WRITING ON THE ETHER: Burning Up the Bunting

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, Pearson, Penguin, Random House, O'Reilly Media, Writer's Digest, Writers Digest University, webinar, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism


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Tuesday, November 13
1pET / 10aPT / 1800 GMT
Webinar & Critique with Porter Anderson

You’re all platformed up. But where are you going?
Could you use an expert critique?
Are you getting traction? Or dying on the vine?
Join us for this special Writer’s Digest webinar — precise guidance on best practices and professional performance points. And your fee includes a critique — a web post or page from your site, your choice — meaning your work gets individual attention and personalized feedback. http://www.writersdigestshop.com/what-authors-bloggers-freelancers-need-to-know/?=lid/wdpapromo

Click here for full details & registration for this November 13 webinar.


 

Table of Contents

  1. Ether for Authors: Starts Tuesday
  2. Burning Up the Bunting: What’s in a Handle?
  3. Penguin Random House: Merger Reverbs
  4. Publishing is Special: Or Not
  5. Verticals: The Myth of a ‘Book Market’
  6. Ferriss: Not Worried
  7. Craft: In Praise of Bigger Screens
  8. Craft: Dude, I’m Your Reader
  9. Craft: Do You Love Pitching…Kid?
  10. New Conferences: Authors Launch & TOC Authors
  11. Books: Reading on the Ether
  12. Last Gas: Libraries Are for Connection, Not Just Collection

 

Ether for Authors: Starts Tuesday

A programming note on the gas here. I’m glad to tell you that we’ll be starting a new weekly edition of the Ether on Tuesday (November 13) at Publishing Perspectives.

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“Craft,” in Ether-eal terms, comprises essential points of writerly process and “hyper-craft” elements of the business, from self-publishing issues to the marketing and discoverability quandaries faced by all empowered authors — traditionally published, self-published, and “hybrids.”

Writing on the Ether, Books in Browsers, Internet Archive, StoryWorld, Writer's Digest Conference, O'Reilly Media, Tools of Change  agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing

I’m featuring today some newly designed covers for children’s classics from Vintage Books. This one features the design of Stephen Parker and its illustration is by Gianni De Conno. Henri Rousseau, anyone?

An especially exciting part of Ether for Authors is Publishing Perspectives‘ keen internationalist stance, something I value highly.

We’ll be able to explore the experiences writers are having in many parts of the world.

And our setting is one that for some four years has provided a global view and myriad talented voices and initiatives.

Ether sans frontières.

Worldwide domination is at hand.

Join us Tuesdays at Edward Nawotka’s Publishing Perspectives for Ether for Authors — and, of course, on Thursdays for Writing on the Ether, as usual, right here at the sturdiest web site in the known universe, JaneFriedman.com.

Onward and outward, into the gathering effluvium.

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Burning Up the Bunting: What’s in a Handle?

Mercifully, the 18-month U.S. presidential election cycle has come to an end. Think of how many substantial efforts could have been mounted — from infrastructure improvements to educational, economic, and environmental efforts — by the army of partisans who worked so diligently to persuade you to think as they do. All those get-out-the-vote volunteers. All those potholes. We’ve missed our chance again.

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Steve Inskeep, Doby photo/NPR

On NPR’s Morning Edition Wednesday, Steve Inskeep reported that at the peak of ballot bedlam on Tuesday night, there were 327,000 tweets moving per minute. Those things may have flown by so quickly Tuesday that you missed the interesting divide between those in the industry! the industry! who do — and those who don’t — think it’s good to trumpet their political preferences on Twitter and other media. And in the most colorful language.

This is something some of us in publishing have quietly discussed for months now. It can be curious when someone usually so articulate on a publishing panel suddenly pummels us with their crudest tweets about national leaders they’ve never met.

(The tweets I’m dropping in here, by the way, are completely innocuous, not the partisan material I’m talking about. We don’t need to see those again.)

 

I invite you to think of people you know in the biz who did not do this Tuesday. They, too, might have been tweeting and pinning and Google+-ing and FB-ing and Tumbl-ing their views. But if they were, they weren’t doing it on their professional accounts. Not on the same handles with which they interact with clients and bosses and associates — that would be us — and with others from whom they might like some respect.

 

What’s important is that you make a conscious decision for yourself whether your most vociferous political curses or cheers belong on the conference-room table. Because that’s where your stuff just landed. And if you seriously start thinking of how many colleagues weren’t there swearing along with you — and then picture them around that table looking at you — you might realize that “everybody” is by no means doing it.

The publishing community has a vibrant life online. And since the analysts all woke up Wednesday yelling “demographics!” at us, it’s not a bad idea to acknowledge what a diverse-o-rama we are in books. We are not a choir to whom you are preaching. We may not agree with you at all. And even if we do, we may not need you to share sensitive beliefs with us in the vulgarity of the shopping-mall vernacular.

If you want to vote with your tweets on your professional account, this is your decision. But I’d suggest you not cave in to what you think “everybody” is doing. Because everybody is not doing it.

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Penguin Random House: Merger Reverbs

I can appreciate a publisher’s desire to minimize Amazon’s influence. But, there is a fundamental flaw with trying to compete against Amazon using a merger strategy. No matter how big a publisher gets, Amazon still controls direct access to the consumer. And, the one who goes direct to the consumer ultimately wins.

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Rob Eagar

Reactions to news of the big merger continue, of course, in this case with Rob Eagar of Wildfire Marketing, getting into the Digital Book World Expert Publishing Blog with Size Doesn’t Matter in Publishing.

For example, Amazon actually knows the consumer. They know who purchases their books, where they live, what they’ve read in the past, and what they’re likely to read next. Heck, using its Kindle platform, Amazon can even tell who’s finished a book versus who’s still halfway through a story. In contrast, publishers don’t know any of this critical information.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Books in Browsers, Internet Archive, StoryWorld, Writer's Digest Conference, Tools of Change  Eagar, whose presentations at Writer’s Digest West in Los Angeles were very effective, isn’t entirely negative in this post. But you do hear something related to that loss of optimism discussed in last week’s Ether about major publishing houses and their responses to the digital dynamic. And he makes it clear that trying to amass bargaining power with Amazon may not be the path to success, writing:

There is nothing preventing publishers from marketing direct-to-consumer…other than their misplaced focus on creating headlines through big mergers.

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Joseph J. Esposito

Meanwhile, at the Scholarly Kitchen, Joseph Esposito stirs it up differently in Why Did Publishers Get So Big? He begins by granting the obvious assumptions:

Consolidation is inevitable, the argument goes.  The big will acquire the small and join forces with the other bigs. Big is better. It allows you to tell Jeff Bezos where to get off and unleashes all kinds of innovation. This argument, short on details though it is, may even be true.

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The design in this case is by Susanne Dean. Illustration by Mick Wiggins.

But Esposito is a guy who can remember being in the business when photocopying machines came in, “which made it possible for literary agents to submit manuscripts to multiple publishers at the same time.” Giving rise to the literary auction. He’s making the case here that at one point, the cost of big star-level advances were one reason bigness was necessary:

A million-dollar advance by a $10 million company is not feasible, but a million-dollar advance by a $100 million company is just the cost of doing business. Smaller publishers that could not afford these sums got swept up by the bigger players.

Today, in the Penguin Random House conglomeration plan, Esposito again sees author issues as perhaps playing a bigger role than might immediately be perceived.

Perhaps the primary rationale is upstream, with the relationships with agents and authors. In the print world, publishers typically pay a royalty of 28% of their net receipts for hardcovers, half that for trade paperbacks…With e-books, publishers routinely pay royalties of 25%. There is a big push by authors to move that number up to 50%, which would dramatically increase the costs of publishing houses everywhere, and not even the most assiduous cost-cutter could find enough people to fire in the warehouse, in accounting, the production department, and elsewhere to offset that increase in author royalties.

 

Before any authorial hearts take wing, read on:

A combined Penguin Random House, however, would be in a position to get agents to toe the line, and also in a leadership position in the industry, inviting other publishers to say, If Penguin Random House does not pay 50%, why should we? You don’t have to collude over a lunch table to get uniform practices in an industry where certain players have common interests.

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John Naughton

And at the Guardian, John Naughton has a fatalistic view of the whole enterprise in Book publishers have long been playing into Amazon’s hands.

In the long view of history, the Bertelsmann-Pearson deal will be seen as just the latest instlalment of a long-running story: a tale of formerly dominant industries trying to prevent their venerable business models being dismantled by the internet. The early victims were travel agents, record labels, newspapers, magazines and broadcast networks.

It’s worth getting a few words of Naughton’s layout of the “specialness” argument because we’re going to have another angle on that in a moment:

In each case, the relevant executives (of the industries Naughton listed above) could be heard loudly declaring that while it was indeed the case that the guys “over there” (gesturing in the direction of some other industry) were being disintermediated by the network, nevertheless the speaker’s own industry was special and therefore immune from technological contagion.

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Naughton recounts Thompson’s three stages of publishing’s development to arrive at:

Publishing turned into an industry that was inordinately reliant on blockbuster products to deliver the results that Wall Street demanded. The result was a market characterised by what statisticians call a power-law distribution – ie one in which a relatively small number of products sell in enormous volume while a “long tail” of other products sell in relatively modest quantities.

And that, he writes:

…is how we’ve arrived at the point where our conglomerate publishing giants are getting really scared. They can see themselves heading down the slippery slope that made the record labels prisoners of the Apple iTunes store, except, in this case, for Apple read Amazon.

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Publishing is Special: Or Not

It’s rare that I disagree with or don’t defer to the experience and wisdom of publishing industry sage Mike Shatzkin, who has been prescient about the transition to e-books and adept at explaining its effects and future effects on the industry.

Nathan Bransford

Nathan Bransford, former literary agent, now MG novelist of the Jacob Wonderbar series and social-media operative with CNET, speaks for a lot of us in terms of his regard for Mike Shatzkin’s work as a lead analyst in the industry.

But in The Publishing Industry Is Not Deserving of Special Protection, Bransford breaks with his colleague over Shatzkin’s write, Trying to explain publishing, or understand it, often remains a great challenge.

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Mike Shatzkin

Bransford quotes Shatzkin on anti-trust legal experts’ views of publishing. Shatzkin writes, in part:

I’m afraid my major takeaway was, once again, that the legal experts applying their antitrust theories to the industry don’t understand what they’re monkeying with or what the consequences will be of what they see as their progressive thinking. Steamrollering those luddite denizens of legacy publishing, who just provoke eye-rolling disdain by suggesting there is anything “special” about the ecosystem they’re part of and are trying to preserve, is just part of a clear-eyed understanding of the transitions caused by technology.

Bransford comes back:

The thing is, and I say this as someone who has a great deal of respect for publishers and agents and as a traditionally published author: There isn’t anything special about the publishing industry. It is not deserving of special treatment, and we shouldn’t fear its disruption by new technology.

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I simply don’t share this fear. People will still write books even with uncertain prospects for financial success (NaNoWriMo anyone?). There will still be tremendous competition, which will create pressure to make those books as good as possible. Those books will still be delivered to readers, only more cheaply and more efficiently than before.

And Bransford then takes it right on down to the money call — which may be, in fact, where the debate we need most lies:

What are publishers fighting for? They’re fighting for the ability to charge a premium for their products. To make customers pay more money for books.

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Design on this new cover is by Matt Broughton, illustration by Rohan Eason.

It’s important for you to read his post completely to understand that Bransford isn’t coming from a callous position in terms of the hobbling of establishment publishing. (“I have tons of sympathy for all of the great people who will get caught in the negative effects of the disruption. I don’t think publishers will go away, but they will certainly be leaner, which means job losses.”)

He ends, though, by voicing a kind of primal point that we aren’t good about saying very frequently.

Whether you agree with this or not, you know it’s what a lot of folks think.

And that means we need to look at it squarely. Bransford’s formulation of it:

When you boil everything down and remove all the noise, the precise fear of publishers is that books will be cheaper. That’s it.

Books. Cheaper.

Tell me again why we should fight that?

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Verticals: The Myth of a ‘Book Market’

Until a few years ago, it didn’t matter whether you were a reader of literary fiction or a lover of gardening manuals, the bookshop was where you went to buy books. Thus the “trade” grew, and with it the myth that there is a “book market.”

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Rebecca Smart

Rebecca Smart of Osprey Books has written Publishing in Verticals for The Bookseller, with a clever explanation of verticals.

“Vertical” is an industry term that seems to baffle some folks. Others, of course, say they “hate” it. Same thing they say about “discoverability” Same thing they say about “metadata.” We love to say we hate our most apt and communicative terms.

The migration to online purchasing of print books, and then to e-books, means that the buying of books is now about processes of search and recommendation, rather than browse and display, and this leads to a focus on specific interest areas and trusted authorities.

That specificity is where Smart is headed. “Verticals” create “imprints for specific genres/subjects/markets,” which can be augmented with community-building efforts. One of the most frequently mentioned examples of a major verticals-focused approach is that of F+W Media. Writer’s Digest, Digital Book World, and related conference events — such as the coming Digital Book World 2013 in January — are elements of its “verticals” structure.

Osprey Group grew out of this approach, beginning as an imprint focused on military history (Osprey) and expanding into other verticals including British history and nostalgia (Shire), science fiction and fantasy (Angry Robot), and now mind, body and spirit (Watkins).

http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/publishing-verticals.html

Michael Brown’s Scottish Baronial Castles from Osprey Publishing releases in a Kindle edition in the U.S. on November 20. It’s part of the extensive “Fortress” series of Osprey’s military history books.

She points out that Mike Shatzkin has “for a number of years, advocated a move to organizing around ‘verticals.'”

And she adds a promotional point that seems to be an outgrowth of Osprey’s own development of its various verticals, emphasis mine:

When this approach works, the publisher constructs a space in which there can be a symbiotic relationship between author, publisher and reader. The publisher’s brand attracts authors, who support and promote themselves, one another and the brand (for example, we recently had 19 authors attend an SF convention, using their own Twitter hashtag to promote one another and Angry Robot).

This is the sort of mutual-support factor being explored in the still-young Rogue Reader project and the more mature blog-sharing group of eight writers, Jungle Reds. It seems the writer-bloggers at the Kill Zone could also benefit from the kind of coordinated moves Smart is describing, but its Twitter handle appears to be languishing without much use.

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Israeli-born Lavie Tidhar’s steampunk The Bookman Histories releases December 18 in the States from Osprey’s Angry Robot sci-fi vertical.

If we see more and more authors pull together into various forms and types of collectives — whether traditionally or self-published — we’re likely to see them form and operate their associations like verticals. Smart:

If you have a brand and a loyal customer base, you can sell direct to consumers. As engagement increases, you can ask customers what they want and create it for them (and this may extend beyond books, even beyond content).

There’s an interesting caveat, too, in which Smart gets at the integrity necessary to make a go of an approach of this kind:

Authenticity is crucial; those who commission and promote books or content need to be people who are truly part of the community for which they are publishing, but must balance that with broad commercial awareness. Even then, building a brand in a vertical takes time, patience and hard work.

Does all this mean that “generalist trade publishing imprints” are doomed? Not necessarily, but Smart’s comment about them — “I worry for those involved” — seems to be backed up by her company’s experience in setting and tightening the focus of each initiative as a vertical.

This attracts readers, who make repeat purchases, and these readers in turn attract more authors. This symbiotic relationship extends to rights protection: we have evidence in more than one of the niche markets we serve that customer loyalty acts as a brake on piracy.

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Ferriss: Not Worried

“I remain as enthusiastic and optimistic about this book as I was in the beginning.” People assume that success “means #1 New York Times bestseller,” he said. “I’ve never said that. I would love to have a #1 New York Times [bestseller], but the New York Times list skews heavily toward books that have reporting from multiple retail outlets. And therefore, I’m not pinning all of my hopes on the NYT list, nor did I ever do that.

Laura Hazard Owen

When paidContent’s Laura Hazard Owen interviewed author Tim Ferriss for his forthcoming book (November 20) The Four-Hour Chef from Amazon New York’s New Harvest imprint, you could be forgiven for thinking you were reading about a different Ferriss from the one David Streitfeld wrote about in the Times.

In Owen’s piece — Ferriss: Even if I sell a million Kindle books, some people will still call it a failure — Ferriss tells her that articles such as Streitfeld’s:

…give the impression that he “didn’t know what he was getting into, and was very enthusiastic, and is now having second thoughts — which (Ferriss says) is completely, 100 percent inaccurate.”

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David Streitfeld

Streitfeld’s piece preceded Owen’s by a day, giving her a chance to ask Ferriss about it. And it should be understood that Streitfeld’s story casts a wider net, Booksellers Resisting Amazon’s Disruption — the intent being to to present Ferriss as a pawn between Amazon and the pushback from Barnes and Nobel and other bookstore companies which are refusing to sell the retailer’s print titles.

As usual, Streitfeld’s work is focused and gracefully phrased:

Signing Mr. Ferriss was seen as a smart choice by Amazon, which wanted books that would make a splash in both the digital and physical worlds. When the seven-figure deal was announced in August 2011, Mr. Ferriss, a former nutritional supplements marketer, said this was “a chance to really show what the future of books looks like.” Now that publication is at hand, that future looks messy and angry.

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Tim Ferriss

But Ferriss seems to be telling Owen he’d like not to look unhappily caught in a mess or anger.

Owen:

Ferriss says he is not worried. He is cross-promoting The 4-Hour Chef…within his earlier two Crown (Publishing) titles. He announced on his blog today (Nov. 5) that the digital editions of The 4-Hour Workweek and 4-Hour Body will be updated with a sample chapter from The 4-Hour Chef, and The 4-Hour Chef will contain excerpts from the two earlier books.

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Tim Ferriss’ new book from Amazon releases on November 20.

And that sounds like authentic Ferriss: capitalizing on his existing works, using them as vehicles to put his new book in front of his fans — someone outside the publishing upheaval could be forgiven for asking why the man needs to worry about books on shelves, anyway. He’s inserting teases to his new work into the hands of his existing readers (who are legion).

What’s more, Streitfeld himself points:

This isn’t a full-fledged boycott (of Amazon and/or of Ferriss). Books Inc. and Book Passage said they would special order “The 4-Hour Chef” for anyone who wanted one. And some independent stores will even display it, if not enthusiastically.

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“I’m not clear on what they are trying to prevent, or hoping to,” he said. “Do I blame them? No. If I were in their shoes, would I do the same thing? Maybe. I’m much more curious about what Barnes & Noble’s ten- to twenty-year plan is, as opposed to why they’re doing this with Amazon.”

And in his comments to Streitfeld, Ferriss talks of having foreseen some of the criticism he might now be taking from others in the business who are hostile to Amazon. Streitfeld writes about Ferriss:

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The author tells Owen he’s expecting great things from his new book, with or without the shelves, the front tables, and the coffee-scented aisles.

“Am I going to have the same channels of distribution? No, I won’t, necessarily, because there are people who have blacklisted it…I think that no matter how well I do — even if I sell a million Kindle copies, for instance — there will be people in the book trade who call it a failure because they’re using different metrics.”

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Craft: In Praise of Bigger Screens

I have terrible theater karma—I’ll invariably sit behind a guy with an afro, or next to a screaming baby when I got to the cinema—so some years ago I decided to save myself some aggravation and purchased a Very Large Television. This 60″ behemoth, aside from being a pain to transport whenever I have to move apartments (which happens quite often in NYC), has enticed me to play around with putting all sorts of non-video content on it over the years.

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Pablo Defendini

Never one to let bad karma go to waste, Pablo Defendini of Safari Books Online, brought to us at the Books in Browsers conference a presentation that made it just fine to like huge screens. Now, he has created a useful post from that presentation, Reading on the Big Screen (Books in Browsers). Those larger (than your computer monitors) screens in your living room, Defendini writes, are being liberated by various multimedia hubs, “and companies like AppleGoogle, and Roku are all getting into the set-top box game, and bringing their sensibility for refined user experiences to bear on the traditional television.”

So the big screen is finally poised to become part of the mainstream computing ecosystem.

Good. And Defendini then divides all Gaul into two parts, the digital broadsheet and the big board, the latter being “your typical television set: generally 30 to 60 inches, low-to-mid resolution, and viewed 5 to 8 feet away from the eyes.”

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Pablo Defendini article, Safari Books Online

Nicely detailed and expertly parsed, Defendini’s article handles your technical and aesthetic questions with plenty of illustrations. Then he gets to this exciting point:

Reading on the big board is particularly suited to communal, primarily visual reading experiences, such as a mom reading a children’s book to her toddlers, or a group of friends ‘leafing’ through a coffee table art book. Big, bright images and large text on a big, bright screen. Additionally, the use of a second screen along with the big board is becoming more and more prevalent. This means that while a reader may be using the big board for their main content, they may be supplementing it with additional content on a smaller screen. For example, someone reading a comic on a big board may also be looking up character bios, or continuity trivia on their mobile phone.

The good news here has to do with the ongoing trouble we seem to be having getting illustrated books into the e-world. Not that we can dash out and set things up right away:

The most exciting thing about these different approaches to reading on the big screen is that we’re barely out of the start gate—the display technology, as well as the design thinking around how best to use these big screens is barely getting started.

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Pablo Defendini article, Safari Books Online

But it’s great to think of the potential described here. And to think of redeeming those monster screens some folks have, too.

In the last five years alone we’ve seen tremendous improvements in resolution, fidelity, refresh rates, and general image quality, and many of the incredible technologies currently in R&D labs around the world, like foldable and bendable displays, or low-power, non-backlit panels could be just around the corner.

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Craft: Dude, I’m Your Reader

“Well,” she said, “I’m getting very annoyed at the bad editing I’m seeing.”

 

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James Scott Bell

James Scott Bell is the Balzac of our community, doing most of his writing, it seems, at a Starbucks within bicycling distance of his home. I suspect he has a workplace back there with the baristas, since it appears he’s out-drinking even me in the coffee department.

When a woman asked to sit at his table, he writes in Making Readers One at a Time, it turns out he’d been visited by a highly discerning, savvy reader who had a few things she wanted to say to a self-publisher. (Bell also publishes traditionally, but it seems his coffee-cohort was interested in the self-publishing side of things.)

I asked her what sorts of things annoyed her, and she talked about not just typos, but the misuse of words. The basic mangling of the English language. At one point she said, “Dude, open the dictionary or thesaurus.” …A gray-haired lady who uses the word Dude can’t be all bad.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, Pearson, Penguin, Random House, O'Reilly Media, Writer's Digest, Writers Digest University, webinar, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism

Design for this new cover is by James Jones, with an illustration by Tim McDonagh.

What follows is an entertaining and informative collection of opinions, all assigned by Bell-Balzac to his coffeeshop visitor. Such as:

“One star reviews are usually trolls.” But also: “Very few authors come up to a five-star review. I never read five-star reviews, especially with exclamation points. You see five exclamation points and I think, Please!”

Note the “discoverability question.” Most, if not all, roads lead to Amazon.

I asked her how she found books. She said:
1. Amazon mailings
2. Looks at the “customers also bought” books Amazon suggests on a book page
3. Sampling. “I love the free sampling.”
4 “If I find an author I like, I read everything he’s ever written.”

It’s an entertaining read, as always from Bell, with several good points to consider.

And don’t field characters who disappear and then show up at the end of your book, by the way:

‘Dude, where the hell have you been for the last 300 pages?’”

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Craft: Do You Love Pitching…Kid?

“Listen, kid,” she had been told. “If you want to be an actor, you’d better love auditioning. Because that’s what 90% of successful working actors do with most of their days—they audition. They wait in line. And then they get up in front of strangers and perform with a smile, and then they do it again the next day.”

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, Pearson, Penguin, Random House, O'Reilly Media, Writer's Digest, Writers Digest University, webinar, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism

Sarah Pinneo

In showbiz stories, the young upstart is always called “kid” by the wise elder, every notice that?

Nevertheless, from my own experience in terrorizing audiences, I can vouch for the story Sarah Pinneo relates being told by an actor friend.

She’s at the QueryTracker blog in Learning to Love the Pitch.

The pitching never ends. Having one success doesn’t mean you’ll never write another pitch. If your agent believes your next book could be part of a two or three book deal, you’re going to have to write a few punchy paragraphs about the next books in the series.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, Pearson, Penguin, Random House, O'Reilly Media, Writer's Digest, Writers Digest University, webinar, author platform, blog, blogging, journalismPinneo likens her feelings about pitching to the inevitability of taxes. And she points out that an author isn’t alone in being a creature of the pitch.

The first time your agent reads your pitch, she’s also writing her own in her head. Ditto your editor–she’s going to have to sell your book to the acquisition meeting, and then later to her sales force. Agents and editors are query writing professionals. If they can do it, so can you.

As with a lot of pieces about attitudes in the writing life, this post doesn’t get around to telling you how to get busy loving the pitch, if that response doesn’t come naturally to you.It just makes the point that you need to get cool.

A query, like an audition, is not an obligation, it’s a chance to impress.

The message here is as much DIY as chuck on the chin.

Perhaps I shouldn’t mention that I also enjoy preparing my own taxes. But my reasoning is the same. Who wouldn’t want to devote a little extra time to really getting that right? In the same way that an accountant couldn’t possibly care as much as I do about my bottom line, nobody knows my work as well as I do.

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New Conferences: Authors Launch & TOC Authors

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, Pearson, Penguin, Random House, O'Reilly Media, Writer's Digest, Writers Digest University, webinar, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism

At Writer’s Digest Conference West in Los Angeles, Pitch Slam

I’m glad we have news of two all-new author-specific conferences — each a one-day affair — that start bringing to the creative corps the kind of industry-class information and viewpoint enjoyed for years by attendees of F+W Media’s Digital Book World (#DBW13) and O’Reilly Media’s Tools of Change (#TOCcon) conferences.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, Pearson, Penguin, Random House, O'Reilly Media, Writer's Digest, Writers Digest University, webinar, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism

Design for this new cover is by Julia Connolly, and its illustration is by LIzzy Stewart.

NOTE: Today, Thursday Nov. 8, is the announced end of the very best pricing you can get on #TOCAuthors, Feb. 12. (It’s part of the larger Tools of Change conference sequence, which is why this will seem like very short notice.) Move quickly if you’d like that lowest price, and try adding JOE20 to your checkout for an additional 20 percent off, courtesy of Joe Wikert.

You might recall me making a lot of noise about this last winter at the DBW Expert Publishing blogs in Open Sorcery: Letting the Authors In and at Matt Gartland’s site in Curing Author Ignorance — and, of course, up and down the Ether. My concern then was that while we had major and regional and genre-specific conferences for writers in many settings, we didn’t have the sort of industry-centered, major-players presentations offered to authors that our colleagues in publishing are lucky to have.

Authors Launch and TOC Authors are a terrific response — from two of our premiere conference-producing outfits — to just that appeal. We all can thank Mike Shatzkin, Michael Cader, Tim O’Reilly, Joe Wikert, Kat Meyer, and Kristen McLean for taking that commentary onboard and really working to get a fresh start on this issue with two brand-new events for authors.

Please consider trying to be at one or both, I’d love to see you there.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, Pearson, Penguin, Random House, O'Reilly Media, Writer's Digest, Writers Digest University, webinar, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution DayAuthors Launch comes first, on Friday, January 18, at the Hilton New York (Sixth and W. 53rd, half a block from the Museum of Modern Art, I’ll just point out). This is a one-day follow to F+W Media’s major annual Digital Book World Conference.

While details still are coming together, the roster of speakers is a strong one. It includes

  • Jason Allen Ashlock of Movable Type Management and the new Rogue Reader initiative;
  • Dan Blank of We Grow Media;
  • Jane Friedman of Virginia Quarterly Review (and arch patron of the Ether);
  • Rick Joyce of Perseus Books Group (he gave a kick-ass keynote at DBW’s Discoverability Confab in September);
  • Peter McCarthy of Peter McCarthy Digital;
  • M.J. Rose and Randy Susan Meyers, co-authors;
  • Meryl Moss of Media Muscle;
  • Booktrix’s David Wilk; and, of course,
  • Mike Shatzkin (Idea Logical) and Michael Cader (Publishers Lunch/Publishers Marketplace).

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, Pearson, Penguin, Random House, O'Reilly Media, Writer's Digest, Writers Digest University, webinar, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism, Authors Launch, TOC Authors, Author (R)evolution Day

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Not quite a month later, on Tuesday, February 12 at the Marriott Marquis New York in Times Square, it’s Author (R)evolution Day, also referred to as #TOCAuthors, designed by the creators of Tools of Change for the empowered author leaning forward into the digital dynamic, not hiding from it.

The lineup for this one includes:

  • Cory Doctorow, author;
  • Eve Bridburg of the Grub Street writing program in Boston;
  • Laura Dawson, queen of metadata with Bowker, and the Mme. Defarge of the industry (she knits, a lot);
  • Scott James of the RedHat Project;
  • Allen Lau of Wattpad;
  • Jesse Potash of Pubslush;
  • Dana Newman, agent and attorney;
  • Michael Tamblyn of Kobo;
  • Rob Eagar of Wildfire Marketing;
  • Kate Pullinger, digital fiction author; and, of course,
  • Joe Wikert and Kat Meyer of TOC, and Kristen McLean of Bookigee.

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We’ll have more on these conferences, of course, both here and in the new every-Tuesday Ether for Authors at Publishing Perspectives.

For an updated list of planned confabs, please see the Publishing Conferences page at PorterAnderson.com.

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Books: Reading on the Ether

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

I’m bringing them together in one spot each week, to help you recall and locate them, not as an endorsement. And, needless to say, we lead our list weekly with our fine Writing on the Ether Sponsors, in gratitude for their support.

 


 

Writing on the Ether Sponsors:


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Last Gas: Libraries Are for Connection, Not Just Collection

Here’s a crime scene we need to eradicate. A student comes into the library with a device, and asks for Moby Dick. It’s been assigned reading, so all the print copies are checked out. Does the library have it as an ebook? Too often, there’s no Moby Dick ebook listed in the library’s catalog. The library depends on a commercial service to serve ebooks to its users, but the annotated ebook of Moby Dick that the library has licensed is checked-out. “Sorry, we don’t have it” the student is told.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, Pearson, Penguin, Random House, O'Reilly Media, Writer's Digest, Writers Digest University, webinar, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism

Eric Hellman

Eric Hellman of Unglue.it goes into his blog — Go to Hellman — with Library Connections to Open Access eBooks, an interesting thinker about how the sorts of problems many of our libraries face re not always the making of publishers reluctant to let them lend ebooks. About the kid being sent away without a copy of Moby Dick, Hellman writes:

This should NEVER happen. Melville’s Moby Dick: or The Whale belongs to all of us. Project Gutenberg has an excellent version, in formats that work on just about any device. But because it’s free, no one has a monetary incentive to make that connection.

And there’s the interesting point. Creatures of the markets that they are, libraries may well have created some of their own limitations or, at the least, not cultivated resources they could be using to turn connectedness to their patrons’ advantage.

The barriers that libraries have put in place that prevent them from making use of open-access ebooks are mostly not intentional, but it will take some work to make them go away; it’s something I’ve been working on since the September release of the unglued edition of Oral Literature in Africa.

agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, Pearson, Penguin, Random House, O'Reilly Media, Writer's Digest, Writers Digest University, webinar, author platform, blog, blogging, journalism

This book is available as a free pdf and ebook download, thanks to Eric Hellman’s unglue.it project.

Hellman goes on to list difficulties among librarians, including “not much awareness of the no-DRM provisions of Creative Commons licenses” and long-standing procedures and workflows that “overlook the opportunity to serve users with free resources.”

Ironically, at a time when libraries need content that comes with a price, they may be, Hellman tells us, many things they’re missing that cost nothing.

Connections can occur in many ways. Today, I’m connected my laptop power at the library along with more than 254 other refugees deprived of power and internet by Sandy. I know it’s more than 254 because my laptop couldn’t get an IP address on the WiFi. So I went to the sushi bar/cafe down the street, connected to the wifi, and ordered a “Hurricane Roll”. And clicked “publish”.

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agent, author, books, digital, ebooks, Jane Friedman, Porter Anderson, publisher, publishing, Writing on the Ether, Tools of Change, Pearson, Penguin, Random House, O'Reilly Media, Writer's Digest, Writers Digest University, webinar, author platform, blog, blogging, journalismWhat Blogging Authors Need To Know
Tuesday, November 13
1pET / 10aPT / 1800 GMT
Webinar & Critique with Porter Anderson

You’re all platformed up. But where are you going?
Could you use an expert critique?
Are you getting traction? Or dying on the vine?
Join us for this special Writer’s Digest webinar — precise guidance on best practices and professional performance points. And your fee includes a critique — a web post or page from your site, your choice — meaning your work gets individual attention and personalized feedback. http://www.writersdigestshop.com/what-authors-bloggers-freelancers-need-to-know/?=lid/wdpapromo

Click here for full details & registration for this November 13 webinar.


Main image by iStockphoto / sjlocke

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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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9 Comments

  1. Oh my goodness, thank you so much for your comments in Burning up the Bunting! I logged out of my Twitter account on Tuesday, and haven’t been back to it — or any other social media account — since Tuesday. It may be days still before I return. I hope by that time it will be back to normal and I can go back to treasuring the wealth of knowledge on writing and publishing that I so appreciate!

    • YOU were the smart one, @DianeKrause:disqus , lol. Wish I’d done the same. :) Things are calming down now and folks are getting back to business, we’re definitely past the worst of the political carping and carrying on. Thanks for reading the Ether and dropping a note. Be sure to catch us Tuesday at PublishingPerspectives.com.
      -p.
      @twitter-39469575:disqus

    • Hey, Kari, thanks for your question and your interest in Ether for Authors! No subscription needed, just check out PublishingPerspectives.com on Tuesdays to find us there — and, of course Thursdays here at JaneFriedman.com for Writing on the Ether.

      Thanks again, great to have you!

      -p.
      @twitter-39469575:disqus

  2. Porter, given how long it takes for me to read and fully appreciate/understand your comprehensive Writing on the Ether posts, I foresee my having to give up sleep completely in order to keep up with Publishing Perspectives (which looks amazing, by the way) on top of that. Please have some mercy on us (slow) mortals! ;) Seriously, though, thank you as always for sharing your wonderful work and insights.

    • Hey, @skepticgal:disqus –

      Too funny about the time it takes to wade through an Ether, lol. Use that table of contents…so far we haven’t lost anybody in there as long as they hang on to that lifeline. :)

      Seriously, do join us Tuesday, I’m looking forward to the new Ether for Authors, and yes, I think you’ll find what PublishingPerspectives.com does quite interesting, Ed Nawotka has a great program going.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, and rest up. :)

      -p.
      @twitter-39469575:disqus

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