Monthly Archives: September 2011

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 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.

But Why Would You…Ever Hire Your Agent as Your Publisher?

27 September 2011

Dean Wesley Smith knows the answer to this question:

For any of you who missed my last post about agents, just remember I told you to wait two years before hiring any agent. Imagine last week when I did that post you had hired an agent at Trident Agency. Then you woke up this morning and realized that the Trident Agency had just this morning (Monday morning, September 26th, 2011) stepped over the ethical line and became a publisher.

Now Trident has never been known for ethical behavior in publishing, but they are large, which is why this is surprising.

My handy Oxford American Dictionary defines publisher as “A person or firm that issues copies of a book to the public.”

Yet Trident is claiming they will not be a publisher, even though they will, for their clients, both front list and backlist, issue books to the public by launching them on Kindle, B&N, Smashwords, and into print form. Also, they will handle all the money.

Not a publisher? Uhh, how stupid do they think writers are?

Actually, they think and know for a fact that as a class, writers are as stupid as it goes.

Which is why they can become a publisher, do all the things a publisher will do, exactly, and yet say to their writers, “Oh, we are not a publisher.”

And writers will believe them.

Why? Because, as a class, a writer can’t open the dictionary and look up the word. And then think.

So now writers will be hiring a stranger to sell their books to publishers, get all the money and the paperwork, and at the same time be hiring a stranger to publisher their book, get all the money and the paperwork.

So a writer has a book, gives the book to their agent to sell.

Agent has two options: 1) Agent can make 15% by selling book to Pocket Books. Or 2) agent firm can make 15% PLUS publishing fees by publishing it themselves and make a ton more money (and have more opportunity to keep some of the money that the author doesn’t pay attention to). Hmmmmmm……… Which way will the agent go????

Oh, yeah, to the money. Duh….

Link to the rest at Dean Wesley Smith

Amazon: Shoddy-On-Demand

27 September 2011

From the Publishers Weekly Blog:

Last week, I finally got around to ordering Nick Catalano’s biography of the great jazz trumpeter, Clifford Brown, which I had been meaning to read for several years. I checked with Amazon to find out its availability. Oxford published the book in hardcover in 2000, but the hardcover was out-of-print. I checked the nearby Strand Bookstore, and they had no copies; I checked at McNally Jackson in Prince Street on a stroll home from work, and they did not have the book either; so I decided to order the trade paperback version, published in 2001, from Amazon. It was still in print, for $16.95. I considered for a moment buying one of the many used copies offered on Amazon—both in hardcover and paper—with some priced as low as $2. But then decided, why not have a new book and support  a university press that had seen fit to keep an important book available.

I ordered the book on Monday, Sept. 19. I got an email two days later that it had shipped. On Saturday morning, Sept. 24, there it was in the distinctive Amazon box. I immediately set to reading. The book was smaller than I had expected, for a biography. The cover was a muted, two-color black-and-blue on white—cheap but perhaps tasteful for a book about a trailblazing musician who died tragically at age 25. The paper was a very bright white. And then I got to the photo section—a horror show: terribly greyed out, low-quality, perhaps galley quality (at best). They were like photocopies of photocopies of very old photographs. I thought—this must be a terrible production mistake. As I looked around in the book, I found 12 completely blank pages at the end, but for a bar code on the last page and the words “Made in the U.S.A. Lexington, KY, September 21, 2011.” That is, my book had been printed three days earlier.

Link to the rest, with photos, at Publishers Weekly

Mrs. PG’s experience with CreateSpace’s POD versions of her books is that the quality is better than some of the books her publishers released during the last few years. Paper quality is much nicer for one thing.

One point the blog post didn’t make completely clear – this isn’t an indie book nor is it an Amazon Publishing book. It’s published by Oxford University Press, USA. The shoddy book wasn’t Amazon’s fault, it was Oxford’s.

So, Passive Guy has a special offer for Oxford: Ordinarily, PG only designs POD books for Mrs. PG, but in honor of his ancestors who attended BraseNose College for a couple of hundred years before they hightailed it to the colonies, PG will design a POD version of one of your books that looks terrific.

PG was going to end by quoting some words from the BraseNose fight song, but he doesn’t think they have one.

This probably means that, instead of seeking religious freedom, PG’s ancestors really came to the colonies for the football.


Four years into the ebook revolution: things we know and things we don’t know

26 September 2011

Publishing veteran Mike Shatzkin talks about where we are in the disruption of traditional publishing:

As ebook sales in the US now appear to have reached the 20% of revenue threshold at some publishers already (so it is there or will be for everybody very soon), there are some things we can say we know about the shape of the future, but some very important other things that we don’t know yet.

We know that most people will adjust pretty readily to reading straight text narrative books on a screen rather than paper.

We know that parents will hand their iPad, iPhone, or Nook Color device to a kid so that they can enjoy children’s books on the device.

We don’t know whether adult illustrated book content will be equally well accepted by book consumers on devices, even though there are more and more devices capable of displaying pretty much what publishers deliver on a printed page.

We don’t know what parents will pay for a brief illustrated children’s book delivered for a device, but it appears it might be much less than they’re willing to pay for paper.

We know that consumers will pay paperback prices and more for plain vanilla ebooks, or “verbatim” ebooks.

. . . .

We know that ebook uptake, as measured in sales or their percentage of publishers’ revenues, has doubled or more than doubled every year since 2007.

We know that rate of growth is mathematically prevented from continuing for even three more years (because it would put ebooks at 160% of publishers’ revenues if it did!)

We know from announcements about new devices and a recent Harris poll predicting increased device purchasing that there are no expectations for a slowdown in ebook adoption anytime soon.

We don’t know if we’re going to find a barrier of resistance, or perhaps we should call it the barrier of “paper-insistence”, at some sales level over the next two years (at the end of which ebooks would be 80% of publishers’ revenues at the growth rates we’ve seen over the past four years).

. . . .

We don’t know what the loss of brick store merchandising will mean to the ability of publishers and authors to introduce new talent to readers, or even just to introduce a new work by established talent.

We don’t know if improved book discovery and merchandising is amenable to the application of “scale” by publishers outside of vertical niches, be they topics or genres.

We know that agents and authors will accept an ebook royalty of 25% of net receipts in today’s environment, where 70% or more of the sales are still made in print.

We don’t know if the threat of the alternative publishing options will force that royalty rate up if sales fall below 50% print or 30% print.

We don’t know if sales falling below 50% print or 30% print is several years away or much less.

. . . .

We know that content-creating brands that are not book publishers are using the relative ease of publication of ebooks to deliver their own content to the ebook marketplace.

We don’t know if book publishers will develop an ebook publishing expertise that will make them able to persuade those brands in time to go through them, the way they have in the print book world, rather than disintermediating them.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Yet Another Agent Becomes a Publisher Without Becoming a Publisher

26 September 2011

From The Bookseller:

Trident Media Group, a New York-based literary agency, has launched Trident E-Book Operations, which will create, manage and implement e-book strategies for its authors.

The scheme will offer services including digital conversion, digital jacket design, marketing and social media consultation. The type of books to be made available will include out-of-print, backlist, frontlist and original titles as well as special short-form non-fiction and fiction works, enhanced e-books and print-on-demand options. The scheme could also set up relationships with both traditional and non-traditional publishers once an author’s books have been released digitally through Operations.

. . . .

“Trident will not become a publisher, but will instead continue in its e-book operations to have itself aligned with its clients whose interests we serve as an agent and manager.”

Speaking to The Bookseller, Gottleib said the service will be offered to all Trident’s clients. He said: “As agents, our clients are always in control of their properties. We are very good at holding back rights and managing our clients’ work. It is a whole new solar system we are entering into here . . .

“We are not a publisher. Publishers can’t offer a contact for every book, we are in a position to make sure their books are available. There are opportunities and we are positioning ourselves at Trident to make the most of the opportunities. It is bringing authors into the marketplace and re-engineering the situation.”

UK agent Ed Victor, who launched his own e-book and print-on-demand venture, Bedford Square Books, in May this year, questioned why Gottlieb had said Trident was not becoming a publisher. He said: “Why don’t you just call a spade a spade? It’s like a girl saying she’s ‘slightly pregnant’.”

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

UPDATE: Here’s what Trident Media CEO Robert Gottlieb said about agents as publishers two months before the announcement.


Down These Mean Streets

26 September 2011

Down these mean streets a man must go who is not himself mean, who is neither tarnished nor afraid. The detective must be a complete man and a common man and yet an unusual man. He must be, to use a rather weathered phrase, a man of honor.

Raymond Chandler, The Simple Art of Murder

The Blog Ate My Book

26 September 2011

Don’t say historical fiction author Sophie Perinot didn’t warn you:

Once upon a time it would have been, “The dog ate my homework.” But today when something goes missing (or misses a deadline) the culprit is more likely sitting on an author’s desk (NO, not the cat) and the only growling it makes is the hum of that little fan inside that keeps it from overheating. The culprit is the computer, or more precisely the many things—facebook, twitter, blogging, games—we can do with it other than write our novels.

In this age of digital distractions it might seem sensible for a writer—especially one working on a draft that really should be further along—to “log out” completely for days or even weeks. Assuming for a moment that a writer had the self-discipline to do that (I am not certain I do), it may not be as prudent as it sounds at first blush.

Long absences from the virtual world are not in an author’s best interest. Being an active member of the on-line world is an enormous part of what generates buzz for books and recognition for their authors these days. It is hard to imagine a book or a writer being successful without being a genuine and active part of several social media and/or on-line writing communities.

So where do we draw the line? How do we stay “connected” but still manage the most important task facing us—producing polished and marketable manuscripts? If there were an easy answer I’d bottle it and sell it. The situation demands a balancing act worthy of a high-wire artist and I am currently perilously close to losing my footing and falling into the net (dear GOD I hope there is a net down there—I don’t see one).

. . . .

After I signed my book deal I started blogging here. Next came my personal blog. I like blogging because basically, I am VERY opinionated (something tells me you are NOT surprised). I also love reading dozens of writing-related blogs. They’ve taught me much of what I know about this business so I know blogs serve a valuable purpose. But blogging takes an enormous amount of time compared to most on-line community participation. A tweet is a quip; a facebook post can be a couple of sentences or a useful link. A blog requires topic selection, thoughtful analysis and a couple of hundred solid words in support of your argument.

So if blogging is such a huge time-suck, why do we do it?

I know why I started—conventional wisdom (and some publishers) says that a writer HAS to blog. It’s considered part of self-marketing and builds audience (aka sales).

I am beginning to consider this assertion more critically. Is it possible (*gasp*) that the amount of time writers lose to blogging is not counterbalanced by the number of new readers that our blogs deliver to us?

. . . .

Me, I know something’s got to give in the next weeks and months if I want to finish this manuscript on deadline (and I have never missed a deadline in my life). I am not certain that “something” is blogging but I have my priorities—I am not going to let my blog eat my book. The book is my job. The blog may or may not be an effective part of developing an audience for my books. I am not certain. But there is one thing I AM certain of—no new book, no audience needed.

Link to the rest at From the Write Angle

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