Strange Blog Problems

6 August 2014

UPDATE: I did two things to try to fix the problem (I know I should have just done one at a time but more later):

1. I re-installed Wordfence

2. Immediately after I reinstalled Wordfence, I received a notice that a WordPress update was available, so I installed that.

After doing this, I’m seeing the latest posts in situations that would show me only the Simon & Schuster post at the top of the blog before.

Post a comment if you’re still seeing problems.

No, I don’t know why this (hopefully) fixed the problem any more than I understand why the problem arose in the first place.


I’m receiving reports that some of the more recent posts on The Passive Voice aren’t showing up for some visitors.

I can sometimes replicate the problem, but on other occasions, the blog seems to be working fine. Intermittent technical problems are often the most frustrating to deal with.

So the Real Authors Guild is… Amazon?!

30 July 2014

From author Barry Eisler:

In case you missed it, today Amazon issued an update on its stalled negotiations with Hachette.  It’s a great read:  short, clear, and devastating to the meme that Hachette is in any way the good guy in this fight.  But if you want just the executive summary, it’s this:

Amazon wants most ebooks to be priced at below ten dollars; Hachette wants ebooks to be priced higher.

So far, so simple.  But what’s critical to understand is that lower ebook prices create more revenue — a lower price for the customer, and more income for the retailer, publisher, and author.

. . . .

This is what Hachette opposes.  This is what the “Authors Guild” and “Authors United” are fighting to prevent.  More money for authors.

. . . .

So why do legacy publishers insist on high prices for ebooks?

As I starting pointing out about three years ago, “The current business imperative of legacy publishing is to preserve the position of paper and retard the growth of digital.”  Why?  Because although the legacy industry offers various value-added services (at least in theory), the only critical service they’ve ever offered — the only one an author couldn’t get any other way — has always been paper distribution.  Paper distribution is the foundation on which the legacy industry built its agglomerated business model.  That is:  “You want distribution?  Then you’ll have to take all the services you could have outsourced for a flat fee elsewhere (editing, jacket design, etc) along with it, and you’ll have to pay 85% of earnings for the agglomerated package.”

But in a digital world, authors don’t need distribution services from publishers.  In digital, individual authors have exactly the same distribution reach as any corporate publishing partner, and for the same flat rate of 30%.  Digital is changing the role of publishers from something authors needed to something authors might, for reasons separate from distribution, merely want.

Having the nature of your business go from “I’m a business necessity and the only game in town” to “If I can prove my value, authors might still want me” represents a cataclysmic change for legacy players.  Remove the criticality of distribution from the equation, and the entire nature of the publishing business model dramatically changes, with services that once upon a time could only be had as part of a mandated and expensive prix fixe meal now available as low-price a la carte items authors can order from the menu however and from whomever they like.

If any of this sounds familiar, it’s because it is.  Forcing someone to buy an unessential item as the price of being able to buy the essential one is called tying and it is frequently illegal, especially in the context of intellectual property.  Or, for another example of tying, recall the pre-digital-distribution era way the music industry allowed you to buy the one song you wanted:  by forcing you to buy the entire CD along with it.  There are many other examples.  What they all have in common is that in whatever context it develops, tying can only exist in the presence of disproportionate market power.

. . . .

To put it another way:

The legacy imperative of using high ebook prices in an attempt to maintain the primacy of paper costs legacy-published authors money.

. . . .

It’s going to be fascinating to see how the “Authors Guild” and “Authors United” try to spin this.  Fascinating in no small part because Amazon is taking the very position on digital royalties you would expect — indeed, you would insist on — from any organization worthy of inclusion of the word “Authors” in its marquee.  Instead we have Amazon championing authors, and “Authors” championing publishers!

Link to the rest at Barry Eisler

Here’s a link to Barry Eisler’s books

How Amazon is Changing Publishing

10 July 2014

Thanks to Randall for the tip.

Bookstats Reports

7 July 2014

Frequent visitor and commenter William Ockham emailed with this question:

Do you know anyone who subscribes to the BookStats reports (discussed here)?

PG doesn’t think he knows anyone who does, but suspects some visitors may. William wants to conduct some mathematical analyses of Bookstats data.

Send PG a message via the Contact Page if you can help William with his request and PG will forward the info.

Both Sides Now: A New York Editor and Author Goes Indie

1 July 2014

From author Leslie Wells via Jane Friedman:

I’ve been on both sides of the publishing desk—as an acquiring executive editor for several decades, and as an author. The experience has provided insights that I wouldn’t have had otherwise, and made me more sympathetic to the nerve-wracking process of trying to get your book published.

First, let’s look at the editor’s side. An editor’s career hinges on acquisitions. If she doesn’t acquire eight to ten titles per year, then her job is on the line. So an editor is constantly trying to buy books; but that’s not easy as it sounds. Before the weekly meeting, you have to get at least one other editor to read—and like—the manuscript you’re trying to acquire. Then you have to pitch it to an overworked bunch of colleagues who are also trying to fill limited slots on the next list. Most of all, you have to convince your boss, the editor-in-chief—who may or may not have had time to look over your project in the three hours he spent cramming the night before—that it has merit.

. . . .

Books are often dead on arrival at the acquisitions meeting, for the following reasons:

  1. The author doesn’t have a platform (an internet following, TV show, speaking gigs).
  2. The book reminds someone of a book that came out last year, that didn’t work.
  3. The sales director had a bad commute.
  4. The marketing director doesn’t get along with the sales director—so any project he likes, she loathes; and vice versa.

If the stars align and the book isn’t shot down, you are then allowed to plug the new (vastly reduced) projected sales figures into your pro forma, and get the new (vastly reduced) advance amount approved. Finally you’re ready: a $35,000 offer is burning a hole in your pocket.

. . . .

My first novel, The Curing Season, was pre-empted by Amy Einhorn (who went on to publish The Help). Amy’s editing was insightful and thoughtful. There wasn’t a suggestion that wasn’t careful and intelligent; I loved the whole process, and felt very lucky. The art director came up with a beautiful, appropriate cover and the publisher sent me on an eight-city tour (back in the day when authors got sent on tours). The book came out during a time when newspapers and magazines were either killing or drastically reducing book coverage; since social media hadn’t happened yet in the early 2000s, it was difficult to garner much attention. The book did receive some very nice reviews, and overall it was a very positive experience.

For my new novel, Come Dancing, I thought it would be interesting to take a different approach. So many of my author friends are choosing to self-publish that after checking out traditional publishing options, I decided to give it a whirl. The process has been exciting, exhausting, and empowering.

. . . .

To my surprise, one week after it was published, Come Dancing hit #13 on Amazon’s Hot New Releases list for Fiction/Humor and made the Amazon Best Seller list. It also hit #1 in the Kindle Store for Romantic Comedy.

It’s early days yet—my book has only been out for two weeks at the time of this writing—but so far, the experience has been amazing. Most authors want a shot at being published by a traditional publisher, and I certainly understand that impulse. But if that doesn’t happen for you, going the indie route can be extremely satisfying.

Link to the rest at Jane Friedman and thanks to SFR for the tip.

Against YA

6 June 2014

From Slate:

As The Fault in Our Stars barrels into theaters this weekend virtually guaranteed to become a blockbuster, it can be hard to remember that once upon a time, an adult might have felt embarrassed to be caught reading the novel that inspired it. Not because it is bad—it isn’t—but because it was written for teenagers.

The once-unseemly notion that it’s acceptable for not-young adults to read young-adult fiction is now conventional wisdom. Today, grown-ups brandish their copies of teen novels with pride. There are endless lists of YA novels that adults should read, an “I read YA” campaign for grown-up YA fans, and confessional posts by adult YA addicts. But reading YA doesn’t make for much of a confession these days: A 2012 survey by a market research firm found that 55 percent of these books are bought by people older than 18. (The definition of YA is increasingly fuzzy, but it generally refers to books written for 12- to 17-year-olds. Meanwhile, the cultural definition of “young adult” now stretches practically to age 30, which may have something to do with this whole phenomenon.)

The largest group of buyers in that survey—accounting for a whopping 28 percent of all YA sales—are between ages 30 and 44.

. . . .

Adults should feel embarrassed about reading literature written for children.

Let’s set aside the transparently trashy stuff like Divergent and Twilight, which no one defends as serious literature. I’m talking about the genre the publishing industry calls “realistic fiction.” These are the books, like The Fault in Our Stars, that are about real teens doing real things, and that rise and fall not only on the strength of their stories but, theoretically, on the quality of their writing. These are the books that could plausibly be said to be replacing literary fiction in the lives of their adult readers. And that’s a shame.

. . . .

But the very ways that YA is pleasurable are at odds with the way that adult fiction is pleasurable. There’s of course no shame in writing about teenagers; think Shakespeare or the Brontë sisters or Megan Abbott. But crucially, YA books present the teenage perspective in a fundamentally uncritical way. It’s not simply that YA readers are asked to immerse themselves in a character’s emotional life—that’s the trick of so much great fiction—but that they are asked to abandon the mature insights into that perspective that they (supposedly) have acquired as adults. When chapter after chapter in Eleanor & Park ends with some version of “He’d never get enough of her,” the reader seems to be expected to swoon. But how can a grown-up, even one happy to be reminded of the shivers of first love, not also roll her eyes?

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

TPV – The Mobile Version

30 May 2014

For those accessing TPV on mobile devices, the plugin that provided a mobile-friendly layout without any problem reports for several months has gone through two recent updates.

It works fine for PG now.

He’s received problem reports for each of the alternate mobile solutions he’s tried over the past few days, so he’s going back to the original - WPtouch Mobile Plugin.

Drop a comment or send an email through the Contact page if you’re experiencing difficulties.

For those who haven’t the slightest idea what PG is talking about, most blog layouts are designed to be viewed on a screen much larger than a smartphone. These large-screen layouts typically show up in tiny type that is very difficult to read on a mobile device.

Mobile plugins are supposed to detect when someone is accessing a blog from a smartphone browser and automatically present the blog content in a layout that is much easier to read on the phone.

TPV Mobile Interface

28 May 2014

UPDATE: I installed a new mobile plugin at about 1:30 PM US Eastern time. Let me know how this one looks and works.

On a blog housekeeping note, Passive Guy has reactivated the plugin that is supposed to automatically provide a mobile-friendly interface for TPV when it senses you’re accessing the blog via a mobile device.

This plugin was behaving strangely, but, for PG, it seems to be working fine again.

If you’re having any problems, including receiving the mobile interface on a non-mobile device, drop a comment here or send an email via the Contact page.

Glasgow School of Art: Fire crews battle to save building

23 May 2014

From the BBC:

Firefighters are continuing to fight a major blaze at the A-listed Glasgow School of Art – one of Scotland’s most iconic buildings.

Eyewitnesses said the fire appeared to have started when a projector exploded in the basement of the Charles Rennie Mackintosh building just before 12:30.

The roof space of the art school is still well alight. It is feared large parts have been destroyed.

Everyone in the building was said to have escaped safely.

There have been no reports of any casualties.

Final year students were said to have been preparing for their end of year degree show in the building when the blaze broke out. The deadline for submissions to the degree was 17:00.

Police have cordoned off Renfrew Street, and smoke was also drifting across the M8. Large crowds of students and onlookers gathered near the scene, with several people in tears as they watched the events unfold.

. . . .

Hugh Thornhill, a second year student, said: “I was helping one of the fourth years set up their exhibit and suddenly the alarm went off.

“We didn’t think it was anything but we had to go out and then we saw smoke coming out and realised that it was really bad. It got to the point where flames were coming out of the top floor.

“All that effort is gone, everyone’s work on that side of the building is ruined. Even if it didn’t catch fire it will be damaged extensively.

“The degree show next month is pretty much a bust now, it’s sad.”

Broadcaster Muriel Gray, a former student and current chairwoman of the school, arrived and burst into tears when she saw the building in flames.

Ms Gray told BBC Scotland she was “heartbroken” to see the “most amazing building in Glasgow” go up in flames.

. . . .

“Quite apart from it being voted the best building of the last 175 years, it is a major tourist draw and has an incredible reputation as an art school. This is really terrible.”

Charles Rennie Mackintosh is lauded as Scotland’s most influential architect and designer, with the art school building which bears his name considered by many to be his greatest masterpiece.

Mackintosh was a 28-year-old junior draughtsman at a Glasgow architecture firm when he drew up the designs for the building, which features distinctive heavy sandstone walls and large windows.

The dramatic art nouveau design took about 12 years to be completed, opening in 1909, but it signalled the birth of a new style in 20th Century European architecture.

The president of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, Iain Connelly, said the value of the building “goes well beyond Glasgow or even Scotland”.

He added: “It is a work of architectural heritage of world renown and its influence on 20th century architecture is immeasurable. Scotland has seen the loss of an international treasure which reflects the genius of one of our greatest ever architects.”

Link to the rest at the BBC

This tip came from regular TPV visitor Catherine, who writes, “[W]e are heartbroken here. Hard to describe what this iconic building means to us in Scotland, and all I can think about is the library that was full of irreplaceable books and Charles Rennie Mackintosh furniture. Fortunately, nobody was hurt which is a blessing. But for the rest, we feel sick and sad. “

Comment Moderation

7 May 2014

For some reason, WordPress is holding some comments for moderation today.

The blog is set to require approval of the first comment by a new commenter. Thereafter, all comments from that person should automatically post without any further moderation.

I’m not sure what the problem is, but it’s happened to two regular visitors so far today.

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