Monthly Archives: April 2016

The guru on how to get your book published

28 April 2016

From NUVO:

You may know Jane Friedman if you have ever browsed through The Great Courses. Hers are some of the highest rated, with titles like How to Get Your Book Publishedand Publishing 101. A Hoosier, Friedman has been writing and having her work steadily published since college. In 2006 she wrote her first non-fiction work that was a guide to writing. We spoke with her about some of the dos and don’ts when weeding through the press world.

NUVO: What are the biggest mistakes you see authors make starting out?

Jane Friedman: I would say the biggest mistake by far is a lack of patience with the process. They send out maybe one query, and they haven’t even researched who that query should go to. Maybe the query isn’t even written that well in the first place, and they get frustrated really quickly and give up. And I would say, as of today, most people decide to self-publish and then they figure out that wasn’t the right choice much later. There is usually a lack of patience with not just the publishing process like I just described. They will be frustrated with having to market their work and pitch their work, but some people pitch too soon. They haven’t allowed themselves time as a writer to develop their craft.

NUVO: How have you seen book marketing change?

Friedman: Well I think there has always been a responsibility for the author to be a promoter of their work. Today, because of digital media, digital marketing and promotion, there are a lot of things that are incumbent on the author to do that in fact wouldn’t even be appropriate for the publisher to do on their behalf. The publisher doesn’t want to pretend to be you on Twitter or on Facebook. They don’t want to be, in those cases, the owner of your website. These are brand properties that belong to the author and it’s up to the author to cultivate them. These are things that span over … an author’s career. They are not specific to a single book … So the author needs to be thinking abut developing those … Not just for one book but very long term. Years really.

NUVO: How would you categorize the current state of publishing?

Friedman: Eh, schizophrenic. (Laughs.) Because there are so many more ways to publish a book than there ever was. It used to be that the path to getting published was pretty narrow, pretty fine, and you weren’t going to work outside those boundaries. A few people could do it and a few exceptional case studies. But by and large the only way to be a successful published author was to go to a traditional publisher or find an agent and take as long as it might have taken for that book to find its readership. Today, self-publishing is generally conceived as just as legitimate a way, but I don’t think it’s any easier. I don’t think it’s the easier path than traditional publishing. I think you find about the same success rate on either side of the equation.

Link to the rest at NUVO

Amazon Liable for Children’s In-App Purchases, Court Rules

28 April 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Amazon.com Inc. is liable for in-app purchases children made years ago without their parents’ authorization, a federal court ruled late Tuesday.

The Seattle retailer didn’t provide sufficient safeguards to prevent children from making purchases within apps that were free to download, according to the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington state. The Federal Trade Commission filed the case against Amazon in 2014, citing thousands of complaints about unauthorized in-app charges for virtual goods or services, totaling hundreds of dollars in some cases.

“Given the design of the Appstore and procedures around in-app purchases, it is reasonable to conclude that many customers were never aware that they had made an in-app purchase,” the court said.

Amazon has since taken measures to prevent such purchases and said it has reimbursed customers who lodged complaints. But the ruling means Amazon will face additional monetary penalties, which will be determined later.

. . . .

The FTC had reached settlements with Apple Inc. and Alphabet Inc.’s Google in 2014 about similar unauthorized in-app purchases for $32.5 million and $19 million, respectively. But Amazon chose instead to challenge the agency in court. Today, those app stores require customers to type in their password for in-app purchases, which may include new levels or characters in a game or additional music options.

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

Facebook: The World’s Largest Bookstore?

28 April 2016

From Digital Book World:

A month or so ago, Facebook reported its earnings for the fourth quarter of 2015, and let’s just say they crushed the ball. Knocked the cover off. Pointed to the bleachers and then hit it out of the park.

The big moneymaker was its burgeoning video ad business. Facebook states that people are watching 100 million hours of video per day on its social platform. More than 500 million people watch Facebook video every day. Just let that sink in. Facebook isn’t simply a video discovery platform; it’s becoming the video discovery platform. And it’s still growing.

. . . .

While people in the publishing industry may find this interesting, most won’t find it particularly relevant. To ignore this news, however, would be a monumental mistake. Don’t underestimate what Facebook is and what it is becoming. Facebook is the world’s best discovery platform, and it makes money by going after digital content that keeps people spending more time on Facebook. And after video, there is a clear line to ebooks.

As dominant as Amazon currently is in ebooks, the retailer’s major weakness is discovery. More often than not, users have to find a book somewhere else and then go to Amazon and purchase it. There are additional, unnecessary steps in their process, and the company has no easy way to remedy it.

. . . .

Facebook has more than a billion users on its site every day. Friends and family are sharing everything they are watching and reading, and Facebook is getting better and better at finding ways to keep people on the site. Articles are short reads and people can leave quickly. But if Facebook had a reader for ebooks, the amount of time people would stay on the site would climb exponentially.

. . . .

The bookstore of the future is not centralized. It is decentralized, and it will give readers the ability to buy their books wherever they are, whenever they want. Readers will get their ebooks over wifi at Starbucks as a reward for buying their Under Armour running gear from the local community college, in the Target check-out line, in their McDonalds Happy Meal, or on Facebook—and it will all be readable on one e-reader. Perhaps the Facebook e-reader. And it will give users the ability to read and share in one location.

While Facebook getting into ebooks would not decimate Amazon’s bottom line—as most of the retailer’s revenue comes from various others sources—it would be an emotional kick in the groin. Bezos built his business on the foundation of books. And Zuck could usher in a changing of the guard.

Link to the rest at Digital Book World

A reminder: PG does not always agree with items he includes on The Passive Voice.

Congress May Be About to Shake Up Trade Secret Law: Is That a Good Thing?

28 April 2016

From The Wall Street Journal:

Federal civil law governing intellectual property has long been a three-legged stool: copyrights, patents and trademarks. Unless it’s tabled, legislation advancing in Congress would add a fourth one: trade secrets.

Trade secrets are like patents, but without the strict criteria for novelty and usefulness and without an expiration date. They’re basically confidential, valuable information that gives a company a competitive edge. Famous examples are the precise formula for Coca-Cola and the algorithms that Google uses to sort and filter the Internet.

But a main difference between trade secrets and other areas of IP is how legal fights over them are decided. Trade secret disputes between companies, unlike the three other legs, are brought in state courts.

. . . .

The bill has been described as the “most significant expansion of federal law in intellectual property since the Lanham Act in 1946.”

The DTSA would allow companies to sue for trade-secret theft and pursue damages in federal courts. “The DTSA would require evidence of actual or threatened misappropriation before a court may issue an injunction to prevent it,”

. . . .

Here’s Covington & Burling LLP attorney Richard A. Hertling, testifying before Congress on behalf of another business advocacy coalition in 2014:

Civil trade secret laws originated at the state level, in an era when trade secret theft was largely a local matter. State trade secret laws work well when, for instance, an employee of a local business steals a customer list and takes it to the business down the street. For companies that operate across state and national borders and have their trade secrets threatened by competitors around the globe, the array of state laws is inefficient and inadequate…

The DTSA has a lot of political support but also some critics. Some IP experts say that there’s already a lot of uniformity in state law. The addition of a whole new law, one that would be combined but not replace state law, would stretch adjudication costs and time by giving plaintiffs another forum to take their complaints.

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

This legislation passed the House of Representatives almost unanimously yesterday and the President is expected to sign it.

Here’s the definition of a trade secret from the new legislation:

The DTSA broadly defines the term “trade secret” to mean “all forms and types of financial, business, scientific, technical, economic, or engineering information, including patterns, plans, compilations, program devices, formulas, designs, prototypes, methods, techniques, processes, procedures, programs, or codes, whether tangible or intangible, and whether or how stored, compiled, or memorialized physically, electronically, graphically, photographically, or in writing if—(A) the owner thereof has taken reasonable measures to keep such information secret; and (B) the information derives independent economic value, actual or potential, from not being generally known to, and not being readily ascertainable through proper means by, the another person who can obtain economic value from the disclosure or use of the information.”  Although this definition is broad and certainly includes abstract ideas and laws of nature, it might not encompass information that is only stored in the human mind.

Link to more detail at Patently-O

Got that? Information “stored” in your mind might or might not be owned by someone else.

Tech companies have been using trade secrets for some time to discourage competing companies from hiring valuable employees.

While a business may be exposed to liability for misappropriation by the actions of its overzealous employees, the risk arises more frequently in the hiring process.  New employees with knowledge of a former employer’s trade secrets, for example, may expose the new employer to liability by using or disclosing secrets in the course of their employment.  It is not necessary that the new employee actually use or disclose a former employer’s trade secrets to expose a subsequent employer to liability.  An employer can be enjoined from hiring a new employee where it is “inevitable” that the employee will use or disclose a former employer’s trade secrets in the course of subsequent employment.

Link to more detail at Fairfield & Woods

While PG has perused the occasional confidentiality clause in publishing contracts, he has never seen explicit obligations placed on an author to keep trade secrets of a publisher safe.

Unfortunately, PG predicts this new legislation will catch the attention of counsel for publishers. More verbiage will be added to the contracts publishers want authors to sign. Perhaps by claiming royalty statements or emails from editors contain trade secrets, some publishers will seek another hammer to keep their authors barefoot and pregnant.

It is in the nature of major new laws that several years are required for trial and appellate courts to apply the broad legislative language to the particular facts of individual cases. Court opinions under state law protecting trade secrets may provide some guidance, but in the face of brand new statutory language, it will be easier to argue that definitions and principles developed under state law won’t apply.

This period of some uncertainty about what is and is not protected and/or permitted will give the holders of trade secrets (who usually have more resources than individuals who are employees or contractors) an additional hammer to wave in the direction of those individuals. Inevitably, more than a few companies will overreach. Trade secrets litigation is already expensive and will become more so in the near future.

And, yes, trade secrets laws do limit the First Amendment rights of individuals to freedom of expression, but this exception is well-established under cases arising from state trade secret laws.

America’s obsession with adult coloring is a cry for help

28 April 2016

From Quartz:

In January, Samantha Wuu quit her job in Boston to move home to New Jersey and support her mother through two family illnesses. To take her mind off her worries, she also took up coloring. She very quickly found it hard to stop.

“I was really, really stressed when this was going on,” says the 27-year-old, a teacher and childhood friend. Coloring became a useful distraction, and then a preoccupation: “I would be doing other things, and I’d be like, ‘I can’t wait until I get to do that again.” For a month, she colored every day, at times twice a day.

In a very short time, coloring has proven surprisingly addictive for America’s stressed, anxious, and overworked. Therapeutic without being therapy, meditative without being meditation, creative without being creation, artsy without being art, the supposedly soothing activity has also become a big business—in 2015 alone, US sales of coloring books shot up from 1 to 12 million units.

. . . .

It’s hard to overstate the trend: Coloring books are one of the big reasons print had such a strong showing last year in the US. Bookstores and craft stores alike are bursting at the seams with coloring books geared toward the 20 and up, and there are YouTube channels that let people watch other people color and critique coloring books. Coloring is so big, it’s spun off its own bizarre subcultures, like coloring book parties, coloring books that are just swear words, and adult coloring apps. Even colored pencil production is feeling the effects of the craze.

. . . .

A sizable number of the best-selling titles have one promise: “relax,” “stress relief,” and “good vibes.” Anecdotally at least, coloring seems to make people feel calmer. But unlike with drugs or exercise, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly how.

“People with a lot of anxiety respond really well to coloring books,” says New York-based art therapist Nadia Jenefsky. “There are some choices involved—in terms of choosing what colors you’re going to use and how you’re blending your colors—but there’s also a lot of structure.”

. . . .

In a statement, the American Art Therapy Association draws a fine line:

“The American Art Therapy Association supports the use of coloring books for pleasure and self-care, however these uses should not be confused with the delivery of professional art therapy services, during which a client engages with a credentialed art therapist.”

Gloria Webb, a stay-at-home mother in New York City, says she colors because it helps her sleep. She and seven other women, mostly seniors, meet every week in an “adult coloring book club” in Manhattan’s Kips Bay public library.

. . . .

Sheerly Avni, a TV writer based in Mexico City, says she’s the perfect audience for a trend like adult coloring: “I haven’t relaxed since 1973,” she jokes. “I was born to be the market demographic for anything new that makes people calm down with them not actually having to work for it.”

. . . .

We color to feel like children again, and to flex creative muscles, but as Jenefsky says, the truth is that children are actually so creative that coloring books slow them down. “For children a lot of times coloring books can inhibit their creativity,” she says. Their natural creativity, she says, lends itself better to creating art from scratch.

Burned out adults, on the other hand, can be overwhelmed by a blank page. For them, selecting colors to fill in the lines may be all the creativity they can muster. And that makes sense.

It’s precisely coloring’s noncommittal not-quite-therapy, not-quite-art qualities that make it compelling. The activity takes less energy than jogging or yoga, is easier than picking up knitting, and is more productive than watching House of Cards (or can be done alongside it). Easier than yoga or meditation, it offers low-stake quick-hit escapism wrapped in the faddish trappings of self-medication.

Link to the rest at Quartz

Amazon Takes the Plunge into Original Virtual Reality Content

28 April 2016

From BidnessEtc:

Amazon.com, Inc. is finally ready to take the leap into virtual reality, as per a report from TheWrap. Sources familiar with the matter told the publication that the company has approached virtual-reality companies, in relation to developing original VR content.

Sources have claimed that the talks are still in early stages. Amazon Studios, the department that’s credited with TV series such as “Orphan Black,” “Man in the High Castle,” and “Mozart in the Jungle,” is said to be leading the discussion.

While Amazon declined to comment, the mere possibility of such a prospect excites us. With companies such as Facebook’s Oculus and HTC already gearing up to enter the space, Amazon’s entry will be perfectly timed. The available VR headsets are mainly for gaming right now, and entertainment is an avenue that is still unexplored.

Companies such as Hulu and Netflix are already offering VR modes to users who want to view content through their headsets. Headsets would definitely be an integral part of the future living room, and it seems like Amazon doesn’t want to miss out on the fast-approaching opportunity.

. . . .

In the past, the company posted job listings for people experienced in VR content distribution methods; so it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the content creation happens in-house.

Link to the rest at BidnessEtc

Amazon Giveth, Amazon Taketh Away and Now… Amazon Giveth Again!

27 April 2016

From The Book Designer:

A few years back, authors and small presses could participate in a number of marketing programs at Amazon.com.

BUY X GET Y was one of my favorites. You could contact Amazon and request a link from your book to another book of similar appeal. It was not inexpensive, but it was a terrific program that exposed your book to readers interested in books similar to yours. Listmania was a free program that also linked similar books. There were FEATURED PAGES. A small press could purchase a page on Amazon that highlighted a series or group of books in a kind of “landing page”. There were a number of Amazon marketing programs like these and others that were slowly raised out of reach for small presses over the last 5 – 10 years.

Thus began the long dry stretch of desert for single title authors and small presses. Simply put, we were not given any opportunities to participate in Amazon’s marketing programs. Sure, there were tricks and manipulations we could learn, but they were not as effective as participating in Amazon sponsored marketing. Once BUY X GET Y and other programs were placed out of reach, the small press was significantly hampered and not able to compete with the bigger houses that still had marketing programs available.

. . . .

Amazon announced last week that they are launching AMS, Amazon Marketing Services. The program works like this:

As an Advantage or CreateSpace publisher you sign up for AMS and pay an annual fee of $99. This is charged to your account as a deduction of your sales so does not require up-front payment.

Once you are an AMS “member”, you will have access to marketing programs previously reserved for Amazon’s bigger vendors.

. . . .

Keyword/Tag Pay Per Click Advertising

This offering is my current favorite as AMS allows you to increase discoverability of your titles on Amazon.com by letting you set your own budget for a particular keyword or phrase. Depending upon your budget and the desirability of the keyword, your book can rise very high in the search page and you ONLY PAY if someone clicks on your book. Your click budget can be as low as $100.

“A+” Detail Pages

Want video, sample page shots, extra photos and other “juicy” offerings on your book’s page? Now you can have it! $600 gets you a LOT more on your detail page. The “A+” detail page is a deluxe detail page featuring advanced formatting and rich media content (detailed descriptions for example) to enrich the shopping experience for customers.

Link to the rest at The Book Designer and thanks to Barb for the tip.

The closing of Harlequin Blaze / Harlequin Historical

27 April 2016

From Dear Author:

Harlequin Blaze will be published until June 2017. All Blaze titles will continue to be available for purchase at Harlequin.com and digital retailers (hence no rights reversion). Harlequin is opening a new line:

Harlequin is thrilled to announce the launch of a new sexy, contemporary series in July 2017.  After carefully studying the market and monitoring reader feedback to our books and to competitive books, we are developing a series with a fresh new approach to the “passion” positioning. We will have more information to share with you in the near future.

With the launch of this sexy contemporary series, we have made the decision to end the publication of Harlequin Blaze, effective June 2017.

In addition, as of July 2017, in North America, Harlequin Romance and Harlequin Historical will be available exclusively through online retailers, in both print and digital formats, and in print through our Direct-to-Consumer channels, where sales are strongest. There is no change to the availability of either series in Overseas markets.

Link to the rest at Dear Author

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