Category archive: e-books

Will Authors Start Using the F-word to Generate Buzz?

For Marketing.  It seems the Charlie Sheen school of publicity has hit the indie publishing scene in a big way.  Author Jacqueline Howett took great exception to book blogger Big Al’s review of her indie novel.  Big Al’s crime?  He complained that the typos and grammar errors made the novel unreadable, although he apparently read all the way through and said that the story was actually good.

Keep in mind that this critique came from a man who reviews indie-published e-books as a preference, so he’s probably seen some typos and grammar errors in the past.  Even Amanda Hocking admits that she needs better editors, which is one of the reasons she signed that seven-figure deal with St. Martins.

But Howett’s response was scripted out of a road rage incident with a drunk driver.  She says Big Al didn’t download the re-formatted novel AS SHE ORDERED!  Wow! Who orders around a reviewer who does this job for free?

But the crazy part is that big Al wasn’t complaining about the formatting, but the grammar and the sentence structure.  He gave examples that she didn’t refute; in fact, she claimed there was nothing wrong with her writing.

Now here’s the scary part: after this exchange began her sales spiked.  I guess people were curious to see the train wreck.  I wonder if it was intentional that she dropped the f-bomb in the comments of Big Al’s blog after that.  Twice she stated, “F–k You!” in response to comments.

I checked her Amazon ranking and it’s actually at 41,000.  Way down from the top 1000, yes, but higher than it apparently deserves.  Given the multiple bad reviews, I’m guessing it should be down around the 100,000 level.

So I have to decide: would I go rude and ballistic to make a name for myself?  No.  I just can’t do it.  I was raised to be polite and respectful–especially to people who are doing me a favor.  I’d rather be known as courteous by a few than as an asshole by many.  Oops.  That just slipped out.

 

Burning Moose

I’ve gone nuclear on my Microsoft Word document; I’ve loaded Mobipocket creator to the PC side of my MAC, since Mobi doesn’t make a MAC version.  Finally, I photoshopped  the spiffy new cover you see on the left.

Yup, I’m finally ready to re-launch my Sioux Rock Falls Short Story, Burning Moose.  This was the first of a series of stories that appeared in Storyteller Magazine between 2002 and 2006.

Yes, re-launch.  It’s been up there on Kindle for months, but friends and fellow authors who purchased it warned me that despite my best efforts, the formatting was corrupted.  There were no paragraph indents at all, which is really challenging when reading fiction.

This week I’m going to put up a detailed how-to menu item for those who want to e-publish well-formatted shorts or novels.  This may sound dull, but in the very crowded indie e-publishing industry, authors will need to stand out from the junk.  Just like with submissions to agents and publishers, the first thing that can get you tossed in the trash is a sloppily formatted story.

I certainly don’t want to lose sales because a reader checked out a sample on Kindle and then didn’t purchase my story because the formatting looked amateurish.

So enjoy the story!  Coming next: Railroaded, Beer Truck, Jumpin Jack, Fire Retardant and White Metal–the whole Sioux Rock Falls series.  I’m already working on a fake Sioux Rock Falls website, complete with ads for the True North Cafe, the Spin Cycle launderette and Elite Bar and Grill.

This is going to be fun!

Front Matter, Back Matter, Meta Data?

So I’m working my way through the Smashwords Style Guide, and I’m surprised to discover that they want me to put a long warning about copyright infringement at the beginning of my e-books.

I’m reminded of the FBI warning at the beginning of video movies, the ones I used to fast-forward through before DVDs came along and made that impossible.  I’ve often wondered how many movie pirates read that warning and said, “Oh no!  Better not copy or sell this.  That’s against the law.”

So I put all this extended copyright stuff at the front of my short story, Fire Retardant, and all I’ve accomplished is cluttering up the story preview–you know, the sample the buyer can check out before they take the 99 cent plunge.  Potential purchasers spend more time reading a copyright notice than my brilliant words.  That’s gonna change.

A quick survey of other e-books on my Sony proves that even Random House puts this stuff at the back, but I’m wondering if there’s even a better way: how about in the meta-data?  I’m going to check out the mobi e-pub software and see if I can stick this into the meta data when I generate the stories in Kindle format.  I would still put a copyright date with my name at the beginning, but not a long notice.

I’m guessing that the whole concept of putting copyright at the front began because in print books the first page is on the right anyway, so you might as well stick all that copyright notice stuff on the left side.  But in e-books that makes it the first page, which is probably why most publishers are switching it to the last page.

Makes sense to me.  Hey Smashwords!  You guys getting this?

Who Would Walk Away From 500 Thousand Dollars?

Apparently Barry Eisler just did.  Why did he walk away from this lucrative book deal with St. Martin’s Press?  Because he believes he will make more self-publishing in the long run, particularly on e-book rights.

Eisler is joining a growing number of authors who are walking away from legacy publishers.  The problem is that the standard industry contract only gives the author  a 25% royalty on e-books, which comes off after Amazon or Smashwords has taken their cut.  Then the agent takes 15% off that 25% and it works out that the author is really only getting 17% of the e-book price.

Why accept that little crumb when an author can sell their novel through Kindle and get a 70% royalty?  No agent or publisher required.  In fact, how can publishers defend such a huge cut when they don’t need a printing press, trucks or a delivery network for e-books?

Up until now they’ve claimed that branding can save their publishing model–that readers will flock to a legacy publisher’s books because there are too many lousy self-published books to sort through.  But the truth is that the internet has its own filters, like the book bloggers who have made Amanda Hocking the new internet writing star.

Publishers are not obsolete, but they need to embrace the future and recognize that things have changed for the better.  E-readers have more people buying books than they have in a decade, and this should be a good thing.  Desperate attempts by legacy publishers to keep e-book prices high in order to stall the e-revolution will fail.  Refusing to give authors a fair cut will cost them content and market share.

Eilser wisely draws a parallel to railroads in the 1950s just as the interstates were under construction.  The railroads thought they were in the railroad business, but actually they were in the transportation business.  Once large trucks became a viable option, many railroads folded.  The smart railroads adapted, combining trucking and rail, adjusting prices and expectations and finding the niches they could still fill.

Because of my film industry background, I’m reminded of Kodak and Fuji film back in the 90s.  Even a camera assistant like me knew that high definition digital video was coming, but Kodak thought they were in the film stock business and tried to fight the change by producing better and better film stocks.  They achieved some amazing things with their 800 ASA film stock, but it couldn’t stop the slide to cheap digital.

Fuji knew they were in the image capture business and went aggressively after the digital video business.  Their CEO got an award a couple of years ago for keeping Fiji successful through this upheaval.

I was in Kodak’s home town–Rochester, NY–in 2006.  It’s the only time that I’ve seen an empty ten-story office building.  I’m talking about a modern glass and steel office building.  Kodak did follow Fuji’s lead into digital and has survived, but it was gut-wrenchingly painful to watch, and a lot of hard working people lost their jobs in the process.

Publishers should be in the business of selling books, not pulped dead trees.  Some publishers will recognize this and adapt to e-books and thrive.  Others will go down.  It doesn’t have to be this painful.

Don’t Buy My Short Story — Yet

So I’ve been crushed by an old version of Microsoft Word.  I knew I had paragraph formatting issues with my short story, Burning Moose, when I first uploaded it for sale as an Amazon e-book, but I thought I’d solved the problem with the short story Railroaded by saving it as an .rtf and going back to a .doc before uploading.

It turns out that did nothing.  Railroaded was MS from 2004, the others–well, I think I wrote Burning Moose on a MAC SE that I bought used from CPused, a great store that has since gone under.  You get the idea.  Very old technology.

Luckily Smashwords has a 73 page manual on how to format your MS word document so that it will upload nicely as an e-book.   So here I go again.  I’ve uploaded a new version of Fire Retardant but it’ll take 24 hours to publish.  I’ll check it out when it’s up to make sure it’s good and then I’ll relaunch.

I’m pretty sure this is going to get easier to do as new programs are written to solve these little formatting issues.  In the meantime: at least I learned a lot about MS word today.

Fire Retardant Launch

Cover for Fire Retardant--a Sioux Rock Falls Short Story

Forest fires regularly sweep through Northern Ontario during the summer months, and if a town is in the way it has no chance.  In 1979 the town of Cobalt, Ontario near Lake Tamiskaming lost a good chunk, with only the church, a few homes and a decaying strip plaza spared.

But when the Ministry of Natural Resources guy threatened to draft the bridge crew I was with to fight that forest fire, I got to thinking, talking with locals and hearing legends of fires past.  After a few more beers the short story Fire Retardant found a comfortable place in my brain.  It stayed there for years before I finally released it for Storyteller Magazine.

Fire Retardant is now available on Amazon.com for the Kindle.  This short story first appeared in Storyteller Magazine in their fall 2004 edition.

Soon I’ll have it for all e-pub format readers as well.

Kindle vs Sony: Pricing Divergence

I note this morning that Amanda Hocking’s Switched (see post below) is for sale on Amazon Kindle for 99 cents, but on the Sony Reader Store’s front page it’s $3.99.  While that’s not a horrible price, it’s four times out of line.

I like my Sony e-reader, but I’m getting the Kindle app for my i-phone, and the e-reader will idle for yet another novel.

A Warning for Self-e-published Authors

I prefer not to simply publish links to other people’s content on this blog, but this warning from Amanda Hocking was aimed right at me.

She’s done what I want to do: e-self-published through Amazon and Smashwords, and she’s making thousands a month doing it.  She’s snagged an agent.  She’s making a good living as an author.

But she warns here that she knows another author, J. L. Bryan, who doesn’t sell as well even though he is a good writer and performs the same marketing moves that she does.

The warning is clear.  Even if the writing, promotion and cover are all great, your book might languish simply because you didn’t strike a cord, hit the right topic or simply didn’t appeal to the reading public.

It’s all a big gamble.  Just ask a traditional publisher.  Luckily with e-books, the upfront costs aren’t as huge as print books.

Rebecca Senese Seizes the Day

Rebecca Senese and I shared a strange place in the history of Storyteller Magazine before we even met. I’d finally snagged the cover of Storyteller in the winter 2006 edition after many attempts, so my mother proudly purchased a subscription for every member of the family, including my aunt.

Unfortunately, I had decided that for my story White Metal I’d let construction workers speak like construction workers.  The F-bomb fell more than a few times, and Storyteller chose to stick it right in one of the teaser lines.  My aunt, horrified by the profanity, refused to even read her nephew’s story and instead carried on to read the next story in the issue, Brother’s Under the Skin by Rebecca Senese.

It was like pouring gasoline on fire.  My aunt, the very committed Catholic anti-abortion activist, read a story about parents who clone their murdered son and try to relive his childhood through the clone.  Boom!

Terry Tyo, the owner of Storyteller, got a nasty phone call demanding that he cancel my aunt’s subscription and never send her a copy of his sick magazine again.  Terry was gun shy of controversial stories for months.  Between us, Rebecca and I had rocked Storyteller’s world.

Now Rebecca is out to rock your world.  She read my first post about planning to e-publish all my out of print short stories, but she ran where I walked.  I’m still trying to pull together the other stories, get them up with Smashwords for the Sony and Nook, and put together my anthology.  But in the last two months, while I was off in another world, Rebecca’s done it.

I’d better hurry.  A year ago I was in the middle of the e-book revolution, now I’m playing catch up.  So watch here for more announcements and e-publishing.  First my Storyteller stories, then my contest winners, then my novel and then…write till I die.  I finally have a market, however humble.  It’s there for the bold.

The Writing World Doesn’t Stop

But I did.  I had to stop blogging until I’d got through a nasty job.  It’s done.  I’m back. But guess what?  The writing world moved on while I was away.  Borders has gone into chapter 11, and no one knows how many publishers and authors will get a financial hair cut in the reorganization, not to mention all those sales staff who showed up to locked doors.  Apparently hundreds of outlets will be closed over the next year.

Meanwhile Torstar, the company the produces Harlequin romances, is finding the recession and the adjustment to e-books a challenge.  The high Canadian dollar is killing their margins in American sales.  But don’t worry, they’re still making money and the e-book sales are rising steadily.

But better yet, tune in here tomorrow to find out who followed my lead into e-books and is now way ahead.