Monthly Archives: January 2012

Bees will definately roi

29 January 2012

The latest prose from the spam bucket:

If you have a bee hive in home, the walls of your spot, or some other bout of a meaningful property, the most important therapy is often to please take a bee eliminating services accomplish to shed pounds named as resolution and so firewall removers.

May well terminate the bee hive and remove several honeycomb in order to reduce the potential risks in bees will definately roi or maybe because further invasion for being fascinated with the odor of the departed from hive.

Five Ways Twitter Is Changing Media Law

29 January 2012

From Paid Content:

Why does Twitter get involved in so many interesting lawsuits? In its short life, the company has kicked up legal hornet nests involving everything from stalking to satire.

While technology companies always outgrow the laws that govern them, Twitter’s 140-character message system is proving to be particularly disruptive. At the same time, the microblog has been more aggressive in defending free speech than established companies like Facebook and Google.

. . . .

The Phone Dog Case: Twitter and Company Property

Last year, a blog called Phone Dog sued one of its former journalists, Noah Kravitz, who took his 17,000+ Twitter followers with him when he walked out the door. Phone Dog says the journalist obtained the followers only because he worked there. It added the followers were a company trade secret worth $2.50 a piece.

The court case is caught up in procedural snarls but has in the meantime gone viral as a social media parable. For now, the law is unclear about who should get the Twitter spoils in a digital divorce between a company and its employees.

The Phone Dog case will surely lead other companies to amend their employment contracts. As for the parties, Kravitz is enjoying his day in the sun and Phone Dog, which tell its side of the storyhere, appears to be doing just fine without him.

. . . .

The Tony La Russa Case: Twitter and Trademark

In 2009, the St. Louis Cardinals manager sued Twitter after a fake Tony La Russa account spat out tasteless tweets about dead pitchers and his DUI arrest.

The baseball manager, likely realizing he would strike out, quietly ended the case soon after. But the La Russa case became the first in a series of cases in which brand owners have tried to use trademark law to shut up Twitter users.

“Life settlement” agency Coventry First, for instance, sued to grab a Twitter account that was sending satiric messages about its ghoulish life insurance policies. Other big companies like BP appear to have decided its better to quietly tolerate fake accounts like @BPGlobalPr which continues to emit hilarious comments on BP’s efforts in the gulf (sample tweet: “Please, write your representatives and tell them you’ve forgotten about the Gulf of Mexico.”)

These type of trademark claims have since led Twitter to develop new ways to protect parody, in particular with its check mark system to authenticate famous people (but the system is not perfect as the wife of news baron Rupert Murdoch can attest).

Link to the rest at Paid Content

Don’t Let Aunt Edna Write Your Book Description

29 January 2012

From JW Manus:

When Aunt Edna is telling a story, I have to make sure the guns are safely locked away.

Aunt Edna: Did you hear about the Smith’s dog?

Me: Who are the Smiths?

AE: Remember that nice couple who lived on Oak Drive? The blue house. Awful color, looked like one of those toilet bowl cakes. I thought about leaving them a note. A nice note, not mean or anything, just a hint that paint is cheap and I’m sure the neighbors would be more than happy to help paint the house on a weekend.

Me: Huh? What does this have to do with a dog?

AE: They painted the house when they moved in–

. . . .

Bless her soul, Aunt Edna is not trying to drive people crazy. It’s that she has a story to tell, and it excites her and she wants other people to understand how exciting it is, so she needs to explain all the backstory and who the characters are and, of course, every story relates to another, so Uncle Henry’s hearing problems are important, too.

It’s those Aunt Edna-ish impulses that give many writers fits when they try to write book descriptions. They love their book, they’re excited, they want others excited, too, but they know too much and they’re emotionally involved. Browsers on Amazon or B&N won’t look for the key to the gun safe, they’ll just click the “next” button.

Copy writers who create blurbs and book descriptions for publishers tend to work off synopses, rather than the read the books. Why? It’s not their job to love the book or get involved or excited about the story. Their job is to entice readers into buying the book. A synopsis hits the high points of character and plot, providing all the information the copy writer needs with none of the emotional investment.

. . . .

Study. Go through your shelves or head to the bookstore or browse Amazon for descriptions written by pros. Find mass market paperback novels that are similar in genre and tone to your novel. After you read about ten or twenty, you will discover there is a formula. Copy writers use that formula because it works.

. . . .

Know your audience. Do a little market research. Hop over to Amazon or GoodReads, find the ten most popular novels that are similar in genre and tone to yours. Read the reviews and look for buzzwords. If for instance you wrote a fantasy novel, look for whatever readers are mentioning. The characters? The setting? Use of magic? Dragons? Tricky plots? Battle scenes? What are readers getting excited about? Seriously, make a list of the buzzwords. Readers who liked those popular titles will be looking for similar titles to enjoy. To help them find yours, focus your book description on what the readers are actually looking for.

. . . .

Think brief. You have seconds to catch browser attention with your cover. A few seconds more to intrigue with your first sentence or two. A reader will then decide if they want to read more. So you have to lead with your very best. Don’t blow it by presenting a mass of text. Blurbs on the backs of mass market paperbacks tend to run between 100-250 words. Usually closer to a hundred.

Link to the rest at JW Manus and thanks to Eric for the tip.

Amazon’s Hit Man

28 January 2012

A long profile from Business Week:

In November 1997, on a night of pounding rain in midtown Manhattan, Rupert Murdoch threw a party for Jane Friedman, the new chief executive officer of News Corp.’s HarperCollins book division. The luminaries of the publishing business, such as Random House’s then-CEO Alberto Vitale and literary agent Lynn Nesbit, crowded into the Monkey Bar on 54th Street, with its red-leather booths and hand-painted murals of gamboling chimps. Trudging six blocks through the downpour from the Time & Life Building, Laurence J. Kirshbaum, then the powerful head of Time Warner Book Group, brought a guest: a young online bookseller named Jeffrey P. Bezos, whose ambitions would eventually end up affecting the lives of everybody at the party. “It was one of those moments in your life where you remember everything,” Kirshbaum says. “In fact, I think Bezos still owes me an umbrella.”

How times have changed. Physical book sales have been flat for a decade and are starting to get eclipsed by e-books. Friedman left News Corp. in 2008. And Jeff Bezos, who once courted the publishing aristocracy of New York, now competes against them. Last May, Amazon hired Kirshbaum, 67, to run Amazon Publishing, a fledgling New York-based imprint whose lofty goal is to publish bestselling books by big-name authors—the bread and butter of New York’s book industry. In the high-rise offices of the big publishers, with their crowded bookshelves and resplendent views, the reaction to Amazon’s move is analogous to the screech of a small woodland creature being pursued by a jungle predator.

. . . .

[Publishers are] trying to protect a century-old business model—and their role as nurturers of literary culture—from encroachment by a company that consistently reimagines how industries can be run more efficiently. Book publishing, an inefficient industry if there ever was one, seems ripe for reimagining. According to a recent report by the Association of American Publishers, sales of adult paperbacks and hardcovers fell 18 percent between 2010 and 2011. Store chains such as Borders have been cartwheeling into bankruptcy, and independent shops are struggling to compete with the advantages enjoyed by online retailers, such as their freedom from collecting sales tax in many states. The lone bright spot is the rising sales of electronic books, but even that landscape is blighted: Fierce warfare for control of the new market, between, Apple, Google, and Barnes & Noble, threatens to turn minor combatants into accidental casualties.

And now this. Amazon could be an unstoppable competitor to big publishing houses. If history is any guide, Bezos, who declined to comment for this story, doesn’t care whether he loses money on books for the larger cause of stocking the Kindle with exclusive content unavailable in Barnes & Noble’s Nook or Apple’s iBookstores. He’s also got almost infinitely deep pockets for spending on advances to top authors. Even more awkwardly for publishers, Amazon is their largest retailer, so they are now in the position of having to compete against an important business partner. On the West Coast people cheerfully call this kind of arrangement coopetition. On the East Coast it’s usually referred to as getting stabbed in the back.

. . . .

In the middle of this stew of rancor and mistrust sits Kirshbaum. He was once the ultimate book industry insider, widely known and almost universally liked. He has a well-honed instinct for big, mass-culture books and was thinking about e-books—and losing money on them—long before almost anyone else in the industry. Many of his former peers now consider Kirshbaum a turncoat. In interviews, more than a dozen publishing executives said he had gone over to the dark side; some said they’d conveyed that sentiment to Kirshbaum directly. (None of the executives would speak on the record because Amazon is still a vitally important retail partner.) “I have a message I really believe in,” Kirshbaum says. “Which is that we’re trying to innovate in ways that can help everybody. We are trying to create a tide that will lift all boats.”

. . . .

Bezos got on stage at the W New York hotel in Union Square in November 2007, and as part of the unveiling of the Kindle, proclaimed that he would sell New York Times bestsellers for $9.99.

Publishers were shocked, according to interviews with several industry executives. Amid all the collaborative preparations, they say, Amazon hadn’t divulged anything about its aggressive pricing plans. The worries escalated as Bezos appeared on talk shows, making promises to consumers to expect sub-$10 prices for popular digital books. Amazon itself was subsidizing the low prices and losing money on most of these titles, but publishers still had reason to be alarmed. Such a low price could set a new expectation in readers’ minds about how much books are worth and put enormous pressure on traditional brick-and-mortar booksellers selling print books at considerably higher prices.

. . . .

In early 2010, a few weeks before Steve Jobs introduced the iPad, publishers met with Apple to hammer out prices for books on the forthcoming tablet. Publishers were happy to see the Kindle get some competition, and Apple needed happy publishers willing to sell their titles on the iPad. So Apple agreed to let the publishers set the prices for their e-books. The publishers decided they wanted the same arrangement—known in the business as “agency pricing”—with Amazon.

John Sargent, the plain-spoken chief executive of Macmillan Publishing, was the first to get on a plane to Seattle to inform Amazon of the decision and to threaten to withhold Macmillan’s books if Amazon did not agree to the new pricing model. Bezos and his colleagues reacted angrily by removing options to buy Macmillan’s books directly from Amazon. Amazon eventually relented, and e-book prices on bestsellers jumped from $9.99 to $12.99 or higher. (The publishers’ move has triggered ongoing antitrust investigations in Europe and Washington, D.C., over whether book publishers and Apple illegally colluded to raise e-book prices.)

. . . .

[A]n Amazon recruiter sent an e-mail to several editors at big publishing houses, looking for someone to launch a new New York-based publishing imprint. “The imprint will be supported with a large budget, and its success will directly impact the success of Amazon’s overall business,” read the e-mail, which was obtained by Bloomberg Businessweek.

Kirshbaum, who left Warner Books in 2005 to become an agent, was helping Amazon’s Jeff Belle, in an unpaid capacity, to recruit editors for the new publishing effort. In the middle of that process, Belle asked Kirshbaum if he himself wanted to come aboard to lead the new effort. “Well, the thought had crossed my mind,” Kirshbaum replied.

. . . .

As he began to work on Amazon’s behalf last summer, agents, at least, were excited, because getting deep-pocketed Amazon into the game of bidding for books could translate into larger advances. “I want to do business with Larry wherever he is,” says agent Scott Waxman, who sold Amazon the Bob Knight book. “Do I think this is something that would make the Big Six publishers uncomfortable? Yes, with a big capital Y.”

. . . .

When Kirshbaum started at Amazon, he found big-name authors who shared Konrath’s willingness to try a nontraditional approach. Tim Ferriss’s books, The 4-Hour Workweekand The 4-Hour Body, were published by Random House, and both appeared on the New York Times bestseller list. Amazon will publish his new book, The 4-Hour Chef, in September. “For me it was a choice between publishers embracing technology and a world-class technology company embracing publishing,” Ferris says. “The latter will give me more of a chance to improvise and experiment.”

It’s becoming clear what Amazon and its authors mean when they talk about experimentation. In November, Amazon introduced a free e-book lending library. Members of its Prime two-day shipping program who own a Kindle can select one book at a time and download it for free. Big publishers, who already didn’t like the $9.99 price, reacted badly to the proposed $0 price and declined to participate in the program. Amazon’s own books, of course, will be a part of the lending club. In the future, Amazon could also do things like preview chapters of its forthcoming books to sell individually as “Kindle Singles” or package an e-book together with an audio book and sell it at one price, so that readers can switch between the two formats as they’re on the move.

. . . .

Kirshbaum’s rivals predict, perhaps wishfully, that Amazon is about to get an education in the burdens of book publishing. “They will understand there’s a reason publishers exist, and it’s not just to hike up prices,” says Morgan Entreken, the president of Grove/Atlantic. The late-night phone calls from neurotic authors, the frantic edits on awful manuscripts—this is a business that demands more handholding than Amazon generally seems comfortable with. Then again, Amazon can deliver a trampoline or a 20-pack of ramen in 24 hours, so it’s fairly comfortable with complexity.

Critics even whisper that Kirshbaum has, in fact, already failed, because he has yet to lure a true franchise novelist, a Stephen King. Jeff Belle, the Amazon vice-president, shrugs that off. “Larry just sat down in his chair in July, when there was literally no chair to sit in. He is starting up a new business, hiring a team, and acquiring books all at once.”

Link to the rest at Business Week and thanks to James for the tip.

I haven’t lived a good life

28 January 2012

“I haven’t lived a good life. I’ve been bad, worse than you could know.”

“You know, that’s good, because if you actually were as innocent as you pretend to be, we’d never get anywhere”

Dashiell Hammett

How do indie writers ignore readers?

28 January 2012

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

When I started, it wasn’t possible to make a living as a self-published writer. It is now. In fact, weirdly, you can make more money as a self-published writer than you ever could as a midlist writer—and in some cases, more than you could make as a bestselling writer.

Honestly, I find that astounding. This change has happened in just the past few years. A number of readers of this blog have commented on how fun it’s been to watch my attitudes change toward self- and indie-publishing. I’m still educating myself on all of this, and I’m still astonished by some things that I learn.

Of course, I’m still astounded by things I’ve seen in traditional publishing too. But I have come to expect illogic there. I’ve steeped myself in that side of the profession since I got my first issue of Writers Digest at the age of 12. Traditional publishing makes no sense on a number of levels.

And now, writers seemed determined to bring the same illogic to indie publishing.

I’ve focused on a lot of this illogic before from the use of agents in this modern world (makes no sense) to the use of a service to upload your book to ebookstores for a percentage of that book for the lifetime of the book (again, makes no sense).

. . . .

Traditional publishing gave up on readers long ago. When traditional publishers take books in a series out of print before the next book comes out, those publishers aren’t thinking about readers. Those publishers are looking at books as widgets.

Look, they say to themselves, here’s a bunch of widgets in different colors. We released the yellow one first, and it’s doing all right. The green one, which we released second, isn’t doing as well. And the purple one, which we released third, is doing just a bit better. We’ll release the blue one—we think people will like blue widgets—but as we do, let’s remove the green one from the shelf. Green is a similar color to blue, right? And no one will know the difference.

. . . .

If readers like an author’s work, they want to read everything that writer has done. If readers like a series, they want to read the entire series. And if it’s a series that has a continuing storyline (like a fantasy series), readers don’t want to skip an episode in that storyline.

It seems simple, it seems logical, and yet time after time after time, traditional publishing screws this one up.

I could list a million other things traditional publishing screws up, but that would take this entire post plus every post for the rest of the year. Honestly, most traditional publishers succeed in spite of their business practices.

What that tells me, a person who has written about business for more than thirty years, is that there is so much money to be made in publishing that even the most inept people on the planet can blunder their way into enough successes to keep the lights on in the office year after year.

We all know how traditional publishing ignores readers. But how do indie writers ignore readers?

By focusing on sales and “promotion” and “discoverability” and downloads and free to the exclusion of everything else.

Many indie writers have one book and they promote the hell of out that thing. They give it away for free, they join Kindle Select to “maximize discoverability” (ignoring Nook & IBook readers), and they sell it for 99 cents, thinking that will increase their sales.

So…let’s imagine that these writers are successful. Let’s imagine that they do get millions of people downloading their books. Out of those millions, at least half a million will read that book, and out of that half million, 250,000 will like it.

Then what?

Then nothing. That’s the problem. Nothing happens. Even if those successful indie writers eventually write another book, they have to start all over from scratch, because the readers who like what they did—those 250,000 readers—they will have forgotten the indie writer in six months.

. . . .

You indie writers treat your readers as badly as traditional publishers do. And you do it in the exact same way. You deny your readers the next book.

. . . .

My frustration with traditional publishers ignoring readers is unbelievably high.

So when I see indie writers do the same thing, I get furious. I really do. Folks, when you heavily promote your first book and then don’t write anything else for a year or two or five, you’re insulting your readers. The people who have invested their hard-earned dollars and, more importantly, their time in your book.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

I heard a disturbing rumor

28 January 2012

From edittorent:

I heard a disturbing rumor — and I have to repeat, this is a rumor, not something I saw personally — about an agency contract that takes a standard commission on an author’s self-published books. Self-published. So the author would be contractually obligated to pay 15% of their self-published royalties to the agent even if the agent has never laid eyes on the book.

The theory behind this is that the agent is “building” the author’s career through traditional sales, and the author benefits from that in direct published sales, so the agent is entitled to a cut.

This is utter garbage, of course. Not every tenuous connection creates an entitlement. What’s next — if you write on your day job, they can take 15% of your day job salary, too? Agents act as brokers, selling books to publishers and earning a commission on those sales. Why should they ever be entitled to earn anything without performing the work?

You know what’s really going on here? They’re gambling that you’re more desperate than they are. They’re pretty desperate, some of these agents, because sales and advances are falling across the board, so agents are taking hits just as much as anyone in this business. Or, to put it another way, 15% of nothing is nothing.

. . . .

So what’s 15% in perpetuity on work the agency never sold? As long as the agent signs you, it’s all good, right? No. Not right at all. For one thing, you don’t know that this agent will ever sell a single thing for you. Plenty of authors are signed but never sold. You don’t know whether this agent will treat you well or screw things up for you — and if you don’t understand that agents can screw up a writer’s career, you haven’t spent much time talking to writers about agents.

Link to the rest at edittorent and thanks to Clare for the tip.

Has anybody seen this?

Digital Textbooks Go Straight From Scientists to Students

28 January 2012

From Wired Science:

A year ago, electronic textbook publishers turned down David Johnston’s big idea: the first interactive marine science textbook.

Johnston, who runs a marine biology lab at Duke University, wanted the digital tome to show undergraduate students what his scientific field has to offer. But e-book publishers said the subject matter was too niche and the requested features too expensive to make financial sense.

“When we approached them, they essentially told us we were too small,” Johnston said. Frustrated by the experience, Johnston set out to create open source software to publish the book himself.

“We are not going after the biology 101 iPad textbook. We are not trying to build the digital textbook for chemistry,” Johnston said. “We’ve created a simple tool for specialized subjects where there isn’t a textbook, and knowledge advances quickly. Being an open source effort gives academics the flexibility they need.”

The first interactive marine science textbook for the iPad is called Cachalot (French for “sperm whale”). It’s a free, app-based book that covers the latest science of marine megafauna like whales, dolphins and seals with expert-contributed text, images and open-access studies. Through a digital publication system called FLOW, the book also offers students note-taking tools, Twitter integration, Wolfram|Alpha search and even National Geographic “critter cam” videos.

. . . .

“Digital publishing is orders of magnitude more complicated than print publishing. It’s really freakin’ hard to build this kind of content well,” said Matt MacInnis, founder and CEO of digital publishing startup Inkling.

Developing interactive features, dynamic text, and smooth displays of high-quality photography, video and audio all adds up, he said, to “an incredible fixed cost on the order of millions of dollars.” Making textbooks on Inkling doesn’t necessarily cost clients that much — rates vary according to the customer’s size — but it’s still a fairly intensive undertaking.

Duke University’s open-source effort represents a departure from Inkling and other commercial ventures. It sacrifices a wide offering of interactive features, monolithic downloads and wow-factor in exchange for simplicity, speed and flexibility. As new scientific knowledge enters a field, a leading academic could make a quick edit in FLOW to instantly and seamlessly update a student’s textbook.

As important as high-quality content is, Johnston sees the software’s open-source aspect as a crucial component of its future.

“You need only look at the power and success of WordPress to understand how far open-source can take you,” said Tom McMurray, president and CEO of Marine Ventures Foundation, a conservation organization that plans to support FLOW’s continued development.

Link to the rest at Wired Science and thanks to Erin for the tip.

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