Writing on the Ether


By

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter

Rumors of Water by LL BarkatRumors of Water:
Thoughts on Creativity & Writing

Named a Best Book of 2011: Englewood Review of Books and Hearts & Minds Books

“I read it in three sittings. Then I read it again. It’s a beautiful book, easily my favorite book on writing since Bird by Bird.”

—author Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Find out more on Amazon and download a sample to your Kindle.


Table of Contents

  1. Ether Exclusive: New PackaDRM in the room
  2. Sneaking a peek: 3 F+W confabs-West
  3. Amazonia: See? It’s not all about us
  4. Amazonia: The tall order
  5. Publishing: Potter envy
  6. Publishing: Meanwhile, out on the Pottermoors
  7. Advertising: Brother, can you spare a screen?
  8. Craft: Strauss, Morris – good help is findable
  9. Craft: Gardner, Bransford – where’s the fire?
  10. Craft: Coker, Greenfield – I said, where’s the fire?
  11. Craft: Weiland – structure’s end
  12. Quotes of the week: Madrigal, Howard
  13. Head spinners’ special: What’s going on
  14. Last gas: The coming D-Day beyond “books”

Ether Exclusive: New PackaDRM in the room

We want it to be friendly. It’s all about reminding the customer. We don’t believe that readers are pirates.

Hang on. Or as Tarzan would say to a heaving elephant, “Umgawa!” Wonder if saying that to our fine publishing obsesserati could slow them down, too.

Putting our messaging in there where it’s visible reminds them, “You’ve made a binding contract with the publisher, with the author.” It’s in the forefront of the reader experience. It makes them aware, so they won’t share the file.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterKevin Franco of Calgary’s Enthrill Books has come to the Ether, wise man that he is, to announce to you that PackaDRM is going to be made available to publishers and to authors who might be interested in using it.

And we’re packaging “DRM,” but not Digital Rights Management. This is Digital Rights Messaging.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter

Kevin Franco of Enthrill Books and PackaDRM

PackaDRM is being developed as part of Enthrill Books, which we wrote about it on the Ether at the end of the year.

Fresh off “Day Against DRM” with Joe Wikert and Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media leading the non-DRM charge, plenty of our colleagues are still driving around with “Death to DRM!” placards in their car trunks.

So let Franco get this much across to you:

We’re not trying to convert people who are working in strict DRM. And we’re not trying to convert people from no-DRM.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterSee, no pushing or shoving is necessary. Turn off your bullhorns. Whatever position you may occupy regarding DRM, carry on. Here’s what he wants to say:

What’s important is that if you’re going to select “social DRM” or watermarking, we’ve come up with the best solution. In watermarking, we think we have a game-changer, the most effective way to use “social DRM.”

To understand what Franco’s doing, think Pottermore. (MorePotterMore is coming up later in the Ether, too, for you Harried ones.)

A part of what’s made Pottermore such a pants-wetting story in publishing is that Jo Rowling’s ebooks are non-DRM. They are watermarked. So what does this mean? This means you can get a non-DRM copy of a Potter book (eight copies for one price, in fact, in P’more’s case) and read each copy of that Harryness on any device you’d like. It’s not locked to a Kindle or a Nook or Kobo or your Android refrigerator door screen. However, the “watermark” encodes information about you as the buyer into the book. So if the copy watermarked to you turns up on a pirate Web site, Hogwarts knows it’s your version that is in illegal hands. You might want a Cloak of Invisibility then.

And this is generally called “social DRM.”

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Here’s a little help from Jellybooks’ Andrew Rhomberg on the terms here. I have his permission to quote him from his recent comments about DRM on a boisterous private email list:

Adobe ebook DRM and similar schemes are a form of Restrictive Access Technology (RAT) in that they restrict end-users from how they can use the ebook they “bought” (technically speaking, licensed).

True DRM restricts how you can use your ebook — by whom and on which device.

Rhomberg goes on, by contrast:

Watermarking…does not restrict access in any way, which is a huge advantage to the reader (a.k.a. buyer/consumer/end-user). Digital fingerprinting (watermarking) is a technology for making usage trackable and hence TRAC is maybe a more descriptive acronym than “social DRM.”

So what Franco is talking about, in Rhombergese, is TRAC. You are not restricted on how you use your ebook. Your copy, however, can be tracked.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter

PackaDRM places a greeting and explanation for the reader at the start of each book. Click for a readable size.

If Franco had a chance to breathe Ether with Charlie Redmayne, CEO of all Pottermore, how might he explain the difference in most watermarking (“TRAC”) “social DRM” programs and his PackaDRM?

Well, in addition to the trasaction ID inserted into the ebook — the one that makes your ebook TRAC-able to you if it gets into pirately hands — PackaDRM displays very visible messages to the reader at the beginning and end of the book. Franco:

The message can be customized by the publisher and contain information from the ebook file in combination with the consumer’s information.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter

PackaDRM also places a reminder statement to the reader at the end of an ebook. Click for a readable size.

Front and back of the book. A special message, complete with the customer’s email address. Here’s an example of the text:

This book is yours to read and it’s registered to you alone — see how we’ve embedded your email address to it? This message serves as a reminder that transferring digital files such as this book to third parties is prohibited by international copyright law. … If you think someone you know would love it (the book in question), recommend it to him or her and let them know where they can pick up their very own. When they are done, you can meet up for a coffee or tea and discuss!

Permission granted: you may discuss.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter

Image: Samir (the scope) / CC

As I told Franco, this is very Canadian stuff. (One of his own board members said the same thing, it turns out, so I don’t feel too crassly American for making the observation.) It turns out that Canadian cordiality comes in with an expressly respectful tone — exactly what Franco is after here.

That wording took a long time to settle on. We had to get the message across in a firm way, but at the same time, we have to respect the relationship between the reader, the publisher, the author. Respect for the reader — the customer — is terribly important.

Brian O’Leary, earlier this week, wrote in The Sky Is Rising, about the Macmillan/Tor decision to stop using DRM.

If I sound cautiously optimistic, it reflects a sense that the tide has not turned when it comes to the use of DRM or the study of the true impact of piracy.  As I’ve covered before, DRM locks publishers and readers into specific platforms. It does not suppress piracy. Linking the two, as many commentors did when Macmillan made the announcement, conflates two different activities.

And others have spoken out this week in various conversations, with a clarification that the DRM issue really doesn’t dovetail well with those who’d like to back the car over Jeff Bezos. As one astute observer puts it: “There are many reasons not to use DRM, but it seems that the dream of dropping DRM and taking down Amazon is highly improbable.”

So why “PackaDRM?”

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter

Matteo Berlucchi / Photo: Anobii

Franco was with many of us at New York’s Digital Book World Conference in January, when Mike Shatzkin staged Anobii’s Matteo Berlucchi in a major denunciation of DRM. As I wrote then on the Ether: “DRM went from gum on a shoe to a rebel yell once Matteo Berlucchi was given the floor.”

And Franco tells me he remembers exactly how Berlucchi started his presentation to the conference:

Berlucchi said, “Let’s talk about the elephant in the room.”

For more info on the PackaDRM in this room, be in touch with Franco. His column, just out with the Ether, on the subject is Packaged Digital Rights Messaging.

And Click here to obsess. I mean to comment.

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Sneaking a peek: 3 F+W confabs-West

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterOctober 17-21 in Hollywood, it’s StoryWorld, Screenwriters World, and Writer’s Digest Conference West.

And F+W Media has all its westward-ho wagons pulling into a circle of sites for your perusal.

Looks like some interesting speakers and sessions ahead on the Left Coast.

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Amazonia: See? It’s not all about us

So here it was, the Metropolitan Museum’s springtime Costume Institute Gala.

This year — and, in fact, opening today — the topical basis for the annual fund-raising gown-o-rama lies in an exhibition titled Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations. “Impossible” conversations because the two designers, Elsa and Miuccia, respectively, were not contemporaries. And also, perhaps, for another reason, adroitly pointed out by the Times’ Eric Wilson:

Mrs. Prada, one of the most influential female designers in recent history,…initially rebuffed the museum’s plans to mount an exhibition that compared her to Schiaparelli, who died in 1973. Mrs. Prada said in many interviews about the show that she had never been inspired by the work of her predecessor.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter

Amazon is sponsoring the Met’s Schiaparelli/Prada show. Click for a larger view.

To our point here, you might notice in the finer print on the exhibition’s site page, “The exhibition is made possible by Amazon.”

And so it was that on May 7, if you happened across the retailer’s home page, you saw live streaming video from the red carpet arrivals at the Met.

Paparazzi screamed at the gingerly teetering celebs on the staircase. Vogue’s Billy Norwich did his usual amazing job of keeping everybody’s name straight and then reaching for them: “Don’t trip over the cord.” Elettra Wiedemann was there on another mic, gushing over everybody between Norwich’s chats.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter

Sarah Jessica Parker talks with Billy Norwich at the Met Gala / on the Amazon home page. Parker’s gown and escort were Valentino.

On Amazon’s cover page. So uptown.

No gala-goers seemed at all upset with Amazon, either. No nasty comments about a “monopoly” or “freezing out the rest of us,” although the Times’ Stephanie Clifford in Amazon Leaps Into High End of the Fashion Pool, wrote:

Though characteristically tight-lipped on bottom-line details, Mr. Bezos said the company was making a “significant” investment in fashion to convince top brands that it wanted to work with them, not against them.

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And compared to books, something by Michael Kors looks pretty good to Seattle. Clifford:

Because Amazon’s costs are about the same whether it is shipping a $10 book or a $1,000 skirt, “gross profit dollars per unit will be much higher on a fashion item,” Mr. Bezos said.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter

The Jonas Brothers talk with Elettra Wiedemann at the Met Gala / on the Amazon home page.

Big difference: In fashion, Bezos is telling the Times, the underselling strategy used in publishing isn’t in the cards:

Mr. Bezos said that, despite having taken a low-price approach in other industries, Amazon would not in fashion. “There’s a sophisticated markdown cadence in the fashion industry that we think makes sense and we’re basically following that established approach,” he said.

Click here to comment

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Amazonia: The tall order

Rowling had zero digital revenue to protect and zero responsibility to anybody else for delivering it. All the major publishers have triple digit millions of dollars of Kindle revenue at stake and thousands of authors counting on them to deliver it.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterAnd so, Mike Shatzkin in The ebook marketplace is a long way from settled, brings a merciful bit of reason to how it would be “a really scary thing” for a large publisher to try bargaining with Amazon for the Pottermore deal. It seems we could use more of that this week.

How easy it is for folks to forget the readers are just that wild about Harry. Not about everything else.

Dutifully, Shatzkin trundles forward:

But with Barnes & Noble now funded (by Microsoft) for battle for the next several years and Kobo and Apple committed to the fight as well, there’s a serious question as to whether Amazon would feel as comfortable going forward without one of the Big Six’s ebooks the way they have been willing to work without those from IPG.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis

Potterwhere? Author and good friend George Davis’ Rosslyn Boathouse, Essex, New York, a photo taken January 8 by Glenn Estus, who says the image was “manipulated using the iPad 2 app Snapsee.” Another spell cast.

What prompts this round of speculation — not that the industry! the industry! ever needs prompting — is Matteo Berlucchi’s write for TheFutureBook, Has Pottermore cast the Riddikulus spell on Amazon? No link-bait in that headline.

Berlucchi, who called on everybody to drop DRM right this very minute, damn it, in his DBW Conference appearance, now wants publishers to tell Jeff Bezos it’s their way or the highway, buddy.

Berlucchi is very good at asking everybody else to risk it all.

And he seems to feel that Jo Rowling isn’t the only sorceress strong enough to stare down Seattle. Turns out, Shatzkin is — carefully — willing to give Berlucchi some rope:

It’s easy for me to say, because I have nothing at stake, but I think Berlucchi is right. The big publishers can make this happen; it would change the game.

But, as he also says, these are complex issues freighted with serious potential losses if publishers who have no Potter protection were to go to Matteo’s mat with Amazon.

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As in so many of our most hotly debated questions, all we have to do to get an accurate look at the future? — is relax, sit down, wait. But we’re none too good at that “calm down” stuff in publishing, Ethernaut.

So before you finish tearing all your hair over this one, you might want to see the next waft of Ether, just below this one: “Potter envy.” Or, if you’re mad as hell and you’re not going to take it anymore, go ahead and click here to comment

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Publishing: Potter envy

Berlucchi’s right, but the industry needs to take the Pottermore idea several steps further if they are to reap all the rewards it has to offer.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterThis is Suw Charman-Anderson in a contributor piece at Forbes, apparently in no mood to perform our industry’s Ceremonial Asking of Questions We Cannot Answer and plunging right on under the ice forthwith, in Pottermore: Developing A Blueprint For Futureproof Publishing.

There is a window of opportunity now to expand upon the concept of a publisher-centric ebook hub, to take Pottermore’s partial blueprint and use it to futureproof publishing.

At a time in which the digital transition has done what it has done — and is doing — to or for or about or in spite of publishing, Charman-Anderson’s phrase “futureproof publishing” rings probably closer to Berlucchi/Rowling’s Riddikulus spell than most whammies anyone has tried flinging at Seattle yet.

Any publisher who wants to truly woo me as an author has to give me access to realtime traffic and sales data; a Pottermore-ish platform would easily be able to do that.

Well, great. And all you have to do, Suw, is write a Harry Potter-ish universal blockbuster.

Did I just hear a boggart laughing? See a bit more, from “the Pottermoors,” below.

Or click here to comment

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Publishing: Meanwhile, out on the Pottermoors

The point about Frankenstein – and other innovative ebooks – is that it is a new type of monster, one that would be impossible to create within the pages of a paper book. Created by a writer with a background in video games, the reader can influence the route the story takes by making choices in the character of the monster or of Frankenstein himself. Because it deals with multiple pathways, Dave Morris’s new text is longer than that of the original novel.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterNoting that Dave Morris’ app, previewed on the Ether, Frankenstein, “leapt straight into the top 10 in the books section of Apple’s App Store on both sides of the Atlantic,” Guardian books editor Claire Armitstead at the Guardian is more inclined to see scariness in From Pottermore to Frankenstein, a new kind of monster is being created.

At least Armitstead knows how to ask an honest question:

A lot is happening but what does it all mean?

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterDropping in loads of disparate publishing efforts, even harkening back to Amanda Hocking, our Example of Everything, Armitstead somehow gets herself tangled up in the worrisome research department and ends up wandering on across the heath wringing her hands.

No innovations come without health warnings – and a recent article in Time Magazine suggested that digital reading might damage your learning. It quoted Kate Garland, a psychology lecturer at Leicester University, whose studies on memory and digital reading appeared to show that the human brain doesn’t navigate digital texts as efficiently as paper ones. Her findings suggested that computer readers needed more repetition to absorb the same information as from a book, and that book readers seemed to digest the material more fully.

Honk if you’re tired of upheaval. (And sorry, but the next segment is even tougher.)

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Advertising: Brother, can you spare a screen?

As TV viewing habits change, so will advertising. Stowe Boyd believes that the days of the 30-second TV commercial are nearing an end.

Surely we’re all shocked, I tell you, shocked at such a statement. (Not.)

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterBusy Emma Gardner, who seems to do anything but Lean Back 2.0 at the Economist, has this New report on “Social TV and the Second Screen.” And who am I to gainsay postfuturist Stowe Boyd? But weren’t we all on our computers while watching TV 15 years ago? And yet maybe the fact that TV ad-sales people could never get their heads around that one means that Boyd does need to stand up now — so they’ll think of it for mobile devices.

I can credit Gerd Leonhard for his foreword on the study, in which he has the grace to concede that it’s all right in our faces:

Let me recap the obvious: the Internet is now actually converging with television (or vice versa), the desktop computer as the most important place for entertainment or content is finally fading away, and mobile devices are where we ‘consume’ – I prefer to say ‘experience’ – most of what we want see or hear. Scheduled media is on its way out (except for sports, other live events and, maybe, news), and the crowd is now actually moving into the cloud, whether it’s for music, TV, movies, books or education.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water
Graph (Sourced to Nielsen 2012) from Page 10 of “Social TV and The Second Screen,” Stowe Boyd, Work Talk Research and The Futures Agency.

And there’s an interesting graph in the report that indicates the majority of device brandishing TV viewers aren’t doing much related to the shows they’re watching, based on Nielsen 2012 figures.

  • Sixty percent of tablet and smartphone owners surveyed are checking email during the program, itself. (And that drops only to 59 percent during the commercials. Maybe we need to work on the shows’ content?)
  • Forty-six percent of those tablet and smartphone owners surveyed by Nielsen surfed for unrelated info during the program and the commercials. Riveted to the show, huh?
  • Forty-two percent visited a social networking site during the show and commercials.
  • Hell, 30 percent checked sports scores. What kind of crap were these people watching?
  • Just 29 percent, per Nielsen, looked up info related to their show on TV. Nineteen percent checked out product info for an ad they saw (more men than women did this).
  • And only 13 percent looked up coupons related to an ad they’d seen.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterIn a world in which new amalgams of commercial and literary elements are coming together — or being shoved together — it seems to me that the publishing community’s hold on story just might be something that could be leveraged a lot better than anyone in “Old TV,” as Boyd calls it.

My fellow tropical writer (and a man who can produce comics) Brad Meltzer tweets his heart out with his viewers during every edition of his TV show on the History Channel, Decoded. Folks on their many screens, yakking with the star of the show.

If you’re watching The Borgias, as I do, on Showtime — now in its second opulent season with Pope Jeremy Irons on the Throne of St. Peter — you’re seeing some simple early use of apps and soc-med to catapult Renaissance-era papal vengeance at us, on more than one machine. But why not a parallel production, streaming data on the historical underpinnings of the show as it airs? Savonarola has a bonfire ready for your iPad, but he needs introducing to today’s audience every time he shows up.

It’s Emma Gardner again, in fact, who turns up with Annette King of  OgilvyOne London getting the two-screen bug in “As an ad agency, we’ll always be trying to lean forward”:

We’re really interested in the dual screen experience right now. By dual screen, I mean sitting in front of the TV with a tablet. You might be watching one thing on the TV, but doing something else on your tablet. And we want to start connecting those two things. If Jamie Oliver is making a special truffle recipe on television, you can use your tablet to find out where truffles grow in the world, or how to make Jamie’s recipe. You can get people involved through the second screen.

If nothing else, you can always read a good book on your tablet while the nonsense on TV carries on. You always want a second screen handy. Click here to comment.

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Craft: Strauss, Morris – good help is findable

Be sure the editor (or editors, if it’s an editing service) is qualified. You’re looking for professional publishing industry experience–preferably, as an editor for reputable publishers–and/or professional writing credentials (legitimately-published books, articles, etc.). If the editor has a website, a resume or CV should be posted there.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterWe do a lot of yelling and screaming these days about how authors simply must get  outside, professional editing services. To my mind, this is true whether you’re trying to self-publish or sling-shotting your MS on a flash drive at the rococo facade of a legacy publisher.

But how to find reputable editing?  That’s Victoria Strauss’ focus in Vetting an Independent Editor.

I’m a little concerned only about her first comment about considering free alternatives such as:

…a friend who’s not afraid to criticize, a local writers’ group or critique circle, an online writers’ group (such as Critters Writers Workshop for SF/fantasy/horror writers), a peer critique community (such as Book Country or Authonomy), or a creative writing course.

In a hardship case, do what you have to do, of course. And if you’re in earlier stages with a book, you do want less expensive avenues of feedback, sure. But I’d say — and again, this is me, with no desire to put words into Strauss’ blog post — there’s a point at which a true run at the market goes far past the friends-and-family stage. And a professional developmental edit isn’t the same as exchanging input in a mutual-critique community.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis

From Roz Morris’ post, / Image by Tony J. Morris

I find some backing on this point in a post — Where will self-publishing get quality control? — from author Roz Morris, diligent in working on why so much self-published content is sub-par.

It’s raining slush and nonsense. Readers who’ve bought unreadable books are muttering ‘vanity press’ all over again.

Morris is asked by a reader, “If people won’t use editors, can we realistically replace them with critique groups and beta readers?”

Morris’ answer is typically straightforward and refreshingly honest:

I.E., is it possible to get all this input free? Sorry, guys, I don’t think it is. In the real world that doesn’t come free. Agents and publishers do it as part of their job. Critical feedback of that type takes experience and judgement.

What’s more, Morris reminds us, we need to let “good work rise on merit.” Gaming reader reviews and jockeying for advantage around the ready-reader racetrack isn’t working.

Ultimately we need to reach readers way beyond our own little blogosphere of indie publishing. We need to win the respect of the major book reviewers, because right now we’re preaching to the choir, and this is not sustainable.

So in regards to Strauss’ post, I’d make the personal caveat (and I doubt that Strauss and I disagree on this), that bona fide professional work is required for a truly valuable result.

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And that being the case, Strauss’ guidance is sturdy, needed stuff in terms of how to assess the viability of a professional editor. There are details under each of these important subheads:

  • Be sure the editor (or editors, if it’s an editing service) is qualified.
  • If you’ve been referred to the editor or editing service, verify that they’re independent.
  • Be sure the editor you’re thinking of hiring has experience appropriate to your work.
  • Look for a client list, or a list of published books.
  • Ask for references, and contact them.
  • Ask to see a sample critique or part of a sample edit.
  • Make sure the business arrangements are clear–and get it in writing.

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Strauss also offers you a fine list of red flags to watch for, again with extensive details under each subhead:

  • If you receive a referral from a literary agent or publisher. (Strauss notes that this is hardly an automatic problem — she has specific types of scams in mind and explains them.)
  • If the publisher or agent recommends his/her own paid editing services.
  • If buying editing is a requirement of representation or submission.
  • If you can’t find a resume or CV, or claims of expertise can’t be verified.
  • If the editing is anonymous.
  • If the editor edits any and all genres, all comers accepted.
  • If the editor tells you that agents and publishers prefer manuscripts that have been professionally edited.
  • Vagueness about specific services.
  • Refusal of reasonable requests for information.

Click here to comment

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Craft: Gardner, Bransford – where’s the fire?

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis

From Rachelle Gardner’s post / A vintage commercial that I’m too young to have seen, of course.

Agent Rachelle Gardner has quality on her mind this week, too (or maybe she just needs a good drink, I know I do), in trying to slow down the writers panting to see print. In Quality Books Take Time, she’s soberingly clear about her point, emphasis hers.

If you self-publish a book that sucks, you may permanently lose potential readers. They pick up the book, it’s poorly crafted, they don’t like it — and they cross your name off their mental list of good authors.

It’s true, of course, that traditional publishing — which faces so many unsustainable problems — has operated in slow-mo for far too long. It’s hard to fault authors for wanting to avoid that agonizing, often counter-productive pace.

But only amateurs believe that a book can be “turned” quickly like a video or a science project. When former-agent-now-CNET-social-mediatore Nathan Bransford asked in a recent post How Long Does it Take You to Finish a Draft?, I had a lot of messages from folks mildly scandalized that Bransford had said it takes him “between 6-8 months to write a novel.” Clearly, that’s enough out of the precocious Bransford.

As Gardner writes:

One of the main arguments writers use for self-publishing is the speed at which they can get their books up for sale. They’re proud of themselves for circumventing the laborious publishing system that — yes — takes forever. But many of them have nothing to be proud of. I’ve bought and read numerous self-pubbed books now, and in general the quality is noticeably inferior to what most traditional publishers are putting out.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterOn behalf of self-publishing authors who want to do things to the highest standards, I’m really glad to see Gardner include this line:

All of those self-pubbers who are doing it poorly are giving a very bad name to the handful who are doing it well.

But in the end, there’s a lot to assess here, and it all falls heavily on many writers struggling to understand New Publishing’s requirements that they swim independently — even if on contract. These comments from Gardner and Morris, and those “common-sense suggestions” from Strauss, are a good place to start grabbing for a handrail as you head down these stairs.

Let me know — have you been scammed by a falsely represented editor or editing service? And what do you think of the burden of quality being shouldered now by authors? Is this what should have been the case all along? Or a completely unfair and creativity-crushing burden?  Click here to comment

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Craft: Coker, Greenfield – I said, where’s the fire?

The biggest challenge is self-restraint. Publishing tools, like Smashwords make it fast, free and easy for any writer anywhere in the world to publish. But we don’t make it easy to write a great book. Many writers, intoxicated by the freedom to self-publish, will often release their book before it’s ready to be released.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter

Mark Coker / Smashwords

Don’t look at me, that’s Mark Coker, Mr. Smashwords, himself, the man most likely to want you to publish now, now, now, right?

After all, he’s got 121,000 self-published ebooks by 42,000 keyboard-bashing self-ordained writers aimed at the Nook, the Kobo, and all devices east of the Kindle. If anybody wants lots of writers to publish, publish, publish, it’s going to be Coker, right?

Wrong and wrong. Keep your cover jacket on.

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He’s talking with Jeremy Greenfield at Digital Book World in an interview headlined Smashwords CEO Mark Coker: Indie Authors Need to Become Great Publishers. And Coker’s not saying what a lot of hustle-it-right-out-there self-publishers want to hear.

The biggest challenge faced by self-published authors, it’s not marketing, it’s not discoverability, it’s adopting the best practices of the very best publishers. It’s about becoming a professional publisher.

Now, this being the post-dignity era, Coker does go on blithely to push his own new brew:

If you look at the resources we make available to our authors, most notably the latest e-book that I published, The Secrets to Ebook Publishing Success, we’re very focused on elevating the best practices of indie authors, helping to educate them and inspire them through the example of the success of other indie authors.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterBut even as that plug singes your eyebrows, I’ll hand it to Coker, he’s willing to say to his customers (self-publishing authors) and potential customers (every man, woman, and child, since they all now believe they’re writing books):

We want to inspire them to up their game.

So do I. I’d like about 95 percent of them to up their game in another profession for which they have more aptitude. But as long as they all insist on trying to write books (“because, you know, like, it’s the Internet”), I’d be grateful if they’d spend a little time with more of Coker’s thoughts here:

Indie authors need to learn to think like a publisher. There’s a lot of expertise that goes into connecting books with readers.

Coker is right in how he describes the reversal of leadership underway:

Authors are starting to ask two very dangerous questions from the standpoint of publishers: What can the publisher do that I can’t do for myself? …And, will it actually harm my ability to reach readers if I work with a large publisher? But these questions set up publishers to be in a precarious situation.

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In his role as a kind of DBW cheerleader for the publishers, Greenfield, of course, comes back with: “That hasn’t stopped publishers from continuing to do what they’ve always done: publish and sell great books and make money doing it.” Faithful until the vertical goes horizontal.

Well, not to worry, Coker’s ready. Before Greenfield can start into “Give me a P…!” he has Coker’s answer:

When I look at the future of publishing, we all become service providers for authors. The authors are in control. The power has shifted from publishers to authors. Anyone who doesn’t believe that and honor that is going to go out of business.

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I encourage you to read the interview in its entirety. You may be surprised to find Coker sticking up for the publishers on the Department of Justice action, at least sympathizing with them for “drowning in a swimming pool, scared about the future” in 2009 and 2010 — even if “it does appear that some publishers did some stupid things.”

In short, it’s an unusually long piece for DBW, in which you’ll find two or more sides of some issues represented and you may just have to make up your own mind. How Ether-esque.

Because there are many facets to everything and everybody. At the very end, Coker tells Greenfield, “I don’t have time to read.”

Oops.

Click here to comment.

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Craft: Weiland – structure’s end

Your story and its conflict officially ended with your climax. Conceivably, you could end your story right then and there. But most books need an extra scene or two to tie off any leftover loose ends and, just as importantly, to guide your readers to the emotion with which you want to leave them.

In The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 11: The Resolution, K.M. Weiland practices what she preaches, inviting her own readers to look at — or for — something ahead.

The resolution is not just the ending of this story, but also the beginning of the story the characters will live after the reader has closed the back cover. It performs its two greatest duties in capping the current story, while still promising a sense of continuing life from the characters.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry PotterAs practical as is most of her advice here — a hallmark of her work in this entire series on structure — I like the attention she gives to the “softer” elements of a good resolution’s potential, which are central regardless of whether there’s a series involved. Here are two of a list of five key points she makes:

  • The resolution should give the reader a concrete example of how the character’s journey has changed him. If he was a selfish jerk at the beginning of the story, the resolution needs to definitively demonstrate his change of heart.
  • Finally, the resolution should strike an emotional note that resonates with the tone of the book as a whole (funny, romantic, melancholy, etc.) and leaves the reader completely satisfied.

And happily, there’s still another segment in Weiland’s series to come. Next week, she’ll be getting into story-structure FAQs. I find this series from Weiland the sort of thing you specifically need if you think you don’t need it. Know what I mean?

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While we’re at it, a new Weiland read on a topic dear to me and other supercilious critics:

The author’s need to balance on the narrow line between treating readers like they’re idiots and assuming they should know things they can’t.

Hey, I’ve met the readers. But, fortunately, this is Weiland writing, not me. She’ll handle it so much more gracefully than I could. Join her for The Fine Line Between Insulting and Bewildering Readers (both video and — so smart! — a full transcript for those of us who are sick, sick, sick of video).

I’m laughing all the way to the next section of Ether.

Click here to comment

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Quotes of the week: Madrigal, Howard

Readers aren’t stupid. They know when your product is cheap.

Doubly useful. ↬ Brian O’Leary

(1) Alexis Madrigal wrote this as the lead of his piece, The Pernicious Myth That Slideshows Drive ‘Traffic’ for The Atlantic. It’s a write I’d love to have slapped a few faces with in a couple of newsrooms that shall remain undesignated here. Here’s Madrigal, and his topic is the corporate fondness for slideshows on news sites (hey, 20 clicks out of one unique user!)

This myth that slideshows are the path to salvation has got to be put into a rocket and sent hurtling into the sun. People know when your product is cheap; there is no “trick” of the web. The sad truth is that to win on the Internet you have to do good reporting and analysis, write great headlines, empower individual staffers to embed themselves in communities that can serve up scoops and distribute finished stories, and understand the social ecosystems that bring visitors to your site.

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(2) This could be a banner on Catherine Ryan Howard’s How To Sell Self-Published Books: Read This First, ↬ Jane Friedman, which includes this passage:

That’s what a copyedit and a proofread does: it brings your book up to the minimum industry standard. Every time I mention this, I get comments and e-mails saying things like, “But if a reader likes the story, they’ll overlook misspellings, etc.” I’m just going to say this once, okay? ONLY IF THE READER IS YOUR MUM. Take an hour to read a few Amazon Customer Reviews and then see if you still feel the same way.

Click here to comment

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Head spinners’ special: What’s going on

I hope, Ethernaut, you’ll consider leaving your eustachian tubes to science. Because I get these comments after each Etherly edition from folks who claim, “My head is spinning!” Balance appears challenging to so many in publishing, maybe you’ve noticed. Well, of course you have.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Microsoft, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Tim O'Reilly, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram, Jason Allen Ashlock, Rachelle Gardner, auction, L.L. Barkat, Rumors of Water, George Davis, Kevin Franco, FrancoMedia, Enthrill Books, PackaDRM, social DRM, watermark, Pottermore, J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter

So, head spinner, if you find yourself wishing somebody would just sit you down and talk you through how on Earth we got here, don’t look at me. Instead, check Nancy K. Herther’s The eBook Wars: Amazon Versus the Rest. ↬ Don Linn Joseph Esposito

“It isn’t so much that publishers are entrenched as that this is a much more complex issue than readers might think—legal issues, and the rest of it. We are changing, but like with libraries, change takes time to do it right.”

That is — guess who — a publisher speaking with Herther for her piece, which comes to us from the academy. She’s a sociology and anthropology librarian at the University of Minnesota Libraries. Beyond a basic accounting of things, notably well-organized and sane, you’ll also find here a refreshing absence of the sort of the industry! the industry! mania that tends to afflict so many of the rest of us. There’s that word “rational.” Remember it? Herther is able to present things here in a rational way.

A few examples of how transactional occasions are described without emotional fervor — you may find this rational tone interesting — then I’ll leave you to gnash your teeth over it.

  • Amazon isn’t the first company powerful enough to impose concessions out of its suppliers.
  • Quoting Mathew Ingram: The e-book marketplace is a kind of oligopoly involving a few major players—primarily Amazon, Apple, and B&N.
  • “I’ve had giants of self-publishing assure me that my problem is that I have to price all of my books at $0.99,” explains author Jim C. Hines, “but plenty of $0.99 e-books fail.”
  • Except for DOJ and other potential legal/regulatory pressures, Amazon has little to fear. It is sitting on a huge pile of money, has strong customer loyalty, and currently controls the market. No wonder Amazon is so bold in its actions.

Click here to complain about “understatement” and “missing the point.”

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Last gas: The coming D-Day beyond “books”

For trade publishers particularly, Omaha Beach is not about learning how to publish digitally — it’s about becoming software houses that support publishing functions. That’s a steep organizational cliff to climb.

In his column for Publishers Weekly, A soft landing on Normandy, Peter Brantley recognizes the current predicament of the industry as something far more complex than trying to adjust to new business modalities.

It is very much as if we are back in the Middle Ages scribbling on parchment, whittling our own quills from feathers we have on hand, drawing up whatever ink we have available. Our 21st Century parchment is a world-wide digital canvas, but our quills are hand-crafted.

What Brantley is getting at is existing limitations of form and format. They can’t respond fully yet to initiatives of substance. Put another way: never mind traditional vs. digital business relationships — we’re not even sure what we’re going to be publishing soon.

His thoughts, though they start in a different place, bear some relation to Jani Patokallio’s Why e-books will soon be obsolete, covered in the last edition of Ether.

Brantley sees a Normandy yet to be fought, a struggle on the other side of publishing’s supposed “soft landing” in terms of digital format. He writes:

Regardless of the kind of content new publishing startups are thinking about building services around, at heart, they are oriented toward the web, not the page. Yet, quixotically, the web itself is not quite ready.

So wheels are being invented on all sides.

Almost every single startup that is delivering authoring tools…is building their own proprietary web-based layer…In other words, everything is baroque, and nothing in the standards space works well enough across the range of possible uses to be a default rendering environment.

What interests me here is a subtle signal that creative people — those writers we see madly rushing to get to market with self- or traditionally published books — may do better if they slow down, hang on to their new content for a bit, see what shakes out in terms of format, production platform, audience receptivity, and collaborative possibilities.

In craft sections of the Ether this time, the question has been “Where’s the fire?” Even for purposes of quality control, there are good reasons for unpublished content developers to bide their time, sit things out for a bit, improve the content while waiting to see where this transition takes us. Brantley:

It will get better, and likely quite rapidly, but what will be left after our whittling is an authoring environment that will be very, very different from what we have known before.

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Rumors of Water by LL BarkatRumors of Water:
Thoughts on Creativity & Writing

Named a Best Book of 2011: Englewood Review of Books and Hearts & Minds Books

“I read it in three sittings. Then I read it again. It’s a beautiful book, easily my favorite book on writing since Bird by Bird.”

—author Kimberlee Conway Ireton

Find out more on Amazon and download a sample to your Kindle.

  • http://www.wegrowmedia.com/ Dan Blank

    Brilliant as usual Porter! And thank you for the Twitter-quote!

  • Bob Mayer

    A couple of thoughts as I read through.  I really like the concept of PackaDRM.  Very intriguing while not being intrusive.

     The Normandy reference– as a former soldier, I have to admit being a bit taken aback by the constant reference to warfare in other venues, even though I do it myself in many ways.  Last I checked, no one was firing away with real guns in either New York or Seattle.  On the other hand, my next blog post will mention Sun Tzu.

    You make a good point about those who throw out suggestions for others to do, but which they themselves have no stake in.  As my A-Team sergeant used to say (yes, a military reference):  Nothing is impossible to the man who doesn’t have to do it.

    As you note– I tend to put more focus on those who have a stake in what they are talking about.  I find the vast majority of pundits on publishing aren’t publishing anything.  They’re “experts” from the position of observer.  That doesn’t invalidate their observations, but it makes me take them a bit less seriously since their livelihood isn’t on the line with actually implementing their suggestions.  When I discuss DRM, or pricing, or book covers, or quality of editing, it’s because that’s how I make my living.

    Off to finish my blog post about the AAR’s letter to the DOJ and how, just perhaps, their focus is wildly misplaced.

  • KathyPooler

    I agree with Dan, Porter,” brilliant as usual”! While it’s always good to be aware of the upheaval surrounding us (know the devil you’re dealing with ), the call to “relax,sit down and wait” resonates. I prefer to concentrate my efforts on “elevating my best practices” so as to “up my game.” @rachellegardner:twitter @dirtywhitecandy:twitter  and Mark Coker said it best for me this week with their call for quality,”let good work rest on merit.” Amen! I find Kate Garland’s research that book readers are absorbing more than those watching TV while surfing on their iPads or smart phones to be fascinating. I do wonder what all this is doing to our brains. As far as Amazon and JKRowling, how can we argue with success? if you want fame and fortune, just focus on writing a blockbuster. It’s all about the  connecting with the reader. That’s my cursory take on all the chatter. Mostly, I want to thank you for offering us those calming cups of tea via @llbarkat:twitter for a little quiet in the storm!

  • http://twitter.com/Porter_Anderson Porter Anderson

    Hey, Dan ( @DanBlank:twitter) , thanks for being so Early to the Ether! First comment! And a compliment, always welcome, my check is in the mail. :-)  Seriously, thanks much, and glad to have you among this edition’s Cameo Tweetings. :)

  • http://twitter.com/Porter_Anderson Porter Anderson

    You know, Bob ( @B0b_Mayer:twitter ), I have a similar bump to get over at times in wartime or even natural-disaster references (“this issue hit us like a tornado”), in my case from all those years covering warfare and catastrophes as a journalist. Once you’ve seen the reality of things, the metaphorical jumps out in sharper relief.

    And then, yes, as you say, off I go and use such a metaphor, myself. :)

    I’m glad you find the idea of @FrancoMedia:twitter ‘s and@EnthrillBooks:twitter ‘ PackaDRM interesting. If you decide to give it a look for your publishing outfit’s interests, let me know what you think. From a reader’s standpoint, I think it sounds really interesting — I think a lot of readers simply don’t know what legal constraints apply to their purchases of content (or of content licenses, as it were). From that viewpoint, I can actually appreciate the idea of the messaging giving me, a reader, a chance to get it right. From the publisher’s viewpoint, of course, the question is whether “name and shame,” as an English friend called it this morning, is really going to work. I guess my answer is, yes, it can work for actual readers. Crooks, on the other hand, who want to break DRM and/or watermarking, are going to do it no matter how many messages you give them. So maybe gathering in the well-intentioned readership with some education on the point really is the best answer — the attempt being to eliminate all but the wanton criminal element. In theory, of course.

    And yeah, our pundits — I find them especially determined to predict, predict, predict their heads off about every little incremental move in publishing. This seems to be their brass ring, the ability to say, “I predicted this or that correctly.” And look at today, alone. How many of them predicted that Amazon would arrange a deal to lend Potter books to Prime members free with Pottermore? To my knowledge, not a one of them. Hard to see the point in so much time spent predicting and arguing (as you say, especially by non-practitioners). I keep suggesting we all just wait and see.

    Crickets in response to that suggestion. :)

    Thanks again!
    -p.

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  • kfran00

    Thank you for the insightful coverage of our new approach to social DRM and watermarking. Everyone at Enthrill is excited about PackaDRM because we feel it is the best platform neutral watermarking solution to date.

  • Anne R. Allen

    I shouldn’t try to get anything done on Thursdays. Every time I start to read the Ether, you send me off to yet another great post where I must read and comment, and time ticks away…

    I do have to say in answer to your question about questionable editors: Yes. I see this all the time.  I was appalled recently when a newbie unpublished writer I’ve taught in some of my classes told me she’s working as a “professional editor.”  She’s actually charging money for her critiques. She’s just one of the thousands who took a Freshman English course 20 years ago and are now setting themselves up as “editors” to take advantage of the self-pub revolution. Newbie writers don’t know the difference,  and because they’re paying big bucks, think they have “professionally edited” books.I worked as an editor at a small publishing house and then hung out my shingle for a while, but couldn’t bear it because 90% of  people who approached me didn’t  have novels at all. They had collections of words with no plot, protagonist, antagonist, story arc or tension. I knew they’d never publish and I felt terrible taking their money. They didn’t need an editor; they needed a writing class. 

  • GM

    I’ve taken local classes where the instructor introduced her friends as editors looking for freelance work. Fortunately for me, I have a very wide streak of paranoia when it comes to forking over money to strangers. Others weren’t so wary and wasted a lot of time and cash trying to further their dreams of being published. My advice is to trust your gut and don’t fall for high handed compliments.

  • http://twitter.com/Porter_Anderson Porter Anderson

    Hey, Kathy ( @KathyPooler:twitter   ) — sorry for the delay there, especially when you’re handing around such niceties as “brilliant as usual,” lol.  
    Agree completely, about the need to get past some of the prediction-mania so many of our community mates seem to have become fixated on. You see this in so many industries, of course, not just ours. It’s a dangerous trap, a kind of mutually nourishing gripe session that starts with “what do you think is going to be the result of so-and-so…?” and ends up with everybody battling it out for “who’s right” and “who predicted that first.” I’ve seen it seize whole sections of newsrooms before (a legal desk all but paralyzed at guessing incremental events in a long trial, for example), and it can become one of the most debilitating types of “resistance” possible. “Resistance,” as our great friend Steve Pressfield ( @spressfield:twitter  ) uses the term, the one true dragon we all face, manifesting in so many different guises, including … prediction debates. 

    “Chatter” is the right term for all this. Noise only, very little of it useful. Don Linn ( @DonLinn:twitter  ) nailed the whole Rowling debate in a single tweet when he wrote that Pottermore has NO lessons, really, for the overall industry because it’s a complete anomaly, nothing else has anything like the weight and power of that operation. (Remember when Amanda Hocking ( @Amanda_Hocking:twitter  )
     was coming into wide consciousness, there were these endless, ranging debates about “how she did it,” when cooler heads kept saying that such success (taking nothing away from Ms. Hocking) is unique.) 

    So unless Jo or Amanda call up (in which case you immediately transfer them to me), stay the course, keep your head down, and don’t let the publishing prognosticators get to you. 

    And delighted you enjoyed the  tea excerpts, I think it’s one of the most successful chapters in “Rumors of Water.” Really enjoying her sponsorship of the #Ether! 

    -p.

  • http://twitter.com/Porter_Anderson Porter Anderson

    A pleasure! Thanks again for the interview, Kevin ( @FrancoMedia:twitter ), we’ll be watching for more news from @EnthrillBooks:twitter about it, keep us posted, and thanks for the comment! 
    -p.

  • http://twitter.com/Porter_Anderson Porter Anderson

    Now you’re on to me, Anne ( @annerallen:twitter ) — the Ether is really a vortex of rabbit holes! It’s my diabolical plot to slow up the rate of publication so an author, any author, can get a word in edgewise before the next 4,213 books come out. :)

    Seriously, thanks for being such a faithful reader AND commenter on so many sites and stories, keeping the great conversation going so we all evolve (we have to hope so) and get this business onto a higher level.

    And, yeah, you’re describing a huge problem we’re only starting to see, I’m afraid. I know one instructor of one part of the writing business who has told me recently that students are approaching, asking for edits. And this instructor, who is NOT credentialed for such work, is saying yes to these students and trying to edit their work.  Not a good situation at all.

    And no, newbie writers really don’t know the difference. As @JaneFriedman:twitter has pointed out several times, one of the amateur’s biggest problems is that she doesn’t know what she doesn’t know. Some of what these folks get together is, as you say, not a book at all.  Ann Patchett is very good in her Kindle Single on this topic — she keeps mentioning how often people come to her with “a great idea” and want HER, Patchett, to write that great idea as a book!  

    Recently, someone offered to email me all their great ideas. I had to explain as kindly as possible that getting ideas isn’t the problem. Too many ideas, as is. It’s making something of them that counts. 

    Thanks again for reading and commenting, Anne!
    -P.

  • http://twitter.com/Porter_Anderson Porter Anderson

    This is very good advice, GM, thanks for adding it here in the comments! Compliments are often the way someone will work his or her way into an offer of “professional” editing — quite frequently not a legit offer at all. I think  @VictoriaStrauss:twitter ‘ list of things to check about a supposed competent editor is a great place to start in this. And there’s never anything wrong with asking a proven, professional writer you know if he or she can recommend somebody. 

    GOOD, legitimate, honest-to-God, forget-the-compliments editing may not be rocket science, but it can put your work over the moon when done well, and helps you learn so much and grow so much in the process.  

    In fact, one of the most shocking (to me) lessons I learned very early as a newsman was to ask for extra pairs of eyes on my work when it went to the copy desk because the editors’ efforts only enhanced each others’ and made my work all the better. (When I started in journalism, just after the Magna Carta, it was standard for an article to have TWO copy editors’ attention before it could be approved to roll. Amazing. I was so charmed by all the “secrets” of correct style and usage they knew that I’d learn every single thing they did to my work, sometimes sitting with them, and had a kind of game going on to see whether I could get ahead of any change they might try to make by learning their (long) list of points. To this day, I can see things in others’ copy that it’s obvious no editor ever taught them. And the more you can get right on your own by a writer — before it goes to a bona fide, kick-ass professional editor — the stronger the final product is going to be. 

    In fact, I’ll leave you with a hint. When you’re getting ready to have your work handled by a great, truly professional copy editor, do some of the things she or he might do. Run a search, for example, for “look” and “turn” and “smile” and “very” and some of the other words that can be so badly overused in a manuscript. Then you’re not going to be paying your super editor to work at that mundane a level — he or she will be starting way on up the staircase because you’ve taken care of the ground-floor stuff, yourself.

    Thanks again, and do check in with us here at the Ether weekly on Thursdays at JaneFriedman.com, glad to have you with us.
    -p.

  • Anne R. Allen

    LOL I blogged about this a while ago–and it features strongly in the plot of my comic mystery about the wild world of small publishing, Sherwood, Ltd.  

    I have a feeling this delusion is as old as writing itself.
    I imagine Virgil probably met a guy at the Emperor Augustus’s orgy who said—“You’re
    a writer? Hey, I’ve got this idea for a book about a guy who sails around
    the Mediterranean. Meets up with big storms. Monsters. Some hot nookie. You can
    write it down and we’ll split the proceeds 50-50.” Virgil says, “You want me to rip off Homer?”

     The blogpost is called,  “What if Somebody Steals Your Plot?”  http://bit.ly/hSmxza. Ha! Vortexed you back. 

  • KathyPooler

    So true Porter (@porter_anderson:twitter ), the “chatter” will always be there and best not to get too hung up on it. Write what you know and rewrite until it meets the standards for quality via a reputable professional editor rings true. I’ll keep writing and drinking tea or drinking in the llbarkat excerpts to counteract the “mania.” Thanks!

  • http://twitter.com/Porter_Anderson Porter Anderson

    Nice post, @google-cdd662dbbf570b08f57074b311216f88:disqus , I especially like: “Did Virgil steal Homer’s plot? I suppose you could say he did. But it
    doesn’t seem to have hurt sales for either of them for the last couple
    of millennia.”
    Thanks for the link! :)

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