Pelican Books reimagines cover art for eBooks (HT: @ellenforsyth)

Interesting and cool:

As part of their recent relaunch, Pelican Books—the non-fiction arm of Penguin Books, which originally ran from 1937 to 1984—wanted to make covers just as important for e-books as they are for physical books. Their solution was to make the cover a recurring element throughout a text: the central thematic element that ties together a volume's design, whether physical or digital.

Check out the whole thing here:

Self-Publishing Versus Traditional Publishing (via @AnnabelSmithAUS)

I don't have a horse in this race, since I'm a short story writer and so basically live in a version of the 'traditional' publishing universe (ie. there's not yet a solid short fiction self-publishing streak that I'm aware of. Certainly Amazon's 'singles' offering is simply awful). I like to offer as much information to people deciding about which path to take (and remember you can take both, in some circumstances). Remember that when you are self-publishing you are taking on a huge chunk of the business management of writing that you normally wouldn't have to worry about. Annabel Smith has done both:

The advent of self-publishing on a mass scale has ben the single biggest change to the publishing industry since the arrival of the paperback at the turn of the last century. While some people dismissed it as a fad, it looks like it’s here to stay. My first two novels – A New Map of the Universe and Whisky Charlie Foxtrot – were traditionally published, but when it came to my third novel The Ark – a digital, interactive experimental speculative-fiction – I was unable to find a publisher who felt like the right fit and I decided to go it alone.

These are some of the perks and pitfalls I discovered on my self-publishing journey.

As per usual I'm just going to show herpoints. Click through to the original article for a detailed look at each point:

The Cons of Self-Publishing

  1. Self-Publishing Costs Money & You May Not Break Even
  2. Discoverability is an Ongoing Challenge
  3. Self-Publishing Consumes Time Which Could be Spent Writing

And the Pros

  1. Total Control
  2. Better Financial Returns
  3. Better Understanding of the Publishing Process

Check out the details here:

Why I Canceled My Amazon Prime Account (Following Amazon's Spamming of My Inbox) (via @HuffPostBooks, HT: @katengh)

I almost don't have to add any commentary to this, because I also have cranky-faced opinions about Amazon, mostly revolving around their DRM and author-exclusivity contracts, neither of which are of any benefit to anyone except Amazon's attempts to become a publishing monopsony. Brooke Warner says:

For those of you who follow publishing news, or who are KDP authors, you know that on August 9, Amazon sent a very bizarre email to all of its KDP customers, which has been dissected best, in my opinion, here and here.

You can read the full email here, but this post is really about why I canceled my Amazon Prime account the next day.

Read her account and reasoning here:

Australian Book Releases

Simple but effective. An updating list of Australian book releases. Discoverability still hasn't been solved, so this is a small step to help. The site isn't automated, so there's no guarantee that everything is updated but:

If you are an author or publisher whose book(s) does not appear here, please contact us by email on australianbookreleases [at] gmail [dot] com.

Check it out here:

What I learned while editing a short story anthology (via @herodfel)

Disclaimer: I talk to Simon online and we've even met in meatspace to confirm we're both humans and not alien infiltrator units (unless we're both alien infiltrator units). Simon is publishing a short story of mine in the anthology he talks about in this post ('Suspended in Dusk') so I've been at the author's end of some of his exciting journey. I've also beta read some of Simon's work (I am notoriously merciless in this role) and he still talks to me, which is a good sign.

In this blog post Simon talks about his experience of putting together this 'anthology-that-almost-wasn't'. He's done an amazing job, and he's learned everything pretty much the hard way.

I've listed his points, including his original incorrect numbering at time of publication (just so Simon knows he can still make mistakes *coughs*)

  • 1. Aim High
  • 2. Connect. Network. Reach out.
  • 3. Be gracious, and don't be an ass
  • 4. Do your best work
  • 4. Roll with the punches
  • 5. Persevere
  • 6. Party

These sound like things that can be applied across the board in doing projects, of course, but Simon shows how they apply in this particular case. Take an excerpt from step 4 (ha ha), ie. 'Roll with the punches'):

When I started the Suspended in Dusk project, I originally intended to co-edit it with Nerine Dorman, who is one of the editors at Dark Continents Publishing.  Nerine and Dark Continents were sadly unable to continue with the project and it all looked like it was done and dusted.  By this point, however, I had already taken submissions from around 60 authors and was in the process of shortlisting and finalising the Table of Contents.  I won’t lie.. this was crushing for me. Projects not going ahead are relatively common in the publishing industry.. but I felt like I’d come so far. Not only was I heavily emotionally invested in the project, I didn’t want to let all the authors down. Nor did I want the embarassment of going back to many of the well known industry veterans and saying “hey, sorry, [show's] off!”.

Read his open and honest post-mortem here:

Amazon Spells Out Objectives in Hachette Negotiation (via @digibookworld, HT: @stevenson_keith)

Just a quick look and update into what Amazon is saying about its negotiations with Hachette:

The company contends in its note (below) that $9.99 ebooks sell so many more copies than more expensive ebooks that it more than makes up the difference for a lower price. Authors, Amazon adds, should get a bigger piece of the ebook pie — specifically, the same amount the publisher gets. Amazon is proposing that it take 30% of ebook sales revenues, publishers take 35%, and authors get the remaining 35%.

For what it's worth, it seems to me that Amazon's market strategy across all industries (not just publishing) has always been: destroy all competitors through a process of lossleading (ie. selling at a loss until competitors disappear) and then monopolising the market at the expense of suppliers. So I don't trust them as far as I can kick them, and their DRM-policy is a disgrace.

Please note that my opinion about Amazon does not make me a supporter of the Big Publishers either. I'm just a curmudgeon in both directions, it seems..

The full text below:

Influence of Kindle Unlimited on Amazon "Bestsellers" Grows (via @PublishersLunch, HT: @JaneFriedman)

I don't much like the exclusivity clause, and the impact on authors who don't sign up to that. It feels a bit like handing your wages to a bank to manage, but the bank doesn't care about you, oh and also if you don't hand your life savings to that bank they stop bothering to maintain your credit history.

Amazon's hourly list of the top 100 "paid" Kindle bestsellers appears to be under the steadily growing influence of Kindle Unlimited "checkouts," which are counted as part of paid sales. In this morning's check, 45 of the top 100 titles are also available through Kindle Unlimited --  and 24 of the top 50 titles. Amazon Publishing's own titles still appear to be benefitting the most, and self-published authors who are not exclusive to Amazon (and therefore not part of KU) seem to have lost the most bestseller slots. (We still have no idea whether this is affecting actual paid sales, or just bestseller list slots.)

Read on for stats here:

Pubslush - Service for literary crowdfunding

Just an alternative to the well known KickStarter, for authors looking to do some crowdfunded publishing:

Pubslush is a global crowdfunding and analytics platform for the literary world. Our founders were inspired to create a more democratic publishing process after learning about the struggles of authors like J.K. Rowling, whose bestselling series was rejected by the 12 publishers to which it was initially sent. So many great authors have been dismissed to the infamous "slush pile." Our name is derived from our mission to give authors the opportunity to get out of the slush pile, prove their talent and market viability, and successfully publish quality books.

Check it out:

The costs and benefits of publishing your own books (via @bbc, HT: @tglong)

Kevin Peachey interviews Nick Spalding, on eof the UK's bestselling self-published authors. Now we all know there is no simple solution to working out whether self-publishing is a good idea for a given author, but getting insights into how it works for some people might just give you the extra piece of information you need to make a call for your particular situation:

Some years ago, he wrote what he admits was an experimental novel, unlikely to be touched by a traditional publisher.

But he then discovered that he could upload his work, and sell it to people reading e-books.

"I remember my aim was to earn enough money for my partner and I to go for a meal," he says.

"Because it was so easy to do, and because I started to earn a little more money and build up a small following, that prompted me to write another book, then another and another."

Read it here:

On Their Death Bed, Physical Books Have Finally Become Sexy (via @nytimes, HT: @mikearnzen)

For the record, I've always thought physical books were sexy.

The Death of the Book has loomed over so many other eras, but today it seems more certain, at least when it comes to the physical book, because the e-book has been outselling the paper kind on Amazon since 2011. With reading, we all know what direction we’re now going in — it’s bright-at-night, it’s paved with e-paper, it’s bad for focus, it’s incredibly convenient. Those of us — myself included — who can’t yet bring themselves to read on a Kindle or an iPad feel increasingly fusty saying the same old thing: “I just like the feel of paper in my hand! The intimacy!” We preface the words with that thing about not being a Luddite. We talk about the fixity of real books, and the frightening impermanence of one you can download in seconds. We feel our sentences grow stale the second they leave our mouths.

Read it all here:

We’re losing all our Strong Female Characters to Trinity Syndrome (via @thedissolve, ht: @jacklscanlan)

With diversity finally getting a bit more stagetime in the industry (or at least discussions of diversity) it's tempting for lazy artists to pay, effectively, lip service to the notion of having female characters. For example, having stories with more female protagonists does not mean you can just genderswap a character and end up with female male characters, women saying man-things or navigating a man-world like a man. Or as Tasha Robinson discusses in this article, you can't just make an interesting female character then...just...forget about her:

There’s been a cultural push going on for years now to get female characters in mainstream films some agency, self-respect, confidence, and capability, to make them more than the cringing victims and eventual trophies of 1980s action films, or the grunting, glowering, sexless-yet-sexualized types that followed, modeled on the groundbreaking badass Vasquez in Aliens.


[E]ven when they do, the writers often seem lost after that point. Bringing in a Strong Female Character™ isn’t actually a feminist statement, or an inclusionary statement, or even a basic equality statement, if the character doesn’t have any reason to be in the story except to let filmmakers point at her on the poster and say “See? This film totally respects strong women!”

Very good overview (with extra links) about the mistake of introducing Strong Female Characters who then are superfluous to the plot. The concern is summarised as:

For the ordinary dude to be triumphant, the Strong Female Character has to entirely disappear into Subservient Trophy Character mode. This is Trinity Syndrome à la The Matrix: the hugely capable woman who never once becomes as independent, significant, and exciting as she is in her introductory scene.

Important stuff, and a good checklist/questionnaire for writers to help figure out if you're inadvertently making some of these mistakes:

Amazon vs Hachette: Don't Believe the Spin (via @DavidGaughran, HT: @thecreativepenn)

My personal problems with Amazon aren't secret, but in the interest of getting some perspective from a more balanced 'actually they are kind of both untrustworthy' view, David Gaughran writes about his experiences:

Hachette is being portrayed as some helpless fawn. Several articles have speculated that Amazon is “going after” Hachette first because, compared to the rest of the large publishers, Hachette is small and weak.

Don’t buy it. Hachette might be the smallest of the “Big 5″ on paper, but that’s only when you look at the American market. Hachette Book Group is owned by Lagardère Publishing – the biggest publisher in France and the second biggest in the UK. It has significant publishing interests across the rest of the world too, enough to make it the world’s second largest trade publisher overall.

Note: I'm no fan of Hachette either. Their price-fixing Agency model bullshit isn't on my list of favourite 'desperate to keep control' business strategies either.

It’s almost like it’s the result of a very smart PR campaign. It’s almost like Hachette is part of a giant mass media conglomeration with billions of dollars of revenue and hundreds of outlets in which to push its message. It’s almost like Hachette is part of an international publishers’ association which has explicitly stated it will be flooding the media this year with stories intended to advance its interests.

Welp, I guess we're all screwed.

Read the full article here:

An Author’s Perspective on the Hachette-Amazon Battle (via @digibookworld, HT: @nztaylor)

Not much to add here. Michael Sullivan talks about the impacts on his book prices due to negotiations between Hachette and Amazon:

I was pretty sure Amazon and Hachette were in contract negotiations long before the announcement on May 9th when the New York Times broke the story. You see, on February 7th, the discounts for all my Riyria books listed on vanished, raising my ebooks from $8.59 – $8.89 to $9.99 and my print books from $11.41 – $13.80 to $16.00 or $17.00. What was even more disturbing, however, was the discounts on most of my fellow Orbit (the fantasy imprint of Hachette) author’s books disappeared as well. Even as I write this, I see the only paperbacks which are discounted are those in pre-release or books published in April or May. Also, the discounts are just 10% rather than the usual 25% – 30%. Even hardcover editions of front list titles such as Brian McClellan’s The Crimson Campaign (released May 6th), and James S.A. Cory’s latest book in The Expanse series (releasing June 17th) are currently full price.

There are graphs here, and scary numbers:

From this data I’ve seen my print book sales drop to 54.8% of what they were before this all started. There could be many reasons for this, but I’m concerned the higher price of my books, and the lack of their availability, has led many fantasy readers to opt for a book from other authors that were cheaper and easier to get. It also seems to indicate a good portion of my particular readership buys print books from Amazon, as listings at other sites remained unchanged.

Keeping in mind this is a single author's pespective, you ought to read on here:

It just Got Even More Expensive To Make Your Book Visible (via @porter_anderson, HT: @publisherswkly)

I wonder what could possibly go wrong when a resource is controlled by a single entity:

Bowker, the US agency for ISBNs, has raised the cost of a pack of 10 of these book “identifier” codes, from $250 to $295.

And thus, it just became even costlier for an American self-publishing author to buy the universal identifier(s) needed to make a book “visible” to book-market tracking services.

Ironically, some observers will say that the move further hobbles the ISBN, itself. Its validity already is being called into question, as pricing and an association with old-industry “gatekeeping” continue to erode its usage. For some time now, the ISBN has been unable to give us a full picture of titles active in the market.

This is a really good read about the future of the ISBN. I'd not even considered that the publishing world had moved on from them, but it makes sense to question their necessity when there is this kind of price pressure, and when the marketing/tracking benefits of the existing system is lessening.

When O’Leary says that “most new entrants are not included or analyzed” by the use of ISBNs, he means that many self-publishing authors, in particular, elect not to buy them. And without ISBNs, their books can’t be “seen” moving through the bookish market system.

For short e-fiction I've always used UIDs, but for longer fiction I'd just assume I'd need an ISBN... And of course we have a class-war, too:

Many writers have told me, however, that if the price of ISBNs were more reasonable and fairer in comparison to the price paid by publishers (who can buy 1,000 at a time for a dollar each), they’d buy them.

Read it all here:

The 2013 SF Count (via @strangehorizons)

It's that depressing time of year again when Strange Horizons looks at representation in reviewing, with a focus on the gender balance of books reviewed and of reviewers. I don't want to spoil the results, so here's the intro:

As the title indicates, the proximate inspiration for this series is "The Count" by VIDA, which started in 2010 (the most recent VIDA count can be found here). Within SF, recent antecedents include the Broad Universe reviewing statistics calculated for 2000 and 2007, the Ladybusiness counts of coverage on SF blogs for 2011 and 2012, and, further back, Joanna Russ' counts as reported in How to Suppress Women's Writing (1983).

This article presents the results of the SF count for 2013. Previous counts are available for 2010,2011, and 2012. In addition to gender, this year's count includes a first count of coverage by race.

Lots of pretty graphs here:

Writer reveals details of subtle censorship (via: @lalarkinauthor, HT: @colvinius)

Very interesting development of what happened when Reader's Digest used a Chinese company to print a volume that included L.A. Larkin's thriller Thirst:

LOUISA LARKIN: This… yes. And they had been told by the Chinese printers that the presses had been stopped and that they wouldn't continue to print the condensed version of Thirst until the words 'Falun Gong' had been removed, and reference to 'torture' - the word 'torture' - of a character, a practitioner of Falun Gong, was either deleted or changed to a satisfactory level.

Read the full transcript here (or listen to the interview) to find out how Louisa and her publisher handled this. I'd like to think that most authors (including myself) have her level of conviction, but the lure of getting into print can be pretty strong:

April Fool

Out of respect for International 'Do Not Internet For 36 Hours' day we will not be trying to fool you with any silly news post of our own, though it did occur to me that we should announce we're only going to cater to Ad Copy writers from now on. However, here is an important news article highlighting a shift in direction from Momentum Books.

Momentum’s publisher Joel Naoum said, “While we’ve had an extremely valuable experience working in digital, we’ve had to make the decision to go to a print-based model. We’ll still be publishing the same kinds of projects, but we’ll be delivering them via an exciting new system.”

Read it here:

Analysing a Writer's Process (via @balespen)

It's always great to get a look into how other writers manage this bizarre creative dance/job. Lucas Bale analyses his own writing processes from First Draft/Research through to Covers and Marketing:

As I’ve said, I plan pretty assiduously. I am currently working on the outline for the second book in the Beyond the Wall series. However, because the themes are central to the whole series, as well as individual books, and there is quite a bit of world-building going on, I find it easier to have a solid outline which I can depart from if I like or change when I want.

It's a great read if, like me, you suck at organising your writing or hope to get some insight into another writer's approach.

Check the whole article out here (including some great photos):


Your book sucks: are authors being bullied with one-star Amazon reviews? (via @hayleycampbelly, HT: @text_publishing)

Hayley Campbell over on the NewStatesman ponders the notion that writers are slaves to star ratings:

Go find a book you love. Click the one-star reviews – there will always be some. Cancel your plans for this evening.

But one-star Amazon reviews are more than a space for performance art or green-ink rantings. Some authors believe that they amount to “bullying”.


I'm luckily not famous enough to be exposed to the world of being rated publicly. As most of my work is short fiction I'm luckily not on websites, either, so I don't really have much experience of feeling bullied. And the reverse is true, too: well-known authors forgetting the 'Do Not Engage' rule and setting their social media followers on hapless critics:

[Anne Rice] took umbrage with a small potatoes blogger (who not only didn’t like her book but cut it up for some arts crafts project), posted a link to the offending review on her Facebook and invited comments. Essentially she just set her fanbase on someone who didn’t like her book, and opened the blogger up to a world of shit-slinging from the more slavish of the group (others called Rice out on it).

Read Hayley's piece here, it's an interesting consideration:

Friday Funnies: 40 Worst Book Covers and Titles Ever (HT @kessbird)

Ah look, these horrors speak for themselves, really.

Some of the people who wrote these titles might have been oblivious and out of touch, but it could also have to do with changing word use in the English language. “Dick” wasn’t always a slang word the way we use it today, and neither was “boner.” Depending on what you’re writing about and who your target audience is, shock value can also sell books – we’re assuming that’s what the idea is behind books like “How To Succeed In Business Without A Penis” and “How To Shit In The Woods.”

Behold them in all their horror here: