Monthly Archives: September 2011

He Didn’t Curl His Lip

28 September 2011
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He didn’t curl his lip because it had been curled when he came in.

Raymond Chandler, The High Window

The Six Stupidest Things My Publishers Have Ever Said

28 September 2011

Aaron Goldfarb, author of How to Fail: The Self-Hurt Guide, tells all:

2.  “Ask them why they aren’t buying!”

Any time I returned from a book event–this publisher never attended–and I’d proudly tell him how many books were sold, he wouldn’t pat me on the back and say, “Good job.”  He’d instead wonder why the book hadn’t sold to other people.  If 200 people were at the signing and 199 bought, he didn’t care about those 199, he only cared about the one.  And, what was I to do for that one non-customer?  Why “Ask them why they aren’t buying!”  How he wanted me to do this I am not sure.  I imagined jumping up from the table where dozens of people were waiting for my autograph and chasing down a guy I saw casually scoff and then exit.  “Excuse me, sir, excuse me, sir.  Can I ask you a question:  why didn’t you buy my book?”

3.  “E-mail everyone and tell them to cancel their Amazon orders!”

This sounds too crazy to be true, but the first day my book went for pre-order sales on Amazon it immediately jumped from unranked to inside the Amazon top 5000.  Not too shabby, I thought.  Far too shabby, my publisher thought, apparently not pleased with Amazon getting 55% of his cut.  So, he told me to e-mail any one that had already bought via Amazon–how would I possibly know such a thing?!–and get them to cancel their orders and instead buy my book from his terribly-designed, user-unfriendly company website where he would get 100% of the cut.

. . . .

6.  “This ‘Jersey Shore’ show seems to be popular.  How can we get you on the show to promote your book?”

This statement occurred after my publisher accidentally got sucked into a “Jersey Shore” marathon one weekend while his grandchildren were visiting. . . . [M]aybe I should have stumbled over to Seaside Heights for a surprise walk-on.

Link to the rest at Aaron Goldfarb

 

The Dystopian Future of Bookstores

28 September 2011

From TechCrunch:

As we well know, ebook sales are now outpacing hardback sales and publishers are now crowing ebook numbers alongside their traditional in-store sales numbers. Soon those in-store sales numbers will dwindle and disappear simply because there will be no stores – heavy readers, the folks who buy genre fiction by the basket-full will be happy to head over to Nooks and Kindles, especially when they drop below $99 (as they will this year).

If I were a betting man, I’d wager quite a bit on these predictions. However, if you’re currently in the book sales racket – from publisher to used bookstore owner, I’d be very worried. The time to pivot is now and it’s clearly already happening.

. . . .

2013 – EBook sales surpass all other book sales, even used books. EMagazines begin cutting into paper magazine sales.
2014 – Publishers begin “subsidized” e-reader trials. Newspapers, magazines, and book publishers will attempt to create hardware lockins for their wares. They will fail.

. . . .

2019 – The great culling of the publishers. Smaller houses may survive but not many of them. The giants like Random House and Penguin will calve their smaller houses into e-only ventures. The last of the “publisher subsidized” tablet devices will falter.
2020 – Nearly every middle school to college student will have an e-reader. Textbooks will slowly disappear.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

The Kindle is Just a Transitional Reading Device

28 September 2011

Amazon will announce its new tablet today. IP attorney Lloyd J. Jassin says it’s just another way station on the road to Amazon’s ultimate destination.

 If purchasing digital content is optional today, how do you make it worth someone’s while to buy a downloadable book that is otherwise available on a torrent site?  The answer the music industry has come up with is convenience, quality and legal.

. . . .

I believe that what we are watching is Amazon rethinking the future of making money online. Kindle is only a transitional reading device.   It’s a stop along the way toward a multifunction tablet, which is, itself, a stop along the way toward a cloud based service — a service that stores book and music files remotely.

Some believe the Kindle advertising model, announced last month, is a first step toward  a freemium business model.  Marry the freemium model with a cloud based book service, and you have advertising supported books.  You won’t just being storing books that you purchased on Amazon’s server, but, reading advertising supported ones.  The latter bears some similarity to the way Dickens sold his novels — serially, in installments or parts over time.   The future of publishing is going to look more “tailored and personalized.”   Until the FTC clamps down on America’s patchwork quilt of pro-advertiser privacy laws, revenue will flow from targeted behavioral ads.

As an aside, a cloud based digital book service is a grand idea for readers as they can gain access to their files from wherever they are, and read those files on  multiple devices, e.g., smart phones, tablets, and their PC’s.

The ambiguous digital book future is getting clearer day-by-day. It’s not about ebook reading devices, it’s about monetizing ebook readers.  Amazon is poised and ready, as evidenced by their willingness to build a business by selling ebooks below what they paid for them.  Google is ready, too.   Free works for Amazon and Google.  It’s just bad for publishers.

The short- to mid-term changes in trade publishing are going to be dramatic.  The music industry were the first movers in the digital space.   Just as technology improved musician’s access to customers, it has decimated the music industry.

. . . .

At the recent “Rethink Music” conference in Boston, one industry leader said cloud services must get past next year.  He was optimistic about Amazon Cloud Drive and Spotify.  His prediction was that the world’s 160 million iTunes users will move to the cloud over the next five years.  Cloud services are on the cusp.   It’s seems like Amazon is looking to develop a successful business model based on access to content — not  ownership.   Streaming to one or multiple devices, the ability to sell ancillary services, and social networking features, make cloud based publishing a very exciting prospect.

The legal issues surround cloud and subscription services are plentiful.  They include antitrust concerns.  For example, there’s the controversial question of whether Amazon, Google and Apple (“AGA”) should own the content they distribute?   It is a good idea that they have a financial interest in the content they sell?   If prevented from doing so, perhaps, it would usher in a golden age of independent publishing.

Link to the rest at Lloyd J. Jassin

Opening Your Own Online Bookstore

28 September 2011

Some of you know this, but others don’t.

You can create your own online bookstore that is completely powered by Amazon. You can pick the books, the genres, etc.

Here is one example from something called the Independent Author Network.

Here is where Amazon will give you the tools to build your own. Free.

Here’s another example from a company that sells online software to help you set up a store. PG blogged about a third store many months ago, but he can’t find the post. There are many, many of these stores, some selling books, others selling all the other things Amazon offers.

Do you make money? Yes, you do. On every sale via the Amazon Associates program. (Unless you’re in a state that’s trying to make Amazon collect sales tax.)

So, if you ever thought you could do a better job than any bookstore at selecting books people will love, go ahead and set one up.

Even if you’re not hankering to become a bookstore manager, sign up for the Amazon Associates program anyway and build links to your own books on your own blog or website. When people click and buy, you’ll be paid a percentage of the sales price for your book and everything else they may buy on Amazon for an hour.

PG once figured out that Mrs. PG made more money from the Associates program than she did from traditional publisher royalties for every book she sold through her website.

You are in the running for the dumbest writer alive and should go work in McDonald’s to learn business

27 September 2011

One thing Passive Guy enjoys about Dean Wesley Smith is you always know where he stands:

Since I started yesterday with asking why anyone would let their agent be their publisher, I figured I might as well talk about the money for a moment. Because it is tight times in the agent business that is causing this shift to what I call “the publishing scam.”

Writers, as I said yesterday, as a class are the dumbest business people on the planet. With no group a close second. Even kids doing pretend businesses in middle grades are smarter. Not kidding.

My evidence?

1) Writers get excited about “getting an agent.” This “agent” is a total stranger who printed up a business card, said they were an agent, and that was it. Nothing more.  Not one ounce of training needed, not one test to take, and no idea of agency law.

2) Do writers do any background checks at all on this stranger with a business card? Nope? No criminal history, no financial report, nothing. The writers hire this employee without even asking for the agent’s Social Security Number. You can’t get a job at McDonald’s without filling out forms and going through a background check.

3) Writers give this perfect stranger with no training the right to get all their money from major publishing contracts, the right to get all the paperwork on that money as well before the writer sees anything. This money often totals into the hundreds of thousands per year. Often a lot more.

Yup, without a doubt, writers are the dumbest business people ever to come down the pike.

So, with no background checks, giving all your money to a stranger, giving that stranger all the paperwork that tracks that money, wouldn’t you just EXPECT that stranger to keep some of your money that should go to you???

Let me think… that wouldn’t even make a good plot on a bad sitcom.

Have your ever read a mystery novel???

Or read the financial page of a newspaper??

The answer is “Of course!!!”

Duh…

. . . .

1) Writers never check royalty statements and agents know this. And if you get a big pile of statements from your agent with just one check, it’s easy for the agent to just accidentally keep some. Only about one in a hundred writers will check the statements and plug them into an adding machine. Kris and I do, but most never do. For a few years early on we found problems in royalty statements not matching payments, then never again because the agents knew we checked. And which way did the problem always go? I’ll give you one guess.

2) Overseas sales. Getting a royalty statement from an overseas publisher through the overseas agent your agent uses (a person you don’t even know their name) and your agent is mostly impossible. Knowing there is money even due you is even more impossible in many cases. Only way is to be talking with your overseas publishers and have them send you direct statements when any money is due. Otherwise you will never know and the agents know this and can just keep your money. (Yes, early on Kris and I got ripped off by this one. And stopped another one from one of our old agents overseas agent just last year. Honest.)

Often a writer will be off-the-charts stupid and give their agent (the stranger) power of attorney over contracts for overseas publishers. Meaning the agent (stranger) can sign the contracts and you wouldn’t even know you had sold something. If you have been that stupid, just walk away from your computer. You are in the running for the dumbest writer alive and should go work in McDonald’s to learn business. And yes, there are bestsellers who have done this. Their agents are very rich for some reason.

. . . .

But now to my biggest worry at the moment. “The Agent Ponzi play.”

Remember, agents have no training and do not know agency law which requires by law for all clients money to be held by itself in secure accounts until paid to the client. Instead, book agents just mingle YOUR money in with all the other clients.

And out of that fund they take their payments, including their rent and employee and grocery money.

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

As Though I Had Written a Poem

27 September 2011

When I left, Merle was wearing a bungalow apron and rolling pie-crust. She came to the door wiping her hands on the apron and kissed me on the mouth and began to cry and ran back into the house, leaving the doorway empty until her mother came into the space with a broad homely smile on her face to watch me drive away.

I had a funny feeling as I saw the house disappear, as though I had written a poem and it was very good and I had lost it and would never remember it again.

Raymond Chandler, The High Window

Most — But Not All — Big Magazine Publishers Sign On for Amazon’s Tablet

27 September 2011

From a Wall Street Journal blog:

In 2010, magazine publishers got giddy about the prospects of selling their stuff on the iPad. This year’s version of the story: Lots of enthusiasm, tempered with a little bit of skepticism, over Amazon’s new tablet.

When Amazon unveils its new iPad-like device on Wednesday, it will have the backing of at least three of the big magazine publishers: Hearst, Conde Nast and Meredith all have deals to sell digital versions of their titles on the new device, according to industry sources.

The notable standout, for now, is Time Warner’s giant Time Inc., which has yet to come to terms with Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. A person familiar with negotiations suggests that a deal won’t get done in the next two days, either — “hopefully by the end of the year” was the guidance I got today.

. . . .

Industry sources say publishers have tailored some of their titles for the seven-inch tablet that Amazon plans to unveil on Wednesday, with the expectation that the company will roll out a bigger version that is closer in size to the iPad next year. Both tablets will use Google’s Android operating system.

The publishers who are on board with Amazon view their decision to link up as a no-brainer: They want more distribution channels for their stuff, not fewer. And they’ve been begging, unsuccessfully, for a credible competitor to the iPad since April 2010.

. . . .

“You’ve got beauty and design with Apple, which we love,” says a publisher who has an Amazon deal. “But with Amazon you have marketing, and ease of use. We’re very optimistic.”

Link to the rest at All Things D

A Twitter Warning – “When I Saw This About You”

27 September 2011

Passive Guy regularly receives direct Twitter messages like:

“When I saw this about you i could not stop laughing haha”

The Tweet is followed by a link. If you click the link, you’re taken to a location which asks you for your Twitter ID/Password. Here is a safe look at what such a page might look like.

All the variations of these are scams to hijack your Twitter account. PG mentions it because he received several Tweets that look like this from authors this morning – nobody PG knows, but their profiles look like they are legitimate authors whose Twitter accounts have been stolen.

It even happened to an Australian bank:

The Bank of Melbourne had a bit of a problem last week. Someone compromised their Twitter feed and sent Phishing messages to their followers, many of whom are customers. The malicious links however, sent via direct message to avoid notice, were nothing spectacular and easy to spot with a trained eye.

The problem was discovered last Wednesday. Customers and individuals who follow the Bank of Melbourne on Twitter were sent malicious links via direct message. The messages were the same, aside from variations within the URL, generated with Twitter’s http://t.co address shortener.

Link to the rest at The Tech Herald

The practical consequences for an author trying to improve his/her social media profile is a whole bunch of your Twitter followers may dump you if your account is being used in a scam.

How to Speak Publisher – D is for Day Job

27 September 2011

From Stroppy Author, a children’s writer in Cambridge (the original one in England, not the Johnny-come-lately in Massachusetts).

Passive Guy is sure most of you know what Stroppy means, but just in case: Easily offended or annoyed; ill-tempered or belligerent.

Many publishers assume writers have a so-called ‘day job’. It helps them excuse (to themselves) the pitiful  fees or advances they offer most writers; it’s all OK, writers are doing something else for money. ‘Don’t give up the day job!’ they say nervously, or with a laugh, when telling you the scandalously low offer. Now look here, publishers. Writing IS my day job. Just as editing is yours. That’s why you want to commission me – because I’m a professional. So cut this crap about a day job.

. . . .

There is something of a distinction to be made here between fiction and non-fiction writing, especially for children. It’s easy for the publisher to think to themselves, ‘Ah, she likes writing these stories, so she will want to do them anyway. Getting some money is a bonus.’ (Crap, by the way – you want it, you pay for it.) They are less likely to think someone might spend their leisure time writing trade books about earthquakes, or fast cars, or textbooks about bacteria. But publishers still don’t necessarily pay properly for these, especially the text book. After all, some text books are written by teachers, aren’t they? And teachers have a day job so they don’t need much money. Crap again – you want their time, you pay for it.

Some children’s non-fiction is written for a flat fee. The fee should obviously reflect the amount of time the writer is expected to put in. So if you are offered a fee of £1500 for 48 pages (which used to be typical, but it’s fallen over the last five years and you might be offered only £1200), you need to know how long you can afford to work for that money. We could get into lots of complicated stuff about finance here, but all I will say is that you must remember the £1500 is not your income but your turnover. It has to cover expenses such as computer costs and heating your house during the day while you work in it. It has to cover non-earning time such as the time you spend answering emails, chasing late payments and putting together proposals for books that are never sold to a publisher. So they’re not going to get three weeks, are they? This is when they might mention the ‘day job’. Hey, publishers: I will not work for virtually nothing so that your publishing company can make money on what they will otherwise claim is not a viable book. Is the editor working for less than the going rate? Or less than they were paid ten years ago? No. Are you paying less than the going rate for your electricity? No. What will happen if I go to Waitrose and ask if I can have my food for less this week because my overheads have risen? What do you think?

. . . .

Isn’t it rather odd that publishers consider the people who produce the main component of their product to be doing something else most of the time? Isn’t it rather dodgy to build a multi-million dollar industry on a bunch of people whose attention is usually somewhere else? And is there any other industry that is so dismissive of its suppliers?

Link to the rest at Stroppy Author’s guide to publishing via Elizabeth Spann Craig whose eyes are everywhere.

During the course of publishing The Passive Voice, PG has learned that stroppiness is a professional requirement for most romance writers. Now he learns that children’s writers must also be stroppy. Perhaps an author’s motto must be: Semper Stroppinius.

Reading this has definitely made PG stroppier, so he’s in perfect mood to review a book contract.

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