Writing on the Ether: Springtime for Amazon

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew IngramTable of Contents

  1. Springtime for Amazon
  2. Confab images: Missouri Writers Conference
  3. More confabs: Buenos Aires and London
  4. Dial DRM for endless debate
  5. Facebook: Can it hit its Mark?
  6. Writing vs. marketing: Those 10,000 hours
  7. Writing craft: Rants ‘n’ raves
  8. Writing craft: Your pet muse
  9. Writing craft: How fair is your use?
  10. Writing craft: The well-structured story
  11. Writing craft: Blogging and listening. Huh?
  12. Romance: Brooking no put-downs
  13. Writing tools: Before the betas
  14. Last gas: Are you lonely tonight?
  15. A programming note

 

Springtime for Amazon

As the market evolves, Amazon is becoming a home for readers.

Say what? “A home for readers?” The Evil Amazon? Did the jungle drums just miss a beat?

There is so much for readers to do on Amazon – so much book-related content for them to peruse before buying.

There it was again. I could swear I just heard a friendly word for Seattle.

We have to ask ourselves, with the collapse of physical retail for books, which company will book suppliers want to deal with most? Just as iTunes supplanted record stores, Amazon is supplanting bookstores. Of all the bookselling options out there, only the remaining indie bookstores and B&N are more “bookish.” Should they eventually collapse (or transform or get sold), Amazon will be the most bookish place for readers to go to buy books.

You’re not hearing from some Prime-drunk refugee of the Borders wars here. These are the thoughts of Laura Dawson, Firebrand’s reigning Queen of Metadata, one of our best-regarded publishing specialists, and she’s packing knitting needles, don’t cross her.

[blackbirdpie id=”195537871724216320″]

 

In Why Amazon Will Be the Good Guy, Dawson is echoing a jazzy new counterpoint to the shrill call of the poison-dart frog we’ve heard so relentlessly in deepest, darkest Amazonia.

A new slant on the aggressive retailer is beginning to be felt. And this angle doesn’t always turn up along the same lines of debate, which indicates that a subtle but broad-based reconsideration may be underway. Dawson’s not dropping a stitch:

In the late 1990s, the American Booksellers Association sued Barnes & Noble and Borders over what they felt were unfair trade practices… B&N was the king of the discount. And for “bookish” folks, this was a source of friction – the cheapening of books made them seem commoditized, and our beloved independent bookstores were going out of business.

Hunker with me here. This is an argument many can’t see yet.

Amazon has been regarded as less than entirely “bookish” since its inception, when Bezos made it clear that books were just the beginning (and only because books were the easiest products to build a store around).

[blackbirdpie id=”195157833556307968″]

 

Immediately there’s collegial push-back in Dawson’s post’s comments starting here, from another favorite expert, Joe Wikert of O’Reilly Media. After all, Dawson has just asserted:

When any company is generating the bulk of sales for publishers, they are by definition “the good guys.”

There may be a pretty practical truth to that line. What do you think?

[blackbirdpie id=”195538389141962752″]

 

Keep listening. There’s more than one line of thinking being updated on Amazon at the moment. You hear it between the blind hate-Amazon monkey chatter and the reluctant growls of slow-moving traditionalists.

The nightmare narrative being spun by the publishing echo chamber is tragically unaware of how Amazon works. Maybe it’s because publishers imagine that Amazon will do what they would do if they had Amazon’s market power.

That artful zinger is launched by another of our community’s well-respected figures, Eric Hellman. In Publishing’s Amazon Powered Future, Hellman proposes one of the most intriguing rays of light to make it through the rainforest canopy, swatting aside the frequently heard fear that once most competitors have languished, Amazon will jack up its now-low prices. The emphasis here is his:

Amazon won’t extort huge sums of money from powerless consumers. Instead, they will ruthlessly bring efficiency to every process involved in publishing. And then they’ll invite everyone to use their ruthlessly efficient services.

What Hellman is saying is that the the real profit centers for Seattle lie in scale-enabling systems, the formidable tidal powers such as Amazon Web Services, which ebb and flow according to supply and demand. He has climbed way up to get a much airier view of Amazon’s corporate basin than most of us book-grubbing ground-dwellers have done.

[blackbirdpie id=”195479799504961536″]

 

And even as Hellman calls to us from his high perch, there’s news of Amazon Supply launching, what Michael Kanellos writes up at Forbes as Another Step Toward B2B, and describes as:

A beta site dedicated to selling office equipment and industrial supplies to businesses. Amazon Supply offers more than 500,000 products, according to the company, including hose clamps, roller chain sprockets, drill bits, sheet aluminum, brass and other items. The site grew out of Small Parts, a supplier of equipment for science labs, Amazon bought in 2005.

How are we going to keep them down in Seattle, now that they’ve seen the Micro Essential Lab 94 Hydrion Spectral Insta-Chek Wide Range pH Test Paper Dispenser, 1 – 14 pH, Single Roll?

Stomping around our small clearing called publishing really may not be this giant’s greatest ambition.

[blackbirdpie id=”195476937022521344″]

 

And one of our very best heads, Brian O’Leary is also leading the porters and this Porter toward “Dr. Hellman, I presume,” In A More Likely View.

O’Leary writes:

Hellman’s work is always worth a full read, and I encourage you to take some time with his post.

Me, too. Quoting Hellman at length, O’Leary comes to this intriguing conclusion:

This is the reason publishers can’t beat Amazon: they aren’t even playing the same game.

pH Test Paper Dispensers, remember.

O’Leary goes back to Hellman for a second post. In What Are We About?, he credits Hellman for outlining “how publishers are fundamentally misunderstanding the retailer’s long-term competitive strategy.” And he ends by asking:

If Amazon is all about scale, what are we about?

Needless to say, there are disagreements on the forest floor.

[blackbirdpie id=”195476760974987264″]

 

In Aftermath — notes on the Amazon post, another fine observer of the realm, Baldur Bjarnason, weighs in with serious qualms. They don’t necessarily go head-to-head with Hellman’s conceptualization. But they indicate a mistrust of Seattle’s model.

 Amazon is taking risks everywhere. They are treating their suppliers, publishers, badly, essentially behaving like monopolists before they have an actual monopoly. Their share price is massively overvalued by any measure. The more they rely on their private ebook format for some sort of lock-in, the more they cut themselves off a growing ecosystem of ebook production and development tools, which requires them to make their own development tools, which further drives down their margins.

[blackbirdpie id=”195539232838782976″]

 

And our friend journalist Philip Jones of TheFutureBook and TheBookseller is skeptical of what he sees as Hellman conflating Amazon Web Services and Amazon Publishing. In Scale and synergy do not drive publishing, people do, Jones writes:

I’ve heard time and time again recently that Amazon is all about scale, and it is this that will kill off publishers… But I am not sure publishing books is scalable, or will be greatly impacted by it: at least not on the creative side.

Oh, and in case you’ve felt the Department of Justice is losing steam with its lawsuit of the “colluding five” and Apple, outgoing Acting Asst. Attorney General for Antitrust Sharis A. Pozen wants to disagree with you. She was speaking (full text) at the Brookings Institute:

At its heart, this case is about protecting competition, not competitors. And most importantly, it is about lower ebook prices for consumers.

[blackbirdpie id=”195167948174925824″]

 

Confab images: Missouri Writers Conference

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

From Jane Friedman’s presentation on first-page red flags at the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference.

The series of handsome ecru slides you see in this edition of the gas are from Ether-eal host Jane Friedman’s deck for her recent presentation at the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference.

Friedman spoke, as did another sister in the Ether, Christina Katz.

In keeping with a back-to-basics trend you might pick up on in the writing/craft sections of the Ether, Friedman’s approach is an excellent examination of what to do — and what to avoid — on a manuscript’s first page.

And if you ever wonder why writers can seem so crazed about the difficulty of their primary task (that would be writing, Yuvi Zalkow will remind us a bit later), consider that all the points on these slides are meant to go into a marvelous Page One so that the reader does what? — blows right through it and turns eagerly to Page Two. Where the battle is fought again.

Jane’s the one in the flak jacket. Here is her complete slide deck.

[blackbirdpie id=”195254709857169408″]

[blackbirdpie id=”195256203440427008″]

 

More confabs: Buenos Aires and London

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

A very quiet Confiteria Ideal in Buenos Aires. Photo used by permission: Liz Castro

TOC’s first Latin American Tools of Change charmed everybody who spoke up from Buenos Aires. Here’s my good colleague Julieta Lionetti making a key point about the lack of participants from Spain at the Buenos Aires Book Fair, in TOC Latin America: New Ideas and Energy, One Notable AbsenceHer work is at Ed Nawotka’s Publishing Perspectives.

It’s thanks to Laura Dawson that I discovered the fine images from Buenos Aires you see on the #Ether today, the sharp eye of Liz Castro, used by her kind permission.

And don’t cry for Castro, Lionetti went to the mat to compliment her good work at the TOC event:

Liz Castro stood out among the ranks of speakers; her very practical and enlightening half-hour talk, “ePUB in the Wild,” unfolded tricks and tips to deal with the fragmented platforms and inconsistent devices typical throughout the industry.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

Detail, Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires. Photo used by permission: Liz Castro

In fact, Dawson came in for praise, herself:

Laura Dawson — aka Sister Metadata — gave another talk very much-anticipated among the geeks who man publishers’ oars through turbulent waters.

Lionetti also gives those of us who couldn’t be on hand these writes: Rights Trade Intensifies at Buenos Aires Book Fair and 2,000 Librarians Dispense $2.2 Million in Sales at Buenos Aires Book Fair.

Then, of course, there was the London Book Fair. Mike Shatzkin in Things learned and thoughts provoked by London Book Fair 2012 nails one of the main points about Pottermore beautifully, in talking of his visit with CEO Charlie Redmayne:

The key to Charlie’s disruption was his willingness to substitute watermarking for DRM. He said it definitely made him nervous to do it, but he couldn’t see any other way to achieve what he wanted for Pottermore. He had to be able to sell to any device; he wanted to be able to allow any purchaser complete interoperability. There was no way to do that and maintain DRM.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

From Jane Friedman’s presentation on first-page red flags at the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference.

And when, on launch, pirated Potter ebooks started rolling through cyberspace, according to Redmayne via Shatzkin:

The community of sharers reacted. They said “C’mon now. Here we have a publisher doing what we’ve been asking for: delivering content DRM-free, across devices, at a reasonable price. And, by the way, don’t you know your file up there on the sharing site is watermarked? They know who you are!” And then the pirated content started being taken down by the community, before Pottermore could react. And very quickly, there were fewer pirated copies out there than before.

What a Rowling-esque tone our good Shatzkin takes on there, Jo would be proud of him. You could put a DRM-free baby to bed with such a nice story, seriously, although I’d like to know just how many pirated editions were shamed back into hiding by such noble peer pressure.

By the way, have you been to Pottermore yet? Bet you haven’t. Want to see what money can buy? Here’s the sneak peek video:

 

More on DRM from #LBF12, per Shatzkin:

I heard a rumor from a very reliable source that two of the Big Six are considering going to DRM-free very soon. The rumor is from the UK side, but it is hard to see a global company doing this in a market silo. Another industry listener I know was hearing similar rumors from different sources. Could we see another crack in this wall sometime soon, maybe this year?

And, lo, Macmillan’s mighty Tor made its move, right on cue. Nice segue, Mike, thanks.

[blackbirdpie id=”194841448766648320″]

 

Dial DRM for endless debate

Today, Tor Books, the largest science fiction publisher in the world, announced that henceforth all of its ebooks would be completely DRM-free. This comes six weeks after an antitrust action against Tor’s parent company, Macmillan USA, for price-fixing in relation to its arrangements with Apple and Amazon.

And a decree went out from Caesar Augustus… OK, well, it’s not quite that melodramatic, but faithful Cory Doctorow does catch the weight of the announcement he was making in Tor Books goes completely DRM-free.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

From Jane Friedman’s presentation on first-page red flags at the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference.

These things happen in publishing on Tuesdays, have you noticed? Mild hysteria on wry hopes for lunch: this really was a big move, made by a key player in the establishment.

Not unlike the whispers Shatzkin stirred up in London, the good Doctorow talks of more to come, too:

I’ve had contact with very highly placed execs at two more of the big six publishers, there is suddenly a market for tools that automate the conversion and loading of ebooks from multiple formats and vendors.

And just maybe this puts us finally on the Yellow Brick Road to you-know-which-witch gets ding-donged at the end?

I think that this might be the watershed for ebook DRM, the turning point that marks the moment at which all ebooks end up DRM-free. It’s a good day.

Certainly, O’Reilly’s Joe Wikert is watching for a window of opportunity in any momentum that might be coming. In What if DRM Goes Away? he nails it with the single phrase, “Innovation is better than predatory pricing.” Then, Wikert goes on to write:

This is more of a rallying cry for B&N, Kobo and every other device and ebook retailer. If DRM goes away tomorrow nothing much changes unless these other players force it to.

The most encouraging nudge, though, may come in what he writes next:

But why wait till DRM disappears? It might not happen for a long time. Meanwhile, the opportunity to innovate and create a path to market share gain exists today. I hope one or more of the minority market share players wakes up and takes action.

And on Tuesday, fifty-two minutes before Doctorow pushed the button on his hosanna on that good day, the excellent Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent hazarded a coup of her own by introducing to us one “Exec,” a publishing-industry honcho prepared to tell us — from behind the veil — “Why I break DRM on e-books.”

I realize that when I buy an e-book from Amazon, I’m really buying a license to that content, not the content itself. This is ridiculous, by the way. I feel as if e-book retailers are simply hiding behind that philosophy as a way to further support DRM and scare publishers away from considering a DRM-free world.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

Subte, for metro, in Buenos Aires. Photo used by permission: Liz Castro

There’s a curious mix in our buddy Exec of what seems like naïvete as well as savvy.

Don’t pro-DRM publishers realize this is one of the key complaints from their customers? I’ve heard plenty of customers tell me that e-book prices need to be low because they’re only buying access to the content, not fully owning it. That needs to change.

Exec has some pretty enlightened customers. Most of those readers we extoll so lovingly in these parts are a good bit behind Exec’s in their understanding of what they get in terms of ownership vs. licensing when they “buy” an ebook. Say on, Exec:

I think publishers should try it out so that they can see just how much of a waste DRM is. In about 15 minutes, anyone can unlock just about any e-book out there.

Breaking DRM is so simple that even a publisher can do it.

[blackbirdpie id=”194831647953268737″]

 

No wonder the ever-Ethernautical Guy LeCharles Gonzalez threw himself into a busy write on Google+ headlined Why DRM is a Toothless Boogeyman, Ebooks are like Video Games, and Amazon is the Winner. Hear that? The drums just hit that funny little syncopation again. Told you — new slant on Amazonia.

(Is it interesting that Google+ has a Twitter handle? In fact, that all the other social media services have Twitter handles. Could all tweets lead to…? Never mind.)

Here’s Gonzalez:

Based on the steady increase in ebook sales over the past few years, it’s reasonable to conclude that the average reader doesn’t really care too much about DRM. They’re apparently bigger fans of the platforms Amazon, B&N, and to a lesser degree, Apple, have built to purchase and read ebooks, and the ebooks themselves don’t have the same emotional connection as those they buy in print to keep on bookshelves. As such, legitimately or not, from the consumers’ perspective, “lock-in” isn’t the factor many think it is, or desire it to be.

Gonzalez walks you through a video-game parallel, then works up a console’s worth of canny calls:

Now, the $100,000 question is: If Amazon has truly won this round (and I think they have), does that automatically mean traditional publishers have lost the fight? I don’t think so, but how they choose to get off the mat this time can’t be related to DRM, pricing schemes, or rope-a-doping the “traditional” business model.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew IngramShould Loudpoet et al have you fired up and ready to mount a few barricades, there’s a “Day Against DRM” ahead, on Friday, May 4.

The long-standing Free Software Foundation, a 501(c)3 based in Boston, is behind it.

I can’t help remember discussing a Day of Rage with my colleagues at the UN.

But that’s just me.

 

 

[blackbirdpie id=”194405569803714560″]

Facebook: Can it hit its Mark?

“Don’t tell my mother I’m working on the Facebook IPO. She thinks I play piano at the local whorehouse.”

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

From Thad McIlroy’s post, “Facebook is Running Scared

In Facebook is Running Scared, Thad McIlroy parses the discreet charmlessness of the Zuckerberg saga.

We’ve now had a couple of weeks to try to get our minds around the notion that we live on the same planet with a 27 year old who can buy a 2-year-old company with no revenue and a few dozen staff for the same dollar amount as the gross national product of Belize or Monaco.

McIlroy keys off John Gapper’s charmingly headlined Facebook is scared of the internet in the Financial Times:  “Yahoo took 18 years from being founded in 1994 to get into its current state. Facebook will be lucky to last that long.”

Then McIlroy goes on to remind us of newly learned info on the big buy:

The cool billion for the fellas at Instagram is in fact just 30% in cash and $700 million in Facebook shares, or to be more exact, 23 million Facebook shares valued at $30.89 each. The Instagram kids may not be the first to rue the day they didn’t hold out for more cash and a lower overall sale price.

All of which gets us to the thoughtful (as always) musings of Mathew Ingram at GigaOM:

It has close to a billion active users, but it makes a remarkably tiny amount from each one: about $5 per year. That’s not a lot, considering over half of those users visit every day. And while the amount Facebook makes from the average user rose in the most recent quarter, it only grew by 6 percent. Some of the marketing costs it is racking up are no doubt going toward increasing that number. But how much more can Facebook squeeze out of its existing user base?

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg / Mathew Ingram, GigaOM

In What if Facebook isn’t so special after all? Ingram nails what’s keeping potential IPO buyers awake at night:

The biggest question about the social network is whether it can grow in any substantial way from its already massive base. With almost a billion users currently, the upside for the company is likely relatively limited, unless you assume Facebook will eventually be used by everyone on the planet.

[blackbirdpie id=”195257961004802048″]

 

Writing vs. marketing: Those 10,000 hours

I was single back then. I didn’t have kids. I had the time and space to totally ritualize and fetishize the submission process while still having time to write and read and watch snooty foreign films and everything else.

 

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

From Yuvi Zalkow’s “10,000 Hours” / Writer Unboxed

Yuvi Zalkow, one of my fellow regulars at Writer Unboxed, does a monthly video contribution to the site. In 10,000 Hours he blithely admits he’s never been near a copy of Malcolm Gladwell’s Outliers, but he deftly uses its core concept of the 10,000 hours said to be behind most big success stories.

I’ve grown enough to see how much more I should have been focusing on the writing and not as much on selling myself as a writer.

I’m hearing enough of this from enough people that I think we may be entering a bit of a backlash among many writers against the drive to platform, platform, platform. And Zalkow takes it to the emotional interior dialogue with his usual finesse:

We writers (permit me to arrogantly lump you in with me…) are so compelled to obsess over the accolades we think we deserve before fully maturing our writing chops.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

From Yuvi Zalkow’s “10,000 Hours” / Writer Unboxed

There’s the question: How much are we drawn to the platforming courses and webinars and books and gurus because visions of sugared plum fame dance in our heads?

Once upon a time there was a guy who loved pantslessness.

No, wait, wrong quote from the video. Sorry. Here we go:

I see too much of the “they must come and then I will worry about building it” mentality…Maybe it’s more like “work your ass off building it and then start ramping up your advertising campaign while simultaneously improving the quality of your work, and then they will come, and then you will deliver something that’s truly worthy of their presence.”

Zalkow thinks he has a fortune cookie message here. Me, I think we’re looking at an XXL T-shirt, minimum, for all that copy.

Gets me back to my stuff about not talking about your work, as I was saying recently to Jon Winokur when he interviewed me at Advice to Writers. (That’s the Readability link, it will give you an option to read it in Readability’s smart magazine format or the original.) “I’ve learned in the last year to shut up about my creative work, my non-journalistic work,” I told Jon. “You hear so many people sound like such self-delusional nut jobs talking about their own stuff. I’m trying to take that to heart.”

So I get what Zalkow’s saying, silent and clear.

Before you start to think I’m getting all preachy about it, I just want you to know that this is more of a reminder to myself to shut up and write than anything else. I’ve recently been getting a bit wrapped up in a lot of issues related to my upcoming novel. Even worse: in issues that I have little or no control over. And my writing shut down for a while. And so now I’m reminding myself to write more.

[blackbirdpie id=”194869634153979904″]

 

Writing craft: Rants ‘n’ raves

You sound like a very cynical person…Perhaps you believe social media exacerbates our negative qualities. That’s a more interesting argument than the one you’ve made.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

From Jane Friedman’s presentation on first-page red flags at the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference.

That’s mild-mannered Jane Friedman, hashtag unto herself, responding to a commenter in her Three Horrible Mistruths About Social Media That Drive Me Insane.

Those mistruths?

  • “Who cares what you had for lunch?”
  • “It’s mindlessly narcissistic and ego-driven.”
  • “It’s a time-waster.”

And it’s not too late for you to get in and add your pet-peeve mistruths about social media in the comments. In fact, Jane’s also asking this week What Makes You Anxious & Fearful About Tech?

She’s looking particularly for insight into why folks of “a certain age” are prone to be as tech-shy as they often seem to be. I remember my mother dove right in, while my father never was comfortable with anything past a fax machine.

Which brings up a secondary question I’d add — is it just me, or does it seem that in later life, women are more likely to be adaptors than men? If we tend to think younger guys are quicker to grab the joystick than girls, could it be that this reverses at some point, and the women take the techno-lead?

Our comments area awaits. Fill it up.

[blackbirdpie url=”lawrenceblock”]

[blackbirdpie id=”194492197557649409″]

 

Writing craft: Your pet muse

You can train your muse to perform on command, right? The secret is to think of it like a puppy. You know — cute, rambunctious, frustrating and surprisingly teachable. Like a puppy, your muse only seems unmanageable.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

From Jane Friedman’s presentation on first-page red flags at the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference.

I confess, housebreaking your muse is a new concept to me. But agent Rachelle Gardner pulls it off in this, the first of three articles in a “Strategies for Writers” series, each well worth reading. Here they are:

Train Your Muse Like You Train a Puppy
Writing Methods: Have It Your Way
How To Cut Thousands of Words Without Shedding a Tear

[blackbirdpie id=”194485148937502721″]

 

Writing craft: How fair is your use?

The biggest (abuse of fair use) would be using more of the copyrighted work than was necessary. For example, if you are going to report on the death of Michael Jackson, some footage of the star may be included in the story and would likely be considered fair use. However, if you broadcast the entire “Thriller” video in memoriam, that would likely be deemed infringement and the fair use defense would not apply.

That’s attorney Miles J. Feldman talking with O’Reilly Media’s Jenn Webbin the informative Fair use: A narrow, subjective, complicated safe haven for free speech.

It’s one to bookmark for reference as needed, good clean commentary on the high points.

[blackbirdpie id=”194092642731163649″]

 

Writing craft: The well-structured story

Like all the other acts, the third act opens with a bang, but unlike the other acts, it never lets up. From the 75% mark on, the characters and the readers alike are in for a wild ride. All the threads we’ve been weaving up to this point must now be artfully tied together.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

From Jane Friedman’s presentation on first-page red flags at the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference.

That’s K.M. Weiland in the ninth part of her weekly series on story structure, one of the most clearly explicated doings of this material I’ve come across.

The Secrets of Story Structure, Pt. 9: The Third Act is, itself, an entry point. Weiland will have two more sections to her third-act discussion. As usual, Weiland’s lesson — and it is just that, Weiland isn’t afraid to flat-out teach, how refreshing — includes examples of her points from Pride & Prejudice, It’s a Wonderful Life, Ender’s Game, and Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World — two books, two films.

The third act is where stories are made or ruined. Everything that’s come before is important, but this is where the author’s mettle is tested. If we can deliver a solid third act, we’ve accomplished what thousands of novelists before us (even published ones) have failed to do.

[blackbirdpie id=”195225952995917825″]

 

Writing craft: Blogging and listening. Huh?

It’s understandable that some people look at blogging as another way to broadcast their message, but broadcasting is the opposite of social media, which is interactive. Whether it’s your blog, Facebook, or your favorite social site, the activity is built around interacting with other people. Blogging is one form of social media, and the essence of social media, in my eyes, is the conversation.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

From Jane Friedman’s presentation on first-page red flags at the Missouri Writers’ Guild Conference.

In Author Blogging 101: Listening, Joel Friedlander takes on those bloggers we’ve all run across, the ones who never answer their comments, never seem to notice that there are readers out there — although those readers are supposedly the targets of any blog work.

Not surprisingly, Friedlander’s main interest here is in the blogger role, the person sending out material.

You do have to respond at some point. You have to show that you’re interested in what your readers have to say, to acknowledge that in a community all the voices need to be heard and considered.

But I also find this tendency not to listen, at least a form of it, in the way many people receive tweets.

Let’s say you send out a tweet. Then, rather than clicking on the link you’ve put into it to  read the story involved, some folks will almost immediately reply with some supposedly clever answer … which has nothing to do with the material to which the tweet links.

Simply “listening” — by taking a moment to check out the linked content — can prevent a lot of embarrassment (“OH, sorry, didn’t realize that’s what that tweet was about”) and the time-waste of a few confused tweets back and forth.

These days, I’m taking to simply tweeting, “Please use the link in that tweet to see the content before responding.” Don’t take it personally. It’s just who has time for stab-in-the-dark knee-jerk tweet-backs?

[blackbirdpie id=”195235360085786624″]

 

Romance: Brooking no put-downs

This one almost got away. If I were to use Maria Popova’s Curator’s Code to plot the pathway I took to it, it would be this:

K.M. WeilandLinda YezakLarry Brooks

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

Speaking of “Romance” with a capital “R,” CNBC’s Courtney Reagan reported from the Romantic Times Booklovers Convention in Chicago that Ellora’s Cave is selling 190,000 units per month.

In What I Just Learned from a Room Full of Romance Writers, Brooks freely admits he went in with some bad expectations.

I learned that from this point forward I will refer to the genre with a capital R. The genre is Romance. It deserves more respect than it gets outside of the club. The novels are legitimately difficult to write.

StoryFixer that he is, Brooks quickly gets into some real — and pretty fascinating — insights into the mechanics romance writers are using.

I learned that these writers care as much about the “outside” source of story conflict (the non-Romance plotline) as they do the love story. In fact, when we were offering and debating story ideas, hardly anyone gave the Romance plot any airtime in the discussion. I found that fascinating… it was as if the Romance plot (which occupies up to 75 percent of the contextual content of the story) was a given, an easy-deal, and it was the exterior plot that challenged.

Once grounded in the commonality of romance work with other storytelling, Brooks was able to put some points over to his new romance-writing colleagues:

One: elevate your concepts.  Yes, Romance is driven by concept, too.  The stronger the better.  And Two: keep passion — you wouldn’t think I’d need to hammer this one, but I felt as if I did — as the driving fuel of the story. Not only to write about passion, but to write with it.

Then, whoa, he drove the pink Cadillac right on over the cliff:

My personal bottom line — because I am a romantic by nature anyhow — I think I love this genre. I think I might give it a go. I even have a pen name in mind, one that would look totally hot on a book cover.

And how did the Rose City Romance Writers of Portland, OR, receive Brooks?

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew IngramHere’s Jenna Bayley-Burke writing up the session. You have to love her headline: Highlights from Larry Brooks’ 101 Slightly Unpredictable Tips for Novelists and Screenwriters.

As Brooks suggests, it’s all business. Among the more interesting ideas Bayley-Burke offers from Brooks’ session in unadorned simplicity:

Even though you haven’t written it yet, write a book review of your own novel. What you want to be strong about your story will emerge on that page.

 

[blackbirdpie id=”194897351155003392″]

 

Writing tools: Before the betas

Right now we have two new writerly efforts in online services approaching beta.

In a good email exchange this week with Kathy Meis, whose Serendipite Studios in Charleston is building Bublish, we discussed how I’m not in a position to endorse a new project until I can actually see what’s there. If I rush to welcome all comers, then I lose my value to you, Ethernaut, as someone you have every reason to hope might withhold judgment until I know a spade is a spade.

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

In San Telmo Market, Buenos Aires. Photo used by permission: Liz Castro

Critics are like this, which, yes, is sometimes tiresome. It’s why you may notice I don’t do the “best ever” superlative crap we see all over various social media. It helps nobody when you over-praise everything that comes along. Because when the “best ever” thing actually walks in and sits down, what do we have left but self-immolation?

It is, however, quite possible and right for me to direct you to the spots online at which you can join me in signing up for beta announcements of these coming programs – I, like you, will be testing to see how they develop as tools for authorial progress.

  • Meis’ Bublish (intended to focus on “helping authors more effectively find readers in today’s crowded, noisy book marketplace”) has this site at which you can register for beta announcements.
  • And, as you likely know, Kristen McLean at Bookigee in Miami is developing WriterCube (“the first application created especially for authors and other book professionals who want a better way to take charge of their brands”).  Here is the site at which you can sign up for beta announcements on that one.
  • And, hey, anybody remember Bookish? Here’s the site to sign up for that one. Wouldn’t rush.

[blackbirdpie id=”194761748262301696″]

 

Last gas: Are you lonely tonight?

“These days, insecure in our relationships and anxious about intimacy, we look to technology for ways to be in relationships and protect ourselves from them at the same time.” The problem with digital intimacy is that it is ultimately incomplete: “The ties we form through the Internet are not, in the end, the ties that bind. But they are the ties that preoccupy,” she writes. “We don’t want to intrude on each other, so instead we constantly intrude on each other, but not in ‘real time.’”

MIT computer culture professor Sherry Turkle is being quoted there by Stephen Marche in The Atlantic’s May issue, a story headlined Is Facebook Making Us Lonely? 

Yes, apparently we’re in for another round of the isolation! the isolation! of it all.

That’s not to say, however, that Turkle doesn’t have a lot of important things to say, and she says them well. I like Turkle. I also wish her research and analysis didn’t send some people into such spasms of breast-beating.

She gets into the Times with an op-ed headlined The Flight From Conversation, a long recitation of the anecdotes of her work. The business people who text each other instead of talking, the lovely little boy who professes that “I’d like to learn how to have a conversation” (do these things really happen to Turkle?), the family everybody loves to cite who sits at the restaurant table, each absorbed in his or her handheld.

While there’s not much new I can spot in Turkle’s essay, I do like one of her summary points:

Human relationships are rich; they’re messy and demanding. We have learned the habit of cleaning them up with technology. And the move from conversation to connection is part of this. But it’s a process in which we shortchange ourselves. Worse, it seems that over time we stop caring, we forget that there is a difference.

The problem here is that there must be a problem. As with the best psychologist — or Methodist minister, having talked this over with my late pastor-father several times — Turkle’s livelihood depends on finding us in trouble with our conversation-vs.-connection. What’s she going to write next? “Never Mind, the Devices are OK, After All”?

author, authors, book, critic, criticism, critique, e-book, e-reader, ebook, publishing, publisher, writer, writing, Jane Friedman, VQR, Virginia Quarterly Review, University of Cincinnati, University of Virginia, UVA, Charlottesville, Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Google, Laura Hazard Owen, paidContent, reading, Joe Wikert, Mike Cane, Don Linn, Jenn Webb, Kat Meyer, pundits, Department of Justice, DoJ, legacy publishers, Apple, lawsuit, Bookigee, WriterCube, Kristen McLean, TOC Latin America, Buenos Aires, London Book Fair, Mike Shatzkin, Mathew Ingram

In San Telmo Market, Buenos Aires. Photo used by permission: Liz Castro

I don’t mean to be disrespectful of Turkle, nor mean. Remember, I’ve got my own late father in there with her — he of the “helping professions” which must help whether it’s needed or not. That’s the problem. Professional helping experts are programmed to find and prove the need for their help.

Show me a therapist willing to say, “You’re done. No more sessions.” Amazingly rare.

Maybe Turkle needs a new shtick. Daddy certainly did.

And this is why I’ve brought along one more Turkle-related piece for you, Mathew Ingram’s go at the topic (and at Turkle) for GigaOm. His headline for this tiresome subject: Is the Internet making us more lonely or less lonely? Yes.

We have seen a rash of essays and articles in the mainstream press recently that take a somewhat scare-mongering tone toward social networks and digital communication of various kinds: a piece in the Atlantic raised the question of whether Facebook is making us lonely, and a New York Times op-ed by MIT professor Sherry Turkle a few days ago argues that all the texting and social-media usage we’re engaging in is bad for us as a society, because it is preventing us from having “real” conversations and connecting with other human beings.

Know why I like Ingram? Because he calls the question:

Is that really true?

Ingram brings in some research by Zeneyp Tufekci, a sociologist.

Tufekci argues the online world and the so-called real world are almost indistinguishable now, and in many cases they tend to support each other rather than the opposite.

I’m as much a creature of my own “anecdata” (thank you, Brett Sandusky) as anyone, but this sounds sensible to me. My own experience is that the on- and offline contacts I have support each other. I can move between them very comfortably.

And finally, it gets down, as Ingram indicates, to that thing we like least: taking responsibility for ourselves. Do you really want to be a victim of your online world? Or of your offline world? Do you honestly want to whine that you’re losing touch with the “real” world off the grid? Or that you find the demands of the flesh-and-bloods in your life to be overly distracting when you’re trying to enjoy your virtual life?

#Cmonson.

OK, I’ll shut up (you’re welcome) and let Mathew do it, he’s more patient with this sort of social-lemming topic than I am. Take us home, sir:

It’s how we choose to use these new tools that matters, and that is something we all have in our power to change, for the better as well as for the worse.

[blackbirdpie id=”194884722017570816″]

 

A programming note

I’ll be at Writer Unboxed this weekend with a new piece posting on Saturday. Do stop by, we usually get quite a busy comments exchange going … weeping as we are, you know, out here in the vast loneliness and isolation of cyberspace. Send Kleenex.

 

Here’s the Q2 Music player for you. Q2 is an NPR-affiliated free 24/7 stream of music– living composers, many of whom write for Hollywood as well as for the international concert stage. Writerly music, via this player or in the Radio section of iTunes.

Key imagery: iStockphoto / Abinormal


Upcoming Online Classes

Posted in Writing on the Ether.

Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson

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.

Join the conversation

37 Comments on "Writing on the Ether: Springtime for Amazon"

Notify of
avatar
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Jennie Coughlin
Another great roundup, Porter – I’m almost dizzy from the headiness of the Ether this week. I’ll be curious to see how the Amazonian perceptions change. To steal a line from my Writer Yoga post today, so much of how people see them depends on the lenses they’re wearing. It’s nice to see some different takes on Amazon’s role in the publishing ecosystem and books’ role in Amazon’s game plan. Also, your comment from the Winkour interview is one that hit home when I read it the first time, about talking about the non-journalistic writing. I’m still struggling to find… Read more »
Porter Anderson
Hey, Jennie ( @jenniecoughlin:twitter ) super of you to jump into the Ether so fast this week (especially as you juggle the book, the stories, the promo, the journalism … we really just don’t have this thing licked yet, do we? lol).  I’m like you, I’m really heartened to see folks willing to try on some different “lenses,” as you put it — must be a good yoga post — to try to see if Amazon doesn’t look different from different angles. I firmly believe it does — and we’re lucky to have the rich collective views of folks like… Read more »
Anne R. Allen

Love Yuvi’s video. We need more emphasis on those 10,000 Gladwell hours and quotes like Bobbie Ann Mason’s. I see so many new writers putting 70% or more of their time into platform. After they’ve worked so hard, they figure they should put their book out there NOW, even though it’s an amateurish first draft. A lot of potentially good writers are going to lose the chance to develop.

Porter Anderson
You know, Anne ( @AnneRAllen:twitter ), you’re so right. We really have so many people rushing their work out because the platform drive has overtaken the creative drive. Sales over substance. And such a tragic waste of potentially good material (but it goes out prematurely) and of develop-able talent (which sells itself too soon). One of the reasons this is happening is that platforming is far more teachable than writing. So the “gurus” who appear so quickly to teach everybody how to platform are persuasive — they can tempt the tired writer away from her or his manuscript efforts with… Read more »
florence fois
Porter, first let me thank you for a wonderful post (in multiples no less.) Taking my valuable reading time is something I do with caution. I might be one of those “vintage” women who can embrace tech-change, but who resents the need to toot and whoot over someting I have yet to produce … a published novel. Of course, that will change soon. All the content about writing and how we perceive our roles in these changing times is common sense and welcomed. I do have an issue about amazon. Moons ago, Bezos was interviewed on Sixty Minutes. Morley Safer… Read more »
Porter Anderson
Florence, thanks so much for the very thoughtful write here. In so many ways, I think you’re exactly right in your appraisal, certainly of the principles behind our likely moves forward. One insider has suggested to me, in fact, that the Big Six are badly hampered right now (and doing  a lot of the delaying tactics they’ve tried, such as agency pricing) in order for the aging executive suite to reach its retirement period. So your concept of youth coming in to push things forward is quite keen. I think I might differ with you only in your concept of… Read more »
Jill Kemerer
Hi Porter! I smiled throughout this week’s Ether–you had some really funny lines. The Caesar Augustus one really got me going. 🙂 I agree with Rachelle–we have to train that muse! And I LOVED the piece from Larry Brooks (yes, I did read the article), but I’m sure that’s not a shocker. I’ve been a member of RWA for 5 years. Most romance writers are dedicated to the craft of writing. We want to put out a great book, just like any other writer does. Thanks for including Larry’s post! As far as the conversations vs. technology discussion goes, I have to agree with… Read more »
Porter Anderson

Hey, Jill ( @JillKemerer:twitter  ) sorry for the delay getting back to your good comment — bit of a collision between this piece and my Writer Unboxed post (more on life on- and off-grid at http://ow.ly/aArLw ).

Especially glad you like the artwork in the Ether — I’m particularly fond of the sort of Edwardian look of the slides @JaneFriedman:twitter made for her Missouri presentation, and of that amazing shot of the hats (which are worn!) in Buenos Aires from @LizCastro:twitter — so much talent, huh?

Hope your weekend is a good one, and thanks again!
-p.

Angela Ackerman
So much great stuff here. I’m bookmarking to come back for the video and links. The whole Us vs Them; Amazon vs Publishers… such a messy situation with many long-term ramifications. However, the important bit that I hold onto is that Amazon is a business, and at the end of the day is motivated by meeting their consumers’ needs (readers).  If readers are kept in the forefront, I have high hopes that whatever change is ahead, it will ultimately lead to people wanting to read more, which is never a bad thing. Streamlining is something that needs to be done… Read more »
Porter Anderson
Good advice on heading for quality over quantity, Angela ( @AngelaAckerman:twitter  ), and it’s something people long in the biz need to hear as much as do newcomers. Of course you’re right about the importance of the books, themselves, being well-written and produced. One of the biggest problems we’re running into now is that teachers of platforming and marketing and “inspi-vational” drive, as I call it, are revving people to move out way too early with their material. The speed at which legacy publishing has moved was ridiculously slow. But the steps in the process of actual, painstaking development are… Read more »
jenniecoughlin

Yes, this! Every time I hear the “write more, write quickly” I feel like yelling “Wait! Stop!” There’s a place for quick writing (check your local newspaper, either print or online…), but for books? No. Time is part of the process. The amount of time will vary with the writer and material and experience level, but assuming this can be done quickly without regard for the editing and simmering and feedback loops is throwing out the necessary in the race for sales. 

Porter Anderson
I ran into an odd corollary to that the other day, Jennie ( @twitter-11541172:disqus ).  A friend told me that she’d read a new novel — quite substantial in page count, too — in about nine hours straight. Now, she meant this, I think, as a testament to how good she found the book. But I was scandalized. I tried to explain to her that even if she’d found it so entertaining that she wanted to devote nine straight hours to it on her vacation, the author had spent YEARS producing that thing. And to dispatch it so quickly was… Read more »
jenniecoughlin
I’m not sure I’m the best person to make that point to – I read freakishly fast (last Harry Potter in less than 4 hours fast), so it’s rare for me not to finish a book in one sitting. Making myself read slower just reduces my comprehension. I will re-read books I enjoy, sometimes many times over the weeks and years following an initial read. But to say I enjoyed To Kill a Mockingbird less because I read it in under two hours (and thus in one sitting) doesn’t seem accurate. That I’ve read it about three dozen times and… Read more »
Angela Ackerman
 Great video–I loved his little movie clips to hammer the point home. 🙂 I agree with the mad rush–too many writers listen with half an ear and think the key to success is lots and lots of product…rather than understanding this really means producing consistent, well-written product. I’ve read SP books that can stand toe-to-toe with Traditionally published works as far as quality. But for each one of those, I’ve read about 5 that should have simmered a bit longer. Self published or Traditionally published, it’s still our name on it. We need to honor ourselves by doing our best.… Read more »
KathyPooler
I’m a little late to The Ether today,Porter but as always it was well-worth the wait and definitely worth the price of admission! Fascinating new slant on Amazonia’s shift in image from evil monopolist to “ruthlessly efficient” and if everyone will just calm down a bit,they will invite others in on it. Interesting debate on DRM-free issue,too. I treated myself to a click on all the links this week and my absolute favorite was Yuvi Zalkow”s call to “Shut up and write” Amen!! “Build it, then market it and they will come. I don’t have 20 years to get published… Read more »
Porter Anderson
Of all the great things you’ve said, Kathy  ( @KathyPooler:twitter ), I think “I don’t have 20 years to get published” may be my very favorite yet. 🙂  Christ, how true for all of us. And yet sometimes I feel like we’re all sitting around, wallowing in our blessed digital transition as if we had a few centuries to spare. I want T-shirts: I DON’T HAVE 20 YEARS TO GET PUBLISHED That’s one clarifying moment, if ever I’ve seen one, and thank you for it. I’m going to tweet it madly. Oh, and I’m real glad that you like the… Read more »
Victoria Noe

Can I hear an Amen?

Porter Anderson

You have it, Sister Viki.

Kathleen Pooler

Yes, indeed, Porter. Amen!!

Porter Anderson

Not a bad line for the back of the T-shirt, Kathy ( @KathyPooler:twitter ):

Front-
WE DON’T HAVE 20 YEARS TO GET PUBLISHED.
Back-
AMEN!

Bob Mayer

The three Ps.  Platform, Product, Promotion.  I’m teaching it today here in Phoenix at Desert Dreams as part of Write It Forward.

Cut to the chase:
The best platform and promotion is great product (book).
Better platform and promotion are more great products.

Porter Anderson

Make that four Ps. Platform. Product. Promotion. Phoenix.

Hope it goes well, Bob ( @Bob_Mayer:twitter ), thanks for reading and commenting!
-p.

trackback

[…] as I covered in Writing on the Ether this week, once you get all up onto the grid and into your online life to any serious degree, […]

Wordbeeps

I don’t get it. It looks like a slush pile before a writer distills it to write something. I didn’t get one damn thing out of it. 

Porter Anderson

Sorry, can’t make heads or tails of what you’re commenting on here. What looks like a slush pile before a writer distills it?  Thanks for reading, sorry I can’t follow your meaning here.
-p.

Laurapauling

Recently, I’ve seen more and more authors/writers pull back on their social media and write more. I’ve also seen them try to streamline their time on social media without losing quality and connection.

I’ve seen both traditional and indie authors skyrocket on Amazon and also sink and it usually isn’t because of their own social media or lack of it. It’s due to a great product and word of mouth. And that fact in itself drove me to my writing.

Porter Anderson
Great of you to jump in and comment, Laura ( @LauraPauling:twitter ) thanks so much. In case it’s of interest, we’ve just had two very boisterous days of debate over at @WriterUnboxed:twitter on this very topic, @JaneFriedman:twitter taking the lead first http://ow.ly/aAEy9  then me http://ow.ly/aAEDg I like to think you’re right that the great product is the key. Sometimes, I think word of mouth gets us a lot farther, even on inferior material (witness Fifty Shades of Grey).  The point, of course, is to produce something terrific every time and not disappoint readers, even if they were sent to you… Read more »
trackback

[…] I first suggested it in my purple writing book Nail Your Novel, as part of the section on revision, and it must have struck a chord because time and again it gets picked up by other writers around the blogosphere. Here’s KM Weiland and here it is most recently being passed on by Larry Brooks, at all stations from Jenna Bayley-Burke to Porter Anderson. […]

trackback

[…] and Porter Anderson. Porter does an amazing weekly summary of the latest publishing industry news on Jane’s website called Writing on the Ether. In his posts, he embeds actual tweets using a Word Press plug-in called Blackbird Pie. It seems […]

Bernadette Phipps-Lincke
Bernadette Phipps-Lincke
“Change is hard because people overestimate the value of what they have—and underestimate the value of what they may gain by giving that up.” — James Belasco and Ralph Stayer Flight of the Buffalo (1994)   Re: In response to Turkle’s opinions:   In the mid ’90’s I worked in a computer lab at a high school. The internet was just launching in the school. Teachers were sending students to my lab to do reports, and allowing them to use the internet as ‘one source’ of five sources they needed, which were to include textbooks, library books, and magazines of their… Read more »
trackback

[…] Writing on the Ether by Porter Anderson (April 26th) […]

trackback

[…] maybe it won’t, huh? Last week, here on the Ether, we picked up on a new slant being taken in many quarters on Amazon. Take a little time this week […]

trackback

[…] don’t think this is the tiresome digital-dualism hand-wringing of MIT’s Sherry “Alone Together” Turkle, who is mentioned, briefly, […]

trackback

[…] covered Hellman’s commentary then on the Ether. Eric […]

trackback

[…] cov­ered Hellman’s com­men­tary then on the Ether. Eric […]

trackback

[…] This spring, Macmillan’s Tor made news with the announcement that it would drop DRM on its ebooks. We Etherized that in April, in Dial DMR for Endless Debate […]

wpDiscuz