short answer: time. Perhaps the e-book market surge over the last 12 months has pushed things to a tipping point, with real money now at stake for publishers, new tablet devices for consumers like the iPad, smartphones everywhere, and lower prices for the Kindle and other devices. Google's Santiago de la Mora (who was on the panel with Reuss last year) agreed, telling PW that as people's understanding of the e-book business and its importance does seem to have evolved, and as it has, the anticipation over Google Editions has grown.

It's very funny. But is this not actually an ad for ereaders that offer the best of both worlds?

Monarch Will Be Published by Rhemalda

My friend Michelle Davidson Argyle has a contract for her book Monarch. Yay!

Oct 6, 2010

Royalties, Book Sales and Ebooks

A look at royalties -- with cool charts! -- courtesy of Jim C. Hines.

The Kindle edition of Mermaid's Madness is $6.99, just a dollar less than the paperback. If Joe Konrath is right, this might be one reason for the relatively poor ebook sales. Speaking for myself, I won't buy the Kindle version for that price; I'll wait until I can afford the paperback. (Which won't be this month because I had to blow my monthly book budget on nonfiction.)

At least it's not as bad as Ken Follett's Fall of Giants, though, which had a Kindle price of $19,99! WTF! It's actually MORE than the hardcover. I was not the only one outraged. A huge number of infuriated fans gave the book 1-star, and declared a boycott. Dutton, Penguin is the publisher. Have they lost their minds? Honestly.

Oct 5, 2010

The Brain Phone Is Ringing

Who could not want this?

Via Futurepundit: "In an interview with The Atlantic the CEO of Google reveals he does not want to implant a Google interface into people's brains. Luddite."

Two of the short stories in Conmergence feature a similar technology, a cybernetic "eye" immplanted in place of one biological eye. It's not meant to be a prediction -- although I think if some sort of internet lens could be designed, that would be big. C'mon, you know you'd want some.

Headwind - Booktrailer of the Day

This book makes me wish I were taking an airplane flight somewhere. Because I love a good spy book to read on a plane.

Historic footage serves this trailer well. The placement and font of the writing is a little odd. But the soundtrack is wonderful.

This book is by Karen Brees from Chalet Press. I understand there will be two more books in the trilogy. Yay!

Oct 4, 2010

She Thinks, He Thinks

Her: He's hitting on me. What does it say about his expectations of relationships that I'm pushing a baby carriage, and that doesn't spell MARRIED?

Him: She got knocked up once, she must be willing and able.

Her: On the other hand, it is kinda flattering. I guess despite that extra thirty pounds, I'm still hot!

Him: I like big butts, I can not lie.

Agent Publishes Through CreateSpace

Even agents are epublishing these days:

Agent Andrew Wylie shocked the literary world this summer when he made an Amazon exclusive deal on backlist titles from some very big name authors. Now Sharlene Martin, a Seattle-based literary agent, is following in Wylie’s footsteps with her agency Martin Literary Management.

Publishing Perspectives reports: “Martin’s agency published Cirque Du Salahi: Be Careful Who You Trust on September 15. It’s the story of Tareq and Michaele Salahi, who Martin represents along with the book’s author, investigative journalist Diane Dimond. Martin decided to get the book out quickly, short-circuiting the normal one — year publishing process, by publishing it through’s CreateSpace program.”

Quote of the Day + Zombie Cartoon

"Any idiot can face a crisis, it is this day-to-day living
that wears you out."

-- Anton Chekhov

Oct 3, 2010

Early Dawn - Book Trailer of the Day + Is it Worth the Money?

This has two things that interest me. One is the use of the old sepia photos, which I like. My favorite part is when the sepia turns to color, although this isn't a constant effect throughout the trailer. The second is the way the words are written on bands across the screen, which I'm more ambivalent about.

This book is a Western, which I don't normally read, and to be honest, I might not read this one, but the trailer did catch my interest in the story.

* * *

Slightly off topic...

I know some people think booktrailers are a waste of money. This one is by Circle of Seven Productions, so it wasn't cheap. I really like them, but do worry about whether a $1000 trailer can pay for itself in sales. Then again, trailers do have one advantage, which is that I watch trailers for genres I normally never read, and if the trailer is good, I often watch it several times. Sometimes I watch it so much, I feel an overwhelming curiosity to read the book, even when I initially had no interest. But I read a LOT. And pretty eclectically. Are there enough people like me to justify the cost? I'm not sure.

I know that I'm watching the cost of my own trailers pretty closely, because as much as I would love to splurge, I just can't. If I add anything to investment costs in my anthology, it will be interior formating. I'm fooling around with InDesign, and given enough time, I am sure I could master it sufficient unto my meager purposes, but time is tight for me right now. Money is tight too, though. The one thing I refuse to do is put out a crappy product. (Though I'm not saying you have to use InDesign to have a good product.) Somehow, I will make it work.

Oct 1, 2010

This is What I Talk About when I talk about Writing

I can't write a substantial blog post today because of my eye, but fortunately, I have a guest blogger! Yeah! Give it up for Chase Henderson.

If I were to say that I had written my book The Spaces in Between with absolutely no intention of pursuing traditional publishing it would be a lie so grand my beard would shrivel and die. If I were to say that I wrote it with any intentions of finishing my mother would break a leg.

I may be mixing up my lying clichés here.

I can’t attest to other creative people. I don’t live inside of the head of anyone I didn’t create. I wasn’t thinking of genre or marketing strategies. Or hell even story structure.

The one and only truth was that there was a story in my head, and it was going to get out one way or the other. So I wrote it. A short story about a man in a near death out of body experience. Whose wandering soul is then kidnapped by a space pirate in order to rob a museum. In space.

Another story followed. This time the Pirate King found a ship full of zombies between him and his goals. He struck a deal with the spirit of the disease afflicting the zombies.

I had a character: Cameron who crowned himself Pirate King after accidentally stealing the power of God. Both stories were tied together by the Pirate King looking for clues to lead him to Noah’s Arc – a code for the back up copy of Creation. He hoped to use this to restore his quickly fading power.

That, and an ending. It was only a matter of getting to point A to point B. That was just a simple matter of making it all up. I didn’t do much of outlining when I decided to move from just short stories to a whole novel. In fact for my second book, I did absolutely no outlines.

A caveat: Stephen King method does have its disadvantages. There is a lot of back tracking in later drafts. This gets cumulative if you write a series.

Now to the decision to publish this book myself. I really want to be able to say that I set out to self publish from the very beginning. No, The Spaces in Between was rejected by every single agent and publishing house that I can recall. The greatest praise my book got was a note saying, “Consider rewriting this with vampires.”

I had moved on to playing the same game with my second book. I learned a lot about the industry during this time. Right now trying to bust into the publishing industry is next to impossible without vampires or a retelling a classic with some recent pop culture injected. Or already having contacts in the industry. Or a successful blog.

Either way, congratulations. You just managed to get you and your manuscript on the Titantic after the damn ice burg. Leonardo isn’t even on there anymore. He froze to death.
There are little secrets about the publishing industry. For one, publishers pretty much do next to nothing to promote your book. Jack Canfileld of the loathsome Chicken Soup books promotes his books entirely out of pocket. The final nail in the coffin was reading this Garticle An author selling over 80,000 copies a year was barely pulling in 25,000 dollars.

Saying the word self publish is the most effective way to get someone to leave the room. Try it in a bookstore. You’d think I’d screamed fire. But look at what the webcomics guys have accomplished: Five years they were seen as ridiculous and frivolous. Sure there is no quality control, but there are far more webcartoonists making bank than newspaper cartoonists. As in, there are some.

The self published will have their time in the next couple of years. Or we won’t care since Quetzalcoatl will harvest our torsos. I prefer to not see as I am a self publishing author. I see myself as the owner of a marginally profitable publishing company.

Which is a head higher than most.

Oh by the way I wrote a book.Check it out. Or not. I’ve got another coming out in early 2011, “A Public Domain Masterpiece and Something that was Popular Two Years Ago”. I have other rants at http://thehometowntourist.

Thank you, Chase!