Monthly Archives: August 2015

Seven Ways Blogging Improves Your Writing

30 August 2015

From Writers Write:

Today, it seems that everyone is a blogger. Setting up a blog is simple. If your mother can set up a Facebook profile, chances are she will be able to set up a blog.

So, if it is that simple, why are you not blogging? Not everyone wants to write about his or her life. An online diary is seriously not everyone’s cup of tea, but if you spend time online, you will notice not all blogs are personal diaries.

. . . .

If that is not enough motivation to get you blogging, consider these seven points:

1. It gives you a deadline. Writers always perform better with deadlines. It forces you into a routine and helps you remain focussed.

2. It gives you something else to write. Sometimes we need a break from our novels and blogging will help with that

. . . .

4. The comments are great. They give you immediate feedback. However, some comments are not always great, but consider it a good way to start developing a thick skin.

Link to the rest at Writers Write and thanks to Elizabeth for the tip.

50% off from Kobo

30 August 2015

From Kobo:

Attention all Kobo Writing Life authors!

We’re proud to announce that we’ll be supporting a special end-of-summer clearance sale on all titles published through KWL—a 50% discount for your readers, on us. This sale won’t cost you anything and will not be taken out of your royalties.

This special sale will start Friday, August 28th and ends on Monday, August 31st and will be valid in Canada, United States, Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and South Africa.

Customers will be able to redeem 50% off of any title published by KWL using the promo code SALE50 an unlimited number of times starting this Friday—so please, let your readers and fans know about this incredible opportunity to stack up on eBooks while they can!

Link to the rest at Kobo and thanks to Timothy for the tip.

Has Amazon Cracked the Problem With In-App Payments?

30 August 2015

From Wired:

There’s an experience familiar to nearly anyone who’s downloaded a game on their smartphone. Try as you might to conquer the latest level/village/candy, your thumbs lack the speed/agility/candy to get you through. With deep regret, you purchase an item or expansion pack to continue your long march toward distraction. If, every time you do this, you find yourself thinking that there must be a better way, know two things: you’re right, and you’re not alone.

. . . .

Amazon introduced Underground, an Android app that contains a huge number of traditionally paid or freemium apps that will cost its users absolutely nothing to use, alongside a traditional Amazon shopping experience.

“For many customers we were hearing that sometimes it’s frustrating when you’re involved in a game and have to stop and make a transaction,” says Amazon Appstore director Aaaron Rubenson. “What we realized is that a model like the one we rolled out in Underground, where customers can simply download and use all of the features of a given app, or explore a game without having to worry about transactions in the middle… would be wonderful for customers.”

Customers and, it turns out, developers, have grown increasingly frustrated with the revenue generated by the in-app purchase model. Only a handful of app-makers, it seems, actually benefit in a significant way. If they cause so much frustration from both directions, why do in-app payments not just persist but dominate your downloads?

. . . .

“The apps market is a hits-driven business with those few developers at the very top of the charts claiming most of the revenues,” explains Kent. Not only that, but even those developers rely on a small subset of consumers who spend big. “The in-app model relies on monetizing a small segment of the audience,” Kent goes on. “Within that group there is an even smaller segment of users that will spend huge amounts within a game.”

. . . .

It’s worth digging a little deeper into Amazon Underground, in part because so much about it is unique to the company that makes it.

“What we heard on the developer side was that it was difficult to earn a decent amount of revenue even when the intellectual property was popular with customers,” says Amazon’s Rubenson, echoing the limitations laid out by both Levitas and Kent. “With the numbers being that small, it’s difficult to stay above the poverty line.”

Amazon’s answer? Pay developers out of pocket based on aggregate minutes of usage, at a rate of $.002 per minute.

“There’s no limit, and it doesn’t matter what the app cost initially, or how many items there are or what they cost. We just have the rate,” explains Rubenson. “As a developer, you’re able to engage by continuing to issue updates, or new levels. If you can keep people excited about it you can keep making money that entire time. It essentially becomes an annuity, if you’re successful and can drive engagement.”

Rubenson points out that developers have also been relieved not to have to think about shoehorning transactional moments into their gameplay, which can upset the pacing and enjoyability.

Link to the rest at Wired and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Delete the Non-Compete

29 August 2015

From The Authors Guild:

Authors must be free to publish the works they want to write. But publishers often insist on terms that can make that impossible. In attempting to restrict authors from competing against their own works, publishers craft broad, harsh non-compete clauses that can unfairly impede authors from making a living. These clauses have to go.

Don’t get us wrong: We get the basic concept. An author shouldn’t be able to take a book under contract with Publisher X, rework it a little, walk it across the street, and sell essentially the same book to Publisher Y. That’s what non-compete clauses were designed to prevent, and when that’s all they actually do, we’re fine with them—although other provisions in publishing agreements accomplish the same thing.

Unfortunately, many standard publishing agreements contain sweeping non-compete terms that can be used to restrict what else an author publishes and when. That’s an unacceptable restriction on authors’ livelihoods in an era when many writers are struggling just to make ends meet.

No publisher would agree, at an author’s request, to forgo publishing another author’s book on a particular subject. So why should an author assume a similar obligation? But it happens all the time. Authors are routinely asked to agree not to publish other works that might “directly compete with” the book under contract or “be likely to injure its sale or the merchandising of other rights.” Even more broadly, they may be asked not to “publish or authorize the publication of any material based on the Work or any material in the Work or any other work of such a nature such that it is likely to compete with the Work.”

. . . .

Academics and textbook writers who spend their careers studying and writing about a particular area of expertise are especially vulnerable. They should not be limited to one book on that subject during their entire careers. But that’s what can happen if the author agrees to a broad non-compete. Take the economist who published a dissertation on oil in the Middle East and soon became a professor and an expert on the topic. Decades later, he came to us when he received an offer from another publisher for a book on—you guessed it—oil in the Middle East. But the publishing contract for his dissertation stipulated that he needed to obtain permission to publish a totally new book on the subject—even though, in the intervening years, the field had completely changed. For an author to have to ask for permission to write about what he or she knows best is outrageous.

Link to the rest at The Authors Guild and thanks to Dave for the tip.

In Stieg Larsson’s Head, but His Own Man

29 August 2015

From The New York Times:

The saga of Lisbeth Salander continues, and David Lagercrantz, who has written the sequel to Stieg Larsson’s wildly popular “Millennium” trilogy, is both proud and deeply anxious over how millions of readers will receive it.

“At night my head burns,” he said, explaining that he had tried to get Mr. Larsson’s characters “into my blood system” when writing. Asked about the biggest liberty he took, he laughed a little and said, “Doing it.”

A tall, handsome, slightly twitchy man in a T-shirt and plaid trousers, he acknowledged that “I’m scared to death that I won’t live up to Stieg.” But “I couldn’t resist,” he said. “I would have regretted it my whole life.”

Mr. Larsson’s legacy is certainly formidable, even intimidating. After he died in 2004 of a sudden heart attack at 50, his three books, beginning with “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo,” went on to sell some 80 million copies in more than 50 languages.

In 2013, Mr. Larsson’s father and brother hired Mr. Lagercrantz, a Swedish author of literary fiction and biography, to write a sequel to the trilogy. The result, “The Girl in the Spider’s Web,” was published in 25 countries on Thursday (the American edition is due out on Tuesday), and its many publishers, including Knopf in the United States, have reason to be bullish.

. . . .

Already 2.7 million copies have been printed globally, and marketing is in full swing; one German bookshop is offering to give away a Fiat 500 in the “Millennium” design — the Fiat with the Dragon Tattoo — to a lucky customer. Discussions about another film have already begun, and Mr. Lagercrantz is preparing for a grueling five-week author’s tour in Europe and the United States.

But not everyone has welcomed the book, which throws its characters into complicated new conspiracies involving cybercrime and the National Security Agency. Its publication has been particularly traumatic for Mr. Larsson’s longtime partner, Eva Gabrielsson, who sees it as a crass manipulation of his legacy for profit. She draws a parallel between “Spider’s Web” and the controversial publication of Harper Lee’s first draft of “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

“I’m quite angry about it,” she said. “I don’t think it’s the right thing to do to a dead author. Sequels never turn out very well, because authors are so constrained; they’re not free to move around in the material.”

Ms. Gabrielsson, now 61, lived with Mr. Larsson for more than 30 years, but because they never married, she had no inheritance rights under Swedish law.

. . . .

 Mr. Lagercrantz, meanwhile, remains sensitive to charges that he is profiting from another man’s fame. The Swedish news media has pointed out, as has Ms. Gabrielsson, that he and Stieg Larsson are from different worlds — that Mr. Lagercrantz is from a noble literary family and lacks the political activism and rage that drove Mr. Larsson.

Link to the rest at The New York Times

She’s a charming middle age lady

29 August 2015

She’s a charming middle age lady with a face like a bucket of mud and if she’s washed her hair since Coolidge’s second term, I’ll eat my spare tire, rim and all.

Raymond Chandler

Why Do So Many of This Year’s Book Covers Have the Same Design Style?

29 August 2015

From Slate:


Among the many challenges book cover designers face is trying to represent a book’s premise or main character without getting so specific that readers are left with little to imagine.

. . . .

But lately, another cover design trend has been popping up on this summer’s crop of beach reads: the flat woman. Inspired by the “flat design” that’s become standard on the Web, these covers take on a minimalist style characterized by bright colors, simple layouts, and lots of white space. Several different designers and publishers have used this approach on hardcovers and paperbacks alike, especially those aiming for the upmarket-but-still-commercial-fiction-for-ladies sweet spot.

. . . .

Keith Hayes, who designed the Bernadette cover for publisher Little, Brown, told me via email that he didn’t have any intention of using the flat design style or starting a trend when he conceptualized this cover; he was just working “out of the inability to actually draw,” he said.

“Finding an appropriate enough photograph and placing some type on it just didn’t seem special enough,” he said. “It needed a lighthearted cover that would appeal to both women and men and also feel original.” Hayes says he wanted to do an illustrative approach but didn’t have specialty training in that area. “I like to try to solve my design problems on my own. I thought I could do this in a somewhat simplistic way using basic shapes,” he says.


Link to the rest at Slate and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Amazon Shoppers Not Swayed by Workplace Horror Stories

29 August 2015

From Advertising Age:

Consumers are well aware of the negative chatter surrounding Amazon’s high-stakes workplace culture, but they still plan to shop there.

Amazon’s brand perception plummeted 60% this week, after a New York Times expose spotlighted a troubling workplace environment, according to YouGov BrandIndex, which tracks the “buzz” consumers are hearing about brands. In this instance, the research firm asked shoppers: “If you’ve heard anything about the brand in the last two weeks, through advertising, news or word of mouth, was it positive or negative?”

As of Monday, Aug. 24, Amazon’s “Buzz” score dropped to 23 out of 100, its lowest score since last October when a book about the company called “The Everything Store” was released. The last time it fell below that score was in July 2013 when it announced it was cutting back on free delivery.

However, the bad press didn’t rock the way shoppers planned to buy, according to Applied Surveys. Seventy percent of consumers surveyed said they would consider shopping at Amazon next time they wanted to make a purchase from a retail store, down from 72% before the story was broke.

. . . .

“This story will probably run its course and the perception, which is the buzz, will rebound relatively quickly within 30 days,” said Mr. Marzilli. That could change if new developments surface that cast Amazon in a negative light, he cautioned.

Link to the rest at Advertising Age and thanks to Steven for the tip.

Stephen King: Can a Novelist Be Too Productive?

29 August 2015

From The New York Times:

There are many unspoken postulates in literary criticism, one being that the more one writes, the less remarkable one’s work is apt to be. Joyce Carol Oates, the author of more than 50 novels (not counting the 11 written under the pseudonyms Rosamond Smith and Lauren Kelly), understands perfectly how little use critics have for prolific writers. In one of her journals she wrote that she seemed to create “more, certainly, than the literary world allows for a ‘serious’ writer.”

As with most postulates dealing with subjective perceptions, the idea that prolific writing equals bad writing must be treated with caution. Mostly, it seems to be true. Certainly no one is going to induct the mystery novelist John Creasey, author of 564 novels under 21 different pseudonyms, into the Literary Hall of Heroes; both he and his creations (the Toff, Inspector Roger West, Sexton Blake, etc.) have largely been forgotten.

The same is true of the British novelist Ursula Bloom (over 500 published works, under many pseudonyms), Barbara Cartland (over 700) and a host of others. One is reminded of Truman Capote’s famous bon mot about Jack Kerouac: “That’s not writing, that’s typing.”

Yet some prolific writers have made a deep impression on the public consciousness. Consider Agatha Christie, arguably the most popular writer of the 20th century, whose entire oeuvre remains in print. She wrote 91 novels, 82 under her own name and nine under a nom de plume — Mary Westmacott — or her married name, Agatha Christie Mallowan.

. . . .

 No one in his or her right mind would argue that quantity guarantees quality, but to suggest that quantity never produces quality strikes me as snobbish, inane and demonstrably untrue.

. . . .

The long gaps between books from such gifted writers make me similarly crazy. I understand that each one of us works at a different speed, and has a slightly different process. I understand that these writers are painstaking, wanting each sentence — each word — to carry weight (or, to borrow the title of one of Jonathan Franzen’s finest novels, to have strong motion). I know it’s not laziness, but respect for the work, and I understand from my own work that haste makes waste.

But I also understand that life is short, and that in the end, none of us is prolific. The creative spark dims, and then death puts it out. William Shakespeare, for instance, hasn’t produced a new play for 400 years. That, my friends, is a long dry spell.

Link to the rest at The New York Times and thanks to Kyle and others for the tip.

The Public Collection: Indianapolis’s own ‘Big Free Libraries’

28 August 2015

From Chris Meadows via TeleRead:

I don’t often run across TeleRead stories in person, though it does happen from time to time. Oddly enough, the story I came across lately actually happened in the very same spot as that one, Monument Circle in downtown Indianapolis. Or at least part of it did. I stumbled onto a brilliant new art installation program in downtown Indianapolis called The Public Collection, designed to make books freely available to the general pubic, modeled after the “Little Free Library” project but on a much larger scale.

It all started Wednesday morning, when I visited the YMCA on Market Street that incorporates a bicycle shop, to check on the status of repairs to my e-bike. As I came out, I noticed that the weekly Farmer’s Market was in full swing—but I noticed something else, too: a big green box with a red crank on it. Looking closer, I discovered it was an art installation that was full of books, on a Ferris-wheel-like rotating shelf system. You turned the crank, and as long as the door was closed, a stepper motor would rotate the assembly so the next shelf came into view. Then you could open the shelf door and grab a book. It was a clever idea, and there was a sign next to it declaring it to be called “Harvesting Knowledge,” part of “The Public Collection.”

A little later that day, I was having lunch at Scotty’s Brewhouse, a few blocks away, and I noticed that some kind of art installation they were installing outside that—something that looked like wicker, only made out of metal—also had shelves with books in it! What was going on here?

The sign next to “Harvesting Knowledge” had mentioned it was being supported by the local public library, so I called their public relations department to find out. I learned that The Public Collection was a two-year program intended to support literacy and art appreciation in the Indianapolis Community through making books freely available to the public at eight art installations all around the downtown area. I also learned they were having a grand opening ceremony the next day on Monument Circle, so I made plans to attend.

. . . .

We talk a lot about the “digital divide” here on TeleRead, but they reminded me that there’s an analog divide, too. In thriving middle-class communities, there are an average of 13 books available per person—but in less well-off communities, there are an average of one age-appropriate book available for every three hundred people. And as The Public Collection’s blog points out, Indiana has an 8% illiteracy rate—nearly one in ten people can’t read. The Public Collection intends to try to remedy that a little.

. . . .

Project creator Rachel Simon and Mindy Taylor Ross of Art Strategies LLC decided to do something about this. They launched The Public Collection, reaching out to local artists to come up with ideas for art installations in the public space that could house books that would be free to everyone. The Indianapolis/Marion County Public Library would curate the collection of books for them.

Each installation was a different art project, and each one was located in a different public space. Some of them were open commons areas, such as the ones I’d seen so far that day. One was in a hospital, and another was in Horizon House, a local homeless shelter. One of the architects mentioned a reception was being held there later that day, so after the event at Monument Circle was over, I headed over that way.

Link to the rest at TeleRead


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