Monthly Archives: July 2012

Article of Faith: “If people read more, that is a better world”

30 July 2012

From Kindle Nation Daily:

I traveled to Seattle this week to sit down on July 26th with Jeff Bezos for an 18-minute conversation about the Kindle. We met in an unadorned conference room at Amazon’s fast-growing campus of nondescript buildings.

. . . .

Len Edgerly: It’s been seven years since you did the early design for the Kindle.

Jeff Bezos: Yes.

LE: When you think back to what you saw then, what’s been the biggest surprise in how it’s all unfolded?

JB: The biggest surprise by far is how quickly it has grown. When we did this, we were very optimistic that Kindle would eventually be a success and that it would accelerate the adoption of eBooks. But what has actually happened, happened so much faster than any reasonable person would have expected.

Today eBooks have become a huge fraction of the books sold, and we wouldn’t have anticipated that. That’s a big surprise.

. . . .

LE: What do you think will be the same five to seven years or further out about the way we read, never mind how the technology advances?

JB: I think one thing that you can count on is that human nature doesn’t change. The human brain doesn’t change. And so one thing that seems to be very, very fundamental is that we like narrative. We like stories. So I don’t think that any amount of eBook technology is going to change the fact that we humans like narrative. And so I think that linear narrative, where somebody has really put a lot of work into guiding us along in a great story—a great storyteller, that’s what they do. I think that’s going to stay the same.

LE: Do you think that at some point the all-text story will be kind of an historical anomaly because the digital editions, the enhanced audio video and all that will just create a more compelling experience of a story than all text?

JB: I doubt it. We sort of have done that experiment in a way already, because sometimes really good books get made into movies. And even if the movie is a good movie—there’s also the case where they get made into bad movies. But even if they’re good movies, there are things about the book that never get replicated in the movie.

And I think the all-text story, as you put it, is its own medium, and I think that is likely to continue. I don’t think, for example, that audio snippets would make Hemingway better.  I’m not sure multimedia would make Hemingway better. So I think it’s its own thing.

Now will there be new kinds of things invented that take advantage of these new technologies? Yes. Just like movies, moving pictures, was a completely new medium. But you didn’t try to do books with moving pictures—they might be derived from a book. But it’s its own art form, and they had to invent all the things that make movies good—all the different ways from cutting from one scene to the next—and it didn’t displace books. And I think that’s what you’ll see happen here, too.  There’ll be new kinds of multimedia offerings that people can interact with on Kindles, but they won’t displace all-text stories.

Link to the rest at Kindle Nation Daily

Movie Trailer Sends Book Sales Way Up

30 July 2012

From The Wall Street Journal:

Last Monday, David Mitchell’s eight-year-old novel “Cloud Atlas” was ranked 2,509 on Amazon.com Inc.’s best seller list. On Friday, it was No. 7.

The surge of sales was thanks to a trailer for a film version of the novel that debuted on Apple Inc’s website Thursday, combined with the power of social media.

“Almost as soon as the trailer went up, we saw chatter on Twitter and sales on Amazon really jumped,” said Jane von Mehren, publisher of trade paperbacks for the Random House Publishing Group, a unit of Bertelsmann AG’s Random House Inc.

. . . .

To promote the film, the studio unveiled a trailer on Apple’s iTunes movie trailers page early Thursday morning. Running nearly six minutes, the trailer features scenes from the movie in a bid to explain the complicated plot. The trailer got picked up by numerous other websites, says Warner Bros., making it difficult to get an accurate count of how many viewers actually saw it.

. . . .

There will also be an enhanced digital book edition of “Cloud Atlas” that will be slightly more expensive than the $11.99 e-book now on sale and which will feature movie-related extras.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

 

Jeff Bezos, A Blonde, And A Book Walk Into A Bar

30 July 2012

From TechCrunch:

A couple of weeks ago, I was a guest at the Sun Valley Resort during the annual Allen & Company Media / Tech boondoggle. 99% of the guests – ranging from moguls, to dogs of moguls, to reporters spying on moguls and dogs of moguls – were there for the conference. I was there for the weather, the pool and the outdoor skating rink.

My morning vacation routine does not usually include standing in line behind Harvey Weinstein and Tom Freston at Starbucks while Rupert Murdoch whizzes by the window on a golf cart. It was morbidly fascinating. And I quickly figured out that chatting with amazingly brilliant tech and media icons is actually very easy, provided you’re someone like me that has no idea what most of these “icons” actually look like.

. . . .

Not 20 minutes passed by before a lovely gentleman – who it later turns out was sitting with Amazon’s Jeff Bezos – leaned over to ask what I was reading. We had a nice chat about my book (“The New Republic,” by Lionel Shriver) and he recommended I try “The Age of Miracles”. I tell him that the next time I visit the town bookstore, I’ll be sure to look for it. Immediately this kind man (who I’m sure is also terribly important) gets a twinkle in his eye before shouting to his table mates “Jeff! Guys! You have to meet this girl!”

Jeff Bezos is drawn to my enormous hardcover book like an area 51 fanatic to an alien. “So, is that really a book? Because you know, the color of the book matches your scarf.”

There is laughter all around as I reply sheepishly that yes, it is a book and no, I did not plan on wearing a matching scarf.

He replies, “So you know, I bet you could read that book on a Kindle”.

I say something absurd about how I’m not a big tech person and how I didn’t know that I could find a kindle that matched my scarf.

“Well, maybe not, but you could get a cover for it. And Kindles are really easy to use. Maybe you just need a tutorial? Do you have a Kindle”

“You know, I think I might?” I said, “I feel like someone gave me a Kindle as a gift last year, but it’s probably just sitting in the box somewhere. I don’t know that I even opened it.”

At this point, all fellows at the table are trying to stifle raucous laughter. The original gentleman I was speaking with says, “Ask her where she got the book Jeff!”

So naturally, he asks and I tell him all about the great little bookstore in town, and how the people there are so nice and helpful, and if he wants a book, he really should go.

“What about Amazon?” he said, without any disclosure, “If you ordered the book on Amazon, it could be here tomorrow.”

I thought about this for a second, then said “that’s true, but…at the bookstore in town, they have a cafe connected to it so you can buy your book and get a coffee at the same time. Now if I order a book on Amazon, it doesn’t come with a cup of coffee, does it?”

Not only is everyone now guffawing at Jeff Bezos failing to sell The EMPIRE HE INVENTED, they are also looking at me like “this girl is either dumber than a box of rocks or lives under a rock, because is this really happening?”

Link to the rest at TechCrunch

Fifty Shades of Hypocrisy

30 July 2012

From Publetariat:

When it comes to books like Fifty Shades of Grey, the Twilight series and The DaVinci Code (huge commercial successes that are pretty universally acknowledged as poorly written), outrage among authors who haven’t been as successful in finding a monster, dedicated fan base is generally off the scale.

I’m not going to reduce this to a simple case of jealousy, though jealousy is certainly a factor. It’s more like a sense of injustice, a feeling that authors who seem to be lacking in skill or talent haven’t truly earned the riches and fame being heaped upon them—particularly in the eyes of those who have labored long and hard on craft.

Anyone who aspires to authorship has been told her entire life that eventually, quality work rises to the top and finds the audience it deserves. Fifty Shades of Grey and Jersey Shore memoirs notwithstanding, I still believe this is absolutely true. The part that angry, hardworking authors seem to miss is that when “quality work rises to the top and finds the audience it deserves,” that audience may not be large enough to crack the NYT Bestseller list, nor even necessarily the Amazon Top 100.

Why does this come as a surprise to anyone?

. . . .

Guess what? Quality prose is rarely described as “fun”. It can actually be quite demanding. Clever turns of phrase often hinge on historical or literary references. Similes and metaphors are built on the foundation of a shared vocabulary between writer and reader. Intricate plots require the reader to keep track of multiple plot threads and character arcs.

Writers who sweat these kinds of details in their manuscripts do so not only because they take personal pride in quality work, but because they want the reading experience to be the best it can possibly be for the eventual reader. But here’s the thing: if you’re preparing a seven-course, gourmet meal for dinner guests who only have the time or inclination (or both) to wolf down fast food, your eventual disappointment is both inevitable and predictable. Nobody who’s craving a Big Mac is inclined to seek out haute cuisine.

Link to the rest at Publetariat

Formatting Ebook . . . Tearing Hair Out

29 July 2012

From frequent visitor, author and ebook designer Jaye Manus:

So last week I talked about the importance of writers shifting their mindset from thinking “Print Documents” to thinking  “Electronic Files.” Judging by the responses I got, I’d say I’m not the only one concerned with this subject. One of the problems is that the tools we use–namely word processors–are superb for producing printed documents, but frustrating, maddening and over-powered when creating electronic files.

Currently, I’m in the process of creating a booklet/cheat sheet to help fiction writers who are NOT computer programmers to painlessly use the tools they have–and are comfortable using–to create electronic files suitable for e-queries, e-submissions and ebooks. You’d think this would be simple, but it’s not. For one thing, there’s a language problem. I’m a fiction writer, not a programmer.

. . . .

First, here is a document provided by a writer for whom I’m producing an ebook. Those little marks you see in the image indicate spaces and paragraph returns.

 

. . . .

Here is what the same document looks like when I upload a cleaned up copy into Scrivener for ebook formatting:

 

. . . .

I had thought (foolishly) that all my problems were solved by getting away from Word (except to use its turbo-charged Find/Replace feature to clean up files) and using Scrivener to produce ebooks. It does a great job and it’s relatively painless. Last week I learned there is a problem with one of the books I produced. The problem occurred because Amazon updated older model Kindles and now some people will find that some ebooks–not all!–are compressed and they will have to manually enlarge the screens. Why? I think it’s something Amazon did, but hey, I’m a fiction writer, not a programmer. I do not know why.

. . . .

It shouldn’t be this hard. Electronic files should not be filled with tiger traps and landmines waiting to turn our lovely words into gibberish marching all over a user’s screen. Those e-queries and e-submissions we labor over until they are perfect should not turn into funhouse mirror words the moment we hit SEND. Creating an ebook should not require a degree in Computer Science and fluency in programming languages. There shouldn’t be different formats requiring different source file layouts and conversion programs and different requirements from every single e-distributor.

Link to the rest at Jaye Manus

PG has recently finished formatting Mrs. PG’s latest ebooks and sympathizes with Jaye’s complaints.

July’s Ebook Cover Awards Submissions

29 July 2012
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You have until the end of the month to submit your ebook cover designs to Joel Friedlander’s Ebook Cover Awards at The Book Designer.

Here’s a link to the submission site.

Dutch eBooks Gaining Momentum in 2012

29 July 2012
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From Good EReader:

eBook sales in the Netherlands is picking up and gaining momentum in the first half of 2012.  Over 600,000 eBooks have been sold this year from a pool of only 16,000 titles.  Industry analysts predict that the entire digital market constitutes 3% of the entire publishing segment and should increase to over 7% by the end of the year.

Link to the rest at Good Ereader

A Simple Concept for Publishing

29 July 2012

From author Bob Mayer on Digital Book World:

The product is the story.  Not the book, not the eBook, not the audio book.  The Story.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

There will be no more professional writers in the future

29 July 2012

From the Globe and Mail:

Ewan Morrison is an established British writer with a credit-choked resume and a new book out, Tales from the Mall, that the literary editor of the venerable Guardian newspaper hailed as “a really important step towards a literature of the 21st century.”

By his own account, Morrison is also being driven out of business by the ominously feudal economics of 21st-century literature, “pushed into the position where I have to join the digital masses,” he says, the cash advances he once received from publishers slashed so deep he is virtually working for free.

“I’ve been making culture professionally for 20 years, and going back to working on spec again seems to be a very retrograde step,” Morrison says. “But it’s something a lot of established writers are having to do.”

And not only them: From the heights of the literary pantheon to the lowest trenches of hackery, where contributors to digital “content farms” are paid as little as 10 cents for every 1,000 times readers click on their submissions, writers of every stature are experiencing the same pressure. Authors are losing income as sales shift to heavily discounted, royalty-poor and easily pirated ebooks.

. . . .

The economic trajectory of writing today is “a classic race to the bottom,” according to Morrison.

. . . .

In short, he predicts, “There will be no more professional writers in the future.”

. . . .

Digital self-publishing may work for already established authors, according to Turow, “but it’s one more instance of the winner-take-all economy. It doesn’t allow young writers to flourish and it is not in my judgment a good thing.”

Link to the rest at the Globe and Mail

What Every Writer Can Learn From Regency Romance

28 July 2012

From author Regina Scott on Novel Rocket:

Ever read Jane Austen?  How about Georgette Heyer?  These two ladies set the standard for romances about early nineteenth-century England, and they still remain on the bestseller lists, decades after their deaths.  Their work spawned an entire romantic subgenre that has grown to encompass single title romances, mysteries both cozy and gritty, inspirational stories, and even speculative literature.  Readers of Regency-set stories are loyal and voracious, and the advent of e-books has sent previously published stories onto the charts once again.

Why do these stories endure?  Why are readers so passionate about them?  And what can we learn from them as writers?

. . . .

Dialogue can draw you in. Regency romances are famous for their witty banter, and language plays a key role in the shared world feeling. A gentleman might drive his cattle (horses) through the ton (the better society of London) so that others might consider him an out-and-outer (impressive fellow). A lady might invite her bosom beau (best friend) to her at home (time available to receive callers) so that they might have a nice coze (talk). What words and phrases are unique to the world you’re building? How can you sprinkle them most effectively to pull the reader deeper into that world?

. . . .

Setting can be character. Society in Regency England was a demanding place, and woe betide the gentleman or lady who forgot it. The rules of that Society influence character as well as plot. Take the hero who is “the spare,” the second son of an aristocrat, passed over for title and often the bulk of the wealth. Is he angry at his fate, envious of older his brother’s favored status, or relieved that he has more choices for his vocation? What role does setting play in yours story? How can you use it to advantage to deepen characterization or propel your plot?

Link to the rest at Novel Rocket

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