WRITING ON THE ETHER: Olive Branch

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

Table of Contents

  1. Agents and Self-Publishing / Penn, Ross
  2. Anti-Social: Riling Them Up / Morrison, Penn, Purcell
  3. Competition: Rewriting the Haystack / Dawson
  4. Craft: So About That Publicity Problem / Shatzkin
  5. Bestsellers: Breaking Them Down / Owen
  6. Motivation: Keep Calm / Heller, Baeder
  7. Lehrer’s Limp: ‘With Friends Like These…’ / Tullis
  8. Social Media: Twitter Blows it / Mathewi, Buchanan, Adams
  9. Craft: Make Yourself Uncomfortable
  10. DoJ Statement: New Reactions / Shatzkin, Owen
  11. Books: Reading on the Ether
  12. Last Gas: Writing Great / Rosenblatt

 


Agents and Self-Publishing / Penn, Ross

Maybe it’s not surprising that author J.F. Penn (we know her better as Joanna)  has felt she needed to issue an extensive explainer, just south of an apology, to her readers for signing with an agent. At the top of Why I Signed With A New York Literary Agent, the London-based writer notes:

It’s quite ironic that I feel like I have to defend my decision, since in the past, self-publishing has needed the defense more!

Long a staunch and instructive figure in self-publishing, Penn has become a client of Rachel Ekstrom in Irene Goodman’s shop.

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Just a reminder, Penn, author of Prophecy, promoted her novel by sponsoring the Ether here last week, for which Jane Friedman and I are very grateful.

In fact, Penn has been as busy as an Official Supplier of Kleenex to the Olympics. She also found herself mentioned in author Ewan Morrison’s widely debated Guardian tirade against most things online, and we’ll have a bit more about that later on the Ether here.

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But let’s make sure we take a quick but focused look at this business about her signing with an agent.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro, The War of Art

J.F. Penn

Penn is responding in her post to sentiment, not unlike the sentimentality that overtakes Olympics fans and competitors. There’s as much unneeded emotional apparatus in the self-publishing community these days as there is damp chalk on the parallel bars. Here you can see Penn cutting flips to enumerate her very good reasons for wanting Ekstrom’s representation:

  • The people of an agency, she writes, “are business partners who I will work with to achieve a mutually beneficial goal.” And
  • “Being an indie author is not only about self-publishing anymore.” And
  • Traditional publishing is excellent at creating quality products.” (What’s tucked into this line, of course, is the understanding that Penn would be glad to have a traditional contract. And, as we have seen in comments from Viki Noe and others, there seem to be many in the field who think of self-publishing as a potential stepping stone to traditional publishing.) And
  • “Traditional publishing will enable me to build a wider audience.” And
  • “Film rights and other subsidiary rights.” And
  • “Peer respect, blurbs and networking.” Interesting, huh? And
  • “Entry into prizes.” She wants to win the car. And
  • “Speaking opportunities at festivals.” She adds that “the festivals in the UK especially are only about traditionally published authors.” Also interesting, huh? And
  • “Why a New York agent when I live in London?” Well. And the emphasis is mine:

It’s a bigger book market in the US and my current sales are about 4:1 US:UK split. I wrote for the US market and even use an American spell-check. My traffic for this site and my podcast is over 50% US so most of my existing audience is there. In publishing terms, books that make it big in the US are more likely to be picked up in the UK and in other countries.

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We’re hugging it out with Penn here because these are valid points.

I am the kind of indie who wants a hybrid approach combining traditional publishing with self-publishing. After all, traditional and independent publishing are not mutually exclusive.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

By permission of John Baeder and Steven Heller / The Daily Heller

Notice she’s pre-empting some jeers with her hard-won right to get herself an agent if she’s fortunate enough to attract representation. And I’m sorry she has to do that.

Nevertheless, I’m glad to have this post because it shows us how even Penn has to position her moves relative to the hug-hungry self-publishing masses who sob that they’re yearning to be free of the traditional Big Fix.

Look, even if you don’t want traditional contracts, why throw agents out with the bathos? It’s a mistake to assume that agents are becoming de trop. If they, themselves play fair.

Agents can be on your side even if you pound the pulp into papyrus, yourself. Think of agents as managers who can help non-aligned writers navigate distribution and publicity options and avoid putting every egg into the enhanced-ebook basket.

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And those esoteric rights issues? You’re going to do those yourself? When your self-published opus draws the attention of international publishers, right? Or (just as foreign) Hollywood. Good luck with that.

  • I think we’re going to see smarter agents adjust their capabilities and services to support free-agent (pardon that one) writers.
  • They may even get clever enough to tell us they’re doing it so everybody stops assuming they’ve sunk to the bottom of the pool in Lane 8.
  • They may call themselves managers — I recommend it —  being able to wrangle a lot of services and support that successful authors might find they’d rather not try to run out of their gym bags.

But. Hold still as the other Nike drops.

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Here comes Orna Ross of the recently created Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) — and she’s waving the flag for Penn in comments on the post about getting an agent.

Congratulations Joanna, you are living proof that ‘indie author’ doesn’t just mean ‘self-publisher’.

OK, so it doesn’t have to be Ether/or. Got it?

Good. Because if an agent-manager-coach-hugger does turn up to offer to rep an author, Ross wants that author’s eyes wide open. She’s come bearing a scare story.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

By permission of John Baeder and Steven Heller / The Daily Heller

In How Indie Authors Can Work With Trade Publishers, Ross uncovers the kind of bad thinking some agents still are doing. She posits the case of an author offered a contract by an agent — but when the contract arrives for that author’s review (emphasis mine):

A clause states that the agent will take a commission on all of this indie author’s income, including self-published work.

That contract won’t work, writes Ross:

The agent’s logic belongs to traditional thinking, that having a trade publisher increases an author’s self-published income, but it fails to acknowledge that this works both ways. And, arguably in these technologised times, far more in the opposite direction. The agent has misjudged her prospect and shown an inherent disrespect for this writer — for her hard work to date, for her achievements, and for her aspirations and creative plans for the future.

Ross writes that the author who rejected that overreaching contract is Penn, herself, now set up with a satisfactory agreement (we have to hope) with Ekstrom.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro, The War of Art

Orna Ross

Raising the danger of letting traditional agents and publishers view self-publishing authors as “the new slush pile,” Ross clarifies that her own organization comprises mixed formats but a unified philosophy, emphasis mine:

We have a number of members who attest that trade publishers can add value for indies but only if the author’s status as creative director of the book through all stages of the process is acknowledged. Acknowledged by contractual terms and conditions, not lip service.

So the crying games are far from over. There’s a lot more boohooing, live-streaming of tears, and dabbing around those NBC channels to go.

If you want to stick your landing, an agent-manager may help you avoid broken ankles. But only if your partnership contractually recognizes the reality of the creative work and its essential provenance.

And for getting herself such an arrangement, Penn should apologize? If that’s what any self-publishing authors think, they need to dry up.

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Anti-Social: Riling Them Up / Morrison, Penn, Purcell

I decided to take these “platformers” at their word and seriously consider the possibility of self-promoting my books online (I even bought an iPhone so that I could get with the revolution).

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn

Ewan Morrison

This being August, author Ewan Morrison has got out ahead of the other writers (and there are a lot of them) headed for the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference.

Last year his shtick was an “end of books” cage-rattler, which sent our publishing hand-wringers into predictable swoons.

Many seem to have forgotten that he already has run his “epublishing bubble” flag up the pole, in January, and in the Guardian, where he confessed that “writing about the end of books (generates) more income for me than actually publishing the damn things.”

In The self-epublishing bubble, Ewan was hewin’ the redwood dreams of self-publishing writers:

Already the stars of self-epublishing are leaving the system that launched them. Hocking signed a deal with Macmillan that gave her a $500,000 advance on four separate books in a series – a total reversal from the way self publishing is done (with zero advances being paid and all work being done on “spec”).

  • This year at Edinburgh, he’s down to do something he’s titled “Shopping Channeled” on August 11.
  • And he’s to chair an event titled “The Revolution Will Be Digitised” on the 12th with Digital Vertigo author Andrew Keen. Not sure whether they’ll debate any points. Or just hug.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning ProWhen Morrison delivered himself of Why social media isn’t the magic bullet for self-epublished authors in the Guardian this week, I posted EXTRA ETHER: Shadowy Platforms, following my earlier piece at Writer Unboxed,‘Social’ Media: Your Shadow Career?

Author Steven Pressfield (Turning Pro), on whose work this “shadow career” language is based, commented on his Facebook page about the coverage.

And in the case of both “Shadow” articles, we’ve had some really fine, engaged commentary from readers.

I’ll leave this one to you to follow if you’re interested, offering a couple of recommendations of new writings on it:

An Irish colleague, Eoin Purcell, goes in for the kill-cordial in a comment on the Guardian piece, itself, running down Morrison’s assertion about an epublishing bubble that will burst within 18 months:

Do you honestly believe that in 18 months fewer people will be reading from mobile devices or ereaders and downloading at least some of their books rather than buying ALL their books in print? Do you think the evidence of large publishers selling large percentages of their books through ebook formats will be reversed? Is that your contention?

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

By permission of John Baeder and Steven Heller / The Daily Heller

And in defense of genuine author platforming (as distinct from online hucksterism):

You underestimate the power of an organic, loyal and online following that values your work, just as an organic, loyal offline following is useful to an author, such a group online CAN be useful and helpful, if not the sales boost you might always hope.


And because she was mentioned in Morrison’s harangue, more Penn! (Might as well have the Visine concession in the Olympic Village for all those crybabies’ red eyes.)

She, too, has created a post to explain her conviction — decried by Morrison — that Social isn’t a magic bullet, but it can sell books. Sam Missingham at TheFutureBook helpfully has posted it for the international community to read (that would be us).

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Roz Morris, dirtywhitecandy, My Memories of a Future Life, Nail Your Novel, Dave Morris

From Joanna Penn’s article on the role of social media in author platforming, using the “AIDA” marketing formulation.

Without a note of Verdi, Penn invokes something called AIDA, which, I’ve learned is one of those acronyms beloved of marketing folks — from the late 19th century, I’m surprised I don’t remember it. In Penn’s libretto, it stands for:

  • Attention
  • Interest
  • Desire
  • Action

Sounds like the same opera to me.

Penn — while conceding “social is pointless on its own as a marketing mechanism” — works up the AIDA approach in such a way that:

The aim is to get people to notice you and be interested enough to follow you or click through to your website.

This is platforming, of course, in that the hoped-for conversion at the end transforms followers into readers. If all goes as wanted:

There is no hard sell necessary. This method is about attracting people who might be interested in what you have to say.

And as for the much-batted-around “80%-20%” principle that Morrison assigns to Penn’s way of seeing and doing things:

The 80:20 rule has nothing to do with the amount of time spent on social networks. It is about the percentage you spend on promoting others vs. yourself. One of the biggest mistakes of social is to make it all about you. The focus should be on being useful, inspiring or entertaining with occasional tweets that promote your own material or talk about personal things. This also brings about social karma, a generosity that comes when you promote others and results in enhanced word of mouth.

Just wait until Morrison gets hold of the phrase “social karma.” I told you it was Verdi.

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Competition: Rewriting the Haystack / Dawson

I’ve been enjoying dropping this into so many comments on unsuspecting bloggers’ sites lately, that I want to “share” it with you (as we say in platforming land). Part of “serving” my community by laying some reality on you from time to time.

In 1998, there were roughly 900,000 active titles listed in Books in Print. And today there are 32 million.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

Laura Dawson

And here’s more from Bowker’s Laura Dawson, the publishing data wonder-wonk who has access to the numbers, emphasis mine:

As insane as that is, it’s worth noting also that there are many, many books which never get listed in Books in Print – Kindle originals, for example, or self-published books. Or documentation that’s written for a specific purpose but which becomes useful to many people. That sort of thing almost never gets an ISBN.

And better:

It’s also worth noting that this is just in the US. It’s not a question of whether or not publication rates worldwide have experienced exponential growth; it’s merely a question of by what factor. We could be looking at nearly a billion books.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

By permission of John Baeder and Steven Heller / The Daily Heller

Once you’re back off the floor and crawling into your chair, check her latest post on it, A matter of scale.

This is a data problem like none we’ve ever encountered before. So very very much content – more than currently exists on the web – gradually and then suddenly adding to what’s on the web.

That’s me doing the mad underlining there, of course. But get what she’s saying. “Not in human history,” as you hear people say — as if the marsupials might have experienced this in their history, you think?

We have authors all over the place worried about whether they’re tweeting too much and writing too little, and saying things like “a good story is what really, really counts.”  Really, really? You think there’s a story so good that it can somehow get past 32 million other titles? Before the self-publishers arrive?

Dawson is trying to help you get your head around the real problem. Don’t give me “challenge.” The word is problem. The right word is problem. For anybody who’s trying to find an audience, a readership, a ride home.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning ProWhat Dawson would like you to think about is along the lines of what Hugh McGuire would like you to consider. I covered his TEDxMontreal talk on this in EXTRA ETHER: eBooks Gone in 5 Years?

Writes Dawson:

An ebook, as Hugh McGuire repeatedly reminds us, is a website. It’s a website in a box (or, rather, zip file), which will eventually leave its box and be available – in whole or in parts – on the web.

Got that in your mind? A book as a web site. Now:

When search engines (Google, Bing, Yahoo) treat books like websites, crawling and indexing them, metadata will assume an even more critical role than it already does. Even more than metadata, the structure of that metadata – how it’s communicated, what gets communicated, how it’s organized – will be critical.

Don’t tell me that “discoverability is an ugly term. It may be your best friend. Dawson:

Our current taxonomies, which treat books as things, will be overwhelmed by the un-thing-ness of books on the web. Developing a structure for these taxonomies – and vocabularies for these taxonomies – is going to be painstaking. And possibly tedious! But we will have to do it.

Still worried about the front table?

Thirty-two million active titles. I could cry like an Olympian.

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Craft: So About That Publicity Problem / Shatzkin

Since both the self-published community and the established author community lack any really useful data on the rates of success of any one marketing technique versus another or what an author’s chances of success are publishing on their own or with a publisher, we have a battle of anecdata.

Not one of the colleagues we usually expect to find counseling authors on marketing issues, Mike Shatzkin, nevertheless, read Ewan Morrison’s piece, too. And Shatzkin, publishers’ consultant that he is, brings in a viewpoint we don’t get on this issue every day.

His key reaction is in his headline: Just because the author does a lot of marketing doesn’t mean the publisher can’t help. Shatzkin seems no happier about Morrison’s “articulate and snarky attack on the idea that an author can Twitter and Facebook her way to success” than anyone else is.

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The instructive difference in his approach — instructive, as in this is how another sector of the biz thinks — is that Shatzkin still has one foot, on behalf of his clients, pretty substantially in bricks-and-mortar outlets for hardbacks and paperbacks.

The debate around whether author efforts with social media provide an adequate substitute for the marketing done over the years by publishers (a big component of which, of course, is exposure of the printed book in brick bookstores and we all know that’s declining even though it is still more than half the sale for most books) is really a proxy for a larger question: does the publisher add value commensurate with their share of revenues?

In the end, the bias under which he quite understandably labors does assert itself — “I think the odds are that most authors will be better off with publishers than without them for a long time to come” — but not before Shatzkin, without using the term, has moved toward the hybrid concept we’re all talking about for authors.

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Bestsellers: Breaking Them Down / Owen

Update: See our colleague Alison Flood’s writeup in the Guardian, Four self-published authors on New York Times ebook bestseller list.  Author Colleen Hoover, one of the authors examined by Owen in her eBook Bestsellers Breakdown is among the four. Writes Flood:

Colleen Hoover’s Slammed to reach eighth place this weekend ahead of ebooks by James Patterson and Karin Slaughter

In addition, author Bella Andre figures into this new writeup, as does Mark Coker of Smashwords.

| | |

Are you seeing this each Friday?

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro, The War of ArtThis week, three “Sullivans” books are on the New York This weekly feature examines certain ebooks’ paths to bestseller-dom, and highlights bestselling titles on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists that are selling more copies in digital than in print.Times bestseller list at #22, #23 and #24, and three titles are on the USA Today bestseller list at #28, #51 and #56.

That’s Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent in her Ebook Bestsellers Breakdown focus on author Bella Andre’s self-published series The Sullivans. (Andre has self-published nine books and has traditionally published eight.)

Laura Hazard Owen

And each week, Owen is taking one or more case of an ebook bestseller and working out how it has arrived at its current standing, usually with some interview comments from the author. Here’s her explanation:

This weekly feature examines certain ebooks’ paths to bestseller-dom, and highlights bestselling titles on the New York Times and USA Today bestseller lists that are selling more copies in digital than in print.

Last week, for example, she brought in not only Andre’s Sullivans series but also Courtney Walsh’s A Sweethaven Summer. Having published scrapbooking guides with F+W Media (parent company of Writer’s Digest, Digital Book World and other verticals), Walsh went to Guideposts with what turns out to be a series of inspirational novels: A Sweethaven Homecoming has just released.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro, The War of ArtHow did “Summer” hit the lists? Owen:

Guideposts released A Sweethaven Summer in February 2012 and is now running a promotion with Kindle and Nook selling the ebook for $0.99.

When she can get an interview, Owen brings back some interesting material.

For example, when she analyzed Colleen Hoover’s self-published Slammed — it entered the New York Times’ ebook fiction list at No. 13 — she spoke with Hoover who told her:

“I hadn’t written anything in the past ten years until December [2011], when I got the idea for Slammed.”

Hoover wrote the book in a month, uploaded it for family and friends, talked it up on Facebook and message boards, then had a breakthrough in sales when a romance blogger reviewed it.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Turning Pro, The War of ArtAs the Ether moves this week, Slammed is ranked as Amazon’s No. 210 in books overall. In the romance bestsellers on Amazon (this changes hourly), it’s No. 4, lying above one of the Fifty Shades. Says Hoover:

“Every single day of this whole experience has been a huge shocker.”

Keep an eye out for Owen’s “Breakdown” each Friday, good way to spot some mechanics behind the ebook winners.

 

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Motivation: Keep Calm / Heller, Baeder

Regular Ethernauts know I’m not a fan of the inspi-vational figures in our industry who sell courses, seminars, tutorials, webinars, CDs, books, videos, retreats, coffee mugs, calendars, boxer shorts, and anything else they can come up with to get their fingerprints onto writerly careers.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning ProYour writing is its own inspiration. If you need somebody to tell you to belieeeeeeeeve in yourself, maybe you’re not cut out for the writing life.

So I was intrigued when Steven Heller at Imprint posted Just Try to Motivate Me! with a series of early-20th-century motivational-doctrinal messages to a long gone workforce. They’re 5×7-inch mini-posters from the collection of John Baeder.

Writes Heller:

How did industrialists and business leaders get the most productivity out of their workers? Not through cost-of-living increases or profit sharing or unexpected bonuses—but through a barrage of motivational sayings.

Maybe you’ve seen the updates London 2012 is doing on the old “Keep Calm and Carry On” signs? Today’s version is “Keep Calm – It’s Just the Olympics.” And these old gems put across the same kind of bite-sized advice

I’m grateful to Heller and to Baeder for giving me permission to show you some of these vintage visions of aphoristic America. Heller has run a two-day offering of them, so check out the second day, as well, I’m Motivated, Are You?

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Lehrer’s Limp: ‘With Friends Like These…’ / Tullis

Should you ever be in the fix in which Jonah Lehrer has found himself, you don’t want Paul Tullis coming to your defense.

Absent further revelations…I find it an unfair double-standard that something Lehrer falsely attributed to Bob Dylan—which is essentially accurate, even if it isn’t technically—has cost him his job, and that his publisher is yanking his book.

In L’Affaire Lehrer: In Defense of Jonah at the New York Observer, Tullis waxes rude about Lehrer’s critics and excuses any number of unacceptable gaffes, which have led, of course, to Lehrer’s resignation from the New Yorker.

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Julie Bosman at the Times ably led the story of the resignation here, in case you missed it, in Jonah Lehrer Resigns From The New Yorker After Making Up Dylan Quotes for His Book.

But before Tullis is done, you may find yourself worried for Adam Bly’s fine Seed Magazine. That’s where Tullis writes that he worked with Lehrer in the early stages of the Frontal Cortex blog and Lehrer’s then-young career…all of which leaves me wondering if Tullis isn’t the editor who should have been teaching Lehrer the right ways to do things with journalistic efficacy. (A lot of us have wondered, after all, where the Wired and New Yorker editors were when the fast-and-looseness to which Lehrer has copped was going on.)

Here’s more Tullis. Sit well back:

Because meanwhile, fatheads on cable TV like Bill O’Reilly knowingly (and probably unknowingly, too) purvey falsehoods every day and they don’t lose their jobs, and their books (of much lower quality, and higher degree of falsehood, than Lehrer’s “Imagine,” in nearly all instances) stay on the shelves.

See what I mean? And look, this loss from the working market of what appeared to be a talent like Lehrer’s is a sad situation, good for nobody.

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Now, we have the awful spectacle of Houghton Mifflin issuing instructions on how to get your money back for Lehrer’s book, Imagine – which is coming off shelves in print and off buy-pages in digitalia.

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The bottom line is that something led a high-profile writer to believe that inaccurate material — and then lies about where it came from — were OK. But here’s Tullis about Lehrer:

He’s also a hell of a nice guy.

More hug and tears now, right?

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Social Media: Twitter Blows it / Mathewi, Buchanan, Adams

The kind of behavior that Twitter engaged in by banning Adams raises some important issues for the company: as it expands its media ambitions and does more curation and manual filtering of the kind it has been doing for NBC, Twitter is gradually transforming itself from a distributor of real-time information into a publisher of editorial content, and that could have serious legal ramifications.

 

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

Mathew Ingram

Mathew Ingram at GigaOm is talking, of course, about the Guy Adams mess in his article Is Twitter a publisher or a distributor? There’s a crucial difference. (And boy, are those new GigaOM/paidContent headlines huge.)

It was disturbing enough that Twitter “disappeared” the account of Adams, a journalist with The Indpendent. 

Adams has been sharply critical of NBC’s Olympics coverage. Twitter has a major partnership under way with NBC for the Games.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

By permission of John Baeder and Steven Heller / The Daily Heller

Twitter at first cited misconduct by Adams in tweeting an NBC execs’ email address. But Twitter then admitted it had learned its own people had informed NBC of how to lodge a complaint with Twitter’s “Trust and Safety” division. That constituted a proactive effort on the part of Twitter to move against a user — which is against Twitter’s own policy.

As Jeff John Roberts at paidContent writes in Twitter comes clean, apologizes for NBC-gate, Twitter flatly “appeared to break its own principles in order to champion a corporate interest.”

Adams was reinstated.

The fallout? Much hue, much cry, and a chance for Adams to write I thought the internet age had ended this kind of censorship in The Independent:

As a journalist, you know you are doing your job properly when you manage to upset rich, powerful and entitled people who are used to getting their own way. And you know you’ve really got under their skin when they pursue censorship, the avenue of last resort since time immemorial.

Mathewi, reading Matt Buchanan in The Real Reason Twitter Apologized For Suspending Journalist’s Account at Buzzfeed, points out that the incident — especially the point that a Twitter staffer working with NBC was involved — means that:

Twitter itself detected the offensive content and took action, rather than waiting for a user to report the message through the usual channels.

And this, Mathewi quotes Twitter counsel Alex MacGillivray saying, “undermines the trust that our users have in us.”

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And as Mathewi warns, Twitter has a dual dilemma going forward:

Not only does it have to find some way to navigate between the demands of its users and the necessity of catering to advertisers and/or corporate partners like NBC — while still upholding its self-declared status as the “free-speech wing of the free-speech party” — but it has to be careful not to become too much of a curator or publisher of content, or face the potential legal liabilities that all publishers face. Welcome to the realities of being a media entity, Twitter.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

Megan Garber

From one of my favorite folks, Megan Garber at The Atlantic, here’s a marvelously simplistic — but for that reason probably very telling — look at one perfectly predictable effect of Twitter’s actions on the @GuyAdams account, The Power of Internet Censorship, in 1 Chart.

What it shows you is that before the account was suspended and the furor started, Adams was averaging a modest number of replies to that account, @GuyAdams. By the time he was being reinstated? Between 15,000 and 20,000 replies were being directed that way.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

Chart by TopsyLabs via Megan Garber / The Atlantic

As Garber writes:

Flat-flat-flat-BOOM! … the noisy growth of the “silenced” @guyadams is a nice reminder: In a networked world — in a world that empowers users not only as subjects, but also as objects of discussion — true suspension is much harder to achieve than it used to be.

And another thing: If you’re not yet Twitter-aturated, check Nate Cohn’s write at The New Republic on the “Twindex” or Twitter Political Index, “which will apparently provide a daily assessment of political sentiment on Twitter.”

In Will Twitter Change the Way We Measure Public Opinion? Let’s Hope Not, Cohn writes:

If there’s anything good that might come out of the Twitter Political Index, it’s the vanishingly low chance that someone might notice how little it actually matters. The news cycle swings wildly and yet it rarely has an impact.

And if you’ve heard of Twitter’s “Cards,” there’s a helpful write from Mike Isaac at AllThingsD, The Future of Twitter’s Platform Is All in the Cards:

What are Twitter Cards, exactly? In effect, they are the technology behind expanded, multimedia-rich tweets. With the addition of a few lines of code, publishers, brands and developers can create better tweets showcasing their content inside of the Twitter stream.

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Craft: Make Yourself Uncomfortable

The times when I’ve been the most productive–had the ideas literally coming so fast I could not keep up–are when my life has been the most chaotic. When life events have put me through the wringer or when I have so much darn work that I will never get it all done, then the characters of my neglected fiction work jump up and down and tell me their secrets.

Jeanne Kisaky is no fan of the cushy. In her piece for Writer Unboxed, Writing from the Discomfort Zone, she goes both for the psychological and physical setting of your writing day, in search of some good, hard surfaces.

My proposal is about changing your mental furniture. Stop ‘protecting’ your writing space and open it up. Give up the comfy chair and hand-warming teacup. Bring your emotions, your pain, your chaos in with you, and channel them into the words. If you don’t feel while you’re writing, then how can you expect your characters to?

Ready to doff the warm and the fuzzy?

When you’re stuck, take yourself where your characters need to go–even if it’s uncomfortable. To prepare yourself to write a scene where the characters are angry, do something that is guaranteed to push all your buttons, like reading an article written by someone with opposite opinions.

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DoJ Statement: New Reactions / Shatzkin, Owen

It is a safe prediction that one of the stories of Christmas 2012 will be the extent to which the agency publishers dropped prices from what they were permitted to charge to meet competition, driven by Amazon.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn

Mike Shatzkin

We couldn’t go a week without mentioning The Case, could we?

Industry observer and publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin follows his and Michael Cader’s Publishing on the Cloud conference with Shatzkin writing in a new essay, The ebook marketplace is about to change…a lot.

Shatzkin here takes as his premise the assumption that the Department of Justice’s rejection of complaints in the public comment period indicates that the settlement will be imposed largely as laid out. And in that case, as he writes, things get quickly complicated.

New contracts will be needed between the three settling publishers and all the retailers. And they’ll need to be crafted, negotiated, and signed within a maximum 70-day window.

As Shatzkin makes clear, there are potentially complex routines to be arranged ahead, both retailers and publishers needing to monitor pricing.

This is a game of three-dimensional tic-tac-toe. The retailers have to watch each other and, at the same time, watch how their discounting to consumers stacks up against the allowances they are earning through above-cost sales for each of the three settling publishers.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

By permission of John Baeder and Steven Heller / The Daily Heller

A note of interest to writers: Shatzkin writes that “the agency publishers will have to respond in their pricing too,” once the three settling Big Six publishers’ prices begin to drop without agency to hold them in place.

It’s an equally safe prediction that a consequence of that will be that fledgling authors living at the lower price points will lose market share. That will not be obvious and nobody will actually notice.

And meanwhile, an amicus brief is to be filed by the American Booksellers Association and Barnes and Noble in the case by August 15, ten pages.

Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent reports the purported rationale in Booksellers, Barnes & Noble to weigh in on Apple ebooks case:

“Giving customers the widest choices at the fairest prices is at the heart of the agency model, and we believe this model should remain intact,” Barnes & Noble general counsel Eugene DeFelice said in a statement. “We want to help the Court fully understand the significant consequences of any action that would erode such a pro-competition, pro-consumer model, and that is the purpose of our filing.”

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Books: Reading on the Ether

For an updated list of planned confabs, please see the Publishing Conferences page at PorterAnderson.com. There, you’ll note that the upcoming F+W Media conferences now have extended Early Bird rates into mid-August — it’s not too late, after all, to get the best prices.

The books you see here have been referenced recently in Writing on the Ether.

I’m bringing them together in one spot each week, to help you recall and locate them, not as an endorsement.


 Writing on the Ether Sponsors:


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Last Gas: Writing Great / Rosenblatt

When I start thinking this way, I wonder if I’m just growing old, and tired of modernity.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

Roger Rosenblatt

Roger Rosenblatt calls his essay in the Times How To Write Great.

Yet even when modernity was young, I was dazzled more often by clarity than by calculated difficulty, and pleased simply by someone doing a far, far better thing.

What Rosenblatt does here is isolate some of the key features of that clarity he loves — its allegiance to “the verities” — and he lays them out like a summer afternoon’s jacket and slacks for high tea.

Why, for example, do the great writers use anticipation instead of surprise? Because surprise is merely an instrument of the unusual, whereas anticipation of a consequence enlarges our understanding of what is happening.

What some will appreciate here is Rosenblatt’s unafraid to speak of morality and the clear use of it in enduring literature.

Let us also speak of Dickens, who is often undervalued because he hits the eternal verities on the nose. Sure, we cannot help being aware of his in-your-face morality, yet we are moved by it nonetheless, because, tossing sophistication to the wind, we wish to see the just rewarded and the unjust punished.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Joanna Penn, J.F. Penn, Prophecy, ARKANE Thriller, The Creative Penn, TheCreativePenn, Steven Pressfield, Steve Pressfield, The War of Art, Turning Pro

By permission of John Baeder and Steven Heller / The Daily Heller

He’s also willing to get into our faces with today’s greater writers, unwilling to let us off the hook by passing bucks to the classics.

See E. L. Doctorow, Cynthia Ozick, Richard Wilbur, Philip Roth, Doris Lessing, Leon Wieseltier, Seamus Heaney, Margaret Atwood, and on and on, though not indefinitely. Whenever we pick up the work of any of these people, we know without looking that the subject will be important, that something “of certain magnitude” (Aristotle) is at stake.

After all the time and energy spent on “mommy porn” and vampires and runaway romance and rundown zombies, it’s good to read somebody willing to suggest — loudly enough to hear him over the hiss of digital doggerel — a willingness to come out for something better.

Let’s go for it. Let us speak about great writing — not brilliant writing or clever writing or, most tempting of all, exquisite writing. Let us speak of Quixote writing, Lear and Deronda writing. Honor, heroism, decency, justice and “Ah, love, let us be true to one another” writing.

Remember when that’s what people meant by “books?”

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Main image: iStockphoto / piranka

 


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Porter Anderson (Find him on Twitter / Find him at Google+) is a Fellow with the National Critics Institute. As a journalist, he has worked with three networks of CNN, The Village Voice, Dallas Times Herald, D Magazine, and other outlets. He contributes to Digital Book World’s Expert Publishing Blog and to Writer Unboxed, and has been posted by the United Nations to Rome (P-5, laissez-passer) for the World Food Programme. He is based in Tampa. His companion to this column, Issues on the Ether Issues on the Ether, appears on Tuesdays at PublishingPerspectives.com, and is followed by a live chat on Twitter each Wednesday, hashtagged #EtherIssue. His Porter Anderson Meets series of interviews for London's The Bookseller features a live Twitter interview each Monday hashtagged #PorterMeets, followed by a write-up in the magazine on the stands each Friday. More at PorterAndersonMedia.com.

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11 Comments

  1. Pingback: Writing Blog Treasures 8~4 | Gene Lempp ~ Writer

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  3. Porter, again want to thank you for all the time you put into Ether and the patience and talent you have for cogent analysis. I threw up my hands at the McEwan confab and dismissed it as “Chicken Little” storytelling. But there’s more to it. The Rosenblatt piece almost brought tears to my eyes as I remembered exactly why I’m passionate about books, those books.

    As for those 32 million Books In Print — eight times the population of my hometown, Los Angeles. I imagine eight times more cars clogging Hollywood Blvd and the 101 Fwy. Makes me shudder. Hope that doesn’t put you off coming to Writer’s Digest West in October. BTW, thanks for the discount code for it :)

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