Monthly Archives: March 2015

Delivering Amazon Packages in India

30 March 2015


When You Know It’s Time to Move On

30 March 2015

From author Elizabeth Spann Craig:

In October, my agent received an email from my editor.  I have a release scheduled in the Southern Quilting series this June (book 5).  My editor knew my contract for the series was about to run out and asked me to come up with some ideas for additional books for the series.

I developed two book outlines but never emailed them.  My editor wrote my agent last month to say that print sales had decreased (I’ve no doubt…they’re only a fraction of my digital sales for my self-published books) and Penguin Random House wanted to stop printing the series.  Instead, they were interested in my exploring their e-only line, InterMix.

And…I asked for my character rights back.

The publisher promptly returned a non-renewal notice for the series and a permission grant for me to continue it via self-pub.

I know my ebooks have been selling well—I get royalty checks.  I haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid here.  I know what I need a big-five traditional publisher for…expansive print distribution into bookstores.  But this is now becoming less and less important as indicated by my publisher moving away from printing this series.

I read my agent’s email and immediately knew I wanted to self-pub the series before I’d even finished the email. I’m fortunate enough to have a decent reader base at this point, making this the right decision.  Would I discourage everyone from accepting an e-only deal?  I wouldn’t.  But I’d add that we really need to go into these types of arrangements with our eyes open.  What do we want to get out of it?  We should do some soul-searching.

. . . .

Important for writers, I think—don’t let these types of decisions become personal.  I love my editor…I’ve had a fantastic working relationship with her.  My agent and I have worked together well.  This isn’t about relationships…this is business.  This is about my making a living.

I think they understand that. There are no hard feelings.  I’m not just taking my ball and going home out of pique. E-only isn’t a good fit for me…that’s all there is to it.

Link to the rest at Elizabeth Spann Craig

Here’s a link to Elizabeth Spann Craig’s books

When TPV was birthed in 2011, Elizabeth was already operating a thoughtful blog and PG has linked to quite a number of her posts over the years. Additionally, Elizabeth also has an active Twitter presence and has maintained that during the period PG has been following her.

Sexism in literature

30 March 2015

From the (Pakistan) Express Tribune:

Quick, off the top of your head, name five books that have gotten critical acclaim recently. Chances are the books you’ve named are mostly those written by a male author. ‘But that’s just because I read genres that are more male-dominated,’ you might argue.

Or, ‘Well, men write better books than women.’ Such arguments are overly simplistic (not to mention misogynistic, in the case of the latter) and ignore the deep-rooted sexism that is prevalent in the world of literature today.

. . . .

Pakistan breeds sexism in literature

According to the author Saba Imtiaz, female-dominated genres are comparatively less-respected. “Women-dominated genres [like romance] are considered to be second-tier, ‘easier’ to read and write, and that lack of recognition of how long it may take to write that work is quite dominant,” she says. Her novel is sometimes categorised as ‘chick-lit’, a term Saba thinks is dismissive and belittling. “I’m sure that when I was younger I used the word ‘chick-lit’ too; I would hope that I am more aware now of how ridiculous a word it is,” says Shazaf Fatima Haider, author of the wildly amusing novel How it Happened (2012), who is equally offended when her novel is categorised as ‘chick lit’. “I don’t think of myself as someone who writes only for women, nor is the book solely read by women, so it’s quite amusing to see the quick categorisation based on the theme,” she says. “It is a novel about marriage and weddings and it is, therefore, usually considered as a woman-only book, which is a bit of a daft and one-dimensional way of looking at it. But that’s our gendered outlook at life for you.”

. . . .

Shazaf says that famous, lauded authors and critics are also complicit in this denigration of literature written by women. “[Nobel prize-winning British author] VS Naipaul famously said that he didn’t consider any woman writer his equal. He also said, ‘I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me,’” explains Shazaf. “Naipaul has also said in interviews that women writers’ views are narrow and sentimental. So yes, I think this sort of bias exists, though not many are brave enough to express it so overtly.”

It is not just critics who view books by female authors differently. Readers also respond differently to these books according to their gender. “Women tend to either identify with or despise a character or scene or the entire book,” says Saba. “But that’s because (in my book) the protagonist and her best friend are women and so there is more for women to compare or identify with. Men tend to be either entirely dismissive or terribly curious,” she adds.

. . . .

There is also a tendency to assume that female writers are drawing from their personal experiences when it comes to assessing and critiquing their work. “In addition to labelling women’s writing ‘frivolous’, there is also a tendency to draw in a female writer’s personal life and background into the conversation and critique, whereas a male author’s writing is never critiqued in this manner,” says Saba.

. . . .

“In my experience, I think people are quick to assume I wrote my book to work out issues that are personal to me. I think people generally have an easier time imputing intellectual and aesthetic playfulness to a male author than they do to a female author — they can understand a woman writing from hurt or rage more than from a place of greater dispassion or from sheer aesthetic pleasure.”

Link to the rest at The Express Tribune and thanks to Diana for the tip.

Amazon Home Services

30 March 2015

From the Amazon Media Room:

Amazon announced today the launch of Amazon Home Services (, a new marketplace for on-demand professional services. In less than 60 seconds, customers can now browse, purchase and schedule hundreds of professional services from wall mounting a new TV to installing a new garbage disposal to house cleaning, directly on Amazon Home Services features handpicked pros offering upfront pricing on pre-packaged services with helpful reviews from customers that have made verified purchases. Amazon’s Happiness Guarantee backs all service purchases, so customers know the job will get done right. With this expansion beyond physical and digital goods, Amazon is now making purchasing professional services as easy as buying products. Amazon Home Services is now available across the country in major U.S. metropolitan areas including New York City, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle.

Link to the rest at Amazon Media Room and here’s a link to Amazon Home Services

So now, you can order a treadmill from Amazon and have Amazon send someone to put it together and haul away the box.

The secret to writing a novel a month

30 March 2015

From author Shantnu Tiwari, a TPV regular:

Ok folks, so this is Week 2 of Writing with Baby Challenge.

This week, I will give you the secret to writing a novel in one month (or in my case, 20 days). But let me warn you, there is no secret.

Writing with Baby Challenge, Week #2

So this week (over last 6 days) I wrote 5317 words. I’m hoping to average around a 1000 words a day. I use iDoneThis to track my word count- it’s pretty cool. You get an email everyday, and you reply to it saying how many words you typed. Saves the I forgot to note my wordcount excuse.

At this rate, will finish my current book in 2 months, which while slower than my previous pace of a book a month, is still faster than what, 90% of the writers out there.

. . . .

So what’s the secret to fast writing? It’s my secret sauce, which you can have for 6 monthly payments for $99.99!

The truth is, there is no secret. Sure, you can learn tricks like how to type faster. I can type 2000 words an hour (only when I’m in the middle of the book and in full flow). Before the baby, I was writing for an hour and a half a day (in 2 sittings), and easily typed 3-4000 words a day. Since I go for short novels (55-60k) words, that means a whole novel in 20 days.

. . . .

[Some authors] don’t trust their creative side. Their critical side, which is the side that has been trained in school to find fault with everything, to analyse and rip apart rather than build, is the part that takes over. The critical side is never happy with anything. No matter what you write, the critical side will find a fault with it (in the voice of your worst teacher).

If you want to write fast, there are no shortcuts. You just have to trust your creative side, and just damn type

Link to the rest at Shantnu Tiwari

Here’s a link to Shantnu Tiwari’s books

Amazon makes even temporary warehouse workers sign 18-month non-competes

30 March 2015

From The Verge:

Amazon is the country’s largest and most sophisticated online retailer, but it still runs largely on manual labor. Scattered around the country are massive warehouses staffed by workers who spend their days picking objects off shelves and putting them in boxes. During the holiday season, the company calls on a huge reserve army of temporary laborers.

The work is repetitive and physically demanding and can pay several dollars above minimum wage, yet Amazon is requiring these workers — even seasonal ones — to sign strict and far-reaching noncompete agreements. The Amazon contract, obtained by The Verge, requires employees to promise that they will not work at any company where they “directly or indirectly” support any good or service that competes with those they helped support at Amazon, for a year and a half after their brief stints at Amazon end. Of course, the company’s warehouses are the beating heart of Amazon’s online shopping empire, the extraordinary breadth of which has earned it the title of “the Everything Store,” so Amazon appears to be requiring temp workers to foreswear a sizable portion of the global economy in exchange for a several-months-long hourly warehouse gig.

. . . .

“Employee recognizes that the restrictions in this section 4 may significantly limit Employee’s future flexibility in many ways,” the agreement asserts, referencing the section containing the noncompete agreement and three other clauses. “Employee further recognizes that the geographic areas for many of Amazon’s products and services — and, by extension, the geographic areas applicable to certain restrictions in this Section 4 — are extremely broad and in many cases worldwide.”

The contract — which was obtained through applying and being accepted to a seasonal Amazon warehouse position — even includes a provision that requires employees who sign it to “disclose and provide a true and correct copy of this Agreement to any prospective new employer […] BEFORE accepting employment[…]”

. . . .

It’s unclear whether Amazon has attempted to enforce its noncompete contracts with hourly warehouse workers, and Amazon did not respond when asked about this by The Verge. But the company does have a history of aggressively pursuing such cases against white collar workers. Last year, after a former Amazon marketing manager took a job at Google, Amazon leveled a suit against him that was said to test the limits of noncompete law. The willingness of courts to validate such agreements can vary dramatically across states. But regardless of whether courts are willing to enforce them, noncompetes can still affect workers’ behavior.

. . . .

Courts are often reluctant to enforce noncompete agreements that cover the entire United States, let alone the whole world, according to Garden, who notes that the standard of “reasonableness” is the main legal test of the agreements. Yet different states have far different ideas of what counts as reasonable. (In an apparent nod to this, the Amazon contract stipulates that the signer consents that “each and every covenant and restraint in this Agreement is reasonable.”) California law bans the enforcement of noncompetes. Oregon, North Dakota, and Colorado have also enacted strict limits on noncompetes. “Then there are states like Texas and Florida and a bunch of others that are on the other end of the spectrum,” says Lobel, “that think of it as a simple contract issue, and if you sign the contract and you breach it then, well, you’ve breached the contract, and they’ll enforce it, and they’ll give injunctions quite easily.”

Link to the rest at The Verge and thanks to Jan for the tip.

PG says the story sounds a little weird and you can count him as skeptical.

In the first place, while the laws vary from state to state, most courts considering noncompete agreements tend to apply a reasonableness test when asked to enforce them.

It’s difficult for PG to envision very many judges enforcing an 18 month noncompete agreement against a temporary warehouse worker. It’s also difficult to believe that courts would enforce a noncompete agreement prohibiting a former low-level hourly employee from working for a competitor within a large geographical area for a low level worker. As a matter of public policy, most state governments aren’t trying to prevent their residents from being gainfully employed.

In one case PG remembers, Amazon sued in Washington to enforce a non-compete against one of its vice-presidents in the Amazon cloud business who went to work for Google’s cloud business. If PG’s recollection is correct, the court hearing the case reduced the time for the non-compete from 18 months to 3 months. If the vice-president had continued to work during the litigation, the three months would have almost certainly expired before the court handed down its decision.

As mentioned, non-compete agreements are illegal in California except in very narrow circumstances. If Google had moved the VP to California and he sued Amazon in California, it is almost certain a California court would have voided the non-compete agreement and barred Amazon from enforcing it.

Additionally, there’s the practical question involved in Amazon ever discovering that one of its former warehouse employees has started working for a competitor. If you’re an Amazon vice-president that starts working for a competitor, your profile is high enough so Amazon is likely to hear about the new job. If you move from an Amazon warehouse to a Wal-Mart warehouse, the chances of being discovered are minuscule.

PG says that blanket noncompete agreements for all employees are a really dumb idea in part because gaining a reputation for suing its former employees hurts a company when it is recruiting high-quality talent. Amazon usually doesn’t do dumb things, but maybe their employment lawyers are an exception.

Even when you don’t want to

29 March 2015

Write even when you don’t want to, don’t much like what you are writing, and aren’t writing particularly well.

Agatha Christie

The Weight of Knowledge: On Moving Books

29 March 2015

From The Millions:


“Yes, sir, 45 boxes over the original moving estimate.”

“How much is that going to cost?”

“Well, the revised estimate adds another 1,000 pounds, so $450.”


“But that’s just a weight estimate. It could be a lot less depending on what’s in them. They could be filled with pillows for instance. What is in them?”

“Not pillows.”

Many were filled with books, hundreds of them. And if the mover was to believed, they weighed about half a ton: the approximate weight of my knowledge.

I had packed all of the books into two types of freely acquired boxes: those labeled “Adult Brief for Incontinence (Moderate Absorbency),” which my wife brought home from a hospital; and a colorful array picked up at our local liquor store, everything from Ciroc Red Berry to Kinky Blue Liqueur, a versatile concoction which doubles as an aphrodisiac and a window cleaner.

I thought about packing thematically, sorting my volumes by intoxicant. The Russians would go with the vodkas, the Irish with the whiskeys, Germans with the beers, the French with the cognacs, and those few authors whom I knew personally, along with William Faulkner, with the beloved bourbons.

. . . .

Before my last big move, from California to North Carolina about five years ago, I had unloaded most of my book-hoard — I prefer this Old English construction to “library” or “collection,” both of which don’t quite capture the thrilling chaos of that word-treasure spread over my shelves, coffee tables, floors, bathrooms, and car.

. . . .

After the purge, my book-hoard was whittled down to a few boxes to be shipped via media mail.

“Now to get the media mail rate there can only be books in here,” explained the suspicious postal clerk as she watched me hoist the boxes onto the counter.

“I understand.”

“If we open it up and find even a toothbrush, we’ll charge you the full rate.”

(Had she divined my scheme to defraud the post office by cheaply shipping dental supplies, or was she bluffing?)

“Got it,” I replied, despite the realization that I had actually thrown a non-media mail object in with my Norton anthologies — not a toothbrush but an armless Hideki Matsui bobblehead doll. (It made it through undetected.)

Those several dozen books transported from the West Coast multiplied over the years to fill 45 some-odd boxes, proving that the greatest fiction is that book lovers can reform.

. . . .

I took the carful to a used book store, where the clerk instructed me to wait as he sorted the books into two piles — one he wouldn’t buy and the other he’d buy for a pittance. For a bibliophile, this period is especially dangerous, akin to an alcoholic trying to dry out in a Kinky Blue Liqueur distillery. If you must browse to pass the time, I recommend confining yourself to the least tempting section, for me “Spirituality” or “Business.” Then plug your ears when the clerk offers you a figure for store credit, which can be twice as high as the cash offer. Always take the cash.

Link to the rest at The Millions

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