WRITING ON THE ETHER: Static


By

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


My Memories of a Future Life by Roz MorrisMy Memories of a Future Life
by Roz Morris

If your life was somebody’s past, what echoes would you leave in their soul?

Carol is a gifted concert pianist—until an injury threatens to end her career. Desperate for a cure, she discovers Andreq. Is he her future incarnation or a psychological figment? And can he help her recover?

“Highly original, haunting and compelling.”
—Multi-Story.com

Find out more on Amazon and download a sample to your Kindle. You can also listen to a free audio sample of the author reading the first 4 chapters.


Table of Contents

  1. Technicalities: On the Air or Ether
  2. Bookstores: Post-Kepler’s Blues / Turner
  3. Selling, for Publishers: When to Fold ‘em / Eagar
  4. Selling, for Authors: Twitter Dumbassery / Milan, Dawson, Hill
  5. Book-Future: Following Along Lightly / Dawson
  6. Libraries: Smashwords Leverages Lending / Coker
  7. Blogging: Interview With a Pseudonym / Bell
  8. Craft: Self-Publishing, Head-First / Vanderpool
  9. Craft: An Engineered Story / Posth
  10. Craft: What Isn’t in a Name? / Roycroft
  11. Language: Composed of What It Comprises
  12. Books: Reading on the Ether
  13. Last Gas: Your Next Civil Rights Battle / Croll, O’Leary

Technicalities: On the Air or Ether / Missingham, Jones, Eisler, Morrison, Blofeld, Wikert, Lipskar

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

Update: The recording of the Naked Book show described here now is posted here, as of Monday morning, August 13.

As previously written:

British writer Ewan Morrison was claiming to have spied a “glassy-eyed fanaticism” among people “in the throes of the revolution” of digital publishing.

American author Barry Eisler began, “This notion that we’re not going to have literary fiction anymore…” but was cut off by UK literary agent Piers Blofeld, who seemed to want no more than to yell “Amazon!” at everyone in an accusatory tone.

And host Philip Jones was trying, with little success, to pull them all together with a perfectly valid question, “Where is the great self-published literary fiction writer?” — meaning how is it that we have yet to see a major literary author walk across the street to the self-publishing side of the industry! the industry!

Rarely are good intentions so frustrating.

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

Philip Jones

The annoying hour we all shared on Wednesday during the fortnightly Internet-radio/podcast show The Naked Book on Radio Litopia made me realize just how far out of their depth some of our publishing industry colleagues are swimming in the fast-rising tide of  technology. There’s a lot of ineffectual noise being made these days simply because we can make it.

In this instance, The BookSeller’s talk show is recorded live at 3 p.m. ET every other Wednesday, 8p London time, noon in Los Angeles. After the live-cast, a somewhat cleaned up tape is posted, normally within 24 to 48 hours.

The session is led by Jones, editorial chief at The BookSeller, and by the UK’s leading advocate of intelligent digital development in publishing, TheFutureBook’s Sam Missingham.

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 MorrisI’ve been following Naked Radio sessions since they began in March and have covered some of these presentations here on the Ether, notably this one focused on Amazon last month.

Wednesday, the pinballing shouting match included some of the following random lines (I ran a tape of my own):

  • “Right now legacy publishers are solving how to deliver paper books.” (Eisler)
  • “A huge amount of minnows and one enormous shark (that would be Amazon).” (Blofeld)
  • “Don’t interrupt because what you just said is ridiculous and I waited patiently through all that ridiculum.” (Eisler)
  • “We have to engage in an ideological battle…to preserve the status of our publishers.” (Morrison)
  • “Surely Amazon is one of the dominant channels for sales of the traditional publishers, as well” as for self-publishing authors. (Missingham)
  • “We do see Amazon as a hugely predatory American monopoly in this country…people in Britain…are concerned about the influence Amazon has over the High Street.” (Morrison)
  • “Surely if people were that concerned they’d stop buying” (from Amazon). (Jones)
  • “You’re expounding a basically neo-conservative agenda, Barry…” (Morrison)
  • “I can’t believe you’re actually saying…” (Eisler)
  • “No you’re actually saying…” (Morrison)
  • “Could we stick to the book business?” (Jones)
  • “You’re parodying some notion of Americans that you’ve gathered from afar…it’s silly, it’s a straw-man argument.”
  • “We believe there are social institutions that protect us from the market…left to its own devices, the free market will damage culture.” (Morrison)
  • “It takes time for authors to find their voice, to find their readership…years and years of being supported, finding a home in legacy publishers…” (Blofeld)

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What this Seattle slingshot of a jam session was supposed to be was a debate on the status and future of self-publishing between Eisler and Morrison, prompted by Morrison’s article(s) in the Guardian.

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

Ewan Morrison

As covered in our Extra Ether: Shadowy Platforms and in Writing on the Ether: Olive Branch, Morrison is headed to the Edinburgh World Writers’ Conference, as last year, with the sweaty sheen of summer provocation all over him.

Last year he inflamed everyone with some “end of books” chatter. This year, in The self-epublishing bubble, he’s declaring that self-publishing is a largely wrong-headed trend, if not outright fad, and that the usefulness of online promotion of books is a bubble that should burst or be dissipated within 18 months.

But many podcasts, videos, and audio presentations these days are being made to less than ideal standards. It can all be a bit of a reach. Sometimes a noble reach, actually, but still a reach.

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

Barry Eisler

It’s enough that Radio Litopia’s transmission cuts out several times an hour. And that’s whether you’re listening on the site’s in-line player or via iTunes, which I prefer. Even on good days, much of the audio input is Skype lines, providing that strangled-honk sound to voices at times. What’s more, on Wednesday, Radio Litopia’s chat room functionality was only intermittent.

Of course, nobody gets up in the morning determined to put together another semi-comprehensible podcast. Glitches will be glitches, and there are no villains here. In fact, I’m going to the length you see here because I think a great deal of this BookSeller/FutureBook team and I like their spunk in trying to construct an hour-long show with key figures (Pottermore’s Charlie Redmayne, Small Demons’ Richard Nash, Unbound’s John Mitchinson, etc.).

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

Sam MIssingham

But there are things that can be controlled. All is not the luck of an evening’s draw. And as a news producer, I can suggest some of them. Many of these points can be applied to more than one form of electronic content, by the way, not just to podcasts.

  • Promote your show, including its guests and topic, in writing. For NakedBook, there should be a story on The BookSeller and on TheFutureBook blog and on the Radio Litopia Naked Book page several days ahead, naming the guests to come — with their Twitter handles — and announcing the focus of their event. A few tweets won’t do it. Currently, you can find out who was on a show once the edited tape goes up, but that’s as late as those charming  drivers who use their turn indicators once they’re around the corner. They tell you what they did, not what they’ll be doing.
  • Don’t overload your guest roster. In this case, Eisler and Morrison — the two authors meant to debate — would have been more than enough; they arrived ready to chew each other’s legs off. The inclusion of Piers Blofeld, the agent (without any lack of respect meant for Blofeld, with whom I have had some very helpful correspondence in the past) was a needless and noisy complication. He seemed to feel his job was to declare his raging hatred for Amazon, which wasn’t announced as the topic at hand. In most instances, two guests are plenty, particularly with both Missingham and Jones as show hosts.

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  • Consider having short-segment “appearances” by useful figures, if applicable and available. In this case, author Joanna Penn — who had written for TheFutureBook blog of her objections to some of Morrison’s points about her career in his Guardian writings — was “in the house.” She was very visibly following the discussion via Twitter (since the chat room wasn’t working), and could have offered a statement, maybe a quick Q&A with Jones, Missingham, or even Morrison, by Skype or phone, and then jumped back off. Patching her in this way could give the show another voice but without the Blofeld-weight of yet another full guest.
  • If you’re working in audio only, you need guests to identify themselves each time they start to speak, or have a host do it. “Barry here”…”this is Ewan again”…”Piers back to yell about Amazon once more”…”it’s Sam jumping in for a moment…” and so on. It’s not your audience’s job to have to guess-the-speaker for an hour.
  • 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 MorrisStructure the debate. Get together a rundown of talking points based on the recent writings of your incoming guests, and use it to fill them in ahead — get it out to them in an e-mail — and again as a last-minute reminder before showtime, too. It’s not enough to just bring on two seasoned figures in their respective fields and ask them to have at each other. There should be a planned pathway through the subject matter, signed onto by all concerned.
  • Explain to all parties what will and won’t be tolerated in heated exchanges. Then follow through. Don’t be afraid to use the cough button and mute a guest who refuses to shut up when it’s the other guest’s turn to speak. Your show serves not the guests but the listeners. Your customers are your audience members, not the personalities on-air. If a guest won’t properly allow someone a chance to have her or his say, that’s ripping off your audience. Suppress the uncooperative guest’s audio until it’s her or his time to speak.
  • Once a recorded version of the session is posted, include a transcript. At the very least, you want a short write with key points landed.
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

Simon Lipskar

Here’s a good example of one way to handle this helpfully but without a full transcript. It’s The agency model’s impact on ebook pricing with O’Reilly Media’s Joe Wikert interviewing Writers House Agent Simon Lipskar (a Twitter refusenik, apparently, I can find no handle on him).

The finished version lists key points from an on-camera interview with time codes so you can scrub to pertinent elements of the discussion. (One of the severe drawbacks of video and audio presentations is that they’re not searchable for words or phrases. Time codes are your best bet.)

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

Joe Wikert

At the end of the day, it’s up to all of us to learn from these events and ask ourselves questions about our own work and about what our audience, the writing community needs and wants.

If you’re about to post a video of yourself talking — with no visuals to enhance the tape — and you could have created a searchable, excerpt-able, quickly scanned text, the question to ask is why? Same for audio. And same for podcasts.

These are linear instruments, they have to be seen and/or heard, and that requires time that might be better spent on other tasks.

If we’re to use these various means of info-sharing, we need to be sure we’re honoring each other with enough value to make them worth their while.

Jones:

If you both talk, no one can hear you scream.

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Bookstores: Post-Kepler’s Blues / Turner

I definitely came away from the whole event discouraged, depressed actually, by the lack of innovative thinking.

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

Peter Turner

If there’s anybody you wouldn’t want to turn off about the future of bookstores, it’s Peter Turner. He’s been such a friend to bookstores, faithfully chasing the rest of us around the Web, getting key issues onto the table, reminding everyone to think bookstores, worry about them, cherish them, nourish them.

Turner was, naturally, determined to get to the recent weekend symposium that Kepler’s Books in Menlo Park, California, convened to work over its Kepler’s 2020 plan. That plan, seen by some as a possible model for other booksellers, involves running both a non-profit corporation to produce events and a for-profit bookstore.  You can read more about the concept here.

But Turner came out of the Kepler’s intensive exploratory weekend so put off by what he found there that he leads his post, The Future of the End of Bookstores, announcing, “This is the likely the last post on bookstores that I’ll write for a while.”

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 MorrisOne thing he and others have mentioned was prevalent in the Kepler’s intensive was Amazon-bashing.

It’s just silly to consider some sort of political action or grass-roots campaign to educate people about unfair advantages Amazon has over the indies—something I heard at Kepler’s 2020 and from lots of indie booksellers. Why? It’s tone deaf. What many book readers hear in this argument against Amazon is: “Help us! Big bad Amazon uses predatory pricing strategies and because of this you have to pay less for your print books when you shop online and you get them conveniently delivered to your home the next day and, soon, same day.” Really? That’s the row you wanted to hoe?

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 MorrisWhat Turner describes is something we’re all seeing, folks who simply cannot get past the fact — and it is a fact — that Amazon already has changed the game entirely.

The general attitude among indie booksellers is to do whatever they can to discourage their customers from buying e-books from Amazon…Why can’t indie booksellers acknowledge Kindle’s market dominance and serve its customers with easy ordering in-store and via indie bookstore websites, securing an affiliate fee?

What’s more, Turner writes, “So much of what I heard at Kepler’s 2020 (and elsewhere) was focused on how to raise revenues in ways that don’t have much to do with selling books.” He lists:

  • More events (in store, for a fee)
  • More non-book items
  • More serving of self-published authors for a fee via the Espresso Book Machine or some other POD solution

And adds:

While there’s nothing wrong with any of this, I have to ask if it’s really wise for bookstores to plan to survive by selling something other than books. Isthat really the future of the bookstore?

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 MorrisThere are several more specifics laid out in Turner’s post, good material to go over in your own consideration of what may be ahead for independent bookstores.

Things do change, of course, and there are times when institutions and traditions can’t be adapted to major adjustments. Predictions, however, are less helpful than thoughtful, unstinting commentary, such as the lines we find in Turner’s post:

On the way home to Boston from San Francisco, after the Kepler’s 2020 gathering, I asked myself the following question. “What does the community bookstore of the future look like in eight years?” I spent some time really turning this over in my mind. All I could come up with in the end was, “Well, that doesn’t look much like a bookstore to me.”

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Selling, for Publishers: When to Fold ‘em / Eagar

What do I mean by weak marketing that folds too early? It’s using promotional language that fails to answer the readers’ biggest book-buying question, which is “What’s in it for me?”

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

Rob Eagar

If you’re tired of smoke, mirrors, and the voodoo of a promotional expert on every block, you’ll be eager to get Rob Eagar’s sweetly sane take on what’s forgotten all too frequently. He’s put it together in a post at Digital Book World’s Expert Publishing Blog, Publishers Make Poor Poker Players.

Readers buy books based on self-interest, such as whether a title will provide them with answers to a problem, inspiration to overcome challenges, secret glimpses of the forbidden, or hours of enjoyable entertainment…such as:

  • I want a better marriage or less stress (non-fiction).
  • I want to be entertained for hours (fiction).
  • I want a peek into someone else’s life (biographies, memoirs, etc.).

Eagar’s been busy:

I recently examined the marketing copy for 30 books that were on the New York Times bestseller lists. Out of those 30 titles, fewer than 8 offered marketing copy that sufficiently told the reader what was in it for them. That means more than 70% of the titles listed never mentioned how the book would improve the reader’s life.

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 MorrisHere — in what some love to wail is the twilight of the industry! the industry! — this all comes down to direct-to-consumer marketing, which, as we know, is the last thing our majors seem to have considered. (“What? You mean meet the readers? Get out.”)

Hey, look, if it all keeps heading toward you-know-where in a tote bag, we may, in fact, want to recreate Mark Twain’s approach:

All of Mark Twain’s major nineteenth-century titles were sold by salesmen door-to-door rather than as trade publications in bookstores.

Sold by Subscription Only, Cornell University

But before it comes to the front porches of America, Eagar has some guidance to offer:

In order to succeed in direct-to-consumer sales, you must speak their (consumers’) language. Can you guess what that language might be? A direct-to-consumer marketing approach requires that you directly explain to consumers what’s in it for them.

It’s not even a leap of faith here, as Eagar describes it, just a hop, from “merely describing” a book’s content to “describing the results” that book offers.

Eagar’s recommendation to publishers:

  • Look at your top 10 bestselling books. Does the marketing copy for each of those titles describe clear results for the reader?…
  • Examine your company’s website. Would online visitors be able to name at least three clear results that your publishing house offers to readers?
  • Do your top author brands communicate results for the reader? Or, does the marketing language present a self-focused fixation on personality or boring book descriptions?

Short form:

Start by redefining the function of your company from a publisher of books to a provider of results.

This is the kind of rationale Eagar will offer on September 24, when he makes a presentation in New York at DBW’s Discoverability and Marketing Conference. His session is titled “Author Shorts” and seems not to refer to writerly briefs and boxers but to “what makes discoverability and word-of-mouth work in a digital environment?” There’s more on that conference and others at my conference page, and you’ll find that Early Bird discounts are still available.

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Selling, for Authors: Twitter Dumbassery / Milan, Dawson, Hill

The error of numerosity confuses correlation with causation: Successful authors have big numbers as a result of success. If you’ve grown your lists organically, they can help solidify your success. But having big numbers by itself won’t make you successful. It will just make your newsletter more expensive to send.

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

Courtney Milan

On the airwaves as well as the Ether, there’s a sense that we’re all fed up with stupid social media tricks. After all, writer Courtney Milan’s The Error of Numerosity doesn’t just focus on the mistake so many make in how they think of newsletters.

Unwitting Newsletter Douchebaggery, and its close cousins, Twitter Dumbassery, Goodreads Nitwittishness, and Facebook Spambingo, come to pass because people…think that more is better.

Like getting into sensible shoes, Milan walks you through her first-hand experience and arrives at:

I don’t think it makes sense to focus on, “How can I make my numbers increase?” It’s much more effective to ask yourself the question: “How can I make it easier for readers who want to read my next book to find out about it?”

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 MorrisA pause for focus here, courtesy, as you may remember from earlier Ethering, of metadata maven Laura Dawson, we need to keep reverting to these numbers:

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

However much you may dislike the word, “discoverability” is the issue.

Don’t tell me you have to write a good book. Of course you do, that’s a given. When you keep repeating “First you have to write a good book!” you’re saying no more than that actors have to learn their lines or floor traders need to be good with numbers. Duh.

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 MorrisEnough recitation of the obvious. Try to keep up. We’re assuming we’re talking about writing good books, get over that.

The problem is that incredibly good books — potentially “best-ever” books, to use the worst-ever language of the Web — can be lost in this grotesquely bloated market.

There are too many books.

So, as Milan is telling us, your social-media strategy has to deliver meaningful eyeballs to your book cover — eyeballs that belong to people who care about and are interested in what you have to offer.

Focused? One more time: 32 million. Good. Moving on.

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

Adriene Hill

Milan is joined by Marketplace’s Adriene Hill, who takes us beyond our publishing coven, I mean confines, to look at a Not so bright idea: Fake Twitter followers.

Real followers, who actually care what you have to say, are much more important for actual success.

As Dave Kerpen says in a SOT for the piece, buying Twitter followers (which is against Twitter’s rules, by the way), is of no material value:

If they aren’t going actually interacting with you and doing something when you tweet, you know, what does that really mean?

Good question. And Milan has the answer:

If those numbers come from people who don’t want to read your next book, they don’t mean anything.

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Book-Future: Following Along Lightly / Dawson

The author emphasized that equally important to the characters themselves were the spacings between characters. That mood or tone – context, in other words – could be conveyed by the space between things.

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

Laura Dawson

Do you ever worry that you’re not looped in enough — or teched up enough, or innovative enough, or strategically placed enough, or moving and shaking enough — to do the sort of concept-model thinking we all supposedly should be doing in this era when TED walks the land and Our Glorious Digital Disruption rolls forward?

Then you’re safely in the 99 percent with the rest of us in the industry! the industry!

So I’ve come with a little recommendation. (I’m full of that stuff this week, huh?) This is Laura Dawson, the aforementioned knitting wit (don’t contract that) who has brought to us from high atop holy Mount Bowker the fire of facts and figures we need to face reality. (That 32-million-active-titles kicker, otherwise known as What We Are Up Against.)

Dawson is in a fine stage of thought these days on a kind of alternative reality for “the book.”

Above, she’s describing something she learned once in reading about Chinese calligraphy, that business of the spaces having as much importance as the characters. (Sounds to me like the late Harold Pinter’s pauses meaning as much as his characters’ lines.)

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Pause to consider those spaces, and here’s Dawson. Cogitating.

Applied to books, this means that if our books are “open and webby“, then a term in one book could conceivably link to a concept in another. One book could contain access to millions of other books.

She’s gathering wool (somebody stop me) in the form of concepts we’ve referenced on the Ether, from a laying out of the hot stuff from Mount Bowker to her regard for Hugh McGuire’s assertion that books are headed for the free-range Net. Head ‘em up, move ‘em out.

And we think we lose track of time when leaping into the Wikipedia hole.

In The Space Between Things, Dawson is doing what few of us is so good at. Letting her mind wander from one stimulus to another, patiently recording the find here of a memory about calligraphy, there a point from readings in object-relational mapping….the “RDF” she refers to is Resource Description Framework.

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 MorrisI suggest you use her as such. Use her occasional posts as a framework on which you’ll see her from time to time hang a thought, test it, give it a look, see what it means. And don’t try to second guess her. Don’t worry about  where she’s going with all this. She’ll let us know when she gets there.

Books, “open and webby,” for example:

Would be accomplished with semantic markup. Interoperable semantic markup – rather than creating a standard that everyone will deviate slightly (and annoyingly) from, various markup languages will simply have to talk to one another…much as we use Google translate to write emails that can be comprehended in multiple languages. Yes, some meaning will be lost. But languages have a way of enriching one another also.

Just check in with her from time to time. She connects good dots. And then she worries about the condition of her backyard. Or what’s for dinner.

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Libraries: Smashwords Leverages Lending / Coker

We have already received purchase commitments from three library systems, each of which will acquire some variation of our top 10,000 best-selling titles. The purchase commitments approach $100,000 in total.

As ebook lending remains in Limbo for most Big Six books, the self-publishing platform Smashwords has announced the start of its promised Library Direct program.

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

Mark Coker

The news is that both a distribution channel, Library Direct, and its dashboard software, a Pricing Manager Tool, are coming online.

And it’s worth noting how the company’s ubiquitous founder and chief, Mark Coker, plays on the “indie”-vs.-traditionalism theme in order to urge Smashwords authors to participate in the new library program.

First the basics.

His key blog post on the program announces:

Library Direct is available to libraries that host and manage their own ebook checkout systems, typically using Adobe Content Server, and that are capable of acquiring a large opening collection.

It’s doable, he explains, thanks to the Pricing Manager tool, which he describes in a separate Smashwords’ blog article:

Pricing Manager allows authors and publishers to establish custom library pricing for their titles.  Based on our survey, we expect Smashwords authors and publishers will provide their books to libraries at lower-than-retail prices.

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And then, the industry-political angle, emphasis mine:

Our new library pricing option will allow authors and publishers to control library pricing. I think this control will give indie authors a strategic advantage over traditionally published authors whose books are handcuffed by the library-unfriendly policies of the large publishers.

Coker is hardly the first to try to utilize the hatred many self-publishing authors harbor for the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that this is how self-publishing is sold by a major house (Smashwords claims “45,000 authors and publishers around the world). This is, baldly, an effort to capitalize on such antagonism in the industry.

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 MorrisCoker makes it crystal clear to authors that he wants to see them lining up on that new tool and getting down with libraries:

Libraries are important discovery engines for books and the authors who write them. Library patrons are avid book buyers, and like all avid book readers, their passionate word of mouth can amplify the success of an author. A Pew Research study published in June found that 41% of library card holders who read ebooks purchased their most recently read book.

All that is correct. And Coker revisits some survey material he gathered from 150 (of those 45,000) Smashwords participants earlier to help emblemize participation as the right thing to do:

82% of Smashwords authors and publishers told us they believe libraries will help them sell more books overall. 12% were unsure, and 4.7% thought libraries would harm their overall sales (the data doesn’t add up to 100% due to a few non-responsive answers).

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I do like the fact that Coker reports a percentage of patrons who didn’t like the library idea. That’s more honesty right there than some publishing people will offer. He goes on:

24% of our authors and publishers told us they wanted to donate their books for free to any library that wanted them. The reason? They believe (and?) recognize the platform-building power of libraries. 32% said they wanted to provide their books to libraries at lower prices than they sell their books through retailers.

I’m highlighting this pitch Coker is making to his authors not to say he’s doing something wrong, but to be sure you’re clear on how, even at the corporate level, the animosity between many in the self-publishing world and traditional publishers is being leveraged.

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 MorrisCoker’s program distributes to iBookstore, Barnes and Noble, Sony, Kobo, WH Smith, FNAC and others, but only on a very limited basis to Amazon. On its distribution page, the company notes:

Although we have a distribution agreement with Amazon via their Kindle Direct Platform, they have delayed receiving our books pending their creation of a bulk upload facility. In the meantime, we’re only distributing a few hundred titles to Amazon out of our catalog of over 100,000.

This, of course, is a major point for an author to note when considering Smashwords’ self-publishing services among others. The Library Direct program and the Pricing Manager software to run it are key features with which Smashwords would like to woo authors for whom the Amazon situation might be a deal breaker.

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

Maria Popova of Brainpicker.org asked artist Wendy MacNaughton to work with excerpts from the late Susan Sontag’s diaries on love.

A multi-part series of recent interview posts at Forbes with Suw Charman-Anderson, includes one headlined: Mark Coker: Indie Authors Are Underpricing Their Books. Here, we read him starting with such fundamental comments as:

First, we wanted to understand at what price authors move the most units and it’s not a surprise: that price is free.

Yes. Fortunately, he goes on to talk about how he has looked at actual price points, as well:

We found that the $2.99 to $5.99 price band appears to be the sweet spot for indie authors, those prices over-performed the average in terms of income for the author. But 99¢ and $1.99 under-performed.

The issue of the price of ebooks has become as central to the digital disruption of the industry! the industry! as is the Department of Justice’s anti-trust lawsuit of Apple and five of the Big Six. And the pricing dilemma is as far-flung as the bottomless pages of Amazon.com with authors’ lives’ work selling at 99 cents, $1.99, $2.99, rarely more than the psychologically important $9.99.

My first conclusion, based on this data, is that many indie authors are underpricing their books. Customers have shown a great willingness to pay $2.99 or more for a book.

The debate on what an ebook is worth is as easy to enter comfortably as large grove of yukka plants.

Concerned players on both sides of Our Glorious Digital Disruption, however — traditional and self-publishing — are worried that bargain-basement pricing has permanently damaged the reading public’s ability to see literature as worth a penny more than the morning’s cup of yogurt. Coker:

If you are going to earn the same amount of income selling a $2.99 book as a $9.99 book, you should seriously consider the $2.99 price point — you’ll reach more readers because you’re going to sell more units at that lower price.

But what is a book worth? It may just come down to a not-at-all-immortal moment in National Lampoon’s Vacation: “How much you got?”

A slightly more constructive benediction from Rev. Coker plays us out here:

Those extra readers are a long-term asset that will yield dividends forever.

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Blogging: Interview With a Pseudonym / Bell

Ever notice how hard it is for a TV anchor or correspondent simply to say that he or she interviewed someone? Instead, they usually prefer to tell you, “I sat down with” so-and-so. (Or even more amusing, the royal “we” sat down.)

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

James Scott Bell

It’s a completely transparent — mildly pathetic, really — effort to make it seem that the TV personality in question is so close to the news-maker who has been interviewed that they have “sat down” together. Like breaking bread or sharing their Milk Duds or going camping. Ridiculous.

I’m sorry James Scott Bell didn’t say he sat down with K. Bennett when he interviewed him in a Kill Zone blog post, Writing for Money is a Good Thing: The K. Bennett Interview. Then, you see, we might have had a picture of Bell beside himself.  He is K. Bennett.

JSB: You’ve chosen to use a pseudonym for this series. Can I ask why?

KB: I have another name that is an established brand. These books are so different I wanted an easy way for readers to see the distinction. The covers and the pen name do that.

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

K. Bennett

Bell is sitting down with himself on the occasion of a new Bennett release, I Ate the Sheriff.

KB: As the title so subtly implies, Mallory Caine, my zombie lawyer, has occasion to eat the Sheriff of the County of Los Angeles. How and why is in the book. Suffice to say that things are not going well in the city. Mallory is representing a werewolf whose ex-wife is trying to take custody of his kids. Her father is in jail. And Satan is on the move.

And Bell, a fellow former Equity actor, never breaks character.

That is to say, he presents this entire blog post without telling the reader that he is, in fact, the zombie-legal-thriller writer K. Bennett.

JSB: How about advice for young writers?

KB: I’m all for it.

The tone is somewhere between LA noir and Monty Python.

JSB: You are really talking my language now.

KB: Si finis bonus est, totum bonum erit.

JSB: What’s that?

KB: Another language.

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And it’s a fun read. I just wonder — and, you know, this is just me being me, probably wrong, definitely stoned on my own Ether, but in the spirit of not just fist-pumping absolutely everything everybody does in every instance in our publishing community (and because Bell’s a friend I know I can interest in this question) — how kosher is this?

JSB: By the way, what does the K stand for?

KB: Fine writing, I hope.

JSB: Are you going to tell us what the K stands for or not?

KB: It has yet to be revealed. I will someday.

JSB: Just so long as it’s not Korky.

KB: I promise.

 

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 MorrisI mean, is there a point of disclosure that should happen, even in small print, when a writer promotes his own pseudonymous work, even when it’s somebody we like? And even when it’s done as wryly as this?

JSB: Any last words?

KB: Et tu, Brute?

Bell ends the post with a note: “K. Bennett will be signing copies of all three of the Mallory Caine books at Mysterious Galaxy in Redondo Beach, Friday, August 24, 7:30 – 8:30 p.m.”

The promotion is real. The delightful interview is not.

JSB: What is it you, K. Bennett, would like someone to say about you as your coffin lies open at the front of the church?

KB: I would like them to say, “Look! He’s moving!”

What do you think?

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Craft: Self-Publishing, Head-First / Vanderpool

When I suggest that self-publishing a book is too easy, I mean it in the sense that descending a mountain by jumping off is too easy.

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

Clark G. Vanderpool

That great lede is by Clark G. Vanderpool in a post headlined CAUTION – Self-Publishing Is Too Easy and referenced by Joel Friedlander in his weekly collection of strong stuff for you self-publishing enthusiasts. Vanderpool is going on:

It can be accomplished with minimal effort, little or no assistance, and very short-term planning, but too often the too easy can lead to disaster.

Then makes good on his open:

Unfortunately, some authors who consider self-publishing seem ready to take the swan dive rather than endure a controlled descent.

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 MorrisAnd gets a lot of mileage out of his metaphor:

I began my analogy at the top of the mountain…Now, in the rarefied atmosphere of accomplishment, he or she (our author) searches for the fastest way to disseminate this newly written creation to the population below. A relatively small percentage of authors will be able to descend in the harness of a publisher’s parachute. The thing about parachutes is that they require a commitment preceded by a leap of faith and followed by a lack of control.

And with no publisher’s parachute?

For the rest of us who do not wish to remain on the summit like a solitary Oracle awaiting the sincere reader to scale the heights in search of our wise words, there is always self-publishing–an increasingly accessible option. But the ease of access carries with it the temptation to ignore the process. Those who succeed through self-publishing do so, more often than not, by careful steps and with the help of a guide who has been over the ground before.

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 MorrisThe dangers Vanderpool enumerates include:

  • Lack of patience — the urge to jump;
  • Solitary confinement. The author confines publishing input solely to himself.
  • The hassle of husbandry…How rude the awakening when Johnny Appleseed finds he is actually Farmer John. Especially in self-publishing, the author is not only the planter but also the farmhand who cultivates, waters, fertilizes, and sometimes even trucks the produce to market.

“The unfortunate stigma associated with self-publishing is justified,” Vanderpool writes, partly because too many are too hasty to get too many books out. And there really is no free ride. And you may have to pay a lot of sherpas to get you down.

If an author will invest as much effort in getting down the mountain as in reaching the summit, self-publishing can be a rewarding path.

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Craft: An Engineered Story / Posth

Apocalypsis was not written by a traditional author, but by the screenwriter Mario Giordano…The author did not come to the company with the story. Rather, it happened the other way round: the idea for Apocalypsis was conceived in-house by Bastei Entertainment who then sought out an author capable of “interactive storytelling.”

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 MorrisDocumenting an interesting case case of transmedial development, our colleague Sebastian Posth in Berlin writes up A Case Study in Selling E-Books Abroad: Bastei Lübbe’s Apocalypsis for Ed Nawotka’s Publishing Perspectives.

After he was hired, Giordano wrote the text in collaboration and in weekly sessions with app programmers and audio designers to ensure a compact and interactive multimedia experience.

And Posth takes care to point out that — as Dan Brown as the plot may seem — Apocalypsis works very much on a different code.

Apocalypsis is a “digital first” publication, composed as a web-novel, structured in seasons with 12 episodes, each about 60 “pages” long, published in weekly installments.

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

Sebastian Posth

And you know how we’re always hearing that book apps are incredibly expensive to produce?

The investment in the project has been enormous. Despite the fact that the German e-book market is growing fast, it is still running two, maybe three years behind the US market… In order to cover the costs, Lübbe decided to invest additional money and translate Apocalypsis right from the beginning, with a plan to publish it in the US and UK markets. What’s more, Lübbe will be releasing a Mandarin (Chinese) and a Spanish version of Apocalypsis soon.

However far behind the US market ebook sales in Germany may be, Bastei Lübbe clearly is ahead of many on this side of the Atlantic, as Posth points out, even in its approach to offshore distribution.

Bastei Lübbe has demonstrated that there are alternative ways to distribute content to foreign countries apart from simply licensing it to publishers abroad. It will be interesting to learn, which way will be the most successful in a growing international e-publishing ecosystem.

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Craft: What Isn’t in a Name? / Roycroft

I invented names not only for characters, but for nations, tribes, cities, seas, provinces, empires (yes, plural), oaths, clans, religious elements and ceremonies. I have characters with invented names as well as invented titles, and even invented nicknames. I even named a few swords (are you scared yet?). Heck, I even named the horses; over a dozen of them (now you’re scared, right?).

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

Vaughn Roycroft

Yes, I’m scared. In A Sword By Any Other Name (…Would Still Just Be a Hunk of Sharpened Steel) Vaughn Roycroft writes of what a “namey-namer” he is, apparently led to this generosity of nomenclature by his regard for the work of Tom Shippey, Tolkien’s biographer.

My trilogy is based on the world of the epic culture clash between the Germanic tribe of the Goths and the ancient Roman Empire…One of the first things I did, before I wrote a single line of prose, was to come up with the names.

While he went for classical derivations on almost everybody, Roycroft concedes:

Some I just had fun with, for example the names of two of the Roman antagonists. Malvius is rooted in the Latin malevelle: of evil intent. And Turgian is from the Latin turgere: to swell (as in his head, with pride).

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 MorrisThat does sound like fun, doesn’t it?

It can get a bit complicated, but so can actual history. In the interest of simplifying, I made up a glossary doc. In the beginning it was just a reference for me. It has over 150 entries.

No need to tweet him with the requisite “Vaughn, Vaughn, Vaughn, what are you doing, Vaughn?”

I know what some (if not most or all) of you are thinking. Something like: Are you nuts? Why would you trip up the reader? Why make it any harder for folks to get into your story? Why add something that will make it more difficult to get published? The names don’t have anything to do with the story, right?

Yeah, well…

For me, story emerges in part from world-building, and world-building emerges from names. So for me, the names have quite a bit to do with the story that emerged (I’m still a pantser, after all).

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Language: Composed of What It Comprises

Take your standard carton of eggs. A dozen eggs.

  • Its contents are composed of 12 of those things chickens lay.
  • A dozen comprises 12 of them.

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 MorrisA dozen is never “comprised of” them. There’s no such term as “comprised of.” Only “composed of.”

These are not interchangeable terms.

  • The dozen comprises 12 eggs.
  • It is composed of 12 eggs.

It does matter. And not just to the chicken.

Got it? Good. A nice collection of other frequently screwed-up palaver is at Rachelle Gardner’s encore post on the topic, Confusing Words. Read it, commit it to memory, prepare to be tested.

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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: Your Next Civil Rights Battle / Croll, O’Leary

If I know you like these things, or see you mention them in blog posts, on Facebook, or in tweets, then there’s a good chance I know your gender and your race, and maybe even your religion and your sexual orientation. And that I can personalize my marketing efforts towards you.

That makes it a civil rights issue.

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

Alistair Croll

Alistair Croll of O’Reilly Media, has no delusions about the invasive potential of Big Data:

Data doesn’t invade people’s lives. Lack of control over how it’s used does.

His headline is Big data is our generation’s civil rights issue, and we don’t know it.

And there’s an interesting flip inherent in the current abundance model, too.

In the old, data-is-scarce model, companies had to decide what to collect first, and then collect it…With the new, data-is-abundant model, we collect first and ask questions later…This means we collect information long before we decide what it’s for. And this is a dangerous thing.

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

Brian O’Leary

Brian O’Leary picks up on Croll’s work in his post, Meaningful Disclosure:

Croll does not appear overly optimistic about the ability of technology or legislation to help us govern unintended uses. Although he doesn’t specifically mention the possibility, it struck me that meaningful disclosure might help.

O’Leary goes on to write:

It might be a good time to think less about digital locks and top-down disclosure, focusing instead on giving individuals access to tools that help them see what is happening with their data.

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 MorrisAnd, of course, in the publishing arena, authors would like to see — and should be allowed to see — a lot more data than they’ve had access to in the past, whether it’s harvested by a publisher, a distributor, a retailer, an agency, or a publicist.

Croll:

Big data helps detect disease outbreaks, improve how students learn, reveal political partisanship, and save hundreds of millions of dollars for commuters — to pick just four examples. These are benefits we simply can’t ignore as we try to survive on a planet bursting with people and shaken by climate and energy crises.

The only problem is control. And as soon as you’ve said that? More static.

As Croll concludes:

Governments need to balance reliance on data with checks and balances about how this reliance erodes privacy and creates civil and moral issues we haven’t thought through. It’s something that most of the electorate isn’t thinking about, and yet it affects every purchase they make.

This should be fun.

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My Memories of a Future Life by Roz MorrisMy Memories of a Future Life
by Roz Morris

If your life was somebody’s past, what echoes would you leave in their soul?

Carol is a gifted concert pianist—until an injury threatens to end her career. Desperate for a cure, she discovers Andreq. Is he her future incarnation or a psychological figment? And can he help her recover?

“Highly original, haunting and compelling.”
—Multi-Story.com

Find out more on Amazon and download a sample to your Kindle. You can also listen to a free audio sample of the author reading the first 4 chapters.


Main image: iStockphoto / gschroer

  • A.K.Andrew

    Loved Courtney Milan’s section. To sum up- get real folks. Blather is blather , virtual or not. We need to get back to quality not quantity but it’s hard to take a step back when everyone else is playing the numbers game.

  • http://twitter.com/VaughnRoycroft Vaughn Roycroft

    Porter, Sorry to have scared you, but thanks so much for featuring my namey-naming post. I came away from Kepler’s story almost as depressed as Turner. By the time I get my name-laden tome sold, I’ll be sharing shelf space with retro radios and commenmorative dial-face clocks. Thanks again!

  • http://twitter.com/DavidGaughran David Gaughran

    Hi Porter,

    I agree with your take on how the Naked Book show was put together. Regarding the content, I think the structure prevented Barry Eisler (who was constantly interrupted) from calling Ewan Morrison on his shaky assumptions.

    Morrison took some glee in declaring that Jeff Bezos had “made a slip” in announcing that 1,000 KDP authors were selling over 1,000 books a month each. Morrison then said “only 1,000 guys are earning £320 a month.” This, of course, assumes that all these self-publishers are selling all their books at 99p (or 99c) – which is demonstrably false.

    This is but one example. Such twisting of the data is normal for Morrison, as evidenced by his three ridiculous Guardian pieces. It’s a pity that the structural flaws in the show (mostly childish shouting by Blofeld), prevented Morrison’s smoke-and-mirrors from being exposed.

    Dave

  • Anon

    I agree with Peter and would love for indies to stop trying to
    “politicize” a commercial event. Educating a customer into paying more
    for fewer choices and sometimes less convenience is never going to work.
    Do something disruptive—ABA should work with Amazon; instead of
    Amazon lockers at 7/11 why not at the indie bookstores (stores will get
    the additional foot traffic), setup an ebook ecommerce infrastructure
    that pushes DRM free content: you cannot ignore 60% of your customers by
    using Kindle unfriendly DRM. give your readers a real choice.

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

    Hey, AK,.

    Thanks for reading the Ether and dropping a line!

    Totally agree with you, Milan’s piece on “numerosity,” lol, is delightful and instructive, well done and much needed.

    Keep taking those steps back, eventually the numbers people will exhaust themselves.
    -p.
    @Porter_Anderson

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

    I’ve gotten over the scare and am improving rapidly, Vaughn, so thanks, lol.

    And yes, the news of a pretty tepid outlook from Kepler’s isn’t great. But frankly, on the whole, I think we’re just looking at one of those eras’ ends when something does need to change and move on. It may be most bookstores. When I look at the power of discoverability, marketing, production and distribution online, it’s simply harder and harder NOT to understand why time just doesn’t seem to be on the side of the bookstores — at least s long as some of their people are as resistant to change as Peter found them.

    Thanks for reading and commenting AND contributing to the Ether today. Great to have you and all those names. :)
    -p.
    @Porter_Anderson

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

    Hi, David,

    Thanks so much for looking in on us here at the Ether and leaving a comment, it’s just great to have you here.

    Congrats, by the way, on the very impressive work in communicating with the Department of Justice, which I was glad to write up on the Ether, too. ( http://ow.ly/cRdOJ ) I can’t help but feel that getting a more balanced round of input to the DoJ is helpful in times like these of such high emotion and — frequently — such prejudiced assertions from many quarters.

    And yes, last evening’s NakedBook was something of a fiasco, really, but I must say that the folks with the show have been outstandingly receptive to my criticism today — such good sports. We could use many more of them in publishing. I feel sure they’re going to work on their format and approach from here on out. And I’m assuring them that I think the show CAN be of genuine value and importance to the community, with some good production values (along the lines I’m discussing here today) in place. I’m very fond of these FutureBook/BestSeller colleagues, they’re among our smartest people.

    I’ll just add, too, that in all my years in network news production (TV and web at several networks), I saw this same tendency, even in pro booking offices, to put too many people on the air. (Hell, how many times did we have Larry King covered up with guests and his show was the lightest-weight entry we had.) So it’s not byu any means a failing that belongs to the NakedBook team alone. I think all of us who listen and learn from the show and want to participate (I was glad you got through last night) will be sure to keep reminding Philip and Sam: Two guests = fantastic show. That’s a total four people, and antagonistic or not, it’s a great conversation in the making that way.

    Thanks again for joining us here, great of you to jump in.
    -p.
    @Porter_Anderson

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

    Yeah, good points all, and especially when focused around the core concept of working together as a community. It’s simply too easy to yell that Amazon is some sort of Godzilla of corporate and cultural damage when, in fact, the sheer income, discoverability, and viability so many, many writers find in their careers come directly from Amazon. This us-vs.-them view of what’s happening makes no sense when the landscape has been so completely redesigned by the arrival of a complex force like the Bezos operation. In time, I hope that more and more of our colleagues will, like you and Peter Turner, come to realize that looking for and developing partnerships and innovative collaborations is the way forward. Considering how much misguided animosity we run into daily on this point, I’m looking forward to that new attitude. :)
    -p.
    @Porter_Anderson

  • http://twitter.com/PeterTurner Peter Turner

    I got into a very interesting conversation with a couple of major indie bookstore owners over this whole Amazon issue. The point they want to make was that indie bookstores have to tread a fine line between amplifying the value (in the broad sense) they offer customers as distinct from what Amazon offers their customers. Their hope, I’m guessing, is that the market for Amazon and for Kindle eBooks is growing but will have a definite ceiling, that it will top out. The remainder–maybe I should use that word–the remaining market of book buyers will be loyal if they’re not guilted too overtly.

    The palimpsest-like nature of blogs makes it hard to avoid being a revisionist even of one’s own writing. But, maybe indie bookstores can make a distinction between amplifying the value they offer customers while reminding folks that Amazon undermines this effort–kind of like explaining that the devil just had a bad childhood, or something. Maybe it’s a way to go that they can make work. And, if they’re going to take this route, they can’t actively send off customers to Amazon, even for an affiliate fee–that’s the revisionist bit.

  • http://twitter.com/dzmalone Dave Malone

    I like Peter Turner’s mojo a lot.

    “I have to ask if it’s really wise for bookstores to plan to survive by selling something other than books. Is that really the future of the bookstore?”

    In my small town in the Ozarks, we have a small, independent bookstore that’s been on the town square as long as I can remember. And that future is here for the owner. His shop would not make it without selling a diverse inventory. And I’m thankful. If he goes under, I will have to drive two hours to get my fix. And I hate driving to Springfield. :P

  • http://twitter.com/Victoria_Noe Friend Grief

    Oh, dear…results…outcomes…
    I had a flashback to writing lesson plans when I was student teaching in Cedar Rapids: “the student will be able to…”
    I think it’s much easier to identify – if I may be so bold – ‘measurable outcomes’ from reading a nonfiction book (history as well as self-help). My problem with the few fiction book blurbs I read is that they all seem to use the word ‘transport’.
    The good news is that I can very easily identify outcomes/results from reading my book(s), which I guess means I’m thinking of my audience when I write, huh?
    This marketing stuff, Porter…you’re making writing sound like a business. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/Victoria_Noe Friend Grief

    I agree! My fave indie here in Chicago (Women & Children First) sells journals, magnets, magazines (technically not books, I guess), cards. I’m happy they don’t have a cafe, because I believe the whole cafe-in-a-bookstore phenomenon has been a bigger contributor to lower sales than Amazon. People come in, sit down for hours to read magazines and books they never buy. And that’s not counting the people who work on their laptops. They treat bookstores like libraries, but with caffeine.

  • kathryn magendie

    Oh Vaughn – I love you so! :-D

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

    Right, Viki.
    Nothing transporting about your work, no, no, no, will have to remember that. And I’ve instructed everyone around you never to use the word “transport.” (All Start Trek episodes are now off-limits to you.)
    -p.

  • http://twitter.com/philipdsjones Philip Jones

    Thanks Porter, we at The Naked Book absolutely take it on board. In fact many of the points raised by Porter have already been discussed with me by the producer of the series Peter Cox. We are half a dozen shows in, we’ve done two, three, and occasionally four guests tackling different subjects such as Pottermore, DRM, and library e-lending, with some terrific and generous people. This week’s show was definitely the most loose, perhaps because of all the agendas flying around. We’ll continue to explore the format, including solo interviews with the likes of Faber chief Stephen Page.
    It’s a great moment in the trade right now, so I hope we can further reflect the breadth of the conversation. The next show, which Sam is hosting (I will be in a field with three small boys learning how to survive in a tent) will be about women in digital. Definitely worth tuning in!

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

    Let me guess: By any other pen name, right? :)

  • KathyPooler

    Porter,

    Loved your practical lessons from Radio Litopia. Planning ahead always makes sense especially when there is a heated debate.

    Interesting piece on direct-to- consumer marketing by Rob Eagar. Isn’t DTC what we do when we build our platforms and target audiences via social media? We are all 21st century Mark Twains! Eagar’s recommendations resonated- “what’s in my book for the readers.”

    I also appreciated Courtney Milan’s sensible advice about finding people who care and delivering to them-” social media strategy has to deliver meaningful eyes to the book cover” and a great question -how can I make it easier for the reader who likes my first book to find my next one? Great points to keep in mind.

    Thanks, Porter!

  • David Gaughran

    Philip,

    Do you know when the cleaned up version of Wednesday’s show will be available for download? I missed chunks of it in the middle (my own connection probs on top of yours).

    Dave

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

    Thanks, Kathy, as usual some nice takeaways from the Ether.

    Yes, in act, I’m glad that Rob Eagar is on the “Hardcore Author Marketing” panel I’m moderating at WDC West in October ( http://ow.ly/cUfof ) since he’ll be speaking there directly to authors. I think it’s as easy for authors as it is for publishers to get caught up in the blurb-level showboating stuff in trying to promote work, and forget that what readers really want to know is what’s in it for them. That self-interest on their part, he’s saying, has to trump the self-interested compliments the author loves to read on his back cover.

    The Twain thing is great. I saw a show about him at the Pierpont Morgan Library, and they had an attache case that one salesman had outfitted to carry sample books along from door to door. Once a customer decided to buy a book, he was considered a “subscriber,” and the book was sent to him, not handed to him on the spot. (So these salesmen could be very light on their feet, they weren’t traveling with lots of books.)

    Incredibly tempting.
    -p.

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