Monthly Archives: June 2017

The Opening as Part of the Closing … of the Deal

30 June 2017

From author James Scott Bell:

It’s no secret we live in the age of the declining attention span.

How ’bout those Dodgers?

Where was I? Oh yes, attention spans. Declining.

We all know the causes. Phones, tablets, the infinite galaxy known as the internet, 24/7 social media, apps, games, noise, news, and the dopamine effect that comes from escaping reality in the blink of an eye or the texting of the thumbs. These multiform avenues of distraction come in small bites, too, like a bottomless bowl of Skittles. You’ve all been there. You’re chewing a red, it’s not even down the hatch yet, and you’re already reaching for the next one, or a handful of next ones.

. . . .

We’ve done a number of first page critiques here at TKZ, because everyone knows how important it is. Because of decreasing attention spans and the “need for speed” in everything we do, those first pages are crucial because they are one of the biggest influences on a browser’s buying decision.

I recall hearing about a study years ago of bookstore browsing habits. The typical sequence: a cover captured attention; the browser picks it up and reads the dust-jacket copy, sees who the author is, then opens to the first page. If it captivates them they are within striking distance of a buying decision.

It’s the same today online. A reader on Amazon is shown other thumbnail book covers that an algorithm has determined they might be interested in. A cover attracts, you click on it, get taken to the sales page where you can look at the description (cover copy). The page offers you a “Look inside” peek. You can also download a sample.

And there we are again, at the opening pages.

For years I’ve taught that the opening page and, indeed, the opening paragraph (and even further, if you can do it, the opening line) should be about a disturbance to that character’s ordinary world. Why? Because the reader doesn’t know who the character is yet. So what’s the quickest way to get them interested? Trouble.

. . . .

Okay, then let me suggest you alter your opening page so there is something disturbing happening from the jump. After the reader buys your book you can entrance them with your style all you like. But if you don’t engage their attention-challenged sensibilities immediately, you may not get the chance.

Link to the rest at Kill Zone

Here’s a link to James Scott Bell’s books. If you like an author’s post, you can show your appreciation by checking out their books.

Next to the defeated politician

30 June 2017

Next to the defeated politician, the writer is the most vocal and inventive griper on earth. He sees hardship and unfairness wherever he looks. His agent doesn’t love him (enough). The blank sheet of paper is an enemy. The publisher is a cheapskate. The critic is a philistine. The public doesn’t understand him. His wife doesn’t understand him. The bartender doesn’t understand him.

Peter Mayle

Can Amazon Take Down Google, Facebook, Microsoft Ad Businesses?

30 June 2017

From Seeking Alpha:

Amazon is now ramping up its efforts to build out its ad business, which could be one of the most significant threats to Facebook’s and Google’s ad revenue they’ve ever faced.

At this time, Amazon doesn’t appear to be much of a competitor to online ad giants Google and Facebook, with Google generating over $79 billion in sales during 2016, and Facebook producing $27 billion in sales. But Amazon has proven once it has its foundation in place and a system worked out, it can rapidly scale new businesses. Cloud computing and the growth of Alexa are the most obvious examples.

Citing eMarketer, Bloomberg reported Amazon ad sales will climb by about 33 percent to $1.5 billion in 2017 and, by 2019, will jump to $2.4 billion. The short-term incremental growth isn’t what matters here, it’s what happens afterwards that’s important, and that represents a real risk to the online ad model of Google and Facebook, which are so dependent on them for growth.

If Amazon really goes after this market, it could be a major force that the two tech giants must figure out before they find themselves losing market share.

. . . .

In the past, Google hasn’t experienced much in the way of disruption from Facebook when it focused on the ad market, apparently because agencies and brands increased ad spend to expand their reach. It produced good enough results to justify the increase in spend.

With the mood of advertising changing to safer platforms, it bodes well for Amazon that it, at this time, doesn’t have what is considered unsafe or risky content brands are concerned about placing their advertising against.

What should be of great concern to Google and Facebook is a statement by GroupM’s global head of search, Edward Foster, who said agencies are shifting money away from paid searches on Google and Microsoft’s Bing and placing it on Amazon. That’s one side of the risk. As mentioned, the other is companies are looking for places they don’t have to face consumer backlash across various worldviews, which in the case of user-generated content on Facebook and YouTube in particular is a major problem.

The challenge for YouTube and Facebook is they would cease to be what they are if they were to overly monitor what people are sharing on the social networks. This is probably why both are seeking out alternatives to user-generated content by pursuing premium content that is safer and attracts higher ad spend.

. . . .

For now, it should be expected that those searching for specific products aren’t going to go past the first page of results, just as most don’t do so with Google or Bing search results. As a matter of fact, it’s almost always the first three results that attract the vast majority of interest and response from searchers.

With brands unlikely to cede the potential offered by Amazon, they are almost certainly going to spend on ads to secure a superior position than most of their competition. That means could possibly double its money from vendors that used to pay solely by a commission of about 15 percent; that could push them to spend as much as 30 percent on advertising and commissions with Amazon.

Link to the rest at Seeking Alpha

Harry Potter Sparks Illegal Owl Trade in Indonesia

30 June 2017


When the Harry Potter books debuted 20 years ago, they launched a $25 billion industry and an army of wizard-loving muggles. Most of the fun is light-hearted enough: popular sorting hat quizzes, friendly games of quidditch. But that international obsession has an unexpected cost, reports Shaunacy Ferro for Mental Floss: It’s fueling an illegal trade in owls.

The books are filled with owls, from Harry’s BFF Hedwig to Draco Malfoy’s mail-delivering eagle owl. But those fictional owls could be linked with a black market in the real world, reports Ferro.

In a new study in the journal Global Ecology and Conservation, researchers describe what they call the “Harry Potter Effect” in Indonesia. Birds are already popular pets there. But after the release of the Harry Potter books in the early 2000s, owls rose in popularity. The creatures rarely appeared in bird markets before the books were released, the researchers write, only constituting roughly 0.06 of the percent of the black market birds. But by 2008, that number has risen to 0.43 percent.

Majority of owls for sale in the markets were caught in the wild, which is illegal in Indonesia. And the researchers worry that growing demand could deplete owls in the wild.

Expanded internet access and social media in Indonesia during this period could also have played into the owl trade increase. Though this could be a non-Harry Potter related reason for the uptick, the internet could also have paved the way for wider conversation about the books online. But there are other clues to the Harry Potter trade connection: “Whereas in the past owls were collective known as Burung Hantu (“Ghost birds”),” the researchers write in the study, “in the bird markets they are now commonly referred to as Burung Harry Potter (‘Harry Potter birds’).”

Link to the rest at

Book of Feminist Fairy Tales Outsells Harry Potter

30 June 2017

From Inquisitr:

Sensational feminist fairytales authored by two women, who suffered sexist abuse, has now outsold Harry Potter in the U.K., the homeland of author J.K. Rowling.

Feminist fairytales Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls self-published by authors Elena Favilli and Francesca Cavallo, who were laughed at and endured sexist jokes in meetings, feature 100 bedtime stories about amazing and powerful women.

While the list of Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls includes such iconic figures as Cleopatra, Elizabeth I, and Malala Yousafzai (and even Hillary Clinton), there’s a new volume that will tell the mesmerizing stories of Beyoncé and J.K. Rowling in the works.

After years of sexist remarks and jibes from investors, the two women decided to self-publish the 100 feminist fairytales, which went on to become a huge hit.

The Daily Mail reports that Goodnight Stories For Rebel Girls has become a major success both in the U.K. and around the world after the project became one of the most successful Kickstarter campaigns in history.

. . . .

In April 2016, Favilli and Cavallo launched their Kickstarter campaign and, much to everyone’s surprise, raised over $1 million and had plenty of people talking about it.

Link to the rest at Inquisitr

Amazon killing Asean writers

30 June 2017

From The Independent:

Zieda Nazri, a young enterprising writer from Malaysia, speaks to us about the pitfalls of self-publishing in the country where arts and literature is in the veins of many but where only the few gets published.

Zieda tried to sell her books on but she met with another pitfall: Amazon does not allow readers from Southeast Asia to buy books from the region on its portal.

This is killing budding writers from the region and nothing is being done by the internationally recognised publisher-vendor to rectify this censorship.

Facing this hurdle, Zieda says:

“I personally think that it is Amazon’s choice if they decide not to let the readers in South East Asia buy e-books from them but they should at least give a solution to that.”

. . . .

You sold on Amazon. How was the experience? What should Amazon do to make it easier for Asean writers to get a break on their platform? Create an Asean base Amazon platform?

I started selling my books on Amazon because I wanted to gauge reviews fro international readers.

At that point of time, I was actually surprised when I learnt that readers from the South East Asia could not buy e-books from Amazon.

Few reasons were given by Amazon for this and I have to say that this became one of my problems in publishing e-books.

How do I sell my e-books if the South East Asia readers could not buy them?

I had to promote my books in international universities and Facebook and that had taken a lot of my time.

I personally think that it is Amazon’s choice if they decide not to let the readers in South East Asia buy e-books from them but they should at least give a solution to that.

We want to read all the e-books too.

Creating a special platform for South East Asia readers would be a good start.

. . . .

Do you think the cost of publishing is high in Malaysia? Should there be some form of intervention to assist writers? What would be the modus-operandi of such an assistance, if there need be?

Yes, I think that the cost of publishing is quite high in Malaysia.

Even though I was told by my printers the printing cost in Malaysia is among the cheapest to compare with other countries.

I really wish that there is a channel for self-publishers to get some fund to start with.

At this moment, I learnt that the National Library can help with the funding by buying your books to be put in all the libraries in the country.

This is one way to support the writers but it did not help them to start the ball rolling.

Actually, before I started to print my own books, I went to a few agencies asking whether they offer any fund to self-publishers but none of them said they do.

They are grants offered by Kota Buku though, for translating your book to other languages.

. . . .

How has the experience publishing a book in Malaysia on your own, helped you understand the industry as a whole? Do you think the publishing industry is controlled by some? Should it be liberalised? How would that happen?

To sum up, I think the difficulties in dealing with writer blocks are not even close to the difficulties in dealing with marketing the books and distributing them.

Self-publishing is new in Malaysia so people are quite reserved when you tell them that your books are self-published. Sometimes they even think twice about buying your books.

From experience, I think that the publishing industry is not controlled just by someone and there is still hope to penetrate the publishing industry.

However, I cannot say the same for the books distributing industry.

It seems that larger books stores are monopolised by some and it is very difficult to get your books on their shelves.

The biggest problem would be in monetary terms because they take a big chunk from your costing.

I hope that in the future, there is an association maybe to help the self-publishers to promote their books and to penetrate the books distributing industry.

Link to the rest at The Independent

Austerity and the British Library

29 June 2017

From The Millions:

The Hornsey Public Library sits off a gravel-paved sidewalk on a residential street in an outer borough of London. There are many beautiful libraries in London, but the Hornsey Public Library was built at a time in the 20th century when London did not require its libraries to be beautiful. The concrete and brick exterior has many right angles and determinedly unadorned surfaces. A marble plaque near the entrance says it was dedicated in 1965 by Princess Alexandra, a cousin of the queen and one of the corps of expendable royals dispatched to things like suburban library dedications.

The one very beautiful thing in the Hornsey Public Library is a large glass etching of an old map of the Parish of Hornsey on the floor-to-ceiling window near the north stairs. It is interesting to look at but feels hidden and out of place, as though added at the last minute when someone realized that the library should have at least one beautiful thing. The library’s interior is tidy and spacious. It has high ceilings lit by fluorescent tubes behind plastic panels. The walls are mint green and the floor is covered in that rough short-nap carpet that comes in squares. It feels dated but in a timeless way, as if there’s been no point in its existence when it wasn’t comfortably out of style.

The neighborhood that shelters the Hornsey Public Library used to be called the Parish of Hornsey. Now it’s called Crouch End. Crouch End is in the middle-outer rings of London, between the northern forks of the Piccadilly and Northern lines. It has a cobbler, a fishmonger, a poulterer, and several fruiterers. It has many strollers that frequently obstruct crosswalks and sidewalks. It supports multiple patisseries and health food stores.

. . . .

Crouch End has council housing, which is what the English call public housing, and it also has houses that are quite posh, which is what the English call things that cost a lot of money. English towns are rarely like American towns, where an address or intersection stage-whispers its inhabitants’ socioeconomic status. In neighborhoods like Crouch End the housing stock is jumbled together, with million-pound homes sharing a block or even a wall with crumbling rental conversions. Even with this democracy of address, class anxieties rumble.

. . . .

The inside of the Hornsey Public Library feels different from the neighborhood outside. In Crouch End there are many people who like the idea of community, but who also have the money to pay for nicer things than those available in communal facilities. They prefer to buy their books at an independent bookshop, but often, guiltily, on Amazon. Inside the library there are people who do not have the money to pay for nicer things and so need to use communal facilities. Not all of the people in this second category like the idea of community. The percentage of people who can be seen muttering softly to themselves is also greater inside the library than outside of it.

. . . .

The Hornsey Public Library does not possess a staggering number of books. On the ground floor, past the checkout desk, is a long wall of fiction. History hides under the stairs; gardening and cookery hug the back wall; and economics, sociology, and assorted non-fiction line a few shelves upstairs. It is an eclectic mix of bestselling and obscure authors, new titles and old. If there is a special book you have in mind—a lesser-known short story collection by a famous novelist, for example, or a book on Burma that you saw in an airport bookshop—chances are the library does not have that book. If you are not committed to a particular title and have the time and inclination to browse the shelves looking for something interesting to read, then certainly you will find at least one book that fits your personal criteria of readability.

Books are only a small part of the library’s mandate. When the council elected to spare its libraries from cuts, it announced that they would be redeveloped as “community hubs.” Among the groups using the library’s facilities for regular open meetings are stroke survivors, cancer survivors, seniors, dads, knitters, aspiring songwriters, Pilates enthusiasts, and philosophy buffs. There is an art gallery and a café with tea, coffee, and a refrigerated case with a small selection of juice and boxed sandwiches. No one ever eats the sandwiches.

Link to the rest at The Millions

Be regular and orderly

29 June 2017

Be regular and orderly in your life, so that you may be violent and original in your work.

Gustave Flaubert

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