Tag archive: e-readers

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.

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.

Sony, Why Do You Make Me Crazy?

I want to like my Sony e-reader.  I was one of the early adopters, which means I paid double what most of you paid so that I could  get it a few months sooner.  Yes. I’d have waited if I’d known the price was going to fall through the floor, but I’d been tracking e-readers since the Rocket e-book debuted in 2000, and I just couldn’t wait any longer.  This was the future.

I’m no tree hugger, but hey, why cut down forests so that you can read a mystery novel once or twice, let it gather dust on a book shelf and leave someone else to throw it into landfill after you’re dead?

Content is king, and when I found out Sony was open source e-pub software and would have a e-reader store a la Amazon, I went for it.  The problem is the Reader Store.

For the third time I’ve gone to the Reader Store, clicked on a promoted novel and been unable to load it because it’s “Unavailable in your territory.”

Worse, the first time I had clicked “Canadian Edition.”  It took two days for Sony staff to figure out that it was a mistake and there was no available Canadian edition.

Today’s victim was “The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo.”  Susan bought it with her Kindle from Amazon.com no problem and recommended it.  We debated whether she’d just loan me her Kindle, but it was easy to see that she didn’t want to part with the device for even a day.  She’s an avid reader.

That’s how I ended up at Sony’s Reader Store today, and I was pleasantly surprised when I saw that Larsson’s bestselling novel was on sale for five bucks.  Now I’d signed in to the store, so the software should have known my “territory.”  But instead it just threw up whatever page is there for Americans, prominently featuring Larson’s novel.

So Sony promotes this novel to me but won’t sell it to me.  Why do you make me so crazy?  If it weren’t for the fact that Google e-books work on the e-reader, I’d be pitching the damn thing into the snow on my front lawn.

Snow Helps E-books

Lots of people got Kindles and Nooks and e-readers over Christmas this year.  These lucky people also apparently decided it was too snowy to go out shopping between Christmas and New Year’s, because instead they stayed home and purchased record numbers of e-books.

According to USA Today, the top 6 bestsellers sold more e-books than print books, and 19 of the top 50 also sold more e-books.  After more than a decade of hype and failure, it looks like e-books have finally got off the ground, and this time it’s not just better readers but more and cheaper content that has made the difference.

It’s time for traditional publishers to wake up and remember that they’re publishers, not printers.  Stop fighting to keep to the old delivery system and just move on with the new one.

Better Not Trash My Sony E-reader Yet

While I’ve metaphorically trashed the Sony E-reader a couple of times when comparing it to the Kindle, a whole new world just opened up for the little device: Google has launched their new Google ebookstore, and they’re selling books in the e-pub format for Sony and Nook.

But the best news is that they’re making literally millions of public domain books available for free.  Want to catch up on your Sherlock Holmes–maybe Dickens for Christmas?  It’s going to all be there.

Better yet, Google executives have stated that while they don’t want to start a price war for the copyrighted works they sell, they do want them to be among the most competitive.

I predict a fall in the price of e-books with Amazon leading the way.

This will be fun!

Conflicted About The New Publishers Taking Their Cut

Amazon and Sony have crossed the line from e-book stores to publishers, although they’re using a very old method to recruit want-to-be-authors:  self-publishers, also known as vanity presses.

There are still bent self-publishers out there, promising fame and fortune if you pay them to publish your novel.  But there are also new smart and professional self-publishers.  Amazon fronts CreateSpace.  The Reader Store has made two deals, one with  Author Solutions and the other with Smashwords.

Traditional publishers have been accused of being gatekeepers, of publishing only authors they know and not truly considering new talent, but the new e-book stores like Amazon and Sony are minding a different gate.  They’ll publish anyone and let the market sort them out, but they want their cut.

To e-publish with Amazon, you’ll get a 70% royalty.  This may be great compared to the 15% you’d be happy to get from a traditional publisher, but Amazon doesn’t have to hire editors, printing presses, trucks or pay for promotion.  What they’re charging 30% royalty for is simply the right to be on Amazon.

Sony’s deal is pretty much the same for their Reader store.  If you want to e-publish with them they’ll send you to Smashwords, who will put your novel into a number of formats, including the e-pub that you need for the Sony Reader store.

Now I could use Calibre open source software to put my novel into e-pub format and offer it for sale through my website for fans who own Sony e-readers, but the traffic on my website isn’t anything compared to the Reader Store.

So that’s why I would eat the 30%.  It’s not unlike the traditional publishers paying for prominent placement in brick and mortar stores.  Not that a self-published author will get front page placement on Amazon, but they’ll have the feel of legitimacy when they send friends to search Amazon or the Reader store for their novels.

And Amazon and Sony will be happy to take their cut of your friends’ money.

I guess that’s okay.  They’re not promising to make you famous.  Yet I’ve got that oligopoly feeling I get when I look at traditional publishers–that claustrophobic feeling that makes me want to shout unfair!  Who made you the gatekeepers?

Of course they’d probably reply that the internet is a big place and I can go anywhere I want, and try to sell my novel anyway I want.  Which is true.  It would just be much easier with Amazon and Sony.

So I’m conflicted.

Fogel Defends Hard and Soft Cover Books

Guest Post by Melanie Fogel

Not everyone who reads books keeps them. Those of us who do line our walls with books do so because we love books. We like looking at them; we like holding them. Some of us even enjoy dusting them.

I’ll assume somewhere in the world there are people who like to “show off how smart they are by what’s on their bookshelf,” but that’s not me, nor the people I know. And on behalf of all book lovers, I take exception to your dismissing us like that.

Book lovers are a subclass of readers. I suppose there are book lovers who don’t read, but I’ve yet to meet one. They may not love books for the same reasons I and the people I know do.

There’s something wonderful about sitting in a room surrounded by books. It’s like sitting in a room surrounded by friends and family: no matter where you cast your eye, you see someone with whom you have an emotional bond. And unlike family, you can chuck the ones who made you angry or sad. So there’s only good memories in a room full of books.

Books aren’t just containers for ideas, they’re artifacts to appreciate in their own right: their colours, their textures, their smells. As packages, they beat heart-shaped chocolate boxes hands down. More than that, reading—at least in the age of paper books—is a tactile experience, and just touching a book can recall memories. Opening one is even better.

Unlike electronic books, paper books can hold more than ideas. Signatures, for example. Or bookplates, which are somehow more intriguing when you’ve acquired the book second hand, and you wonder why anyone who took the trouble to paste in a bookplate would later give the book up. Then there’s the miscellany of what else you use for a bookmark: postcards, photographs, shopping receipts, dollar bills. Or bookmarks themselves—be they embossed leather gifts from friends, souvenirs of a book launch, a giveaway from a bookstore no longer in business. All memories at least as rich as photographs, that spring at you unexpectedly when you open a book.

A room lined with books is a room filled with potential that you can “see.”

I have no doubt that today there are children who will become adult readers who’ve never read a paper book. They won’t know what they’re missing, which is probably a good thing for them. But I have to wonder what they’ll fill their rooms with, and if it’ll be anything near as satisfying as a room full of books.