WRITING ON THE ETHER EXCLUSIVE: ‘Rogue’ Authors on a New Route

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Table of Contents

  1. An Author’s 3rd Option: The Rogue Reader / Ashlock
  2. Brightline: Royal Rogues / Missingham, Carr, Shatzkin, Weinman, Owen
  3. Agency Pricing in Europe? No. / Cader
  4. Kindle Serials: The Nittiest of Gritty / Owen
  5. Free on Amazon: Giving It Away / Vinjamuri
  6. Amazon in the UK: Worries About Waterstones / Purcell
  7. Libraries: Another Crisis / Brantley, Weinman
  8. Craft: Legit Big Reviewers on Amazon / Grant
  9. Craft: Balzac, Our Barista / Bell, Coyne
  10. Craft: Bad Habits of Good Writers (Beyond Coffee) / Stevens
  11. Conferences: DBW’s Discoverability & Marketing
  12. Books: Reading on the Ether
  13. Last Gas: Don’t Get Beamed / Dawson

An Author’s 3rd Option: The Rogue Reader / Ashlock

What if we could make non-traditional publishing a less solitary, less exhausting, less perilous walk down the dark alley of DIY?

Today I have something new for your consideration.

Ethernauts can be among the very first to look over The Rogue Reader — a new development in “outsider suspense fiction.” It’s in soft-launch today, not yet at full power. The Champagne doesn’t hit the bow until early October, when The Rogue Reader is formally launched at the Bouchercon Mystery Convention in Cleveland.

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Jason Allen Ashlock

Before you click over to TheRogueReader.com, I hope you’ll read through this introduction. It should be worth your time to get a fix on what’s being attempted and why I think it’s worth your serious attention.

You’re familiar, I’m sure, with Jason Allen Ashlock, literary agent and president of Movable Type Management (MT Management) in New York.

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Adam Chromy

Ashlock shares MTM leadership with his fellow agent, Adam Chromy, chief of the agency’s media operations. The merger of what was Ashlock’s Movable Type agency and Chromy’s Artists and Artisans made Chromy president of Movable Type Media (MT Media).

Ashlock and Chromy are sure to be watched particularly closely by their peers in the hard-pressed community of literary agents on this new initiative they’re opening.

In our interview, Ashlock lays the groundwork this way:

Authors at our moment in publishing have two choices.

They either give away their rights and their royalties to a large multinational conglomerate, in exchange for editorial, design, marketing, publicity, all basically theoretical.

Or you go it entirely alone with a big tech company like Amazon or B&N or many others — in which case you get none of that support, none of that support, curation, design, marketing and publicity, but you get to keep your rights and your royalties. What we’re proposing is that that those are two really bad options for most authors.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeAs we’ve come to call authors “hybrids” when they publish both traditionally and independently, Ashlock and Chromy’s Rogue Reader approach may be seen as a hybrid venue, a base of operation from which authors can move their work.


What we’re saying at The Rogue Reader is that this is your third option. You get the benefit and flexibility and independence of self-publishing, in that you keep your rights and way more of your royalties. But you also get all the virtues of traditional publishing — quality editorial, quality design, the sense of being curated and chosen, capital-infused marketing and publicity — all as part of a community.

Let me bullet out for you some points quickly.

  • Six authors have been chosen to participate.
  • The launch in the first week of October will focus on two authors, each of which in turn will be The Rogue Reader’s author of the month.
Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Ro Cuzon

First up as October’s author of focus at The Rogue Reader is the French-born, Tremé-based (New Orleans) writer Ro Cuzon.

Cuzon will be represented by two titles coming out under the Rogue Reader aegis — Under the Dixie Moon, set in New Orleans, and Under the Carib Sun, set on St. Barts.

“We have this incredible crime writer,” says Ashlock, “beloved in the crime fiction community. The publishers we took him to wanted to publish him, but their situations didn’t result in anything. But we are confident in Ro. He’s writing at a very high level. Our conversations with him were, ‘Let us get you out into the world.”

Following Cuzon as “rogue of the month” in November will be  Cleveland-based author Michael Hogan, who has previously published with Macmillan’s Thomas Dunne and Random House.

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Michael Hogan

Hogan’s two upcoming titles with The Rogue Reader are Dog Hills and Sistine.

“This is a writer,” Ashlock says, “whose prose resonates in a literary register, he’s a lyrical craftsman. His new works are ambitious in scope. As with Ro, we feel we need to get this out into the world — and now we have the mechanism to do that.”

Here’s an important point Ashlock stresses in describing The Rogue Reader:

Our goal is not to scale this program. We don’t want to do 20 authors a month or 150 authors a year. In a noisy, cluttered marketplace, really good selection and putting money behind those authors we’ve selected is the way to do this.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeHis and Chromy’s  program, in fact, is designed to welcome readers who’d like to drill down for more information on its authors and their work.

  • One author each month;
  • one piece of “immersive content” each week.

That immersive content, Ashlock says, can be a long-form article in the genre, an author interview, a review, an essay, a video, something that informs and deepens a reader’s familiarity with the material and the authors.

  • Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeThe simplicity and regularity of the plan is intentional. Ashlock refers often in conversation about The Rogue Reader to a “precision” he’s going for, in everything from initial curation to the building of a community and brand.
  • And when Ashlock says “putting money behind those authors” and “capital-infused marketing,” he means that MTM, itself, is investing in the program, so there’s money behind the push for each author’s focus.

As for the publicity itself, this is what Ashlock calls “doing our jobs” for these authors:

For example, Under the Dixie Moon is a Barnes and Noble Nook Pick for October. There will be dedicated email blasts, exposure on the Nook homepage. B&N is interested in pulling people to its self-publishing platform.

Authors then get 70 percent of net revenue — “net” being after MTM’s expenses. Another way to say it, Ashlock says, is that authors get some 50 percent of list price (and on Kobo, he says, something closer to 60 percent).

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeThe Rogue Reader’s books are all-digital, not print.

  • The books are DRM-free.
  • They are platform-agnostic.
  • These authors, in fact, are self-publishers, but the program utilizes Hugh McGuire’s Pressbooks system. Ashlock:

The huge benefit there is that when you build on Pressbooks, the web and the book become one. You build once, then you spit out (editions in) EPUB, MOBI, PDF, and web content.

Many traditionally published authors don’t have what we’re offering. That’s why we’re offering it.

  • The Rogue Reader books will be priced dynamically, of course, based on analytics, but will start at $4.99 per book.
  • Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeAshlock is adamant that The Rogue Reader output be generously available — larger samples than usual, “so you don’t have to look at it through a pinhole,” he says. “The days of buying the book without knowing what’s in the box are over.”

This is aligned with the “abundance” mindset shared by many in digital publishing today and perhaps best defined in the work of Brian O’Leary. Put simply, the concept is that you attract more buyers by making your work abundantly available and affordable across as many platforms and formats as possible, thus holding down scarcity, the key prompt to piracy.

Ashlock believes that an “aggressive sampling policy” also “allows readers to engage with a large percentage of each ebook, placing the work itself at the center of the marketing.”

And one of the cool things we’re doing is a transmedia rollout for each author. We produce cocktail recipes inspired by the book, playlists inspired by the book, Google Maps that chart the course of a book’s action, we do videos produced by documentary filmmakers with our authors talking about their influences, we have artwork we’re commissioning from Brooklyn artists.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeThis, by the way, is not necessarily the interpretation of “transmedia” as an integral, developmental storytelling component of the kind focused on at the upcoming StoryWorld Conference in Hollywood in October. Instead, Ashlock is talking of surrounding each work with a “transmedia constellation” of elements running parallel to the book — always with a goal of giving the reader a point of access, a relationship with the work.

We’re using all these things as a way for people who find the books and want to dive deeper into that world of the author. And for people who haven’t found the book, we want them to have a way in. Maybe it’s the jazz playlist for Under the Dixie Moon, set in New Orleans.

And behind all this is an interesting theory shared by Ashlock and Chromy as an element of the company’s philosophy. Ashlock puts it this way:

As crowded as the marketplace is and as hard as it is to find books you want to read, I think people are even more prone to go back to the worlds that are familiar, and to the authors whose voices they trust. We default even in greater numbers than we did before there was so much choice.

So what we want to do at The Rogue Reader is create a world, we want people to come to know the anti-hero, the wounded protagonist, which is at the core of Ro Cuzon’s novels. We want them to trust him and want to read more about him and come back for more books by him, get into that world and live there for a while. Then they’ll come back knowing they like that world.


The Rogue Reader concept signals something for authors to watch.

This is a collective of writers being pulled together by a management at the center — MTM is the “gravity” at the heart of the effort. By developing and showcasing their work in the context of this site and community, these writers get what an imprint should provide: branding followed by engaged readers.

As such, The Rogue Reader ties into some great conversations I think we’re all going to be having as our new season of major publishing conferences kicks in — I’m looking forward to to exploring with you the kind of promise this “rogue” holds for digitally empowered authors in the deep-noir of its potential.

As Ashlock says:

All the values we’re talking about are in line with the word “rogue.” These authors are outsiders. They’re often rebellious in a way. It’s crime, suspense, thriller work done in really fresh ways — so close to the edge of their genre that it’s really why traditional publishing wouldn’t publish them. We think this is why people will love them.

This is outsider fiction.

| | |

The formal launch event for The Rogue Reader is a party scheduled for the evening of October 5 during Bouchercon 2012 at Cleveland’s The Map Room.

Ro Cuzon’s Under the Dixie Moon has an October 1 release date. His Under the Carib Sun releases October 16.

Michael Hogan’s Dog Hills and Sistine are to release on November 5 and 19, respectively.

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Brightline: Royal Rogues / Missingham, Carr, Shatzkin, Weinman, Owen


Let’s not underestimate how input and support from the world’s largest discoverability tool (Google) could help Brightline/Atavist on their way.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Sam Missingham

In her post, Brightline, Big City, Sam Missingham of The Bookseller’s TheFutureBook is reading the digital tea leaves with the best of us on this one.

It’s David Carr’s story in the Times, Media Chiefs Form Venture to E-Publish, that she’s responding to.

Carr wrote:

Two powerful entertainment moguls, Scott Rudin, the film and theater producer, and Barry Diller, the chairman of IAC/InterActiveCorp, are joining together to enter the turbulent world of book publishing.

Mr. Rudin and Frances Coady, a longtime publishing executive, have formed a partnership with Mr. Diller in a new venture called Brightline. It will publish e-books and eventually physical books in a partnership with Atavist, a publisher based in Brooklyn with expertise in producing electronic books and articles.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

David Carr

Here is the key line from Carr’s story, emphasis mine:

Mr. Rudin, who frequently works with authors like Michael Chabon, Jonathan Safran Foer and Jonathan Franzen to turn their books into films, said he had heard a steady stream of complaints about the opaqueness and resistance to change in the publishing business.

Brightline is a team of players able to woo the people Thomas Eakins called “the big artists,” the major authors.

So far, the advantages of self-publishing have apparently seemed too cumbersome or risky or time-consuming — or too much like vanity-press operations — to prompt one of the “bigs” to walk across the street and leave a traditional publisher behind.

The Brightline powerhouse could change that.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Charlie Redmayne interviewed at paidContent by Laura Hazard Owen, May 23.

And in a salute back at Missingham in the UK, let’s not overlook another potential turn in the road of this kind — Pottermore.

The operation built as a vehicle to JK Rowling’s work in digital format will be represented at the Frankfurt Book Fair by its personable CEO, Charlie Redmayne.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeAnd in a preview of his and Michael Cader’s Publishers Launch program there — Innovators and circumstances: the Frankfurt Publishers Launch showMike Shatzkin has a couple of intriguing lines on this.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Mike Shatzkin

He writes:

Charlie Redmayne…believes they’re building the digital publisher of the future and that a key element of that is to go where the audiences are: every device or channel that commands eyeballs is in his sights. Of course, Pottermore was built on the back of one writer’s amazing fictional brand and world. Redmayne believes what they’ve built might be applicable to other worlds from other authors. And that part of his presentation might get a lot of publishers and agents in the audience thinking what they have that might apply.

Still, we’re standing in a garden of good ideas that are springing up like weeds all around us. It’s early.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Sarah Weinman

At Publishers Lunch, Sarah Weinman writes Frances Coady Launches Brightline, With Backing from Diller and Rudin, and Collaboration from the Atavist, pointing out that none of the potential Brightline books has been acquired yet.

She also catches an interesting contradiction in how Carr’s write presents it. Weinman writes:

On the one hand, the Times says, “they are hoping that a brand new enterprise, without the legacy costs and practices of traditional publishing, can find traction.” And yet “Brightline will pay big advances to compete for big-name authors.”

For all the vagaries of the announcement, Laura Hazard Owen gets at what may be the most cogent point of all, in her paidContent write, Barry Diller and Scott Rudin launch book publisher with startup Atavist:

One thing seems clear: Barry Diller is willing to spend a lot of money on the venture.

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Agency Pricing in Europe? No. / Cader


HarperCollins, Hachette, Macmillan and Simon & Schuster have joined with Apple in offering to settle with the European Commission over the introduction of agency ebook pricing in Europe, “with a view to seeking an early resolution of the case.” The Commission is “still investigating Pearson’s conduct” (parent of Penguin) and its “compatibility” with EU regulations.

More shoes falling, that clatter you hear.

Michael Cader at Publishers Lunch writes up the European Commission’s preliminary assessment, as it’s called, of its investigations into agency ebook pricing.

The proposed settlement closely mirrors conditions that three of those publishers have already agreed to in the US.


But Cader also notes:

So far, the EC’s finding is less aggressive than the cases in the US as well…”the Commission took the preliminary view that, by jointly switching the sale of e-books from a wholesale model to an agency model with the same key terms on a global basis, the Four Publishers and Apple engaged in a concerted practice with the object of raising retail prices of  e-books in the EEA or preventing the emergence of lower prices in the EEA for e-books in breach of” EC provisions.

Of course, observers in Europe are worried about ebook pricing, as are many of their counterparts in the States. See the last section of today’s Ether for some insight into that from The Bookseller’s Philip Jones. And if you have a subscription, Jones has a new write on the potential timeline ahead: Implementation of EC price-fixing deals ‘could take months.’


And author Nick Harkaway is at TheFutureBook with Price War Could Kill Industry (And Indeed So Could Industry):

If publishers were prepared to sell direct to consumer, for example, they would gather data on who bought what books. They would know more about what sold, when, to whom, and even maybe a bit about why. They would be in a position to offer bargains, loyalty deals, tailored ads, and all the things which are the lifeblood of modern commerce. But they cannot do these things because they have yielded control of things they need in order to do them.


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Kindle Serials: The Nittiest of Gritty / Owen


What’s new this time around is that Amazon is using a pay-once model: A user who buys the first installment in a serial automatically gets all of the others for free.

Laura Hazard Owen

Greeted with a lot of hubbub — some of it ours, in Extra Ether: Serial Iterations, and in a followup in Writing on the Ether: It’s WarAmazon’s new Kindles Serials initiative gets a detailed look-over now from Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent.

In The serious business of Kindle Serials, she points out that “longform journalism site and e-singles publisher Byliner launched Byliner Serials last month,” and that other serializations have been ongoing on the web for some time. For distinctions in Seattle’s model, she writes, you look at the business model.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeFor example, we had commentary in last week’s Ether with Kindle Serial writer E.V. Anderson, author of The Many Lives of Lilith Lane. Anderson is one of three serial authors brokered to Amazon by Plympton, a publishing house that specializes in developing digital serials. From Owen, we learn:

Prior to the Amazon deal, Plympton had planned to pay its (serial) authors $500 an episode plus a bonus, but that changed with the deal — which was lucrative enough, Lee says, the company is “profitable, for now,” and will be able to pay those authors five-figure fees. There’s also a revenue split on serials sold. Amazon pays Plympton royalties directly, and Plympton then splits them with the author.

We also learn that the revenue split Amazon offers Kindle Serial authors may or may not be the same 70-30 that most Kindle Singles and Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) authors get.

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Although the opening eight Kindle Serials are set at $1.99 — a price point that has riled some observers who seem to keep missing the term “introductory price” on that amount — new entries will presumably be costlier, than what you pay for one KIndle Single. As Owen writes:

It seems that Amazon will have to invest more money in this format than it has in Kindle Singles: It has to pay authors more because they are writing more, and it either has to sell the Serials at a significantly higher price accordingly or take a loss.

She also notes that Byliner’s serials, sold in the Kindle Store, currently go for $2.99 — per installment.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Yael Goldstein Love

And as to why and how serials become more work for authors, there’s an interesting comment from Plympton co-founder Yael Goldstein Love on what she terms “the third episode problem.”

Owen quotes Love this way:

“It’s a lot easier to write a brilliant first episode of something. In your second episode, you’re continuing that. In the third episode, you realize you have no idea where this is going. It’s a real danger with writing serially. We won’t sign anyone on fully until we see how the first three [episodes] go.”

Such writerly challenges, as well as the evolving economics of the Serials, give them something of a serial interest of their own. I’m sure we’ll be getting in and out of the topic.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Jeff Belle, VP, Amazon Publishing

The reading audience is presumably well prepped for the idea by commercial television’s episodic character. On the surface, serialization sounds like a logical bookish extension of that context.

And in testing and cultivating the approach, Kindle Serials, operated by the West Coast publishing division, are backed by a formula we’ve seen work for Amazon many times.

Here’s Jeff Belle, Amazon Publishing vice-president, saying to Owen:

In the end, if you focus on the best possible customer experience, the revenue will follow.

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Free on Amazon: Giving It Away / Vinjamuri


Does free sampling work for authors? And what are the best ways to employ free samples?

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

David Vinjamuri

When David Vinjamuri at Forbes refers to “free samples” in EXCLUSIVE: Hard Numbers For Successful Free Book Sampling On Amazon, he’s not talking about the downloadable first-chapter samples available on most Kindle books.

No, he means whole books — he’s referring to the limited number of free days that Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing (KDP) allows an author to use as a promotional tool.

The data I am reporting comes from the new Freebooksy survey.  Freebooksy is a website which catalogs some of the top free books available on the Kindle Store each day.

“Freebooksy.” Have I mentioned how much I dislike cutesy corporate names? Oh, I have? OK, I’ll spare you that rant, then.

What Vinjamuri makes of the survey results reported by Freebooksy is interesting, although the survey comprises the self-reported details of only 74 respondent authors.

in median two-day promotions of ebooks, the number of free downloads that a given title might get came out to a median 4,004.

  • Sales of a book prior to the free promotion were at a median five copies weekly.
  • Sales after the free-day promotion, ran to 49 books weekly on the median.

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Of key concern is an apparent fall-off of effectiveness for free-book offers after April. Writes Vinjamuri:

Every author using free book days that I spoke with…mentioned that the effectiveness of these promotions had declined markedly since April.

The explanations offered by Freebooksy’s CEO are not convincing: more people using free-book promotions (what? suddenly since April?), and summer doldrums. But, as Vinjamuri concludes:

The best advice coming from this survey puts the burden back on the author to try to wait for at least fifteen strong reviews of the book to be posted before offering it for free.

“Freebooksy.” I mean really.

If you ever think publishing isn’t getting the respect it deserves? Guess why.

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Amazon in the UK: Worries About Waterstones / Purcell


Nook & B&N…had they entered the market via Waterstones would have done so as a fresh and potentially big arrival on the scene.

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Eoin Purcell

Our colleague in Dublin, Eoin Purcell, in Some MORE Thoughts On Amazon & Waterstones, is making the interesting point that British bookstore chain Waterstones‘ baffling-to-many decision to partner with Amazon on the Kindle in-store might mean:

Waterstones, in choosing Amazon were choosing the partner who already has the most exposure in the market and the one least likely to make a dramatic splash in store. After all, what Waterstones customer hasn’t heard of the Kindle five years after launch?

So could choosing Amazon have been the safest of several potential partnership perils?

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Mic Wright / The Telegraph

Purcell is prompted to revisit the subject by journalist Mic Wright, also in Dublin, who writes in the Telegraph a commentary headlined Amazon is inviting Waterstones to top itself.

You have to love the classic internationalist caricature Wright conjures of Amazon’s visionary leadership:

“Nice bookshop you’ve got there. Be a shame if anything happened to it.”  It’s hard not to picture Amazon’s CEO, Jeff Bezos, sauntering up to Waterstones with a cigar between his lips and a tommy gun hidden behind his back. The deal between the internet giant and the bricks-and-mortar retailer has looked unbalanced ever since details were first revealed in May.

Wright and Purcell are responding to those “bear traps” comments that Waterstones’ chief James Daunt (always good copy) made recently. They were picked up from The Bookseller’s write (subscription) by Laura Hazard Owen at paidContent in Waterstones CEO: Amazon partnership great, except for the “bear traps.”

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeWright goes right to what appears to be the most perilous trap of the Waterstones-Amazon deal:

Unless the customer buys e-books on the company’s own in-store WiFi network, Waterstones gets no cut of future sales. Effectively, the book chain is shepherding customers over to Amazon.

This is where any good, sauntering American, cigar between her or his lips, will remember Borders, which consigned its online presence to Amazon. Wright goes on:

The sheer convenience of being able to shop for new titles directly from their Kindle means most of them are unlikely to darken the doors of a real-world bookshop very often in the future.

It’s hard to doubt what Wright’s saying: Would you go trundling over to Waterstones and hook up to its in-store wi-fi each time you wanted to buy a new book on your Kindle? — just so Daunt-among-the-bear-traps could get the sale? As we say here in the wild, wild States, c’monson.

And Wright’s entertaining write gets all too colorfully to the point at the end, depicting Waterstones as “selling an arsenal to customers who will help Amazon put it out of its misery.”

High streets without a decent book shop will be a desperately sad sight, but Waterstones is just hastening its own irrelevance.

And so here is Purcell (they’re so busy in Dublin, aren’t they?), trying to parse this thing in a somewhat less Telegraphed way, if you will (no offense to Wright, his column is awfully good).

Purcell harkens back to a phrase or two of his own from May, in which he speculated that Waterstones was buying time to observe the digital dynamic.

Now, he stresses that any partnership, not just this one with Amazon, could be seen as potentially dangerous to Waterstones:

Waterstones’ other potential partners are either currently or would become by way of a partnership, direct competitors in the ebook marketplace. Enabling any one of the major players (or even a smaller scrappy rival) would make the marketplace more difficult for Waterstones.

And here may be the rather sad denouement ahead, in Purcell’s estimation:

If the ebook market does grow to more than 50% of all book sales, then perhaps the best they can hope for is a graceful decline towards a rump of the former chain, but a profitable and sustainable one if they can adapt and change.

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Libraries: Another Crisis / Brantley, Weinman


It may be time to encourage Congressional hearings that would entertain the possibility of legislation to support public libraries.

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Peter Brantley

Peter Brantley — whose post about the Douglas County Libraries of Colorado and their pricing report in the last Writing on the Ether — now goes into his Publishers Weekly blog on the news that Big Six publisher Hachette is raising its prices on backlist prices to libraries by as much as an average 104 percent.*

*Note that 104 percent is a new number.

At Digital Book World, there’s a note without byline but presumably by Jeremy Greenfield. As its headline tells you — Hachette E-Book Price Increase to Libraries Initially Overstated: 104%, Not 220% — DBW reports that a Hachette spokesperson has announced the publisher miscalculated the increase, and that it now comes to an average104-percent increase, not a widely reported 220-percent increase.

Meanhile, the price hike is still a doubling of costs on Hachette backlist titles to libraries.

And in Moving Up a Level, Brantley writes:

Rather than rely on a private sector that clearly does not always align with public needs, maybe the best long-term strategy will be to require the deposit of published books with one or more national digital libraries that would then provide ebook hosting services for the nation’s public libraries.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeA telling element of this story is the distrust Brantley voices of Hachette’s intentions.

He notes the publisher’s assertions that in exchange for its higher prices, libraries will face no limits on how many times an ebook copy can be borrowed:

I would really appreciate hearing from Hachette as to whether they are therefore guaranteeing that their ebooks will never become inaccessible and unusable as a result of future ebook format shifts, retailer platform changes, DRM transitions, and evolution in HTML standards and rendering conventions. Or, perhaps they see those as “acts of God” and not their responsibility.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeIn Higher Hachette Library eBook Pricing Draws Attention at Publishers Lunch, Sarah Weinman writes that the news of Hachette’s price increases was to have reached libraries earlier. The distributor to libraries, OverDrive, failed to tell libraries until now via the ONIX, or “online information exchange,” electronic catalog info.

Writes Weinman:

HBG says they “revised ebook prices” as “part of an experimental pilot to find out more about the digital library marketplace” and writes that they “are working with libraries, Overdrive, and several other partners to gather information and explore various options for making HBGs ebooks available to readers in a rapidly changing digital world.”

OverDrive, Weinman reports, “declined to explain their delay in passing along the price increase.”

Of course, now we know that as Hachette complains the libraries were supposed to have been informed by the distributor of these price hikes back in February, it took the publisher’s people until September to realize that it has been passing around a significantly incorrect figure about its own increases.

Hachette authors may want to check their royalty statements.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeAnd in a followup, Hachette Further Clarifies Higher eBook Library Pricing, Weinman writes that regardless of how well known Hachette and/or OverDrive consider the price increases for these books published before April 2010, “The American Library Association…reacted as if this is a brand-new price increase.”

The ALA said they are “weary of faltering half steps and even more so of publishers that refuse to sell ebook titles to libraries at all…Libraries must have the ability to purchase a wide range of digital content at a fair price so that all readers have full access to our world’s creative and cultural resources, especially the many millions who depend on libraries as their only source of reading material”

Brantley, like the ALA and many others, seems to be running out of patience.

Whether you believe that the digital dynamic really does expose publishers to new dangers of piracy (because lending ebooks, so this thinking goes, is less secure than lending physical books) or that publishers simply don’t believe that the library model serves their bottom lines, the problem seems, if anything, to get only worse.

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Clearly, library engagement on these issues must move to a new level. An organized economic boycott of ebooks by libraries would have little impact because it is painfully obvious that many publishers would be happy enough for libraries not to have access to ebooks at all.


A public education and communications campaign must be initiated that highlights how large international media- and publishing conglomerates are turning their backs on our communities, steadily eliminating the opportunity for all readers to have full and equal access to the world’s learning and literature.

Hence his interest in attracting Capitol Hill’s inquiry: “to obtain a comprehensive national solution to enable publicly funded libraries to meet the needs of the citizens they are chartered to serve.”

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Craft: Legit Big Reviewers on Amazon / Grant

In the wake of the bought-reviews-and-sock-puppetry scandals, I’ve been asked several times if it’s OK to approach some of the legitimate reviewers on Amazon designated as Top Reviewers for their levels of activity and following.

Yes, it is OK. You do it cordially, respectfully, carefully.

As in approaching an agent, you take a look at what a reviewer tends to cover — sort out whether the person you’d like to flag down is going to be interested in covering your book. The Top Reviewer who critiques only lawn mowers may not be the one.

And then you make it clear in a short note (some of them offer an email address in their bios) that you understand that in asking for permission to send them your book you understand that you may get no review at all or one that doesn’t go the way you’d like.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Alexis Grant

You send your book only if they respond and request it. And then you stand down.

Meanwhile, Alexis Grant has some elements of advice on this in An Amazon Reviews Tip That Will Help You Sell Books. (I’d have had that headline say a tip that might help you sell books, but don’t quibble, Sybil.)

Grant gives you the link to reach the site’s list of Top Reviewers and she puts you on to some work on the subject done by Mike Michalowicz.


When she gets into suggestions (or Michalowicz’s suggestions) for automating contacts, I’m less happy than when she offers this idea:

And know what would probably be even more effective? Personalizing that form letter ever so slightly to include the reviewer’s name and maybe even a reference to that person’s reviews and why you think he’d want to review your book. In other words, writing an effective email pitch the recipient will actually read.

The overall point is that there are people you can legitimately, respectfully approach with review requests, endorsed by Amazon and able to respond, if they choose to, with fully viable critiques of your work that carry the weight of their standing. It’s worth exploring.

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Craft: Balzac, Our Barista / Bell, Coyne


(Balzac’s) practice was to wake up around midnight and have his servants cook up the thickest coffee imaginable. Think tar with a little sugar. He’d down brew after brew, for up to fifteen hours, letting the stimulant feed his imagination. He died of caffeine poisoning at the age of 51.

Please use the stuff responsibly.


Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

James Scott Bell

James Scott Bell has a venti-sized respect for the magic bean. In Writers and Coffee, he tells us:

Personally, I have found coffee to be as Kipling found a good cigar: Thought in the early morning, solace in time of woes.

Now, Balzac’s peculiar schedule and java-jacked drive were prompted, it’s said, by a whole lot of debts. In an economy like ours, we may not want to throw any stones that way — we could all be going to sleep “with the chickens,” as Balzac described it, so we can get up at midnight to start work.

By coincidence, Shawn Coyne over at Steven Pressfield’s site, has just favored us with a Balzacian moment in his Cafe Society, Part One. He writes about the effect that Balzac’s Lost Illusions had on him, calling the author “the Stephen King of his day.”

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Honoré de Balzac at 15. His hair already is standing on end.

Coyne honors Honoré for critical editorial insights.

Balzac wrote about from 1837 through 1843. It’s taken me twenty years to finally figure that out. The guy knew his shit.

Unfortunately, he was up at all hours in that nightgown in which Rodin sculpted him — with the coffee, Mr. Bell:

A companion for every novel I’ve ever written.

I’ll second Bell’s toast to the roast.

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Craft: Bad Habits of Good Writers (Beyond Coffee) / Stevens

Without wasting time on unnecessary preambles, Theresa Stevens rolls through The five bad habits of good writers, an article with which she guested recently for Jane Myers Perrine.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Theresa Stevens

Each of these “bad habits” is elucidated in a paragraph of its own in the write. Here, I’ll just top-line them.

  1. Thinking that you have only one book in you.
  2. Writing 3-chapter proposals, one after another. (Here, Stevens is talking about “serial quitting,”
  3. Deciding you’re good enough and have nothing to learn.
  4. Making business relationships personal.
  5. Forgetting that this is all about the reader.

Each of these points is worth a quick read, for Stevens’ discussion on it. But maybe No. 6 should be “Getting too attached to this list of five bad habits.” As Stevens writes

The publishing world is changing radically, and we have to change with it. So next year, I might have five different bad habits to report!

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Conferences: DBW’s Discoverability & Marketing

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeOn Monday and Tuesday, September 24 and 25, I’ll be live-tweeting from the new F+W Media Digital Book World Discoverability and Marketing Conference in New York. Our hashtag is #DBWDM. Please join us and follow along, the agenda is a strong one, crowded with key folks — all out to discover as much as possible about discoverability.

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

Frankfurt-bound folks may want to give special consideration to the Tools of Change (TOC) Metadata Goes Global program with Brian O’Leary and Laura Dawson, and a very promising-sounding Publishers Launch event from Mike Shatzkin and Michael Cader.

Ed Nawotka has announced that his Publishing Perspectives will host a free two-hour session in in Frankfurt on the morning of October 13, an “ignite”-style round of presentations on the subject of self-publishing. You’re asked to RSVP to warmuth@book-fair.com

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Books: Reading on the Ether

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

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


Writing on the Ether Sponsors:


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Last Gas: Don’t Get Beamed / Dawson


“Like a fist when you open your hand.”

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Laura Dawson

Laura Dawson — metadata specialist and Mme. Defarge to the industry! the industry! — has been reading Dashiell Hammett’s The Maltese Falcon.

In a post, Beams Not Falling, Dawson finds an application to in what she describes as “probably the strangest interlude” in the book.

It’s known as the Flitcraft story or parable, and Dawson does a handy job of recounting it.

Essentially, Flitcraft was a very ordinary man living a very ordinary life, who one day just up and disappeared, “like a fist when you open your hand.”

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable TypeSam Spade, hired to track down Flitcraft, finally catches up with the long-missing man — who has set up another very ordinary life for himself, still a very ordinary man. Spade asks Flitcraft why he disappeared from one ordinary life, only to set up another.

Dawson writes:

And Flitcraft told Sam about how he was walking past a construction site the morning of his disappearance. A girder beam fell from the site and nearly killed him – missed him by an inch. This close brush with death terrified him, and he bolted. Gradually, it dawned on Flitcraft that this was an isolated, bizarre incident and he resumed his ordinary life.

Now, I’m going to give you Dawson’s final line a little early:

I’m thinking about ebook pricing.

She links to Alison Flood’s write at The Guardian, Ebook prices under more pressure after European Commission statement.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Philip Jones

Flood speaks with The Bookseller’s editor, Philip Jones, and quotes him calling the European Commission’s preliminary anti-trust assessment against Apple, Hachette, Simon & Schuster, and Macmillan, “a major victory for Amazon and its philosophy of low prices.”

As Jones summed it up for Flood: “Good news for ebook readers in search of a bargain, not great news for publishers, and pretty worrying news for high street bookshops.”

Jones’ own, perceptive write-up of the EC’s assessment is here: Publishers reach agreement with EC over agency.

In it, he notes, as we all should, that the four publishers and Apple have contested the EC’s findings. “However,” Jones adds, “they have offered commitments in order to meet the commission’s competition concerns.”

“But…” writes Dawson, “beams can’t fall forever from the sky – we are not in turmoil all the time. When Flitcraft reached emotional equilibrium, he found himself adjusting to the beams not falling. To the everyday.”


What Dawson is doing, surely, would deserve a handshake from Hammett if he were still around. She’s making more sense of his Flitcraft story than he did, and in an arena — book publishing — that meant a thing or two to him, as it does to us.


We generally return to a state of beams not falling. And as we do this, we are (like Flitcraft) in a different place than we were initially. The falling of beams causes movement, causes adjustment – and then things begin to seek their own levels.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, RogueReader.com, The Rogue Reader, Jason Ashlock, Movable Type

Peter Turner

And when another of our good colleagues, Peter Turner, asks in a comment whether Dawson is referring to “the downward-racing pricing that we should be looking for?” she gets down to that Flitcraft-ish tendency to panic, something we see so much in publishing.

She writes back to Turner:

I don’t know that there’s anything to look out for, I guess is what I’m saying. There was $9.99 pricing. That beam fell, and everybody flipped out – their adjustment was agency pricing.

For two years, everyone adjusted to beams not falling. Agency pricing held. But:

Now the jettisoning of agency pricing is the falling beam. And everyone will adjust, just as they did when the paperback came on the scene – which became normal over time. It has always been thus; it will ever be thus.

And wouldn’t it be good if publishing could do better than Flitcraft did and not run screaming out into the street each time a beam falls?

Do you feel tired already? Here, at the beginning of the season? Guess why, Flitcraft.


The trick is to keep one’s eye on the long game – why are we publishing? If the human urge to shout something meaningful and/or fun from the rooftops remains with us, we will all be okay.

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Main Image: The Rogue Reader

Upcoming Online Classes

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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. Love this news about Rogue Reader. Love their attitude to reaching readers by ‘letting them build a relationship with the work’ – which is what bloggers and tweeters have been doing anyway. And the fact they’re dedicating an entire month to each author – giving the campaign time to work. In fact, RR seem to have learned most of their tactics from Ether-savvy writers AND they have professional know-how.
    Now will someone please set up a RR for unusual literary fiction? Yours (as soon as you want me), RM

    • Here, here. Literary Rogues unite! :)

      Thanks, Roz, I know you’re a very early proponent of author collective models (more coming on that, too) and I’m just really glad to see Ashlock & Co. giving this approach such a serious, committed whirl. The Rogue authors selected so far are quite lucky, seems to me, and I hope we’ll be able to hear directly from them on their experiences, what they learn, and how it works for them.

      Cheers, and thanks for being Numero Uno on the comment list today. (Is a female Numera Una, or am I being impossibly Latin?)


        • One of the dialogues I’m hoping to have with authors this season in conference settings, Darrelyn, is how many variants we can foresee of this model — and most particularly, what has to be at the center as the “gravity” that holds an authors’ collective together?

          I’m going to be making some presentations in this regard — would be great if you could join us along the way at one. (Presentations, that is, on the topic of digitally empowered authors looking for that “third option,” as Jason Ashlock puts it to me.)

          How is the book tour for MY CALL TO THE RING going? Are you hailing us from Ireland at this point? :)

          • I’d love to join you, Porter. We depart for Ireland on Wednesday. I’m in the throes of preparing for the trip, and Dee is busy scheduling events. First radio interview is two hours after we land, and we will be moving non-stop the whole time.

  2. Rogue reader sounds like big stars leaving Nashville because they weren’t getting what they wanted and moving to Texas. Doesn’t do a thing for the newbies but it does lift up the biggies that are pouting for a while. Good luck.

    • Hi, thanks for reading and commenting.

      Actually, The Rogue Reader’s authors are not such big stars as all that. They’re highly regarded, yes, but hardly celebs. And they have been recruited – -they’re not going off in a huff, they were invited INTO The Rogue Reader.

      Potentially, I think this could help newbies — many types of author collectives can be created to support the development of a brand. And at the very least, collectives like this can create more spots for authors, new or old, to get into and publish.

      Thanks again for reading and dropping a note.

    • Hi, Ginny, thanks for reading and commenting.

      And not to worry, what I’m hoping is that the model of The Rogue Reader and Jason Ashlock’s leadership of this new program will inspire strong managerial folks (other agents, editors, etc.) to create similar models in many other genres and sectors of the industry.

      The basic principle is simple: In an age when authors are empowered by the digital dynamic to create their own work, the smartest thing an operative of the older publishing establishment (traditional, as we say, or “legacy”) can do is organize a way to service, support, and put forward into the world the work of the best of these empowered authors.

      Since you’re in romance, I’d recommend you be in touch with Jane Litte, the terrific lawyer/reviewer/commentator at the Dear Author site. Jane is based in romance and might actually be able to tell you of a model like this in romance work — or at least she might be able to guess where such an effort might be made. Then you have a way to work on it.

      Tell Ms. Litte I sent you, and thanks again so much for coming by the Ether, join us weekly!

  3. Pingback: WRITING ON THE ETHER EXCLUSIVE: 'Rogue' Authors on a New ... | book publishing | Scoop.it

  4. To say there are only two choices and then list them as self or trad is naive and misleading. Cool Gus has been in business three years and we’re neither, giving our authors all the services they need, and charging less than Rogue Reader. There are other small, agile publishers out there, who have been in business for a lot longer than this latest venture. And the model of one per month has been done by imprints via print also.

    Once you start saying net after expenses, the water gets murky. Do the authors get to look at Rogue Reader’s expense accounts? Does Rogue Reader outsource editing and covers and formatting and consider them expenses or do them in-house? If outsourced, that 70% is going to be real small, very fast. If I were an author signing with them, I’d be checking the fine print and the production flow.

    It’s an interesting concept but I get weary of “experts” pitching something as totally new and an alternative to only two choices when there are tons of choices out there.

    As far as serials, again, it’s being talked about like it’s new, but we did our first serial over two years ago. I think it will work in some cases, but our experience is it does not work for the novel. Readers see no point in having the book broken into pieces, and while some writers might be able to write a novel and publish it in pieces most writers do something called rewriting after first draft.

    When I was in the army I watched as every three years the wheel is reinvented, and the same is already true in e-publishing. It’s trial and error. We’ve tried a lot of things; some worked, a lot didn’t.

    Yes, there has been a fall-off in “free” but then we accidentally hit on a way to circumvent that to an extent. I normally share our experiences, but in the light of all the experts doing all this “new” stuff, I’m sure they’ll figure it out. I look forward to reading about it from them in two years.

    I say that tongue-in-cheek, but a reality is that what I’m calling the “discoverability” wars are coming. While distribution is no longer the chokepoint with eBooks, discoverability is. The competition is heating up. Writers have always liked to pretend there was no competition, although there was– in print it happened before the book ever saw the light of day, through acquisition and distribution. Now it’s happening after publication with discoverability.

    • Thanks for jumping in, Bob, always good to hear from you, though I’m going to be straight with you here.

      I do think it’s worth realizing that Cool Gus — for all the many things it’s getting right — is not the only good game in town, and not the only outfit that has made some different moves already. If you never do anything but dismiss any efforts but your own, you don’t make a lot of friends. Granted, making friends may not be what you’re after. But I have to say that I’ve seen this argument from you (“we’ve done that, yawn”) many times And it’s wearing thin.

      Again, I’m not dissing anything Cool Gus has done. I’m saying that pooh-poohing all else as ho-hum or retrograde or doomed before it’s tried doesn’t project a very healthy concept of the Cool Gus view of things. Folks who are doing as well as you guys don’t have to run down everybody else.

      And let’s look a little more closely at this instance, The Rogue Reader — can we be so sure that you’ve already run the whole Rogue protocol around the field? I’m not so sure.

      I agree with you, of course, that various components of the Rogue Reader approach have been implemented (hell, it’s all books, right?), but I think not all of them, and I think not in this particular combination.

      We have:

      – an established New York literary agency (merged with a California agency) that tells me it does some 70 percent of its business with the major publishers — what a break with the same-old same-old this is for this agency, and Cool Gus, Bob, is not a literary agency unless you’ve really been hiding something from us;
      – a very small group of writers (six), hand-picked by this firm’s agents;
      – brought together with that agency serving as the venture’s hub ( the “gravity” Ashlock talks about, to help with the herding-cats factor);
      – in an arrangement in which the writers are published not by MTM but as self-publishers;
      – via Pressbooks, which is still quite a young venture, though highly regarded — are you working with Pressbooks yet? Hugh McGuire might like to hear from you;
      – ad the Rogue program is NOT meant to scale (my guess is that Cool Gus would like more author-clients, while Rogue Reader does not);
      – and the Rogues get “capital-infused” publicity and marketing campaigns, for which, yes, they may want to ask to look at some expense reports, that’s between them and MTM, I think; and this is how, for example, Ro Cuzon’s first book is already scheduled to be a Nook Pick for October and it’s not published yet; MTM used its relationship with B&N apparently to some good advantage there.

      So sure, do the authors in Rogue Reader have to look sharp, study their contracts, and stay on their toes? Yes sir. All authors do and you’re a champion at reminding them of that. Even an author coming to Cool Gus needs to be careful. I’d ask you for expense reports, too. :)

      Is it a simplification to say that there are two main choices and this hybrid approach looks like a third one? Sure. But do you really want me to make the Ether even longer, so I can list every permutation of the major options authors have and have had?

      And — since you mentioned serials, Bob — Chuckie Dickens had his serials out LONG before Cool Gus, somehow managed to do it without your help, AND people cannot even say “serial” without saying “Dickens” in the same breath (which makes me a bit crazy), so I can’t agree with you that people are talking about serials as new. Nobody yakking Dickens, Dickens, Dickens is saying new. What’s new on that story is Amazon doing it.

      Look, I’m being pretty tough on you, so I should also say that I agree with you completely about discoverability. That’s the big thing, it’s why I keep chanting Laura Dawson’s 32-million titles figure (active titles in Books in Print) and Kelly Gallagher’s 300,000 titles figure (self-published), and Thad McIlroy’s 56,477 titles (Kindle books in the last 30 days) — because how ARE we going to discover any needles in this haystack?

      Yes, you’re right, that’s the war we’re marching off to now, there’s where the ops are going, black ops, white ops, and your bowling team militia in its funny shoes and shirts, too. That’s why DBW has put up the #DBWDM Discoverability and Marketing Conference on Monday and Tuesday (you going to join us?). And lots more things are being done about discoverability, as well, left, right, and center. Bublish. WriterCube. ZolaBooks. JellyBooks. Everything that moves in Frankfurt. We’re all so het up about discoverability we can barely walk.

      Certainly everything being done about discoverability isn’t right. Good place for lots of learning by error. We’ll just have to wait for Cool Gus to get all that right, too, then you can come around bragging that you cracked discoverability before the rest of us were born, as well. :)

      Seriously, let the other guys have a chance to get something on its feet. I don’t hear people slagging Cool Gus as being nothing special. So why be so demeaning of everybody else trying to find some ways home?

      I know this is going to blow your mind, but other people MAY just think of one or two good things before Cool Gus does. Shocking, huh? I should supply you with a stiff drink along with this news, I know.

      But for heaven’s sake, enjoy your own success and see if it can’t lead you to offer a mild collegial welcome to someone else’s new program instead of running out into the front yard to yell about your own victories every time somebody else tries to ride a bike down the street.

      Your name is Cool. You know what I learned about the cool guys in high school? I learned that cool guys (and dogs) are actually nice to others, not mean. That’s why they’re popular, that’s why they’re cool.

      Nice would look cool on you, Bob. :)


    • Hi there, Bob. First, you should know I’ve been a fan of yours — both your books and your commentary — for years, and have mentioned you often across the country at writers events. You and your work are examples of the kind of alternatives that we cheer on and follow for inspiration.

      Second, although Porter did an outstanding job selecting a series of quotes from me, he was pulling from a really long and engaging conversation he and I had about a variety of topics; It’s impossible to capture the context of each quote and to keep the nuance intact. So I’ll try to add some of that context and nuance here.

      Never once have I said, nor do I believe, that we are doing anything entirely revolutionary. And believe me, I’d be the last to describe myself as any kind of expert! I actually don’t believe that moniker applies to anyone during our period of transition.

      However, what I do believe is that most authors do see two alternatives: fight to get noticed by agents and published by traditional publishers, or work to publish independently. Of course there are innumerable third options–author collectives and small digital cooperatives and groups like yours. Perhaps the writers you engage with through your social channels are better informed than the writers I talk to, and are aware of the variety of alternative models. But I think that’s a pretty self-selecting group of people you engage with. You’re doing a great job of educating authors–it’s one of the reasons I bring you up often as an example. But in my experiences with writers and writing communities across the country, most still see two options, and neither looks very good to them: the traditional path of big publishing, and the non-traditional path of indie publishing. Both paths are daunting and uncertain, and–I think you’d agree with this–both options end up producing a lot of unhappy and dissatisfied writers. The goal of The Rogue Reader is to bridge these two models, and perserve the best of both. Quality developmental and copy-editing (by industry professionals). Artwork by high-end designers (Cuzon’s covers done by the Boardwalk Empire artist). Big M Marketing efforts, including our liaising with retailers and paying for targeted advertising. Original multimedia elements (such as videos by Emmy-nominated documentary filmmakers). Creation of an independent brand, The Rogue Reader. All this, and the writers keep their rights, are equipped with our expertise to exploit subsidiary markets, and pocket a high percentage of earnings.

      Is this all brand new? Probably not! But are we trying to raise the bar? You bet. And we hope others are motivated to do the same.

      As to the question of Net: we’re pretty transparent. Remember, we’re not publishers. We’re literary managers. Agents. Our authors keep their rights, and we retain our position as their advocate in all licensing deals and marketing opportunities with third parties, whether they be retailers or others. We keep our position clear of conflict–that’s paramount for us, as I’ve spoken of publicly elsewhere. Our job’s the same as it always was. Protect the rights of the authors, monetize them when appropriate, find partners when opportunity arises. So we take an agency percentage. And our technology and marketing partners take a percentage. That percentage is fixed. There are no production costs or marketing costs deducted from author earnings. On the contrary, we absorb all of those costs in our percentage. The agreement authors sign with us is a representation agreement–just like they’d sign with any other agent–that lines out a flat percentage. Pretty simple.

      At any rate, Porter’s done a great job below of lining out some distinctives and answering other questions in his various replies in this comment thread. I’m pleased to say he answered them correctly–which is encouraging for me, since it means in the course of my conversation with him, our model and intentions were clear. I bet if you and I had a conversation, we’d reach the same result! And we might find a way to benefit each other’s efforts.

      Thanks for commenting and we’ll continue to cheer you on from our corner of publishing.

      • I appreciate all the comments. I agree my comments were a bit rough, but there is a level of frustration at times and I shouldn’t have let it show through and shown my ass, quite frankly.

        I will be at Discoverability because that is the key to publishing now. I look forward to learning more.

        • Bob, I feel I was too tough in turn, too.

          And one of the great favors Jason is doing us here by coming in and working with us on issues about how The Rogue Reader is set up is getting us both past the frustrations of the context of all this (“the industry! the industry!”) and on to the facts we need to evaluate — facts which, as Jason graciously points out, even a lengthy journalistic treatment can’t cover completely.

          Don’t worry, no asses were shown here, lol, only the kind of edgy energy I think we’re all feeling in a new season that so far feels a lot like being shot out of a cannon with no helmet.

          I’m really glad to hear you’ll be at Discoverability! I’ll be there to learn, too. You’ll find me at the back, the Porter Command Center, likely hunkered down with Jeremy Greenfield from DBW, perpetrating the first Tweet Storm of the new conference season. :)

          Come say hi and we’ll compare notes on the best helmets to buy.


      • As glad as I am to know I’ve managed correctly navigate correctly the questions (happily) coming my way about The Rogue Reader, Jason, I deeply appreciate your taking the time to jump in here and help me and Bob and others who may have similar inquiries with more of the context — which, as you say, never entirely survives in an interview feature, even one on the infamously Bottomless Ether!

        In fact, for example, one of my Writer Unboxed fellow contributors, Jan O’Hara has been in touch with me with some good questions, and my first move now is going to be to refer her to your detailed comment here and then she and I will have a more layered way to talk about it from there.

        Just for the record, by the way, I’ll also vouch for you here on the point of agent-client relationship. I’ve written in the past about your and Adam’s (Chromy) very firm and articulate stance among agency chiefs on this, and I know how seriously the MTM philosophy stands on the authenticity of the right agent-author relationship.

        This is something with which I strongly agree, as you know, and I applaud the ingenuity and integrity with which The Rogue Reader has been established to protect that critical point.

        It’s particularly good to have, in that regard, your breakdown of how production costs are handled in this scenario, since, of course, Bob Mayer’s question about an author’s ability to know where expenses are incurred is a good one.

        So, thanks again — this is the sort of thing I think in journalism we see too rarely, an interview subject’s willingness to step in after the fact and answer reader comments, fleshing out and elucidating the original write in ways that make the coverage only richer.

        In that regard, I can heartily thank both you and Bob for helping make the Ether exactly the sort of spirited, intelligent forum I want to see it be whenever that’s helpful to the community.

        Cheers, all, and onward!

  5. Whew, thanks Porter for this substantive round-up. Certainly must take some time and effort, so thanks. It seems abundantly clear that indie authors need/want some type of “organization” that will lend “credibility” to their work. I put these words in quotes, because I have no idea what this would look like.
    Turndog Millionaire asked similar questions this week.
    What you mention about communities of writers coming together to support one another, in the way the Rogues have begun to, seems like a start. And you’re right, Amazon and B&N are the huge guys, with no customer service, little marketing support. (Oh wait, they offer Author Central! Like I said, not much.)
    There are a lot of writers offering tips on writing, and writing themselves. And we all end up tweeting and marketing to each other, when we really need the “uumph” to get out to the reading population. It is time we tried organizing. For example, the cross-promoting people are doing one-on-one with guest posts, retweets, and the like, takes on a whole new meaning.
    I’d love to hear your thoughts on this.

    • Hey, Laura,

      Great of you to read the Ether, and respond!

      In saying you’d love to hear my thoughts, I think you just did. I approve of what Ashton and Chromy are doing here with TheRogueReader program — not because I think it’s the best or only idea we’re going to have for the newly empowered authors of our industry today, but because this is a very highly placed and designed effort. A major literary agency, an extensively devised and positioned program, beautifully focused on a very small collective of authors (remember, they’re not scaling this into “something big”) — and this is what we need: A chance to see an authors’ collective model function in the fully professional business context that MTM brings to the table.

      There are many ways that collective concepts can be applied to what authors need. That’s some of the conversation I’m saying in my piece that we’re going to be having in conference settings this year, it’s something I”m working on.

      But I’d say one thing that’s important to recognize here is that this collective, The Rogue Reader, is NOT coming together as authors cross-promoting each other, or agreeing to beta read each other or generally being good guys who share a blog and stuff. This is a very tightly chosen group that’s going to operate the actual business of producing and selling its work inside the collective. Not just the PR, not just doing bake sales together (sorry, that’s a wicked metaphor I can never resist), but the actual work of getting the books designed and edited and out there.

      In short, this is a business. And that, for my money, is what makes this effort in the author-collective arena fascinating and sharply worth our attention. It’s not just authors being swell together like musketeers. This is the real thing, and I’m just glad we have a chance to see it play out, aren’t you?

      This is one smart way to try reaching that reading population. You’re so right that we need to reach them. There are 32 million titles active in Books in Print. Anything we can do to help authors punch through that mountain of stuff we need to consider.

      Thanks again, and all the best,

      • Thanks for the clarification, Porter. Geez, I feel like I’ve been reading about publishing for a year, and I’m still just getting the hang of things. I’m following your #DBWDM, I’m intrigued to learn about discoverability, the next wave in publishing.
        I’m also interested in this author-collective arena, and agents “stepping up” to help newbies with a great product find a platform and rise up a bit out of the morass, without a huge cash outlay on the author’s part!

        • Hey, Laura, you’re not alone, it’s actually a very complex industry, layered by so much change at this point that the “keeping up” part is endless. Your sense of it being hard to get up on it is not amiss — many subtleties involved. Great of you to study it so carefully, and yes, the kind of collective effort you see being experimented with here by MTM is hugely promising for its potential to assist authors without compromising them. Thanks again for reading and commenting, and for following the DBWDM talks, too. Next big spate of conferences begins with StoryWorld in October in Hollywood: http://ow.ly/e0a3k

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    • Hey, Bradlee, thanks for the comment.

      Only something like Waxman’s program (nothing but respect for it, by the way).

      This one is tightly controlled, remember, it’s not going to get big with lots of authors. I also think — I’m not sure — that Waxman’s plan publishes its authors. Not so at Rogue. The Rogue authors are self-publishing, but they’re doing it, by agreement, via Pressbooks for good tech.

      There are other, more nuanced differences, but those things jump out at me first.

      Thanks again for commenting, great to have you with us on the Ether.

      • Porter, ah yes, I see now. Thanks for elaborating. Indeed, I am published with Diversion, and did not “self-publish,” as that term is used. Best of luck with Rogue!

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    • Hey, thank you for reading, too, Dave, and dropping a note!

      There’s so much to hope for in a model like this — it’s going to be well worth keeping an eye on. Do spread the word, so more can find this model early and join us in seeing how it goes.

      Thanks again,

  8. Porter, I’m coming late but a few comments. There is a third model already–that of agent-assisted publishing. Pardon my cluelessness, but how does this differ? And if it is truly in its own class, then wouldn’t it technically be a fourth option?

    • Jan!

      As luck would have it, Jason Ashlock has kindly jumped into our comments here in the last hour or so to pick up on some questions Bob Mayer had.

      I want to direct you to that comment, which you can scroll down to find, or just jump to it this way: http://ow.ly/dVFCS

      Jason has laid out some very useful points that I believe may help you understand why I see The Rogue Reader as something beyond “agent-assisted publishing” in its scope.

      I think I’d use the term “formality” until I come up with something better.

      By “formality,” i mean that unlike more usual cases in which agents may assist an author with the procurement — or at least finding — of services, Jason and Adam Chromy at MTM are establishing a far more clearly defined and elaborated form.

      A couple of specific points I’d say are involved here:

      – The Rogue Reader is purposely set up AS a platform that seeks and nurtures both its authors’ need for public visibility and its readers’ needs of author- and content-access and participation. There’s a name attached to this, one that — if all goes well — will concretize in the public mind as a brand, doing what an imprint was meant to do in Old Publishing. If along the way, we find readers saying, “You know, I really like those authors in that Rogue Reader outfit, that’s the stuff I like to read,” then we’ll know that the experiment is “taking” and the collective is becoming a destination for the audience.

      – And in my estimation, this effort shows an unusual commitment by an agency to prominently “owning” the program, not in a way that contravenes proper agent-author relations, but in an overt, “out there” way. Not a little help here, a little assist there, but a formally arrayed, announced, and operated pattern and presentation of execution and delivery for the selected authors.

      – This is a tightly curated, exclusive arrangement. Note that Jason makes the point that scaling it up is NOT an interest. At the moment there are six authors chosen (the latter four will be phased in, in ensuing months), and this fact, too, delivers to both readers as well as authors an extraordinary potential for focused community.

      – This collective’s design is built on a clearly delineated suite of production and interactive elements — the one-author-per-month concentration, the one-immersive-content-component-per-week element. These clear and sensible outlines are good for both the authors and the readers, in terms of getting expectations into place and bringing structure into view. In the upheaval of a content-strangled market, such dependability and clarity become a major asset.

      So those would be the conceptual elements I’d say present themselves as evidence — for me — that The Rogue Reader is something beyond standard “agent-assisted” efforts.

      Nevertheless, this is a good discussion, particularly as there can be, of course, a lot of variants on this approach AND in the perception of the approach.

      Over time, I think the general concept of collectives is going to offer us a panoply of opportunities to examine what it means to be an “empowered” author today and to look for what engines of best practice emerge when the useful aspects of publishing are put into service for — not in spite of — the author’s position as the creative center.

      Let’s keep the convo going!

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  12. Thank you, Terre (and thanks for persisting when your comments weren’t getting through — we now have a fix in place for the problem that was causing Disqus to miss some folks’ comments).

    And yes, I agree, the concept of reader trust is one we hear too rarely and is great to see incorporated in Jason Ashlock’s thinking. Early looks at Nook rankings indicate that Ro Cuzon’s first Rogue Reader book is off to a strong start, too, so with luck, that reader trust will be rewarded.

    Thanks again for commenting — and keeping at it!

    • Well congratulations to Ro Cuzon and The Rogue Reader for a successful launch and best wishes for a promising future! Thanks for the disqus fix, Porter; was happy to see only 4 of the 10, or so, post-clicks showed up, lol. (Remedied:)

  13. Thank you, Sarah, I’m hoping to see examples of author collectives of various stripes turning up in European and other settings very soon and will be covering such developments here on the Ether.

    Super of you to read and comment — and apologies for the slow rendering of your comment on the site (and my answer): A glitch in Disqus was keeping some comments from showing up, now fixed.

    All the best,

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