Monthly Archives: June 2014

3 Voices In The Age Of Amazon: Tech It To The Next Level

30 June 2014

From Thought Catalog:

Is there a way to hack through the jungle of snarls and get a higher view on publishing’s struggle with and around Amazon?

“Those who think the ground beneath the book business is not moving violently, look away now,” writes The Bookseller’s Philip Jones in his editorial lead for Friday.

. . . .

Would you like to assume that Amazon is telling a lie? Want to give it a good harrumph and claim that you don’t believe a thing coming out of that Northwestern city? That’s fine. You get to disbelieve and discount anything and anybody you want. Hell, I don’t believe a word I say.

But in any argument, it’s a lot better for you to have to stop, even briefly, and consider the fact that someone’s original assertion, especially about a lightning rod like Amazon, may not be accurate. You’re likelier to find the truth if you get a chance to hear more than one side of a problem.

And there are a lot of sides of the problems facing publishing — like those facing Amazon, actually.

Wednesday evening, the self- and traditionally published author Hugh Howey was interviewed on Blog Talk Radio’s Suspense Magazine by a host who studiously pronounces Hachette “Hashay.” At one point, this interviewer wondered aloud why publishers weren’t “stepping up and trying to save Barnes & Noble.” Maybe he doesn’t know that just last year, Barnes & Noble was in a retail-negotiations fight with Simon & Schuster that punished innocent authors and readers, including Howey and readers of Wool, by refusing to carry certain books in stores — very, very much as Amazon’s standoff with “Hashay” is punishing some of its authors now. This host seemed to have to be reminded by Howey, too, that rising profits on royalty-poor ebooks have been shoring up publishers’ sliding revenues on print.

Howey, on the high ground, patiently talked about the way the industry! the industry! seems to focus on just that — its commercial fortunes, not the value of its content and the reader-writer relationship.

“We see people consumed,” Howey said, “with how things are going to affect these multi-million-dollar corporations, and not the people on either end of these corporations,” the writers and the readers.

Link to the rest at Thought Catalog

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Some editors

30 June 2014

Some editors are failed writers, but so are most writers.

 T. S. Eliot

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The writing life: lonely, but not alone

30 June 2014

From author Belinda Williams:

I’ve written before about how the writing path can be long one, but I was in touch with a fellow writer recently and the subject of loneliness came up. Specifically, the loneliness that often accompanies writing.

It got me thinking. It made me realise that it has never been a better time to be a writer. Sure, we still have to spend hours alone labouring over our manuscripts, but the concept of a writer being cut off from the rest of the world is as antiquated as this photo of an old typewriter. Here’s why:

Social media: I love social media, because it’s all about connecting people. In my time as a writer, most of the writers I’ve met have been online. Some of these have flourished into genuine friendships. At the very minimum, social media is a great place for sharing ideas and writing tips and I’ve learnt an incredible amount in the online and social media environment.
. . . .

Beta-readers are my cheer squad, my reality check and my sounding boards. I couldn’t do it without them! Whenever I feel like I’m alone, all I have to do is call up one of my beta-readers and after a a few minutes of discussing my latest project (yes, they’re genuinely interested!) I feel a sense of relief.

Link to the rest at Belinda Williams

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The literary films of summer 2014

30 June 2014

From The Los Angeles Times:

Book-loving moviegoers saw the summer of 2014 get off to a great start with the adaptation of John Green’s young adult novel “The Fault in Our Stars,” which topped the box office during its opening weekend earlier this month.

The success of “The Fault in Our Stars” cuts through the notion that literary films should be serious winter movies and released around the holidays for contention in the Oscar race. This summer we’ll see more young adult books made into films, several literary thrillers and some surprises.

. . . .

Literary films of summer 2014 include adaptations of books by Patricia Highsmith, Elmore Leonard, Nick Hornby and Cormac McCarthy. And some films aren’t adaptations but are still awfully bookish.

. . . .

“The Congress,” starring Robin Wright. Wright plays an actress who sells a complete digital version of herself to a movie company, later winding up partly in a digital world and partly in a strange dystopia. Very loosely based on Polish science fiction writer Stanislaw Lem’s “The Futurological Congress.”

. . . .

The Hundred-Foot Journey,” which stars Helen Mirren, is from the novel by Richard C. Morais set in the south of France; French and Indian cuisines and cultures collide.

. . . .

The Two Faces of January” is adapted by from the novel by Patricia Highsmith. Like her Ripley series, this involves travel, love and deceit. Starring Viggo Mortenson, Kirsten Dunst and Oscar Isaac.

Link to the rest at The Los Angeles Times

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More Konrants

30 June 2014

From Joe Konrath:

I just got back from a wonderful vacation with my family with limited cell phone and Internet access. We had to communicate by doing something called talking, which is a lot like texting or emailing, but without emoticons or abbreviations.

I have now returned, and as I might have guessed, the stupid was strong on the world wide web while I was away.

. . . .

First off, Laura Miller said some ridiculous things in a recent Salon article.

Laura: Anyone who has followed the coverage of the ongoing Amazon-Hachette dispute knows that some of the most impassioned voices on the pro-Amazon side of the argument come from self-published writers. It’s easy to understand their impulse to defend Amazon’s e-book publishing programs, given that many had tried in vain to publish their books with traditional houses before opting for, say, Kindle Direct Publishing.

Joe: Sure, Laura. It’s bitter losers, snubbed by the industry, who despise it because they had to settle for the meager compensation of controlling their own rights and making more money with Amazon.

You’re aware many have also tried to publish with legacy houses and succeeded. Then we discovered that legacy publishers had unconscionable contracts, archaic business practices, and overall behaved badly. But, as they were the only game in town, we lived with it… until Amazon came around.

Many authors are pro Amazon for a simple, easy to understand reason: Amazon treats authors better and pays them more.

. . . .

Laura: The Big Five compete with each other for the books they want to publish.

Joe: Compete how? The size of the advance?

Don’t you find it curious that they don’t compete by offering better contract terms in other areas, such as royalty percentage, rights reversion, length of term of rights, indemnity clauses, non-compete clauses, next options, and many other author-unfriendly provisions?

How about competing like other companies compete for employees? Insurance, bonuses, 401k, pension plans, severance packages, vacation time, paid lunches, travel compensation, expense sheets, etc.?

. . . .

Is it real competition when all the major publishers somehow wound up offering lockstep 25% ebook royalties? Isn’t it odd some publishers didn’t try to attract authors by offering more?

Now perhaps all publishers coincidentally came to this figure independent of one another. But I think it is more likely that everyone secretly agreed that the only terms they’d “compete” on were advance sizes, except in the rare case of mega-bestsellers.

. . . .

Laura: Most readers are not willing to read dozens of sample chapters in order to find something acceptable or to rely on consumer reviews of questionable authenticity.

Joe: Can you show me the poll you took of “most readers”? I assume the sample was at least tens of thousands, right?

Have you ever been in a bookstore, looking for something new to read? Readers browse, whether it is legacy pubbed books, or self-pubbed ebooks. Sorta like you do when you Google something and find the website you want in the search results.

Google doesn’t only list the vetted, curated, sifted websites. It lists them all. And the popularity of a website is based on reader preference, not sifting.

. . . .

Laura: While there’s not much self-publishers can do to influence the outcome of the Hachette-Amazon dispute, this affair should serve as a cautionary tale about placing too much power in the hands of a single retail outlet.

Joe: Hachette authors aren’t at the mercy of Amazon. They’re at the mercy of Hachette.
Self-pubbed authors aren’t at the mercy of Amazon, either. If you’re concerned about Amazon, can you show me their history of squeezing and mistreating writers? Why worry about being eaten by wolves, when there is currently a lion feasting on your legs?

Hachette authors are getting screwed because they signed away their rights to Hachette, trusting that publisher to make business deals that best serve them. If Hachette can’t make a deal with the biggest retailer of books in the world, Hachette is the problem.

I sympathize with Hachette authors, and with all legacy pubbed authors. But they need to accept that they signed the deal. I signed four legacy deals. I felt I had no choice, and no negotiating power. They were the only game in town, and I had to take it or leave it. So I took it, and I accepted full responsibility for my publishers’ many mistakes.

Now that there IS a choice, authors must accept even more responsibility. Signing away your rights, when you’re now able to keep them and self-publish, is a huge gamble. Because if your publisher screws the pooch, you’re stuck. Forever.

Link to the rest at Joe Konrath

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Free books for donation to charity and the needy

30 June 2014

From The Boston Globe:

When the Concord Free Press was just a radical idea with a one-title book list, founder Stona Fitch nervously pitched Wesley Brown , hoping to persuade the acclaimed author to let him publish Brown’s latest novel.

“You want me to give you this novel I’ve been writing for years,” he recalls Brown saying. “You’re not going to pay me. And you’re going to give it away for free and hope that readers donate money to something else.”

“I said, ‘Wes, yeah, that’s pretty much it.’ There’s this long pause and I’m waiting for something bad to happen. And he said, ‘I’m in.’ ”

Six years later, the Concord Free Press is about to publish its 10th book. Each copy in the 3,000-print run will be marked $0.00. The back jacket will announce: “This book is free.”

In return, readers agree to give away money, in any amount: to a charity, a stranger on the street, or someone who needs it. Donations since 2008 total $409,250 — and that is just those reported back to the publisher. Readers are also asked to pass along the book once they are finished, so donations continue to multiply.

Amidst so much negative news about the future of publishing, Fitch is trying to create a way for authors to get their books to readers, the guiding goal of any writer. At the same time, Fitch hopes to encourage generosity among readers.

Link to the rest at The Boston Globe and thanks to Joshua for the tip.

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Secrets of the Creative Brain

29 June 2014

From The Atlantic:

I have spent much of my career focusing on the neuroscience of mental illness, but in recent decades I’ve also focused on what we might call the science of genius, trying to discern what combination of elements tends to produce particularly creative brains. What, in short, is the essence of creativity? Over the course of my life, I’ve kept coming back to two more-specific questions: What differences in nature and nurture can explain why some people suffer from mental illness and some do not? And why are so many of the world’s most creative minds among the most afflicted? My latest study, for which I’ve been scanning the brains of some of today’s most illustrious scientists, mathematicians, artists, and writers, has come closer to answering this second question than any other research to date.

. . . .

Although many people continue to equate intelligence with genius, a crucial conclusion from Terman’s study is that having a high IQ is not equivalent to being highly creative. Subsequent studies by other researchers have reinforced Terman’s conclusions, leading to what’s known as the threshold theory, which holds that above a certain level, intelligence doesn’t have much effect on creativity: most creative people are pretty smart, but they don’t have to be that smart, at least as measured by conventional intelligence tests. An IQ of 120, indicating that someone is very smart but not exceptionally so, is generally considered sufficient for creative genius.

. . . .

One approach, which is sometimes referred to as the study of “little c,” is to develop quantitative assessments of creativity—a necessarily controversial task, given that it requires settling on what creativity actually is. The basic concept that has been used in the development of these tests is skill in “divergent thinking,” or the ability to come up with many responses to carefully selected questions or probes, as contrasted with “convergent thinking,” or the ability to come up with the correct answer to problems that have only one answer. For example, subjects might be asked, “How many uses can you think of for a brick?” A person skilled in divergent thinking might come up with many varied responses, such as building a wall; edging a garden; and serving as a bludgeoning weapon, a makeshift shot put, a bookend.

. . . .

A second approach to defining creativity is the “duck test”: if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it must be a duck. This approach usually involves selecting a group of people—writers, visual artists, musicians, inventors, business innovators, scientists—who have been recognized for some kind of creative achievement, usually through the awarding of major prizes (the Nobel, the Pulitzer, and so forth). Because this approach focuses on people whose widely recognized creativity sets them apart from the general population, it is sometimes referred to as the study of “big C.” The problem with this approach is its inherent subjectivity. What does it mean, for example, to have “created” something? Can creativity in the arts be equated with creativity in the sciences or in business, or should such groups be studied separately? For that matter, should science or business innovation be considered creative at all?

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

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I can write better

29 June 2014

I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better.

A. J. Liebling

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Here’s What the Future of Reading Looks Like

29 June 2014

From New York magazine:

Software is eating the world. It’s also eating the book.

For years, traditional book publishers have hoped that standalone e-readers — Kindles, Nooks, and the like — would be their salvation, replacing paper-and-ink books as the diversion of choice for a new generation of readers. But several new data points suggest that’s not happening. In fact, it seems clearer than ever that the future of reading isn’t on reading devices at all. It’s on your phone.

. . . .

“E-readers are looking like the next iPod,” Mashable writes today, noting that smartphones and tablets with e-reader apps are poised to cannibalize sales of dedicated e-readers in the same way that the iPhone – which had all the capabilities of an iPod, plus calling and texting and tons of other apps – killed its single-feature predecessor.

The death of the standalone e-reader might be good news for consumers, who will have one fewer gadget to buy and lug around. But it’s bad news for the book industry. If you’ve ever tried to read a book on your phone, you’ll know why. Reading on an original Kindle or a Nook is an immersive experience. There are no push notifications from other apps to distract you from your novel, no calendar reminders or texts popping up to demand your immediate attention. And this immersion is partly why people who use dedicated e-readers tend to buy a lot of books. (One survey indicated that e-book readers read about 24 books a year, compared to 15 books a year for paper-and-ink readers.)

E-book sales aren’t necessarily correlated with the popularity of standalone e-book readers, and the publishing industry could still have a successful digital transition if it convinces iPhone and Android users to buy e-books in the same quantities as Kindle and Nook users. But there’s no getting around the fact that smartphones aren’t designed for focused, sustained reading.

Link to the rest at New York and thanks to Patricia for the tip.

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99% of what Writers are hearing in terms of advice comes from 1% of Authors

29 June 2014

From author Bob Mayer:

[W]e want to hear from success stories, not failures. Still, if it were easy to replicate those successes, then everyone would be doing it. Plus, many success stories feel their path is thepath, and don’t take into account not only other paths, but the changes in the business and even in story telling since they started.

For decades the spiel was pretty much the same: write a great novel following a traditional form of narrative structure (I still teach the five part structure) and then query an agent, hope the agent takes you on, then the agent pitches an editor, etc. etc. etc.

That’s somewhat true now, but there are so many more options, if I were new to publishing I’d be completely confused, as many writers I’ve met at conferences are.

First—does what the 1% say regarding their career path even apply any more? Things are different now than they were just six months ago. For trad authors issues like rights granted, reversion clauses, and non-compete clauses are growing more and more important. For indie authors, the market is saturated, so how do you get a toehold in it and leverage your way up, especially if you don’t have backlist, which is the conundrum for the new author?

When I was listening to an agent present I felt like I was in a time warp going back five years or more. Much of what she said was applicable but some of it had cobwebs hanging all over it. In fact, the success story she touted was a couple of years out of date and no longer applicable. But in a similar manner, I’ve heard some on the indie side speak and while what they say is often cutting edge, the cut is often very much slanted toward indie, while disparaging to trad publishing. I tend to believe for a new author, trad is probably the better option simply because the learning curve in publishing is so steep, that to learn it and break in while publishing yourself (while still writing, being a parent, working a job, etc.) might be more a cliff than a curve.

Link to the rest at Write on the River and thanks to Glinda for the tip.

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