Monthly Archives: February 2011

The Pitfalls of E-Book Buying

14 February 2011
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A summary of technology issues with ebooks and e-readers from PC World magazine.


In the days of physical bookshelves filled with physical books, most people tended to organize their libraries haphazardly–perhaps by subject, perhaps alphabetically, perhaps by what size of books a particular shelf could accommodate. But with a little effort you could (probably) quickly scan your collection and walk away with the title you wished to read in short order.

Unfortunately, the lack of a universal bookshelf is a huge issue in the e-book world. Buy a book, and if you want to read it again three years down the line, you’ll have to remember where and how you bought it.

. . . .

The digital rights management issue remains a point of distinction between Amazon and its competitors. Sony and Kobo, which sell e-book readers as well as e-books, are quick to point out that they, unlike Amazon, use the industry standard ePub format; Apple does, too.

But ePub support alone isn’t synonymous with cross-platform support. Applying DRM to an ePub file can make the ePub book incompatible with other e-readers (be they software or hardware). For example, Adobe Digital Editions ePubs that carry DRM can be read by other software or devices (like Sony’s Digital Reader series of e-readers) that support Adobe Digital Editions. But if you use Adobe’s PC-based library manager, you’ll have to jump through the hoop of entering an Adobe ID.

Barnes & Noble’s e-book shopping experience can be even more confusing: The company has voiced support for ePub, and it offers ePub-formatted books; but when you buy a book, you have no way of knowing whether it has DRM protected. If it is, it’s locked to Barnes & Noble’s system. Furthermore, if you want to redownload an e-book you bought from Barnes & Noble, you’ll have to provide the credit card number that you used to buy it originally.

Link to the rest at The Pitfalls of E-Book Buying: What to Look Out for Before You Purchase

Internet Piracy is Great for Sales

13 February 2011
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Neil Gaiman thinks internet piracy helps his book sales and is closer to one person lending a book to another than theft.  If you don’t see a video below, click HERE

Naïve Artists

12 February 2011
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David Farland is one of the great writing teachers.  You may recognize the names of two of the students he taught at Brigham Young University, Stephanie Meyer and Brandon Sanderson.  There are many more former students, both from BYU and from Dave’s writing seminars, earning a living as professional fiction writers.  One of the reasons Dave is such a good teacher of writing is that he is also a successful and prolific author himself, writing as both David Farland and David Wolverton.

Dave provides a free daily email newsletter, David Farland’s Daily Kick in the Pants, which is full of excellent insights and advice on being a writer.  I can’t find a newsletter archive on his blog, but I have a link to the signup page at the end of the excerpts from one of his recent emails.


Unfortunately, I see people mess up potential careers time and again because they think that it’s easier than it is. You might say, “I could write a book!” And I’d think, Yes, you probably can. “I could write a great book!” Yes, but that’s a bit harder. “I could write a great book and publish it myself!” Yes, but that’s a bit harder still. You’d have to come up with money to publish it, and then spend time marketing, shipping, and so on. “I could write a great book, publish it myself, and sell as many copies as HARRY POTTER.” Well, you’re delusional if you think you can do that. You’ve gone from imagining something that’s hard to being a crackpot. You’re delusional. You may understand the art of writing, but it’s the intricate relationships of marketing, publishing, filmmaking, film distribution, and so on that you don’t understand.

When you work with a large publisher, you’re dealing with a firm that has been building up relationships with major retail chains, publicists, independent bookstores, sales reps, editors, art directors, news agencies, magazine editors, and so on for hundreds of years. You can’t see it from the outside, but tens of thousands of man hours might go into creating a bestseller, along with huge investments of capital, and hundreds of thousands of hours of making connections and nurturing relationships. You alone, as an author, can’t duplicate that, at least not in fiction writing. (You can do it in nonfiction.)

. . . .

As an artist, don’t try to be a master at everything. I like to write. That’s my thing. I don’t see myself, for example, ever directing a film. I once took a class in directing, and learned enough so that when I see a director doing a good job, I recognize that he’s doing well. I’m enough of an artist that I could probably do quite well at directing—if I wanted to spend a lifetime mastering the craft.

Link to the Newsletter Registration at: David Farland

Egobook – Everybody’s an Above-Average Author!

11 February 2011
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Take your Facebook status updates, photos, messages from your friends, etc., etc., and automagically make a Book About You, what Facebook calls an Egobook.

What could be more fascinating?

Facebook Egobook

Yes, but how do I get an ebook signed by the author?

11 February 2011
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Ask the author to sign your e-reader, of course.
Authors Signing eReaders Instead of Books

Indie Authors + Indie Bookstore = Self-Pub Success

10 February 2011
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Blog post from Josie Leavitt, co-owner of The Flying Pig Bookstore in Shelburne, Vermont, about working with two local authors who self-pubbed in hard copy.  This approach doesn’t sound scalable, but more than one major author has started the big climb when indie bookstores start singing praises.


This past holiday season two of our bestsellers were self-published books. This was a HUGE surprise to me when I ran the numbers at the end of the year. I have had time now to ponder the reason for this and have several reasons that this happened.

– The books were actually good.

. . . .

– Both authors were relentless at getting excellent press about their books. They didn’t just get press once, they got it repeatedly.

. . . .

– The authors were good about checking in about stock levels. Normally, self-published authors can get a little overly aggressive about checking stock, but with these two books at the holidays, it was enormously helpfu

. . . .

– Both authors were very meticulous about record-keeping. This just makes my job easier. We try to keep up with receiving self-published books when they come, but so often the consignment issue precludes entering books into the inventory, so having another set of good records was vital. I know how many I’ve sold by the negative numbers listed for that book at the end of the day. Basically, I receive backwards and the authors do it the right way, so it works out.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly ShelfTalker

How Big is the Market for Ebooks in English? Larger Than You Think.

10 February 2011
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If you’re publishing ebooks, English is the language you want.


We want to know how many candidates to read books in English are in the US, in the rest of the English-speaking countries, and then in the non-English countries. Wikipedia says the world contains 914 million English speakers, of which 251 million are in the US, 232 million in India, and 168 million in the non-English countries in Europe. But that data has provenance of no consistent timing, and the US data, for example, is from the 2000 census.

One source I talked to recently who holds a statistics-oriented job and who has reason to know, insists the world has 600 million native English speakers and 1.4 billion English speakers in other countries. If that were true, the US would have less than a sixth of the total within its boundaries.

. . . .

But even back in the early years of the past decade, the number of ebooks available in English dwarfed the number most European language consumers will find this year or next. The incredibly paltry number of books converted to epub in most European countries absolutely assures that our European friends will encounter the same annoying frustration I did.

Until they shop for ebooks in English.

And they will. Indeed, they do. I reported in the prior post that we’ve heard anecdotally that 25% of the printed books sold in Denmark are in English. A friend in tiny Slovenia reports that more than 15% of the books sold there are in English. A Scandinavian bookseller with several stores in Scandinavia and Berlin whom I met at IfBookThen reported that 20% of the books he sells are in English. And those sales are being achieved despite the cost (and, therefore, price) and supply (and, therefore, choice) barriers inherent in physical goods.

. . . .

One American friend at a large general house not in the Big Six told me last week that 10% of the ebooks he’s selling are from outside the US (and that wouldn’t be including the UK.) A global ebook retailer told me that 7% of their English-language sales today come from non-English countries. Those numbers will rise inexorably, and sometimes in explosive spurts, for many years to come. It would require one to see around more corners and over more mountains than I care to attempt to forecast how high a percentage of English-language ebook sales might ultimately be made in non-English countries, but it would surely seem that figuring they’ll reach 25-35 percent over the next five or ten years or so wouldn’t be an outlandish guess. (Whether five or ten will be much clearer in one or two.)

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

No-Name Newbie Indie Author Sales Report

10 February 2011
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For every Amanda Hocking, there are thousands of Derek Canyons.  Derek is telling the story of his experiences in indie publishing on his blog.

Here’s an excerpt from his first post:

“I’m an aspiring writer with a couple obscure short stories and articles on my meager resume. I’m trying to find an agent for a novel I’ve been working on for the past few years. However, the print publishing process can take a very long time.

Therefore, I’m also going to dust off an unpublished novel I wrote 15 years ago and see how it does on the Amazon Kindle ebook reader.

This blog will chronicle my efforts, including costs, time spent, artist search, Kindle data, sales numbers, and so on.”

Derek started epublishing his own books in October, 2010, with a cyberpunk short story collection,Dead Dwarves, Dirty Deeds, priced at 99 cents,  followed shortly thereafter by a novel, Dead Dwarves Don’t Dance (a cyberpunk novel), priced at $2.99.  In January, he added Format Your eBook for Kindle in One Hour – A Step-by-Step Guide, priced at 99 cents, based upon what he learned in formatting his ebooks for Kindle.

Derek is a technical writer and he packs his blog with graphs, numbers, etc., that document his experiences with paid and free advertising, cover artists, editors and all the other production and marketing steps involved in his indie publishing experience.  The right column of his blog includes an itemization of his out-of-pocket expenses for self-publishing.

Excerpts from his January, 2011 Sales Report:

As you can see, sales are growing. From 13 in October, to 21 in November, to 130 in December, to 295 in January! All told, in four months I’ve sold 459 books! This includes 19 sold in Amazon UK, 5 on Nook, and 4 on Smashwords. This is really exciting for me, but it certainly isn’t blockbuster numbers like Amanda Hocking is getting. But, there you have the range of possibilities. From my few hundred books sold to Hocking’s hundreds of thousands.

. . . .

I made $4.20 in October, $27.63 in November, $180 in December, and $304.16 in January. So, in four months, I’ve earned $515.99 in royalties. That’s a nice bit of change. If my sales don’t increase from January’s numbers, I can expect to earn $3600 this year! Woot! That’s a darn good success, if you ask me. It means I’ll be able to earn back my $2400 investment with some profit left over.

Link to the rest at Adventures in ePublishing

Why do people fail to make a living as writers?

9 February 2011
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Kristine Kathryn Rusch is in the process of performing a great service for writers, beginning and experienced.  In a series of articles (I think they’re too comprehensive to be called blog posts), she lays out her view of the current publishing world, including major upheavals, all with a goal of educating writers on the business side of the industry with which they’ve chosen to involve themselves.

A lot of authors say they just want to write, but that’s not usually what they mean.  You can write and write very well without being published.  What most authors mean by that statement is they just want to write and have their writing be published and have enough money to be able to keep on writing.  Absent a large trust fund or a partner providing financial support, this means earning money from writing.  If you want to earn money from writing, you are an entrepreneur as well as an artist and understanding the business you are in, if not a necessity, is a very good idea.

Excerpts from Changing Times – Part Seven:

People fail to make a living in the arts for two main reasons:

1.  They don’t try to make a living. They get another profession and spend their time at that profession, treating their art as a hobby.  The folks who eventually make a living as artists (whether that’s as a writer, musician, filmmaker or painter) get jobs that enable them to put food on the table while they pursue their passion.  Often those jobs are part-time. Certainly those jobs are the kind that you do not take home with you—no papers to grade, no post-shift phone calls or e-mails, and no 60+ hour weeks.  These jobs are not professions. These artists understand that their profession—even if they’re not currently being paid for it—is their art; their day job is what makes sure they have a roof over their heads.

2. They fail at the business side of their profession.  Succeeding as an artist is all about knowing how to thrive in a business environment—at least in capitalistic societies.  Yes, those societies often have art grant programs, and honestly, the artists who manage to get grants repeatedly—enough so that they never need “real” jobs—are just pursuing a different business model than the commercial model I discuss in my blogs.  There is a system to the noncommercial side of the art world, one that has its own rules and regulations, and some artists learn how to operate effectively in that world.

But that’s not my world.  My world is commercial, and that’s what I’m dealing with here. Again, I’m using “artist” here to refer to someone whose profession is in the arts, because this holds not just for the writer, but for the dramatic, musical, and visual artists as well.

. . . .

Why aren’t more successful writers giving out public information?  First, some don’t have the teaching gene.  Second, many of these writers don’t have the time.  Third, a few of them don’t understand how the industry works any more than the aspiring writer does.  But the real reason is this one, the fourth reason:

Successful writers get attacked a lot from within our own profession for our success.  We are repeatedly told that we “don’t understand the problems of new writers.”  We “know the secret.” We’re “unbelievably lucky” We’re “hacks.” We have “no respect for art.”  We’ve “sold out.”

. . . .

When Scott Turow said on the Charlie Rose television show that the coming e-book revolution will harm writers, Turow is absolutely right—for the kind of writer that he is. When J.A. Konrath says on his blog that the e-book revolution will be the best thing that has happened to writers, he’s exactly right—for the kind of writer that he is.

Link to the rest at The Business Rusch: Writers-The Overview (Changing Times Part Seven)

The Death of the Slush Pile

8 February 2011
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This January 22, 2010, article in the Wall Street Journal caused a great many online discussions and disputes among agents, publishers and publishing observers.  Oh, and Stephenie Meyer?  She was a mistake.


In 1991, a book editor at Random House pulled from the heaps of unsolicited manuscripts a novel about a murder that roils a Baltimore suburb. Written by a first-time author and mother named Mary Cahill, “Carpool” was published to fanfare. Ms. Cahill was interviewed on the “Today” show. “Carpool” was a best seller.

That was the last time Random House, the largest publisher in the U.S., remembers publishing anything found in a slush pile. Today, Random House and most of its major counterparts refuse to accept unsolicited material.

. . . .

Now, slush is dead, or close to extinction. Film and television producers won’t read anything not certified by an agent because producers are afraid of being accused of stealing ideas and material. Most book publishers have stopped accepting book proposals that are not submitted by agents. Magazines say they can scarcely afford the manpower to cull through the piles looking for the Next Big Thing.

. . . .

As writers try to find an agent—a feat harder than ever to accomplish in the wake of agency consolidations and layoffs—the slush pile has been transferred from the floor of the editor’s office to the attaché cases of representatives who can broker introductions to publishing, TV and film executives. The result is a shift in taste-making power onto such agents, managers and attorneys. Theirs are now often the first eyes to make a call on what material will land on bookshelves, television sets and movie screen.

Still, discoveries do happen at agencies, including the biggest publishing franchise since “Harry Potter”—even though it basically took a mistake to come together. In 2003, an unknown writer named Stephenie Meyer sent a letter to the Writers House agency asking if someone might be interested in reading a 130,000-word manuscript about teenage vampires. The letter should have been thrown out: an assistant whose job, in part, was to weed through the more than 100 such letters each month, didn’t realize that agents mostly expected young adult fiction to weigh in at 40,000 to 60,000 words. She contacted Ms. Meyer and ultimately asked that she send her manuscript.

. . . .

Book publishers say it is now too expensive to pay employees to read slush that rarely is worthy of publication. At Simon & Schuster, an automated telephone greeting instructs aspiring writers: “Simon & Schuster requires submissions to come to us via a literary agent due to the large volume of submissions we receive each day. Agents are listed in ‘Literary Marketplace,’ a reference work published by R.R. Bowker that can be found in most libraries.” Company spokesman Adam Rothberg says the death of the publisher’s slush pile accelerated after the terror attacks of 9/11 by fear of anthrax in the mail room.

A primary aim of the slush pile used to be to discover unpublished voices. But today, writing talent isn’t necessarily enough. It helps to have a big-media affiliation, or be effective on TV. “We are being more selective in taking on clients because the publishers are demanding much more from the authors than ever before,” says Laurence J. Kirshbaum, former CEO of Time Warner Book Group and now an agent. “From a publisher’s standpoint, the marketing considerations, especially on non-fiction, now often outweigh the editorial ones.”

Link to The Wall Street Journal (Note: This link may expire at some future time)

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