Monthly Archives: February 2013

Platform for indie authors to sell gift cards

27 February 2013

From BetaKit:

Los Angeles-based Livrada, the startup that lets users redeem a specific ebook title from a gift card, announced today that it has closed a $1 million seed funding round led by ICG Ventures, the investment arm of book distributor Ingram Content Group, and other angel and private investors. In addition to its ebook-specific gift cards, currently sold at Target and redeemable on Kindle, Nook, and Kobo, the company also announced the launch of a new product platform it calls e-Book Cards for authors, which lets authors hand out or sell gift cards for their books at book signings, launches, and while meeting with publishers and publicists.

. . . .

“When we first launched…we thought that there’s a strong culture around gift-giving in books that had been lost in ebooks,” said co-founder and CEO Leonard Chen in an interview. “But, we found that authors started reaching out to us…in the world of ebooks, when they go around and have events…giving books to promoters, publishers, agents and the like, there’s no efficient way to do that with ebooks.”

The startup will now work with primarily self-published authors to create cards which they can distribute and sell at their events, similar to authors with a table of physical books to sell at a reading, which readers can redeem on the platform of their choice.

. . . .

Though Chen did not disclose the specifics of the company’s business model, he said the company charges publishers a marketing fee and makes affiliate revenue from the books it helps sell, in addition to a service fee it will now be charging for its new author platform.

. . . .

There are other companies like Canadian startup Enthrill in the title-specific ebook gift card market, and retail-specific gift cards from Amazon or Apple’s iBookstore that pose a threat to Livrada. However, the company’s focus on making the redemption process as seamless as possible, emphasis on title-specific over generic gift cards and now product extensions into the realm of authors and corporations are what it believes will allow it to thrive in the long run.

“Starting out with one product, we found that we’re solving other problems in the whole ecosystem of authors, publishers and ebooks, and we’re the only ones that can fulfill directly through multiple platforms,” Chen added. “My background is in the music industry so I have empathy for content owners and content creators and we’re hopeful what we’re building will bring a lot of value to everyone, starting with the authors.”

Link to the rest at BetaKit and thanks to L for the tip.

I deserve all the love

27 February 2013

I deserve all the love you can spare me. And I want a lot more than I deserve.

Dashiell Hammett

The Trouble With Finding Books Online – And A Few Solutions

27 February 2013

A detailed article on discoverability by David Vinjamuri on Forbes Blogs:

It is hard to pick a good book to read online.  Not for a lack of choice – over 340,000 books were published in 2011 according to Bowker and that doesn’t include eBooks.  The problem is two-fold: first, there are many more books to choose from than in generations past (in 1950, for example, just 11,000 titles were published).  Secondly, it’s harder to evaluate whether a book found online is worth reading.  Online peer reviews are notoriously unreliable, and although Amazon and other sites have made significant efforts to eliminate biased or untrustworthy reviews, it is still difficult to judge the quality of a book from consumer reviews alone.

I had the opportunity to discuss the problem of online discovery with Peter Hildick-Smith, President of the Codex Group.  Codex pioneered the field of book audience research and has interviewed almost 300,000 book buyers since 2004.  Hildick-Smith explained that a book purchase has three meaningful components: availability of the book, discovery by the reader, and conversion to purchase.    He noted that the dilemma for publishers is that in the eBook era, “As in-store discovery becomes less of a factor they’re not adding as much value to the equation.”  This is particularly true as marketing budgets for all but the top books have been reduced.  Surprisingly, online sellers – led by Amazon – haven’t been taking up the slack in lost discovery.

. . . .

As of December, 2012, nearly two-thirds of frequent book buyers have e-readers or tablets.  Codex defines frequent book buyers as those who buy books at least monthly.  These buyers who represent about one-fifth of adults (43mm) buy nearly four-fifths of all books (79%).

. . . .

Finally, eBooks are more likely to be discovered online than print books.  While under a third of people who visit an online book retailer to buy a print book discover a book there, half of those who visit an online retailer to buy an ebook discover it on the site.

. . . .

In June of 2010, nearly a third (32%) of frequent book buyers said they’d found their last book at a physical store.  By December of 2012, only a fifth of purchasers said the same thing.

The cause of this change wasn’t driven by independent bookstores going out of business, either.   The number of bookstores has declined only fractionally over the past two decades from 12,363 in 1997 to 10,800 in 2012.   A bigger cause is the collapse of Borders and a shift in the merchandising strategy of Barnes & Noble and other big book retailers away from books into gifts, toys and other specialty items.

Link to the rest at Forbes Blogs

Is trade publishing’s situation more like the newspapers or more like the advertisers?

27 February 2013

From veteran publishing consultant, Mike Shatzkin:

It has been an important tenet of my thinking about digital change in the book business to understand that books are different from other media — music, TV, movies, newspapers, magazines — as we try to anticipate the future.

. . . .

But while book publishing people tend to focus on the changes enabled by Gutenberg, Gray’s newspaper-centric view makes the high-speed rotary press, which enabled publications cheap enough to be daily purchases by masses of people, the seminal moment.

High-speed presses made all print cheap for the incremental copy. In the case of radio and televison, of course, the incremental copy is free. So all these media, as well as movies, which used scale in a slightly different way, were about amortizing the costs of content creation across “mass market” consumption.

If Karl Marx had been writing a bit later than he did, he might have seen that controlling the “means of distribution” had become as important as he saw controlling the “means of production” to be.

. . . .

And that’s what the Internet has blown up. Because now the distribution mechanism for expensive-to-create content is precisely the same as the distribution mechanism for any content. In the book business, we’ve been tracking that as “purchased in stores” (which is, in itself, expensive and pretty much restricted to expensive-to-create content) as opposed to “purchased online” (which is a channel open to all of us).

Gray calls this a change from the “mass media era” to the “infinite media era”.

. . . .

But that micro-targeting might affect newspapers and magazines and radio and TV stations far differently than it affects book publishers. And that’s because, when it comes to advertising, book publishers are, in a way, on the opposite side of the fence from these other media.

Those media don’t build an audience uniquely for every issue the way book publishers do for every new book (and that’s somewhat true even for vertical publishers). They’re trying to sell captive audiences; we in book publishing are trying to corral disparate audiences. That makes us more like the newspapers’ advertisers than like the newspapers themselves.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

50 Unpublished Rudyard Kipling Poems Discovered

27 February 2013

From Time:

Dozens of unpublished poems by Rudyard Kipling have been discovered, nearly 80 years after the author’s death.

American scholar Thomas Pinney found more than 50 works by the Nobel laureate in a number of different locations, including a Manhattan home which was being renovated, the archive of a former head of the Cunard Line and buried among Kipling’s family papers, reports the BBC.

The poet and short story writer, who was born in Mumbai, lived from 1865 to 1936. His best-known works include the Jungle Book and the poem If–.

. . . .

One poem, “The Gambler”, ends with the couplet: “Three times wounded; three times gassed / Three times wrecked – I lost at last”.

. . . .

“Kipling has long been neglected by scholars probably for political reasons,” Pinney, who is emeritus professor of English at the University of California, told the Guardian.

Link to the rest at Time

Kipling reveled in the British Empire and the military men who forged it, a certain recipe for politically-based obscurity these days. There’s no mistaking his unique style and voice, however.

An excerpt from Mandalay:

By the old Moulmein Pagoda, lookin’ eastward to the sea,
There’s a Burma girl a-settin’, and I know she thinks o’ me;
For the wind is in the palm-trees, and the temple-bells they say:
“Come you back, you British soldier; come you back to Mandalay!”

The Digital Age Will Produce “a Montaigne and a Shakespeare”

27 February 2013
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From Publishing Perspectives:

“Goethe said he who cannot draw on 3,000 years of history is living hand-to-mouth,” says Lewis Lapham, the 78-year-old éminence grise of the publishing world.

. . . .

“The historical record is our inheritance — it is on ships’ logs and bronze coins — and lots gets lost. But mankind tends to preserve what’s beautiful, useful and true.”

At the same time, notes Lapham, “America is about perpetual self-reinvention. The historian Daniel Boorstin calls it ‘America’s transpiration’: You need to be prepared at all times to become someone else.”

Nowhere is this more evident than on the Internet, where identity is fluid and communication is increasingly ephemeral. “We live in a ‘once upon a time’ world where the present comes and goes so quickly, and the future doesn’t exist.”

In the digital age, Lapham says, what gets lost is context — and, often, it’s history that provides the context. “Without context you have no cause and effect. The Renaissance, for example, comes out of the rediscovery of classical antiquity. You can’t know where you’re going if you don’t know where you’ve been.”

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

Story Writing 101

27 February 2013
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From Daily Writing Tips:

Since prehistoric times, when tales were told around fires and painted on cave walls, stories have been an essential part of our human experience. But what exactly is a story – and how can you write a great one?

A story is simply a tale of events that are linked by cause and effect. It can be true or it can be a work of fiction. We expect stories to have a beginning, middle and end; they involve at least two characters, and some events take place.

. . . .

Like any story, your short story needs to have a beginning, middle and end:

  • The beginning is where we’re introduced to the characters, especially the main character and his/her problem
  • The middle is where the action and plot develops. The main character will face difficulties such as opposition from other people or a challenging environment.
  • The end is where the main character triumphs over his/her biggest challenge (or fails, in the case of a tragedy). The resolution should be satisfying and conclusive for the reader.

Even in literary and experimental short stories, it’s important that something should happen. Much of the action might take place inside the characters’ heads, but there should be a real change as a result.

By the end of your short story, your main character should have experienced an internal change. This means that they’ve grown and developed as a person – perhaps overcoming a fear, or recognizing an unacknowledged truth about himself or herself.

. . . .

A novel is a much bigger undertaking than a short story. Even if you are able to write short stories without much planning, you’ll need to plan out your novel in advance. There are a number of ways to do this, but whichever you choose, ensure:

  • You have enough plot to meet your word count target
  • Your main character (protagonist) is sympathetic – readers of short stories will put up with a dull or unlikeable character, but novel readers are stuck with the character’s viewpoint for much longer. As the writer, you’ll need to be able to become your characters.
  • You have an escalation of events throughout the plot. Things need to get worse and worse for your characters, until they finally overcome their problems or enemies.

Link to the rest at Daily Writing Tips

How Camus Helps Fay Weldon Keep on Writing

27 February 2013

From The Atlantic:

It might be wise to take writing advice from Fay Weldon: Since 1967, the octogenarian has published more than 30 books. When I asked her how she’s managed to stay so prolific, she responded with a little-known line from Albert Camus about Sisyphus, the mythic Greek king condemned by Zeus to roll a boulder endlessly up a hill and watch it crash down again.

. . . .

“One must imagine Sisyphus happy,” wrote Albert Camus in 1942. Well, I do try. But the page is blank. I sit at my desk seized by sudden doubt, conscious of decades of pointless toil behind me and the few years in front in the certain knowledge that I will never get it right. Experience suggests one never writes the book one plans to write. Somewhere along the way it goes astray, some link between the sentences does not quite hold. It is never what one meant. Never will be. So what is the point of beginning the long toil up the hill, pushing and straining sentences along, forcing characters into molds which never quite fit, dragging a chain-gang of second thoughts behind? Olympus will never be reached. Sisyphus is bound to slip. The rock will come tumbling down. Let the blank page stay blank.

But if we consider, like Camus, Sisyphus at the foot of his mountain, we can see that he is smiling. He is content in his task of defying the Gods, the journey more important than the goal.

Link to the rest at The Atlantic and thanks to Meryl for the tip.

Psych meds dull my creativity

26 February 2013

From a letter to Salon’s advice columnist:

In the last 18 months as my psych meds have been continually increased due to my symptoms worsening, I’ve found myself unable to create at all. I can’t focus on any one art form, and lack the motivation to even try to create. I bought a new bass and a new amplifier last year and I’ve barely touched them. My craft supplies sit unused. And while I’m in the process of digging out my old sewing machine, I fear that this will just be one more thing that goes nowhere. I’m on disability and spend much of my days in a struggle to focus on the simplest things.

It is clear to me that most of the issue is due to my psych meds. But changing them is out of the question. Being a bump on a log beats riding the bipolar roller coaster all the way to the psychiatric hospital and many days are a struggle regardless.

Link to the rest at Salon

Literary life

26 February 2013

Literary life used to be quite different in Britain in the years I lived there, from 1971 to 1989, because money was not a factor – no one made very much except from U.S. sales and the occasional windfall.

Paul Theroux

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