Monthly Archives: November 2011

Lawyers enjoy a little mystery

23 November 2011

Lawyers enjoy a little mystery, you know. Why, if everybody came forward and told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth straight out, we should all retire to the workhouse.

Dorothy L. Sayers

Penguin eBook titles for lending to Kindle restored

23 November 2011

From the Overdrive Digital Library Blog:

‘Get for Kindle’ for all Penguin eBooks in your catalog has been restored as of this morning. Penguin titles are available for check out by Kindle users and the Kindle format will be available for patrons who are currently on a waiting list for a Penguin title. This does not affect new releases, which remain unavailable.

We apologize for the inconvenience this caused for your library and patrons.

At this time, no further information is available. We hope to share more details in the near future.

Link to the rest at Overdrive Digital Library Blog

Italian Dreaming

23 November 2011

It’s becoming gray and cold.

When Passive Guy was reading a review of Rome: A Cultural, Visual, and Personal History recently, he started thinking about Italy. He knows it can be gray and cold in parts of Italy, but it never feels that way.

Since he can’t travel to Italy, he can look at pictures.

Lucca is an ancient (founded by the Etruscans in 1 zillion BC) walled city in Tuscany, not far from Florence. For centuries, it was a center of the silk trade. (PG has a very nice tie he bought there.)

More recently, Lucca is famous as the birthplace of Italian composer, Giacomo Puccini. (La Bohème, Tosca, Madame Butterfly, etc.) You can visit the graceful old church where Puccini was baptized, visit another lovely old church where Puccini said he was “baptized into music,” and see a statue of the Maestro sitting in a chair, looking very relaxed.

In yet another ancient church, Italians sing Puccini arias every night, voices reverberating through the high stone spaces.

Medieval cities are not very conducive to automobiles. While a few cars make it past the walls, Lucca is mostly a walking and bicycling city. You can rent bicycles and ride around the city on top of the old wall.

PG took a photo of a typical Lucca street scene in the late afternoon, not far from the square where Puccini’s statue resides. If gray days are making you think of brighter places, you may like it.



Crossover Appeal

23 November 2011

For Passive Guy, BookRiot is one of the more innovative blogs about books. Today, BookRiot continues a series on Crossover Appeal.

Here’s the premise:

Crossover Appeal is a weekly feature that challenges the idea that you have to choose a side between YA and adult fiction. Each week we’ll feature a book that has been marketed as YA and a book that has been marketed as adult and tell you why everyone should be reading them, no matter what happens to be your comfort zone.

This week’s two books are If I Stay and Where She Went by Gayle Forman and Salvage the Bones by Jesmyn Ward.

Link to the rationale at BookRiot

Releasing a Novel in the Digital Age

23 November 2011

From Dave Farland:

In an ideal world, when an author finishes a novel, it would attract a lot of attention. He’d take the manuscript out on his doorstep and hold it aloft, gathering admiring crowds. He’d speak the novel’s name, and teenage girls would swoon, the way that they did when the Beatles first sang on the Ed Sullivan show in 1964. Better yet, older women would throw off their clothes and then swoon, as they used to do at Edgar Allen Poe’s poetry readings. Cameras would flash and sizzle. People would chant and shout your name!

Of course, that doesn’t happen. Most new authors don’t make a splash. They can’t. Following are just some of the obstacles I see stacked against any new or rising author these days.

In many ways, the bestseller lists are manipulated. The easiest way to get high on the list is by getting your books noticed—getting them put at the front of the store in large retail chains. But that space is sold to publishers through various cooperative advertising programs. In short, you can’t get in that space. Someone else is paying for it. Even if you had the money to buy it, you couldn’t. The stores want to sell it to regular customers, not some newcomer.

There are other ways that lists get manipulated. With self-help books, for example, authors hire sales reps to sell books to large corporate accounts at a steep discount. If they can make a few thousand sales per week, it allows them to rack up numbers and keep the books high on the lists. Take a look at any bestselling book that has been on the list for a year, and you know what they’re doing.

I’ve talked recently about how publishers manipulate lists. They’ll back their own bestselling authors time after time, and will even sabotage the covers of their own lesser-known authors in order to maintain the status of their A-list authors. In other words, you can’t move up on the bestseller list with your big publisher because they’re pushing your competition.

. . . .

So the bestseller lists tend to be dominated year after year by the same old people. It’s business as usual.

The authors who do climb up the list generally have to claw their way up on their own strength.

So what does that have to do with releasing a novel today, when we’re going digital?

Well, in some ways the playing field seems leveler. Anyone can publish. You can get better covers than ever before, put your books out on your own schedule, and even try to get better quotes than you’ve had in the past. Yet even now, most of the bestselling digital novels are coming out from the major publishers.

There are good reasons for this. A novel that is getting a lot of promotion in hardcover just has more credibility with readers. Such novels usually have well-established audiences and a lot of hype behind them. The big publishers have access to big reviewers who won’t even look at your work. Potential readers for e-books often pick their books simply by looking at bestseller lists and buying there—thus maintaining the status quo.

And once a novel hits the bestseller list, the other novels floating around in cyberspace don’t seem to exist. The buyers don’t even see them. Many of the main reviewing organizations won’t read e-books and review them, or if they do, they charge extra fees to the new author. In other words, you can’t get much traction with advertising.

In cyberspace, no one can hear you scream!

. . . .

Now, I should point out that to me, [my latest novel] Nightingale is a special novel. It’s one that I believe has huge potential. Back in 2002, one of my writing students asked me what it would take to become the “bestselling YA fantasy writer of all time.” I made some suggestions, and realized then that I knew how to do it. She went ahead and wrote her first novel incorporating most of those suggestions, and actually made it! (Hint: she has a movie releasing this week. Something about How to Break Dawn, or something or other.)

With Nightingale, I followed my own best advice on how to write a big teen novel for a wide audience.

It tells the story of a young man named Bron Jones, who is abandoned at birth. Raised in foster care, he’s kicked from home to home. At age 16, he’s kind of the ultimate loner, until he’s sent to a new foster home and meets Olivia, a marvelous teacher. She recognizes that Bron is something special, something that her people call a “Nightingale,” a creature that is not quite human.

Suddenly epic forces combine to claim Bron, and he must fight to keep from getting ripped away from the only home, family, and girlfriend that he has ever known. He must risk his life, and the lives of everyone he cares about, to learn the answers to the mystery of his birth: “What am I? Where did I come from?”

As you can see, there are no vampires or werewolves in my story. There is wonder, horror, mystery, adventure and romance aplenty, though.

I want it to do well. So my first piece of advice is this: write the best novel that you know how. With Nightingale I got my big agent on the second draft, but I wrote eight more drafts before I felt that it was ready to show to the public.

Try to write a big novel. I’m seeing professional authors talk about how great it is to write “little novels” and release them. A little novel is one that doesn’t have a wide audience appeal. Sure, if you’ve got an established fan base it might work okay, but writing a little novel doesn’t make a lot of sense. Give your readers your best work.

. . . .

But making a good book requires more than just designing the products, you also have to market them.

That’s tricky. Here are some things that you have to do.

1) Put up a web site.

Big deal. Putting up a web site is a must, but it’s only a small part of the puzzle. No one will come, because they don’t know that it’s there. They don’t know where to look. So you have to figure out how to point people to your web site. You have to advertise.

2) Try social marketing.

You can advertise on Facebook or Google + or Twitter, or similar sites, and let your friends know about your book. You can go even further with paid ads, but that can be expensive. So for the moment, I’ve just put up info for my friends to peruse.

3) Blog.

You can also advertise by writing articles. I’ve now got about 40 blogs that I’ve written posts for, and I think that that will be a continuous effort. We’ve got another 40 bloggers who will be posting notices to their readers. (If you’re willing to post a notice or an article, email me at

4) Write for newspapers, magazines, and news sites.

I got a subscription to PRWeb. I will soon be sending out articles to various news agencies and blogs, hopefully expanding my reach.

5) Paying for advertising.

I’m trying out Kidsbuzz, a service that links authors to librarians, book groups, and readers around the country. I will most likely try some paid ads, on Facebook, too. Here’s the truth: no one will advertise your work for free. Even on the internet, places like Facebook and Google make money by advertising. So you need to advertise.

6) Entice readers with gifts.

I’m setting up a few giveaways. Authors usually try using books, but there are other things that you can do. I have a big short story writing contest that pays $1000. I’m hoping that that will lead people to my site. I also am going to have people do “video blurbs,” so that visitors to my site can see real readers give their responses. In order to jump-start that, I’m putting up $500 for the reader whose “blurb” most impresses the viewers. I’m hoping that teens will review the book, tell their friends that they’re up on my site, and that will bring more viewers.

7) Get your book reviewed.

Getting cover quotes from professional authors and reviewers can be helpful. I got a nice cover quote from James Dashner, New York Times Bestselling Author of The Maze Runner. He called Nightingale a “Thrilling ride, packed with twists, action, and amazing characters. . . . Highly recommended.” Other reviewers are giving it exceptional praise, too. Our first reviewer of the enhanced novel said that she couldn’t believe how engrossing it was and “words failed to describe how good it is.”

However, many of the bigger reviewers, like Publisher’s Weekly, won’t look at the hardcover until it’s in print. We didn’t have the six-months of lead time that I would have liked to get pre-publicity. Still, those will come.

8 ) Catch people’s eye.

Putting up book trailers is helpful. We’ve got one up on our website and on YouTube. I think we might be doing some tweaking on it, though, and then we’ll send a link to it on PRWeb. We’re hoping that that way, we’ll get a bit more attention.

9) The best advertisement, at the end of the day, is still word-of-mouth.

Eventually, every author faces the same problem. I don’t have an unlimited supply of money to spend promoting this book. Right now, I’ve already put over $10,000 into this. For an honest shot at the bestseller list, I’d need closer to half a million. Still, I know that it can be done on a shoestring. I don’t know what Amanda Hocking spent to get on the lists, but it wasn’t a lot.

Link to the rest at David Farland

Passive Guy is not a book blogger and almost never promotes specific books, but he’s going to make an exception for Dave Farland.

Dave is enormously generous with his time and advice. He’s a terrific teacher and many people learned how to write fiction for a living from him. As Dave mentioned in his post, Stephenie Meyer is a former student. So is Brandon Sanderson, whose Mistborn trilogy is one of the best fantasy series PG has read in a long time. However, there are many more who are not that famous yet, but who manage to support themselves writing because of the principles Dave taught them.

So, PG says, buy Nightingale on Kindle or Nook. It was released on October 31 on Kindle and it sounds like print versions will be forthcoming shortly. Or email Dave at if you’re willing to post a notice or article for him.

Why Might A Publisher Pull Its E-Books From Libraries?

23 November 2011

From Paid Content:

Following yesterday’s news that Penguin, citing security concerns, is pulling its new e-books from libraries—and making none of them available for library lending through Kindle—many are wondering why the publisher would do such a thing. (Penguin and Random House had been the only two “big six” publishers to offer unfettered access to e-books through libraries; now Random House is alone in doing so.)

Here are some possible reasons, none of which are “Penguin is stupid and is trying to make itself obsolete”—but all of which are a response to high demand for e-books in libraries, and I might argue that attempts to curtail or impede that demand are, at a minimum, counterproductive.

Penguin is mad about Amazon’s deal with OverDrive and is retaliating. If you have a Kindle and have checked out a library book on it, you will notice that clicking “Get for Kindle” sends you to straight to Amazon’s website instead of having you check out the book from within the library’s site.

. . . .

I have to be logged into my Amazon account to get the book. Publishers Lunch notes, “Though OverDrive had promised in April that patrons’ ‘confidential information will be protected,’ in implementation their program is an engine for turning library users into Amazon customers.” (Publishers Lunch also notes that, since libraries had already bought the e-books from Penguin, it’s surprising that Penguin is simply allowed to withdraw access to them.)

And a lot of people are checking out library books through Kindle. The NYPL’s Christopher Platt recently told Publishing Trends that since Kindle added library lending, “Our average new patron registrations have more than doubled from 80 a day to 172 a day. Average daily e-book checkouts increased from 1,161 to 1,511 [23.2%]. Kindle downloads account for 33% of that use” (Kimberly Lew, Publishing Trends, November 2011).

. . . .

Penguin thinks people are checking out e-books from non-local libraries: I currently hold four different library cards: One for the New York Public Library (I currently live in Manhattan), one for the Brooklyn Public Library (I used to live in Brooklyn), one for the public library in the city where I went to college, and one for the public library in the town where I grew up. As far as I know, all of these cards are still active and I could use them to check out e-books from any of the libraries, even though I do not live in four places. Steve Potash, the CEO of OverDrive—the leading distributor of e-books to libraries, and the company that Penguin is contracted with—acknowledged in a letter (PDF) to the company’s library partners earlier this year that some publishers (not just Penguin!) are worried about library patrons gaming territorial restrictions:

…[O]ur publishing partners have expressed concerns regarding the card issuance policies and qualification of patrons who have access to OverDrive supplied digital content.  Addressing these concerns will require OverDrive and our library partners to cooperate to honor geographic and territorial rights for digital book lending, as well as to review and audit policies regarding an eBook borrower’s relationship to the library (i.e. customer lives, works, attends school in service area, etc.). I can assure you OverDrive is not interested in managing or having any say in your library policies and issues. Select publisher terms and conditions require us to work toward their comfort that the library eBook lending is in compliance with publisher requirements on these topics.

Link to the rest at Paid Content

Amazon Kindles ‘damaged by airport scanners’

22 November 2011

As an intro to this, Kindles (and Nooks with the same type of screen) are used so commonly on airplanes with no reports of problems, it’s difficult for Passive Guy to believe this story highlights a common issue. Note that Amazon replaces damaged Kindles.

From The Telegraph:

Multiple complaints from users that their Kindle was ruined by a baggage check prompted claims that radiation permanently affected the device’s electronic ink display.

“After my Kindle went through the X-ray scanner at Madrid airport, it no longer worked. I had been reading an e-book on the way to the airport so I knew there could be no other reason,” said Michael Hart, from London.

“A phone call was made and someone came along and took photographs of the bad display. It’s my belief that the scanner operator – who subsequently questioned me about a radio in my bag – had used a high dose to look into the radio, and the Kindle, too.”

According to a leading expert on electronic ink, the truth could be more complicated.

“I don’t think the radiation used in an airport scanner would ever be strong enough to damage an electronic ink display,” said Professor Daping Chu, Chairman of the University of Cambridge centre for Advanced Photonics.

“But you can get a build up of static inside these machines, caused by the rubber belt rubbing. If that charge were to pass through a Kindle, it’s conceivable that it could damage the screen.”

. . . .

“Exposing your Kindle to an X-ray machine, such as those used by airport security, should not cause and problems with it,” a spokesman for the internet giant said.

“Many Kindle users travel by air, and their Kindles are screened by airport security every day without issue.”

According to users, the firm has replaced Kindles that stopped working after passing through an airport scanner.

A long time ago when portable computers became regular traveling companions, PG remembers hearing stories about x-ray machines causing problems with computers, but that turned out to be urban legend or random breakdowns that happened to occur on airplanes or in airports. (If enough monkeys type on enough computers on enough airplanes, one of them will write a Shakespeare play then spill Coke on the keyboard and lose everything.)

Link to the rest at The Telegraph

His Money to Work for Him

22 November 2011
Comments Off on His Money to Work for Him

Every time a man expects, as he says, his money to work for him, he is expecting other people to work for him.

Dorothy L. Sayers


What I learnt while digitising our list

22 November 2011

From Vicky Hartley, Head of Marketing and Digital Development for Duncan Baird Publishers, writing in Future eBook:

Maybe you will think I am naive, or just hopefully optimistic, but when I took on the challenge of heading up the digital development of DBP I thought that we could have our entire monochrome backlist converted into ebooks and on sale within 6 months.

. . . .

To start with the logistics of publishing an ebook are not filled with the most efficient processes, there are different formats, each with their own limitations and eccentricities, there are lots of retailers out there with their own requirements for metadata and even bookdata have their own specifications on filling out a bibliographic entry, it really isn’t enough to say it’s an ebook in the format field.

Then there are the internal difficulties, someone needs to gather the files (making sure for backlist titles they are the most up-to-date version), then you need to assign isbns for each type of eBook, and then you need to check that any images you bought for the jacket have been cleared for digital editions (and create a new jacket if it hasn’t) – all this before you even begin the conversion process.

When it comes to the actual conversion I honestly thought that if you sent someone the inDesign or PDF of the book then the eBook you got back would be relatively clean, but sadly that’s rarely the case so you need internal resources to check the eBook thoroughly (if you want to produce good eBooks).

. . . .

So you add extra into your production budget for the checking of the files and a extra couple of weeks to the schedule but once you have the books it’s all plain sailing right? Well then you have to upload your books to the retailers and each has there own special way of doing that, from submitting the files named a certain way and including an excel grid of their required metadata to filling in an online form and finding the file on your computer. This also sounds pretty easy but when you are uploading 30+ books in one go it can get a little frustrating.

. . . .

So to all you other small independent publishers looking to go digital what I learnt is that to plan how to get your ebooks from print edition to eRetailer you have to consider every single aspect, that you need to spend a lot of time creating metadata (and there is lots of it if you want to sell off all the major retailer websites).

Link to the rest at Future eBook

US Bookseller Experiments With Online Handselling, Subscription Model

22 November 2011

From Publishing Perspectives:

The “bookstore business” is a pretty loaded term nowadays. It’s downright Darwinian, with the embattled species of “brick and mortar” shops clinging to survival by jumping the tracks from Main Street to bandwidth. How long was it going to take for someone to figure out how to toe the line in the middle ground? Longtime bookseller Roxanne Coady, owner of R. J. Julia Booksellers in Madison, Connecticut, has done just that with her new website, Just the Right,  a subscription model that aims to wed excellent human-to-human customer service with the convenience of online shopping.

This is how it works: Readers take a quiz on the website which will determine their reading “mood.” The questions are very tame and direct: “On vacation would you rather sit on a beach or be taken on a tour by the locals?” Or, “Would you rather read Jodi Picoult or Gabriel Garcia Marquez?” The answers are studied by the staff of R. J. Julia Booksellers, who in turn, select a book for a reader. But this is not a one-off transaction. Instead, it’s the basis for a subscription, available on a monthly, bimonthly or quarterly basis and priced according to the format of book you want — hardcover, paperback or mixed. A monthly hardcover subscription will run you $385.00 per year; the cheapest option, a quarterly mixed subscription goes for just $85.

. . . .

Next, Coady decided to test the monetary value of what she knows her staff does best: choosing books for individual customers. How much might that service be worth? A personalized book-selection service run online is a great big idea, but with a  great big problem attached to it. What, for example, would stop online visitors from taking the quiz, getting a thoughtful book recommendation, and then moving their sale along to the lowest–cost provider? That’s something that she’s still trying to figure out.

While Just The Right Book is currently 2,000 subscribers strong, the numbers show that in the last two months alone 15,000 website visitors have taken the quizzes. The discrepancy between the number of subscribers to quiz takers might be alarming, but for the following encouraging fact: a survey revealed  that 50% of the quiz takers were prompted to acquire that book in some way — just not through them. For Coady, this drove home the belief that their book selection service is indeed a valuable one, but that other business models based on the fact need to be tested out. “Maybe we become a book selection service that people will pay $1 a month for, or $5 a month for, rather than the place where people purchase the book?”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

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