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Posts tagged ‘DoJ’

Professional or not, Apple and more

Have you ever had one of those days when you look around and wonder if the world has gone mad or if it’s just you? That’s sort of how I feel this morning. It isn’t because I have some real life issues that have been persistent pains in the butt of late. Nor is it even the fact that my muse has hit me over the head again and changed how I write, at least for this current WIP. No, those actually make sense compared to a couple of other things I’ve been reading about this morning.

First things first. Brian Keene has a post up about professionalism and elitism. It seems a quiz was posted on the HWA site to determine if you are a professional writer. According to the quiz, neither Keene nor many others qualify as a “pro” writer. Here are the questions and my answers.

1. Is your home/work place messy because that time you’d put into cleaning it is better spent writing?

No. My immediate work place gets messy as I write because I have scraps of paper with notes written on them and reference material. There will also be at least one coffee cup and can of Coke. But the rest of the house will be vacuumed every couple of days as well as dusted. The immediate work area is the way it is, not because time cleaning would take away from writing but because it is how I work. The coffee mug and Coke can disappear at the end of the day.

2. Do you routinely turn down evenings out with friends because you need to be home writing instead?

Hell no. Not unless I am in the middle of a scene that would suffer by the interruption or I’m working a deadline. Writing may be my job and my passion but I also know that to stay sane I have to get out of the house once in awhile.

3.  Do you turn off the television in order to write?

This is one of those “sometimes” answers. I usually need background noise on in order to write. That noise is often the TV because music too often pulls me into it and I find myself listening to the music instead of working. Of course, it also depends upon the project. Some of them demand not only music but specific music. Those times, however, are usually when my muse is being particularly malevolent and makes me listen to artists or songs I would normally never listen to. And, in case you’re wondering, the muse stands back and laughs hysterically at those times.

4. Would you rather receive useful criticism than praise?

If I am still in the creative phase of a project — ie, the writing and editing phase — yes. That’s what critique groups and beta readers are for. It also depends upon your definition of useful criticism. My issue comes when that criticism comes after the work has been published. Then the so-called useful criticism too often falls under personal preferences. There’s too much cursing or not enough sex. Your characters can’t do that on Planet Snarf because they couldn’t do it on Earth. But then, that’s just me.

5. Do you plan vacations around writing opportunities (either research or networking potential)?

What’s a vacation? And no. I may write while on vacation but if I plan one around writing, it no longer is a vacation. At least not in my mind.

6. Would rather be chatting about the business of writing with another writer than exchanging small talk with a good friend?

No. While I do talk about the business of writing when I get together with other writers, that is only a small part of the conversation. We also talk about our families, jobs — if we have besides writing — homes, kids, politics. We are, or at least try to act like — gasp — real people.

7. Have you ever taken a day job that paid less money because it would give you more time/energy/material to write?

No. I have bills to pay — some of which I’m trying to figure out how to handle right now. When I worked outside the home, the job was something I wanted to be doing and the pay was more than I needed. But, because I liked my job (until the last few months when things changed for a number of reasons), I was better able to write. Taking a job that would add more stress to my life would be counter-productive.

8. Are you willing to give up the nice home you know you could have if you devoted that time you spend writing to a more lucrative career?

That’s sort of like asking, “Do you still beat your wife?” This is one of those questions that drive me absolutely crazy. First of all, it depends on what you call a “nice home”. Then you have to look at what time you spend writing. For those writers who get up an hour before their kids so they can write early in the morning before getting the kids off to school and going to work at the office, etc., you are asking if they are willing to take on a second, or even third, job. If you write full-time, then you have to take into account how much you make from your writing and how much you could make if you worked outside of the home. Finally, you have to ask yourself if you are satisfied in the home you’re now in. For me, I am. So yeah, I’m more than willing to give up the “nice home” because I’m in a home right now that I like in a neighborhood I enjoy living in.

9. Have you done all these things for at least five years?

Huh? No and no and no again.

10. Are you willing to live, knowing you will never meet your ambitions, but you hold to those ambitions nonetheless?

OMG! Do you know what my first ambition was? To be a writer. Then it was to finish something. Then it was to sell something. Then it was to sell enough of something to be able to buy something I wanted. As I progress in my career, my ambitions change. Why do they change? Because I am learning what this profession is and what I can do in it. I see the marketplace changing and am learning to adapt with it. Do I still have unfulfilled ambitions? Hell yeah. I still want to sell something to Baen Books. I want to write something with Sarah. I will achieve at least one of those ambitions, God willing and the creek don’t rise, in the next year or so. Selling to Baen, I don’t know. But I will keep trying. So my answer to that question is that I don’t know that I will never meet my ambitions for the simple reason that I’m not trying to be a best seller. It would be nice, but I know what it takes to be on the NYT best seller list and it has nothing to do with my craft. It has to do with the old machine and pre-orders. I can live without the sort of abuse that comes from that sort of publisher/author  relationship. I have the satisfaction of knowing I’ve cracked the top 100 on Amazon on several occasions already, on both the paid and free e-book lists.

So you can see, according to this quiz, I’m not a professional writer. Funny thing though, as John Scalzi pointed out, the one question that isn’t asked on the quiz is if you get paid for your writing. I do. In fact, my last novel has made more in one quarter than SFWA requires as an advance to qualify a writer as a “pro”. But since it is an e-book and there was no advance, SFWA doesn’t recognize me as a “pro” any more than this quiz does.

Sorry, but a pro is someone who works at her craft, improving and learning and pushing forward. This bit about having to put writing ahead of every other aspect of your life makes about as much sense as having to suffer for your art. Give me a break. Writing is a profession as well as a passion for most of us. If you treat it as such, well, you are in all likelihood a professional. Just because you have to work at another job doesn’t take away from that. Neither does having a life outside of writing.

As if that wasn’t enough to get my hackles up this morning, there’s the ongoing Apple/DOJ battle. In case you’ve been visiting Pluto or Io over the last month or so, Apple lost the price fixing suit filed against it by the Department of Justice. Since then, the DoJ has filed a motion seeking what Publishers Weekly calls a “comprehensive injunction” against Apple. Now, I’m no fan of government interference in business. Even though Apple’s track record is anything but sterling, I’d probably have been willing to side with them when it came to the DoJ’s proposal simply because the DoJ wants a much stricter oversight and punishment than it agreed to with the publishers it also charged with price fixing. The only difference was that Apple went to trial and the others opted to settle.

But where Apple lost my support was with its response to the proposal: “Apple does not believe it violated the antitrust laws, and, in any event, the conduct for which the Court found it liable has ended and cannot recur as a result of the publishers’ consent decrees,” the brief concludes. “In light of these facts, no further injunction is warranted.”

So, Apple is basically saying that because five publishers have agreed not to engage in the conduct which caused the DoJ to go after them and Apple, Apple won’t act in the same or similar way in the future. Does that mean Apple only wants to deal with these five publishers? Or that Apple was a victim of these publishers and would never, ever have done anything wrong? Sorry, but the evidence pretty much shows that Apple, and Steve Jobs, instigated the collusion between the parties and not the other way around.

Does this mean I think Apple should be punished more than the publishers? I’m not sure. Even when the judge in the case made it clear in pre-trial motions that she wasn’t sure Apple could prevail, Apple refused to settle. When the named publishers settled, Apple refused to. Throughout the trial, Apple refused to settle. Instead, it tried to play smoke and mirrors, attempting to put Amazon on trial. At the very least, Apple should be required to pay all the costs entailed in the trial. If the judgment does show Apple was the instigator, it should receive a more stringent punishment than the settling parties. I’m not sure the DoJ’s solution, especially the 10 year oversight, is appropriate. But Apple chose to take part in an activity that went well beyond MFN pricing. For that, it needs to be punished.

But then I’m just a writer, maybe a pro and maybe not, depending on whose definition you use. The fact that Apple makes it more difficult than it should be to get into iTunes than any other outlet does probably has something to do my attitude. Of course, I’ve never had much patience for those who think themselves better than the rest of us and that is the attitude I get from Apple on this particular issue. It, and Steve Jobs, wanted something and either you agreed or you would be tromped upon, no matter what the fall-out down the road.

Well, that attitude sometimes comes back to bite you in the butt — something Apple may soon discover.

So, in order to prove I am a pro:

 

Nocturnal Origins Book 1 of Nocturnal Lives

Nocturnal Origins
Book 1 of Nocturnal Lives

Nocturnal Origins

Some things can never be forgotten, no matter how hard you try.

Detective Sergeant Mackenzie Santos knows that bitter lesson all too well. The day she died changed her life and her perception of the world forever.It doesn’t matter that everyone, even her doctors, believe a miracle occurred when she awoke in the hospital morgue. Mac knows better. It hadn’t been a miracle, at least not a holy one. As far as she’s concerned, that’s the day the dogs of Hell came for her.

Investigating one of the most horrendous murders in recent Dallas history, Mac also has to break in a new partner and deal with nosy reporters who follow her every move and who publish confidential details of the investigation without a qualm.

Complicating matters even more, Mac learns the truth about her family and herself, a truth that forces her to deal with the monster within, as well as those on the outside.But none of this matters as much as discovering the identity of the murderer before he can kill again.

serenadecoverthumbNocturnal Serenade

In this sequel to Nocturnal Origins, Lt. Mackenzie Santos of the Dallas Police Department learns there are worst things than finding out you come from a long line of shapeshifters. At least that’s what she keeps telling herself. It’s not that she resents suddenly discovering she can turn into a jaguar. Nor is it really the fact that no one warned her what might happen to her one day. Although, come to think of it, her mother does have a lot of explaining to do when – and if – Mac ever talks to her again. No, the real problem is how to keep the existence of shapeshifters hidden from the normals, especially when just one piece of forensic evidence in the hands of the wrong technician could lead to their discovery.

Add in blackmail, a long overdue talk with her grandmother about their heritage and an attack on her mother and Mac’s life is about to get a lot more complicated. What she wouldn’t give for a run-of-the-mill murder to investigate. THAT would be a nice change of pace.

nocturnal hauntsNocturnal Haunts

Mackenzie Santos has seen just about everything in more than ten years as a cop. The last few months have certainly shown her more than she’d ever expected. When she’s called out to a crime scene and has to face the possibility that there are even more monsters walking the Earth than she knew, she finds herself longing for the days before she started turning furry with the full moon.

 

 

It’s Sunday morning and . . .

I overslept. And, before everyone thinks I’ve gone and committed coup here at MGC, I haven’t. It’s just that with LibertyCon this weekend, Sarah and I forgot to arrange for someone to guest blog. So, instead of having a dead day, here I am, trying desperately to figure out something to blog about.

In the publishing world, things are about to get interesting again. The Department of Justice’s case against Apple is now in the judge’s hands. Depending on what report your read, Apple either won hands down or the judge has already tipped her hand and will be ruling with the DoJ. Me, I have a feeling we’ll see a decision that sort of splits the middle — and one that will be appealed. No matter what the ruling, the issue isn’t going away any time soon. In fact, it wouldn’t surprise me at all to see the plea agreement terms between the DoJ and the five publishers to have long expired before the case against Apple wends its way through the judicial process. What that means is that, by the time this is over, we might again see a variation of agency pricing — remember, DoJ didn’t say it was inherently bad. It said the alleged collusion is what was in violation of federal law.

Then we have Barnes & Noble. The Nook, and especially Nook media, was supposed to be the savior of the company. Instead, this past year, and especially the last quarter, finds it as the albatross around the retailer’s neck. Not even the influx of cash from Microsoft has managed to stem the tide. Making matters worse, the retail storefronts have dedicated a good chunk of their stores to the Nook and the decline in sales is impacting the bottom line for the physical stores as well as the online store. Needless to say, this is making publishers more than a bit nervous as they wonder just what is going to happen with B&N over the next year.

If that isn’t enough, lines are being drawn in the sand of social media. You have one the one hand those authors and editors who have decided it isn’t enough to condemn the other side for daring to self-publish or work with small to micro-presses. After all, they are skipping the gatekeepers and not suffering for their art by waiting for someone to realize just how enlightened and wonderful their work might be (in other words, until it meets the political/social/economic trend of the day as decided by the publisher). Now many of those same authors, editors and publishers are jumping on the politically correct band wagon to condemn men who dare voice the fact they appreciate a woman for being a woman. These are the same ones who have been so quick to jump in and help publicly flog Paula Deen for uttering what is, admittedly, a word none of us — NONE OF US — should use. She’s admitted to using the word and has apologized. Whether she’s admitted to the other allegations in the suit against her, I don’t know. What I do know is that those who denounce her have already condemned her without seeing anything but her apology and the pleadings filed in the case. After all, if it’s been charged, it must be true. Right?

Yet how many of them are out there screaming that all the producers and companies who use Alec Baldwin as a spokesman or actor should drop him? After all their high fives on social media after the Supreme Court’s ruling on DOMA, you’d think they’d be after Baldwin but, since he is one of the “enlightened” — except on this particular issue — they aren’t.

And that, my friends, is an example of the double standard that is prevalent in our industry today. It is also an example of how you have to have a thick skin to survive. There are sharks in publishing and they aren’t necessarily the publishers and bean counters who live in the ivory towers in NYC. No, they are the authors who have been the darlings of those same publishers and bean counters and who now are realizing that being socially relevant might not be enough. With more and more writers moving away from legacy publishing and actually writing books readers want to read, these same dahlings of publishing are seeing their numbers drop. Not just their sales figures but their advances as well. And it is the advances they worry about.

Or at least they should, especially since most books published through legacy publishing never earn out (at least that’s my understanding).

For years, publishing has managed to survive through creative bookkeeping (ie BookScan numbers) and by knowing the mid-list authors would sell X-amount for each title. But many of those mid-listers have been cast aside. Some of the others who still have contracts to fulfill are not trying very hard to get new contracts with the legacy publishers because they have learned how much they can earn on their own. Why earn 25% or less per unit sold when you can go with a small to micro press and earn 50% or more? Or when you can publish on your own and earn up even more than that?

But it is more than just the increased royalties an author can earn by going with a small press or by self-publishing. There is the time difference between writing and publishing to consider as well. Traditionally published books generally take a year or more from the time an author finishes a book to the time it makes it to the bookshelves, whether digital or print or both. This is especially true when the book has to go through an agent for acceptance and then be shopped around. That time is much less with smaller presses and certainly if you self-publish. There you are talking weeks, maybe months, instead of years.

Then you have to consider that the publisher usually won’t order another book from you until seeing the pre-order numbers. If you have one of those wonderful contracts giving the publisher right of first refusal, that means you might not be able to write anything for anyone, even yourself, until they’ve declined to buy your next work. If that isn’t bad enough, most of the ROFR clauses don’t have a time limit on them. In other words, you could submit something to them a month after they’ve accepted your currently contracted book and they can sit on the second work until they see what your pre-order numbers are.

That is not a good thing.

Anyway, I guess what I’m trying to say with this is that there is a small group of authors and editors out there who are pounding their chests in social outrage over what happened years ago (see some of the posts about the 1930-something letter from Walt Disney denying employment to a woman because there are no female animators in the studio at that time) as well as what two gentlemen had to say about events that happened thirty or more years ago all in an attempt to prove they are still relevant. Oh, I don’t doubt some of them are truly outraged. But some of them also refuse to allow you to post on their walls if you don’t agree with them. So there is an agenda and only the “right kids” can play.

To play, you have to follow their rules. You have to make sure your male characters are sorry for being male and that they never, ever do anything that might be seen as being chauvinistic — including holding the door for a female character. Unless, of course, that male is the villain.  Your female characters have to be enlightened and strong and modern and — well, you get the message. Oh, and make sure you never have a chicks in chainmail type cover. That is bad. But a nearly naked male on the cover is good. We can objectify them all we want because, well, we can.

Rolls eyes,.

Yeah, the double-standard bothers the hell out of me. For me, I’ll write my characters as the story demands. If a male winds up being a gentleman who holds the doors and pays for dinner, so be it. If he happens to like the way the female characters looks in a bikini — or less — well, he’s human. But if she wants to enjoy looking at him, all the more power to her as well. I will not keep them from having their guns if the story demands it and if a story needs a patriarchal society, it will get one.

In other words, I’m not going to sacrifice a story just so I’m politically correct. I can and will. I write to entertain and, hopefully, make some money. If in the story I can subtly get a lesson or two across, cool. But my lessons might not be politically correct ones. After all, I do believe in the right to bear arms. I believe a man should be a gentleman and a woman a lady, although she can be a bitch at times just as he can be a cad. Big business isn’t inherently evil and government isn’t meant to be our nanny.

But that’s just me and I’ve wandered on long enough. What do you think? Should stories entertain or teach or preach or what?

 

More from the publishing funhouse

Ah, publishing. The one industry where there’s never a dull moment. Between federal lawsuits against legacy publishers for price fixing to the feud between literary authors and genre writers to the battle to save bookstores even as e-books continue to gain popularity, publishing can be like the best — or worst — roller coaster you’ve ever ridden. This week is no different.

In the Department of Justice’s price fixing law suit against Penguin and Apple, the only remaining defendants to the suit, Penguin has filed a motion to compel arbitration “in the consumer class and state claims.” This is basically the same motion Penguin filed earlier in the life of the case and that was denied by the judge last July. Penguin has, I’m assuming, refiled the motion because the judge, at the time she denied the motion, didn’t actually rule on the state claims. That leaves the door open a crack for Penguin here. Basically, this is probably simply a means for Penguin to preserve the issue on appeal and not a real effort to have the judge grant arbitration.

Now, for once, I agree with Publishers Weekly on this issue. First, arbitration in this case would be prohibitively costly. Think about the man hours needed to enter into arbitration with every person who qualifies. How many people bought an e-book from Amazon or Barnes & Noble, for example, during the time in question? How many have opted in to the class action law suits? How many different states are involved? How many of these purchasers have become incapacitated or have died and the arbitration would have to be with guardians or trustees? How many of us believe this is just another attempt to drag out the suit?

As we draw ever closer to the June 3rd trial date, it is clear that the whole case comes down to whether or not the judge will buy Apple’s and Penguin’s argument that there is no “direct evidence” of a conspiracy or if she will see a pattern in the evidence presented to her. It’s been a long time since I’ve read the applicable federal statutes involved in the case, but I doubt there has to be only direct evidence. If there is an overwhelming amount of circumstantial evidence, or a so-called smoking gun, that isn’t rebutted by other evidence, then that can be just as convincing as finding someone standing over the body with the murder weapon in hand.

Remember, that person you find with the murder weapon may just be some poor schmuck who came upon the body and, hearing some sound in another room, picked up the gun to defend himself. Conversely, if you have an abundance of e-mails and sworn testimony describing meetings where the players discussed how they wanted to do in Amazon and the best way to do that was to prevent it from discounting e-books by refusing to sign contracts with it unless it agreed to agency pricing, then you pretty much have evidence of a conspiracy.

Yes, that is over-simplifying it, but you get my meaning.

And then there’s the news that broke over the last couple of days concerning Stephen King. King, who back in 2000 was seen as the champion of e-books — or the betrayer of the industry, depending on your point of view — has seemingly reversed his stance. Back in 2000, he published Riding the Bullet only as an e-book. Oh, the howls of outrage at the time. But even louder were the cries of derision by his fellow authors and others in the industry. After all, back then, there was no Kindle, no Nook, no iPad. E-books were still in their infancy. He was either an innovator or a betrayer.

Flash forward to next month and the release of Joyland. Some sites are hailing King as a hero of print. Others note that, while he has said the book will only be released in print next month, he isn’t completely closing the door on releasing it as an e-book later on. Frankly, it doesn’t matter one way or another. Not really and not in the long run because King has kept the digital rights for himself and that means the e-book can come out whenever he wants it to.

King’s rationale for not releasing the book as an e-book is simple: “I have no plans for a digital version. Maybe at some point, but in the meantime, let people stir their sticks and go to an actual bookstore rather than a digital one.”

Now, am I the only one who sees a problem with that statement?

I doubt it. After all, his publisher for Joyland, Hard Case Crime, isn’t keeping the book off of online sales sites like Amazon or BN.com. As far as I have been able to discover, Hard Case isn’t cutting any special deals with indie bookstores to make it more cost-effective for those smaller, locally owned stores to stock the book. Remember, indies don’t have the buying power that the big box stores do simply because they can’t order in the same volume the bigger stores can.

There’s something else that will happen — and that some folks will use to condemn e-books. I can pretty much guarantee that Joyland will be pirated, possibly even before it hits the shelves. You don’t need a digital file to pirate a book. All you need is a copy of the book, or the ARC, and a scanner with the proper software. A prime example of this is the last Harry Potter book. It was available for download on a number of pirate sites days before the book was on sale. Don’t forget, those books were only offered as e-books within the last year or so.

But if King’s reason for withholding the digital version is to get folks into bookstores, this is probably too little and too late. Sure, he’s a best seller and his hardcore fans will go buy the book in print even if they’d prefer digital. Even though it is coming from a smaller publisher, there will be push for the book. After all, King is a “best seller” and he has more than enough money and pull to get push by simply picking up the phone and issuing a statement like the one announcing there would be no e-book version.  But this isn’t one of his trademark horror books. It isn’t coming out in hard cover.

Perhaps this is King’s attempt to help the publishing house and to help support its other authors. Perhaps he really has had a change of heart. But, if that were the case, wouldn’t it be more effective to have Doctor Sleep, his sequel to The Shining, in only print and not digital formats? Wouldn’t that make more of a statement? It would certainly make more of an impact. Oh, wait, that would also impact his bottom line. Guess King likes getting those big paychecks as much I would.

Yes, I’m a cynic.

Let’s face it, if he wanted to help bookstores, he could do so without holding back the e-book version. Kobo has a program where indies can “sell” e-books. I’m sure there are other ways as well, including selling download codes for the book. I remember when audio books were making the transition from tape and CD to digital. You could find displays at the local big box bookstores where you could buy MP3 players with preloaded audio books on them. Publishers and authors could do the same with SD and micro-SD cards. As I said, download codes could be sold as well. There are a number of other methods that could be used as well. But each of them would require publishers, and some authors, to adapt and change their mindsets, something too many have shown a reluctance to do.

Too little, too late on King’s part? I don’t know, but I do know there were other things he could have done to make his effort more effective.

Before signing off, I’d like to ask everyone to keep the people of Moore, OK and the surrounding areas in their thoughts and prayers today and in the coming days. The devastation in the area is horrible and the loss of life is even worse, especially when you consider how many children died.

Tuesday morning thoughts

Last week — was it only last week? — I wrote about how I was finding myself forced to take some downtime after finishing a novel. That need has pretty much passed, only to be replaced by the body numbing exhaustion that came from a weekend filled with graduation and commissioning activities for my son. Much as I’d like to be able to sit back and bask in the pride I feel for my son, I know I can’t. So I’m pushing through. The only real problem today is there simply isn’t enough coffee in the world to get my brain going enough to blog.

But I’m sure you’ll be relieved to know that sanity has yet to find its way into legacy publishing. How do I know? Well, the price fixing suit filed by the Department of Justice against five of the Big Six as well as Apple has yet to be settled by all parties. In fact, it looks like it will go to trial early next month, barring some last minute settlements or postponements. It is going to be interesting to see how that plays out in court, assuming it goes all the way to verdict. Of course, if the court finds for the DoJ, we all know there will probably be appeals and that means no final result for years to come.

Then there’s this article from Publisher’s Weekly about the increase in e-book sales last year. What’s interesting about it is that it, like so many of the other studies, goes by the number of dollars spent instead of number of units bought. This is an important distinction. Going by the number of dollars spent, e-books represented 11% of the market. But when you consider how much cheaper e-books are — at least if you are talking about non-legacy published e-books — than paperbacks, much less novels, you have to wonder exactly what the numbers of units sold are. I have a feeling that if we had accurate numbers, we’d see figures nearing 50% of the market for e-books. But that’s just my feeling.

There’s also been another warning for authors about the danger of posting your material online. Author Lillith Saintcrow has been posting Squirrel!Terror on her blog for some time now. Imagine her surprise when she is tipped off that someone has been posting her work, with some of the names changed, as their own over on Daily Kos. She went to the posts, made sure she had gotten good information and then posted that these were her work.

And she was attacked by followers of the purported plagiarist, being called liar and other things.

While I understand her upset at being plagiarized, and I agree that she received at best a non-apology from the other party, I have to take issue with a subsequent post she put up and that has been echoed by other writers. She basically lumps piracy with plagiarism and that is my problem. In the world of e-books, piracy is not the same thing as plagiarism (although they are certainly closely related). As she noted in her original post, whole blocks of text were lifted by the other person and the only real changes in the text were names of the characters. Plagiarism clearly, as any student who has had to write a research paper will attest.

Piracy, on the other hand, is taking your e-book and putting it up for download without permission and without giving the author/publisher the appropriate proceeds. No one likes having their e-books pirated. There are differing opinions on whether it helps or hurts sales. As most of you know, I happen to fall in the camp that it helps. I guess this is where I admit that I have been brainwashed by the late Jim Baen not only about the viability and importance of e-books but that folks might pirate one e-book, find they like it and then they will go out and buy others by that author. Why did he believe that? Because he’d seen it work that way and, frankly, I happen to agree. Of course, if you happen to believe that readers are inherently criminal, then you won’t believe this and there is nothing I can say to change your mind.

Frankly, this debate reminds me of a situation that arose several years ago when the author of the then hot YA series discovered that someone she’d given a copy of the manuscript for the next book had leaked it on the internet. She stomped and screamed and pitched a royal hissy fit — in public. Because she just knew it would kill sales of the book — and remember, this was the latest hot YA series and it is still a big seller — she withdrew that book from her publisher and went back to work writing yet another book for the series.

Now, her hissy fit was a marketing windfall for her because it kept folks talking about the series. But it also delayed, iirc, the release of the next volume because she had to go back and write something else. Can I blame her for being mad? No. But at the rate the book was selling, the leak wouldn’t have hurt her. Not really. It didn’t hurt the Harry Potter books — and they were leaked as pdf files before the print books were available and years before legal digital versions were. But she was convinced no one would buy her book.

Sigh.

The lesson from what happened to her and from what happened to Saintcrow is that we have to be vigilant. If we post excerpts, or entire stories or novels, online, we need to periodically do searches for key phrases or passages. We need to search for our titles to see if they have been put up on some torrent site. Then, if you find you’ve been pirated, send a take down notice. It may or may not work, especially if the site is hosted outside of the country. If you find you’ve been plagiarized, do a take down notice and also let the offending party know that you will be talking with your attorney, especially if they are selling your work as their own.

Your thoughts?

Beware. What’s that you say? Another one bites the dust.

It’s December and time for everyone to start panicking because the holidays are just around the corner and there’s still shopping to do and meals to plan and relatives to visit. It’s also a time when most of us seem to forget there are those out there who are more than willing to separate us from our money by whatever means necessary. No, I’m not talking about all those shops in the nearby mall. You know the ones I’m talking about: those that started playing Christmas carols the day after Halloween, completely skipping Thanksgiving. I’m not even talking about the fake charities that are willing to play on the increase in good will most of us feel this time of year.

Unfortunately, yet another scammer has decided to try to prey on authors terrified because they don’t have a broad enough public platform. Let’s face it, promotion is something most of us would do just about anything to avoid simply because we don’t really know how to do it and, frankly, because we’d rather spend the time it takes to blog, facebook, tweet, etc., writing. Promotion is one of those necessary evils we’ve had to undertake because publishers aren’t promoting books like they used to. Oh, if you are a “best seller” or “the next best thing”, they’ll spend the money to get better placement in a bookstore or to take out ads in the paper, etc. But if you aren’t, or if you are self-publishing, you don’t get that sort of promotion from a publisher. If you have an agent, you might be lucky enough to be mentioned on their blog or twitter feed, but just how effective is that?

So authors have been looking for alternatives to doing the promotion themselves. As a result, there has been a rise in PR firms dealing with promoting authors and their books. With a hat tip to Chris Kelsey for bringing this particular “misrepresentation” — if not outright scam — to my attention, I want to warn you against The Albee Agency. You can read a great breakdown of problems with this agency over at Writer Beware. But  the quick rundown is this: the Albee Agency claims endorsements from authors who have never used it and have not agreed to have their so-called endorsements used. That is enough, for me at least, to steer clear of them. Please, before considering this agency, read the write-up at Writer Beware.

Then there is this article from Slate, published last month, that basically says we aren’t reading if we read a novel on our e-book reader. You see, reading is something we do not only with our eyes and our mind, but with our bodies as well. If we can’t hold a book in our hands and turn a physical page with our fingers, we aren’t reading. So, following that logic, you really aren’t reading this blog. Yes, I am rolling my eyes and I am shaking my head and, yes, I’m laughing hysterically. I have a vision of the article’s author sitting in a rough hewn chair by a fire, an oil lamp at his elbow as he writes his article using a quill dipped into an ink pot. I guess he then attached the article to his carrier pigeon to be flown to the Slate headquarters where some poor clerk inputs it into the computer. After all, the author wouldn’t be writing an article for digital format to be read because, duh, that’s not reading.

Oh gawd, my head hurts now ;-p

All kidding aside, I still love my physical books. I wasn’t sure I’d enjoy reading on my Kindle when I first got it. After all, there is something about holding a book and curling up in a chair to read. Well, I can still do that with my Kindle. Once I’m into the story, it doesn’t matter if I’m reading a paper book or a digital book. The book itself disappears and I’m immersed in the world the author has created. THAT is all that matters: not the medium which it is presented in.

On the agency pricing model front, a third member of the Big 6, Simon & Schuster, has announced a new pricing agreement with e-tailers. This agreement is in response to the Justice Department’s price fixing suit. S&S is the third of the five publishers named in the suit, along with Apple, to reach this sort of an agreement. The other two publishers are Hatchette and HarperCollins. This agreement will allow retailers to sell e-books from S&S for a discount: a win for buyers because it means we can now shop around for the best price for a title. Yes, it might mean we’ll have to break DRM to do so, but that is possible for those who want to do it. However, in this day and age of tablets and smartphones, apps are available that will allow you to read multiple formats on your device without having to break DRM.

Whether or not Penguin and Random House will continue fighting the allegations by the DoJ remain to be seen. I have no doubt Apple will.

 

Before my head explodes

There are some days when I wonder how my head keeps from exploding because of the sheer idiocy that seems to be pervading so much of publishing. It’s not enough that we have publishers trying to kill mass market paperbacks because they make more money per sale for a hard cover book. Nor is it enough that they think they can convince readers that it costs as much to make an e-book as it does a hard copy edition of that same book, especially when the digital and print versions come out at the same time. I won’t even go into the archaic form of hand-wavium they use to justify either of these actions or how they report out sales and royalty figures to authors. Now we have Bob Kohn of RoyaltyShare filing yet another comic strip brief with the court in opposition to the already approved settlement between the Department of Justice and three of the publishers named in the price fixing lawsuit.

Yep, you read that right. A comic strip brief. His first brief, all five pages of what he called a “graphic novel” brief, was dismissed by the court. Kohn has filed yet another comic brief. I don’t know what gets to me more: the fact that Kohn is getting publicity from all of this — and that I’m adding to it this morning — or the fact that he has so little regard for our justice system that he thinks filing a comic as a pleading document is appropriate in any sort of lawsuit, much less one that has the potential of impacting an industry as much as this particular suit does.

Frankly, I can’t help but wonder if the only reason Kohn is continuing to take this tact is because he sees it as a free source of PR. Especially since it seems to be working…sigh. Mr. Kohn, grow up and quit acting like a self-indulgent child. If you have an argument you want to be taken seriously, then you need to take it seriously yourself. Presenting it as a comic isn’t the way.

Since my head is already threatening to explode because of the antics of Kohn with regard to the price fixing law suit, we might as well keep with that general topic. “Apple and/or the publisher defendants” filed a motion to subpoena Amazon in the class action lawsuit that’s been filed against Apple and the publishers. Amazon has, of course, filed a motion to quash the subpoena. While we don’t and can’t know all that was included in the filing of the subpoena, what it does show is that in this suit, as in the price fixing suit, the defendants are trying to play a game of smoke and mirrors by casting Amazon as the big evil that has to be protected against, even if it means breaking the law to do so.

Look, this tactic isn’t anything new, but that doesn’t make it right. We can’t allow businesses, or individuals, to go around breaking the law because there is the possibility that a competitor might, at some unknown point in the future, do something that might be bad or illegal. That sort of logic sends my mind spinning. It reminds me of the Tom Cruise movie “Minority Report”. In the movie, “criminals” are apprehended before the crime based on information provided by precogs. Of course, it is assumed that the precogs are infallible and that what they’ve forecast can’t be changed. I don’t know about you, but I have a real problem with this sort of thinking, especially when you assume that something is going to happen NO MATTER WHAT THE INTERVENING CIRCUMSTANCES MIGHT BE.

My concern is that Apple and the non-settling publishers will manage to so confuse the issue that the underlying allegation against them in the DoJ suit will be lost. That issue is whether or not they colluded to fix the price of e-books. Contrary to what these same defendants and so many publishers, editors and, yes, even authors would have you believe, it isn’t about whether or not agency pricing is legal or not. It boils down to a simple of question of if the named parties communicated, either in person or via other means, a plan to set prices for e-books across the board in a way that did away with competitive pricing. It is the collusion that is the heart of the DoJ’s lawsuit, nothing more and nothing less.

Just as the named defendants want us to think the real enemy to publishing and to readers is Amazon, they don’t want us looking too closely at their own practices. If they keep us focused on the evil that Amazon might do at some point down the road, we don’t look at their own practices. Practices like using Bookscan to report sales figures because, gee, they can’t use a simple computer program to know how many books they printed, how many were sent to bookstores and how many were sold/returned. Instead, they rely on a sampling of sales from certain stores to report. Are the figures accurate? Hell no. Not when you can walk into a bookstore and find a book still on the shelves two or three years after it was printed — which means that book is selling and being reordered time and again — and yet the publisher says there aren’t enough sales to continue the series.

Authors, if you want to get angry over anything, get angry at your agents and publishers for allowing this farce to continue. Quit giving in to the knee-jerk reaction instilled by years of knowing the only way to have legitimacy as an author was to bend over and take whatever the legacy publishers did. They aren’t the only path now. There are any number of respected and successful small presses out there, all more than happy to treat you with more respect than you are getting now. The self-publishing road is no longer the kiss of death it once was. There are, in short, other players and you need to know them and understand what they can offer you, especially since legacy publisher are not doing the jobs they promise.

Ask yourself, when is the last time your publisher actually promoted your work (assuming you aren’t a best seller or literary darling). Ask yourself when you last got a royalty statement not only on time but with numbers that made sense based on what you are seeing in the local bookstores and hearing from your fans. Ask yourself why it is publishers think they are the most important part in the book creation process and not the person or persons actually responsible for writing the book.

It is time for authors to take control of their careers and realize there is no longer any reason to kowtow to legacy publishers. Amazon is not pure as the driven snow, but it most certainly isn’t the big evil Apple and others are trying to make it out to be. Nor should it — or any other business for that matter — be punished for something it might do at some point in the future. C’mon, guys, apply a little common sense not only to what is happening regarding the DoJ price fixing suit but to your careers as well. It’s past time to take care of yourselves and to remember that, without you, publishers wouldn’t exist. They should work for you and not the other way around.

Some links and a promise of a real blog later today.

I’ll be back later today with a real blog — sorry, guys, but I popped my shoulder out late yesterday afternoon and even though it is back in joint now, it hurts like hell and is making typing difficult — but for now, here are some links I thought you might be interested in.

Indie publishers back agency pricing: note that the study these publishers supposedly conducted was in-house and didn’t include all of the ones named in the comment. Could it be because those others didn’t show the same “trend” they wanted to play up?

Then there is this response, predicting the DoJ settlement will lead to the “systemic elimination of competition”. (Why does this sort of thinking make me wonder if these same folks trying to use the fear of what Amazon might do in the the future would feel the same way if the manufacturers of their favorite beverage or food suddenly decided to band together and use agency pricing for that product? Would they so staunchly stand behind the setting of a flat price across the board of something they want bargains on as they do agency pricing of e-books?)

In case you missed this link from the weekend comments, check out Courtney Milan’s post on what BN’s hiring of David Boies, as well as his response to the proposed settlement, might really mean.

Then, on the library e-book front, there are two links of interest. The first is the Pew report on libraries and e-books. Then there is this from the latest ALA meeting, Rebecca MacKinnon’s talk about digital privacy.

I’ll be back later and will do a full post then. Thanks for understanding, guys!