Archive for October, 2010

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010
Scrambled Notes and Great Link

I was looking through the notes on my iPad and realized I had some random notes from one of the NINC talks. I’m not sure which one this comes from. I think it’s Lou’s talk, but I can’t be positive. I’m going to give you what I wrote down. Some of it won’t make sense (because it doesn’t to me), but some should help. The notes are under the title, “Age of Influence”.  Man, I wish I could remember who gave this talk. Anyway, here goes.

The person speaking said that contrary to the old publishing model, the industry has now become SUPER personal. (ie social media, websites, blogs, etc.) Each industry’s start date truly commences when its full content is available digitally, even if only a few providers do so. What does this mean? It means that even though the publishing industry is quite old, it’s only really getting started now that ebooks have hit the stage.  This next part of my notes I found interesting. The speaker said that book sales resemble the movie industry when charted out. Wow! I always thought that book sales looked more like the music industry. Hmm… We all know that the movie industry has been going through major changes over the last several years. We have cable television, not just the big three/four channels. We have Blu-Ray and downloadable movies/television. We have shows only airing online. If it’s true that publishing resembles the movie industry then that should make the changes taking place even more exciting. There are many options now in the movie industry.

The speaker mentioned how the traditional book business is influenced by front store positioning, national media, and good reviews. This has shifted tremendously in the last few years. Book reviews in newspapers and magazines have been closing quicker than Mary Poppins could snap her fingers. They’ve moved online or closed up shop. CRM: customer relation management: is the science of figuring out why a reader/reviewer likes a particular book.  Apparently, this will become more and more important as the industry continues to evolve. The words ‘Net Galley’ were mentioned, but I didn’t put any other notes by it. So I don’t know if it’s literally a galley sent out via the net or something completely different. I do know that advance galleys floating around the web are now considered the cost of doing business. So when the pirate copy of your book hits the internet before the actual physical book hits shelves authors are going to have to let it go. I have a feeling I was very tired by the time I attended this talk. I normally take far better notes. The speaker said that authors need to think about how they are spending their time. It’s more important now than ever to be part of social media groups in their opinion.  Going forward the speaker considered it the difference between having a career and being left behind. Yes, it’s that important. At the end of my notes, Michael Porter’s 5 Forces was mentioned. I came up with this LINK. It has to do with the outside forces that influence any industry. Certainly worth a look.

I know I’m late to the social media table. I’ve had friends from school bugging me about joining Facebook. I think Facebook is cool for keeping in touch with/finding people you haven’t seen in a long time. It’s always nice to see that everyone is doing okay. Maybe it’s just my snarly personality, but I kind of look at it this way: If I wanted to keep in touch with everyone, then I would have. I don’t need a social media to get me talking to people I no longer have anything in common with. I had a great time in high school. I really did. BUT, I don’t feel the need to re-live it. I know that’s not with this particular speaker had in mind, since we were there in a professional capacity. They were definitely aiming to raise author visibility. That said, I also know that classmates, distant relatives, etc. would all be part of that package, especially if I didn’t have multiple Facebook pages. Maybe someday I’ll feel differently about joining, but right now, the only social media I’m interested in is Twitter. This is obviously a ‘to each his own’ kind of thing, but that’s my two cents worth.

Tuesday, October 26th, 2010
Grave Witch and Magic Bleeds

I’ve been reading and re-reading a lot of good books lately. I just finished Grave Witch by Kalayna Price, Fur Factor by Christine Warren (It’s called Big, Bad, Wolf in paperback. I have the old Ellora’s Cave ebook version, which I wish I could get on my new e-reader.), One Dance With A Duke by Tessa Dare, Eternal Kiss of Darkness by Jeaniene Frost, and Magic Bleeds by Ilona Andrews.

Kalayna Price and Tessa Dare are new authors to me. I’d never read anything by either one. A dear friend had told me about Tessa Dare. I knew I’d get around to reading her eventually. It would’ve probably taken longer, but I downloaded the sample chapter of One Dance With A Duke and was sucked in immediately. I don’t know anything about Tessa personally, but her writing is delightful. It reminds me of a cross between Lisa Kleypas and Jane Austen, very lyrical and enchanting. If you like historical romances that are ‘feel good’ reads, then you might want to give her a try.  I was so taken by her writing that I immediately went out and picked up Goddess of the Hunt. I cannot wait to read it.

Kalayna’s writing reminds me a little of Ilona Andrews. The heroine is strong and snarky without being ‘invincible’. There are two love interests–both worth exploring because you can tell from the story that their histories will be interesting. This is especially true of Death. Yep, you read that right. Death is a love interest in this book and she’s managed to make him smoking hot. Quite a feat for a man who feels ‘cold’ to the touch. I always figure it’s a mark of a good urban fantasy series when you can enjoy the plot and still want to see what happens with the burgeoning romances. I’m not sure who I want to win in the end (another sign of a good story/character set up). I like the use of ‘grave sight’ which shows the spirit world overlaid onto the real world. Much like Chloe Neill and her Chicagoland Vampires, I think Kalayna’s someone to watch. I know I’ll be picking up her next book.

I bought Eternal Kiss of Darkness the second it came out. I couldn’t wait to see what Jeaniene had in store for the super badass of the vampire world. After all, she’d written my favorite vampire character, Bones. (Yes, he’s still mine, so back away.) I was not disappointed. Mencheres turned out to be quite a softy in the end. Okay, maybe not. More like suicidal, but it was all fun. Like Ilona, I cannot say enough about Jeaniene Frost’s writing. I love her books.

I received Magic Bleeds before it was released because Ilona took pity on me. It was either that or she was tired of listening to me beg and grovel. *g* I sucked it down like a cherry slurpee on a hundred degree day. OMG!!! This book rocked. For anyone who has been following the Kate Daniel’s series, Magic Bleeds was the ultimate payoff. I loved, Loved, LOVED this book, which is why I read it again over the past couple of nights. I wanted to make sure I hadn’t missed anything. Sigh. I hadn’t. That’s why I bought two paperback copies and another ebook version when it came out. I want to make sure that Ilona’s work sells well enough that I get to have more books from her. 🙂

Which brings me to the reason for this entry. (You thought there wasn’t one, didn’t you? ) While I was at the Novelist Inc. Conference, I had the opportunity to speak with several authors about their reading habits–particularly their ebook reading habits. I know since I got my iPad that I’ve been buying more books than usual. For a while my book buying had slowed down to a trickle. Frankly, I was tired of the same ol’, same ol’. Everything changed when I got iBookstore and Kindle for the iPad. I LOVE the fact that I can check out the first couple of chapters or so of any new book. That feature has led me to authors I wouldn’t have heard of and enticed me to try their work. If I were to turn my iPad on right now, I could list at least ten authors I’d never read before, but picked up thanks to their excerpts. It’s allowed me to rediscover my love of reading. I know that’s a bold statement to make, but it’s true. Finding all these new authors has gotten me out of my reading rut. I get excited now because I have so many books to choose from thanks to purchases and free reads. The authors I encountered at Novelist Inc. had similar tales to tell. So I’m curious, if you happen to have a Kindle, iPad, or a Smartphone, are you reading more new authors?

Thursday, October 21st, 2010
J.A. Konrath

I’ve saved Joe Konrath’s talk for last. For those of you who haven’t been following his journey into self-publishing, you can check out his blog HERE. Joe or J.A. Konrath as he’s known online gave his last (his words) in person presentation about self-publishing at the Novelist Inc. Conference in St. Pete’s Beach, Florida. He definitely has a lot of strong opinions about self-publishing vs. going the traditional route. A little background might help. According to Joe, he has 12 years of rejections under his belt for a grand total of over 500 rejections. He eventually got published and did pretty well for himself going the traditional route. When the line he was writing for dried up, he was mid-series. He couldn’t sell the books anywhere else, so he decided to go the Kindle route. He hasn’t looked back since. He believes you should make a website ‘sticky’ (ie NO ADS). He believes content comes in 2 forms: Information and Entertainment. He believes that for the last 200 years we’ve needed publishers for reaching readers. That’s not the case anymore.

He believes that the keys to success for self-publisher are as follows:

1. Write great books. Hook the reader immediately.

2. Write a good blurb.

3. Your work should be well formatted, edited, and error free.

4. Price should be kept low. (ie $2.99)

5. Experiment with price. (Some people drop the price to get on bestseller lists, then raise it to $2.99 once they’ve been ‘discovered’.)

He keeps PDF’s of free books on his site, while putting all the books up for sale online.

Joe gave an example using his book Whiskey Sour. In all formats, it has sold 60,000 copies and made $54,000. That is an average of 833 copies a month on average or $750 a month. Priced at $4.69, he only earns 80 cents.

Now compare that to The List, which came out April 2009. The book is priced at $2.99 and has sold 20,000 copies, averaging 1500 copies a month. I believe Joe makes $2.07 per copy on that title, which brings the amount to $41, 400.

Joe suggests that if you go the self-publishing route that you participate at Shelfari, Mobile Reads, and on the Kindle Boards. He also suggests checking out Red Adept. Joe said advertising on Kindle Nation>Newsletter>Steve Windwalker for $150.00 to get exposure. He said that the easiest thing to do is format your books on Smashwords, then opt out of Amazon and Barnes & Noble, since the royalty percentage is much higher if you go with them directly. He recommends contacting publishers to keep price in check for your N.Y. releases or price books higher on all other formats. Again, keep free books on your website of the books you have for sale. He thinks PDF is the best format to have them in. He said great covers can increase sales 30%. He suggests using Carl Grazer at CG22 (AT)sbcglobal (DOT) net for covers, but there are a lot of really good designers out there who’ll create killer covers. He also recommended Peter Glaze at Elementary Studio DOT com and 52 Novels (DOT) com for formatting. (52 Novels seems to be having a link problem at present, so I’m not linking to them.)

Impressions of Joe… He’s definitely an interesting character. Anyone who breaks out a bottle of Malibu Rum and Diet Coke in the middle of a panel session and starts mixing drinks is definitely a rock star–even if it is only in their mind. (He was in the audience, not speaking on the panel.) Personally, I liked him. You didn’t have to guess what he was thinking and he really couldn’t give two craps about what N.Y. publishing thinks of him (or anyone else for that matter). I like direct people. And Joe is nothing if not direct. He may rub some people the wrong way, but you can’t fault his passion for the subject or his enthusiasm to share. I really enjoyed his session. Wish it could’ve been longer. If you get good information from his site, then show your appreciation by going out and buying his new release Draculas.

Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

I attended a talk on podcasting because it’s something I’ve been seriously considering doing on the new site. For anyone who has met me, it comes as no surprise that I like to talk. A LOT! It’s nothing new. I have the notes on my report cards to prove it. *g* Anyway, a gentleman by the name of Chris Kenneally presented the talk on podcasting. He comes from a journalist background, so he’s quite comfortable in front of the microphone. He even did a podcast in the class while we watched. Chris gave a few pointers to consider if you’re thinking about doing a podcast. In no particular order: Focus on Professionalism and Presentation. Consider getting a microphone flag (It’s a box that slips on your microphone with your logo (ie a mic with CNN around it). Brand=commitment to the customer. Voice is a better way to think about the author brand. You can podcast readings of your books. You can have an audio file on your site for downloading or streaming. Podcasts can be any length, but shorter is better (ie 5 to 20 minutes long). List of tips can be recorded for five minute broadcasts. It can also be about things like research finds. Have a Theme Focus or at least a title to separate the podcast from the other things you do. (ie So You Want to Write a Book, etc.) You’ll need a separate URL if you want your podcast on iTunes. Put together a simple WordPress site for your podcasts. Encourage people to subscribe. Put up links to other podcasts. If you put them on Facebook, then no one has to leave. Frequency is more critical than length. (Kind of like blogging.) You own the copyright to the work. If you do podcasts, put your contact info at bottom of page–in case someone wants to contact for re-broadcasting.

He listed an online service called, ‘Audacity’, which is a free service for podcasts. I’m sure there are others.

I think that should get you all started. 🙂

Dh sent me this YouTube LINK that I thought was very cool. Check it out. I so heart Stephen Fry.

Monday, October 18th, 2010
In The News Today–Is The Surprise That Wasn’t


Sunday, October 17th, 2010
Piracy–Tales From The Novelist Inc. Conference

As you might guess with so much talk about ebooks and e-publishing, piracy came up a LOT. I attended Brian O’Leary’s talk about his Piracy Project. Basically, his company has been hired by a couple of smaller publishers to investigate the effects of piracy on their bottom lines. He started his talk off by saying that his data is inconclusive due to the lack of participation. If more publishers participated, then he’d have a really good idea of how much piracy affects e-publishing. He did say that there are niches and titles for which piracy is a direct loss and enforcement is needed (ie bestsellers). Most books do not fall under this category. He quoted Chris Walters of Bookspring (or booksprung I can’t read my writing *g) as saying, “Don’t try to ‘solve’ piracy; think about managing it.” From the data he was able to obtain, he has not seen an overwhelming rise in piracy. In fact, he said overall he hasn’t seen a lot of piracy period if you go by the amount of books vs. bit torrent sites. He said one of the best ways to manage piracy is to provide a high-quality consumer experience, while keeping prices reasonable. (And he didn’t mean what N.Y. considers to be a reasonable price, since that whole section in the middle of the United States think that N.Y. prices are outrageous.) He also said that one of the things he was surprised about was the age of the people pirating books. They seemed to be Babyboomer age. It wasn’t the ‘kids’ doing most of the downloads. They may be the ones putting it up there, but they weren’t the ones downloading the work. One thing he wasn’t surprised about was how many of the pirate sites were actually overseas. He said part of the problem comes from material being unavailable in a lot of countries or way too expensive when it is available.

I’m going to tie-in J.A. Konrath’s talk on self-publishing with O’Leary’s because Joe specifically talked about a piracy experiment he did with one of his books. Basically he put a book up on his site, and asked the pirates to pirate the copy. He went to various places and did this, then he checked bit torrent sites to make sure the book was there. He then put the book up on Amazon for sale. He said during the time his book was being pirated, his overall sales jumped. He tracked them. So contrary to popular opinion, pirating isn’t all bad for an author. Neil Gaiman once said, and I paraphrase, “The only thing an author should worry about is obscurity.” He’s right. As Mr. O’Leary mentioned above, most authors don’t have to worry about piracy cutting into their bottom line. Unless you’re one of the authors in a niche (ie a top seller), then piracy will probably help you more than it hurts you. I know a lot of authors don’t want to hear that.

There were a lot of comments from the audience about authors losing sales due to illegal downloads. The thing most people refused to consider was that a lot of the folks downloading the books actually fall into two categories: People who already own the paper copy (No, they don’t want to have to buy another copy of the book, so they can have it on their e-reader). And people who would’ve never bought them in the first place. (Sucks, yes, but it is true that a lot of the folks who download books do it for the same reasons they fill up their bookshelves. Will they ever read all the books on their shelves? No. Do they like seeing the books there? Yes. It comforts them.)

Something to consider before you let your blood-pressure explode over piracy.

Friday, October 15th, 2010
The Future Is So Bright We’ll Have To Wear Shades…

This entry I’ll be combining the talk about predictions about ebooks, self-publishing, and digital rights. The first half will cover the future predictions. The panel consisted of Lou Aronica, Donna Hayes, Al Zuckerman, Carolyn Pittis, Heather Graham, Alan Kaufman, Loriana Sacilotto, and Angela James. As you might imagine there were varied opinions about the future of ebooks that ranged from ‘it’ll just be another format for books’ to ‘it will replace certain types of books’. This one was interesting. The talk started out with each person’s prediction. Like I said, most thought books would still be around, but many speculated that ebooks would replace mass market paperbacks. I hope not since those are the cheapest books out there. When they gave percentage breakdowns, it seemed like hardbacks had more to worry about initially than mass market. Ebooks are gaining a lot of ground in the hardback market. Some of the panelists still believed that the true wave for ebooks was still a couple of years off. (Wishful thinking on their parts.) The panel agreed that it was important for publishing houses to get in front of the change over. There was a lot of concern about bookstores closing before publishers managed to adapt. Apparently most publishers operate with a very thin profit margin, so if something tips it they can go out of business quickly. One panelist in particular, Carolyn Pittis said that we needed to look beyond e-readers to smartphones. She said the future was headed in that direction since most of the ereaders are being bought by older (ie 40 and up) people and that the younger generation weren’t interested in having a designated reader. They preferred using their phone for everything. This is especially true throughout the world. I can attest to what she’s saying about the use of the phone. Between Tokyo and Europe, everyone seems to be living on their phones. She said authors in particular need to come up with creative ways to get their work to the ‘phone’ readers, if we want to have a far reaching career. I cannot say enough good things about this woman. She was by far the smartest cookie on the panels IMO. What I thought was interesting was when someone asked a question about self-publishing. The panel gave the expected answers (ie I really don’t see it as a viable alternative, Authors can’t expect to make a living that way, Too much crap being put out, etc.). I was surprised how many authors in the audience and on the panel agreed. They didn’t want to have to ‘bother’ with all that ‘work’. The audience was even more split than the panel. Authors seem to fall into two camps–those who embrace the changes and those who want to pretend they aren’t happening. I understand both sides. Change is difficult. Unfortunately, difficult hasn’t ever stopped change.

Digital Rights set off a firestorm in the audience. The panel consisted of: Lucienne Diver, Angela James, Brian O’ Leary, Sue Lange, Barbara Keiler, Chris Kenneally, Lou Aronica, and J. A. Konrath. Publishers of course want to keep as many of the rights as possible. They downplayed how much an author could really do on their own. I waited to see if Joe Konrath’s head was going to explode. It was close. *g* The discussion meandered between what percentage is fair and the price of ebooks. Publishers said that ebooks were under-priced. I disagreed. The basic argument being that if they are priced low then there is no worth to the book/content. Again, I do not agree. Someone on the panel tossed out the figure of $500.00 as being the cost to the publishers for putting a book up on the various sites. Lou has stated in the past that publishers earn back the cost of ebooks within three years MAX. That’s right folks, after three years the ebook is pure profit for the publisher. Too bad it’s not the same for the author, since they’re only receiving 25% or less. There was a suggestion that the relationship between author and publisher was changing and becoming more of a partnership. Donna Hayes said if that was the case, then the author needed to put money in the pot to help produce their book. (I guess writing it doesn’t count for much. 😉 To give her, her due, I believe she was upset because someone in the audience mentioned that Harlequin had the lowest percentage rate of pay for ebooks (ie 6%). She pointed out that the rate was based on cover price and not net, so it was equal. My math sucks, but that doesn’t sound right. I’m sure it’s close, but I don’t think it’s equal.

Again, the thing I took away from the talk is that publishers are definitely operating from a position of fear. I don’t want to see them fail, but things have to change particularly when it comes to ebooks. Established authors are in the best position in this changing industry because they have a built in audience. If they choose to go the self-publishing route, then they’ll have readers who will buy their work. Other authors who are less well known (like me) will have a harder go of it. Unpublished authors are in the worst position, but we’ve already seen that a few have had success going it alone. Ultimately, I think it boils down to how good your book is and how hard you hustle to get the word out.