Oh Dear: SFWA Bulletin Petition

It's important not to walk past behaviours that are unacceptable, even if there is political fallout. So let me just say shortly, sweetly: the petition begging to let the SFWA be discriminatory because free speech wah is a load of sexist bullshit and if this is generally indicative of the author's opinions then David Truesdale is a dickhead. I will concede I don't know the fellow and he may be very nice in person, but we work with the material we have. See, when you hear a man argue that it's ok to have women treated as sex objects on magazine covers because men are also sometimes treated as sex objects on magazine covers, you have a nice window into the kind of world where the privileged think that swapping gender roles magically inverts the cultural power imbalance too, and if they (invariable men) don't feel upset being objectified by strangers on the street then women shouldn't either.

I'd take my feminist cap off now and stop being so ranty except, oh wait, it's actually a non-removable cap.

As Natalie Luhrs explains, regarding the cover in question:

It would be one thing if this cover had any sort of relationship to the contents of the Bulletin, but it didn’t. It’s a badly done painting of a not that sexy, mostly naked warrior at severe risk of frostbite. And the Resnick/Malzberg column was about how hot some lady editors were in their bathing suits and nary a mention of their facility with a red pen.  Objectifying and dehumanizing. No wonder people objected.

Just as watching politicians' voting records is important to get a read on their character, I suggest that seeing who is actually signing this petition is important too.

There, that's Literarium's colours nailed to the fucking mast.

Read and shake your head here:

Digital Publishing: 2014 and Beyond (via @gigaom, HT: @joostmoerenburg)

Joe Hyrkin talks about his

Digital publishing is now a mature, thriving industry, and yet many still insist that publishing is in its death throes. Book publishers know better: While hardcover sales declined slightly between 2008 and 2012 (from $5.2 billion to $5 billion), eBook sales grew at an astonishing clip during that period, rising from $64 million to $3 billion. And while digital publications are typically sold at a lower per-unit cost, profit margins are much higher – from 41 percent to 75 percent as publishers make the transition from print to digital.

There's also a good infographic from October 2013 here, about book sale figures. Personally I baulked at the $15 eBook price, but I don't buy DRM books so I have no idea if that's normal:

Joe lists three trends he considers important in the coming year of publishing:

  1. Twitter as the tip of the iceberg
  2. New long-form content discovery venues
  3. Growth in ad spending

Click through to the original article to dig into what he has to say about these things (Boo hiss at 'ad spending', personally):

This is How Huge Door-stopper Fantasy Novels Get Made (via @tordotcom)

Irene Gallo walks us through the massive printing process for the final book of the Wheel of Time series (confession: I can't stand that series, but I can admire the process!)

I’ve worked at Tor Books for nearly twenty years and I had never visited our bindery before. As the art director, I’ve been to our jacket printer, of course, but my job usually ends there. I had never been to the place where the guts of the books are printed, bound, and shipped. What better excuse to remedy that than to watch A Memory of Light—the final volume of a series that has been with me my entire career—go from rolls of clean white paper to shiny new hardcover books? A trip to historic Gettysburg, Pennsylvania to Quad Graphics was definitely in order.

There are some great photos in here. It's worth checking out. And do consider this massive logistical exercise in the context of producing and distributing ebooks.

Check it out here:

The 5 Stages of Grief Following the Publication of One's First Book (via @PublishersWkly HT: @annetreasure)

Entertaining list of examples covering Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression, and Acceptance:

"Hi. I've been thinking about what you said and, of course, you're the publisher, you understand these things, and you're absolutely right: a story about genetics is fine but we do indeed need a better hook for the paperback. And I think I've got one! What this book needs is—wait for it—More Vagina! Attached please find a draft of a new chapter with the working title of 'DNA And Your Vajayjay.'"

Read them here:

Behind the Scenes for Dark Faith 2 Anthology (via @jerrylgordon)

I love behind the scenes articles and breakdowns for publishing projects. Dark Faith 2 (or Dark Faith Invocations) is a prestigious anthology sequel to the Dark Faith anthology, and one of the editors, Jerry Gordon, gives us a look at the submissions process:

We invited the original contributors to write stories for Dark Faith 2.  These stories made up the largest segment of the book (42%).  We also solicited a new pool of professionals (31%).  And we accepted seven stories (27%) from unsolicited writers.  One unsolicited story will mark the first publishing credit for a new writer.  Another, a writer’s first professional sale.

Jerry shows some handy graphics, and says there were over 600 unsolicited submissions, of which seven (7!) were ultimately selected. Just on 1%. As Jerry elaborates in the comments, only 53% of solicited authors (ie. Dark Faith 1 contributors and other professional authors) were accepted, but it shows you what we all, as unsolicited submitters, face in terms of obstacles.

I also love the 'Strange But True' section, listing some of the craziness publishers have to encounter:

  • We received 14 novel pitches with full manuscripts included (all deleted unread).
  • Several novel submissions came from “literary agencies” that exist solely to mass email editors. God knows what they steal charge for their spam services.
  • We still receive submissions for the original volume of Dark Faith (published in 2010).

And more!

With names like Jay Lake, Lavie Tidhar and Mark Resnic jumping out at me from the Table of Contents, it promises to be a good read.

Original here:

What Publishing Companies Do in a World Where Anyone Can Publish a Book (via @forbes HT: @ebookish)

Via Charlotte Harper I saw this link on Forbes, talking about publishing companies adapting to the new world of easy electronic publishing:

Why are publishers so eager to proclaim their relevance these days? Because they’re facing increased competition for their most important clients: authors.

A decade ago, the only way to have a book published and sold on store shelves was to sell it to a book publisher that would help edit, design and distribute it. Today, anyone who can type and has an internet connection can have her book for sale at the world’s largest bookstore — Amazon — in a matter of hours.

It's one of those annoying 2-page articles to try to push up site-clicks but nonetheless it's worth reading. I can' get the feeling that the publishers are a little desperate here. Offering ephemera like 'nurturing new talent' and 'build author brands and protect copyrights' instead of more concrete things like 'make sure your text doesn't like like amateur hour' comes across a little petulantly. What does, 'well, WE protect your copyright!' actually mean? Applying DRM doesn't work. Do they scour the hundreds of thousands of junk books on Amazon to ensure no one has plagiarised your work? Seems uneconomical.

Anyway, do read it here to see if you agree with me (of course you agree with me, come now, we're all friends here):

Prepping for the Publishing Doomsday (via @chuckwendig)

Chuck Wendig is effortlessly entertaining over at his Terrible Minds blog, and last month he posted an article to help us prepare for what I have referred to (and been mocked for referring to) as the pubpocalypse. In Chuck's words:

Publishing pinballs drunkenly between the bumpers of optimism and the flippers of holy fucking shit-hell the meteors are coming fairly regularly. The Internet is good for this: we get to see every moment as it happens and we have zero time to process it. All our processing is done out-loud, together, and mass hysteria runs rampant. Every shadow that passes over our prairie dog heads seems like a hungry hawk when it might be nothing more than a harmless vulture or a passenger plane.

Chuck throws a little bit of cooling water on these fires, an approach that comes down to:

Don’t let it get in the way of your stories.

Original here:

Why You Can't Find Indies in Bookstores (via @tglong)

Terri Guiliano Long gives her perspective on the distribution of independent publishers' books:

In 2011, Barbara Freethy, a #1 New York Times bestselling author of thirty novels, began self-publishing her backlist. Freethy has sold an amazing 1.5 million books. While she’s currently in talks with distributors, bookstores do not yet stock her self-published titles. It may be tempting to chalk it up to a conspiracy to marginalize indie books—conspiracy theories are fun! In reality, it comes down to dollars and cents.

Terri breaks down some of the barriers to successful distribution, and outlines some hope for the future:

Barbara Freethy is currently exploring her print distribution options. “This is a huge untapped market,” Freethy says. “I personally have many, many readers clamoring for my books to come out in print . . . [now] if they don't have an electronic reader, they're out of luck.”

This is quite a lengthy article, and there are some great examples of agents and publishers (and authors) working within the confines of the existing system to get their books out there.

Check it out here:

Some Authors Do In Fact Need a Publisher/Is a Small Publisher Right For You? (via @PhoenixSullivan, HT: @thecreativepenn))

I've combined two posts by Phoenix Sullivan here - the first is a reminder amidst all the self-publishing hype that not every method works for every writer:

Leaving aside issues of ego and desire, where some authors will only feel validated and complete when they see their physical books on physical shelves in their hometowns, let's examine the business side of traditional vs self publishing, and why going traditional is still a viable option -- for some. Interestingly, it wasn't that long ago when this examination would have been between print publishers and digital-only publishers. Consider for a moment how the very definition of "traditional" has changed in a few short years.

She lists what this means (quoted verbatim from the article):

  • The Big 6 with (potentially) aggressive print and digital distribution
  • The mid-size publishers (think Harlequin) with equally (potentially) aggressive print and digital distribution that caters in general to a more niche audience
  • Small print-first publishers that concentrate on print distribution and supplement (often heavily) with digital
  • Small digital-first publishers that concentrate on digital distribution and supplement with print-on-demand for select titles
  • Small digital-only publishers that operate virtually
  • Publisher coalitions that assist members primarily with digital publishing, which includes many of the recent agent/publisher models
  • Self-publishers with a primary concentration in digital

Her article is detailed, examining each of these in turn, and dovetails nicely into a more recent post by Phoenix, which looks into whether small publishers might be a good fit for you:

As with most questions, the answer is ... it depends. One of two statements must be true for you to even consider it:

  • You have life challenges (work, family, volunteer commitments) that preclude you from studying the book industry well enough to make savvy business decisions and/or from overseeing the details of editing, covering and publishing the book yourself.
  • The small publisher offers value-add in the form of benefits that aren’t in your arsenal.

She continues, and again, it's a lengthy article that delves into that list and also analyses a handful of things to be wary of (eg. long-term commitments).

Definitely worth a read:

But everyone's situation is different, as is everyone's measure of success or degree of expectation. All I ask is that you be smart in choosing your path. And I'm betting that's what you want too.

The first article is here:

And the second here:

Publishers Think of You as Customers I SWEAR (via @scalzi)

John Scalzi discusses the assertion that publishers don't consider readers as customers. His experience is different:

[H]aving worked with a number of publishers in a professional capacity for a dozen years now, in both non-fiction and fiction, at no time was it suggested to me, either by words or by how my books were sold, that my publishers don’t consider readers to be their customers. To be certain, they are not the only customers; publishers work directly with retailers, who are often but not always the middlemen in the relationship with publishers and readers, and they also work with libraries and schools. But only a foolish publisher is not aware of and solicitous toward its relationship with the reader, who is, after all the ultimate consumer of the product.

John digs deeper into his own experience with traditional publishing, and you'll also find additional feedback in the comments from Teresa Nielsen Hayden, which makes for a good read.

Explore more here:

What To Do When Your Book Gets a Bad Review (via @epublishabook)

Along with a form rejection, a bad review is up there on the list of soul- and ego-crushing things that can happen to a writer in the course of their daily working life. Patricia from has a two part article discussing some prevention and coping strategies for bad reviews.

There are different kinds of bad reviews, and each should receive a tailor made treatment. Bad reviews can be divided according to their source or to their content.

Patricia provides a very nice, detailed breakdown of how to respond. The core message, as you should already know, is that an author should always be polite and courteous. Your image is your brand, and your public behaviour is your image.

I particularly liked how to avoid (not cope with!) criticism of your style:

Critics about the style These are best avoided by offering free sample chapters.  A reader who does not like your style will simply not buy the book and have no reason to complain. If it happens nevertheless, most of the time, it is best to ignore it, or to hope that other readers will comment on that critic.

Note that doesn't help you if you've already received the bad review, but it's a healthy and supportive mitigation strategy.

Do check out the rest. You can read part 1 here: What to do with a bad review - Part 1 - Looking at the source of the review

...and part 2 here: What to do with a bad review - Part 2 - Looking at the content of the review

Discussion on Ebook pricing using the Starbucks pricing model (via @sydneywriters)

The Sydney Writers centre reposted a great article by Elle Lothlorien about how she adjusted her ebooks prices upwards and increased sales. She postulates that a few different reasons account for the behaviour, and compares this to expensive coffee at Starbucks. There are a couple of insights into reader approaches to pricing. Having started at $2.99 she says:

The first revelation took place at the beginning of October. While skimming various Kindle reader forums, I ran across a thread on the topic of pricing. One reader wrote that she never bought a book that was $2.99 or less because it was sure to be self-published “indie crap” riddled with typos.

This reader perception doesn't even have to be true; the simple fact that it exists needs to be taken into account.

Consider this: In mid-October I raised the price of The Frog Prince to $3.99. I immediately saw a jump in sales. And when I say immediate, I mean overnight. Within a few days the book had leap-frogged for the first time onto two Amazon Top 100 lists.

The article is fascinating and pretty detailed. But if you are feeling a glimmer of excitement, read what happened next:

At the beginning of November, I raised the price to $4.99. In November I sold 224 copies. I raised it again to $5.99 at the beginning of December, and that’s when the whole thing began to pick up steam.

Even more excitement! If you're interested in managing pricing on your self-published books you could do worse than read it:

Amazon signs up authors; Publishers need a new angle

You won't hear me saying that traditional publishing is dead. But I will say that if they don't pull their act together and reconfigure for the new world, they're going to be dead. The old model, where a good author didn't have nearly as much choice in getting their work in front of people as they do now, is becoming uncompetitive. Change-or-die, frankly. So to add to the old-school woes, the New York Times released an article talking about Amazon's role in signing up authors directly, offering them more creative control than a traditional publisher, and generally treating them like what they are: the actual source of  their income. This isn't news, of course, but the NYTimes article is pretty thorough.

Publishers say Amazon is aggressively wooing some of their top authors. And the company is gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.

I read about plenty of discontent with Amazon, often from booksellers (remember this?), but the reality is that if Amazon is offering a competitive package to authors, why would they go through the trials of self-publishing/traditional publishing at all?

“It’s always the end of the world,” said Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon’s top executives. “You could set your watch on it arriving.”

He pointed out, though, that the landscape was in some ways changing for the first time since Gutenberg invented the modern book nearly 600 years ago. “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader,” he said. “Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.”

I have to disagree in part: there is an ever growing need now, more so than ever, for the hidden heroes of publishing, the service providers formerly hidden behind the walls of traditional publishers: the typesetters, the cover artists, the freakin' editors. Literarium is pretty much predicated on my expectation that these professionals will be more in demand than ever, from both self-publishers and small publishers who outcompete the traditional businesses. Saying that editors don't fall into the 'really necessary' part of the writing/reading process is foolishly overvaluing the quality of unedited writing out there.

Just sayin'.

He is right about one thing though: it's like the shift in the music industry (which almost destroyed them due to their inertia) and the shift in the movie industry (which despite their imbecilic decisions on content availability is thriving, contrary to fearmongering reports by industry bodies).

Amazon has started giving all authors, whether it publishes them or not, direct access to highly coveted Nielsen BookScan sales data, which records how many physical books they are selling in individual markets like Milwaukee or New Orleans. It is introducing the sort of one-on-one communication between authors and their fans that used to happen only on book tours. It made an obscure German historical novel a runaway best seller without a single professional reviewer weighing in.

There's also a reference to Kiana Davenport's dramas with Penguin. All very interesting, and interesting times. For people who are invested in the publishing industry, as opposed to a specific business model in the publishing industry, it's all pretty exciting.

Here it is:

Brand Recognition in Publishing (via @steampress)

Martin Latham blogs on about publishers squandering significant brand recognition through mergers.

Nobody knows who published Stieg Larsson. By this, I mean no normal customer—even a Larsson fiend—could tell you the publisher. This matters because readers follow particular publishers, and this silent relationship is a rich source of whole genres. For instance, Picador can take chances because it has a following of customers who expect edgy, often unpleasant tales, such as Ian McEwan stories in the 70s, and Emma Donoghue's Room in 2011.

It's an interesting thought: do you expect a certain quality of material, or a certain approach to a genre, based on the publisher?

Few other imprints have kept their audience so carefully. Pan, with its satyr flautist logo, gave us Ian Fleming and lurid thrillers. Collins, with its fountain logo, meant wonderful non-fiction. These two names have lost their discrete identity, but customers would still get their wallet out if they suddenly reappeared.

I know that Angry Robot Books has a reputation for quality writing. So does this mean that the indie presses are beginning to take over the distinctive qualities of old?

Read the rest here:

Demographics of eReaders in the US

This is a short Nielsen report on the changing demographics of eReaders (that is, the electronic devices). Most tellingly:

In the U.S., as recently as last Summer, tablet and eReader owners tended to be male and on the younger side. But according to Nielsen’s latest, quarterly survey of mobile connected device owners, this is no longer the case.

Read the article (with pretty graphs!) here:

What are the publishers doing for us? via @pubperspectives

This is an article from Publishing Perspectives covering the inaugural Publishers Launch London conference recently. One of the quotes that stood out to me is relevant to last week's discussion about cover design. Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown says:

“The reason we have so many jackets looking the same is that publishers will say 'oh, we can’t choose that one because Tesco won’t like it'”

It's easy to wave at the rebirth of self-publishing in this digital era and dismiss the traditional publishing industry's contributions, but:

Stephen Page, Chief Executive of Faber, suggested that publishers perhaps don’t do as good a job as they could of communicating to authors the value publishers offer. “We forget the difficulty of the remote position that writers occupy.”

This hearkens back to the discussions we've had here about the perceived value of the digital container, and so highlights a deficiency in the publishing industry - communications. I'd hazard a guess that traditional publishing houses have not had a requirement to explain themselves for decades, nor any dearth of quality submissions. It seems to me that in a world where authors have increasingly varied avenues to publishing, they really need to improve this aspect if they want to continue to attract the best talent.

The article also contains some perspectives from both sides regarding territorial rights and the place of digital formats.

Read the rest of the article here:

Take a look at T.S. Eliot's 'The Waste Land', converted into a premium digital container (via @touchpress)

I stumbled on the TouchPress website recently, and onto a really interesting example of adding value to classic texts by translating them into a digital format. By utilising the power of the digital format, TouchPress hope the create more powerful interactive experiences. You've heard all this before, of course, but it's nice to see a practical implementation.

Books are one of the great defining inventions of our civilization—and today they are poised for a revolution. Our goal is to create a new kind of book that makes use of emerging consumer platforms such as iPad, as well as the latest computation capabilities and high-performance visual media.

A prominent example of the kind of digital book they're talking about is their The Waste Land:

This new digital edition of T. S. Eliot's The Waste Land brings alive the most revolutionary poem of the last hundred years, illuminated by a wealth of interactive features. The title's groundbreaking design carefully respects the typography and integrity of the original poem, yet offers spectacular new ways to explore The Waste Land's significance and influence

Listed as features of this book-as-app are:

  • A powerful filmed performance of the entire poem by Fiona Shaw, synchronised to the text
  • Complete audio readings of the poem, also synchronised to the text, by T. S. Eliot himself, Alec Guinness, Ted Hughes, and Viggo Mortensen
  • Comprehensive interactive notes to guide the user through the poem's many references
  • Over 35 expert video perspectives on the poem, filmed in partnership with BBC Arena, including contributions from Seamus Heaney and Jeanette Winterson
  • Original manuscript pages revealing how the poem took shape under Ezra Pound's editing

I've spoken to Virginia from about adding value to the digital container in the past. She had commented:

Improving the container – beautifully designed ebooks, rather than some of the fairly appalling dross we’re seeing at the moment – is something I’m very interested in, but there’s a huge amount of inertia in the publishing industry.

Although I'm not generally a fan of books as applications, there is a point where you have to ask whether this kind of innovation can be provided by a generic digital format such as .ePub. To make an eBook more than a digital version of 'real-life' books, are hyperlinks sufficient, or does this kind of added value requires its own custom container?

You can preview the Waste Land application here: It's definitely worth checking out.

You can find it on the Apple store here.

The Indie bookseller vs The Amazon Imprint

Hm, I don't entirely agree with this, but I'm not an independent bookshop and can only view it from a writer/reader perspective. Basically the Seattle Mystery Bookshop has posted a polite series of emails they had with a writer being published through Amazon's new publishing venture. The writer asks for a stocking/signing opportunity and is politely rebuffed.

It's an interesting insight into the shifting relationships between traditional publisher/self publisher/self-promoter/book seller. As the author says:

I know your mind is set, and I do not expect my email to change it. But I do want you to know that my experience with Amazon as an author has been second to none. They are incredibly supportive and responsive and beyond author-friendly. They flew me to NY for a book signing at BEA, something unheard of for a first-time author in my genre. And the list goes on.

Although book sellers are affected directly by the market strength of Amazon, Amazon does offer a radically different publishing relationship for writers. So is the bookselling industry shooting themselves in the foot by rejecting work from writers who want better publishing terms? It's not as if a boycott has any practical effect, it is purely an ethical position.

It's a worthwhile read:

Finding an editor (and treating them well) - via @BothersomeWords

I found this blog post via Angela Slattery's blog (to which you should also subscribe, as it is quite useful). Bothersome Words is a provider of literary services (eg. proofreading, editing), and wrote an article comparing hiring editors to hiring any tradesperson. This in itself is a worthwhile read, but what particularly struck me (reading writing-related posts with Literarium ever-watchful over my shoulder), was the introduction:

There are many ways to go about hiring a freelance editor to help you with your fledgling manuscript or document. You can trawl through the Yellow Pages, check Google, contact your local Writers’ Centres or dip into the directories of numerous Societies of Editors.

Just as there are hundreds of tradespeople to choose from, so there are hundreds of editors. So you narrow it down. You look for editors who specialise in your subject area. Maybe you take advice from fellow writers, get recommendations.

Finally, you have a list of people who you think would suit your manuscript. So what next?

What's next is you hire the services of someone like Bothersome Words. But of course, finding Bothersome Words is one of the problems we hope Literarium will solve.

Lucas and I are aiming to be able to provide that directory of services, sortable and searchable by as many different tidbits of metadata that we can think of. Do you have a fantasy romance novella of 15,000 words? We can bring back all Editors in your state that accept fantasy and/or romance and work with projects of that size. Literarium will speed up that initial process, cutting out all the clumsy googling, yellow-page hunting, writing-list bothering and friend haranguing.

Why? I'll end by quoting from my own comment on the post:

[...] I see a massive boom in self-sourced literary professionals now that self-publishing digitally is a much more viable path; illustrators, typesetters, proofreaders - all the services that would once have been provided inside a publishing house. [...]

That's why. :-D

Digital Rights Management - Some Problems via @DouglasCootey

This article was brought to my attention by Sean from Although long blog posts about DRM are always boiling beneath the surface of my skin, they aren't really appropriate for Literarium and more likely to appear on my personal blog.

Make no mistake, though: Literarium does not support digital rights management of files. Chiefly because it doesn't work, doesn't achieve its goals, and treats readers like criminals. It's also expensive and frustrating. But let's move on...

Douglas Cootey details his experience in dealing with the most common flavour of DRM currently inflicted on legitimate ebook customers, Adobe's Digital Editions. Tragically writers rarely have much of a say in how their publisher decides to package their work electronically, but imagine placing one of your loyal readers into Douglas's shoes. At the end of this harrowing ride, is the reader going to be angry at your publisher or you?

Have a read of:

I think Douglas might have a follow up in the future, and I'll try to let you know how it turns out.