Monthly Archives: February 2016

Buggy Whips, Pollsters, Collisions, and Us

29 February 2016

From Kristine Kathryn Rusch:

I’ve been very frustrated in the last several weeks because some of my preconceptions got blown out of the water. I’ve been dealing directly with some traditionally published writers for various projects, and some of the things I’ve encountered have been head-shaking. I’ll be blogging about a few of those things in the future, with the names changed to protect the—innocent? Ignorant?—I’m not sure which label to use.

Suffice to say some of the things I’ve run into are simply and completely unbelievable to me, in 2016.

At the same time, I’m being approached by a number of traditionally published writers who believe they will never get another book deal, and their careers are ruined forever. Ruined! They’re lowering themselves to consider self-publishing, and are wondering if I can tell them how to do it, step by step. They get peeved when I show them entire books on the subject, not just mine and Dean’s, but several other books.

And then there are the writers who are giving up their writing careers entirely, because they can’t sell another book traditionally, and they have been told by the agent who helped them self-publish their books that the books aren’t selling because of piracy.

. . . .

I got so frustrated with one writer recently that I had to walk away from my computer. The writer’s career was hurt by theft, but the theft wasn’t the pirating site she had found: it was her agent.

But I’m not going to say that in e-mail, although I did point her to several blogs I wrote about agents and agent agreements and how easy it is for a middleman to embezzle and/or not send royalties she doesn’t know she’s entitled to, particularly when she signed documents letting the agent get all the paperwork.

. . . .

One writer actually said that they believed there was no way Dean or I could have been telling the truth about the terrible contracts, the bad royalty statements, and which companies/agents to avoid. So that writer decided to test all of that out themselves. And then ran to us when that writer’s career imploded a second time, all because they had done the opposite of what we said.

. . . .

If writers want to earn a long-term living in fiction these days, the best way—and I’m beginning to think the only way—is to go indie.

. . . .

This week, the all of the realizations that came to me were about how difficult it is to dismantle a worldview even if it’s in someone’s best interest to do so. Even when the evidence is so overwhelming that it should be (note I said “should be”) impossible to ignore.

. . . .

Most people don’t seem to have the ability to step back, see change, and extrapolate what that change means. They are able to see the change. They might even know it’s massive. But they can’t figure out how that change will impact them even as it is impacting them.

. . . .

Writers who came of age after ebooks surged already have a different perspective on the publishing world than those of us raised in a monolithic publishing environment, where the path to publishing was so set that Dean and I could teach it in role-playing game form and be relatively certain our game mimicked the world exactly.

. . . .

We hurried to the new technology and struggled to understand it. Most of the writers in the world ignored it completely, letting their traditional publishers and agents tell them how the system “actually” worked.

That perspective was filtered through the ancient infrastructure by people who wanted to lasso sunlight. I keep thinking of it this way: It’s as if these people are hitting their Model A automobiles with a buggy whip in order to make the cars go faster.

. . . .

Does that mean I believe paper books will go away? Heavens, no. I think they’re a good technology, unlike, say, CDs. Paper books will be around for a very very long time—which is why some of this stuff I’m reading about the music industry does not apply.

But traditional publishers? Their portion of the industry will depend entirely on how quickly they can dump that lasso-the-sunlight model they have in their heads and can actually work within the world as it exists now.

Link to the rest at Kristine Kathryn Rusch

Here’s a link to Kris Rusch’s books. If you like the thoughts Kris shares, you can show your appreciation by checking out her books.

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For the past 33 years

29 February 2016

For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Steve Jobs

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Brita, Amazon Team Up to Introduce First “Smart” Pitcher

29 February 2016

From Amazon via Business Wire:

People buy a Brita system because they want to get cleaner, great-tasting water from any tap. But in the chaos of life, it can be easy to forget to keep that filter up-to-date.

Now, Brita and Amazon have teamed up to make keeping that Brita filter fresh virtually fool proof.

The new Wi-Fi-enabled Brita Infinity pitcher is equipped with a built-in counter that tracks the amount of water that passes through the pitcher’s filter. The pitcher itself will automatically order a new filter through Amazon Dash Replenishment when the old filter nears its capacity. This new connected pitcher with Amazon Dash Replenishment gives Brita owners exactly what they want – a new Brita filter on their doorstep at the time they need it.

When people buy the new Brita Infinity pitcher, they simply need to register on Brita.com/infinity, connect the pitcher to their home network and sign up for Amazon Dash Replenishment using their Amazon account. Then, the pitcher connects with the service to ensure automatic replacement filter orders are made when the filter nears its capacity – roughly 40 gallons of water.

Link to the rest at Business Wire

If you want to be the first on your wifi network to have a smart pitcher, you can get it here.

In case you never thought a pitcher would include System Requirements, it’s here. An excerpt:

Activate your pitcher near the sink where you will be refilling the pitcher.

. . . .

The pitcher does not support the 5 GHz band.

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The White House Wants To Use Science Fiction To Settle The Solar System

29 February 2016

From Gizmodo:

Earlier this month, the White House’s Office of Science and Technology assembled a strange gathering: scientists, artists, engineers, and policy-makers, for a workshop designed to imagine how humanity could settle the solar system.

The workshop, held in early February, was titled Homesteading in Space – Inspiring the Nation through Science Fiction, with the express purpose of imagining how manned space efforts can take us to our neighboring planets, not just for a short visit, but for longer durations.

. . . .

Kalil and the Museum of Science Fiction realized that there’s considerable work to be done in order to make it a reality. Experts in science and engineering are important, but he understood that there “would be a value in bringing together artists and scientists to explore this challenge.”

Science fiction isn’t a proscriptive genre for the future, but what it can do is inspire. “As a society, we have to decide whether this is a challenge we want to embrace,” Kalil noted. “Not everyone will be persuaded by George Mallory’s rationale for wanting to climb Mt. Everest (“Because it’s there). Artists can explore different ideas about why we should do this.”

. . . .

“I believe that science fiction can provide a simulator for the societal risks and benefits of new technologies. This is useful in the same way that scenario planning helps organizations prepare for the future.”

Link to the rest at Gizmodo

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Many Thought the Tablet Would Kill the Ereader. Why It Didn’t Happen.

29 February 2016

From eMarketer:

When Apple introduced the iPad in 2010, many thought it would make dedicated ebook readers obsolete. But six years later, it turns out that didn’t happen. In fact, both categories are still growing.

In its latest forecast on ereader and tablet usage, eMarketer predicts the number of ereader users will grow this year by 3.5%, to 86.3 million people. While eMarketer has lowered the growth rate for ereaders since its last forecast, there is still room for growth in US usage.

Ereader usage continues to grow, as some consumers prefer them to tablets and phones for reading books. Ereaders often have a longer battery life, glare-free screens that make them easier to read, and lower price points.

“There is a subset of consumers, particularly those 65 and older, who are looking for an affordable portable device that provides an enjoyable reading experience,” said eMarketer senior analyst Cathy Boyle. “Ereaders’ lower price point and single-focus functionality are attractive to those consumers.”

Link to the rest at eMarketer and thanks to Nirmala for the tip.

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How A 1990 Hardy Boys Book Presaged The Future Of The Internet

29 February 2016

From Fast Company:

Late last year, while working on a story about the early days of Match.com, I heard a lot of reminiscing about the days just before the web took off.

Match’s early users and employees shared memories of when they first used their computers to dial up to the outside world—to CompuServe, to the Bay Area’s Whole Earth ‘Lectronic Link , or to one of the other local bulletin board systems that dotted the country in the late ’80s and early ’90s.

I was a little too young to have really experienced the BBS era, and I was a little too embarrassed to admit where I first learned that people could use computers to talk to each other: from an oddly futuristic Hardy Boys book I read somewhere around the fourth grade.

But a quick, nostalgic Amazon search turned up the book in question, available for just a penny (plus shipping). Terminal Shock, I rediscovered a few days later, introduced the crime-solving teen brothers and their impressionable fans to designer drugs, top-secret superconducting microchips, and evidence buried in encrypted emails, somehow all within a few square miles of the boys’ suburban hometown.

. . . .

“Glad to hear you’ve got that AT clone up and running, with that 4800 baud modem,” the boys read in an email from a friend. “Bet that 386 processor really screams!”

All that modem talk is just so much gobbledygook to Joe, the younger Hardy. Pages later, the brothers receive an urgent instant message from the operator of their hometown bulletin board. They’ll soon find him in a coma, the victim of a genetically engineered “designer poison” doctors say will kill him within a week. The main apparent clue is the email archive for the system, contained on an encrypted floppy disk. When the boy detectives uncover the password to unlock the disk, they continue their investigation in a way that seems oddly topical—and more than a little disturbing—today: reading through each user’s private email inbox on the system until they find a clue.

. . . .

[Author Christopher] Lampton says he was one of a number of freelancers recruited by Mega-Books editor William McCay to modernize the series for a new generation of readers. “He didn’t want to do your father’s Hardy Boys,” says Lampton, who’d go on to write 11 books for the series.

Lampton had previously written science and technology books for children and adults, as well as some science fiction. He’d even ghostwritten for a Stratemeyer-style series called The Thorne Twins, whose protagonists solved mysteries in accordance with Christian principles. Working with McKay, Lampton says he drew on his own background in science, as well as some experience working in radio and television, for Hardy Boys ideas.

. . . .

Lampton, who says he’s recently focused more on technical and nonfiction writing, started using CompuServe in 1983 and thought that his young readers would enjoy a book set in the digital world.

“Even then, the joke was that kids knew more about computers than adults,” he says. “I tried to write about the technology that would be available at the time, because I knew a lot of kids would know about that.”

And the plot fit the guidelines of Mega-Books’s “series Bible,” which Lampton says depicted the elder Frank as “more willing to use his brains” and tools like computers. “We were very careful never to portray them exactly as geeks,” he recalls.

Throughout the book, as the boys solve the mystery, Frank pauses frequently to explain tech terminology to technophobic Joe and, of course, to less-than-savvy young ’90s readers like myself. “It’s kind of like recording tape, except that it’s round and flat instead of long and skinny,” he says of a floppy disk.

“I assumed some of the audience would relate to that, since some of the people who were running these local bulletin boards in my area were kids,” says Lampton.

Link to the rest at Fast Company and thanks to Gary for the tip.

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So, you want to become an author assistant?

29 February 2016

From Elle Casey’s assistant, Noelle Gaussens:

How I met Elle
Readers often ask how I met Elle, and the answer is that it all started with a mutual love of books. Although we come from the same hometown in Western New York, Elle and I landed in small, neighboring villages in the South of France and didn’t meet until we were living here. Elle started an English-language book club, and I began attending the monthly meetings two years ago. The book club’s members have very different backgrounds, and come from several different countries—the United States, Belgium, Britain, Canada, France, Germany, South Africa, Wales—but what we all have in common is that we speak and read in English and we’re all bookworms. This is a group of dedicated, committed readers with strong opinions and very unique worldviews who come together once a month to talk about books they might not otherwise pick up off the shelf, were it not for the club.

Discussing books with a published author
When one of the other bookclubbers casually mentioned that our founding member is a New York Times andUSA Today bestselling author, I almost dropped out. I’ve always been a huge reader, but I’d never met an author before. The idea of chatting about books with a widely-published and successful writer was instantly intimidating. I decided right then and there that as tempting as it was, I wouldn’t google Elle. I didn’t want to know anything about her career because I was sure that learning about her success would make me act star-struck and feel awkward at our meetings. I just wanted to get to know her as a fellow reader and book-lover, and as an American living in France. Elle never, ever mentioned her “day job” at our meetings, and I found out later it was because she didn’t want to feel awkward herself! Talk about great minds thinking alike.

The job
Over time, Elle and I got to know each other, and sometimes attended events outside the club with other English speakers. It was during one of those group dinners that I mentioned that my job was part time and I was looking for other work. Elle sent me an email after, asking me if I might be interested in working for her. It turns out that publishing a book a month is a huge undertaking, and she’d realized that she simply didn’t have enough time to keep up with all the non-writing tasks her job as a self-published novelist requires. She’d thought about hiring a VA (virtual assistant), but it was important to her that she be able to train her assistant in person, and have regular face-to-face meetings with someone she could completely trust.

. . . .

Interaction with readers, or why I wrote this post
Since Elle introduced me to her readers, I’ve been getting questions via email and Facebook about how I got the job, what it entails, and how to find one. I’ve also met (virtually!) many other author assistants, and I’ve learned it’s a real up-and-coming career. Authors are publishing more frequently and there are more of them out there, and the amount of work they have to do in addition to writing the next book is mind-boggling. Authors need organized, reader-oriented people on their support teams to help them handle all of their publishing tasks. To manage the details of their careers and author brands, they’re on the lookout for people who “get” them and their genre (or genres), who understand their brands, who are able to work independently and are self-motivated, and who are passionate about reading and connecting with readers.

Link to the rest at Elle Casey

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Netflix: The Force Awakens

29 February 2016

From TechCrunch:

I’ve argued in the past that Netflix will have the last laugh — that its success with content production will soon rival and surpass traditional TV networks and movie studios. Now I’m more convinced than ever.

Ironically, it’s a smear campaign spearheaded by NBC to undermine Netflix that has reinforced my opinion. NBC research guru Alan Wurtzel recently leaked data that indicated one of Netflix’s most-watched shows, Jessica Jones, averages only 4.8 million viewers per episode. By comparison, the most-watched series on traditional TV channels, such as Fox’s Empire and CBS’s Big Bang Theory, reach 9 million and 8.3 million viewers, respectively.

The purpose of leaking this data, of course, is to poke holes in the Netflix business model. But, as this BGR article points out, NBC is “delusional about Netflix and the future of TV.” I couldn’t agree more.

Why? Because, on an apples-to-apples basis, Netflix is outperforming the traditional TV networks. As this Concurrent Media blog post makes clear, Wurtzel’s misleading data neglects to mention that Netflix currently reaches 42 million U.S. subscribers, compared to the 116 million U.S. households that NBC, Fox, CBS and ABC reach.

So what? So this means a show like Jessica Jones is attracting an impressive 11.4 percent of Netflix’s total subscriber base, while shows like Empire and Big Bang Theory command just 7.8 percent and 7.2 percent of their networks’ total audience, respectively.

. . . .

Here’s another reason why Hollywood should be worried: Netflix is now able to leverage big data to produce hit shows almost routinely. This is a feat the networks have never been able to pull off. “Netflix has created a database of American cinematic predilections,” explains an enlightening article in The Atlantic. “The data can’t tell them how to make a TV show but it can tell them what they should be making. When they create a show like House of Cards, they aren’t guessing at what people want.”

How is Netflix getting it so right? By meticulously gathering and analyzing data on customer preferences, including not just what people watch but what they search for, what they like and even where they pause, rewind and fast forward. What’s more, Netflix has broken down its content into nearly 80,000 specific genres and subgenres — everything from Emotional Independent Dramas for Hopeless Romantics to Witty Dysfunctional-Family TV Animated Comedies. Yes, those are real categories.

When Netflix people create a new show, they’re not guessing and hoping. They know if they make a show in a certain genre with a certain type of director and certain types of actors, they will likely have a hit on their hands. Call it Moneyball for the movie and TV business.

Link to the rest at TechCrunch and thanks to Joshua, who says Amazon can do the same thing, for the tip.

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Is Amazon Good for the Online Marketplace?

28 February 2016

From Slate:

Amazon isn’t the price king. It’s the trust king. And that trust was earned.

When everyone else was inflating shipping charges to give the illusion of lower prices, Amazon was charging actual shipping costs and passing its negotiated rates along to the customer instead of pocketing the difference.

When everyone else was charging restocking fees or making customers jump through hoops to return unwanted items, Amazon made it easy to return items through automated processes.

. . . .

Amazon is No. 1 because consumers choose them consistently. It has nothing to do with price or market size. The products on Amazon are often available elsewhere for less, and it’s just as easy to type in a different URL when you want to buy something.

As for their size, consider that total e-commerce sales are $1.5 trillion annually. Amazon makes about $100 billion. That means their share of all e-commerce revenue is only 6.6 percent. They’re far from a monopoly.

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

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To write

28 February 2016

To write what is worth publishing, to find honest people to publish it, and get sensible people to read it, are the three great difficulties in being an author.

Charles Caleb Colton

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