Monthly Archives: November 2012

Love is not a state

29 November 2012

Love is not a state, a feeling, a disposition, but an exchange, uneven, fraught with history, with ghosts, with longings that are more or less legible to those who try to see one another with their own faulty vision.

Judith Butler

Simon & Schuster Joins Forces With Author Solutions To Rip Off Writers

29 November 2012

From David Gaughran:

Simon & Schuster has launched a self-publishing operation, Archway Publishing, contracting one of the most disreputable players in the business to run the show: Author Solutions.

. . . .

But what if you need proper editing? Fear not! Simon & Schuster is here to help. For just $0.035 a word, you can have a thorough edit of your book. Which sounds cheap until you realize that a standard 80,000 word novel would cost you $2,800. So, in actual fact, the cheapest package, plus their edit, will set you back $4,799 for a standard length book.

As if that wasn’t enough, Simon & Schuster will also take half of your e-book royalties – after Amazon and the other retailers take their cut – and pay pennies for print sales.

. . . .

Author Solutions is the umbrella for (and owner of) several seriously shady self-publishing service companies (or vanity presses, if you prefer) – such as Author House, Xlibris, iUniverse, and Trafford.

Each of these companies has managed to achieve disreputable status on their own, but together they have screwed over more than 150,000 writers. Going through the full history of their rip-off schemes would require a book, rather than a blog post, so I’ll stick to the highlights.

The formidable Emily Suess has been covering Author Solutions for some time:

The short list of recurring issues includes: making formerly out-of-print works available for sale without the author’s consent, improperly reporting royalty information, non-payment of royalties, breach of contract, predatory and harassing sales calls, excessive markups on review and advertising services, failure to deliver marketing services as promised, telling customers their add-ons will only cost hundreds of dollars and then charging their credit cards thousands of dollars, ignoring customer complaints, shaming and banning customers who go public with their stories . . .

. . . .

At the time of the purchase, some commentators expressed hope that Penguin would clean up this cesspool. Instead, Penguin gave Kevin Weiss – the head of Author Solutions – a seat on the board.

A seat on the board!

And the scammy behavior hasn’t stopped; in fact, some of it is getting worse. I’ve received reports of Author Solutions staff calling prospective customers and asking if they want to be “published by Penguin.” Yes, they went there.

. . . .

Before you say that any writer who gets suckered only has themselves to blame, you must consider that Author Solutions is extremely disingenuous about how they target customers.

They prey on people who don’t understand the industry. Their whole business model is predicated on customer ignorance – and they are relentless at exploiting that, hounding people with incessant calls, pushing every emotional button they can think of, until they crack.

And it works. The average customer spends $5,000 getting their book published – which is crazy money – and Emily Suess has received reports of writers being tricked out of tens of thousands of dollars. After all that, the writers don’t sell anything anyway, and what little they do make is often delayed or unpaid altogether.

I can’t say it any plainer: Author Solutions are in the business of ripping people off.

Link to the rest at Let’s Get Digital

David’s warnings should suffice to steer anyone away from Author Solutions. However, if you need a second source, Victoria Strauss comments on Writer Beware:

It’s not an exaggeration to say that, right now, ASI is the most hated name in the self-publishing services world.

. . . .

ASI is the only self-pub service provider about which we get regular complaints.

. . . .

My problem is with how S&S and others have chosen to dabble in self-publishing–by choosing to work with a company that exploits authors through deceptive PR tacticsmisleading rhetoric, and terrible customer service. ASI’s poor reputation is not a secret–it’s all over the Internet. Could S&S and others not have chosen a more complaint-free service provider–or, even, created the service themselves?

Link to the rest at Writer Beware

Colbert on Copyright

29 November 2012

Thanks to Joshua for the tip.

Kindle Direct Publishing Adds $1.5 Million Holiday Bonus for KDP Select Authors

29 November 2012

From Amazon’s Media Room:

Amazon.com, Inc. today announced that a bonus of $1.5 million has been added to the KDP Select global fund this holiday season. This is on top of the regular monthly fund during the three-month period from December-February. December’s regular monthly fund is $700,000, plus $700,000 of the $1.5 million holiday bonus will be paid out for December, doubling the total amount available to authors in December to $1.4 million. The remainder of the $1.5 million bonus will be paid on top of the regular fund in January and February as well. Authors worldwide can earn a share of the total global fund every time their book is borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk, Amazon.de and Amazon.fr, and reach more readers than ever before.

“This holiday season, millions of customers will open new Kindles, and if they’re Amazon Prime members they can borrow a book from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library for free. The unusual thing about KDP Select is that when this happens authors get paid. With record Kindle sales worldwide, and the recent expansion of the lending library to Europe, we expect the number of books borrowed this holiday season to increase significantly,” said Russ Grandinetti, Vice President of Kindle Content. “We’ve seen authors experience incredible success with KDP Select – in only a year it’s become commonplace to see KDP Select books on our best seller list.”

Link to the rest at Media Room

It will be interesting to see what effect this additional money will have on per-book payouts for each book borrowed from the Kindle Owners Lending Library. As many indie authors attest, for the past few months, payment for a borrow has been approximately the same as royalties earned on a $2.99 ebook sale on Amazon. The larger lump sum Amazon is providing will cover more books borrowed during the big post-Christmas surge in ebook sales.

Of course, signing up for KDP Select requires that authors remove their ebooks from all other online booksellers for at least three months. If an author signed a book up for the Lending Library now, this would mean that that ebook would be unavailable for post-Christmas purchase until the first part of March by readers who receive a new Nook or Kobo ereader for Christmas, for example.

If an author generates the large majority of ebook sales from Amazon, this may be a reasonable trade-off.

An author can enroll one or more ebooks for KDP Select by checking a box in the Bookshelf section of the Kindle Direct Publishing website.

Foxconn to Make Smartphones for Microsoft, Amazon

29 November 2012
Comments Off on Foxconn to Make Smartphones for Microsoft, Amazon

From DigiTimes:

Foxconn International Holding (FIH) has reportedly landed handset orders from Microsoft and Amazon and is set to launch the devices in mid-2013, according to sources from the upstream supply chain.

. . . .

The sources pointed out that Microsoft and Amazon’s own-brand handsets will only have a limited shipment volume initially and may become a new business model for the manufacturers in the future.

Link to the rest at DigiTimes

Amazon Publishing Expands to Europe

29 November 2012

From Paid Content:

Amazon will begin publishing original books in Europe, the company announced in a letter to literary agents Wednesday. Victoria Griffith, Amazon’s head of West Coast publishing, will move to Luxembourg, while Larry Kirshbaum will assume leadership of both the Seattle and New York imprints.

. . . .

Belle also touted some sales numbers. Tim Ferriss’s The Four-Hour Chef, released November 20, “has already sold over 60,000 copies (print + Kindle),” he said. With Publishers Lunch reporting today that Four-Hour Chef sold 29,000 print copies in its first week (according to Nielsen BookScan, which tracks print sales, including those through Amazon’s website), that suggests about half Four-Hour Chef‘s sales were digital.

Amazon Publishing now has five active Seattle-based imprints, mostly focused on genres like romance and thrillers, along with the general trade and children’s divisions in New York. Publishing industry veteran Kirshbaum was hired to launch the New York division in May 2011, and it published its first books this fall — including Ferriss’s Four-Hour Chef and former Laverne & Shirley star Penny Marshall’s memoir My Mother Was Nuts. Barnes & Noble and many independent bookstores refuses to carry Amazon print titles in their stores, which limits the distribution of Amazon Publishing titles and could affect the company’s ability to sign bestselling authors in future. But, as Belle notes in his letter, the company will now attempt to bring more English-language authors to a European audience.

Link to the rest at Paid Content

Why Crowded Coffee Shops Fire Up Your Creativity

29 November 2012

From The Atlantic:

Yes, caffeine helps. But new research shows that the moderate noise level in busy cafés also perks up your creative cognition.

. . . .

PROBLEM: To optimize creativity, how quiet or noisy should your workspace be?

METHODOLOGY: Researchers led by Ravi Mehta conducted five experiments to understand how ambient sounds affect creative cognition. In one key trial, they tested people’s creativity at different levels of background noise by asking participants to brainstorm ideas for a new type of mattress or enumerate uncommon uses for a common object.

RESULTS: Compared to a relatively quiet environment (50 decibels), a moderate level of ambient noise (70 dB) enhanced subjects’ performance on the creativity tasks, while a high level of noise (85 dB) hurt it. Modest background noise, the scientists explain, creates enough of a distraction to encourage people to think more imaginatively.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic

Indie Authors Need to Become Great Publishers

28 November 2012

Smashwords CEO Mark Coker on Digital Book World:

Jeremy Greenfield: Smashwords is now working with over 100,000 titles from about 40,000 authors and publishers. Yet you only have 13 employees right now. How is Smashwords going to expand?

Mark Coker: The level of [e-book] uploads has increased dramatically over the last year. In April, we had our first month of over 9,000 new titles added to Smashwords. We’ve been increasing every month. By the end of the year, we’ll be doing more than 10,000 new titles every single month, and that’s a super-conservative estimate. We now have four years experience doing this and our growth is organic, driven by word of mouth. We don’t do any marketing.

We’re expanding our vetting team. Our vetting team opens up and manually looks at every single book uploaded to Smashwords to check that the book meets formatting requirements of retailers, to make sure that it’s legal content and to make sure it’s original content. They’re looking to enforce all the requirements of the Smashwords style guide. We’re at three or four people currently.

We’ll continue to add to our vetting team, to our support team and to our technical team throughout the year.

JG: You said that you’ve been profitable for two years now. Can you give an indication of just how profitable?

MC: Growth has been fantastic. We’re selling millions of dollars worth of books every year. Our profitability is healthy and growing. We monitor our profitability very carefully because we’re completely self-funded.

We’re a private company, so we don’t disclose specific profitability or revenue numbers.

We are a corporation and I’m the majority shareholder. The other equity holders are employees. We’re preparing to do a stock option plan for all of our employees.

. . . .

JG: Speaking of your authors, what’s the biggest challenge facing indie authors who want to publish and distribute e-books today?

MC: The biggest challenge is self-restraint. Publishing tools, like Smashwords make it fast, free and easy for any writer anywhere in the world to publish. But we don’t make it easy to write a great book. Many writers, intoxicated by the freedom to self-publish, will often release their book before it’s ready to be released.

The biggest challenge faced by self-published authors, it’s not marketing, it’s not discoverability, it’s adopting the best practices of the very best publishers. It’s about becoming a professional publisher.

. . . .

JG: Should the established publishers be worried about this? At the Digital Book World Conference in January, we learned that indie authors took an estimated $100 million from publishers last year – sounds like a lot, but it’s a very small percentage of the overall trade book business.

MC: Authors are starting to ask two very dangerous questions from the standpoint of publishers:

What can the publisher do that I can’t do for myself? They’re saying, “I can publish myself and distribute myself and hire my own editors.” The distribution of e-books is now open to all.

And, will it actually harm my ability to reach readers if I work with a large publisher? They’re saying, “That large publisher is going to price my book too high, so they’re going to price me out of the market. If my publisher insists on pricing my book $9.99 and higher, I’m going to get beat by all the other authors who are priced lower.”

In publishers’ favor, every single book is a unique product, and price isn’t the only consideration for consumers.

But these questions set up publishers to be in a precarious situation.

The secret is now out on how to become a professional publisher. That knowledge is now freely available on main street.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

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