Monthly Archives: September 2016

How to Make the Most of Goodreads Giveaways

29 September 2016

From Digital Book World:

Authors looking to boost book promotion efforts should consider incorporating a presence on Goodreads. It’s an established site filled with potential to really boost book marketing plans. In fact, some authors have elevated this to an art form and have become Goodreads rock stars. (If you need tips on best practices, read this article.) Once you’ve established yourself on Goodreads, adding Goodreads giveaways to your marketing plan is a solid next step.

Many authors are hesitant to do a Goodreads giveaway, and this may be because they’ve heard that others have had mixed results. Doing a giveaway correctly can really help boost exposure for your book—Goodreads readers love giveaways. According to Goodreads, more than 40,000 readers enter a giveaway every single day.

. . . .

You’ll see that there are four tabs on the giveaway page: Ending soon, Most Requested, Popular Authors and Recently Listed. You want to be in one or even two of those categories. Ending Soon and Recently Listed will help to maximize your exposure on the site. As a rule, I recommend giveaways last one or two weeks. Also, it’s a great idea to run giveaways back to back.

. . . .

Take a look at popular end dates, and then choose something else to avoid competing for visibility. The list may thin out after a day or two, so watch for days that don’t have as many giveaways ending. As you get ready to kick off your giveaway, keep in mind that Goodreads requires a seven-day notice before launching, and giveaways must run for a minimum of seven days.

. . . .

Goodreads gives you a 1,500-character limit for your book description. The first six lines matter most since they appear next to your book cover during the giveaway. Consider editing the standard copy that Goodreads suggests, namely the “Enter for a chance to win one of X copies.” Although these details are essential, they are included under “Enter Giveaway.” For the first few lines, consider adding any big blurbs or great reviews. Remember, people like what other people like.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

A Glossary of Terms Useful in Critiquing Science Fiction

29 September 2016

From SFWA:

This is only a partial list of the terms we have found most useful in critiquing sf. The glossary is issued now and then … but it is a living document. Amendments are welcome. If you use additional terms, or have better examples than those listed here, please suggest them.

  • Action outline presents the plot and conflicts with little regard for staging. The author is describing a world idea, not telling the story. An action outline is a synopsis of a book not yet written; it is a precursor to a scene outline. See Scene Outline.
  • At stake. Drama is powerful if something is at stake: that is, if the characters involved have something to gain and something to lose. The reader must have something at stake as well — a desire to see the outcome. Usually this is either a stake in the theme, in the characters and their aspirations, or in the resolution of the conflict. When nothing is at stake, there is no drama. (Jim Morrow)

. . . .

  • Cookie. An element, not necessary to the plot, which rewards the reader who has been paying careful attention. Ideally, a cookie is a clever turn of phrase, an image, an allusion, or some other element of richness which the lazy reader will pass by Then the careful reader, who finds it, realizes that the author has left this small package just as a reward for paying attention … and that, in turn, encourages the reader to pay even more attention. (CSFW: David Smith)
  • Countersinking. Expositional redundancy, usually performed by an author who isn’t confident of his storytelling: making the actions implied in the story explicit. “‘Let’s get out of here,’ he said, urging her to leave.” (Lewis Shiner)
  • Dare to be stupid. An exhortation by a critic to an author whom the critic thinks is not stretching enough. Authors grow by daring to write bolder, more imaginative, more personal, or more emotionally powerful situations and confrontations. Since writing that stretches is by definition unpracticed, the result may be rougher than a less ambitious effort. The author must trust the critics to recognize the stretch and help the author build or expand his talents. (CSFW: Steve Popkes)
  • Destage. To move offstage action which has been shown onstage. Things can be intentionally destaged (when they’re undramatic) or unintentionally (when the author’s staged the wrong things). (CSFW: Steve Popkes)
  • Destination. The emotional endpoint of a story: where the author’s intent coincides and rings with the action in the story, where the experiential contract between writer and reader is fulfilled. The author sets out to create certain responses in the reader; the destination is the place where the author does so. One may have plot destinations (Frodo gets to the Crack of Doom), character destinations (Frodo masters the Ring and himself), or understanding destinations (Frodo learns he’s adult and strong enough to scour the Shire). But stories must always have destinations. In the best writing, the characters’ struggle involves multiple destinations that relate to one another (inner and outer journeys echo each other). (CSFW: Steve Popkes)

Link to the rest at SFWA and thanks to Felix for the tip.

Your Signed Books and Artwork Just Got Harder to Sell in California

29 September 2016

From Eureka Books:

On September 9, 2016, California Governor Jerry Brown signed AB1570 Collectibles: Sale of Autographed Memorabilia into law.

The law requires dealers in any autographed material to provide certificates of authenticity (COA) for signed item sold for $5 or more.

The idea is to crack down on fraudulent autograph sales. “That sounds pretty reasonable,” you are probably thinking. I, too, can get behind the motive.

Unfortunately for you, the consumer, the legislators never seem to have considered that buyers of autograph material eventually become sellers of autograph material.

Let’s say you like to go to author events and get books signed. Eventually, your shelves fill up, and you want to trade books in at a shop like Eureka Books.

Guess what? Remember that Certificate of Authenticity that sounded so reasonable? Well your name and address has to go on the certificate of authenticity because I (as the person issuing the COA) have to say where I got the book. This applies to signed books, artwork, and any other autographed items you own.

. . . .

Maybe you’d like to sell that Morris Graves painting you inherited. You send it to an auction house, where it sells for $40,000. Good for you. But did you supply a Certificate of Authenticity? What? Why do I have to issue a COA? What do I know about authenticating Morris Graves paintings?

Guess what? AB1570 requires YOU, as the owner of the painting, to guarantee its authenticity. And you don’t issue the COA? You can be liable for TEN TIMES damages, plus attorneys fees. Call it a cool half mill, because you didn’t know you were supposed to issue a COA.

Maybe you decide to sell it at an auction house outside of California. Good luck, because if the person who buys your painting lives in the Golden State, the law still applies.

. . . .

Consider bookstores that do a lot of author events. Let’s imagine that Neil Gaiman does one of his typical massive booksignings in February for his forthcoming book, Norse Gods. Say 1000 people show up and buy books at $25.95. The bookstore either has to issue 1000 COA, or risk being sued for $25.95 x 1000 x 10, plus attorney’s fees. Call it $300,000.

Is it any wonder that many of California’s best bookstores are very worried that this law will make it much harder to hold book signings and other author events.

Link to the rest at Eureka Books and thanks to PS for the tip.

PG hasn’t studied this law and can’t vouch for the conclusions in the OP, but California does like to have a law for everything.

The Classic Books You Haven’t Read

29 September 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

 Nearly everyone who considers themselves well-read, or just desires to be, has a book, or several, that haunts them—the classic they haven’t read.

Some take that one book on vacation, a seemingly surefire way of plowing through, and never crack the cover. Others keep an ever-lengthening list of books they feel they must read, or never forget the one they lied about completing in high school, or lied about at a cocktail party last week.

Is book guilt effective inspiration, or should it be left on the shelf with that lonely copy of “Ulysses”?

. . . .

“Moby-Dick” is one Maria Stasavage, a high school English teacher in New York City, has read twice. She hated it during her own high school years, then enjoyed it more as an adult. Sitting unread on her bookshelf, however, is Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” with a cloth-wrapped cover.

“Because I bought this beautiful copy,” she told herself, “I’ll enjoy it that much more.” But while Ms. Stasavage loves Wilde’s witty shorter pieces, something keeps stopping her when she tries to sit down with “Gray.”

“Probably the internet,” she says.

She understands how similar distractions might keep her students from making it to the last action-packed scenes of “The Odyssey.” While it’s required reading for her freshmen, she knows it has a good chance of ending up as a source of future book guilt, no matter how hard she tries to break down Homer into understandable bites.

. . . .

Nigel Cameron says the classic books many come to believe they must read—“the canonical expectations of an educated community,” he calls it—are so many in number that no one can ever feel fully secure in his own reading accomplishments. Mr. Cameron, the president of the Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies in Washington, D.C., laughed as he recalled his pride in making it halfway through a Marcel Proust novel only to learn a friend had just finished it in the original French.

Though Mr. Cameron plowed through many classics early—“War and Peace” at 13, he says—one that stands out on his list of not-read regrets is E.B. White’s “Charlotte’s Web.” And because it is one whose magic is most felt by younger readers, his guilt is even more acute. “It isn’t just that I haven’t read ‘Charlotte’s Web,’ it’s that I can never read ‘Charlotte’s Web.’ These are awful things!” Mr. Cameron says.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

For the record, PG has read A Tale of Two Cities (and loved it). Ulysses is on his “never to be read or attempted” list.

A Leader in Canadian Writing Takes Stock of Self-Publishing

28 September 2016

From Publishing Perspectives:

It’s always been difficult for writers to make a living from writing. According to Merilyn Simonds—former chair of The The Writers’ Union of Canada (TWUC) and a writer and editor with nearly 40 years in the business—this is the one constant in an ever-changing publishing ecosystem.

At the same time, she says, it’s never been a more exciting time to be a writer.

. . . .

During her tenure, TWUC members voted to open the organization to self-published authors—a contentious and divisive move, she says.

“I was happy with the decision,” Simonds says, “although interestingly, not many [self-publishing authors] want to join. They’re not interested in issues like copyright, contracts, rights.

“There’s a divide between traditionally published and self-published writers, with defensiveness on both sides, and that’s too bad, because eventually the two are likely to merge. The ‘publisher’ as we know it may not be around much longer.”

. . . .

“Writers who have traditionally published, for example, could learn from self-publishing authors the kind of energy and self-direction required to take personal charge of their writing careers, educating themselves in handling digital publishing tools and trying new things.

At the same time, she says, indie authors might recognize what publishers do. Unpleasant surprises can include “how hard it is to find an audience,” Simonds says, “and to get books into readers’ hands.”

Simonds offers a word of caution: “Self-publishing puts your head in the marketplace, and that’s no place for a writer’s creative process. You need to separate being a writer and being published.”

. . . .

Publishing is an environment, an ecosystem, Simonds says, in which everyone is affected when one element changes within it. What many self-publishers may not recognize, she says, is that independent publishing isn’t its own environment. It’s part of the larger publishing ecosystem: “Eventually you’ll meet up with the edge of your pool.”

These are the kinds of changes writers need to be watching for. When the big publishers merge to create even larger entities that are more risk-averse than ever, writers may need to be able to see opportunities opening up to them elsewhere, perhaps in the independent arena.

Link to the rest at Publishing Perspectives

PG poses a respectful questions to authors using traditional publishers, “Do you realize how much are you paying for the services provided by your publisher?”

For a middle-aged writer, a publishing contract in today’s standard form will likely last well over 100 years. The book’s US copyright will last for the remaining years of the author’s life plus 70 years thereafter and so will the publishing contract. Copyrights in other nations are of similar duration.

Under a typical publishing contract, the author will be paying others over 80% of the retail revenues from ebook sales and licenses. If print books continue to be a mass market product for the next 100 years, the author will be paying others 85-95% of retail revenues.

Of course, the author won’t be writing checks to these other parties. They’ll pay themselves before the publisher sends any money to the author, but the financial result is the same as if the author were writing the checks.

Those percentages are fixed under a standard publishing contract signed today and, regardless of what happens in the future, nothing in that contract obliges the publisher to change the royalty structure included in the contract until it terminates along with the copyright in 100 years.

Indie authors, on the other hand, will typically receive about 70% from ebook licenses and sales.

No ebook vendor attempts to contractually tie up an author for 100 years or anything close to that length of time. Indie authors are free to stop selling ebooks through a vendor at any time. If a competing vendor offers a better deal today or in ten years, indie authors can move their ebooks to that vendor.

Just as traditional publishers will either disappear or be greatly changed in 100 years, so will book marketplaces. Indeed, what we today recognize as printed books and ebooks will likely have been replaced by methods we can barely imagine to provide stories to readers in 100 years.

But today’s traditional publishing contracts will remain in force and unchanged unless whoever owns the publishing contracts at that time agrees to change them.

Homer wrote the Iliad and the Odyssey near the end of the 8th century BC. Whatever means by which Homer’s stories were shared with others are long gone but the stories remain and are read today.

Virtually everything about today’s book business other than stories and storytellers will evolve in 100 years. Does it really make sense for an author to contractually commit her stories to an organization that will almost certainly cease to exist in a form she would recognize before that contractual commitment expires?

The most common way

28 September 2016

The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.

Alice Walker

How Publishers Can Cure “Ugly Sample Syndrome”

28 September 2016

From Book Business:

What if publishers could sell more books by learning the secrets of selling chicken sandwiches? In my hometown of Atlanta, GA, Chick-Fil-A is the dominant fast-food restaurant chain. Started in 1967, the company’s annual sales now eclipse over $6 billion. In addition, their stores generate more revenue per restaurant than any other fast-food chain in the US.

When Chick-Fil-A first entered the fast-food landscape, they setup locations in the food court of shopping malls. I can remember walking past their storefronts where an employee was usually placed among shoppers with a large platter of free chicken nuggets. They would kindly offer, “Would you like a free sample?” Who can turn down a hot, tasty, free chicken nugget? It would be downright un-American to decline.

On multiple occasions, Chick-Fil-A’s strategy of offering free samples lured me right up to the counter where I would order a chicken sandwich, waffle fries, and a lemonade. One free nugget led me to willingly purchase an entire meal. Sampling is a simple business concept that works throughout our economy.

Yet, publishers are woefully stingy when it comes to handing out free samples. Visit the average publisher website and you won’t see any samples up-front. Instead, the home page is covered with one book after another begging to be purchased. When a consumer comes by, the publisher websites seem to say, “Buy this book! Buy this book!” Click deeper onto any subpage in the website and same the issue occurs. “Buy this book! Buy this book!”

. . . .

Publishers might defend their actions by pointing to all of the sample chapters they offer. But, let’s be honest. Most sample chapters are bland, similar to cold, tasteless, chicken nuggets. I call it the “Ugly Sample Syndrome.” Consumers look at the sample, don’t see anything appetizing, and just walk away.

The best parts of a book are usually after the first chapter as a novelist builds the story to a crescendo or a non-fiction author gets into the meaty part of their teaching. Thus, publishers need to go beyond giving away trite sample chapters in order win consumer interest.

Link to the rest at Book Business and thanks to Ryan for the tip.

How one Amazon Kindle scam made millions of dollars

28 September 2016

From ZDNet:

Emma Moore could have been the health and weight loss guru you spent your life looking for.

You might be forgiven for not knowing her work — after all, she has a common name, one that she shares with other similarly successful authors on Amazon. Until this week, she had dozens of health, dieting, cooking, and weight loss ebooks to her name. She published over a dozen ebooks on Amazon this year — five ebooks alone this month. And Moore would even work with other authors — like Nina Kelly, Andrew Walker, and Julia Jackson — who have all published about a dozen ebooks each this year as well.

Here’s the snag: to our knowledge, Moore doesn’t exist. None of them do.

. . . .

Moore was just one of hundreds of pseudonyms employed in a sophisticated “catfishing” scheme run by Valeriy Shershnyov, whose Vancouver-based business hoodwinked Amazon customers into buying low-quality ebooks, which were boosted on the online marketplace by an unscrupulous system of bots, scripts, and virtual servers.

Catfishing isn’t new — it’s been well documented. Some scammers buy fake reviews, while others will try other ways to game the system.

Until now, nobody has been able to look inside at how one of these scams work — especially one that’s been so prolific, generating millions of dollars in royalties by cashing in on unwitting buyers who are tricked into thinking these ebooks have some substance.

What eventually gave him away weren’t customer complaints or even getting caught by the bookseller. It was good old-fashioned carelessness. He forgot to put a password on his server.

. . . .

Shershnyov is a former engineer turned “entrepreneur”.

He spent a little over 10 years working as a software development engineer for various companies, including Microsoft. He went on to co-found a startup, Alteroxity, which claims to help authors publish ebooks that are already “done for you” — that includes the writing, the creation, the publishing, and even “dozens of honest positive reviews”.

. . . .

The fake accounts would download hundreds of these ebooks over a short period of time — usually a few hours. Each promoted ebook can be offered for free for a short period of time, allowing the downloads to run at no additional cost. Free books don’t generate royalties, but they do help to raise an ebook’s visibility in the Amazon charts.

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

Can You Read a Book the Wrong Way?

28 September 2016

From The New York Times:

In Bookends, two writers take on questions about the world of books. This week, Adam Kirsch and Anna Holmes debate whether some methods of reading are more correct than others.

. . . .

[Adam Kirsch]

When Virgil wrote the “Aeneid,” in the late first century B.C., he had more than one purpose in mind. Clearly, he intended to write a Latin epic to rival the Greek classics, the “Iliad” and “Odyssey”; he also wanted to glorify the Roman Empire and legitimize the new regime of Augustus Caesar. One thing he surely did not think he was writing was a fortunetelling guide. But soon enough, readers began to use the poem to perform the sortes Virgilianae, or “Virgilian lots,” in which you would think of a question and then select a verse at random to answer it. Using the “Aeneid” as a kind of oracle remained popular for a very long time: The emperor Hadrian did it in the second century A.D., and King Charles I was still doing it 1,500 years later.

Here, if anywhere, is surely an example of reading a book the wrong way.

. . . .

 Which of these ways of reading is permissible, and which is out of bounds? Obviously, it depends on whom you ask and what their assumptions are. In this way, literary interpretation resembles ethical reasoning. Everyone has strong intuitions that certain things are morally wrong, and every reader instinctively believes that certain readings of a text are false or absurd. But when you start to try to ground these intuitions, things quickly become complicated. Truth shouldn’t change over time, but literary meaning plainly does.

No one knows this better than writers themselves. Any published writer will have the experience of thinking you were saying one thing — one very clear and seemingly unmistakable thing — and then encountering a reader who thought you were saying something totally different. In this situation, the writer might seem to have the last word; who would know better what the text means than its creator?

Yet wise writers decline to engage in debates over the right way to read their own words.

. . . .

[Anna Holmes]

In answer to this question, several possibilities immediately came to mind. Approaching it with preconceived notions about writer or subject. Reading elements of it out of order. Skipping — or skimming — portions of the narrative. Turning the book upside down.

But none of these (except, maybe, the last one) qualify as wholly “wrong” to me. Preconceived notions, for instance, are impossible to avoid, and I’m not sure it’s even desirable for a person to try to divorce herself from her own experience — deriving meaning from a work of art has as much to do with audience interpretation as an artist’s intention — or to ignore what book editors and publishers want to communicate about a story. After all, part of the point of cover design — not to mention advertising other things, like the author’s name, gender, race and age — is to telegraph to readers what a book might be, and to shape how it might be received. This can be done for mercenary reasons, yes, but it can also help a book find its readers.

As for reading portions of a narrative out of order, some books are obviously meant to be consumed this way (collections of essays and poetry; reference books and anthologies) — or, at the very least, manage to dispense with the very idea of a “beginning” and an “end.” Skipping or skimming parts of a narrative should not only be expected but encouraged, particularly if an author is writing without clarity or purpose or showing off. Life’s too short to slog through some smarty-pants attempt to demonstrate a mastery of mechanical engineering or botany.

Link to the rest at The New York Times 

Competing Directly With UPS and FedEx

28 September 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

 Just before the morning rush hour on a recent Thursday, a brigade of vans rolled up to a low-slung warehouse near Los Angeles International Airport.

Workers in bright green vests crammed some 150 packages into each truck before the fleet headed through the urban sprawl to customers’ doorsteps.

This logistical dance wasn’t performed by United Parcel Service Inc., FedEx Corp. or the U.S. Postal Service, all longtime carriers for the online-retail giant. It was part of an operation by Inc. itself, which is laying the groundwork for its own shipping business in a brazen challenge to America’s freight titans.

Tackling the delivery business, Amazon executives publicly say, is a logical way to add delivery capacity—particularly during the peak Christmas season. But interviews with nearly two dozen current and former Amazon managers and business partners indicate the retailer has grander ambitions than it has publicly acknowledged.

Amazon’s goal, these people say, is to one day haul and deliver packages for itself as well as other retailers and consumers—potentially upending the traditional relationship between seller and sender.

. . . .

Memphis-based FedEx says it is spending more than $5 billion annually on expansion and upgrades; UPS says it shells out in excess of $2.5 billion. The two companies have managed to blanket the world with a total of roughly 4,000 hubs and other facilities to sort tens of millions of packages a day. Combined, they operate more than 1,000 planes and 200,000 vehicles to deliver packages to doors.

“The level of global investment in facilities, sorting, aircraft, vehicles, people to replicate the service we provide, or our primary competitor provides, is just daunting, and frankly, in our view, unrealistic,” says FedEx CFO Alan Graf. “We’ve been at this for 40 years.”

. . . .

Now the stage is set for Amazon to move against the partners that have helped power much of its success so far. Shipping costs as a percentage of sales have risen every year since 2009. Last year, Amazon spent $11.5 billion on shipping, or 10.8% of sales, compared with 7.5% in 2010. Total revenue for the year was $107 billion.

. . . .

Amazon embarked in earnest on building its own last-mile network after UPS failed to bring orders to customers in time for Christmas in 2013, costing Amazon millions of dollars in refunds, according to people familiar with the matter. That holiday season, Amazon overwhelmed UPS and other carriers after it failed to accurately forecast its delivery needs, prompting chaos at sorting centers.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

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