Deciding between traditional publishing and self-publishing (via @tody_ZA, HT: @ArmandAuthor)

Azhar Lorgat contributes to the discussion about how to approach publishing:

In today’s world, the decision between embracing the ways of the digital age or going with the traditional route is a complex battle that each individual artist must face. Unfortunately finding the answer can be exceptionally tough because so many people will have different opinions about it, and you’ll probably go half-crazy like I did spending your hours reading through hundreds of opinions on the internet. There are just too many good reasons on both sides.

He goes through four basic categories to discuss how they might impact your decision (read on at the bottom for his discussion on each of these topics). And remember, this is not an either-or discussion. I suggest you go through this process for each project you want published.

  • Your Personality
  • Your Reasons For Writing
  • What You’re Actually Writing
  • Your Circumstances

Read on for his conclusion here:

On 70% Royalties (via @krasnostein, HT: @sircamaris)

Alisa Krasnostein discusses a little bit about the notion that by self-publishing an author automatically receives a 70% royalty (running on the industry 'standard' of Amazon and iTunes pocketing 30% of your sales):

I’ve run the maths of going to digital only publishing to play with the business model. I’ve also tried to look at offering our ebooks at that $0.99 or $1.99 price point. I really hope we don’t see this flux in the business model end up with books only costing 99 cents. It’s such a huge undervaluation of what it costs to produce the product. To think that you deserve 70% royalties means you think that the cover artist, the book designer, the layout, the editors, the proofers, the marketers and promoters, the promotion material including launch events, and overheads like electricity, software, website management, bank charges, fees for online sales transactions and so many other costs, as well as publisher reputation and branding should somehow be covered by that 30%.

As always, publishing models are very dependent on individual circumstance.

But, just musing personally... I'm surprised that someone proudly flaunting a 70% royalty (as a proxy for 'selling my own product on Amazon/iTunes') doesn't take issue with the 30% surcharge Amazon and iTunes charge. What are you getting for your 30%? File hosting? Really? Discoverability? I suppose. DRM? [Insert hyena-pitched-laughter].

Link to the original here:

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:

Adobe to Require New Epub DRM in July, Expects to Abandon Existing Users (via @TomRennie, HT: Tim_Coronel)

The article should be titled, 'Adobe tells Readers to Eat Shit and Die'.

The tl;dr version is that Adobe is going to start pushing for ebook vendors to provide support for [their] new DRM in March, and when July rolls Adobe is going to force the ebook vendors to stop supporting [their] older DRM. (Hadrien GardeurPaul Durrant, and Martyn Daniels concur on this interpretation.)

Look, I'm known for my resistance to DRM, so I am really not trying to say, 'I told you so', but I fucking well told you so. DRM is a failure for everyone except the companies selling the DRM tools and here is just more evidence.

One thing Adobe seems to have missed is that there are tens of millions of ebook readers on the market that support the older DRM but will probably never be upgraded to the new DRM. Sony and Pocketbook, for example, have released a number of models over the past 5 or so years, most of which have since been discontinued.

Your lesson today is: just stop buying DRM'd ebooks. Yes, this is a problem if you buy from Amazon and iTunes. Tough. Fucking. Shit.

Just stop it. Stop it and they will eventually stop, too.

Read it and weep:

Improving one’s plot in life: why Matthew Reilly’s books sell (via @conversationEdu, HT @eventmechanics)

Jen Webb discusses a recent news story about successful Australian author Matthew Reilly:

Aristotle said it first: if you want to write a good story (or, in his terms, a good tragedy), you must have two things: plot, and character. Plot is, for Aristotle, “the arrangement of the incidents” — the causal relations between things, people and events. Character refers to the individuals who are the actors in that plot, and all their personal qualities and moral capacities, along with the relationships they have with each other and with the choices they have to make.

I'm not and have never been a fan of Matthew Reilly's writing, but I certainly applaud his successful approach:

Objectifying Books (via @momentumbooks)

Craig Hildebrand-Burke talks about the possibilities of books as uniquely physical experiences (as contrasted to ebooks). This goes beyond the nostalgia about the smell of tree-books, but rather to the concept of a physical book as an art object:

In 2000, Mark Z. Danielewski released his meta-fictional horror storyHouse of Leaves. This was followed up by several different editions, including the 2006 remastered, full colour edition, full of torn notes, handwritten inserts, typewritten attachments, drawings and other paraphernalia that twists the reading of Danielewski’s narrative into something beyond just words on a page.

I must admit I'm a sucker for this kind of thing. I had House of Leaves on a 'to read' list but I didn't realise there was an edition that was that cool. Note that my definition of 'cool' may differ from yours.

Will book writers, book makers and book buyers begin to distinguish themselves more clearly as having and wanting two distinct types of books, even more than they already have? Will we want one type of reading digitally, and another physically?

I say, bring it on!

Now please excuse me while I try to source a 2006 edition of House of Leaves...

Check the original article out here:

Scribbling in the Margins of Dan Brown's Inferno (via @the_millions)

I don't generally like picking on an author's style, but Dan Brown is probably used to it by now, and also filthy rich, so I guess he can take it. Sam Anderson and David Rees started an experiment in 'dialogic marginalia' whereby the first would annotate the text of Dan Brown's Inferno, then hand it to the second, who would do the same.

I purchased and read Inferno, which was inscrutable and interminable, and as I read I scribbled in its margins. When I finished, my friend David Rees, the artisanal pencil sharpener, asked if he could borrow it. He added his thoughts.

It was fun to see someone else’s words next to mine. I wrote in black pen, in cursive. David wrote in red pencil, in block letters. I was semi-serious. David swore and told a lot of jokes. Usually we agreed, but occasionally we disagreed. Here are some of the highlights.

Have a read and see what 'live feedback while reading' means in the context of a massive blockbuster:

Publish and be branded (via @guardian, HT: @publisherswkly)

Jennifer Rankin writes for the Guardian about how publishers consider hugely succesful bestselling authors more like brands:

"Brand" may be an ugly word when applied to an author, literary agent Jonny Geller acknowledged, but it is only a shorthand for a way in which publishers are attempting to hold on to the reading public at a time when sales of print books are flat and electronic gadgets vie for readers' attention.

Since I mostly see independent or smaller-press authors represented in my various social feeds, I've never really separated a writer from their 'brand' - perhaps I'm taking that term to mean something that it doesn't in the Real World of Business.

The runaway success of Mantel's story could be seen as a heartwarming tale for the book industry, but it comes at a time when many insiders worry such a tale will become increasingly rare as talented authors find it ever harder break through.

Again I don't quite agree - it was always hard for talented authors to break through and, frankly, talent doesn't really correlate very well with success. I think this paragraph is telling:

Authors with middling sales – like Mantel, before she led Thomas Cromwell up the bestseller list – are getting less care and attention from large publishers, with readers ever-more fixated on fantasy blockbusters, it is said.

I suspect that's because large publishers really aren't where the publishing industry is at anymore. Focusing on how they cope with the wave of new authors isn't necessarily useful to form a view on how the industry as a whole is operating.

I'm no expert, but statements like this just don't seem to describe a world that is any different to how it used to be:

"The large bestselling authors are taking a bigger and bigger share of the market," said Andrew Franklin, founder of the independent publisher Profile. "Just as in every branch of late post-industrial capitalism, the rich are getting richer. New authors and struggling authors and mid-list authors are finding it harder."

It's an interesting and long read, nonetheless, and my pick-and-choose critique doesn't quite do it justice. Have a read and let me know if I'm missing something:

Life After Amazon (via @PublishersWkly)

Welcome back and a happy 2014 to you, if you subscribe to the Gregorian calendar! Today we're looking at the consequences of biting one's thumb at Amazon. I'm no fan of Amazon at the best of times, so these kinds of experiments are always important to me.

What triggered this story was the following:

In late February, 2012, after months of deliberation, taking a variety of factors into account, I made the difficult decision to stop selling our Kane Miller and Usborne books on Amazon. It was a bold move (or a misguided one, depending on your point of view), with little support in an industry where many were experiencing record growth through Amazon sales.

This is the two year follow up to that decision. Read here to see what happened:

A Christmas Post About Piracy (HT: @brianoleary)

The Christmas period is a time often associated with copious gift exchange. And what better gift than books, right? Isabelle Roughol from Linked In describes the increasingly futile and heavy handed attempts to quash online piracy:

A French court just signed the death warrant of 11 sites that streamed pirated movies and TV shows. Will it make a dent in illegal media consumption? No more than the deaths of Napster, Kazaa or Megaupload.

The entertainment industry lobby is like Don Quixote fighting windmills – except Don Quixote, you feel a bit sorry for. The "majors", on the contrary, have a knack for uniting consumers against them.

The message remains clear: where possible, in every way possible, get your content in front of the people who want it. Because nothing can stop them getting it. Be the most convenient conduit.

Just have a look at the roadblocks to French consumers who just want to watch a movie:

Let's take France as an example, since it's the market I know. A 1986 law regulates how cinematographic content may be broadcast – at the time, it was meant to save movie theaters from the ascent of television and video stores (notice how back then we were already legislating our way out of crisis rather than innovating it). Once a film is released in theaters, one must wait:

  • 4 months to see it as a one-time on-demand purchase
  • 12 months to see it on a movie-specific cable channel (and its catch-up on-demand service – 10 months if they've signed a deal with the cinema lobby)
  • 30 months to see it on other cable channels or broadcast television
  • 36 months to see it on a subscription-based, on-demand-only service

You read right – that's 3 years before we could see a "recent" film on Netflix if we had it! That's only a small part of the regulation, which kafkaesque beauty you can explore here if you read French.

The key phrase here is: 'notice how back then we were already legislating our way out of crisis rather than innovating it.'

Food for thought, folks. And a Merry Christmas!

Read the original post here:

Publishing Your Short Fiction (via @Cacotopos)

Sure, you might complain that I'm being lazy by posting a link to my own post, and that's fine. But it's a loooong post. And a very detailed step-by-step process for anyone wanting to roll their own .ePub. It's not that difficult, once you get through it, I've just been very thorough.

My IT Guy eyes spontaneously combusted. I wandered around the house with flames pouring from my sockets, setting off fire alarms and howling until my voice was drowned out by the echoing howls of the neighbourhood’s dogs.

It was, in a word, horrible. Every paragraph was individually formatted in the ePub file to conform to a very specific list of font-size, height, spacing and worse, even though every single gods-damned paragraph looked the same in the final product. It was like a bureaucrat forcing you to write your full name and address next to every single paragraph of a textbook, just to make sure you owned it.

When this series is done, you'll be able to take a short story, turn it into an ePub, load it into your digital store, and then add it to your online shop, all for EXACTLY ZERO DOLLARS.

Read it here:

Ian Rankin: "It took 14 years for my writing to pay" (via @telegraph)

I guess the lesson is to keep working at your craft... Also luck, luck helps.

It took a good 12-14 years, and many books, before the money became a happy factor of my writing career. If you think, my first novel was published back in 1986 and for that I had been given an advance of the grand sum of £200. I was pretty much 40 or in my early forties before I earned my first million.

Read it here:

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:

No, writing for free isn't slavery (via @paidContent, @mathewi, HT: @peterjblack)

Wait, isn't this the opposite of what I posted last week!? Well, I think it's important to have a look at what everyone involved has to say. My personal conclusions about writing for free haven't changed, but this article by Mathew Ingram is a rebuttal of (or at least a reply to) the recent New York Times piece.

As more than one person pointed out during the debate on Twitter that followed the publication of the piece, there have always been people willing to write for nothing —the barriers to entry are just a lot lower now. To some, that is a great thing, a democratization of content that allows anyone to reach a potential audience, but to others these writers who work for free are like virtual “scabs” crossing a picket line and endangering the livelihood of other writers.

I don't disagree with Mathew at all - in fact I even describe the circumstances around which I personally support writing for free. And yes, of course writers have always worked for free or for little money; I've often espoused my belief that if you are writing fiction for the sole purpose of making money you probably shouldn't be writing.

Having said that, though, I didn't quite see the original article's core complaint as 'we shouldn't write for free', but rather 'we shouldn't be expected to work for free'. If you offer your services for free, or negotiate after the fact, that's different. Being approached by a business to give up free work so they can make a profit, though? I'm not entirely sure. Exposure isn't quite quid pro quo.

A number of people tried to argue that publishers are the ones who set the price for things, and they are ruining the industry by not paying writers — although even Kreider admits in his piece that most of the people asking him to do things for free have little or no money. But the point is that this view of the industry gets things exactly backwards: the reality is that media or content broadly speaking has gone from being primarily supply-driven to almost totally demand-driven, and that has changed the economics in some fundamental ways.

It's a worthwhile read, so check it out in full here:

Self-Publishing: How to Pick the Size of your Book (via @jfbookman)

A detailed article from The Book Designer on considerations for your self-published print book, including the different formats and sizes offered by the various online printing services and distributors:

Some pricing on digital books is in a range of sizes rather than having a different price for every different size, but that only helps a bit.

If you plan to print offset, you’ll need to specify the exact size in your request for an estimate. So one way or the other, it’s good to figure out near the beginning of your planning.

I can't really add much to this. If you are looking into self-publishing in print I'd click through right now.

Full article here:

Earnings from Self-Publishing (via @pattyjansen)

Patty Jansen posted her self-publishing earnings from Sept 2012 to 2013. I love these detailed posts, as there is so much misinformation flying around about  how lucrative (or not) self-publishing can be.

Inspired by others on the web who have done so, I’m going to do a numbers post. Mainly for reference, but also to show people what the income of a no-name self-publishing writer with moderate success looks like. Just to give some datapoints other than the millions reportedly made by others.

No spoilers here though, you'll have to click through to read for yourself if you enjoy these kinds of things as much as I do:

Thanks Patty!

The Discovery Problem (via @MikeShatzkin)

Following on from the recent ebook censorship overreaction, Mike Shatzkin talks about a bigger problem for readers (and by extension, authors): discovery.

Online bookselling has a long way to go before it can deliver even what it intends to deliver in response to a search or to prompt a next sale. Of course, there are two additional and larger problems that come first: knowing what the right suggestion(s) would be and being able to make enough of them to match the book shopping experiences online sales must replace.

It's a detailed piece, and highlights the challenge that modern online selling faces. For example, how many of these discovery paths have you encountered when buying books on Amazon?

[P]eople get their ideas about what to read next from many sources: people they talk to, reviews, news reports, business interactions. Some people say they get book recommendations from their friends; others (like me) say they don’t often read the same things their friends or relatives read. I suspect that online communities of readers tend to work best for people who do a lot of reading in genres and not nearly as well for people who mix fiction and non-fiction, entertainment and learning. And some people gravitate to what’s popular, so bestseller lists work best for them. It is clear that getting on a bestseller list fuels a book’s sales.

And books are bought for motivations other than “to read”, so it might also be important to know that a customer’s son is having a birthday, that a customer’s cousin is getting married, that a customer is shopping for a new home or looking for a new job or starting on a new hobby or spending money on an old one.

In my personal experience, I still receive promotions from Amazon for things I can only buy in America (and Amazon KNOWS I don't live there, they've shipped me stuff before...for like 10 years or more). Mike addresses that Google and Amazon are perfectly placed to 'know' things about you and your purchasing history to help optimise discovery. Has this actually translated to actual successful discovery for any of you, though?

Read the full article here:

Kobo Purges Store of Random (Small/Indie) eBooks (via: @PandoDaily, @penenberg, HT: @dangillmor)

Adam Penenberg (editor of PandoDaily) writes about his experience of having his books (two thrillers) swept up in what seems like a giant overreaction by Kobo. This seems to have been spurred by British publisher WHSmith, which took down its entire website because some of Kobo's eBooks (which were passed through into their catalogue automatically) offended their sensibilities. Adam writes:

Kobo’s rash move came on the heels of another rash move by a British publisherWHSmith, which has taken down its entire website, leaving a statement on its homepage. The company said it’s “disgusted” by “a number of unacceptable titles” that have been “appearing on our website through the Kobo website that has an automated feed to ours.”

The bigger issue here is that the purge broadly affects books that couldn't remotely be expected to fall into what Kobo describes as: '“pedophilia, incest, bestiality, exploitation and sexual violence or force”', and disproportionately those by smaller publishers:

It’s hard to believe Kobo’s claims that it’s “inspired by a ‘Read Freely’ philosophy,” which “stems from Kobo’s belief that consumers should have the freedom to read any book, any time, anyplace — and on any device.” That is, unless you want to read my two novels, and thousands of other titles that are not erotica and were either self-published or published by small, independent presses.

Seems like a knee-jerk reaction that will cost Kobo a lot of goodwill.

Read Adam's article in full here:

How Copyright Made Mid-Century Books Vanish (via @theatlantic, HT: jenny8lee)

I believe there are serious problems with modern copyright laws, problems that have been exacerbated by an inability to keep legislation up to date with modern technology. This report by Rebecca Rosen, however, discusses another effect of copyright:

[Paul J. Heald at the University of Illinois] has now finalized his research [...]: "Copyright correlates significantly with the disappearance of works rather than with their availability," Heald writes. "Shortly after works are created and proprietized, they tend to disappear from public view only to reappear in significantly increased numbers when they fall into the public domain and lose their owners."

Read the whole article here, it's quite interesting (and disappointing and not entirely surprising):

And while we're on the topic, here is a discussion from the Columbia Journalism Review about whether copyright law works at all, with an interesting research finding:

In one experiment, [a] group of subjects write three-line haikus, to be entered in a contest with a prize of $50. These authors had the option of selling their poems (and the chance to win $50) to another group, the bidders. Both the authors and the bidders were asked to value how much a particular haiku was worth.

It turned out that, perhaps not surprisingly, the creators of these tiny works of art valued them more than the people who were thinking of buying them. “Our data revealed that Authors valued their work more than twice as high as Bidders ($20.05 versus $9.21),” Buccafusco and Sprigman wrote.

That doesn't surprise me at all, especially when we look at early eBook prices compared to what readers said they would pay for them.

The takeaway, for Buccafusco and Sprigman, is that markets for creative work are not nearly as efficient as IP law assumes—and that the argument that more protection is needed to ensure innovation might not be quite right. “The work I do with Chris suggests that we don’t know as much about IP as we think we do,” says Sprigman. “It’s been a faith-based policy for a long time. A lot of people in my field are trying to uncover what IP laws actually do and what they don’t.”

The takeaway for me is summarised here:

Part of what empirical research can show is how finer-tuned laws might work better. Not all creative industries work the same way—making a major motion picture requires more up-front investment than writing a poem; computer software might have a shorter shelf-life than a bestselling book.

Read that article in full here:

Piracy News (on account of International Talk Like a Pirate Day) (via @torrentfreak, HT: @idealaw)

A piratical link for you today. Warner Bros (back in June) said that pirates showed them what consumers want. No surprises there, really.

“Generally speaking, we view piracy as a proxy of consumer demand,” Kaplan notes.

“Accordingly, enforcement related efforts are balanced with looking at ways to adjust or develop business models to take advantage of that demand by offering fans what they are looking for when they are looking for it.”

The above shows that Warner Bros. has started to treat movie pirates as a market signal and an indication that legal offerings are not yet up to par. Or to put it differently, the movie studio believes that they can beat piracy by competing with it and providing a better user experience.

The book industry seems to be adapting much more rapidly to the notion that legal, easy and affordable access to content is the solution to unauthorised content sharing. Having said that, the indisputable market leader Amazon is increasingly putting exclusivity constraints on its new services. For readers who don't want to buy into Amazon's service (eg. me) this creates an artificial market demand, which is always met through piracy. Until it becomes possible to buy content in the format you need, piracy will continue to be a problem.

Read the original article here: