Looking for writing-related posts? Check out my new writing blog, www.larrykollar.com!
Showing posts with label in the news. Show all posts
Showing posts with label in the news. Show all posts

Tuesday, April 14, 2015 1 comment

He did WHAT?

Dubbayou tee EFFFFF?
Reality is truly stranger than fiction… especially on Planet Georgia.

Just go read this. Seriously.

Now the question is, did the deal go down as he says, or was that just a cover story?

Wednesday, December 10, 2014 3 comments

Writing Wibbles: the Bloom Comes Off the Unlimited Rose

Back in July, I wrote about the new (at the time) Kindle Unlimited (KU) program. I said in part:

The per-borrow payout has been a [little] over $2 for months, now, slightly more than the royalty on a $3 eBook purchase. Amazon has offered a 30-day free trial, so I expect that August is going to push down that payout quite a bit (my guess: it will be around 50¢) despite Amazon increasing the fund by 66%. For some authors, the increased borrows will more than offset the depressed per-borrow payout. Others will hate it—perhaps enough to yank their books out of Select.

Amazon is walking a tightrope. At current payout levels, an average of four borrows per member per month (about one per week) will nearly wipe out the monthly subscription fee. But if the payout drops too far, authors will pull their most popular books, making the service much less attractive.

It’s interesting to see what I got wrong, and what little I got right. First off, the per-borrow payout never dropped to 50¢. It has gone down significantly, averaging $1.60 over the first few months, a bit lower more recently, and that has caused a lot of grief in some quarters. It didn’t affect me all that much personally—I only have one book in Select, Oddities, and it would get a borrow or two every other month. That changed little; November was the first month I got any borrows since KU started, but I got two. Woohoo. I also said things would be a little more clear by the end of September… it took a couple more months than that.

Okay, now to the last part, the part I got right: Amazon is walking a tightrope, and it’s wobbling. For some writers, including some top indie sellers, KU has been a disaster. The Bookseller blog, engaging in a little hyperbole, wonders if the honeymoon is over. H. M. Ward, a highly-popular romance writer, yanked her books out of KU saying, “I… lost approx 75% of my income [counting bonuses] … The number of borrows was higher than sales. They didn’t complement each other, as expected.” Top borrowees like Ward got “All-Star” bonuses on top of the monthly pot, but it wasn’t enough to make up for the plunge in sales. (The Bookseller claims that Howey “expected to pull most of his work out of [KU]” but did not furnish a link. You toss a potential bomb like that, you ought to cite it.) Anyway, there’s a lot of good info in this very long article. If you feel the urge to TL;DR out of it, skip to the bottom for some meaty stuff.

Meanwhile, I’ve been seeing reports on the KDP forums about “writers” who throw together what amount to sales pamphlets, upload them by the dozens, then borrow them through sock-puppet accounts. At $1.40 per borrow, they need only borrow eight of these junk “books” to recoup their KU subscription fee, and they often have fifty or more books on offer. And who knows how many sock puppet accounts they have going? Some forum members estimate that the scammers are pulling down the per-borrow payout by 30¢ or more.

I don’t see a viable way forward for KU, defined as something Amazon, top authors, and subscribers can agree upon. If Amazon adjusts the pot enough to bring the payout back up to $2 per borrow, they stand to lose money as avid readers grab one book after another. But if they don’t, and the most popular authors continue to jump ship, KU subscribers will drop out as well. Some of the “name” authors suggest changing KU so members subscribe to authors, which translates to auto-purchasing books as they come out. I can see where mischief could be made there, though.

On the other hand, authors with $1 or $2 books, or first-of-series titles that they might otherwise try to make free, could still benefit from KU. A $2 book (like Oddities) under the current system earns about 70¢ per purchase—and around twice that per borrow. Instead of making the first book of a series free, put it in KU and encourage people to check it out. The author still gets a payday, and a potential new fan who buys the other books.

The question is still the same: come spring, will there be enough books in KU—and the right kinds of books—to keep enough people interested in subscribing? Floor’s open, tell me what you think!

Wednesday, June 18, 2014 6 comments

Writing Wibbles

When I released the first three Accidental Sorcerers novellas, I had a good start on the next story in the series. That wasn’t the case for Into the Icebound—I only had about 3000 words down for the sequel (working title Lost in Nightwalk). After sending four of these stories into the eBook stores, I now have a pretty good idea how long it takes to get a first draft knocked into shape. If I want to keep my “roughly six months” schedule, I’ll need to have the first draft done by mid-July.

Scrivener is a great tool for this kind of thing. Select “Show Project Targets” in the Project menu, and you get a little window with the basic stuff you need:

Scrivener’s Project Targets

The “Options…” button lets you set the deadline date, and what days of the week you intend to write (I set it to take Sundays off). Clicking on the rightmost number under the top progress bar lets you set the target manuscript size. You can adjust it later if you need. I set a somewhat optimistic target of 40,000 words, as you can see, although I now think 32,000 is going to be closer to the actual word count.

It’s pretty simple, really. Tell it how big, how often, and how soon, and it gives you a daily word count target (the “Session Target”). It has moved around some, as I’d write over 1000 words some nights and not at all on others, but right now it’s pretty close to the 850 words/day target I started with… which means that, averaged out over the last month or so, I’ve stayed pretty much on target.

• • •

Salon Doubles Down

There’s a disturbing trend these days. Some organizations will say or print something that’s rather detached from reality, and people will call them on it. Instead of doing some research, or anything that might lead them to have to say, “dang, we really hosed our credibility running that tripe,” they dig in. In some circles, it’s called doubling down on the stupid.

Enter Salon. Andrew Leonard kicked off the month of June with your basic publishing industry press release stenography (because committing journalism is a misdemeanor or something), called Amazon’s scorched-earch campaign. He threw around inflammatory phrases like “monopoly power,” “heavy-handed tactics,” and (the worst insult of all) comparing Amazon to Walmart. Of course, he provided no evidence that Amazon has a monopoly on anything, nor that what they’re doing is disproportionate, nor that they’re sending thousands of publishing jobs to China.

So indies, from Hugh Howey and J.A. Konrath all the way down to me, called them on it, providing counter-arguments with evidence. In some alternate universe, a senior editor at Salon acquired clue, pulled the article, and ran a more balanced piece that used actual data and provided links. In this universe… Salon doubled down on the stupid. This time, it was Laura Miller and Amazon is not your friend: Why self-published authors should side with Hachette. (This disturbing lack of title caps seems to be a thing with Salon. But I suppose if you're not doing actual journalism, it doesn’t matter.)

In this article, the points are:
  • The only people defending Amazon are indies.
  • Many indies are angry with traditional publishers because the authors failed to get in (or are former midlisters who got screwed over and dumped).
  • Self-published authors really, really, really hate traditional publishing (actual quote here).
  • High prices for tradpub eBooks help indies by allowing us to compete on price.
  • A publishing contract is a business deal.
  • Most indie works are dreck, slush pile, etc.
  • Tradpub books are higher quality, and so deserve a higher markup.
  • Amazon might screw us over in some unspecified future.
OK, the fourth and fifth points are good ones. Stopped clocks, blind squirrels, etc. The rest is once again long on flamebait, short on evidence. Now I remember why I quit reading Salon around 2006.

C’mon, tradpub supporters. Is this the best you can do? Really? Regurgitate the same tropes from 2010 and pretend nothing has changed? If anything, traditional publishers have been squeezing their authors even harder since eBooks started booming. With almost zero production costs, eBooks give publishers more profit… and lower royalties to authors. Don’t take my word for it, Lagardère (Hachette’s parent company) put it on their slides in their shareholder presentation. Hugh Howey has them on his blog.

As far as tradpub books being higher quality goes, just saying “50 Shades of Grey” would be too easy. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to look at a book published 50 years ago, and one published now, and see how production quality has deteriorated. Typesetters have been replaced with Microsoft Word. Copyediting isn’t nearly as rigorous as it once was, and your typical tradpub book has plenty of typos and errors to go around. One of the hardcover editions of Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas books had an entire line missing from the bottom of the first page! If they’d let that get by with Dean Koontz, what chance do midlisters have of getting a quality production run?

Finally, the notion that Amazon might stop giving indies decent terms—when the worst-case the detractors suggest might happen is still a better deal than authors get from traditional publishers—is laughable at best.

If publishers had some regard for authors and readers, beyond squeezing as much money as possible out of each, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Thursday, January 23, 2014 4 comments

Writing Wibbles

The last few days have been fascinating, from the standpoint of an indie writer. First, Melissa Bowersock told us about The Editing Myth, where it turns out that traditionally published works might not get that thorough editing that we’ve all assumed they do. When at least sometimes, the reality is they accepted the manuscript verbatim and had zero editorial suggestions.


But we’re not done!

On the heels of that bombshell, the Passive Guy blog ran a post about how a traditionally-published author blogged her own earnings over three years, then took down the post “for contract disclosure reasons.” The Passive Guy concluded with It’s not an iron-clad rule, but some of the worst contracts from an author’s perspective include some sort of prohibition on the author’s discussion of the contract.

By coincidence, Steve Zacharius (the CEO of Kensington, a second-tier publisher in New York) was engaged in a discussion on a different blog, and one of the commenters pointed him to this post. He joined the discussion, and it’s a most fascinating one. In fact, it triggered a second post, Response to Kensington, that garnered even more comments. What was telling: several commenters asked him, repeatedly, to provide a copy of Kensington’s standard boilerplate contract. He refused by using the standard executive tactic: answering as if the question were different (for example, “we don’t disclose specific details of an author’s contract”), and deflected related questions about average advances. Some authors did weigh in with how much they had been offered, figures from $2500 to $50,000.

Other authors complained about trouble getting rights reversions, or lack of editorial feedback (shades of “The Editing Myth”), and Zacharius did respond forthrightly to those people. Someone suggested a survey, where authors could respond anonymously, and he seemed to really like that idea. I really think he has his heart in the right place, but he can’t quite wrap his mind around the idea that authors no longer really need a traditional publisher—at least, not on the traditional terms. He continuously repeats “eBooks are only 30% of the market,” when those stats don’t include indie sales (which Amazon says are 25% of their eBook sales, and that’s a pretty dang big chunk of sales to ignore).

But the you-know-what got real when he accepted a dialog with Joe Konrath, a major cheerleader for indie publishing. This long but fascinating dialog might not be over just yet, and is definitely worth the time to read.

Some people say that reading the comments section of a blog is the way to madness. Not in this case. It’s eye-opening. Go see if I’m right.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013 2 comments

Green Tuesday Sale!

Save a tree, buy an eBook: it’s Green Tuesday!

My co-op, Green Envy Press, is running the show. I’m happy to be one of ten authors (not all of whom are in the co-op, mind you) offering twenty Kindle books for 99¢ or (even better) free, today. Go check out the sale page: http://www.angelakulig.com/2013/12/the-green-tuesday-sale-is-here-many.html On Twitter, follow the hashtag #GreenTuesday to join the festivities.

The sale runs until midnight PST (3 a.m. EST, or 0800Z).

Go forth, and load up your Kindle!

Wednesday, June 05, 2013 4 comments

Writing Wibbles

This has been an interesting week. Maybe it was synchronicity, or maybe it was the universe sending a message. Anyway, let’s start with a summary of the logline and blurb voting from last week’s wibble.


I arbitrarily assigned a half-vote where voters suggested that either of two were good, or picked “this one, but I liked that one as well.” That’s why the totals don’t equal out. (I included votes received on Twitter, and on a community blog of sorts that I frequent.) Here’s how I interpreted the results:
  • Logline C is the clear winner.
  • I was a little surprised that the men preferred C at least as much as the women. I thought it might be too romance-y for the guys.
  • Blurb 1 is the one that +Angela Kulig rejected. The voting confirms her opinion, which I expected.
  • Women liked Blurb 2 far better than the men.
  • Voting on blurbs 2 and 3 was close enough that I’d be comfortable using either one (with modifications as described below).
I got some back-channel feedback about the word “exotic” in the blurbs. I wasn’t aware that it’s a red-flag word for some women. Ironic that the person described as such, comes from a matriarchal society! Now one could argue that exotic simply means “foreign,” and it’s a fool’s errand to avoid all offense, but why offend the very people I hope to have as supporters? (duh) I found and struck the one use of the word in the text. Fortunately, it was easy to remove.

What’s interesting is how this all ties into last week’s big ugly blowup at the SFWA, over unintentional(?) sexism in their quarterly bulletin. A woman in a chainmail bikini on the cover, along with authors Mike Resnick and Barry Malzburg discussing the physical attributes of women editors, led to some protests. Resnick and Malzburg threw gasoline on the fire by claiming censorship, using language more appropriate for teabaggers than authors in a supposedly forward-looking genre.

Don’t take my word for it. E. Catherine Tobler’s public SFWA resignation did a fine job of covering the details, and described some of the blowback that she and others got. Lest you think this was just an isolated incident, Anna Guirre’s experience(s) suggest that sexism is endemic to not only the SFWA, but cons and especially the panels that claim to represent the genre and its writers. And she also received some nasty blowback.

The SFWA leadership was caught flat-footed, but (to their credit) got it together and acted. First off, outgoing SFWA President John Scalzi issued an apology, saying (in part), “when all is said and done, I personally am responsible for the Bulletin and what is published between its covers.” Shortly after, the SFWA formed a task force to see “how the publication needs to proceed… to be a valuable [member resource].” This is a good start. However, the task force is four men and three women, which doesn’t exactly give me the warm fuzzies. I don’t think it’s the intent—but given how women are marginalized at panels and the like, this could easily turn out to be a pinkwash.

And now… it’s rant time.

I find this head-desking incredible. I’m a middle-aged whitebread dude, and I have my issues, but I fracking try to do better. And yes, common tropes in Fantasy include putting a woman in a chainmail bikini. Or making her the damsel in need of rescue. Or part of an embarrassing sexual encounter with the hero. “Judas Priest, what the hell is this?!” as my Mom might say.

We know better, and should strive to do better. There have been examples of “better” since the 70s, now-classics by Anne McCaffrey, CJ Cherryh, and Ursula K. LeGuin. Yes, as writers, it can be work. When I first started writing, the characters were all guys all the time. I had to make a conscious effort to create female characters, then give them more than a few lines, then put them on an equal footing, then cast women as the main characters. But dammit, I did the work, because I knew it had to be done if I was going to be a decent writer. It wasn’t all that hard.

Fortunately, this is a problem that time is about to solve. Looking at my Writers list on Twitter, the vast majority of them are women. Bowker also tells us that women are 62% of the book buyers. As writers and authors, we have to appeal to women if we’re going to have any chance of success. That doesn’t mean everything has to be steamy romance—although erotica has (ahem) thrust its way to the top of the charts—but authors (especially new authors) have to understand what the market looks like these days. I’m not saying we should do nothing now, but in the long run, we’ll win. The old boys’ club is dying of old age.

I wanted to wrap this up with a survey of gender roles throughout Termag’s history, but this has run long enough. Maybe next week.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012 3 comments

Writing Wibbles

Last week’s big news was that the Department of Justice went ahead with an expected suit against Apple and five of the “Big 6” publishers, alleging collusion and price-fixing of eBooks (aka the “Agency Model”). I held off writing about it until this week, mainly because I already had a post queued but also because I wanted to see if any more information came out. Oh well.

As expected, the publishing industry and their media outlets are crying Doom and Disaster. A website called Shelf Awareness, staffed by industry insiders, had this to say:

In a clash of concepts about what best serves the reader — the lowest possible prices or a healthy, diverse book industry — the federal government … came down on the side of the book as a commodity.

In other words, high eBook prices are a requirement for “a healthy, diverse book industry.” I understand the desire of a long-established oligopoly to preserve the status quo, but it’s a pity they can’t be more upfront about their motivations.

The problem is, there are laws against collusion and the DoJ provides prima facie evidence of how publisher executives “jointly acknowledged to each other the threat posed by Amazon’s pricing strategy and the need to work collectively to end that strategy.” If you can’t survive under laws that have been on the books for over 120 years, and aren’t enforced too well anyway, you’re not trying hard enough. In the end, it’s ridiculous to demand that eBooks be priced higher than hardcovers (especially when you’re explicitly forbidden to pass that eBook around the way you can a hardcover). I’ve opined before that the Agency Model was an attempt to kill eBooks; now it’s a failed attempt.

The idea that the producer dictates retail prices flies in the face of the capitalist system (that publishing executives undoubtedly support as long as it benefits them). The “S” in “MSRP” means “Suggested,” after all. Everyone in the chain, from the raw materials producers to the booksellers, tries to cover their costs plus some margin — or voluntarily takes a hit on margins (or even a loss) to gain some longer-term advantage. I doubt that even Stephen King would, for example, tell publishers that his books must sell for a certain price — so why should publishers tell Amazon what they can do?

[I should point out that, long-term, I’m not convinced that Amazon’s intentions are all wonderful for authors or readers. On the other hand, given what Barnes&Noble and Borders did to indie booksellers, I don’t weep much for their predicament now either.]

I think there’s still a role for Big Publishing, but they’ll have to update the way they do business. In my opinion, they could start by treating authors as partners rather than chattel. The average advance is the same as it was 30 years ago — i.e., much less when factoring in inflation — while book prices (and executive compensation) have increased accordingly. The games publishers play with sales figures are well-documented, and it’s funny how those “mistakes” never benefit the authors. Those kind of issues need to be addressed, instead of clinging to a business model that’s incompatible with new technology. In the Depression years and afterwards, it was possible for many authors to make a living from writing, even by writing short stories for the pulps. Top-shelf novelists were the rock stars of their day. By shooting for the lowest common denominator, the publishers have brought this new world of Amazon on themselves. IMO.

Under the current circumstances, going indie seems to be the smart move. A friend of mine cleared twice her dayjob pay in March, and circumstances are now pushing her into writing full-time. She’s a talented cover designer, and her books aren’t full of typos, so that helps. Not everyone gets that kind of success, but I think people who put a lot of effort into their work have a better chance of success by bypassing the publishers. When publishers acknowledge that they’re no longer the 800-pound gorilla, and start acting like they know it, the pendulum will begin swinging their way again.

Monday, January 23, 2012 4 comments

iBooks Author: the REAL Problem

There has been a lot of sensationalist “reporting,” breathlessly repeated on Twitter, about the licensing terms for Apple’s new iBooks Author app. I’m not going to reward blind panic with links, but I’m sure you can Google your way to something that would be “enlightenment” if there were any useful information to be gleaned from that link-bait. This fish ain’t bitin’.

The big problem is: there’s something that we, both authors and eReader owners, need to worry about and the link-bait articles aren’t telling us about it. And iBooks Author is only half of it.

Let’s take a look at the clause in the iBooks Author licensing agreement that has all the link-baiters going ballistic. Fortunately, it’s like the third paragraph down in the licensing agreement (under “IMPORTANT NOTE,” emphasis mine):
If you charge a fee for any book or other work you generate using this software (a “Work”), you may only sell or distribute such Work through Apple (e.g. through the iBookstore) and such distribution will be subject to a separate agreement with Apple.
XKCD always puts things in perspective.
I’ve bolded the part that should (but won’t) hush up the link-baiters and the fish that continue to bite at it. Let me make it clear:

Apple is only restricting the output of the software. What you do with eBooks generated by any other means is your own freeking business.

So basically, you can take your MSS and feed it to Amazon, Smashwords, or anywhere else you like. But if you’re selling your book (and aren’t we all?), the version you generate using iBooks Author — and only the version you generate using iBooks Author — has to be sold on the iBookstore. Apple may or may not approve it for sale, as they do for iOS apps on the App Store.

A lot of indie writers have talked about the problems we face, often put succinctly as “now that anyone can publish a novel, anyone does.” Most of us want to put our best foot forward, providing an engaging story at a price that won’t break readers’ banks while giving us the opportunity to earn some recompense for the work we put into bringing that story to the readers. Unfortunately, we are often lumped in with those who just throw whatever they have onto the eBook stores. What Apple is doing is attempting to guarantee some measure of quality (what measure that may be, I have deliberately left undefined) for people who want to sell enhanced eBooks in the iBookstore. Instead of welcoming this development, authors are running around with their hair on fire.

The Real Problem

Unfortunately, iBooks Author presents half of a real problem, one that nobody else is talking about. The other half is presented by… Kindle Format 8. Right up until the new year, we had to deal with only two eBook formats: MOBI (Kindle) and ePUB (everyone else). Both formats are well-standardized — you can build an ePUB by hand if you really want to (I’ve done it) and convert it to MOBI using Amazon’s free KindleGen utility. Now we have Apple’s extension to ePUB (i.e. iBooks Author) and Amazon’s extension to MOBI (Kindle Format 8) — and who’s to say B&N won’t jump into the game with their own incompatible extensions for Nook Color?

In short, it’s the browser wars all over again. The only winner of that war will be traditional publishers.

People writing technical documents, comics, and other works that require more formatting options than current eReaders offer are the ones in a bind here. They’ll have to live with the possibility that what works now might not work next year. They'll have to determine whether it’s worth the effort to work with features that are coded differently in different tablet eReaders, or if they should just work with one eReader and not the other.

I’d like to see a few zillion pixels dedicated to this instead of a misread licensing clause.

Sunday, March 13, 2011 4 comments

Twitter Twaddle

It appears that Twitter may want to curtail third-party Twitter clients. Now I think Mashable might be overstating the case a little, and their failure to link to the forum post doesn’t bolster their case, but Twitter does want clients to act the same way.

Too bad they don’t practice what they preach.

I’ve used the official Twitter clients for web, MacOS X, and iPad. They all kind of look similar, perhaps as much as possible given the natures of the underlying platforms. But all three of them do things a little differently:

  • Hover over a shortened link in the web client, and it displays a tooltip showing the expanded URL. Neither iPad nor OSX versions do that.
  • Tap a tweet with no links or hashtags on the iPad, and you get the tweeter’s profile. Click the same tweet in the OSX client, and you get… nothing. On the web client, you get other recent tweets from that account.
  • The OSX client has a pretty slick way of handling multiple accounts — avatars for each account appear in the sidebar and you can click on them to switch. I don’t see that on either the web or iPad clients.
  • In the OSX and iPad clients, retweeting gives you a “quote tweet” option that the web client doesn’t.
Even if Twitter’s own clients worked the same across all platforms, I’d say they’re jumping the gun by trying to limit third-party development. In addition to the Twitter clients, TweetDeck (my primary client until recently), and a FireFox plugin called EchoFon on occasion. TweetDeck is an elaborate client, offering simultaneous views of user-defined lists. For example, I have my main tweetstream, mentions, several searches, direct messages, and new followers in separate panels. It’s a very nice way to keep up with a lot of info at once… too bad it uses Adobe AIR, which makes it screw up under heavy load. EchoFon is very simple, and lives in the bottom right corner of the browser until you pop it up to see what’s going on. Both of them offer different ways to interact with Twitter from the “official” clients, and depending on what you need they can be better ways.

In short, the Twitter ecosystem is far from being complete. Even if it was, it needs to be able to evolve to meet the needs of the people using it. The Twitter developers themselves know a lot about the system internals, but they’re somewhat removed from the people actually using the system day-in day-out. The users know what they want to do and how they want to do it — let the creativity of third-party app developers fill the needs, and leverage the knowledge gained. In other words, adapt the most popular new features to your own apps.

But first, get your own apps working the same way before you demand that third-party developers do likewise.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011 9 comments

Off-the-Cuff: Apple vs. Amazon

I didn’t think they’d do it, but I was wrong. Apple is putting the screws to Amazon and other companies, who have used former loopholes to get around Apple’s onerous demand for a 30% commission on “in-app” purchases, for iPad applications. A lot of people have been asking variations on the same question, what does it mean to Amazon and the Kindle app?

That’s the wrong question. The real question is, how many people use an iPad (or iPhone) as their primary eBook reader? As someone who has both a Kindle and an iPad, the only times I have used the iPad to read a book were: 1) When the Kindle screen went Tango Uniform and I was waiting for the replacement; 2) To check the ePub version of my White Pickups draft.

Yes, part of that is because the iPad gets passed around from hand to hand pretty much all day long — if M.A.E.’s not using it to check Facebook or play Angry Birds, it’s Lobster doing the same thing, or it’s Mrs. Fetched playing Mahjongg solitaire. Once in a while, I’ll use it to check Twitter or blogs, or play a round of Angry Birds or solitaire, but I don’t do much reading on it. The Kindle is so much better for that — the screen is easier on the eyes, it’s lighter, and the battery life is better (even though the iPad is no slouch in the battery department itself). In the iPad’s favor, it’s largely format-agnostic, able to read Kindle, Nook, and pretty much everyone else’s eBooks.

I remember all the pronouncements about how the iPad was going to destroy the eBook reader market, but it hasn’t quite turned out that way. Kindle hardware sales are thriving, with B&N’s Nook line running a distant but respectable second, and Sony and Kobo fighting over who will challenge Nook for the #2 spot later on. Apple’s iBookstore is there, but it’s far behind the Kindle Store in sales and probably brings up the rear behind B&N.com and Smashwords. And I don’t think Apple cares all that much. If they did, they’d talk up the eBook reading aspect a lot more in their advertising.

So why is Apple demanding a 30% cut of everything? I can see it for apps — Apple maintains the App Store, paying for the server farms that run it, dealing with payments, and keeping the front end (i.e. the web site) running smoothly. But when we’re talking about buying eBooks through the Kindle and Nook apps, Apple isn’t out of pocket for any of that. There’s something else going on here.

Personally, I think it’s a negotiating position. There’s a popular school of thought that says to ask for the moon in the initial round of negotiations, so you can “compromise” a lot and still get what you really wanted to begin with. Google responded with OnePass, which takes “only” a 10% cut, and I expect that Apple will match it or even undercut it by their self-imposed June 30 deadline for app providers. Credit card companies take 2.5%, so I expect that everyone will head that way sooner or later. Competition or antitrust action, either way things will improve.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 2 comments

Wednesday Wibbles

Wibble: (UK, Internet slang) Meaningless or content-free chatter in a discussion; drivel, babble.

Maybe this should be Monthly Musings, given the frequency I post them. Anyway…

• • •

I found this Eschatological Taxonomy Poster to be interesting. On this scale, FAR Future is a Level 0 apocalypse, and White Pickups is more or less a Level 2. I say “more or less” because (in the story) the bulk of the human race is eliminated not by war or disease, but a zillion trucks.

• • •

Mason and I have both had colds lately. It’s more effort than it’s worth, trying to figure out who passed it to whom. But Mrs. Fetched waited until last night to tell me I ran a high fever Monday night. I must have worried her; I knew I had a fever because I had major chills — like I had no body heat at all — when getting out of bed to use the bathroom. But I woke up some time in the night, and was really hot on top. I figured Mrs. Fetched had dug out an electric blanket to help warm me up, and it had done a fine job.

“I’m hot. You can turn down the electric blanket now,” I told her.


“The electric blanket. You need to turn it down, I’m too hot.”

“Um… I don’t have the controls.”

“Okay, just turn it off or unplug it.”

Needless to say, there was no electric blanket. It sure felt like one though. She may have thought I was delirious, because she asked me if I remembered it. She did say I was really hot; she didn’t stick a thermometer in me but figured I was around 104°F. Just to be sure, though, I stayed out of work on Monday and Tuesday. The good thing about when I get those chills is that it means the cold is almost over. I figure I’ll be fine by the weekend.

• • •

This just in: Snippet tells me that Mason just climbed up into a chair on his own! I see many faceplants in his future. Or maybe not… The Boy did okay. I did have to convince him that he could climb down from whatever he climbed up to, though.

• • •

We’ve gone from a November that felt like October, to a December that feels like… December.

• • •

Mrs. Fetched canceled the planned move of video equipment. M.A.E. and Moptop sleep in the guest room; that wouldn’t be a problem except that Moptop has a really bad habit of feeding DVDs into VCR slots and anywhere else they’ll go. And can’t be trusted with markers or anything else resembling a writing utensil. So says my dresser, some of DoubleRed’s sheets, other furniture…

• • •

Speaking of Moptop, she’s almost as skilled as Snippet at getting on people’s nerves. Even Mason’s. Either she has no concept of personal space, or Mason has an early start at the concept himself. I can be doing something with him, and Moptop will start crowding in — either to see what’s what, or just to be a part of it — and Mason will go “Urrrrrr!!!” and shove her away. It’s kind of funny, really.

• • •

Mason, on the other hand, has really been good about letting us wipe his nose during this cold.

• • •

The toilet in our bathroom may need to be replaced. Or there just might be something in there that Mason tossed in while I wasn’t looking… he’s fascinated with toilets for some reason. Maybe he was a plumber in a previous life. But at the same time, the flapper thing isn’t seating right and Mrs. Fetched wants to replace the guts anyway. I think just moving the chain to another position will help.

“But it’s all corroded and I want to replace it.”

At this point, I just have to fall back on the old standby: “Do what you want — you will anyway.” She grinned.

• • •

After all the sturm und drang around the Wikileaks release of s00p3r-s3kr1t diplomatic cables, we have learned that: 1) diplomats have opinions; 2) Russia is a kleptocracy. In other words, they’re trying to nail this Assange guy on what could very well be bogus rape charges, for telling us stuff we knew already?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010 2 comments

Only in Sector 706…

You’d think that soldiers tossing grenade simulators at people in a parking lot would be crazy enough for Planet Georgia.

Now The Boy tells me that the local Chevron got raided and shut down for running a gambling operation in a back room and selling designer drugs? (couldn’t find a link) Too bad they weren’t selling moonshine, at least we could have made jokes about liquor in the front and poker in the rear.

Things break down in August. My car and Daughter Dearest’s are two recent casualties. I guess the heat is starting to fry what’s left of the pod people’s brains too.

Tuesday, June 01, 2010 6 comments

Self-Published Publicity (NSFW?)

… or “Boobs, Books, and Buzz.” Or "Marketing 101 in the Internet Age.”

Have you heard the names “Hayley Williams” and “Paramore”? Until Saturday, I hadn’t, although Daughter Dearest insists that I’ve heard some of their music on the radio. Anyway, this self-snapped shot (look at the angle of her left arm) appeared in her TwitPic stream on Thursday night — OK, I’ve slightly doctored it to keep this post PG-rated:

Hayley Williams topless pic (censored)

The pic was pulled down, but not soon enough for it to get copied (obviously, see above) and the old Whoops, I got hacked excuse popped up in her tweetstream. 'Course, some folks checked the pic’s EXIF data and found the shot was snapped about eight minutes before it got posted… making the possibility of a hack, shall we say, extremely remote. A much more believable explanation would have been “it was supposed to be for my boyfriend and I messed up when I emailed it.”

For those of you who have to see the original, I found out about the whole kerfuffle in an [!!!!!NSFW!!!!!] article from TheRegister [!!!!!NSFW!!!!!]; it includes the picture in all its nude-tastic glory as I type (and ElReg tends to give the meaty middle finger to take-down notices).

So… this all happens on Thursday. I read about it on Saturday. And by Monday, I’m off to Amazon’s MP3 store to check out Paramore’s music selection… which turns out to be pleasant to listen to as well. There has been a ton of press about it, and “Hayley Williams” is a trending topic on Twitter at the moment — you just can’t buy publicity that good. Hey, if I thought I’d get a huge traffic bump by posting (and taking down) a nudie of myself, I’d go for it too… but my bits just aren’t as interesting to look at. IMHO.

Clothing choices aside, I like her face better in the above shot than the one in a more “turned-out” publicity pic (in which she looks like a Jennifer Aniston clone, not that I think Jen is unpleasant looking). Hayley, lose the makeup and the hair stylist, you look better and more like yourself without them.

Now that I’ve got your attention…

Last week, I mentioned, among other things, J.A. Konrath being the subject of a Publisher’s Weekly hit-piece and his response. This week, he embarks on a fascinating experiment he calls Steal This eBook: he makes available a zip file containing Jack Daniels Stories (one of his own books) in various ebook formats (and a direct link if the first one doesn’t work). The really audacious part is where he asks people to share the file far and wide via the usual “piracy” channels.

Konrath sums up his experiment thus: “I've said repeatedly that there is no proof piracy hurts sales. So I'm manning up and putting my money where my mouth is.” Indeed. This experiment has just sailed, so it’ll be interesting to see how it pans out. But I can already say, Konrath has put one of his books in my reading pile where there were none before. I’ve never been one to shy away from making predictions, so I’ll throw one out here: I think he’ll see a negligible effect on sales for this particular book, and a noticeable uptick in sales of his other books.

Of course, it can be debated (and is being debated in the comments on Konrath’s blog) whether this is actually “piracy” or not — after all, the author himself is encouraging spreading the file far and wide. Perhaps this should be better considered a “loss leader,” an old sales tactic where a store sells one product at a loss in hopes that people will buy other (more profitably marked-up) stuff while they’re grabbing the Great Deal. But successful buzz generation means you have to get people to notice what you’re saying — and is “A free ebook” or “Hey, pirate my ebook!” going to get more notice? Or, in the case of Hayley Williams, did “hey, music” or “BOOBZIEZ!!!!” turn more heads? (Big hint: of the thousands of bands out there, who’s getting the attention right now?)

Publicity is not for the faint of heart, and DIY publicity doubly so. I think there are some lessons to be learned here, though, to make things a little less scary…

1) You can only do this thing once. Williams’s stunt definitely lands in the category of “tough act to follow.” Konrath took a more modest approach, but even if he offers another freebie later on, a lot of people will go “yeah, yeah.”

2) Know what results you’re looking for. I’m guessing that both Konrath and Williams did, and got them.

3) Seize the opportunity when something goes wrong. Sometimes, you might get free publicity in a way you neither expected nor particularly wanted. Once the genie is out of the bottle, no amount of whining nor DMCA take-down notices will get it back in… and you’ll just end up looking clueless and petty. Make it work for you instead. Get out in front of the story so you’ll have at least some control — and for your own sake, don’t come up with a lame explanation that can be easily debunked (e.g. “I got hacked”). On the other hand, if you can extend the controversy (which is an unpleasant way of saying “extend the free publicity”) with a silly comment, it might be worth it.

Consider the sad case of Stephanie Meyer throwing a hissy-fit when an early draft of Midnight Sun* got leaked onto the net — she decided that she’d “been violated” and walked away from the work. To her credit, she soon acquired a partial clue and posted a copy herself (although with the usual “Any retranscription or reproduction is illegal” stuff), but still has no plans to finish it. She would have been far better off, publicity-wise, had she said something like “I’ve been rewriting this and what hits the shelves will be different and far better, it’ll be out on [some date]. Hang in there.”

*Thanks go to Daughter Dearest, a Stephanie Meyer fan, for supplying both the book title and the author name when my memory couldn’t produce either one.

Cheap electronics and public networks have changed creative media forever. It was once said, “freedom of the press applies only to those who can afford a printing press.” Now the electronic equivalent can be purchased for a few hundred bucks new, or sometimes fished out of a dumpster for free. Of course, the old “talent” issue still applies — Sturgeon’s Law says “Ninety percent of everything is crap,” and many would say Sturgeon was an optimist — and so publishers and the recording/movie industry can claim to be a filter for that ninety percent. Still, people like J.A. Konrath are making a comfortable living without having the mass-market appeal that the gatekeepers/filters demand, simply by using the tools available today and finding a way to get noticed.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010 4 comments

Weird and Wacky Wednesday

Well, not that weird, not much weirder than any other day at FAR Manor. The day started out kind of promising; Snippet woke up pissy from a bad dream and threatened to leave The Boy. His response: “Go right ahead.” (They’ve talked about getting married in July, but stuff like this has to make you wonder.) She seems to have gotten over herself though — her mom coming by may have had something to do with that. She (Snippet’s mom) had to have an MRI today, and she needs to be sedated due to seizures when exposed to certain electrical fields, so Snippet did the driving. They took Mason with them, which made for a pretty quiet day.

Daughter Dearest was a little concerned about it; she heard much of the argument The Boy and Snippet had this morning and thought maybe Snippet would bolt the manor with the baby. “That’s the absolute last thing I’m worried about,” I told her. “Snippet lays in bed all day until I take Mason upstairs and drop him in bed with her, and ten minutes later she’s asking me to take him so she can get a shower or eat breakfast, and then she’ll eff off to watch TV. She takes care of him as little as possible; she’s not going to take him on full-time.” Sure enough, they were back later in the afternoon. Mason has been free-standing for a while now, and trying to take his first steps, but he’s not even 9 months old yet. He’ll be walking soon enough, then we’ll really have to get serious about baby-proofing the manor.

My wallet is $1500 lighter, but I have my Civic back. Most of that was replacing the clutch and timing belt/water pump, but there were a few other minor things that got done. I still don’t have working A/C, but so far everything else seems to be okay.

While my net worth took a thumpin’ at the mechanic’s, today was somewhat of a net-worth watershed for Apple: today was the day Apple’s market cap overtook Microsoft’s for the first time. I don’t expect it to be a permanent situation — Microsoft will rally, or Apple will stumble, and this might only last a few days or weeks — but it’s going to be a fun datapoint to rub in the faces of all those people who thought Apple was walking-dead just 10 years ago. Too bad I didn’t grab some Apple stock back then…

Lately, I’ve been reading J. A. Konrath’s blog, off and on. Konrath is a mid-list author who writes a series of crime novels, and has lately had a huge sales boost by selling Kindle editions of his books, out of print and otherwise, and pricing them dirt-cheap (like $1.99). As book publishing (the major publishing houses, collectively referred to as “New York”) has found itself circling the same drain as newspaper publishing, this hasn’t exactly been welcome news in some circles. Publisher’s Weekly wrote a nice little hit-piece about Konrath signing with AmazonEncore, including lovely sentiments like “a book that nobody wanted” (where “nobody” = New York), misrepresenting his sales, and implying that AmazonEncore is a bare step above self-publishing. Naturally, Konrath set the record straight. I’ve been the victim of a similar hit-piece in the past, when I posted a series of articles (on a now-defunct Yahoo!360° blog) that was critical of XML — or rather, how consultants were deliberately over-complicating it for their own gain — and a consultant got a bunch of other consultants together and trashed me… of course, without bothering to contact me for a rebuttal. It did have the side effect of sending a tsunami of traffic to that blog though.

Seeing that I’ll have to write a sequel to White Pickups, which is now “Book I of the Truckalypse,” maybe I should look into this whole publish-on-Kindle thing myself.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009 6 comments

After the Deluge

Swollen creekOf all the disasters FAR Manor is heir to, natural and not (cough chicken house cough), flooding doesn’t make the list. We’re on top of a hill, a good 40 feet or so above (and half a mile away from) the nearest creek. If we ever had to worry about flooding, I’d board the ark as it floated by.

If I had to guess, I’d say we probably got close to 12 inches of rain in the last week, half of that over the weekend. I took this pic yesterday evening on the way home from work; it’s somewhat down from its crest earlier in the afternoon. Mrs. Fetched, with her penchant for overstatement, told me a different creek was about to come over the road earlier in the afternoon — which would have put it roughly 8 feet over its banks — but by the time I crossed, it was just a few inches over its banks, no big deal.

But still, that’s not to say that we’re completely unaffected by heavy rain. Indeed, we had a couple of occasions where heavy rains gave us more trouble than usual getting in and out of FAR Manor (that occasion was brought on by 6 inches of rain in one hour). The county re-did the culverts that got washed out and they seem to have all held up this time.

In short, what you might have seen on TV the last couple nights wasn’t anywhere near the manor. The sun actually came out this afternoon, and things are getting quickly back to (what passes for) normal around here. Down in the 'burbs and in the city proper, it sounds like they might still have some drainage or repair issues to get past.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009 6 comments

Joe Klein and the Beltway Insider Problem

So… it appears that once again, Joe Klein (a Very Serious Person who writes for Time on behalf of the rich and powerful) and Glenn Greenwald (a constitutional lawyer turned blogger at Salon) have tangled once again. And once again, Klein gets his ass handed to him, then whines about it at his blog on Swampland. In his hissy-fit, Joe demonstrates a lack of understanding, exceptionally woeful for a supposedly super-journalist, about what constitutes a “private communication.” To wit:
  1. At one of the cocktail parties (actually a beach party in this case) so favored by the Beltway Insider clique, Klein rather loudly rants to a young woman about how “Greenwald is EVIL! EVIL!” and many other things. He took particular umbrage when she pointed that Greenwald was recently given the I.F. Stone award, telling her “[she] shouldn't talk about things [she doesn't] understand.” (The woman in question is I.F. Stone’s granddaughter, which is quite funny when you think about it.)

  2. Having been schooled in public, both by mere bloggers and a young woman whom he dismisses as “a rather pathetic woman acolyte of Greenwald's,” Joe Klein (often referred to as Joke Line in the blogosphere as of late) resorted to the 8th-grade tactic of saying nasty things about Greenwald behind his back. It’s probably likely that he was already well under way by the time he got pwned at the beach party, but he began trashing Greenwald on Journolist, a “members-only” mailing list for the Beltway Insiders and some of their favored friends. One of the other members forwarded some of the emails to Glenn Greenwald, and much hilarity ensued (again, at Klein’s expense).

Joe Klein is perhaps part of the problem in what passes for journalism these days, but he is best seen as a symbol for what I call the Beltway Insider Problem. Journalists, who are supposed to be about afflicting the comfortable, have grown uncomfortably chummy with the inner circles of power lately — whether in DC, on Wall Street, or City Hall of most locales. The problem begins, but does not end, with:

The Access Fetish

At some point, I’m guessing the early 1980s, “access” became more important than truth to journalism. Perhaps it started with the Reagan regime, more likely with early budget cuts in newsrooms, I don’t know for sure (and admitting I don’t know proves I myself am no Beltway Insider). But reporters who asked tough questions of those in power began to be shunted aside in favor of the sycophants and stenographers that seem to make up the entire Beltway Insider clique these days. Joe Klein sucked up to the Bush Administration for quite a few years, indeed was one of their primary cheerleaders for the Iraq war, all to maintain that all-important “access.” He and his fellows seem to have forgotten that when you’re doing some real journalism, that you’ll get access anyway. After all, short of outright admitting to bad behavior, “XYZ refused to comment on this story” is pretty close to self-indictment.

One of the more unfortunate effects, of the Access Fetish, besides the outright toadying-up to the powerful, has been:

Replacing Fact-Checking with “Balance”

The most glaring example of this problem with the Beltway Insider clique has been their “coverage” of climate change issues. It doesn’t matter how much evidence of the 150-year warming trend piles up, how many scientists think it’s actually worse than the consensus position, the insiders will find an ignorant blowhard like Sen. Inhofe or a paid shill for Exxon who will counter claims with nothing but their opinion, and then present both sides as equally credible. Truth is truth… unless you’re an Insider, then it’s just a matter of he-said-she-said. And they think that’s doing their jobs.

Which brings us to the third problem:

The Insider Echo Chamber

Tools like Journolist and the cocktail/beach party circuit allow the Beltway Insiders to collaborate. That in itself is not a bad thing — an investigative journalist might hear a crucial piece of information from a fellow, for example — but the problem is that the Insiders use those tools to develop a “narrative” rather than just get to the heart of the matter. Media narratives are convenient for lazy pseudo-journalists, as they provide a framework to hang a story on. We see this dreck all the time: Hillary was inevitable, health care reform is dead (and the screamers were concerned citizens rather than bussed-in provocateurs), financial bailouts are necessary to preserve… something important, probably the Insiders’ access to bankers.

This is exactly why more and more people are getting their news from the Internet these days — sure, you get biased sources, but you have a pretty good idea what the bias is and everyone gets to chime in and correct facts or point out the bias. Me, I haven’t subscribed to a newspaper or newsmagazine in 15 years or so, and people like Joe Klein are perfect examples of why.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009 2 comments

You think FAR Future is taking a long time?

Opium Magazine has printed a story on the cover that takes 1000 years to read. (Yes, I had to leave a comment plugging a certain novel that could be read in 1/500 of that.)

Two things leap to mind here:
  1. I’ve heard of a story “making the cover,” but this puts a whole new spin on it. Leave the magazine in sunlight for 1000 years, and the masking deteriorates long enough to read it (all nine words).

  2. If you thought FAR Future was taking a long time… this kind of puts it in perspective.

No, I won’t be blogging a nine-word story over nine episodes any time soon. I’ve almost decided to do a novella (20-30 ep’s) next.

Friday, May 01, 2009 6 comments

Friday Follies, New Poll, etc.

Well. Now that the thunderstorms have passed through — and God knows we needed the rain here — I can say hello once again.

It has been a week. Actually, it has been a month. In terms of time sinks, April was almost as bad as August usually is, although it (mostly) didn’t involve chicken houses. I’m less than 3,000 words short of completing FAR Future, which is maybe 1,000 words less than where I was at the beginning of the month. But at a post a week, I could sit on my hands all the way through July before I really have to start worrying. Next week will have (for the first time in quite a while) a double feature of FAR Future, because it’s really a single (long) episode split into two pieces. They’ll come out on Monday and Tuesday mornings, respectively. What I’m saying is, I want to get it done so I can start in on the next project… but there’s no pressure otherwise.

I’ve finally gotten started in earnest on a little garden here at the manor. I bought some yellow pear and Rutgers tomatoes last week, along with some jalapeños (my cash crop) and various herbs. The tomatoes, peppers, and lemon balm are now planted (the latter two just before the rain). The lemon balm was starting to wilt, so I knew that had to be addressed pronto; I picked one of the areas where the butterfly bushes were uprooted, then got rid of the violet-weeds. I'm trying to figure out where to put the two oregano plants; the one I have now is turning invasive, so they need to be out of the way but close enough to harvest. Wherever I decide to put the mint and rosemary, it won’t be anywhere near the oregano.

A couple of news articles caught my eye, besides the whole swine flu thing. One was about Congress starting to put a leash on credit card companies (especially since they’re taking bailout money). It doesn’t go nearly as far as I’d like, but it’s a good start. Another was about how an open-source programmer cussed out Adobe over the Photoshop PSD format. Personally, I think Adobe needs to be cussed out (and more) on a daily basis, but that’s just me.

Moving on to the poll gone by… here’s the final tally.

tax poll

Most of you guys are efficient tax-filing machines… January and February indeed! Those of you who filed in April — the last two weeks before the deadline — I can relate, that’s where I landed too. I really wanted to file right away, joining that Jan/Feb majority, but one thing led to another and next thing I knew it was April. The latest poll is more of a fun little guessing game… let’s all try to guess where gas prices are going to go.

Daughter Dearest is nominally done with college — her last final was Tuesday — but she had to go back this evening to sing at the baccalaureate, and I have to take her tomorrow morning to sing at the graduation. She’s going to be nice enough to give me her network password so I can get some surfing done tomorrow (I don’t have a ticket to the ceremony)… if I really get inspired, I might finish FAR Future right there in the performing arts center.

Thursday, November 13, 2008 4 comments

A Special Edition

The not-so-far future: The New York Times, Special Edition (July 4, 2009).

Be sure to read the My Times link to hear the publishers 'splain themselves.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008 5 comments

Gas Panic: The Light at the End of the Tunnel

They (who’s “they”? You know, “them”!) say the pipeline is full and the gas is on the way to Planet Georgia. Given that fuel moves through pipelines at 3–5mph, though, it’ll be at least a week before the Great Gas Panic of 2008 is officially over.

Yesterday, nearly half the stations I pass on the way to work were pumping, and had lines spilling this way and that. Of course, cheaper gas equals longer lines… people are still people. They were pretty much all dry on the way home, but that’s to be expected these days.

I’ve got a lengthy rant about the bailout cooking, but haven’t had time to get it down just yet. Maybe tomorrow.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...