Writing on the Ether

#DBW12, #toccon, #WDC12, Amazon, author, AWP, B&N, Barnes and Noble, book, confab, conference, critic, criticism, critique, DBW, Digital Book World, e-book, e-reader, ebook, ereader, Jane Friedman, publishing, Tools of Change, writer, writingTable of Contents

  1. AWP: Literature and long lines
  2. Publishing: Open sorcery (& letting the authors in)
  3. Authors and Amazon: Suzuki gives KDP Select a spin
  4. Amazon: Wikert breaks his ‘habit’ — with honor
  5. Piracy: What the Dickens?
  6. Apple: The sound of tribal war drums
  7. Google: Independent bookstores report whiplash
  8. eBooks: ‘Shift happens, brutally sometimes’
  9. Reading: Want to try a giveaway at Goodreads?
  10. Last gas: Where Virginia Woolf was wrong


AWP: Literature and long lines

Once more into the breeches, I swear, I’m reminded of a pageant as AWP arrives today for its sit-down engagement in Chicago.

The conference tweet-storm, of course, already is windier than the city, and you can follow it at hashtag #AWP12. Or – to spare your Twitter client dashboard – you can watch the tweets auto-refresh on my site’s “ConfabWorld” homepage, PorterAnderson.com

The Association of Writers and Writing Programs seems to progress in tableaux, like an old Paul Green outdoor drama. Everybody takes up their positions at podium and panel for 75 minutes, up to 23 sessions at a time. And then, as if the lights on stage had been doused and the music had come up, everybody changes room and session – not costume, normally, but who knows? — and is discovered in a new 75-minute setting, the next scene in the pageant-wagon’s progress down Michigan Avenue, as it were.

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The event has an understandably disjointed air to it, too, because the conference is so big – with more than 9,000 attendees last year and a sold-out sign this year – that it’s staged in the vast convention facilities of both the Hilton Chicago and the Palmer House. There are some 550 publishers, presses, and journals in its Bookfair alone.

There’s a third major venue this time, the beautiful if hardly intimate Auditorium Theatre at Roosevelt University. Its size – where are the Rockettes when we need them? — is required to seat the plenary for Margaret Atwood‘s much anticipated keynote.

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And because one challenge of this writing conference is bringing together the scholarly interests of its campus-based program, it might be worth a quick listing of some of the more business-of-writing session on offer this time. By no means comprehensive, here is just a selective look for writers whose goals include going beyond the glories of the page to the realities of the stage in today’s digitally transformed publishing world. (The codes at the beginning of each session title are those assigned each session by the hardworking AWP staff. Use those to search out a session and find its day, time, and location.)

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R175. The Tech-Empowered Writer: Embrace New Media, Experiment, and Earn. 1:30CT Thursday, March 1.A special note here to point out that this key panel includes Ether host Jane Friedman; Christina Katz (you know her as @thewritermama, author of The Writer’s Workout);  San Francisco-based author Seth Harwood; and Georgia-based author and editor Robert Lee Brewer. I highly recommend this one, it’s #PorterEndorsed – here’s a special preview of the session from Friedman, no flight to O’Hare required.

In listing some other sessions that relate to less-pedagogical, more industry-directed topics, I can’t offer endorsements, but can tell you that the descriptions of what’s to be covered are hitting some of the right notes.

  • R113. New Media for New (and Old) Authors and Writers
  • R161. Behind the Scenes of Implementing a Successful iPad and Tablet Publishing System
  • R171. Prettying Up the Baby: Publishing Creative Nonfiction in a Challenging Market
  • R221. What about Blog?: How Blogging Can Propel Your Career and Polish Your Craft
  • R234. Only Connect—How to Create New Opportunities through Networking
  • F119. Literature and the Internet in 2012
  • F164. Robert Gover: A Life of Radical Realism
  • F193. Working Process: Editor and Writer
  • F241. The Literati: Deconstructing Publishing Myths for Writers
  • S103. Connecting with Readers via Your Website and Social Media
  • S158. The Art of Collaboration: Writers, Artists, and Editors on Marrying Visual Art and Text
  • S236. Why Independent Publishers Matter / Independent Publishers and the Changing Industry

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My preview of AWP is here, if you’d like to know more, at Dan Blank‘s We Grow Media.

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Publishing: Open sorcery (& letting the authors in)

It may be that traditional publishers have less to fear from the digital revolution than they think. Perhaps they should embrace it.

That’s author Anthony Horowitz in a talk written up by the Guardian and headlined Do we still need publishers? There’s some admirable candor here, as when Horowitz talks of his publisher Orion putting out “my Sherlock Holmes novel, The Mouse of Slick [actually, The House of Silk] with no fewer than 35 proof-reading errors.”

“Everywhere,” says Horowitz, “publishers are being squeezed out.”

But I have become convinced that writers feel — I said feel — easily as “squeezed out,” if not more so, than traditional publishers do.

And I’d like to offer for your consideration, a more formal call for industry-class conferences for writers than I’ve made in the past.

#DBW12, #toccon, #WDC12, Amazon, author, AWP, B&N, Barnes and Noble, book, confab, conference, critic, criticism, critique, DBW, Digital Book World, e-book, e-reader, ebook, ereader, Jane Friedman, publishing, Tools of Change, writer, writing

Piazza Navona, Roma Photo: James Cook

You’ll find my post on the subject, Open Sorcery: Letting the Authors In,  at the new Digital Book World Expert Publishing Blog, my first entry there.

And let me know what you think. I’m enormously ping-able on Twitter at @Porter_Anderson and, of course, our comments area is your comments area.

I also touch on this material in the wide-ranging interview Matt Gartland did with me, Curing Author Ignorance, out this week at Winning Edits. (And for a good time, check the many wise comments of our colleagues on my weekend post about the author’s online persona for Writer Unboxed, “Social Media: Wishing You Were You.” Don Maass was in particularly wry form.)

A lot of what I’m saying in the DBW piece isn’t far from Horowitz’s conclusion when he looks at publishers and at authors today — in their strained and frequently estranged situation — and says:

Are we in intensive care? I don’t know. But if we are, I’m strangely relieved that we’re there together.

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Amazon: Wikert breaks his ‘habit’ — with honor

As of today, Monday, February 27, 2012, I’m officially breaking my Amazon habit. How about you?

In one of his most intriguing posts yet, Joe Wikert of O’Reilly Media riffs on his original Amazon-fanboy status (“I was Mr. Amazon Advocate”) and subsequent fall out of love with Seattle,  from grateful booster to counter-crusader: Why I’m Breaking the Amazon Habit…And Why You Should Too.

Wikert cites his displeasure with Amazon‘s Lending Library structure – “anything less than a pay-for-performance model risks underpaying publishers and authors” – plus what he terms the “show-rooming debacle” of December (which he rightly concedes didn’t include books), and the recent dogfight between the Bezosian bulldogs and the Independent Publishing Group. Wikert writes:

Now that I have this terrific new Asus Transformer Prime Android tablet I’m beholden to no single ebook retailer. It’s time to start buying ebooks from bn.com, Kobo, or anyone else with an Android reader app. It’s less than optimal to manage an ebook library across retailers but it’s also very liberating. So as of today, Monday, February 27, 2012, I’m officially breaking my Amazon habit. How about you?

Being the annoying journo I am, I couldn’t resist asking Wikert if the devices he appraises so well – especially that new Asus, which I want – are provided to him as a critic and General Manager and Publisher with O’Reilly.  It would be totally right for him to receive complimentary units, mind you, as working press. But if he were provided with professional comps, then he could hand off Kindles to his family members and get into that Asus free. (Not “for free,” damn it, just “free,” short for “free of charge.”) Getting review units would mean that this Joe could kick his habit less expensively than could the regular Joe.

Wikert’s response:

The answer is I buy all my own e-reader and mobile devices…with my own money, not corporate purchases and not freebies from vendors. You can verify this with my wife. She rolls her eyes every time I tell her I need to buy a new so-and-so. :-)  The only corporate/comp device I’m currently sitting on is a Kobo Touch. It’s a leftover from the TOC NY Digital Petting Zoo and Kobo has allowed me to hang onto it for a bit so I can give it a test drive and review it.

Just as impressive, Wikert generously tweeted another story from deepest, darkest Amazonia, which I want to bring to your attention this week. “Generously,” because it’s by another key member of our community who is running toward Seattle just as fast as Wikert is fleeing it.

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Amazon: Peter’s bonding exercise with Bezos

Many publishers and distributors must see themselves in a light quite different than the one Jeff Bezos casts on Amazon. Amazon is not merely seeking lucre for its balance sheet; it boosts its profits by delivering a positive consumer experience, because that is its uniquely competitive edge. As a consumer, that makes me a friend of Amazon. And, because publishers are not working in alignment with my interests, their marketplace goals have moved into conflict with mine.

Peter Brantley is well-known to many of us as a tireless, high-profile advocate for libraries. He’s the Director of the BookServer Project at the non-profit Internet Archive in San Francisco. He just headed the lead library-related panel at Tools of Change (ToC). His position here – amid several noisy recent anklings of Amazon – carries special weight. And it stands, as far as I’m concerned, as the current set piece in favor of the world’s largest online retailer.

The title of his well-argued post for Publishers Weekly, I Almost Bought a Book Today: Why I’m Friends With Amazon, is based in how he wanted to buy the Kindle edition of María Dueñas‘ highly regarded The Time in Between, but found it to cost $12.99 – agency pricing, not Amazon’s doing.

In the course of this thoughtful piece, Brantley lays out more succinctly than most exactly why Amazon is the historically unprecedented sales power it is:

Amazon wants to sell things; the more things the better. Part of their strategy includes providing great customer service; putting downward pressure on prices; and generally providing an increasing number of services through the Amazon Prime subscription offering. That works for me; Amazon has my back as a consumer, at least for now.

In using Dueñas’ book as his pivot, he goes on:

But Amazon can’t set pricing for titles from agency publishers, and I didn’t buy a copy of Time in Between for the Kindle – the book was muy caro…Maybe publishers have decided that pitting digital readers against their revenue goals is an acceptable trade-off. It doesn’t work for me; I didn’t buy a book today.

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Amazon: Time to download the theme from ‘Exodus’

  • We call it “harching out” in the Deep South.  Leaving in a huff. Going away mad
  • Nate Hoffelder has just told us the Science Fiction Writers of America organization is pulling the buy-at-Amazon links from author pages that list where to buy the authors’ books. Nate’s write is titled SFWA Now Directing Readers Anywhere but Amazon.
  • Despite the straight-ahead lead on her Publisher EDC Pulls All Its Books From Amazon , Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent makes it clear in her write that Educational Development Corporation (EDC) “has an unusual program, ‘Usborne Books and More,’ that allows “independent sales consultants” to sell Usborne titles from home, at parties and on the Internet—think Tupperware or Mary Kay, but independent sellers aren’t required to purchase a certain number of books in advance.”
  • The point was echoed in Jeremy Greenfield  ‘s How EDC Plans to Sell More Books After Dropping Amazon at Digital Book World: ” The 75-person company generates nearly two-thirds of its revenue from its sales force of 7,000, which is mostly made up of independent contractors who sell to their friends and acquaintances, often in their own homes at gatherings – like Tupperware parties, but with children’s books.”
  • And, of course, all this follows the decision of the Independent Publishers Group (IPG) to decline renewal with Amazon, as we covered here in the Ether last week.

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Authors and Amazon: Suzuki gives KDP Select a spin

In the first month, sales of my adult epic fantasy series, the Imago Chronicles tripled in sales compared to December’s sales, but not much had happened in February for the novels in The Dream Merchant Saga. I was still having a tough time convincing those who loved the Imago novels to make the jump to my new YA fantasy novels. With nothing to lose, and eager to find a readership for this YA series, I decided to try out two-days of a free book promo for The Magic Crystal.

Script writer and author Lorna Suzuki joined some of our smartest writers in making a carefully documented test of the Kindle Direct Publishing Select program. This is new territory for everyone, after all, and the jury remains way out on how Amazon’s play-for-exclusivity approach is working. More on that is below.

Over the weekend of Feb. 11th & 12th of this free book promo, The Magic Crystal jumped from #330,552 in the Paid Ranks to #40,060. It also made it on the top 10 YA Fantasy list for free books, even surpassing Cornelia Funke’s novel, Reckless (which was ranked at #24) during the same time period.

But as Suzuki writes, her numbers in The Kindle Prime Experiment didn’t add up as well as they’ve done for some others when weighed against the requirement that  her book be pulled from other retail outlets.

So, is Kindle Prime for me? Thank you, but no! I’ll be pulling The Dream Merchant Saga from this program to make it available to all those readers who want the freedom to buy from Barnes & Noble, Apple, Smashwords etc. to download on their eReader of choice. And in my humble opinion, choice is a good thing.

Suzuki adds in correspondence with me that she finds the sample-read function in ebooks to be a powerful tool for sales. Rather than disappoint buyers, she all but insists they try the free sample offered first – and says she sees her sales go up when she does.

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Authors and Amazon: Kazzie goes another round

We wrote up author David Kazzie‘s extensive  documentation of his own Amazonian trial early last month here on the Ether. At that time, he was pretty happy: How Amazon’s KDP Select Saved My Book.

Kazzie has let us know that he’s doing an even more detailed crawl-along on his second go, this time live-blogging My Amazon KDP Select Free Experience, Part II.  You can look in and check on his updates as he logs the action around his The Jackpot, which at this writing is being offered free (not “for free,” damn it – Kazzie writes it correctly, by the way) instead of for its usual $2.99. A recent entry:

UPDATE #3 (10:00 a.m.) – The book was also picked up by the Kindle Author Facebook page. More than 200 downloads in the last hour. Also tweeted by several free e-book Twitter accounts. No. 2,582 overall, No. 7 Legal Thriller. Holding my breath for the biggies. I didn’t make the first cut at E-Reader News Today, but they post multiple times during the day. *eyes scotch*.

I want to encourage authors to do just this kind of thing with these sales experiences. Document, keep hard records, get some numbers, report them, as Suzuki, Kazzie, Jennie Coughlin, Robert Bidinotto, Roz and Dave Morris, and many others are doing. It’s the professional approach.

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Authors and Amazon: Owning up to Owen

Amazon released some select Kindle Owners’ Lending Library numbers today, aiming to position its KDP Select program as a good deal for self-published authors. The program is indeed a good deal for some self-published authors. But it is also a good deal for Amazon.

In her write at paidContent, With KDP Select, Amazon Gains Authors’ Exclusivity—Cheap, Laura Hazard Owen breaks apart some of the phrases in Seattle’s statement in order to demystify and clarify how little is known about numbers and revenue from the program.

Amazon’s dislike of releasing figures, remember, is perfectly legitimate, if irritating to many. Proprietary information is just that, and nothing says the company must tell us exactly how many Kindles are listening to their WhisperNet master’s voice or how may Fires glow on the Silk. Nevertheless, Owen likely is right in her assessment that on the scale Amazon operates, its benefits from Select exclusivity is substantial.  And it’s right that we all continue to spot hyperbole where it lies and call it. As Owen writes:

“Over 1 million KDP Select” books have been borrowed since the program launched in December. This doesn’t mean, of course, that 1 million different KDP Select titles have been borrowed. We don’t know how many books in the library have been borrowed at least one time. Some books have likely not been borrowed even once.

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Piracy: What the Dickens?

Dickens visited this country “partly for sightseeing, partly in a fruitless attempt to promote an international copyright law that would require Americans to pay for the pleasure of reading him,” according to “Gotham.”

A lot of folks have been enjoying Greg Sandoval‘s retelling of how “the company that eventually became HarperCollins made a fortune pirating the work of Charles Dickens and other British authors.” In How piracy built the U.S. publishing industry (maybe an overstated headline, but, you know, it’s CNET), Sandoval uses Edwin Burrows and Mike Wallace’s 1999 Gotham to retroactively spank Big Publishing for sending ” agents to England with orders to grab volumes from bookstalls.”

Sandoval does tell us that British publishers are said to have done the same to French publishers. And, Sandoval relates, Burrows and Wallace write that HarperCollins’ ancestral corporate entity was “one of the most successful pirates.”

And what of dear Dickens when he came to the States “partly” to try to protect his work? Writes Sandoval:

When he wrote about his New York trip, the piece was promptly pirated by U.S. publishers. The government didn’t agree to respect international copyright laws for another 40 years.

Just as a coda, I might add that it’s never encouraging to get to the bottom of a story and find its author writing, as Sandoval does, “There’s not much significance to all this…” and then go on to make a rather good point about the States’ current interest in alleged pirate sites offshore in a world in which the US may have more to protect than others. But, hey, no significance here. Back to our regularly scheduled distractions.

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Piracy: When cartoon figures go bad

So here’s Matthew Inman’s The Oatmeal workup on consumer piracy, I tried to watch Game of Thrones and this is what happened. It’s a fun strip, well done, have a look. It’s worth it for the “Impossibly Proportioned Girls Who Want To Date Your Testicles” ad alone.

#DBW12, #toccon, #WDC12, Amazon, author, AWP, B&N, Barnes and Noble, book, confab, conference, critic, criticism, critique, DBW, Digital Book World, e-book, e-reader, ebook, ereader, Jane Friedman, publishing, Tools of Change, writer, writing

Image: The Oatmeal by Matthew Inman / theoatmeal.com

But you know, I have to agree with Guy Gonzalez who, in Piracy, Entitlement, and Microwave Culture points out that this  “explanation” – as cogent as it is – doesn’t justify “our microwave culture’s insistence on EVERYTHING RIGHT NOW WHEN I WANT IT AND SCREW YOU IF YOU DON’T ABIDE BY MY SCHEDULE I’M JUST GOING TO STEAL WHAT I WANT.”

All you have to do is put this into the context of another product line. Say, automobiles. So if you can’t find the one you want to buy (or lease at Netflix Autos), you what? — steal the car?

I can’t say that Inman has intentionally condoned the wrong thing here. I’m in agreement with Andy Ihnatko at his Celestial Waste of Bandwidth column. He nails it in Heavy Hangs The Bandwidth That Torrents The Crown when he writes about Inman’s piece:

The intentional point is that the content distributors often make it crazy-stupid hard for us to give them our money…(but) The Oatmeal made an unintentional point that was just as important as the first, however: The single least-attractive attribute of many of the people who download content illegally is their smug sense of entitlement.

And back to Gonzalez, who gets it very right at the end of his post:

Don’t steal HBO’s content and act like you’re the goddamned Batman or the Joker, because you’re not. You’re just a petty thief.

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Piracy: Few kudos for Cudo

Despite the merchant’s assurances that the offer complies with all relevant Australian laws, including copyright laws, our assessment of the 4,000 e-book titles being offered determined that this may not be the case.

Cudo‘s CEO Mike Sneesby issues a statement and tells paidContent’s Laura Hazard Owen that it blames the vendor of its Chinese-made AUS$99 ereader for that alleged CD of 4,000 pirated ebooks that gave the industry such fits this week. In her first-hand report, Cudo Blames Vendor For Pirated E-Book Deal, Grosses $230k, Owen points us to Asher Moses‘ writeup for the Sydney Morning Herald .

#DBW12, #toccon, #WDC12, Amazon, author, AWP, B&N, Barnes and Noble, book, confab, conference, critic, criticism, critique, Cudo, DBW, Digital Book World, e-book, e-reader, ebook, ereader, Jane Friedman, publishing, Tools of Change, writer, writing

Cudo.com.au on Twitter

That Sydney article – with a very excited headline, indeed: E-book deal’s the steal of the century; 4000 pirated books – reports, “HarperCollins, publisher of some of the major titles contained on the CD including those by J.R.R. Tolkien, said its corporate solicitor ‘will be ringing them today.'”

While you’re on the phone, mind asking Cudo if that purple guy on its Twitter page doesn’t look sort of like Gumby?

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Apple: The sound of tribal war drums

Apple, apparently, won’t carry an ebook that contains a link to buy a hardcover book from Amazon.

That’s Seth Godin banging away in italics all up in here, in Who decides what gets sold in the bookstore? Golden Godin has discovered that he is not The Decider when trying to use Apple to sell “my new manifesto, Stop Stealing Dreams.” Apple is rejecting it, he writes, “because inside the manifesto are links to buy the books I mention in the bibliography” — and those links go to Amazon.

Cupertino, it seems, linketh not to Seattle.

Godin concedes that he has a workaround. You just use the site link and “You can get your copy for free.” (That’s “free,” damn it, Seth, not “for free.”) But on the whole, this incident really got Godin’s goat and he’s lobbing leftover dominos at Apple, Amazon, and B&N:

These stores can’t have it both ways. The web works because it’s open. The stores (all three of them) need to be too.

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Google: Independent bookstores report whiplash


GoodEReader reported last week that Google had revoked the affiliate status of a large number of independent bookstores, apparently without motive or explanation other than to say they were focusing on the large volume sellers. At the time, the announcement was confusing and hurtful for small time retailers as they did not see how their smaller volume of sales could have any kind of negative impact on Google.

That’s Mercy Pilkington at GoodEReader, trying like the rest of us to keep up with the tennis match Google seems to be playing with itself over its independent affiliates program. As she notes, Judith Rosen at Publishers Weekly reported no more real clarity into the matter than anyone else.

Back to Mercy (because I’m a sucker for anybody whose name is actually Mercy.):

Now, Google has announced an equally cryptic return to affiliates status for all of those affected shops. A spokesperson for Google told Publisher’s Weekly: “We did not intend to deactivate independent booksellers from the Google eBooks affiliate program. We apologize for any inconvenience.” There’s the confusion; if Google didn’t intend to deactivate any affiliates website links to the Google bookstore, what was the point of sending out a letter to those booksellers stating that their links will be deactivated on March 15th?

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eBooks: ‘Shift happens, brutally sometimes’

This thought about the coming ebook disruption: We’ve seen nothing yet. Eighteen months ago, I was asked to run an ebooks roundtable for the Forum d’Avignon (an ultra-elitist cultural gathering judiciously set in the Palais des Papes). Preparing for the event, I visited most of the French publishers and came to realize how blind they were to the looming earthquake. They viewed their ability to line-up great authors as a seawall against the digital tsunami …Too many publishing industry professionals still hope for a soft transition.

This is Frédéric Filloux in Paris, doing the aprés moi, le déluge we’re all performing for friends and family, in a rather sweet post, Ebooks: the giant disruption in The Guardian.

Amazon is intent on taking over the bulk of the publishing business by capturing key layers of intermediation. At some point…Amazon will “own” the entire talent-scouting food chain. For the bottom-end, a tech company like Amazon is well-positioned for real-time monitoring and early detection of an author gaining traction in e-sales, agitating on the blogosphere or buzzing on social networks. (Pitching such schemes to French éditeurs is like speaking Urdu to them.)

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eBooks: Think they’re going to last?

eBook consumers are increasing their purchase of books — both print and e-book formats — online and especially through in-app purchasing, and decreasing their use of brick-and-mortar stores, according to the Book Industry Study Group (BISG)’s closely watched Consumer Attitudes Toward E-Book Reading survey.

Your copy of Consumer Attitudes Toward eBook Reading from the Book Industry Study Group may not have been as “closely watched” as some folks’. That’s why you have me. To give you some stats from it:

  • Almost 17% of respondents indicated that tablets were the devices most used to read e-books — up from 13% in the previous survey.
  • Respondents who preferred smartphones jumped from 5.3% to 9.2%.
  • Dedicated e-readers were preferred by 60.9% of all respondents, down from 71.6% in the previous survey.

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Reading: Want to try a giveaway at Goodreads?

  • 93% of non-winning entrants had never heard of me before this contest.
  • 94% of non-winning entrants had never heard of As a Machine and Parts before the contest.
  • 36% of non-winning entrants said they planned on purchasing the book, even though they didn’t win. This is a strange percentage when compared to the 90% of people who intend to read the book. I suppose most readers will look to their library for this book?
  • 88% of non-winning entrants intend to read other books by me. This is an incredibly huge number, especially when compared to the 94% of entrants who had never even heard of me.
#DBW12, #toccon, #WDC12, Amazon, author, AWP, B&N, Barnes and Noble, book, confab, conference, critic, criticism, critique, DBW, Digital Book World, e-book, e-reader, ebook, ereader, Jane Friedman, publishing, Tools of Change, writer, writing

Chart: CalebJRoss.com

Author Caleb Ross is pretty much delighted, it seems, with the results of his experiment in a 12-day, two-copy giveaway at Goodreads, and has it documented for you in What is the value of a Goodreads.com book giveaway?

The response-rate for the survey was an amazing 29%. The industry open-rate for Art/Artist newsletters is 17.54% [1]. This isn’t exactly a parallel comparison, as open-rate is not the same as response-rate, but it’s a close enough comparison to provide some valuable insight.

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Reading: BEA is your friend; watch out for third parties

I want to emphasize that BEA itself is not involved in author scams of any kind. Quite the opposite. According to BEA events director Steven Rosato, BEA has banned a number of entities who were re-selling BEA opportunities at premium. He wrote me via e-mail, “One example [was] a PR company charging $1,500.00 for a spot they were paying $75.00.”

When Jane Friedman, my Ether-eal host here, wrote her fine piece warning authors against falling for paying to have their books “promoted’ at BookExpo America (BEA), some readers seem to have attached the that useful wave-off to BEA, itself, not to third-party promoters who can’t get your book into any focus in that venue. So here it is again, with Friedman’s update for clarification: Authors: Don’t Pay Money for BEA Book Promotion. To be clear, here is Friedman again:

BEA attempts to educate and protect authors from making the kinds of mistakes I discuss below.

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Reading: ‘Like asking the moment I fell in love with breathing’

The most “social” reading experience I’ve had recently was at the MacDowell Colony. I had wonderful conversations with novelists and artists every day, and every day I’d have a list of five new books to read. At night I’d go back to my cabin and check for them on Kindle. I’d grab one and stay up all night reading it. Then I’d re-engage the community the next day, get more book recommendations, and so on. God, what a nourishing cycle that was. I’ve had no such experience digitally.

At the Findings site, Craig Mod does a “How We Will Read” interview to good effect, of course. From his early days as a reader (really early) to his thoughts on social reading, it’s a good weekend sit-down, not overly long.

I know I Kindle preview like a madman. I assume everyone else does, too. A book looks even mildly interesting? Dump it into Kindle as a preview! We’re sorta turning into book squirrels, acquiring a variety of nuts to dig into in the cold, lonely winter months.

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Last gas: Where Virginia Woolf was wrong

Judith didn’t get to write a play like “Hamlet” or even one about Ophelia. Instead, thwarted in her ambitions to write and grimly shunted into traditional roles in which she was expected to “mend the stockings or mind the stew and not moon about with books and papers,” she was finally made pregnant by a man she had trusted to help her in her career and “killed herself one winter’s night.”

Edward Rothstein’s review of curator Georgiana Ziegler’s new exhibition at the Folger Librarygoes a long way to deliver the kind of shock the show itself seems to have. In Authors in Rooms of Their Own, Rothstein heads into the Times to describe how Shakespeare’s Sisters: Voices of English and European Women Writers, 1500-1700 features literary works by “more than 50 women from Britain, France, and Italy, many of them celebrated in their time, but who now may be little known outside of academic courses in literary history and feminist criticism.”

This is a show I’m eager to see. It runs through May 20.

And as Rothstein says, Woolf’s beloved, sad imagined sister to Shakespeare, Judith, “has had a far wider impact than Woolf could have foreseen or that any Judith Shakespeare could have dreamed of. It has shaped the way contemporary criticism has thought about female writers; its assumptions have become commonplace.”

He goes on:

But Woolf wasn’t just wrong about how many female writers there were. She was also wrong about the model she proposed for understanding them, which included victimization, oppression and repression. And that misconception may have larger ramifications on how female writers are generally understood.

Such rich writings from such varied personalities across such bracing stretches of time and circumstance — and we know so little about them. Rothstein concludes:

And what may be more surprising for generations who have lived with Woolf’s vision of Judith Shakespeare and her contemporaries: there is almost no evidence of oppression, none of stifled talents, little sign of beings “so thwarted and hindered” that they contemplate suicide. Only immensely talented women, writing.

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This week’s Ether-eal main image is from iStockphoto/GEMENACOM

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Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) is a journalist and consultant in publishing. He's The Bookseller's (London) Associate Editor in charge of The FutureBook. He's a featured writer with Thought Catalog (New York), which carries his reports, commentary, and frequent Music for Writers interviews with composers and musicians. And he's a regular contributor of "Provocations in Publishing" with Writer Unboxed. Through his consultancy, Porter Anderson Media, Porter covers, programs, and speaks at publishing conferences and other events in Europe and the US, and works with various players in publishing, such as Library Journal's SELF-e, Frankfurt Book Fair's Business Club, and authors. You can follow his editorial output at Porter Anderson Media, and via this RSS link.
Posted in Writing on the Ether.


  1. It’s funny what we’re willing to spend money on and how much we are willing to spend on certain things. The above reference of Peter Brantley to not purchase a book based on the price or due to the reason behind the price (I did not read the linked article), really spoke to me.

    I’ve been in the same position. I’ve chosen not to purchase a book based on price–or because of the reason behind the price–but I’ve kicked myself for it at times. On a weekly basis, many Americans spend $13 for soda, chips, or beer. Many magazines sell for $3.99 and $4.99. Why do we now expect to pay so little for books, when books take skill, effort, and time to create?

    And the squirrels hoarding nuts analogy made me laugh. We have to be selective about everything, including our “I’ll download it to give it a shot” urges. There isn’t enough time. I’m not interested in reading just anything.

    I want to read what I want to read. :)

    • Hey, @JillKemerer:twitter , I’m disturbed by this bottoming out of pricing on books, too. Brantley says his own top for an ebook price is $10, and I’m just glad he’s not in $2.99 mode or some such silliness. We place such a burden of high-volume sales on writers when we drive down prices so heavily, and surely someone’s life’s work is worth more than 99 cents to a true reader.

      This pricing dilemma is a major element of the digital upheaval and not a very happy one, to my mind. I’m not sure where it’s going, either. As you say, why do we now expect to pay so little for books? Even without the hardcopy costs of paper, ink, and warehousing, the ebook is just as hard to write — surely, the real value is the intellectual content.

      I liked @CraigMod:twitter ‘s squirrel analogy, too, I do find that sampling digitally is a super way to figure out if a book is one I want to buy. To the horror of anybody who’s big on brick-and-mortar bookstores, I have to say that I can do a lot more productive, intelligent “browsing” by checking out that acorn pile of samples for myself than I can by staggering up and down the aisles of a store, and I’d much rather read a sample for myself than have a salesperson trying to “hand-sell” a book to me.

      On we go, thanks for reading and commenting, as ever –

  2. Porter, As much as I think Amazon is helping writers become authors, I remain concerned that  the mass production is enabling lesser quality(inadequately edited) books into the hands of the  readers. That is certainly up to the individual writer to pursue professional editing. Peter Brantley’s statement  “if the publishers are not in alignment with my interest, their market place goals have come into  in conflict with mine,” really summed it up for me. However,  I am intrigued by Amazon’s KDP Select  program and marketing directly to Kindle readers.  It seems there are no rules. What works for one book may not work for another. So many options to consider.  Thanks for sorting it all out for us again,Porter.

    • Hey, @KathyPooler:twitter , thanks for your good input here. Yes, the idea of mass production distributing inferior work is disturbing, but I’m not sure we can lay that at the feet of Amazon. There are other self-publishing services, after all, and one can render one’s work error-ridden and tawdry on @Smashwords:twitter just as quickly as in Kindle Direct Publishing, for example. As @ByRozMorris:twitter and I are discussing below, it’s up to writers to make their work correctly, make it well, make it of the highest quality possible. If we learn that Amazon is busily inserting errors into self-published works, that’s a different story entirely. But we can’t blame the cookbook when the cook doesn’t follow the recipe correctly, and we can’t blame the self-publishing service when an author does a lousy job.

      You’re doing a great thing and bringing to our attention another element of the responsiblity each author has in publishing, whether in traditional venues or self-publishing. If there are no rules, then we need to find and follow our own or KDP, like any other service, can’t save us.

      Thanks again, Kathy, good thoughts!

  3. Thanks for the mention (and Dave thanks you too). Much interesting here as usual – not least your firm insistence on the correct use of ‘free’.

    Your mention of the Anthony Horowitz piece particularly caught my eye. The discussion in the comments section on the Guardian blog got very heated, almost a digest of the discussions we have all been having about publishers v authors. Authors were saying publishers behaved badly, publishers were conspicuous by not saying anything – I guess because we were unwashed readers and authors, although there may have been some there incognito.

    Readers (ie people who didn’t declare themselves to be writers) were saying they needed publishers because who will guarantee quality otherwise? A few agents entered the fray, explaining about market forces and what is published – and rejected, and stuck up for self-publishing when it is done professionally.

    Those of us who did make a case for professional self-publishing were shouted down by shrill hordes. Far too many of them have read self-published books that are poorly written or edited, and no amount of persuasion will stop them thinking that all self-published books must therefore be bad, that our good reviews must be lies etc. When asked what they disliked in self-published books, they cited sloppy use of English and punctuation and bad proof reading – more than the actual content. If all that was present and correct, they accepted the book as professional.

    So I’d like to make a plea here: let’s be fussy about using language correctly. Let’s not use terms like ‘grammar nazi’, because getting your grammar, spelling and use of English right is simply what makes you look like you produced a professional book.

    • I couldn’t agree more, @ByRozMorris:twitter — and thanks for writing.

      I don’t think of myself as a “grammar nazi” when I quietly DM a friend, as I did lately to say, “You know, dear, you meant bated breath, not ‘baited breath’ in that last tweet.” Especially when we avoid embarrassing each other publicly for our gaffes in grammar, I think it’s more than a kindness to let someone know about those gaffes — it’s a duty we all share, as part of trying to uphold the linguistic standards that are the basis of our work as writers.

      In a comment below back to @MattGartland:twitter , I’ve used the example of a painter who must know one blue from another if he or she is to be worth his or her canvas. Truly fine artists will not mistake one shade of blue for another. They’ll call their blues by their correct names. They know that the colors of their palettes are the essential raw elements without which they can do nothing. Academy blue is not gendarme blue (both exist, I’m not making those up, and they’re precisely designated in art).

      As writers, our words are our colors. We cannot afford to toss them around, willy-nilly, without any regard to how we’re confusing less discriminating folk. If we don’t choose our words precisely, as a painter chooses between two blues, we haven’t done our job. I have little respect for someone who claims to be a writer and yet shows terrible holes in his or her knowledge of our “colors” and no regard or appreciation for instruction. I’m grateful — if embarrassed — when corrected because if I’m to be any good, I need to be taught.

      When I was a young reporter, back in the 17th century, I was mortified to be told, gently, by a very fine copy editor at one newspaper or another I was on at the time that there is “alter” and there is “altar.” This was particularly upsetting to me because I’m a minister’s son, and yet I’d never caught the difference in the two, even as I sat there each Sunday, forced to gaze at the altar, not the alter, during my father’s sermons.

      None of us may like those moments of correction and direction, but we need them if we’re to grow and get better. Clearly, being nasty to each other about them, helps  attract that “nazi” complaint. So, again, I think telling each other these things privately by DM or other quiet means is always kind and tends to get a better response.

      But I think we need to speak up, I’m completely in agreement with you, and especially on the widespread “usage creep” that gets into our language so much these days — the source of that “for free” nonsense you hear and read everywhere nowadays.

      Several people have snapped, “It’s accepted!” at me lately when I’ve pointed out that “media” is still a plural word — one medium, two media — or when I’ve tried to remind them that there is still this word “sank” — the boat sank yesterday, it didn’t “sunk.”  Today it sinks, yesterday it sank, many times it has sunk.  Why is such a simple and clear set of good words to be so callously misused?

      I’m never sure by whom incorrect usage is “accepted” and invariably the people who shout about all this “acceptance” can’t tell me, either. Bad usage is not accepted by me.

      And to your point about professionalism in self-publishing, you couldn’t be more right. (In fact, see me writing to Matt below about this “indie” business in self-publishing. I’m trying to find out whether there’s any viable reason for “indie” other than the fig leaf I fear it is, worn by folks who feel themselves the victims of old stigma.

      If we hire the neighbor boy to cut the grass instead of paying the pricey landscaping company, must we now call the neighbor boy an “indie” lawn worker? As our great colleague Guy Gonzalez ( @glecharles:twitter ) loves to say in Twitter-ese, #cmonson. :-)

      So I’m with you on this one. What was it, 35 or so errors Horowitz said he’d found in the published version of his book? How shall we call anyone a “nazi” for being furious at such unacceptable work?

      Thanks again for writing!

  4. Pingback: You don’t have to do everything: Thursday afternoon at AWP « Lisa Rivero

    • Oh, indeed, @virtualdavis:twitter . While I respect @jwkert:twitter ‘s right and decision to ankle Amazon — and indeed, I find it instructive — I feel not one twinge of interest in doing so, myself. I like my Kindle Fire very much. I like the service Amazon gives me. I believe that these things reflect very clearly some of the reasons that Amazon is the historically unprecedented retail and publishing force it is, and I’m a charter Prime member, happily so. I’m much closer to Peter Brantley ( @naypinya:twitter ) on this one.

      As in all things, this doesn’t mean that I won’t continue to report on people who disagree, have other appraisals and reactions, and to offer them chances to say so, as I’m glad to offer Joe his chance, always — he’s a thinking and astute observer and forms his opinions as carefully as I do or Brantley does or anyone else might.

      The Ether, for what it’s worth, is a journalistic effort, and in journalism, I’m a critic — critics become especially good at looking at both sides of things because we have to evaluate them and promulgate opinions about them. So the presence of something in the Ether does not mean I condone it. Nor does the absence of something from it mean that I condemn it.

      It’s like tweeting. I tweet many posts, articles and other works that I don’t like and would never endorse. I tweet them because I believe that the multiplicity of perspective, view, and opinion — even when it differs from mine and maybe especially when it differs from mine — is important. I applaud disagreement. I am comfortable in dissonance. This, I think, rarely occurs to people, who seem to believe that a tweet is a commendation, a seal of approval.

      Of course, this is the main element of the journalistic mindset that confounds the lay public and makes it hard for many people to appreciate what’s being lost in the decline of journalism.  Last week’s Ether had a nice comment from a fellow who said he had read it all and couldn’t tell which way of thinking about one item or another was “right.”  I told him that this was great, that he was to make up his own mind. I took his comment as a compliment, as I take yours. :-)

      I do have opinions, and plenty of them show up in the Ether. But I hope to represent when I can the opinions of intelligent people who might differ with me. At least on those Better Thursdays. :-)


  5. Excellent analyses, as always, Porter. I particularly enjoyed Frédéric Filloux’s views, culminating in his “shift happens, brutally sometimes” punchline.

    The truth to which he speaks is an evolutionary one…that all evolutions aren’t created equal and certainly aren’t all “soft.” Some of the most profound changes in the history of our planet resulted not in small, soft turns of the dial but radical, even violent moments in time. Ask any dinosaur and it will agree.

    To think that the publishing industry will evolve slowly because X other industry did is myopic in the extreme. As a proud nerd, I can attest that correlation does not imply causation. Professional indie authors and self-publishers seem hell-bent on proving it.

    • Hey, @MattGartland:twitter , great of you to post a comment, and thanks for reading the Ether, too — as well as for having me at your @WinningEdits:twitter site this week, as well!

      Agree with you on the speed of change being wrought by digital. Agree that it’s not what some folks, who may seem descendents of dinosaurs, might expect. Agree that correlation doesn’t imply causation …. and there I’d like to ask you a couple of things.

      There’s no intention whatever of picking a fight here, by the way, I’m just concerned — as I always am, being a worker in language — about how we’re saying things. This relates to what @ByRozMorris:twitter is talking about above, about trying to protect the raw material of our work (language) without invoking such badly correlated terms as “grammar nazi,” etc.

      Quick preamble here: If you met an artist on the order of, say, a van Gogh … or better yet one who THINKS he or she is on the order of a van Gogh, lol … would you not expect that artist to know his or her colors so well that he or she would value the difference in an amparo blue and an antwerp blue? These are the distinctions a fine artist makes, and he or she will, in most cases, guard the implications of those distinctions (one blue is not another blue), by referring to them correctly.

      OK. Now, you use the term “indie” and then you use the term “self-publishing” in your post and in your work, and seemingly not quite interchangeably? — as in the phrase “professional indie authors and self-publishers.”

      Can you tell me how you see those terms differing, and how ‘indie” is really appropriate to a writer?

      I mean to lay no trap here. Rather than be coy, I’ll just tell you that I fear that too many self-publishing authors are still fearful of the “vanity publishing” label — although paying to have your own work published IS what has been called “vanity publishing” in the past. That was an unfortunate term, and still is. But the fact of paying to have your own work published once was called that. We’re not revisionists. We all know that this is what it was called, and we all know that it need not be called that now — NOR should any stigma attach to it. It’s fine to self-publish. It’s not vanity. It’s fine.

      I like “self-publishing.” To me, that’s accurate. I’d much rather have an author use that term than “indie.” I wish only that “self-publishing was shorter because it’s hell on Twitter. :-)

      “Indie,” on the other hand is not accurate. Unlike the indie filmmaker who raises a lot of money from other sources to produce his or her work and might engage lots of people for crews and post-production, the self-publishing author is — as is every author — alone in creation. Once self-publishing, we hope that author engages some professional help, especially editorial help, also cover-design help. Other services are great, too, but those two seem critical for outside professional intervention in most cases. This still is hardly “indie” as the term is used to refer to filmmakers (where its provenance really lies in our culture). Our writers, as much as we may revere them, aren’t doing anything Sundance-y or Hollywood-ish until Sundance or Hollywood gets involved and pulls them into a project.  So isn’t the term “indie” being used rather flagrantly and primarily to try to snag a little of the supposed luster of independent filmmaking? And isn’t every single writer an independent contractor, even when signed to a Big Six publisher? That contract will run out. And that author will again be completely on his or her own, as every writer ultimately is.

      So aren’t people playing fast and loose with the term “indie?”

      And if we genuinely want to help writers, shouldn’t we wean them off that euphemism? (Agent Brian @DeFiore:twitter  has recently called it that in a conference session, and correctly, to my mind.) The term “indie” for writers is being used as an easy euphemism for self-publishing.

      You work in “winning edits.” Is there really a win there for a writer if you allow that writer to call himself or herself “indie,” a glamorous but inaccurate term because “self-publishing” may seem to her or him too close to old concepts of “vanity” — old concepts that today simply shouldn’t be hobbling them, anyway?

      There’s nothing wrong with self-publishing if it’s done to the best, brain-blistering standards we expect of top-drawer traditional publishing. Nothing wrong with it. We can forget “vanity” and welcome serious self-publishers as prime colleagues.

      So why the fig leaf of the inaccurate, glossy “indie?”


      • Hey Porter-

        Always happy to comment, and encouraged that we’re of like minds on the speed of change within the industry, along with correlation not implying causation.

        To the points you raise, thank you. This is an important, if complex, discussion that deserves intelligent discourse and not flippant slander, ignorance, or disengagement. The publishing industry and wider world of books are in motion. With motion comes new perspectives and opportunities to redefine old constructs. I dare say that’s what’s happening here as it pertains to contemplating, understanding, and communicating in the evolving language of the day.

        To language, I couldn’t agree with you more that caution must be paid to the words we choose to use. I don’t profess to be as accomplished as yourself, Jane, or other amazing readers on this site. Though I do claim to harbor an equal respect for language.

        Before delving deeper, let me say that I also don’t profess to have the experience in years or personal access to amazing minds as yourself, @byrozmorris, @defiore, or others. I have learned much from you all; I am honored to do so. You each bring well learned views to the table in confident and considered fashion. My thinking has notably been influenced, and positively so, by the thoughtful analyses those such as yourself present. Thanks and kudos!

        With my final bit of preamble, I thank you for qualifying your views first by saying that they lay no trap. Rest assured that I don’t consider them such :)

        Now, onward…

        I confess that I view “self-publishing” and “indie” differently. Not in an absolute way (I believe blind faith to absolutes is inherently dangerous). But from where I stand and, from there, what I see, I believe both terms are appropriate and accurate … if one sees them not as synonymous. I sense that your arguments against “indie” were in the context of the term being used as a synonym to “self-publishing.” In that case, I agree. I, however, do not use them as such. I’ll explain…

        To me, “indie” (shorthand, of course, for “independent”) reflects a personal identity, which is to say a mental construct/opinion of one self. It is an adjective, a characteristic much like “tall” or “strong.” It helps me understand who I am and what I believe. I believe in independence: of thought, of opportunities, of associations, and – in the case of publishing – of the freedoms to pursue various forms of distribution for my writings.

        The opposite to “indie” is, in many fashions, “employment.” The indie author is not “employed” in the sense that she does not have an all-inclusive (and all-restrictive) deal with a traditional publisher to produce books on demand, or to write anything she does not wish to. Further, the indie author retains rights, and thus freedoms to publish her work in the form(s) and via the function(s) she so chooses.

        This, in my considered opinion, is different than “self-publishing.” Here’s why…

        To me, “self-publishing” is an action that a person can, if they have the freedoms and means to do so, choose to do. It’s a verb, whereas “indie” is an adjective – a different element of language entirely. Someone who self-publishes is making the decision to bypass a potential traditional book deal in favor of more control of channel, design, marketing, etc.

        A potential sub-conclusion here is to view this context in the light of mathematics, namely a parent-child relational schema. An independent author *can* be a self-publisher (in the sense that she takes the action of self-publishing). Whereas a self-publisher is inherently independent.

        Also, an independent author *can* bypass self-publishing and seek a traditional deal, knowing that the sacrifice of rights and related-liberties is likely.

        Your reference to “indie filmmaking” is certainly relevant, but I think the discourse is at risk of being shortsighted (or one-dimensional) if we limit the analysis to that comparison alone. Yes, indie filmmaking has, over time, developed its own lexicon, which – by consequence – has informed the term “indie filmmaking” itself. But to suggest that all indie filmmaking raises lots of money, engages lots of people, and is of a Sundance quality is simply untrue. While I’m not a member (or student) of that particular industry (in depth anyway), I’m sensitive enough to know that loads of indie films don’t come close to those standards or accomplishments. Nevertheless, the self-identification as an “indie filmmaker” is there, regardless of success measure. In fact, I have friends (in 2 or 3 person teams) trying to make indie films (more documentaries than anything else). And we certainly share qualities of an “indie” nature that transcend the mediums.

        Such transcendence speaks, to me, of ethics, values, morals, personal standards, or however else you may wish to characterize such qualities.

        Further, even if indie filmmaking is responsible for the rise of the “indie” ideal, I’m glad to think that it hasn’t stayed there. It is a contagious idea – per its values and ethics – that is spreading across boundaries of industry, region, profession and more due to the shifting economies in almost every niche of the world. This is great, I feel, and am proud to support such independent movements.

        By now, I hope it’s clear that, at least coming from me, the use of “indie” is in no way, as you say, “being used rather flagrantly and primarily to try to snag a little of the supposed luster of independent filmmaking.” Instead, it is channeling the shared identification of values, which serve as guides to decisions and measures to live up to. In my book, this is all very well and good.

        Let me pivot now to “winning edits”…

        First, I don’t decide what a writer calls herself, and for anyone to suggest otherwise is irresponsible. She doesn’t need my permission or allowance to call herself anything she may wish (or wish not) to. If she self-identifies with the “indie” term on her own, then awesome. In that instance, we may be a good fit for a project together. There is no glamor play here whatsoever. Quite the opposite. I use the term “indie” in my business because (1) I believe it in as an ethic and mindset, and (2) to filter out those that do not either (a) understand it, (b) agree with my definition of it, or © not connect with it. It’s meant to, among other variables, speak to an “ideal” customer or “target” reader. That’s just good marketing communications.

        In that understanding, it’s not inaccurate at all.

        Second, to the ideals of “wins” or “winning,” there is no connection whatsoever to “vanity.” Although a PIttsburgh Steelers fan, I like and respect Tom Brady, quarterback of the New England Patriots. He has said, time and again, that for him, his team and his sport, “It’s all about winning.”

        To seek “winning” – to be a “winner” – is not some ego play (at least not to all, and not Brady or myself). It’s not about, proverbially speaking, me being better than you. In fact, it’s not about “you” at all. It’s about “me,” where “me” is my career and reputation as well as my client’s. It, like “indie,” is a self-identifying quality. You ask yourself: “am I a winner, or am I not?” Am I working hard enough to win whatever my objective is? Do I have the courage enough to get onto the “field” and “play” to the apex of my abilities? Am I confident in myself and my ideas as worthy of “winning?” I think it’s very necessary that indie writers (whether they self-publish or not) ask themselves these question. Why the emphasis of this ethic?

        Because of the final link in the chain: professionalism.

        With the democratization of book writing and publishing, I wager we all agree that there’s a tsunami of new books entering the marketplace, a trend with an exponential future. Many of them are underdeveloped (rushed even) because the shiny “publish” button is but a click away. I’m concerned that, while I support the causes of indie movements, that the elimination of barriers to entry is inviting a decay of professionalism. I also fear that some “indies” no longer feel (or perhaps never felt) that professionalism was something they had to be concerned about. Worse yet, I sense that some believe the ideals of “indie” and “professional” to be mutually exclusive, which I flatly disagree with. Ultimately, I conclude – given what I’ve seen, studied, experienced, and discussed with smart minds like those that engage this site – that the “professional indie” author stands the best chance of “winning” (e.g. being discovered and respected) in the new book economy.

        In conclusion…

        To one of your final remarks, probing “aren’t people playing fast and loose with the term ‘indie’?”, yes and no. :)

        As always, context matters. Certainly some are misusing (even abusing) the term as you suggest. You’d have to understand their context to know for sure. For me, I’ve provided my context in this (admittedly lengthy) response. I feel it’s fair, well considered, and appropriate to the times and trends. That said…

        I’m not obtuse to the fact that, as I myself say, we’re all living in an time of great motion. So I welcome and heartedly encourage more discussion on these points. This is how we, the proud supporters and (in some cases) “voices” of the publishing “revolution” will further help to influence, shape and orient the future of this industry we all deeply care about. Learning should never be shunted to a lesser status merely for the sake of reinforcing old ideals and clinging to out-dated definitions.

        Language itself is never static. It is an alive ecosystem. We, as champions of language, do it a grave disservice if we behavior in contrast to this.

        For all these reasons and points, I applaud you, Porter, for advancing the conversation. I’m happy to be a part of it :)

        Best wishes,


  6. Regarding the Oatmeal game of thrones piracy stance, I think your car analogy is flawed.  The reason for ‘wanting things now’ and global availability is rooted in the fact that the technology allows this to happen easily, and at incredibly low cost (when compared to traditional distribution).  

    There is no technology that allows any car you want to be delivered to your home within seconds.  If technology existed for people to be able to replicate a car they saw on the street for zero cost, without depriving the owner of the original, you bet your ass people would do it.

    The sales and distribution  model is still based on engineering scarcity when the internet has rendered this scarcity impossible to sustain.  That’s the wold we live in now and distributors have to adapt, or they will slowly die.

    • Hey, Steve ( @@subcide:disqus ) and thanks for your comment here.

      I can see your point about the difference in platform/mode/distribution/product between a car and entertainment. Well done. But I wonder if your own extrapolation isn’t flawed, too.

      If we concede that the replication of, say, your copy of Game of Thrones doesn’t cost something because of the nature of digital distribution, we can agree that the owner of the original hasn’t been deprived of that original — but, then, how is the creator of that bit of entertainment to be paid for his/her work if not by the copy?

      Or would you say that the creator of an entertainment product, or art, should have no capability to be compensated? For example, we recognize Matthew Inman as maker and owner of Oatmeal, right? Should Matthew not be entitled to whatever compensation he can have for his work?

      In other words, surely you’re not suggesting that the makers/owners of creative work should be robbed of payment for that work simply because in their field technology has made replication possible free. (As it has not done in the case of the car, you’re quite right.)

      Granted, I don’t know you well, but I think from what I’ve seen of your conversation online that you’re principled, and obviously you’re thoughtful and engaged in the debate of these issues. You can’t condone the theft of a replica of creative work merely because it’s possible to accomplish that theft, can you?

      Narrow it further for me, if you will. Maybe it helps to use Oatmeal as a hypothetical. If Matthew’s latest Oatmeal installment were unattainable where you sit because of trade treaty issues or distributor issues or whatnot (as I get from your clever remix) — would you then feel justified in taking a copy of his work free without him receiving anything for it? 

      Isn’t there a point somewhere at which we have to say, “Well, crap, then I just can’t have this thing I want right now because it’s not legally available to me and I’ll be depriving the maker/owner of what he’s owed if I just steal a replicate”?

      All in serious, earnest interest, mind you, no sarcasm here. I’d like to understand your position because — as a creator of art/entertainment, myself (not cars, lol)  — I have a vested interest in how thinking people are seeing the impact of digital capability on my potential livelihood.

      Thanks! -p.

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