Monthly Archives: October 2013

Slaves of the Internet, Unite!

30 October 2013

From the New York Times, by Tim Kreider:

NOT long ago, I received, in a single week, three (3) invitations to write an original piece for publication or give a prepared speech in exchange for no ($0.00) money. As with stinkbugs, it’s not any one instance of this request but their sheer number and relentlessness that make them so tiresome. It also makes composing a polite response a heroic exercise in restraint.

People who would consider it a bizarre breach of conduct to expect anyone to give them a haircut or a can of soda at no cost will ask you, with a straight face and a clear conscience, whether you wouldn’t be willing to write an essay or draw an illustration for them for nothing. They often start by telling you how much they admire your work, although not enough, evidently, to pay one cent for it. “Unfortunately we don’t have the budget to offer compensation to our contributors…” is how the pertinent line usually starts. But just as often, they simply omit any mention of payment.

Such a pertinent article!  This happens to me as well.  Love it – go read here!

Julia Barrett

Life Will Out.

30 October 2013

Nature reclaims Mt. St. Helens.  Photos from NASA.

Prepare to be amazed.  Here.

Thanks, PG, for allowing me the privilege of acting as guest host. Hope your research went well.

Julia Barrett

NEW RULE: No More Binge Publishing!

29 October 2013

From Libby Fischer Hellmann:

You know how Bill Maher has his New Rule shtick? Well, I’m taking a page from his playbook. Many of you aren’t going to like this, but I think it has to be said: STOP publishing all these ebooks. I don’t want to sound negative, but it’s getting nuts out there. Ever since the self-publishing floodgates opened, “the more the merrier” has been the rule of thumb for indie authors. If you’re not making the sales you want, just write a new book and publish it. Add to your series. Start a new one. That’s the way to boost sales. I know people who are publishing five or six books a year! Which is why I call it Binge Publishing….

More books do NOT necessarily mean more sales

A few wise authors are beginning to realize the ‘write more’ theory is flawed. In fact author Mike Dennis admitted just that on the KBoards Writers’ Café, an online forum where a lot of self-published authors hang out…His post was promptly followed by advice from others urging him to market and promote differently, write MORE books, or write in a different “hot” genre. However some of the authors in the forum did acknowledge reality. V.J. Chambers was one: “You know what amazes me? Here we have clear evidence that the ‘formula’ is not a formula after all, and there is no guarantee of success in this business.

Many people still think they know how to write a great novel from day one. Some even sell a bunch of books, which I think confers an inflated sense of talent. The craft of writing isn’t something you automatically ‘get’ fresh out of the gate. It comes with practice….For example, a writer needs to learn narrative and dialogue, how to create suspense, build a believable setting, perfect the choice of language, use point of view correctly. We learn over time. If you are writing a lot of books, say six per year, you have little time to develop your craft. You’re too busy churning out “stuff.”. And, please, don’t tell me your editor will “fix” it. Like authors, the pool of editors who will take your money has multiplied too. And judging from the results, many of them don’t understand craft that well either. Like it or not, half-done books pollute the stream for everybody else….

Let’s face it. With over a thousand self-published books hitting the virtual shelves every day, the market is flooded. You’ve heard the figures: only about 10% of what’s available is read, even if it’s sold. At what point will we realize this is an unsustainable model? …It’s a problem, btw, that affects not just indie publishers, but traditional publishers as well. And some of these services are, at least anecdotally, seeing flatter yields. Take BookBub, which used to get fabulous results for authors. (I’m not talking about free books, which probably deserve a blogpost of their own—but books on sale for $.99 or more.) The number of books sold after a BookBub ad has slowed, at least for me and other authors I’ve talked to….

And yet, even traditionally published authors are being pushed to publish more than one book a year….I’ve got to wonder whether the demand for new work is so insatiable that authors need to push themselves. Do publishers and writers really think readers won’t flock to your next book if you wait a few months?…

Someone on KBoards called Mike Dennis’s thread the “Most Depressing Thread of 2013.” I don’t agree. I think it’s one of the first times we’ve had an honest discussion about self-publishing. It’s been long overdue….


Read the full story at NEW RULE: No More Binge Publishing!


~guest host Kat Sheridan

Book marketers need to rethink three things: time, timing, and budgeting

29 October 2013

Mike Shatzkin has a new post up discussing how the transition to online sales changes the legacy publisher approach to marketing. If you’re interested in the legacy publishing view of such things, you should go read the whole thing. I’m going to focus on one paragraph because it really clarified a curious aspect of the legacy mindset (emphasis added):

And the economics of big book marketing were also different, although it is not clear how much this has been taken into account. Because books that publishers and agents know will be big in advance tend to have advances calculated to be too high to earn out, a publisher can figure that all the sales margin on those titles creates a margin contribution to the publisher; the royalty is, in effect, already paid. But that’s not true further down the list, particularly on backlist, where each incremental sale can trigger an incremental royalty payment. That can confuse an ROI calculation and would tend to discourage a publisher from freely allocating money to promote backlist.

Now, I knew that blockbuster books typically had advances like this, but I hadn’t ever thought about how that affects the mindset of folks at a big publishing company. Let’s say you have an author who has a track record of selling 400,000+ copies in hardback + ebook sales. And the split between hardcover vs. ebook sales was 50/50 (usually bestsellers sell more in print than ebook, but this makes the math easier). The author gets a $2 million advance. You order an initial print run of 250,000 copies and price the book at $27.99. Unless sales wildly exceed expectations (i.e. you have to order another print run), the book won’t earn out, but the publisher still clears a few million dollars. Other than the copies you hold back to supply Amazon (and other online retailers of physical books, if any), you will ship almost all of those books to bookstores. Manufacturing, distribution,  and royalties are essentially fixed costs.

Here’s the interesting thing. The only big variable cost is the cost of returns. For the manager budgeting for this project, the marginal value of a copy sold in a bookstore is pretty close to the full retail price. You get the revenue from the sale, about 50%, and you reduce your potential returns by the same amount. A hardcover sold at Amazon, which doesn’t do returns because they don’t have to, is only worth half that in your project budget. And an ebook is probably only worth about $11. Where would you put your marketing effort?

Think about the psychological impact of the last few years as more and more sales have migrated from print to ebooks and from bookstores to Amazon. The legacy mindset was always behind the curve, underestimating the change. Every legacy publishing manager probably ordered print runs that were a little bit too big and sent too many books to bookstores. In big corporations, your performance is typically measured against your boss’s expectations. It doesn’t take much to throw off your spreadsheet and ruin your bonus for the year. I think I understand where the antipathy towards ebooks and Amazon is coming from.


-William Ockham

Soon to be Famous

29 October 2013

From The Illinois Author project

Illinois libraries hope to discover an unknown, self-published author whose work will jump off the page for readers. The Soon to be Famous Illinois Author project will be accepting self-published adult fiction submissions from Illinois residents via their local libraries. Visit us at booth 131 at ILA during the exhibits.

Click here to read the press release.

Evidently some libraries do like self-published books.

From Guest Bloggers Randall and Bridget

Faster Delivery, Greater Selection, and Cheaper Prices

29 October 2013

Amazon’s business is built on three basic concepts: faster delivery, greater selection, and cheaper prices.

In service of that, it has built enormous warehouses staffed that shuttle around, pulling goods out of bins at remarkable speed. It can take just a matter of minutes to go from order to shipment.

And lately it’s pursuing a program where Amazon goes directly into manufacturers and manages their logistics and online retailing.

Read it all at NPR Moving In With Manufacturers

Do I Want My Brain in Physical Books, or e-Books?

29 October 2013

From Mark Changizi at

Most of what I know isn’t in my head. It’s out there in my books. I know how to do a lot of integrals in calculus, for example. But, really, what I mean by that is that I know where my book of integrals is, and I know where in the book any particular method is. I know all that stuff in all those books in my house because I can find my way there.

And once I find the book, when I open it up I can use visual cues within it to find my way to the right page. …These visuo-spatial cues guide me further and further along to the goal, the piece of my knowledge out there in my library.

Mess with my library and books, and you mess with my brain.

E-readers, on the other hand, dispense with this navigation process. Whether it’s e-readers or pretty much anything on the web, the way we get to the information isn’t by spatially navigating our way there, but, instead, by “beaming” directly there like in Star Trek.

That kind of direct beaming sounds good at first, and maybe — just maybe — it is, but note that the information’s address doesn’t get nicely put in your brain, not in the way it does for my library. For my library, that information has a physical location, and I’m good at remembering where things are in the real, physical, world. But in let’s-beam-any-old-place-any-old-time world, the information comes with no address, and thus no easy way to organize it into my head.

Brains are wonderful things. Their innate plasticity and ability to create new pathways and new organizational structures is one of the most wonderful things about them. We never need to be stuck in one way of doing things. As a neurobiologist, the author of the article might have mentioned that, but this is an opinion piece, not scientific journalism.

From guest blogger Bridget McKenna


29 October 2013

From Mark Coker at Smashwords

Oyster Shipments to Begin in Three Days.

On September 5, Smashwords announced a distribution agreement with Oyster, a new and innovative ebook subscription service. Oyster offers consumers unlimited access to more than 100,000 ebooks for only $9.95 per month.

At the time we announced the deal, we also announced that we wouldn’t begin shipping to Oyster until at least 72 hours after we shared the financial terms with you.  The clock starts now.

I also stated at the time that I believed the terms were author-friendly, and that Smashwords authors would be pleased when they learned the details.  Today, via this email, I’m sharing the details.

Here’s a link to our original announcement here. 


From Guest Blogger Randall with a thanks to J.M. for the tip.

From Publisher’s Weekly… Holy Shemoly!

29 October 2013

For Major Publishers, Will Print No Longer Be the Norm?

Agents worries mount over contracts that don’t guarantee print editions.

Format has been a long-simmering topic of debate in book publishing, and the question of when, and if, a title is published in hardcover, paperback, and/or digital has become even more pressing as bricks-and-mortar bookstores dwindle and e-book sales grow. The idea that any standard deal from a major publisher guarantees a print format release—which was previously a foregone conclusion—is something agents no longer take for granted, with some expressing concern that the big houses are starting to hedge on print editions in contracts.

While e-book-only agreements are nothing new—all large publishers have imprints that are exclusively dedicated to digital titles—a handful of agents, all of whom spoke to PW on the condition of anonymity, said they’re worried that contracts from print-first imprints will increasingly come with clauses indicating that the publisher makes no guarantee on format. The agents say this is a new twist to the standard way of doing business.

Read the rest here.  Publishers Weekly

Julia Barrett


Good Old Bruce Campbell…

29 October 2013

For those of you who loved the original Evil Dead–

Bruce Campbell Confirms ‘Army of Darkness 2’ Is Happening:

Last month Evil Dead remake director Fede Alvarez told us that original trilogy director Sam Raimi was now focused on making Army Of Darkness 2. Now it seems as though Bruce Campbell is confirming both his involvement and the fact that the movie will happen.

He told the crowd at Wizard World Nashville Comic Con, ““The last one was twenty-two years ago. I just haven’t been racing to do it. Sam Raimi is just a little bit busy making the biggest movies in Hollywood. I used to be busy. Now I’m not. That’s why I’m here. He then joked, “Ash would have to stop occasionally from chasing some deadite to catch his breath. Maybe we could do that, I guess. That would be exciting. Fight in a walker. That would be alright. Hit them with my cane. Fake them out, have a fake heart attack, distract a zombie. I like it.

Julia Barrett

Read the rest here.


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