Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Can Ebooks and Print Coexist?

Unless you've been living off the planet for the past five years, you are more than likely aware of the ongoing turmoil in the publishing industry which began when Amazon introduced the Kindle on November 19, 2007. Pundits on both sides of the chasm between traditional  (legacy) and independent (indie) publishing make frequent predictions as to what the future holds in store . . . as in bookstore, and of course, libraries, neither of which you need to read an eBook.

I've never quite understood the oft-expressed addiction to the aroma of paper and ink as justification for the fear that the eBook revolution will mean the end of the printed book and the physical structures that house them. It's a doom-and-gloom attitude that in my opinion needs to shake hands with reality. Let me address a few facts for your consideration.

Legacy publishing operates on a business model of scarcity built around the new release hardcover book. Publishers pay for access to limited shelf space in a brick-and-mortar bookstore and lose that primo status as soon as sales no longer support the book's right to remain in a high visibility location. Then it's back into the stacks to make room for the next hot release.

The phenomenon in relation to the buyer is no different than when shopping online with a keyword search. Most of us never get beyond the first page of links. Unless you walk into a bookstore to find a particular book, your attention is hijacked by the carousels and tables within a few feet of the entrance. Books placed front-cover out under a sign that says something like NEW ARRIVALS are hard to ignore.

A book no longer worthy of top billing quickly ends up on the bargain tables at Barnes & Noble and the big-box discount stores, selling for less than a new-release paperback. Over 40% of all books published end up as these "remainders," and a large percentage of them meet their demise in the jaws of a pulping machine to be reborn as recycled paper.

Add to that this sobering statistic: only one in five books published earns out the author's advance. How legacy publishing can be proud of their inability to discern what the public really wants to read never ceases to amaze me.

Whether you own an e-reading device, or are thinking about it, or are determined never to even touch one, it's hard to avoid the reality that eBooks exist in an environment of infinite abundance. There's no limit to virtual shelf space, no requirement to print thousands of physical books and ship them and deal with the remainders because there aren't any.

So, these fact should be the harbinger of death to print books, right? Well . . . probably not. I prefer author Barry Eisler's analogy prediction. Candle makers used to sell light. Now, they sell candlelight. The industry didn't collapse into the basement of history with the proliferation of electricity. It morphed into a niche role.

Print books will continue to lose market share because no economic forces exist to reverse the trend. The decrease, however, will slow and eventually reach a sustainable balance with eBooks. The resulting industry will serve the needs of those who never read a digital book, those who never read anything but, and those whose reading preference is situational.

It's one thing to express an opinion based on less-than-scientific research, which I'm doing here and have previously in a post on my personal site titled, "Fiction After 50 and Ebooks," and another thing entirely to provide specific statistical data. Surprisingly enough, someone actually read that post and sent me an email suggesting that I take a look at research that supports a prediction of coexistence.

Initially, I was a little dubious. I tend to be cautious about how ingenious the hackers can be, but the email didn't appear to be spam or contain anything insidiously destructive to my website. All I had to do to check it out was reply to the email and receive a link to an info-graphic. I did that and found what appears to be well-documented research on habits of the reading public.

So, I decided to offer the info-graphic here, attributed to

 E-books Infographic

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Writers -- Your IP Address Can and Will Be Used Against You

When the Amazon customer review scandals first broke a couple months ago, some of the big bloggers speculated on what would happen. Would Amazon ignore the problem? Would they overreact?

Some felt a few authors paying for five-star reviews didn't really have that much impact. Others predicted armageddon.

What actually happened wasn't clear for a while. Authors noticed reviews disappearing. Some were new. Some were years old. There didn't seem to be any rhyme or reason to them at first. The reviews did not violate any terms of service--they didn't include links or use bad language, nor were they by people who had a financial stake in the book.

A few irate authors went public with their losses. But gradually, something became clear: Amazon was not checking these reviews. They were being automatically removed by some criteria. As more and more came down, the light popped on. Amazon was looking at the IP addresses of authors when they logged into their publishing accounts and comparing it to reviews.

While this was an effective way to find duplicate accounts where authors might be writing reviews of their own or competitive works, it also had huge casualties. One author had a two-year-old review taken down--the only one of her novel--and it turned out the reviewer had once lived in the same apartment complex that offered wireless access. So they shared an IP address years ago, and still, Amazon assumed a sock puppet was at work.

Another author could not figure out why this random person who'd befriended him after reading and reviewing his book got the review taken down. After quizzing him for a while, we figured out that the author had offered to help his new fan create a Kindle account and logged in as him. Bingo. Two accounts with an IP address match.

An employee at a publishing company realized he'd lost a ton of reviews one day. Turns out several of his coworkers were also selling on Amazon and would log into their accounts from work. Once those IP addresses matched, entire swaths of reviews of each other's works came down. They called Amazon to straighten it out and their accounts were threatened.

So authors, don't think that having two Amazon accounts hides you or that your spouse can safely write a review of your work under his or her own name. Even if you have a publisher account for your books and a personal account to buy with, Amazon will match you up and tie those accounts together in their records. Take great care particularly in how you engage on Amazon with other writers. If you are reviewing or commenting on reviews of other books, this can be considered a financial stake--you trying to push down a competitor's work. Also note that it isn't hard even for regular users to follow a review trail. Clicking on that name you think is anonymous leads us to all the other reviews you've written. One day on the Kindle Boards, we figured out 10 huge authors who were using the same paid reviewers as John Locke. It took five minutes and was perfectly clear--the paid reviews were using the same language and reviewing the same circle of titles.

In the age of web sites like Stop the Goodreads Bullies and Authors Behaving Badly, it simply doesn't pay to do anything that looks inappropriate when you're dealing with the Ten Ton Gorilla that is the 'Zon. If you're an author, it's time to stop writing reviews. And anyone who lives with you, they are probably going to have to stop too. Last week, several of my husband's reviews were taken down--random reviews of books I didn't know anything about and had nothing to do with me or my author account. Collateral damage, and boy was he mad. But that is where the scandals have led us.

Note: This is part one of a two-part series on why reviews are taken down. The next post will focus on the problem of Amazon gift cards and how this can tie an author to a reviewer and make it appear as though a review was paid for.


Deanna Roy is the author of books for women and children.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Standing Room Only

On Saturday, November 17, 2012, a panel of five AIW members attended the second meeting of the Lake Travis Fiction Writers (LTFW) to present "How to Publish Your Own Novel." "Kathy Clark" Wernly, a member of LTFW and a legacy-published author who recently joined the ranks of the indies, added a segment to the agenda on how to take traditionally published novels online.

After dealing with the challenge of finding the Old Bee Cave Schoolhouse, protected from the ravages of fire and the criminal element by being tucked between the Bee Cave fire and police stations, we set up tables with our posters, handouts, and books, and then watched in amazement as the room filled to capacity plus some. I thought that we would have enough chairs. Foolish me.

The audience represented a full range of writers, from those with no more than the seed of an idea for a novel to those with completed manuscripts in various stages of revision, including another member of AIW and a few Novel-In-Progress (NIP) critique group members who have not yet published their books.

It's safe to say that I was astonished at the level of interest indicated by the turnout. Even considering the reality that some in the audience will undoubtedly drop out, LTFW appears to have the potential for being a sustainable group with a promising future.

LTFW organizer Pat Evans has done a fantastic job from concept to execution of her idea to form a group ". . . to encourage anyone who is writing a novel or wants to write a novel or who is a published novelist and wants the support and camaraderie of other Lake Travis-area fiction writers." My only comment reference her mission statement is to point out that the utility of her brainchild may well ignore the "Lake Travis-area" modifier.

As moderator of NIP, I am convinced that the new world of indie publishing should be able to nurture not only individual groups, but also the interaction of those groups. At the end of this post, I've included the current LTFW schedule for the next six months. It may well change, and the LTFW site here should be consulted as the final authority, but my point is to illustrate the local availability of resource material for writers. You don't have to toil away in isolation if you don't want to. And as I've mentioned elsewhere on this blog, I am a rabid fan of writing group association.

You will note that LTFW is not a dedicated critique group like NIP. That said, as we enter the fifth year AK (After Kindle) tomorrow, November 19, 2012, NIP may need to adjust its mission statement by including more than roundtable critique sessions.

The founders of Violet Crown Publishers, AIW members Cynthia J. Stone and Laura Resnick-Chavez, announced yesterday that they will be conducting a class on creating the fictive dream. At this writing I have no other details, and I mention it only to illustrate the availability of opportunities for writers to help writers pursue their individual goals.

Here is the LTFW schedule as now published:

Tuesday, December 18, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. "What's Your Genre? The Evolving Target" -- Old Bee Cave School House

Tuesday, January 22, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. "Writing a Synopsis for Agents and Editors" -- Lakeway Activity Center, Room D

Saturday, February 16, 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. "POV -- The Essential Voice of the Narrator" --  Bee Cave Public Library

Tuesday, March 19, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. "Bring a 250-word-or-less synopsis of your novel for roundtable review and critique." PROJECTOR CLASS -- Old Bee Cave School House

Tuesday, April 16, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. "The Fine Art of Editing -- a freelance editor's guide" -- Old Bee Cave School House

Tuesday, May 21, 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. "Submit and Critique: one volunteer submits 25 pages of their novel for the group to review." (General audience-rated, please.) -- Old Bee Cave School House
Tosh is the author of the aviation mystery/thriller Pilot Error, the second-in-series Red Line (Spring 2013), and two non-fiction series: Book One of Wings On My Words, tales from the writer's desk, and Book One of Words On My Wings, tales from the cockpit. Visit him online at

Monday, November 12, 2012

Or You Can Go Home and Kiss the Mirror

            Every writer should belong to a critique group or have a writing partner – preferably one who knows about editing – to take a look at each chapter and give feedback. You can’t give yourself a better path to clarity, because at some point you won’t be able to see what you’ve just written.

            You can also hire a professional editor. Or two.

            I’ve used several types of editors. One helped me with organization and content accuracy, such as being sure the Giants I wrote about were in the right city playing the correct kind of ball. She also made a wonderful suggestion to separate my novel in two parts and develop each one into books, related, of course, but divided.

            Another one helped me with setting and character. She used the word “focus” a lot, as in bringing certain sections into sharper focus. She pointed out things that needed more details, like I’d left out important fine brush strokes. Her feedback helped me add a necessary richness to my words.

            Still others read for goofs, skips, and hiccups. If the dog is green on page four and blue by page 27, you have some explaining to do. Not just the dog’s color, but why it changed.

            Most writers see things in their heads they think are on the page, too. Sometimes the words just don’t get there, but an alert reader will see what’s missing.

            The most important quality in an editor, especially if you meet with them in person, is good manners. No seriously, how are you going to hear honest, sensible critique if it’s presented in a way you find offensive? Your critiquer should have your best interests at heart, and not be waiting for a chance to show you how many mistakes s/he caught.

            That said, a good reader should also be ruthless. If you’ve written crap, chances are, you suspect it, but sometimes you also need to hear from an outside source. “This isn’t up to your usual standard” is a reasonable euphemism for “Holy cow! What were you thinking?” Read between the lines and put on your big boy/girl undies to deal with it.

            One writer once told me she wrote “print ready,” not “first draft” for all her books. She didn’t want to hear critiques and wouldn’t have believed them anyway.

            If that’s you, good luck. You might as well stay home and kiss the mirror.

Cynthia J. Stone
Author of Mason’s Daughter, now available on Amazon