I just found the secret to making the bestsellers list! All you need is

$50 or more to take one or more Writer’s Digest course(s) on writing a breakout novel: (what, were you expecting something else?)

Write A Breakout Novel in 2015

THIS will be the year you get published! You’ll write the story that launches your career and lands on the bestsellers list. With advice, tools, and hands-on exercises from bestselling authors and agents, this bundle will walk you through the key elements of writing an unforgettable story that is sure to get published in today’s literary marketplace.

Learn the foolproof, time-tested strategies for writing a page-turner readers can’t put down!

Believe it or not, there are essential components of stories that show up again and again in bestselling novels. Learn these building block and you’ll be well on your way to completing your breakout novel in 2015!

(I suppose you could just read the bestsellers in your genre but that will take too much time.)

If that doesn’t help enough you can get some great tutorials:

$199.00 

12-Month Membership – All Tutorials
BEST VALUE Gain access to all writing tutorials for an entire year. Watch every video whenever you like, as often as you would like . . . and be the first to watch the new tutorial we post each week! Your subscription will automatically renew after 12 months if you do not cancel.
Just want to try it to see if you like it? Test it for $25 for one month.

Mastering Description & Setting

Format: Bundle

Many writers struggle with finding a happy medium for descriptive details. Either they have too much detail and lose the reader’s attention or not enough and leave readers confused. In this value pack, you’ll find instruction from literary agents, hands-on exercises from authors and examples from bestsellers on properly developing the description and setting of your novel. You’ll learn the keys to strong plot development, world building and writing characters readers relate to.

It can be difficult to discern which details of your novel are working and which aren’t. You may be getting rejected but are unsure exactly what the problem is (B&B note: Your ‘platform’ probably isn’t big enough yet to guarantee 5,000 immediate sales). This kit walks writers through the process of writing their setting, point of view, plot, and characters in an engaging way that excites agents and keeps readers entertained from start to finish.

Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting
EBOOKMake your stories come alive on the page. In this reference book, you’ll find instruction on mastering the aspects of description and setting in your writing with hands-on exercises that allow you to incorporate lessons into your own work.
Word Painting Revised Edition
EBOOKWriting nonfiction is an art much like painting. The words you choose to describe your nonfiction story have to illustrate the vision you have in your mind and capture the attention of readers. Learn how to develop their senses and powers of observation to uncover the rich, evocative words that accurately portray the mind’s images–and apply these descriptions to characters, settings, point of view, and more.
The Three Essential Building Blocks of Your Novel: Who, What, and Where
ONDEMAND WEBINARIn this OnDemand Webinar, literary agent Roseanne Wells explores the crucial areas of character, plot and settling to show how they fit together and how you can ensure yours are working for your story. If your work is getting rejected, you may be using plot, characters and settings that just aren’t working for your novel.
World Building: The Art of Including Era and Place in Your Writing, Part 1
ONDEMAND WEBINARAn overdose of detail stops a reader, just as a deficiency causes reader confusion. But proper use of World Building keeps the reader in the moment of the story and compelled to keep reading, regardless of genre. Learn how to think of world building as a strategy to tell a descriptive story.
World Building: The Art of Including Era and Place in Your Writing, Part 2
ONDEMAND WEBINARReaders appreciate knowing where they are in a story. That’s where world building comes in. In this online tutorial, learn how to properly convey era and place in your writing to keep the reader intrigued from beginning to end.
Description and Setting
WRITERS DIGEST UNIVERSITY COURSEWriting a novel can be overwhelming—especially if you are new to writing. Build your writing skills and challenge your creativity with this online writing workshop. You’ll learn the elements on how to write setting and description from Ron Rozelle’s Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting.There is no instructor for this workshop. You will not receive feedback on assignments. You may review the lessons and exercises on your own schedule.
SKU MASTERING-DESCRIPTION-AND-SETTING
Format Bundle

In Stock

Retail: $324.95

Your price: $49.98

10 Elements of a Viable, Lucrative Novel in Today’s Market

Many writers are in the dark when it comes to the question of what makes one novel saleable and another novel a “pass” in today’s complex publishing arena. What makes agents and editors say “no” to so many submissions and “yes” to just a few? (B&B answer: a much bigger platform than you currently have, the right connections within the industry, or you manage to write the EXACT book agents and publishers are looking for at the moment). Is there a specific formula? (B&B: no, vampire love stories and YA thrillers are the rage, and this is apparently making a comeback. I’ll explain in Sunday’s post) Are the criteria different today from 10, 20, or 50 years ago? What effect does the rise of e-publishing have on how novels are published, selected, and promoted? (B&B answer: Sell at least 10,000 copies of your e-book and an agent might actually reach out to YOU to see if you would be willing to sell print rights to a larger imprint. This may actually be the way most authors get representation in the future.) In the end, does it just come down to quality, or are there other forces at work? (B&B: a million YouTube subscribers or Twitter or Instagram followers or a TV show or Hollywood film lead role helps A LOT more than you know. Get on it, grasshopper!) This tutorial answers these questions (and more!)—shedding light on the inner workings of the often baffling publishing process, insight into the kinds of stories agents and publishers are seeking, and commentary on the principles every writer must be aware of to succeed in a dynamic and exciting time of change in the publishing world.

This tutorial is taught by literary agent Jim McCarthy. Jim is also the vice president at Dystel & Goderich Literary Management where he has worked his entire professional life since he started as an intern back in 1999. Jim focuses on adult and young adult fiction across categories from cozy mysteries and paranormal romance to literary fiction and some deeply quirky comedies. He is a frequent guest at writers’ conferences nationwide has numerous clients who are New York Times bestsellers.

In this 73-minute tutorial video, you’ll discover:

  • What elements a novel needs to be considered saleable by agents and publishers today—such as memorable characters, a three-act structure, and more
  • Why great novels will always have a place in the literary landscape
  • How to give your novel a fair self-assessment through self-editing (quick point: everyone thinks their book is the next Greatest Book Ever. It’s understandable; our books are like our babies, only no diaper change needed)
  • Why people read novels, where they get them, and what makes them decide which ones to buy
  • How the criteria for a novel today compares with that of the past, and what can be expected as the industry continues to change

Having trouble world-building? Too many descriptions or too few? Let Writer’s Digest help you out.

Mastering Description & Setting

Format: Bundle

Many writers struggle with finding a happy medium for descriptive details. Either they have too much detail and lose the reader’s attention or not enough and leave readers confused. In this value pack, you’ll find instruction from literary agents, hands-on exercises from authors and examples from bestsellers on properly developing the description and setting of your novel. You’ll learn the keys to strong plot development, world building and writing characters readers relate to.

It can be difficult to discern which details of your novel are working and which aren’t. You may be getting rejected but are unsure exactly what the problem is. This kit walks writers through the process of writing their setting, point of view, plot, and characters in an engaging way that excites agents and keeps readers entertained from start to finish.

Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting
EBOOKMake your stories come alive on the page. In this reference book, you’ll find instruction on mastering the aspects of description and setting in your writing with hands-on exercises that allow you to incorporate lessons into your own work.
Word Painting Revised Edition
EBOOKWriting nonfiction is an art much like painting. The words you choose to describe your nonfiction story have to illustrate the vision you have in your mind and capture the attention of readers. Learn how to develop their senses and powers of observation to uncover the rich, evocative words that accurately portray the mind’s images–and apply these descriptions to characters, settings, point of view, and more.
The Three Essential Building Blocks of Your Novel: Who, What, and Where
ONDEMAND WEBINARIn this OnDemand Webinar, literary agent Roseanne Wells explores the crucial areas of character, plot and settling to show how they fit together and how you can ensure yours are working for your story. If your work is getting rejected, you may be using plot, characters and settings that just aren’t working for your novel.
World Building: The Art of Including Era and Place in Your Writing, Part 1
ONDEMAND WEBINARAn overdose of detail stops a reader, just as a deficiency causes reader confusion. But proper use of World Building keeps the reader in the moment of the story and compelled to keep reading, regardless of genre. Learn how to think of world building as a strategy to tell a descriptive story.
World Building: The Art of Including Era and Place in Your Writing, Part 2
ONDEMAND WEBINARReaders appreciate knowing where they are in a story. That’s where world building comes in. In this online tutorial, learn how to properly convey era and place in your writing to keep the reader intrigued from beginning to end.
Description and Setting
WRITERS DIGEST UNIVERSITY COURSEWriting a novel can be overwhelming—especially if you are new to writing. Build your writing skills and challenge your creativity with this online writing workshop. You’ll learn the elements on how to write setting and description from Ron Rozelle’s Write Great Fiction: Description & Setting.There is no instructor for this workshop. You will not receive feedback on assignments. You may review the lessons and exercises on your own schedule.
SKU MASTERING-DESCRIPTION-AND-SETTING
Format Bundle

In Stock

Retail: $324.95

Your price: $49.98

I am on the Writer’s Digest list (I bought a one-year membership last year when I first started getting involved in the whole book publishing business) so 95% of my e-mails from them look like what’s above. It is entirely up to you to decide if you should order a writer’s bundle to help you with things. Note that I am not counting essentials like editing, cover art, platform building, etc., which ARE things you need to get published, whether traditionally or self-pubbed. There are reasonable things to offer for a fee and then there’s just basic stuff no book can teach. You can hire a coach for a great athlete to make him/her better and more fit but if said athlete is simply not good enough to make it then no amount of X-treme coaching will turn that athlete into a superstar.

B&B advice: If you need to pay someone to tell you the basics of novel writing or storytelling, you really ought to find something else to do with your time.

B&B extra advice free of charge: How about sharing ideas at the Kboards site or just posting them here and I’ll review your blurb or plot outline free of charge. Seriously, I mean it! I won’t edit the book but blurbs? c’mon man, test me.

Why Should I Get Married? Is Marriage Obsolete?

“Should I get married?” This is one of the questions raging around our single society now with no end in sight.

I am in the prime marriage age group of 25-34. This is the time when most of my friends start-gasp- getting engaged or actually married. This is the time when not only family, but friends, have begun asking things like:

“Sooo…what’s new?” (Translation: Any dates?)

“Sooo..are you bringing anyone to the wedding/hangout?” (Translation: Any dates?)

variant: “Soo…how many people are coming?” (Translation: Any dates?)

my answer: ranges from “I just haven’t found ‘The One’ yet to ‘just me’.” What else am I supposed to do? I have heard all the reasons both for and against getting married. I want to talk about the economic forecasts for our society if more and more people people stay single and/or childless.

Today’s article is brought to you by the American Enterprise Institute’s Nicholas Eberstadt. (bold emphasis mine and article slightly truncated):

“All around the world today, pre-existing family patterns are being upended by a revolutionary new force: the seemingly unstoppable quest for convenience by adults demanding ever-greater autonomy. We can think of this as another triumph of consumer sovereignty, which has at last brought rational choice and elective affinities into a bastion heretofore governed by traditions and duties—many of them onerous. Thanks to this revolution, it is perhaps easier than ever before to free oneself from the burdens that would otherwise be imposed by spouses, children, relatives or significant others with whom one shares a hearth.

Yet in infancy and childhood and then again much later, in feebleness or senescence, people need more from others. Whatever else we may be, we are all manifestly inconvenient at the start and end of life. Thus the recasting of the family puts it on a collision course with the inescapable inconvenience of the human condition itself—portending outcomes and risks we have scarcely begun to consider.

As of 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, just over 40% of babies in the U.S. were born outside marriage, and for 2014 the Census Bureau estimated that 27% of all children (and 22% of “White” children) lived in a fatherless home. But the opt-out from the old family norm is even more advanced than these figures suggest. A 2011 study by two Census researchers reckoned that just 59% of all American children (and 65% of “Anglo” or non-Hispanic white children) lived with married and biological parents as of 2009. Unless there is a change in this “revealed preference” against married unions that include children, within the foreseeable future American children who reside with their married birthparents will be in the minority.

Now consider Europe, where the revolution in the family has gained still more ground. European demographers even have an elegant name for the phenomenon: They call it the Second Demographic Transition (the First being the shift from high birth rates and death rates to low ones that began in Europe in the early industrial era and by now encompasses almost every society). In the schema of the Second Demographic Transition, long, stable marriages are out, and divorce or separation are in, along with serial cohabitation and increasingly contingent liaisons. Not surprisingly, this new environment of perennially conditional, no-fault unions was also seen as ushering in an era of more or less permanent sub-replacement fertility.

Europe has also seen a surge in “child-free” adults—voluntary childlessness. The proportion of childless 40-something women is one in five for Sweden and Switzerland, and one in four for Italy. In Berlin and in the German city-state of Hamburg, it’s nearly one in three, and rising swiftly. Europe’s most rapidly growing family type is the one-person household: the home not only child-free, but partner- and relative-free as well. In Western Europe, nearly one home in three (32%) is already a one-person unit, while in autonomy-prizing Denmark the number exceeds 45%. The rise of the one-person home coincides with population aging. But it is not primarily driven by the graying of European society, at least thus far: Over twice as many Danes under 65 are living alone as those over 65.

Lest one suspect that there is something about this phenomenon that is culturally specific to Western countries, we have Japan, whose fabled “Asian family values” are now largely a thing of the past. Contemporary Japanese women have lifestyle options that were unthinkable for their grandmothers, including divorce, separation, cohabitation and remaining single. Japanese women are availing themselves of these new choices.

Much the same has been taking place around East and Southeast Asia for at least a generation. From South Korea to Singapore, China is rimmed by countries where marriage is being postponed or, increasingly, forgone; where networks of extended kin are withering due to extreme sub-replacement fertility; and where childlessness is on the rise.

Thus far the Chinese mainland has been conspicuously resistant to these trends. Yet according to the 2011 Hong Kong census, 22% of the Chinese territory’s women in their late 30s were unmarried—almost the same as for Japan. Further, over 30% of Hong Kong’s women in their early 40s are childless, more than doubling in 15 years. Similar, albeit somewhat less accentuated, tendencies are reported in Taiwan.

America, Europe and the highly modernized reaches of East and Southeast Asia are affluent and “globalized.” But the undoing of previously accepted family arrangements is also under way in seemingly traditional low-income societies—Muslim-majority societies in particular. Although it has attracted strangely little attention, a flight from marriage within the Arab world is in process, led by masses of women who wish to bend or break the rules of family life to which their mothers had submitted.

According to the U.N. Population Division’s “World Marriage Data 2012,” the proportion of never-married women in their late 30s was higher in Morocco in 2004 than in the U.S. in 2009 (18% vs. 16%). By the same token, the percentage of single women in their early 40s was higher in Lebanon in 2007 than in Italy in 2010 (22% vs. 18%). And nearly 32% of Libyan women in their late 30s were unmarried in 2006—20 times the percentage barely two decades earlier, even higher than for Denmark in 2011 (29%).

Our world-wide flight from family constitutes a significant international victory for self-actualization over self-sacrifice, and might even be said to mark a new chapter in humanity’s conscious pursuit of happiness. But these voluntary changes also have unintended consequences. The deleterious impact on the hardly inconsequential numbers of children disadvantaged by the flight from the family is already plain enough. So too the damaging role of divorce and out-of-wedlock childbearing in exacerbating income disparities and wealth gaps—for society as a whole, but especially for children. Yes, children are resilient and all that. But the flight from family most assuredly comes at the expense of the vulnerable young.

That same flight also has unforgiving implications for the vulnerable old. With America’s baby boomers reaching retirement, and a world-wide “gray wave” around the corner, we are about to learn the meaning of those implications firsthand.

In the decades ahead, ever more care and support for seniors will be required, especially for the growing contingent among the elderly who will be victims of dementia, or are childless and socially isolated. Remember, a longevity revolution is also under way. Yet by some cruel cosmic irony, family structures and family members will be less capable, and perhaps also less willing, to provide that care and support than ever before.

That contradiction promises to frame an overarching social problem, not just in so-called developed countries but throughout the world. It is far from clear that humanity is prepared to cope with the consequences of its impending family deficit, with increasing independence for those traditionally most dependent on others—i.e., the young and old. Public policies are the obvious candidate for the task. But as the past century of social policy has demonstrated, government is a highly imperfect substitute for family—and a very expensive one.”

Marriage doesn’t seem to be treated as a big deal anymore, except Same-Sex Marriage (which I believe, once fully legalized in all 50 states, will be treated like straight marriage in every way), and while I have many more friends who have or would tie the not than those who haven’t or would not, there are many people I suspect won’t go for it. And of course even among those who are married, many are choosing to not have kids or limit themselves- why isn’t the point of this blog, except that from an economic standpoint a gray wave means more need for services for seniors but fewer workers able to provide. Japan is the future of what will happen to American in about 25 years. Already my home state of Delaware is slowly aging. 25% of residents in Sussex County are seniors and that number grows as retirees move in and young people move away.

Then there’s the cultural mentality: Girlfriends and wives are referred to as a “ball and chain” who keep guys like me from having sex and achieving our dreams because they nag all day. For women, men are either perceived by the media as pathetic, useless losers who need their wives/girlfriends to save them, or absent/unimportant altogether. Then there’s an entire legion of women complaining that a lot of guys would honestly just rather play video games and eat Hot Pockets than get a job and have a serious relationship, leaving guys like me surrounded by a whole culture of Pick Up Artists and those seeking Tinder-style hookups. And yes some women are just as bad as any of these guys.

Now most of us guys are not Christian Grey-billionaires with hardcore sexual fantasies (another definition of ‘ball and chain’ if I ever needed one) but, fantasy fiction aside, I want to hear what you think: Does marriage still matter? Am I weird if I still think it does? Or is it much better to stay single than have one’s life ruined by divorce?

note: this article also appeared in the Wall Street Journal, published February 23, 2015:

The Obvious Answer to Why Boys Read Less than Girls

I love switching out planned topics for new ones at the last minute. Answering this question “Why don’t boys read as much as girls?” Is one of those unexpected but elephant-in-the-room questions when it comes to kids books.

Today’s pondering article, from The Book Seller: (spelling differences left in their original form).

“The children’s book market is in fantastic health. As The Bookseller have reported, in 2014, children’s book sales were up by almost 10 percent, year-on-year — particularly impressive in the context of an overall decline in print book sales — and this shortlist shows why: it’s a brilliant selection of books, demonstrating how much imagination, creativity and talent exists in children’s publishing at the moment.

Selling books to boys is difficult. As has been discussed elsewhere, only 3 of the 18 authors on the Waterstones shortlists are men (one of them, G.R. Gemin, is a Nosy Crow author, shortlisted for his fantastic debut novel Cowgirl).

Boys don’t read as much as girls. Tempting as it might be to dismiss that statement as a gross generalisation, it is objectively, statistically the case. Recent research by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) found that more parents of girls said that their child read daily than parents of boys (75 percent vs 68 percent). Parents of girls were also more likely than parents of boys to report that their child enjoyed stories “a lot” (83 percent vs 74 percent). And girls are almost twice as likely as boys (18 percent vs 10 percent) to read stories more without than with an adult.

This is what motivated us (please excuse the shameless self-promotion) to create our Jack and the Beanstalk app. More than any of our other apps, Jack and the Beanstalk is aimed at reluctant boy readers. It has an emphasis on reading for pleasure, built within a “game-like” architecture — a non-linear narrative, a “scoring” mechanism, multiple endings — that we think works well at encouraging boys who love on-screen gaming to participate in a reading experience.

I don’t mean, by all this, that because we’ve found ways of using screens to engage some boys with reading that we can give up on print (and it would be foolish to think so: while the children’s print market enjoyed its meteoric growth last year, digital revenues remained stubbornly small).”

Um…I can answer this question. And no, non-linear books on e-readers won’t solve the problem.

When I was a kid I read a lot of books in: Goosebumps, Fear Street (R.L. Stine’s Teen series), Hardy Boys,  Encyclopedia Brown, Harry Potter, and some sci-fi books like Ender’s Game and my favorite, Boat of a Million Years (not a kid’s book but still a good read). Later in my teens I read more manga like Naruto, One Piece, Bleach, Worst,and Elfen Lied. What did they all have in common? Other than HP, which was more mystery-oriented plots, all the other books had more action and drama and less “feeling” about characters. Action and mystery, not narrative prose, drove the plots.

Heck even my video games had more substance than the teen books offered to me as “bestsellers”. I was simply not interested in Twilight and general romance novels, or the typical BS which may win critical acclaim but sell few copies (like how many Oscar winners are well-received by critics but rarely do well at the box office) which is a lot of what is published as Young Adult (teen readers). So the Japanese mange gave me: ninja fights, pirate fights, ghost soul fights, high school street brawls, etc.

All of these series, the English and Japanese, still had emotion and character development as part of their backgrounds, but the action drove the plot, not “literary prose” (writing about how one feels about something) which tends to be more published. Granted, there are also thriller novels but most of the more interesting ones are adult-oriented, and thrillers often lack deep character development needed to sell a great series. Go look up the rejection histories of Dr. Seuss, HP, and Chicken Soup if you want to see how great series are not even given the time of day while what the “literary community” wants rarely sells well.

So then, why don’t boys read:

Answer: Too many kid’s books are “female-friendly”. Focused too heavily on romance and “how someone feels” about something, or poltiical correctness (minority books with minority settings- I am Latino but I don’t want to read a book about some Hispanic kid living in racist White America trying to get by- how about a Hispanic kid who swings powerful swords and is cocky but brings the heat when it matters? Saves the day because he’s badass and not because he’s Hispanic/Latino? (hmmm). Most literary agents and acquisition editors are women with English lit or Creative Writing degrees, and action adventure books like James Bond are generally frowned upon in the academic world, especially when compared to books like The Great Gatsby, War and Peace, etc.. If you don’t believe me, compare the number of books about ninja/pirate fights published annually to “critically acclaimed” books  minorities living in 1950s racist America or books heavy on female characteristics.

I’m not against these books; they have their own appeal and their own place in literature. But if you want boys to read, how about stuff I want to read and not what adults think kids should be reading.

Your Thoughts: Are Novellas the “New” Novels?

What do you think? Given the advent of e-books and free-books and the cost associated for an indie author to pay for editing and other services, plus the sheer number of content available for download and purchase, will the novella form see a revival? or will novellas, which are like “long short stories”, become a fad because people decide they want longer stories (but not too long!) with more substance? From io9:

“Tor.com is moving aggressively into publishing novellas (or short novels) in e-book format, and they just announced their first list of titles. But why is Tor.com (and everybody else) so convinced that shorter is better for e-books? Editorial assistant Carl Engle-Laird explains.

“When asked why Tor.com is focusing on publishing shorter works as e-books, Engle-Laird tells io9:

When the book wars sweep across the galaxy, and the blood of publishers runs down the gutters of every interstellar metropolis, the resource we fight for will not be paper, or ink, or even money. It will be time. For our readers, time is the precious commodity they invest in every book they decide to purchase and read. But time is being ground down into smaller and smaller units, long nights of reflection replaced with fragmentary bursts of free time. It’s just harder to make time for that thousand-page novel than it used to be, and there are more and more thousand-page novels to suffer from that temporal fragmentation.

Enter the novella, an old form with a new lease on life. We expect that the reader who has to fit their reading into their daily commute will appreciate a novella they can finish in a week, rather than a year. We’ll be releasing books that can be begun and completed on just one of those rare evenings of uninterrupted reading pleasure. And we think this will resonate especially with those readers who have so much reading to do that they’ve compressed their habit into a portable device.

Of course, Tor.com won’t just be a science fiction publisher. Our fantasy sensibilities insist on reminding you that novellas aren’t just the future of genre, they’re also our past. Science fiction and fantasy were born in penny dreadfuls, came of age in magazines, and novellas have been essential to their development, from The War of the Worlds to The Shadow Over Innsmouth to Empire Star. Tor.com wants to carry that fantastical history into a future that is beginning to outgrow its magazine predicates, but has no need to outpace its love of excellent stories at the length in which they were meant to be told.”

Will YouTube soon replace all other TV options?

YouTube and its logo are owned by Google, Inc.

Note: I originally published this on LinkedIn on February 16, 2015. Nonetheless I think the concept is interesting as we continue the transition from physical media towards digital media.

This weekend YouTube turned 10 years old. What started out as a channel without a clear purpose (including turning it into a possible online dating site) now is a global brand, complete with original shows, celebrities, ad revenue, and now the status of being the place to go for video clips of pretty much anything- even news. As more people drop expensive cable packages which bundle channels together and make people pay for channels they don’t want, the internet is seeing an increase in traffic to websites with programming. In one corner is YouTube, a free video watching service which runs ads (except on select channels where they now charge a subscription fee in exchange for removing ads); in the other are sites like Netflix, Amazon, and Hulu, where one must either pay a subscription, pay per content ordered, or select only certain programs free with ads and pay for newer or ad-free content.

Given that YouTube is immensely popular, especially with the under-25 crowd (a Nielsen Books study shows YouTube is in the top 3 leisure activities in terms of hours spent per week for kids ages 11-17), it seems like YouTube will soon replace old-fashioned TV as the place for people to go for new content. With YouTube’s advertisement-based model for free-to-view content, might this be the future of TV? The others rely on paying customers, either by subscription or by individually purchasing a TV program or movie (as Amazon does, for example-you can buy stand-alone episodes or an entire season of a show), or on the Freemium model (Hulu has select free shows which run ads, or you pay for a subscription to get a bigger library of shows) and as those of us who navigate the world of online platform building know, people really love free stuff. If the price to pay is occasionally sitting through a couple of ads, so be it.

As someone who has his own (inactive) channel (and a total of 2 subscribers-thanks mom and dad) and who is in the process of developing a channel for a nonprofit, along with the one I currently manage for CRI, the question will be whether YouTube will continue to be the place to go for people who want to find an audience to share content but who are very much likely to be swamped by the mind-boggling hours of videos uploaded every hour. What made YouTube so appealing was its a) ease of processing videos for streaming and b) user-generated content that made everyone feel like you could be the next viral star (if that’s what you wanted) or you could post something you thought needed to be shared and leave it to the world to find it, regardless of viral success or not.

But if YouTube begins to replace TV will more original programming, be they “planned” (scripted or set shows) shows and movies or YouTube celebrity channels with higher-resolution cameras and video production, will YouTube still be seen as the place to go for original content? Will viewer stay content with often crudely created videos filmed off webcams or low-cost camera equipment, usually without mics? Or will the better-produced programming completely take over? And will viewers accept a subscription model for select channels, or will users go look for another website which continues the tradition of free user generated content? I’m curious to hear your thoughts about the future of this global powerhouse site.

Sam Ramirez Friedman is the Communications Director of the Caesar Rodney Institute. You can connect with him on LinkedIn or on twitter @sammydrf

Will you be S.A.D. on Valentine’s Day?

Valentine’s Day is our annual reminder of Singles Awareness Day (SAD) for those of us who will not spend time with our significant others because we don’t have any. Now we single people (especially us guys) may appreciate not having to spend a lot of money on various flowers, chocolates, jewelry, teddy bears, or nice dinners, but the number of people who truly enjoy single-hood is lower than the number of people who would be happy (even if grudgingly) pick up the phone or visit a website and make a reservation at a restaurant if only to be with someone they love when most everyone else we know is.

Yes, Valentine’s Day may be a (formerly) Christian holiday which now has a lot of commercial aspects to it, like Christmas, but I am sure the hundreds of people who will blow up my social media feeds this weekend (if they haven’t already) will not care one iota about this fact as they take a moment to celebrate life with someone they love.

Speaking of love, one of my close personal friends just got married yesterday to his long-time fiancée. I am extremely happy for both of them and I wish them the best going forward. It was a small ceremony with fewer than ten people allowed into the room because it was a court wedding. But the looks on the bride and groom’s faces was worth even more than the beautiful wedding rings they gave each other.

Now don’t misunderstand me- I’m not jealous; I am truly happy for everyone who will be happy tomorrow. As of this writing I am O.K. being single because I understand relationships and (gulp!) marriage is a big commitment and a life-changer at that. I would like to be in a better financial and living situation before I think I would be ready to go ring-shopping for anyone.

So that’s my 2 minute observation about a day where instead of romance I’ll spring for the vodka, pizza, and a few House of Cards episodes and hope that is more than enough compensation.

P.S. don’t forget to subscribe to my newsletter and follow my blog! Okay, shameless pitch over. And don’t forget to like me on Twitter @sammydrf. I don’t spend a lot of time playing the follow-back game but I usually use courtesy to follow people back if they follow me.

The Minimum Wage’s Negative Effect on Bookstores

Last year was a breakthrough year for those who believe the minimum wage (MW) needs to be increased. Even as those who showed up to vote last November voted mostly Republican, minimum wage hikes were passed in four states: Arkansas, Alaska, Nebraska, and South Dakota, all with large conservative populations, voted for some type of minimum wage increase. Other locales like San Francisco voted to raise their minimum wage to the $15/hour mark, a move which will be gradually phased in over time.

Why are MW increases so popular? It’s not that hard to see why. If you work an hourly job (your job is paid by the hours you work and is not guaranteed like a salary) you are being told you will make more money from your “greedy” employer, typically a fast-food or big-box chain, who is deliberately screwing you over to keep profits for themselves. Therefore the government will “give you” a higher salary, which will come out of the profit margins of big-box stores and their ilk. The truth is most business owners do not intentionally pay low wages in order to “screw over” their employees; market forces and other factors like cost of living and tax rates impact how much a business owner pays workers. $10.10 an hour in South Dakota is sufficient for the average worker to get by (wage does not count other federal or state benefits for low-income workers which are available), but $15 an hour in Manhattan would keep a worker in poverty. Now $10.10 an hour isn’t going to make people wealthy, but if you’re being promised a few extra hundred or thousand in take-home pay, you’re going to be supportive of these measures.

Also a large number of MW employees are young people or immigrants, a fact which is not often highlighted.

What tends to be missed though, is the effect MW hikes have on small businesses without millions or billions in annual sales. For Costco and other large companies, increase wages is manageable due to their size and for some businesses paying employees more is a benefit because they can retain workers and keep turnover low. If the costs are prohibitive they larger businesses can always charge a little extra for their products or services and if customers are willing to pay more for goods or services to support higher wages for employees (or healthcare for employees), this works for some businesses.

Indie bookstores are in a unique position, which is why I’m focusing on them today. Unlike most businesses, book prices are printed on the books by the publishers and indie bookstores don’t have flexibility to adjust their prices upward to cover the rising MW. Coupled with increasing demand for e-books and Amazon’s increasing status as the go-to place for books, a lot of indies are in trouble. The most recent news here was the closing announcement from a San-Francisco bookstore which came to the conclusion that the “City by the Bay”  was going to have MW wages too high to keep the bookstore open past the end of March(note: the owners say they have a cafe in the store which can survive the MW increase). They aren’t the only SF bookstore to take a hit, either.

Shelf Awareness has an entire article dedicated to this issue facing all bookstores, but especially indies. While many store owners or managers say they’d like to pay their employees more (this is a common sentiment for the vast majority of business owners- very few are truly miserly), economic realities just don’t allow for it for them. Between increased costs, inflation, and competition from Amazon and other e-book distributors, MW hikes have a real shot at closing down a lot more stores than Borderlands.

Of course some will argue Amazon and other e-book distributors are the real “culprits” but MW increases have a real chance at hastening the demise of the indie bookstore.

Another publication!

Writing about Intellectual Property, mind you, not for fiction. Watchdog.org is “a collection of independent journalists covering state-specific and local government activity. The program began in September 2009, a project of Franklin Center for Government & Public Integrity, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to promoting new media journalism.

Our established investigative journalists and capitol news reporters across the country are doing what legacy journalism outlets prove unable to do: share information, dive deep into investigations, and provide the fourth estate that has begun to fade in recent decades. By enhancing communication between reporters and providing a forum for published journalism, Watchdog.org promotes a vibrant, well-informed electorate and a more transparent government.”

The bottom line is that I can’t speak highly enough of the great work they do. Watchdog reporters are doing investigative reporting and holding people accountable, and they do it for free. As a non-profit of course they need donations, which is why it’s so critical for groups like theirs to receive support. 

Anyway, my article is, by coincidence, a follow-up to my recent article about why giving away your work for free forever with no strings attached is a bad idea. The more I see this on Kboards or other blogs the more annoyed I get; yes, there are good legitimate reasons to give away items free IF you meet one of my criteria in that article. But believe me, if perma-free on everything worked, everyone would do it and everyone would make $100,000+ a year just by “building an audience”. All this does is tell me that I should be willing to completely devalue my work for all eternity in the low, low hope that people will discover me against everyone else doing the same thing, think I’m a genius, and suddenly agree to pay $3-$5 for my next book and soon I’ll be making bank like the roughly 1.8% of self-published authors who are instead of the roughly 90% who certainly will not be quitting their day jobs to write. Especially if you don’t write romance or mystery.

This argument is about “creations of the mind” like books, movies, music, etc., and why we must respect these copyrights. Unfortunately the digital age it’s far too easy to simply lift other people’s work and distribute it free to everyone without really attributing it to the original creator, or to end up in a race war to the bottom where eventually someone will come up with the brilliant idea of giving away ALL books free forever, and will just sell a few ads in each book to offset the cost. Naturally, people will get mad at first when authors start selling a few ads in their e-books, but once a few more do it and people realize a few ads are worth it to get everything free, then why should anyone pay for books? It will be just like YouTube, where people expect free videos with the occasional annoying ad they may or may not be able to click out of. Those who are talented, internet/business savvy, and/or lucky will command top dollar and crowd everyone else out, while everyone else will be crushed by the sheer number of free-books available now. Here you go:

“When you ask someone “What makes a culture?” you could come up with many answers, but most of your answers will lead back to Intellectual Property (IP). Music, books, clothing designs, technologies , and new inventions of products or services such as medicines or engine designs are born and thrive in free societies where these ideas are encouraged and respected.

IP is considered “property of the mind” and all the copyrights, trademarks, and legal protections associated with it. The Founding Fathers recognized the importance of protecting these creations and thus, in Article I section 8 of the U.S. Constitution, wrote:

The Congress shall have Power … To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

Read the full article here

Five Reasons I Believe You Should NOT Give Away your Books Perma-Free

Should you give away any of your books for free, forever on the internet? This topic is frequently posted on the Kboards site of which I am an infrequent poster. If you didn’t know before Kboards.com is an Amazon-affiliated messaging board for writers, authors, editors, and anyone else involved in producing indie books. While a few of the editors and authors also have traditionally published books, most of the posters are like you and me, self-published or never-published types.

The consensus from most of the authors on that site, ranging from “small fish” to “big fish”, is that yes, give away free books on Amazon. Lots of books. Maybe just the first one or two you write, maybe the first in every new series. The argument goes like this: If I, anonymous author, want to get visibility, I need to let people “test drive” my book first. Not by merely provided sample chapters from a book before you buy, but the big kahuna. Then people will be more willing to give me a chance, and thousands will download my book free. Then when I charge $3.99 or $4.99 for the next book or rest of the series, people who liked it will pay the money knowing they liked it. After all, in a free market economy, don’t we all want the maximum value for the lowest price?

To be honest, I don’t think free-books is such a great idea as a long-term strategy. While innovation is based on people experimenting with new ways of doing things, the adage that “if it was such a great idea then everyone would do it” also bears some truth. Not that I am NOT talking about sending free copies for review, or having a special deal of “sign up for my e-newsletter” or “buy 2 get 1 free” or “buy a book and get a free bookmark or customized stylus pen” or “free e-book for 30 days”. Act now!. I am talking about leaving your work free, forever, to anyone who wants to download it, with no strings attached. I also included 5 reasons it MIGHT work for you.

“But,” you say, “so-and-so indie-published author did perma-free and she went from 10 sales a week to 500 a day! Clearly it works for everyone.”

Ahem, my friend, if this was true for everyone then all authors, including mid-list or low-list authors whose trad-pub contracts are expiring, would stop trying to seek a literary agents and would instead throw their product up on the web for free, assuming that somehow people will recognize the genius of their book and by book 2 or 3 so many copies will be purchased you won’t have to ever get a literary agent. It will not happen with 99% certainty. Below are my five reasons NOT to give away any of your books perma-free:

1. A well-published book, print or e-book, has costs. Editing, graphic design, advertising (if you choose), and most importantly, your time. What else could you have done instead of write? Yes everyone loves free samples and free stuff, but you tell me ONE business which gives away labor for free for all eternity without getting something in return and I will check dailyjobcuts.com to see if they’re still in business. While there is a high percentage of our population which never wants to pay for anything, most people are willing to pay at least a token amount for a product or service.

2. Giving away a “test drive” is no guarantee of future sales. Unless you just want people to read your story and costs and connection don’t matter much, you can’t be sure that test driving an entire book will somehow make people fall in love with your story. First off, how many people download your book and actually read it? How many WANT to discover new writers, instead of just scoring free e-books? And finally, the more someone pays for a book the more likely someone is to actually read it. I’m not saying price e-books at $9.99, but do you think a person who spends $5 is more or less likely to read at least some of a book than one they got free?

“But,” someone says, “e-books technically don’t exist since you create one copy and an unlimited number of people can download the file and it costs roughly zero dollars after the first e-copy.” True, but you still paid for editing, graphic design, maybe even beta readers for that one e-book. With REAL money.

3. The average book sells fewer than 500 copies in its entire lifetime. Now maybe you’re the superior author and it will turn out that giving away one book and selling 50,000 next time will happen to you. But think of the odds; if you are unlucky enough to be even “slightly above-average”, you will not make enough money from book 2 on to cover what you spent on book 1. Plus there’s the cost and value of your time. Don’t expect a free-book to necessarily get lots of downloads, and expect even fewer people to be interested. If you are “average Joe or Jane” and you sell 450 of each book, think of how many you would have to write to make up for book #1 being free forever at no cost.

3. Your new (and old) competition. “When you offer your work for free, you set yourself up for a massive new competition—namely, all the free stuff on the internet. Seriously. You are now competing with all public domain work (H. P. Lovecraft, Mary Shelley, Bram Stoker, etc.), fanfiction, and freebies from other writers of your own status or higher—not to mention torrents of books from popular authors. If you think competing with the open market is hard, try competing with the above.” (K.H. Koehler)

4. You are NOT guaranteed lots of reviews because you gave it away for free (K.H. Koehler and my own observations). For example, I have accepted free e-books in exchange for reading them and posting reviews on Amazon. That author may have 25 reviews but no sales, and all of his reviews he got from soliciting people like me to read them for free. Plus his time and money.

5. If you get caught up in the “free-book” movement then your followers may start to expect it. Yes, one or maybe two won’t hurt your reputation IF you are talented and savvy enough to sell significantly more copies. But start doing it at the beginning of every series? 1. you’re losing money on your work and costs that someone would have paid for (who among Orson Scott Card’s fans regret paying for Ender’s Game?) and 2. Don’t be surprised when you DO charge for your books and suddenly find a lot of your “fans” are a lot less enthusiastic to pay you for your work. Remember, I’m talking about throwing up your book to the universe for free forever. Are there really no people just looking for free stuff?

Even Brian Jud, a book-marketing consultant who supports perma-free, wrote (italics mine): “Invest in your future by giving books away now. But only do so with the expectation that you will be repaid with additional revenue over the long haul.

So then, are there times to give away free work forever? There actually are, but only if you’re going to meet any of the following criteria:

1. You’re giving away smaller content or content which no one would reasonably be expected to pay for. For example, short stories, sample chapters, a “guide” to your fictional universe, poetry, etc. This is done to highlight your main work to get them to the “prize”.

2. You’re getting something in return for your free-book. E-mail subscribers? Twitter, Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook followers? a book review in a place where it’s likely people are going to see it? Free services like beta reading and reviews? Anything at all.

3. At the very beginning of your writing career AND/OR you are really unsure if you’re going in the right direction– I am in this spot and the temptation to offer a free-book is tempting; why should I get to charge anyone? If you want to dip your toe in the water, or test a radical concept this may work. Then see rule #2 above.

4. If you are seeking publication which does not offer payment for publication. Self-publishing has lots of advantages, but if you can get published in a credible publishing establishment, take it. This section is for tiny publishers or academic journals where you’re mainly seeking a little prestige or ego boost. Especially if you’re just starting out AND #3 above.

5. You have a serious, solid plan for what you’re doing. If you have a well-planned long-term strategy for exactly how you will generate interest, or make money, giving away a free-book could get you the initial attention you want

So that’s my list. Feel free to send in your own ideas of why you should (not) give away your books perma-free. I’ll sweeten the deal: If I get at least five unique comments on this blog, I’ll choose one of you who posted at random and send a $5 gift card to you for Amazon or B&N, your choice. This is a way for me to build engagement. See? I’ll pay to get something in return.

The Problems with Children’s Lit in 2 Graphs (Super Bowl Edition)

First off, let me say American Sniper is a 5/5 movie. Bradley Cooper surprised me by playing the part of Chris Kyle well, naturally, as though it really was Kyle and not an actor playing a former Navy SEAL. I HIGHLY recommend this movie to anyone who wants to see war through the eyes of a person who actually went to Iraq and fought.

Second, Children’s lit. Publisher’s Launch is a project of Michael Cader of Publishers Lunch and PublishersMarketplace.com and Mike Shatzkin of The Idea Logical Company to provide better data analytics on the book pub world to publisher’s. Such as, who’s buying what and what the trends are for literature and literacy, two big issues I care about. Education is so important to me that I do a lot of grassroots work to improve education but that’s a post for another time.

Jonathan Nowell of Nielsen Book had a presentation at Publisher Launch’s Launch Kids session at the most recent Digital Book World conference called “A look at the US Children’s book Market”. He posted his slideshow to the ‘net, for those of us who couldn’t go.

As someone who read a fair amount of kid’s books, and who just finished manuscript #1 for a middle grade novel, here is what’s wrong with children’s lit in 2 graphs: 

The takeaways:

1. Notice the book is missing from graph #1 for kids 14-17. For most American children once they turn 11 books drop off and YouTube and TV take its place.

2. By 14 social media and mobile devices are more important. Reading drops out of the top 8 slots and even sports drop towards the bottom. I was surprised that gaming was less interesting than Facebook and YouTube among teens. This must explain the rise in watching strangers on YouTube play video games and “commentate” rather than actually picking up the controller yourself like I did when I was a teen. Let me note: They are watching random strangers just play games and talk. Whenever I wanted to watch someone play a game and talk, I would go to friend’s houses and do the same thing! But I digress.

This sadly means it’s tougher to get kids and teens to read, which is noticeable when 80% of Young Adult books are bought by adults, for adults. Unless..

3. Graph #2 shows the rise in getting YouTube (and presumably other) internet celebrities in “writing books”. Now to be fair I’ve never heard of any of the celebrities listed on graph 2, but I found this tidbit on “Girl Online” by Zoe Sugg, who goes by the name “Zoella” online. The article notes that Zoe’s debut novel outsold other major authors like J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, and E.L. James. Apparently, though, her first week accounted for nearly all of her sales as she has since petered out near the 100,000 mark, surprising given that she has close to 7 million YouTube subscribers. She apparently did not actually write the novel; it was ghostwritten, a rather unusual thing for fiction novels, unless you’re bestselling author “Snooki” from the Jersey Shore.

No doubt the internet was a useful tool to help these YouTube stars, of which I am not one of them (I think I’m too old), sell books. However, in the long run, whose books sell better? The three authors Zoe beat, or Zoe? We all know the answer. Now in the short-term, getting celebrities of all stripes (internet, reality tv, etc.) is a better way of selling books than relying on little-known debut novelists with smaller platforms and fewer social media followers. You fans will go buy a book because it’s “you” and, like, you’re famous. BUT again, what are the odds of these books becoming the next Harry Potter/Twilight/Hunger Games/Stephen King just because they have a celebrity’s name on it? Want to place a bet?

I can tell you why. At the end of the day it’s the product quality, not the person/people endorsing the product, which determines a product’s success. While I acknowledge I am a bit envious of my far-fewer social media follower status in promoting anything I have, I can say in the long run relying too heavily on poor-quality celebrity books, even to get kids to read, is not the answer. The kids who are not fans of these celebrities just won’t read or will go back to reading other things by established authors. I love Lord of the Rings, I consider it one of the all-time greatest fantasy series ever, but it’s a little sad to me when 2 of the top 5 best-selling Fantasy novels for January are by a man who’s been dead for 42 years, as though literally no one in the world can ever write a good fantasy book again.

Please share your thought about whether you think it’s a good idea for book publishers to rely heavily on celebrity-driven books, or take risks on little-known or unknown debut novelists. Remember. celebrity books are nothing new or bad. They can certainly boost sales at least in the short run over non-famous persons. My argument is that relying on internet & reality T.V. celebrities to “write” kid’s books is not a good long-term trend for brand development and literacy improvement.

The full report is here

SUPER BOWL PICK: I will be rooting for New England with my Pats shirt on at the bar tomorrow. Initially I had Seattle 27-16, but I’m more torn on it now. New England plays very well with the “us against the world mentality” and for that reason I leaned towards NE. But Seattle has shown the ability to do their best no matter what the other teams do, and can the Pats defense stop Lynch and Wilson?

The key players are Gronk vs. Wilson. I’ll go closer but I say Seattle 26 New England 23. Seattle’s defense has been very good at shutting down good offenses and even with the injuries in the back 7 I don’t know how good New England’s defense will be at slowing down the Seattle run game, even IF their WR’s are mediocre.