‘Confusing’ blurbing is slowing supply chain

12 March 2018

From The Bookseller:

Supply chain organisation BIC (Book Industry Communication) has urged publishers to stop using “hugely confusing” blurb material in title and subtitle metadata fields.

BIC has noticed that publishers and other metadata providers are using the subtitle, and sometimes the title fields, in metadata feeds to carry marketing and promotional text, for example, phrases such as “Sunday Times Best Seller”, “Gripping read from…”, “The Richard & Judy Book Club thriller 2017”,  and “Man Booker prize winner”.

Such promotional text is “not wanted” by retailers or libraries and is “hugely confusing” for the book buyer, said the organisation, adding that using such information in the subtitle field could adversely affect accreditation of the publisher or metadata provider in the future.

“It is important for discoverability, good customer experience and an efficient data supply chain that these data fields reflect only the true title and subtitle text that appears on the title page”, BIC said in a statement. “The valuable promotional text should be included in separate and dedicated promotional text fields, and all metadata recipients, including wholesalers and retailers, should be using these fields appropriately.”

The organisation has slammed the “significant escalation” of this practice over the last 12 months, which it says is “confusing and misleading” for consumers trying to make a buying decision. The practice is also having an adverse effect on supply chain efficiency because removing the unwanted text incurs extra costs and is time consuming for retailers and aggregators.

Link to the rest at The Bookseller

This sounds like keyword stuffing, an ancient (in internet years) SEO tactic for improving Google rankings for web pages. The practice involved adding lots of popular search terms (sometimes in metadata or in invisible or difficult for humans to see form – white words on a white background) into a web page to rank higher in Google search results and thus garner more traffic. Example: “Sexy, sexy, sexy, sexy bagels”

PG is a little surprised it has taken so long for British publishers to attempt to game the system in this particular manner.

The solution to this problem is also ancient – ding the offenders with lower rankings in search results or don’t show them at all.

Typography is the new black. Trends in web design

12 March 2018


In the world of web design we have been experiencing a long process of incorporating typography effects in sites, which years ago was technically impossible, or at least could only be supported by a few browsers. Luckily this situation has changed and we are now enjoying an explosion of creativity in the use of web typography and communication, whilst still maintaining high levels of accessibility. The last few months have seen an increase in the richness of typefacesdecoration styles and hover effects, while icons and emojis are emphasizing the expressiveness of texts even more.

Hero fonts and bold typefaces

The use of bold typefaces is a trend that gives personality to texts and is overtaking images as the main design element. The creative use of typography is taking centre stage and, to a large extent, overtaking hero images and videos – which are multimedia elements that can have less than favorable effects on mobile browsing.


Serifs are anything but new, nevertheless, they have clawed their way back to the forefront enough that they are no longer seen as belonging to the past: bold + serif = 2018. So, polish up that amazing Clarendon, you’re gonna need it!

. . . .

Hero fonts and large letter sizes in paragraphs

The texts on a website serve more of a purpose than a purely visual one, they are a way of expressing the personality of a product whilst forming part of the “Voice and Tone” of the communication. Right now we are incorporating all the visual resources we can get our hands on including icons, emojis, pictograms, audio and overlaid images. The copy now commands so much respect that paragraphs feature as principle elements, sometimes even appearing as big as the titles.

. . . .

Pictograms, icons and emojis decorate our paragraphs

There are many typical (and not so typical) ways of text decoration that can coexist in the same paragraph, such as the classical underlines and italics of different weights to express or reinforce ideas. All this, together with numerous and peculiar hovers, colorful underlined blocksoutlined fonts, changes in typography, switching between serif and san serif (even in the same sentence), pictograms, icons and emojis are now scattered through the texts for decorative and semantic purposes. The desired outcome – to make the text more dynamic. The combinations are endless, many of them the result of visual experiments of Brutalism and Maximalism in web design.

The evolution of the paragraph in web design

The size of fonts and length of paragraphs have been growing at such an increasing speed over the last few months, so we could not resist making the following graphic to illustrate the evolution of paragraphs in the history of web design.

(Click on the image below for a larger version)

Link to the rest at AWWWARDS

Amazon is complicit with counterfeiting

4 March 2018

From Elevation Lab:

When someone goes to the lengths of making counterfeits of your products, it’s at least a sign you’re doing something right. And it deserves a minute of flattery.

But when Chinese counterfeiters tool up and make copies of your product, send that inventory to Amazon, then overtake the real product’s buy box by auto-lowering the price – it’s a real problem. Customers are unknowingly buying crap versions of the product, while both Amazon and the scammers are profiting, and the reputation you’ve built goes down the toilet.

And if you’ve paid Amazon a boat load of money to advertise the product you’ve designed, built, invested in, and shipped – it’s further insult to injury. And when new counterfeit sellers keep popping up every week so you have to play whack-a-mole with Amazon, who take days to remove the sellers, it’s the beginning of the end for your small business.

This is exactly what has happened to us. Our popular product The Anchor, the first under desk headphone mount, with 1500+ reviews, has been getting flooded with counterfeits. The current counterfeit seller, suiningdonghanjiaju Co Ltd (sounds legit), has been on there for the past 5 days and taken all the sales.

. . . .

They literally reverse engineered it, made steel compression molds, made the logo wrong, used fake 3M adhesive that’s very thin and was diecut smaller than the top (measure once, cut twice), they use a lower durometer silicone so it flexes more, its has huge mold parting lines, and the packaging is literally photocopied then reprinted (you can tell by the lack of image contrast). And they had to apply a big sticker to cover our SKU with theirs. But to the untrained eye, it would pass. Can’t wait for the negative reviews to come…

Link to the rest at Elevation Lab and thanks to Paul for the tip.

PG agrees that, as a part of maintaining Amazon’s position as the best place to sell a large number of things, the company should police counterfeits. If you check the OP, you’ll see the Chinese company used the same product name, copy, photos, etc., as Elevation Lab used. If the Chinese product is inferior, Elevation Lab could be damaged by bad reviews, etc., in addition to having sales diverted to its competitor.

Such activities appear to run afoul of a variety of Federal and state laws prohibiting false advertising.

On the other hand, Elevation Lab is selling a very simple product, even if it has the design and engineering virtues described in the OP.

Unless Elevation Lab has some sort of patent/design patent protection for the product in question, competitors that avoid using the company’s product name, exactly copying its product description, etc., could likely sell a similar product without violating any law PG can think of this morning.

While PG is from the “put the headphone in a drawer or leave it on the desk” school of headphone management, he did discover that headphone mounts are an extremely competitive product category on Amazon.

Occupy Author Photo: On Elena Ferrante, Privacy, and Women Writers

19 February 2018

From The Millions:

When I was in my 20s, I used to spend hours at the Strand Bookstore in New York, obsessively gazing at book jacket photos of authors. I was trying to discern something — A key to genius? Or the mere fact that this lucky person, in this photo, had managed to get a book out into the world?

The variations were endless: Here was a classic black-and-white, chin resting on fist. Here was a playful one, slightly off-center. Sexy duck face for a middle-grade children’s book…okay. Or, how about this one, gorgeous photo, but one that looked completely different — like witness protection plan different — from the author I saw as I sat in the audience at a crowded Barnes & Noble. Or this one: instead of confined to the inner flap, her face on the entire back of the book, where the blurbs would normally be. Was this good? Did this mean the press thought she was such a great writer they wanted everyone to know her? Or, was it like using a pretty face to sell toothpaste?

Fast forward a few years on, and I’m finally published. My husband is in grad school, but before that, he’d worked at the venerated publisher Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Knowing my obsession, he would often point out the different FSG authors’ pictures, noting how the press often signaled the importance of a book by commissioning one of the well-known author photographers, most famously, Marion Ettlinger, whose black-and-whites portraits are instantly recognizable by the unsmiling, dramatic poses of her subjects, the marmoreal lighting. These could run thousands of dollars for a single image.

. . . .

But after being out of the publishing game for more than a decade, it’s author photo time! But I have come to wonder if, perhaps, for women, author photos are too often a lose-lose situation.

Women are judged — very often wrongly — because of their looks.

. . . .

It’s as if we already give any American (white) man the benefit of the doubt in terms of fitting into any narrative, especially one of heroism or competence, but a woman who breaks through always has to be stopped, something must be wrong.

Women authors, genius aside, must make sure they are not too old, or too young. Not too serious, but also serious enough. They have to be attractive, but not too attractive; for some reason in men it’s dreamy but in women it’s suspicious.

Link to the rest at The Millions

PG says if you’re nervous about an author photo, don’t have one. Or, to stand out from the crowd, demand a photo that obscures your face. Here are a few examples:



Or doesn’t show your face at all:


Of course, just like authors regularly use pen names, you could also have a pen photo. Here are some pen photos PG might use.


Influencers and undisclosed sponsored activities

12 February 2018

From IPKat:

Suppose that you meet someone who tells you about a great product. That person tells you that the product has fantastic new features that no other product has. Could that recommendation influence your decision to buy the product? Possibly yes, especially if you trust and admire that person. Now suppose the person works for the company that sells the product – or has been paid by the company to praise the product. Would you want to know that when you’re evaluating the endorser’s glowing recommendation? You bet.

The latter seems to be the issue underlying the increasingly extensive debate and concerns around those ‘influencers’ who fail to declare the existence of a commercial relationship with companies whose products they wear and sponsor, including via social media.

. . . .

Quite recently, in fact, the FTC adopted a set of guidelines: the Endorsement Guides.

. . . .

Among other things, Section 5 in the FTC Act states that the FTC conducts investigations and brings cases involving deceptive advertising made on behalf of an advertiser.

In this regard, the Guides are intended to give an insight into what the FTC thinks about influencers’ undisclosed marketing activities and how Section 5 might apply to the resulting endorsements. The Guides themselves are not legally binding. However, practices inconsistent with the Guides may result in law enforcement actions alleging violations of the FTC Act. Law enforcement actions may prompt a defendant in a case to return any money received as a result of the the violation in question and to abide by various requirements in the future.

Importantly, in its aim to prevent false or misleading advertisement, the FTC requires influencers to disclose any “material connection” between the influencer and the advertisement in a “clear and conspicuous” manner. A “material connection” entails disclosure of business or family relationships, monetary payments and also gifts of free products.

. . . .

Growing concerns with influencers and undisclosed sponsored posts can be found also in Europe. For instance, a case of this kind was recently decided in Sweden.

. . . .

In late January 2018 the Patent and Market Court in Konsumentombudsmannen v Alexandra Media Sweden & Tourn Media (PMT 11949-16), ruled that famous Swedish blogger and influencer Kissie was responsible for misleading marketing on social media.

. . . .

The Court held that expressions like ‘sponsored post’ and ‘collaboration’ are sufficiently clear in communicating that a post is to be regarded as an advertisement. Crucially, such expressions must either be given a particularly clear design or placed in a prominent position in relation to the post. In this particular case, two posts by Kissie were found to have failed to provide a sufficiently clear indication that they were in fact advertisements.

Link to the rest at IPKat

Book clinic: why are some titles changed from country to country?

11 February 2018

From The Guardian:

Q: Why are book titles sometimes changed depending on country of publication (for example, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in the UK/Sorcerer’s Stonein the US) and what factors are considered when making a title change?

. . . .

A: From Rebecca McNally, editorial director of the children’s division at Bloomsbury Publishing.

There is a little bit of magic in a good title. It must entice and intrigue potential readers. Titles are the “word” in a “word-of-mouth” bestseller. Until recently, changes were common – for commercial reasons, cultural sensitivity or because of a pre-existing book with a similar moniker. And really, it did not matter unless/until a film came out that favoured one title over the other, which was a nice problem to have.

Children’s books have been particularly prone to transatlantic title shifts: Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights became The Golden Compass; Jennifer Donnelly’s US bestseller A Northern Light became A Gathering Light; Diana Wynne Jones, Anne Fine and Dick King-Smith all found that a title beloved of British children was deemed unenticing elsewhere. Who knows why Where’s Wally? became Where’s Waldo?, but it worked. Legend has it that 20 years ago Philosopher’s Stone was considered a little arcane in America and so, no one knowing quite what a phenomenon lived within its covers, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone was published a year after UK readers first met the boy wizard.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

Authors with Websites: Who Owns Your Domain Name?

31 January 2018

From Indies Unlimited:

The initial response to the question of who owns your domain name would likely be, “I do”. In most cases, you would be correct. That’s what I thought, too, when I received a renewal notice last August. As it turns out, I was wrong – sort of.

. . . .

I’ve had the domain name since 2009, when my first website was initially set up and my first book published.

. . . .

It all began when I received an email from some random company telling me my domain was up for renewal and offering to renew it for me. It had been purchased so long ago that I couldn’t remember who it had been set up with so I asked my techie, Carolyn to check into it. When she looked it up, the domain was registered with a company called eNom, which neither of us had heard of, and at an old address of mine where I’ve not lived for years. She suggested I call them.

The rep there told me that the domain name was listed under a reseller out of Toronto. They informed me that I could get it back for five years if I paid $249.00, seven years for $500+ or ten years for more than $700. By this time I was so upset I could not remember the exact figures. But I smelled a rat and sensed eNom, and/or the secondary reseller, were holding my domain for ransom. Somehow a shred of sanity remained and I said I’d have to look into that.

. . . .

Then I got the renewal notice for the other domain name, due to expire in October. It was registered with Namecheap, also taken over by eNom. I considered letting it expire, but Carolyn suggested trying to transfer it to GoDaddy, to get it out of eNom’s clutches.

Link to the rest at Indies Unlimited


Army of Clones: Author Solutions Spawns a Legion of Copycats

26 January 2018

From Writer Beware:

I don’t think there’s much dispute that the many “imprints” under the Author Solutions umbrella are among the most negatively regarded of all the author services companies.

From the predatory business practices that gave rise to two class action lawsuits, to the huge number of customercomplaints, to the relentless sales calls and deceptive recruitment methods, to the dubious and overpriced”marketing” services that are one of the company’s main profit sources, AS’s poor reputation is widely known. Along with other factors, such as the competition from free and low-cost self-publishing platforms, this has pushed AS in recent years into steady decline.

Unfortunately, whatever gap AS’s contraction has created has been filled by a slew of imitators. Why not, when hoodwinking authors is as easy as setting up a website and opening an account with Ingram? In some cases, the imitators have first-hand experience: they’ve been founded and/or staffed by former employees of AS’s call centers in the Philippines.

Like AS, the clones rely on misleading hype, hard-sell sales tactics, and a lucrative catalog of junk marketing services. Even if authors actually receive the services they’ve paid for (and judging by the complaints I’ve gotten, there’s no guarantee of that), they are getting stiffed. These are not businesses operating in good faith, but greedy opportunists seeking to profit from writers’ inexperience, ignorance, and hunger for recognition. They are exploitative, dishonest, and predatory.

. . . .

3. Elaborate claims of skills and experience that don’t check out. A clone may say it’s been in business since 2006 or 2008, even though its domain name was registered only last year. It may claim to be staffed by publishing and marketing experts with years or even decades of “combined experience”, but provide no names or bios to enable you to verify this. A hallmark of the clones’ “About Us” pages is a serious lack of “about.”

. . . .

 5. Junk marketing. Press releases. Paid book review packages. Book fair exhibits. Ingram catalog listings. Hollywood book-to-screen packages. These and more are junk marketing–PR services of dubious value and effectiveness that are cheap to provide but can be sold at a huge profit. It’s an insanely lucrative aspect of the author-fleecing biz, not just because of the enormous markup, but because while you can only sell a publishing package once, you can sell marketing multiple times.

. . . .

Stratton Press claims to offer “an experience that is one of a kind for both novice and veteran authors”. Oddly, it doesn’t display its publishing packages on its website; you have to go to its Facebook page to see them. Named after famous writers, they start at $1,800 and go all the way up to $10,500.

Link to the rest at Writer Beware

PG has had extensive exposure to quite a few different categories of businesses. While every business has its frauds and con artists, he has to say that publishing seems to attract a larger share than many other types of business.

Unfortunately, phony agents, phony publishers and phony marketers abound. Some have worked in legitimate parts of publishing in the past, but haven’t been able to support themselves in that arena and use their past experiences to support their pitches to authors.

While PG thinks indie publishing offers the best financial opportunities for most authors over the long run (or as long as anything is in internet years), if you’re convinced that the magic of Manhattan will make you an overnight sensation, PG suggests that selling very well as an indie author is the best way to attract contacts from legitimate agents.

Flogging an unpublished manuscript to agent after agent tends to become soul-destroying for many authors. Why not just polish the ms to the best of your ability, accessing your own resources, self-publish it and at least start earning a little bit of money from your writing while you query away.

If you’re paying attention to reader responses and suggestions, you may get some ideas to write a second book that’s better than the first. Number 2 may attract an agent when Number 1 failed.

PG suggests that your marketing of your indie books is not a lost effort. Nearly every publisher who talks about what they’re seeking in a new author is a platform, meaning an online presence that has attracted a lot of people to the author’s work, personality, videos, etc. On the one hand, if you have a good platform, you may gain fewer benefits from signing with a publisher, but build your platform and see how things turn out. A good author’s platform will attract more readers if indie publishing is what’s going to happen either in the near term or for an extended period of time.

The One Thing That Will Kill Book Sales Dead—And 10 Ways to Avoid it.

14 January 2018

From Anne R. Allen’s Blog:

I never have as much time to read as I think I will, and my trusty old Kindle is pretty loaded up. So I’m a picky book-buyer. Unfortunately, there are a lot of readers like me out here, and you don’t want to lose us.

I’m often intrigued by a book’s cover and blurb, and sometimes a glowing review on Facebook or a book blog will send me to a buy page.

But I never buy without checking out the “LOOK INSIDE!” On most retail sites, that’s 10% of the book—which anybody can read free.

That  “LOOK INSIDE” freebie is your most important book sales tool.

Make sure it’s going to snag readers, not kill book sales just as you’re about to close the deal.

With many books—not only self-published, but trad-pubbed as well—the first few pages will stop the sale for me.

. . . .

I’m a grammar freak, so a misplaced apostrophe or verb/object disagreement will stop me.  I know not everybody is such a stickler.  But I think all readers want to see that a book looks professional and polished. They don’t want to invest time in a book—even if it’s free—unless they feel they’re in competent hands.

. . . .

1) Consider Chapter Titles

The first thing the reader sees when he hits LOOK INSIDE is your “Table of Contents” (unless you have a formatter who will put it at the end. Unfortunately the Big Five don’t ever seem to do this.)

Why waste your first four pages with Chapters titled:

  • One
  • Two
  • Three
  • Four
  • Etc?

You might consider going back to the old-fashioned device of text in chapter titles. Yes.  I know they’ve been out of fashion for a century or so. But ebooks are bringing them back.

You don’t have to go all 18th Century and write:

“Chapter the Tenth, In Which Our Intrepid Hero Encounters Several Not Terribly Nice Ladies, Some Very Strong Spirits and a Face Full of Gravel, as he Searches for his Long-Lost Brother Murgatroyd, and their Father, who May or May Not be Lord Mayor of London.”

But modern chapter titles can give an idea of the action to come.

Chapter titles can also be a major sales tool. Here are the first four chapters of my rom-com mystery The Best Revenge

  1. The Color of Fresh Money
  2. Debutante of the Year
  3. Something in the Woods
  4. King of the Chickenburgers

You know there’s something weird going on with rich people, and it’s probably funny.  Isn’t that more informative than a list of numbers?

Link to the rest at Anne R. Allen’s Blog

PG doesn’t use Look Inside very often, but he may be aberrant.

PG would be interested in knowing how many visitors to TPV are regular users of Look Inside and what they are particularly looking for when they do.

The Rise and Fall of the Blog

4 January 2018

From JSTOR Daily:

New York Times writer Nicholas Kristof was one of the first to start blogging for one of the most well-known media companies in the world. Yet on December 8th, he declared his blog was being shut down, writing, “we’ve decided that the world has moved on from blogs—so this is the last post here.”

The death knell of blogs might seem surprising to anyone who was around during their heyday. Back in 2008, Daniel W. Drezner and Henry Farrell wrote in Public Choice, “Blogs appear to be a staple of political commentary, legal analysis, celebrity gossip, and high school angst.” A Mother Jones writer who “flat out declared, ‘I hate blogs’…also admitted, ‘I gorge myself on these hundreds of pieces of commentary like so much candy.’”

Blogs exploded in popularity fast. According to Drezner and Farrell, in 1999, there were an estimated 50 blogs dotted around the internet. By 2007, a blog tracker theorized there were around seventy million. Yet, a popular question today is whether blogs still have any relevance. A quick Google search will yield suggested results, “are blogs still relevant 2016,” “are blogs still relevant 2017,” and “is blogging dead.”

. . . .

Today, writers lament the irrelevance of blogs not just because there’s too many of them; but because not enough people are engaging with even the more popular ones. Blogs are still important to those invested in their specific subjects, but not to a more general audience, who are more likely to turn to Twitter or Facebook for a quick news fix or take on current events.

Explains author Gina Bianchini as she advises not starting a blog, “2017 is a very different world than 2007. Today is noisier and people’s attention spans shorter than any other time in history…and things are only getting worse. Facebook counts a ‘view’ as 1.7 seconds and we have 84,600 of those in a day. Your new blog isn’t equipped to compete in this new attention-deficit-disorder Thunderdome.”

Link to the rest at JSTOR Daily

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