Better to write “great” lit or “mainstream” lit?

A few months ago this article was published in The Telegraph and few people picked up on it, though I think for those who like to write, this is an important topic and question:

1. Is it better to write “respectable” literature, say 1984, Wuthering Heights, Frankenstein, or “mainstream” lit like The Fault in Our Stars or ye olde vampire romance?

“Last year, when literary fiction seemed to fall either into the category of formal experiment (Ali Smith’s How to Be Both; Will Self’s Shark) or into an essentially 19th-century tradition (Neel Mukherjee’s The Lives of Others; Richard Flanagan’s The Narrow Road to the Deep North), one book cut through all that by simply being intimate, direct yet oddly mysterious. Last Tuesday, it was longlisted for the Baileys Prize for Women’s Fiction, a belated flicker of attention for a novel that deserves far more.

Samantha Harvey’s Dear Thief was published last September to excellent reviews, and was, to my mind, one of the most beguiling novels of the year. It was the third book by an author whose 2009 debut had won significant prizes and seemed to promise further fame. It was published by Dan Franklin at Jonathan Cape, arguably Britain’s most respected editor of literary fiction. It had the marketing and publicity machine of Penguin Random House behind it. Its cover – admittedly a sombre and indistinct affair – carried a blurb from Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, who referred to its “profound beauty”. In The New Yorker, the influential literary critic James Wood singled it out for a sustained hymn of praise, calling it “a beautiful, tentative success, a novel with no interest in conformity”. In short, Dear Thief couldn’t have had more going for it.

But just a few months after its initial hardback publication in the UK last September – and a long way ahead of its paperback publication in autumn 2015 – few people had heard of it, and even fewer could lay their hands on it. In bookshops, it was barely stocked. By last week, it had sold just over 1,000 copies in Britain (compare that with sales of Martin Amis’s books, which generally reach about 25,000).

What happened? The story of Dear Thief is the story of how our best fiction can get lost, and how hard it is for readers to find the books they’ll love.”

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Now this is a separate argument from whether you should self-publish or not. This is going on over at Goodreads, and I would argue that you have no choice. But for those of you who don’t care about whether a major publisher picks up your work,

First off, I am all for contests and prizes, yada yada. But let’s face it- a lot of these “lit” contests are run by folks who generally look down on writing styles which aren’t “sophisticated” enough for them. I did not read this book, and while I don’t want to see Ms. Harvey’s book struggle to make sales, perhaps it’s true that getting the respect of their Most Exalted Holinesses of the English Lit and Creative Writing departments at Ye Olde college/university wasn’t the same as convincing Joe and Jane Smith on the street, who may not even be avid readers, to pick this book up. I should know: I tried twice to nominate work for the Narrative Magazine prize. Me not winning wasn’t what bothered me; it’s what did win which made me think, “Hm?” The winner’s writings were typically kind of…boring. More focused on artsy prose to show of the artistic flair and not on getting to the point that the average reader could understand or be interested in, especially in this day of endless content on the internet. I tried reading a few of the pieces and yes, the writing was sharp and focused. But it wasn’t compelling.

As for me, I write what I feel most comfortable doing. Since it isn’t like I have a choice anyway, I will leave it up to the public to distract themselves just long enough to see if my work is something they would be interested in. Regardless of whether you want to write “artsy prose” or “tabloid trash”, just make sure you don’t a) insult the reader’s intelligence and b) Please, don’t make the writing boring, with endless paragraphs about the backstories of minor characters. Believe me, authors do this, even the bestsellers.

And if you or I writes something that is both “great” and “mainstream”, well kudos to you/me then.

Follow-up Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work.

There’s a blogger named Delilah at Whimsydark.com who apparently got a lot of interest in a controversial blogpost. As she correctly noted, people do not visit blogs for self-help or for improvement. Folks want juicy controversy, which explains the multi-billion dollar gossip industry. Which is why it’s much easier to criticize pirating and get emotional over how evil and vile the “Big Five” and Amazon are, because the more radical one is, the more hits one gets. That’s the reality of our internet lifestyle.

So below is her controversial post, and my thoughts. Pay attention, class. School is in session. You can call me the professor.

Note: I am a subscriber to Delilah’s blog. I think this is worth checking out.

Please shut up: Why self-promotion as an author doesn’t work.

April 13, 2015

Let’s talk about marketing, shall we?

It’s 2012. I’m sitting at a table in the front of the room, a microphone poised to capture my every word. At this local writing conference, I am considered a rock star. Everyone in the audience wants what I have–a three-book contract with a traditional publishing company. Their eyes are hungry, their pens poised over notebooks. We take a question from the crowd.

“How do I build a platform and make money with my blog?” a woman asks.

“Build a time machine and go back to 2005 and start your blog then,” I say.

Because it’s the truth. In this oversaturated market, the only ways to build a following and profit from it are to have been around for 5-10 years already or to already be famous. The woman sits down, unhappy with my answer. But no one else on the panel has a better one. Because there is no easy answer, no secret to building a following.

Scary, right?

It scares me, too.

From the very beginning of my writing career, I’ve been told that publishers want a writer to have a brand, a platform, a blog, a built-in army of fans. But that was 2009, and now it’s 2015, and that doesn’t work anymore. Book blogs become paid services, giveaways become chum pits, conference-goers dump purses full of business cards out in the trash to make room for more free books that they won’t read. It is virtually impossible to get your blog seen or your book discovered. We are glutted with information, and yet our answer to “How do I get people to buy my book?” is social media marketing, which is basically throwing more information out into the void.

Why?

B&B note: Yes, there are far too many websites and far too many distractions. This is why I say there will never be another Harry Potter book again- it’s not about whether HP is the greatest book series ever written. Even if hypothetically someone wrote books as good as that, you have far more distractions and competition than Harry Potter did in the late 1990s, when the first books came out. So if you though kids like me (I was a kid in the late 1990s) were distracted with Playstation and Nintendo64, now add social media, free games, free apps, Netflix, bing-watching television, and the glut of free stuff on the net, combined with the threat of piracy, and a struggling economy, and now you see why it’s so hard for anyone to pay attention, especially to books. Plus, the number of new children declines as the birth rate declines, meaning in 30 years, barring a sudden revival in baby-making, there won’t be enough kids to make children’s book publishing profitable. AND an increasing number of young people can’t read, thanks to an inept public education system.

1. Because Twitter doesn’t sell books.

It is a sad fact that if every one of my Twitter followers–which is 9,631, as of this post– bought my next book, HIT would hit the New York Times bestseller list. BOOM. Easy. One success like that helps an author with every stage of their career, raising their advances, giving them more bargaining power, and lending them a sort of street cred that even my grouchy Luddite grandfather understands and respects. Looking at my sales numbers, my followers are not following me for the purpose of buying my next book, and that’s totally okay. They’re probably there for my brownie recipes and #badscarystories. But the point is that whatever a publisher sees when checking my Klout score doesn’t necessarily translate into book sales. Whatever form of alchemy causes a person to click BUY IT NOW runs deeper than simply hearing the message every two hours as if the author is an insane cuckoo clock.

B&B: The free twitter services aren’t bad, but how many people do you know go to Twitter to buy books?

2. Because Facebook hides posts for blackmail purposes.

Back in 2007, Facebook was beautiful in its simplicity. You posted something to your personal page or your Fan/Author/Brand page, and everyone who was your Friend or Follower saw it. Since then, however, Facebook has recognized the error of allowing us to speak to our friends for free, and now, of my 1836 Fans, only 3-10% see any given post on the Author page that they have chosen to follow for the express purpose of reading my posts. If I pay $20, I could bump that number up to 30%. I would have better luck randomly mailing postcards to strangers. No matter what I say or how beautifully I say it, my message doesn’t reach the people who have asked to hear it.

B&B: Score one for Delilah! Little to people know that Facebook actually makes you pay TWICE to get everyone possible to see it. This is due to their algorithm changes, which affect who can see your posts. They do this because they can.

3. Because people aren’t on Instagram to find new books.

I got on Instagram hoping to reach people who prefer beautiful images. As an artist, I love setting up shots, tweaking the exposure, and using filters. But let’s be honest. Seeing a beautiful photo of my book sitting on my orange sweater beside a Pop-Tart isn’t going to make you go buy that book. Even if you judge a book by its cover, Instagram isn’t how people shop for great reads. I get more <3’s when I take pictures of Earl the donkey rubbing his adorable nose on my butt, but I haven’t yet figured out how to monetize that.

B&B: Instagram is the one social media site I don’t use, because I don’t know how to integrate it with my platform yet. I can see the value, but yes- people who go there are not looking to buy books. Same with Pinterest, Facebook, and lots of other places.

4. Because tumblr is not a spectator sport.

I tumbl. I love tumbling. But at 37, I’m practically a corpse over there. I’m not so much part of a vibrant, changing, sharing community as I’m on the sidelines, occasionally curating and adding value but never wanting to be pushy or intrude on the young adult readers I hope to one day call fans. To be honest, inserting myself into convos on tumblr makes me feel like Matthew McConnaughy in Dazed and Confused, when he was the skeever hitting on high school girls. I don’t need to be following or addressing teens, but I do want to be around if they’re looking for me. In a non-creepy way. That mostly involves retumbling my Instagram pics.

B&B: Scratch that, I use WordPress, not Tumblr. Or Snapchat. Or Keek. Or Vine.  Or YikYak. Or a lot of what teens use today. Whoa.

5. Because book reviews are not a place for the author.

I firmly, 100% believe that anyone has a right to express their feelings about my books in any way that they want, and that’s one of many reasons why I’ve removed myself from the realm of reviews. Reading bad reviews makes me feel horrible, and reading good reviews makes me feel creepy and embarrassed. I’m too shy to reach out and ask someone to read or review my book, and approaching book bloggers online out of nowhere feels awkward. Nothing makes me as happy as learning that someone liked one of my books, but I can’t go looking for that information. I turned off my Google Alerts forever after a Goodreads review made me uglycry.

B&B: Agreed that relying on book reviews, good or bad, is dumb. You will live and die emotionally on people who just want to complain, or only say nice things, no matter how shallow their post looks. Having said that, I don’t think I would object to blogpost after blogpost praising my writing and legions of people buying my books.

6. Because I hate newsletters and hashtag parties too much to inflict them on anyone else.

Seriously. I get so many of these invites from strangers and promoters and people who met me once at a con and now want me to retweet them every hour, and I can’t. Y’all, I just can’t. I can’t go to your book launch party in California. I can’t spend an hour when I could be writing just popping in to a virtual party to ask questions and give away $20 worth of my books to your followers. I don’t want to do anything “virtual” that involves ending every post with a hashtag. I have never signed up for a newsletter, so why do I get so many of them (me: :(, she doesn’t subscribe to my blog?!) ? And when I unsubscribe, why do they keep on showing up? Do not even get me started on people who add me to Facebook groups without asking. I will see you in hell.

B&B:  The problem is, there are just so many sites with book readers and writers, you have to tour everywhere and it’s overwhelming just to think about, let alone visit. And many folks hang out in one site, so you’re missing readers.

UGH.

Are you seeing the thread here?

Social media is PUSHING.

B&B: Yup. And bragging about your unexceptional life to strangers, just to get a sliver of attention.

And today’s reader doesn’t buy things because the author pushed them.

As a reader, I want a book to pull me.

When I see a book’s name pop up again and again among people I trust, I want to read it.

When the cover is beautiful and the hook is compelling, I want to read it.

When I meet the author and they are gracious and kind and insightful, I want to read it.

When I listen in on a panel and like what I hear, I want to read it.

When I chat with someone on Twitter, and they make me laugh and add value to my life, I start to think that their book might add value, too.

None of those things are pushy.

None of them happen *to* me, uninvited.

I don’t want to be the object that is acted upon. I want to be the subject that makes a conscious decision, that feels a twinge of curiosity and discovers something amazing. I want to be the person who acts, not the person who is acted upon. I don’t want to be badgered and nagged and wheedled and urged and threatened and cajoled and whined at.

B&B: Okay, this is where I have a slight disagreement with Delilah. This is how advertising works. If GEICO was unsuccessful in getting people to sign up because of all their tv/radio/magazine/newspaper/social media ads, would they keep doing it? Of course not. The reality is, people need to be reminded over and over again. I just sat through 2 hours from a local radio station on advertising, and why I should buy ads with them and I can tell you how this works.

Would fishing be fun if the fish jumped out of the ocean and smacked you in the face?

Nope.

And that’s what a lot of social media by authors is starting to look like, to feel like: being smacked in the face, repeatedly, by hundreds of fish. Being pushed. Being assaulted and yelled at and chased. Being manipulated and prodded and possibly tricked.

That’s not how you earn readers and friends. Literature is not a #teamfollowback sport. B&B: Tell that to the lit agents and publishers, who count the number if twitter/instagram followers you have before they decide to sign you to anything. And then expect that they expect you will push your followers to buy your books.

Books and social media are both about making a genuine connection.

So if you’re a writer who worries as much as I do about online marketing, the best advice I can give you is to chill out and write the next book. To focus your energy on the one thing that’s in your control: writing the best book you possibly can. Focus on editing each sentence to make it sing. Focus on helping your publisher craft a great hook and fabulous cover copy.

Spend your energy and time being kind to your colleagues, thanking your publishing team, and making new friends with no expectation that you will eventually use them to claw your way to the top. Before you Friend another writer on Facebook, make sure it’s because you legitimately want to know them better and be part of their life and not because you’re planning on sending them an Event invitation or a link to your book. If they’re smart enough to write a great book, they’re smart enough to see through that ploy.

Because here’s the secret: None of us know what we’re doing, but we’re all trying our asses off. We are all hungry.

I went to a panel on How to Write a Bestseller at the RWA conference and asked the two speakers what was the number one contributor to their making the jump from midlist to bestseller, and they both looked very uncomfortable and said, “We just kept on writing.” They couldn’t point to a single marketing-related action. They sure as hell didn’t say, “We sent a lot of auto-DMs on Twitter with our book links in them.”

The recipe seems to be GREAT BOOK + HARD WORK + TIME + LUCK.

And the writer can only control three of those things.

B&B Conclusion: Apparently, she  followed up with a post saying she got 50,000 hits on it, but still didn’t sell any books. It’s easier to ‘like’ something online than give money. Speaking of, I liked her synopsis, so I need to be reminded over and over and over to check her book out.

In all seriousness that is all author’s challenge. Why did Twilight sell better than every other vampire romance novel series everywhere? Why Hunger Games but not another dystopia? Why this thriller but not that one? As Delilah noted, no one really knows. Great writing and a great cover help a lot, but it’s luck. Some authors understand this, others do not. But yes, writing lots and lots means EVENTUALLY you might have something people want to pay for.

So my advice: Go forth and write what seems best to you. Promote it, and consider a great book trailer and great giveaways. And if you crack the 1,000 barrier, you get an A from Professor B&B.

I’m for Mobile but Google’s Decision not a Timely One

“Mobilegeddon” is here, so sayeth the newspapers. It officially began yesterday .

Look, I believe in mobile when applicable. If i ran a business, I would want my website to be mobile-friendly as well as desktop friendly, since both are two different experiences. For example, an e-commerce site should make buying on mobile the easiest part of your experience, but the desktop version might limit the storefront to an easy-to-find page or banner on the site and then you might have a blogpost which is featured as well. There are many good sites like Dudamobile which optimize pages for mobile. I’ll post on this soon to give you guys my personal picks about mobile sites.

But Google’s decision is unfair I think because it doesn’t give small businesses, especially those run by older people who barely know how to update a web page, time to go mobile. This also hurts small nonprofits like mine who don’t have the staff and/or resources to constantly be on top of things like SEO and new content, because Google rewards web pages which are frequently updated, and if you’re a 1 (wo)man band, you may not be able to update your page with relevant content daily. Even if you do it every week, Google will still reward people who update more frequently than you.

They should have given people at least 30 days to go mobile, 60 preferred. For me right now, a bump down for my blog page won’t hurt as bad (though wordpress is a mobile-friendly site) but I could see this being calamitous for small, local businesses who provide services and don’t have a social media person paying attention to this news daily. Imagine if all of a suddenly you had a week where your heating and air conditioning repair business wasn’t getting calls. ‘Nuff said.

Pirates vs. Big Corporations: You lose Either Way

 vs.  and 

*disclosure. I meant to post this yesterday but I was…well, it WAS 4/20 and my inner Ganjaness wanted to be satisfied, so…*

About 3000 years ago, a man named Moses came down from the slopes of Mount Sinai and held out two large stone tablets with ten commandments from the Torah (aka Old Testament). These Ten Commandments were the first-known Cliff Notes version of any significant text in recorded human history; taking a very long scroll and condensing it to about 66 words (depending on the exact translation you use). These Commandments are easy to understand and easy to see why they were picked.

*Only kidding above.

One of those ten is “You Shall not Steal.” The Merriam-Webster definition defines the verb “steal” as

to take (something that does not belong to you) in a way that is wrong or illegal

: to take (something that you are not supposed to have) without asking for permission

: to wrongly take and use (another person’s idea, words, etc.)

Today’s lesson is about piracy and whether we should support piracy or the major book/movie/record companies who want to force you to spend a lot on their products, all with DRM to prevent you from accessing your purchased content on a different device than the one you used to buy it. So if I download a song to my Amazon cloud music store onto my laptop, which I paid 99 cents for, they want to set it up so I can’t download Amazon’s mobile music store with that song unless I buy it again for 99 cents. If you share even one of their products with someone else without them paying for it, they get angry.

On the other side we have folks to don’t care much for those four simple words which make up the eight commandment, and who want to take whatever they can because they can and because they don’t want to pay for anything, so they entitle themselves to things from other people, and if you call them out for what they’re doing, which is stealing, they get angry.

The truth is, both sides here are wrong in their actions. Excessively high prices of goods encourage counterfeiting, piracy, and general theft, but these same actions also discourage some people from engaging in the production of goods in the first place, if their rights to their own labors are not respected or protected.

The U.S. Constitution recognized this problem, and defined in Article 1 section 8 Congress’  obligation “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.”  Because this clause is the source of Congress’ power to enact legislation governing copyrights and patents, it is often referred to as the “patent and copyright clause.”

This thread popped up on Kboards and, given what we do, it’s important for us to understand high prices vs. piracy, and how to balance both. Take notes: Your actions might be the difference between success and failure.

First, let’s present the argument in favor of piracy: the so-called “Cartel” the entertainment industry has to stifle competition.

In order to maximize their already-enormous profits, the music, book, and movie industry enacted Digital Rights Management (DRM) protection on their produced works. The argument they claimed was to prevent people from violating “copyright protection” for published works. However, the end result has been to inconvenience, or even criminalize, legitimate behabior like making a backup copying of a cd, sharing a file with a friend, or transferring files from one device you own to another. Opponents of DRM say it’s realyl a way for big buisness to stifle competition, by making it illegal to make “unauthorized uses” of reasonable purchases. Think of DRM as a lock against piracy, and if the technology changes, the “lock” may not be able to be adjusted. But, you still can’t remove the DRM.

Then there’s the prices. $10-15 for a book, album, or movie ticket may not be expensive indidually, but how many of these products will you access at these prices? More than likely you limit yourself to select items because you can’t afford to take a $10-15 (or more- what’s the price for most big 5 hardcovers these days?) “test drive” to find out if you like the product. Yes, you could sample any of these online in advance, but you still cannot guarantee that you will like it and feel like you got your money’s worth. Plus, digital products should not be so expensive. Once an e-file is created, say an e-book, it has no cost besides the initial recovery cost of your investment- editing service, book cover design, maybe a file formatter, some advertising, etc. If technology changes you will probably have to re-format your e-book but otherwise you incur no additional costs because the file technically doesn’t exist as it’s not a physical product, so you don’t have storage or ink to pay for.

I believe a lot of the movement to pirate works began with frustration at high prices for downloads and the reality of of big corporations treating artists/authors and their fans poorly while focusing more on distributors (I will say this is more anecdotal, since polls go in and out about the satisfaction of authors/artists with their publisher/label). Especially since the superstars are all multimillionaires, will they really be losing out because a few hundred or even thousand people downloaded their product free or went to a service which allowed them to sample your work without compensation? It’s hard to say.

Hypothetical scenario: Let’s pick the book Insurgent  by Veronica Roth. I’m picking this one because I looked at movie listings this weekend and this was the first one based on a novel which I saw listed. Say the scenario is: you buy the book and love it so much you want to share it with your friends. The truth is, the book publisher would prefer your friends all buy their own separate copies. If you buy the movie on DVD and you and all your friends watch it in your room together, the movie producer won’t object to this but their far and away preference is for everyone to buy their own separate copies.

Suppose one of your friends doesn’t come when you watch the movie. You lend it out to her, she watches the movie on her laptop, and returns it to you. Have you and your friend engaged in the crime of consuming a media product for free?

By Big Media standards, yes. Your friend has technically watched a copyrighted movie without paying/compensating the copyright owner, so if they could find out you did it, they’d come after you. If you use a program like Handbrake for Mac (open source video transcorder) to upload the movie from a disc onto your Mac, the movie industry will tolerate it ONLY if you use it just for yourself. If you share this file, say with your parents, and they find out about it, expect them to come down hard on you. As proof, recall the cases of the music industry finding people who had made a handful of downloads off Napster and taking them to court.

But most of us would agree that this kind of sharing is not bad. Expecting every person to purchase their own copy of a movie, especially at $25 a pop (HOLY CRAP- $25 FOR A SINGLE DVD?! Better be plated in gold) is a lot, and it would be tough to prove that Ms. Roth or Lionsgate, which produced the movie, was really hurt because you lent it to a friend. In anything, I suspect Ms. Roth would be happy since if your friend never read her books or saw her movies until that point, they might be converted into fans, and it’s possible they might go buy the books or merchandise from whoever I assume sells her merch. For those of us who are indie, whether by choice or by necessity, knowing that people like your work so much they want to share it with their friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors is like a blessing in itself.

Except…

Second, let’s talk about reasons Piracy is bad: the fact that piracy is literally stealing

Let’s revisit that Merriam-Webster definition:

“to take (something that does not belong to you) in a way that is wrong or illegal

: to take (something that you are not supposed to have) without asking for permission

: to wrongly take and use (another person’s idea, words, etc.)”

“the unauthorized use of another’s production, invention, or conception especially in infringement of a copyright”

Piracy IS stealing, regardless of the justification or excuse used for it. Just as it’s wrong to be customer unfriendly and force people to rebuy products they already bought, and criminalize minor peer-to-peer sharing, it’s also wrong to upload someone’s files without permission and then give it away to the world, or worse, sell it without permission and keep the money for yourself.

Some people may want to pay for something, and are put off by exhoribtant prices. Others just want to steal what they can and justify it by pretending that piracy somehow benefits the creator because in theory the pirate “might” buy another one of your books or some merch from you.

Some studies and economists try to argue that piracy doesn’t hurt anyone. Most reseachers will tell you it does. Let’s break down the arguments:

ARGUMENT #1: If a pirate steals from you, they have money to spend elsewhere. So don’t feel bad if the pirate steals from you, s/he might buy a fruit smoothie from McDonald’s and they’re happy.

RESPONSE: How does this help you? What about your editor? Your cover designer? Next, please

ARGUMENT #2: If people pirate your work, they might be tempted to become fans and pay for it later.

RESPONSE: And what percentage of piraters will do that? If they ripped it off in the first place, the odds of them suddenly paying for your work is ____%”

Here are two snippets from two different news articles about pirating:

http://screenrant.com/movie-piracy-zombieland-video-on-demand-digital-download-solutions-kofi-35289/3/

  • Offer more digital-based releases that premiere before theatrical releases – What’s there to lose? Offer your movies on digital cable, smartphone or computer (in HD quality) a few days to a week before a theatrical premiere and already you’re cutting out one of the main incentives for pirating. And let’s be real: if your movie is good enough, people WILL shell out again for the “big-screen experience.” You may end up making more money than you would’ve. IfZombieland had been available on cable same day as in theaters, would a sequel be hanging in the balance? Maybe, but then again, maybe not…
  • Market the $mart way – If you’re taking full advantage of the digital market, what’s the need for huge billboards, three different trailers, TV spots, print ads, etc… If you’re selling a movie to the online/digital consumer then use the free promotion you get from blogs like Screen Rant (HINT!) – or maybe loop your trailers and spots on cable on demand menus ad nausem. Archive movie info in one place (on cable menus, websites), use fan reactions and early screening promotions to build an interactive rating/review system to let perusing viewers know what new movies are worth their time and money. Once the consumer adapts to the new digital model (i.e., learns where to go to find out about movies), you can spend less, more effectively, to reach them.
  • http://screenrant.com/movie-piracy-zombieland-video-on-demand-digital-download-solutions-kofi-35289/3/
  • The first business model that dissuades illegal file sharing is to make the downloading easy and cheap

Does Piracy Hurt Digital Content Sales? Yes

ARGUMENT: “I love pirates. I get money from them all the time,” said the best-selling author of Wool, Hugh Howey, who will be speaking later at the Digital Book World Conference + Expo on his success story. “They send me money thanking me because they loved my book. I sometimes go onto torrent sites and if I don’t see my book there I feel bad because it means I’m not in demand.”

RESPONSE: That’s like saying “You have a really nice-looking car. Don’t you feel great that people pick YOUR car, out of all the other car in the neighborhood, to break into and take things from? That proves that your car is considered beautiful by a lot of people. If people weren’t breaking into your  car, then that would mean it isn’t attractive and worth stealing from.”

Umm…someone BROKE INTO YOUR CAR AND STOLE STUFF. Which part of that did you not understand?

Disclosure: I have read Hugh’s blog, and Joe Konrath is another pro-pirater whom I generally agree with as well. They are both great indie author success stories and I agree with them on a lot. But not on this. I think they’re both totally wrong.

Some people argue that piracy has always been among us because it’s human nature. Therefore, we should not only tolerate it, but embrace it.

Murder is also a part of human nature. Some people want to kill, no matter how many laws there are against it. Just because laws don’t stop people from committing crimes like murder doesn’t mean we ought to tolerate and embrace murder.

CONCLUSION: So who’s right and who isn’t? Is it better to let big corporations control the sale and distribution, charging exhorbitant prices for the products and mistreating their artists/authors? Or is it better to let anyone who can steal or gain access to your work do so, because they might hack into your website and/or they might become paying customers down the road?

Here’s the answer: neither side is right. Both sides have good arguments. But the truth is in those “blurred lines” (speaking of copyright infringement…) should be up to you, and not someone else, to decide. For me personally, I think low-cost e-books and some freebies which lead to more purchases are the way to go. At the same time, protect your rights. If someone is stealing from you, be it books or merchandise, file a formal complain with the site hosting that content or, depending on the severity, with local police or the FBI. While you won’t stop 100% of it, especially overseas, you can do your part to help the rest of us reduce it. if you are an indie, you already cut out the expensive “middleman”. Now it’s time to look at the other side of things.

The bottom line is, there’s a difference between you offering your works for free download or distribution, where YOU control the time, place, and manner of distribution, and where YOU can still get something for it, such as e-mail addresses and merchandise sales. In fact, you may even offer an e-book with a merch purchase or vice-versa. But that’s YOUR right, not someone else’s.

New Publisher Book Review Partnership

I’m excited to announce that I will review my first novel from Red Adept Publishing as a book reviewer for select books they publish and send to me. I will read the book and interview the author as part of their author’s blog tour.

I am not being paid or otherwise compensated in any way to offer these reviews or interviews, but this gives me a chance to build my blog platform and give you, the reader, a chance to know what other books and authors are available besides ones from “Big Five” publishers.

The first book I will review and post an interview for is Skeleton Run by John L. DeBoer. I will have two posts: First, the interview, and then, my honest review of the novel. It’s a political thriller and I look forward to reading it. My interview will be published June 18 and the book review right after, so mark it down on your calendars because I’m sure you’re all so excited to hear my thoughts about other author’s work :D.

I am available as a book reviewer elsewhere (for now, anyway), and I don’t charge but of course not everything is free in this world (including your e-books) and so I generally will ask a favor later, such as, reviewing my books on your blog when they are finally published sometime later this year. Or, some other minor favor TBD.

In the meantime I’ll review some other books I’ve read recently. For Thursday I’ll review the book Shadowland, by Peter Straub. This book is going to be made into an NBC TV Series, expected to be out later this Fall. I’m looking forward to this series, and I hope you will catch me on Thursday when I release this review.

Infographically Explained: Should You Self-Publish or Go Traditional?

Interesting post…think about it.

Publishing Insights

TWL-Flow-Chart-660px-5

The Write Lifepublishes an infographic to help authors decide whether they should pursue self-publishing or follow the path of traditional publishing.

In a discussion of this infographic,Mutteringsof a FantasyWriterrefers toJuly 2014 Author Earnings Reportwhich reports some statistics about “emerging trends in the world of digital publishing”

One thing that I’ve wanted to point out is that I think there is a general misconception with traditional and self publishers about “getting the book out there.” There is no “out there.” There is only “who is for” and “how is the author cultivating and adding value for readers.” People read and share information based on trust in relationships, and we should bear that in mind when we write/publish a book.

Image Credit:The Write Life

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Oyster Wants to be the Next Amazon

Yesterday Oyster announced they were going to enter the ebookstore market, and the initial reaction was that they are competing with Amazon for titles. All big 5 publishers have signed on. This is separate from their subscription service, which was popular for those seeking many books at a low price but who then discovered some of their favorite authors or desired books were unavailable from the subscriptions.

Apparently Oyster’s e-bookstore won’t have cross-over titles from their subscription service, which makes sense if you think about it- if you could sell a copy of your book for say 99 cents via their bookstore, then why would you want it bundled with a subscription model if your customers can’t find you anyway? I maintain that subscription models are great for readers and newer authors who are desperate for discover ability, but seasoned authors with successful novels or series may find the subscription model damaging to their earnings, since the wealth is essentially redistributed irregardless of how many downloads you have.

The argument is that Oyster isn’t so much competing with Amazon as it is to keep its members from leaving- they’ve lost some of their subscribers over the last few months as people’s buying and reading habits shifted.

Will this e-bookstore idea work for Oyster? Or will Amazon find a way to maintain its dominant status as the largest e-book publisher in the world? And don’t forget about HarperCollins- they are headed the way of developing their own platform and selling their authors on their site. We’ll stay tuned to the HC-Amazon dispute.

What We can Learn from the “Burger-King Wedding” about Promoting Ourselves

When a Burger (Joel) gets engaged to a King (Ashley), there is only one place for their official engagement photo — a Burger King restaurant.

photo: Ashley King, provided to the State-Journal Register

In the latest episode of a nice story which goes viral and gives some folks their brief moment of fame, it appears there is a couple, named Joel Burger and Ashley King, who are getting married, a.k.a., the “Burger-King” wedding. They’ve apparently known each other for many years, and through love and good fortune, are tying the knot.

As one would expect, Burger King, Inc., saw a great PR opportunity and jumped in on it, offering to pay for the entire wedding. No word if they will serve onion rings, rodeo burgers, or crispy chicken sandwiches as the catered meal, or if they will share Whoppers at the altar (okay, okay). Needless to say, this light-hearted story (which I have no reason to believe is being manufactured by BK for promotion purposes in this instance, though this does happen with some frequency) is a great way to make you feel warm and fuzzy about a business which I doubt caters a lot of weddings.

The point is, BK found an easy opportunity to promote itself, and took it. So for today’s topic, how does this help authors sell books? After all, most of us can or could barely afford our own weddings, let along a stranger’s.

But in this case fate had it that Mr. Burger and Mrs. King got engaged, and created an opportunity to jump on it for publicity. Authors, you can do it to. Say you wrote a book with unusual but not totally made-up names, such as a romance novel. Then it turns out a real-life couple with the same names as your characters really is getting married. Why not send them a $200 gift certificate, maybe some of your books, or something else, and then mention it on Twitter/Facebook/YouTube?

Or you find out someone has used one of your books at an event they were at and took a photo. Not only should you retweet/pin that photo, but I’d go ahead and send them an autographed copy of the book and interview them for your blog (who says fans can’t be guests on the blog)? Then, send them a prize pack.

Yes, it is somewhat shameless self-promotion, but so long as you don’t take away their joy and make it ALL about you, then there isn’t anything wrong with it. What are the odds of having an opportunity like that ever again?

The bottom line is, in this world, with so many distractions and choices for entertainment, we are competing against everything else out there for people’s money and attention. If fate presents you with an opportunity to get your name out there, even if only for a day, B&B strongly recommends you take it and not look the other way.

And speaking of shameless self-promotion, please make sure to follow my blog and my twitter @sammydrf.

The Sad Puppies win! And the Right-Wing Balance to the Hugo Awards

If you have no idea what the Hugo Awards, are, they’re, like, the biggest deal in science fiction and fantasy writing. For anyone who writes in these two genres, winning one is like winning the Grammys or an Oscar.

Unfortunately, literary fiction has not been immune to personal politics. And we aren’t talking about the “did you hear what she said about so and so?” kind. We mean liberal vs. conservative.

Disclosure: I’m no long-time follower of the Hugos, so I’m commenting by what I see as I learn more.

Essentially the issue boils down to what conservatives, libertarians, and other “non-conformist” ideologies feel is a politicizing of science fiction literature by the left-wing of the group, led by former Sci-Fi Writer’s Guild President Jon Scalzi and Patrick and Teresa Nielsen-Hayden of Tor Books. The right-wing/no-wing side believe left-of-center types have used the Hugos and other sci-fi/fantasy awards to promote works by other lefties or “diversity”, aka giving awards to women/people of color/different sexual orientations BECAUSE they are non- straight white guys, as oppose to being great writers worthy of nomination. So about two years ago, some openly conservative/libertarian authors started the “sad puppies” group, named to be sarcastic about bleeding-heart liberals who always profess to do something to help “the  children” or “sad puppies.” AKA, the name is supposed to mean “vote for our nominations or you’re killing sad puppies”, something to that effect.

The counter-argument from the left was that for most of the history of book publishing, straight white guys have dominated and their reaction now is due to feeling threatened by women/POC/DSO taking awards from them so they’re lashing out. They NEED the diversity in the awards, they argue, since this is the only way individuals in under-represented groups (count the number of big-time Hispanic male authors, and get back to me) can have a shot at winning.

Well, it appears the Sad Puppies won. The 2015 Hugo Awards nominees are (apparently) mostly individuals who were being pushed by Vox Day and some other right-of-center sci-fi authors for the nominations. This has caused a huge firestorm of protest from those considered to be “social justice warriors”, i.e. who were (allegedly) punishing non-conformists by denying them the opportunities to get books/short stories published or nominated for awards, and those who think, after finally being included in the normally “straight white guy” world of sci-fi/fantasy literature, are being pushed back by those who (allegedly) want the 1950s back.

I’ve heard of the Hugo Awards before, and I knew they were prestigious. I had no idea the political ideology fights were so intense. It kind of stinks, in my opinion, because this means any and all nominations will be subject to what side of the aisle you’re on- and if people happen to read any of my Watchdog.org op-eds, like here and here and here, I’ll lose any possible chance i have of being “politically-neutral” and this eligible to offend no one if some magical unicorn came to me and .convinced its flying sea-monkey friends to nominate me for a Hugo. That’s about the only chance I will ever have to win one, and if I’m ever nominated, let alone win one, I’ll have to come up with something gross or crazy like jump out of a moving car or publish a sex tape or something.

Feel free to share your thoughts about the Hugo award nominating process or this year’s choices. Who do you think will win?

photos are not mine and are republished as ‘fair-use’ under U.S. Copyright laws.

Another Fantasy Publication is History

Not a great piece of news to report, but unfortunately news is rarely happy.

If you didn’t know, there was a little e-mag called Fiction Vortex. I submitted once and was rejected, though I made a few critical mistakes so I don’t hold it against them. This is the third fantasy e-publication I’ve seen go out of business, after Black Gate and a smaller one whose name escapes me now (they only ever printed 2 editions but they’re gone)

“All stories come to an end, and it seems that despite our best efforts, we can no longer prolong the story that is Fiction Vortex.

As of right now, Fiction Vortex is on an indefinite hiatus.

We’re incredibly sad about this, as we imagine many of you are. We are exceedingly proud of the stories we have published and the authors we have featured. It has been a wonderful journey, and we have you to thank for it.

As you may recall, we lost our main sponsor a while ago and things have gotten a little tight around here since then. While we’ve tried a few different options, most notably the Patreon campaign that many of you generously subscribed to, it was too little too late and we’ve finally had to accept that the gears of our little literary contraption must finally come to a halt.

Don’t despair too much, for Fiction Vortex may yet rise from the dust. A couple parties (of the business kind, not the streamers and clowns kind, though it’s hard to tell which is worse) have expressed interest in Fiction Vortex. It’s entirely conceivable that it will be pulled from the ashes, resplendent and renewed, sometime in the near future. But even if it isn’t, you’ll still be able to enjoy the stories. The site will remain live for the foreseeable future, and all stories will be available to anyone who cares to visit. In fact, we’re hoping you will revisit the “Best of” compilations for 2013and 2014 regularly. They’re well worth it.

As you might imagine, all submissions are now closed, and email submissions will be deleted unread. Oh, and the Patreon campaign has been put on hiatus, so if you subscribed you will no longer be charged monthly.

Finally, thank you again for being part of the voyage of the good ship Fiction Vortex. Speculative fiction opens up worlds of possibilities, and that’s exactly what Fiction Vortex has done for us.

Whirling Wishes,
Mike Cluff — Editor in Chief
Dan Hope — Managing Editor

What I wonder is, was the problem that people don’t want to pay for fantasy, that small e-publications just can’t compete with the “big boys”, or what?

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