sábado, 27 de diciembre de 2014


Well, we already knew big publishers were not fans of R&D. They don't seem to be able to nurture brands, either.

Or listening. While everyone (outside of publishing) and their dog told them to man up and start working like a business, we had all that "special snowflakes" discourse for most of 2014, and its bookbombs (Hillary Clinton's, a couple of media primes...).

But let's looks at art, let's do compare them to art. Pretty please. Cinema. Truffaut, Spencer Tracy, Kieślowski... Also, The Avengers, Marvel. A series of interconnected movies in a franchise that's about to become the highest grossing ever (currently only behind Potter... which has nothing in the pipeline). Of successes like Avengers, Guardians of the Galaxy [*]. A success 10 years in development, not yet finished.

But, no... Protection!

[*] BTW, nice story of perseverance, there.

So... closing a circle?

KDP exclusivity was a big item not so long ago. I sort of ranted about it, and it became the original push for this blog, now a tad cold.

Looks like I wasn't all that off...

Take care

lunes, 22 de septiembre de 2014

Bookstores and publishers and electrons, oh my!

I was writing a response to Dean's post on publishing, which I didn't post (I almost published it when Dean's original post was featured on PV, then decided he didn't need my half-assed defense anyhow), when an idea came to me. I shelved it fr later use.

Then, someone commented on another PV post about bookshops and the new reading and buying paradigm. And I recalled a chat some months ago, with a bookseller saying that amazon and him were not in the same business.

Hm... Please be aware of population densities and groupings of likely readers. Spanish is a big language, but it's widely dispersed, on one hand, and also tighly packed, in another. My county's density is four times that of the city of Chicago, "the Grey City"; the whole Spanish density is about 3x that of the US, its size that of a couple of biggish US states together.

One of the consequences of this is that I have three bookshops within 100 m of home, and I think I'm missing some. Indie, as the US would consider them. Small, cluttered. Three points of sale, nonetheless. Since book price, here, has mandatory agency pricing, they don't compete in price. They compete... in choice.

One of them does some digital printing. Now, imagine I could click a button on their website that ordered a book, printed it and either delivered it to my door (100m, remember), or had it waiting for me when I passed by them as I got home in the evening.

Or that they served as an Amazon point of delivery. Face it, most city dwellers have weird hours for delivery, unless your workplace allows for those.

Or that the US-mandatory coffe space (unusual here, mostly) had Kindles, or equivalent, with loaded books that allowed you to buy and send the whole book to your own account.

At a lesser tech stage, available now, window stickers with the Amazon-Affiliates QR code of the product and another one for the shop (or one for the shop with a non-hidden link to the amazon store). The amazon-ES link would make for 10% of the sale, right now, guys! Without logistics, without hassles.

Or... Imagine small publishers doing the same, sending their books from México DF to Bogotá or Madrid, to be printed and sold. Yes, each copy would be individually more expensive. Sometimes, though, product distribution takes too big a toll, and that's when you get distributed production (computing and electricity can serve as examples, if you need some).

Yes, the whole thing is deeply disruptive. But electrons don't have to kill the bookshop or publishers. It will require, I believe,for Spaniards to open up some to American Spanish, maybe turning the net into the equivalent to TV and radio for language homogeneization, as they were in Europe a couple of generations ago.

And it will require the book industry to think. To adapt.

Take care.

domingo, 21 de septiembre de 2014

Who represents an author?

The Authors Guild? Authors United?

Welcome to Web 2.0. Writers represent themselves.

Take care.

PS: His link to Roxana "Snowflake" Robinson's interview seems to be broken, at least from desktop computers. Try this.

UPDATE: I finally got through the whole video. Son of a bitch! She's outrageously annoying. And she repreents AG? Off with their heads!

jueves, 18 de septiembre de 2014

Against the Kindle experience?

With all its success as an e-store (for me, overwhelmingly a hardcopy e-store, but I'm likely a minority, these days), I still profoundly dislike the... er... Kindle experience.[*]

How much? Something like this:

  • Smashwords: 300 books. About one block purchase/15 days this last year. Knew the place thanks to a friend who published there, and that was my very first purchase with them. Bad design, annoying copyright disclaimer, annoying interface on many levels... And yet...
  • OmniLit/AllRomance: 40 books, in two years almost to the day. Annoying file options, limited choice, adequate design.
  • Baen: 250. Through several years and, at least, two server software migrations. Can't tell for how long I've been there (at the very least since '08, when I changed my email account). My business with them has been a tad crippled since their price and opportunities decissions a couple of years ago (and their communication, which was well below their par). They design their web the way they design their books. Time-travelling, functional 80s. Well, 90s: it's html, after all.
  • Subscriptions: 100 aprox, to this and that, here and there.
  • Fictionwise: 2. A Bujold-Vorkosigan novella and a Vachss novel. I had to download the second one from a pirate site after several hours against DRM.
  • Amazon: 2. One of them, I got the epub file from the writer after checking my transaction. The other one is pretty much lost, a technical book (Hennesy/Patterson's "Quantitative") that's suffered about the same fate as Vachss, downloaded from a university's FTP site. Oh, piracy! Oh, woe! Oh, toe!
  • Writer's sites and small enterprise/coop publishers: unknown. Things by Barnes, Konrath, Stackpole, Howey, Rusch, and many others.

Why don't I use amazon?

Have you tried to use it on Linux? With emulation? Or with your library manager of choice? Or to back your files up? Is it doable? Sure. As it looks now, the best way to buy from amazon, for me, is to follow the Vachss' system above. And that doesn't include the unpredictability of their final price. I've had anything from 0% to over-20% (well over, not Spain's current 21% VAT for ebooks) surcharge. And anything means things below 1%, odd non-VAT percentages, etc. From the US shop, in dollars, the same afternoon. Amazon's customer support keeps hiding its head in the ground when I try to contact them and posting a formula answer.

Then comes Hugh Howey and posts this. Well, according to his own parameters, I'd think, Amazon ebook sales are unsatisfactory. Also, his post annoys me on three other levels: one is that my value as a customer is nil (it happens when you don't buy half a store by yourself; doesn't mean I have to enjoy being reminded), the other is that Amazon just managed to know about the performance of other selling sites (on one hand, they can do what Howey and Data Guy do themselves and compare their data with, say, Kobo; on the other, the answer of writers to their trial offer is an important dataset with several linked data they already knew). And the last is that it's not binary, people!

You don't have to go all-in or all-out. You can, for example, publish your first in a series universally, then the rest only at amazon. Or do 90-15-90 day Select-Wide-Select cycles. Or think in other terms besides amazon vs. Kobo/B&N/Apple. Use Amazon as an advertisement platform, people! "We're already doing that"? Hm... is there a link to your site in your amazon profile? Do you even actually sell through your site or a closer affiliate than Amazon? Because KDP only takes 30%... but that's still something that can be beaten.

I don't pretend to wave a hand and make everything right. I've seen Disney's Fantasia. But I'm starting to get the feeling that with all the ruckus of legacy vs. amazon and self-pub, writers are starting to forget... readers. And grays.

Take care.

[*] Three faults of Amazon-US, from my POV as a non-US resident. Customer support is rote, when it is. Packaging has gone down the drain these last 3 years or so (to the point I no longer ship Am-US books here --I must have several pictures of a 10-item order package litterally hanging together by a single thread; they didn't answer-- and I try to manage through Amazon-Overseas, usually UK... with its substitute quirks). And Ebooks. Yes, I know that's supposed to be their forte. I also have the feeling they used to be much better in responsiveness and packaging, but I didn't keep hard data back then; I know when I complained about books and packaging, they reshipped them for free. From the US.

martes, 16 de septiembre de 2014

A single paragraph

Amazon has every right to refuse to sell consumer goods in response to a pricing disagreement with a wholesaler.

Authors United Open Letter to Amazon's board

But, of course, for books. Because, again, the wannabe pseudopoet waking me up early in the weekend is more worthy of respect than a retired iron foundry hand. Or a musician. Or a painter.

Author's United last salvo is a Child's firework gone dud. At best. Even considering that US law is, as seen from here, pretty lenient about public disclosure of private data.

And AU keeps insisting that they're THE main product Hachette sells. Meanwhile, they keep insisting that Traditional Publishing (imagine, since I couldn't find it, the bagpipe entrance in 'Dead Poet's Society': Tradition! Excellence!) can do all those other things. You know, all those things that make up for that 85% of income: covers and packaging, editing, manufacturing (aka. printing and binding), distribution...

Things that, by and large, legacy publishing fails to do properly and that, by and large, are exactly the same than for razor blades or shoes.

AU doesn't agree, of course:

We all appreciate discounted razor blades and cheaper shoes. But books are not consumer goods. Books cannot be written more cheaply, nor can authors be outsourced to China. Books are not toasters or televisions. Each book is the unique, quirky creation of a lonely, intense, and often expensive struggle on the part of a single individual, a person whose living depends on his or her book finding readers. This is the process Amazon is obstructing.

That paragraph has so many lies that it can grant you a couple of eternities in Purgatory. Sentence by sentence:

  • We all appreciate discounted razor blades and cheaper shoes. You do. Not everyone does. Like, say, shoemakers and ironsmiths, and their families and providers, and those providers' families. And that's your equivalent in those industries. Or industrial iron bluecollar workers, if you want a modern equivalent. And, Mr. Preston, any of those work harder than you do for every single dollar they bring home.

  • But books are not consumer goods. No? Then how did this come to be? It's been a month and a half since its release! And, sir, those are books. Not your kind of books, but books nonetheless. The IRS and SCOTUS (and publishers) also disagree, since this has been amply applied to books (and, in the meantime, cut the incentive for new writers' career development; not that this worries you the slightest, does it, Mr. Preston?).

  • Books cannot be written more cheaply, nor can authors be outsourced to China. Yes, they can, and several in your "supporting writers list" are known to use it.

    Also, again, there's more to publishing that writing. Right to my side, there's a book I printed myself (yes, with author's permission), an exhibition booklet without printing data (that I can see), and seven books that, on page 2, after authors' acknowledgements, copyrights and LoC data, have a last sentence before turning page: "Printed in China".

  • Books are not toasters or televisions. This is either obvious or dumb. Coming from Mr. Preston, probably both.

  • Each book is the unique, quirky creation of a lonely, intense, and often expensive struggle on the part of a single individual, a person whose living depends on his or her book finding readers. So, there are no collaborations. At all. Each book, single individual. From the man with a score of books with Lincoln Child. Sir, you lie. Feel free to demmand satisfaction, but I'll choose the weapon.

  • This is the process Amazon is obstructing. Which one? The real one or your Frankenstein of an idea? Also, there's an easy way to solve this: have Hachette provide a clear answer. Either 'yes' or 'no'. Agree or pull the books, it doesn't matter to me. The "obstruction" would cease.
A single paragraph. If I had to do the same with the whole piece... I'd have to charge you for it. Maybe that's it, and they want to win by exhaustion. But... we are legion. Readers have that, you know...

Take care.

martes, 9 de septiembre de 2014


While other countries in the 30s went into National-Socialism and other fascisms, Spain got, after a bloody struggle, something called "National Catholicism", some of which remmants can still be seen today.

Not a history lesson. I would have to go 3 centuries back, and this is not the place. My point is that, eventually, the old regime sort of fell, democracy came in, if diluted, and... well, time went on.

Then we got freedom of religion. But nothing much changed, did it? Army priests are still Catholic, public ceremonies, when they are religious, are Catholic. And so on...

Except people stopped being made to go to church. Being forced to baptize their kids. Being forced to marry through Church ceremony.

And those who remained were used to be under the umbrella of the State. There was a law that was supposed to be temporary by which the Spanish Catholic church was paid a stipend while it developed its own income channels. It's been in place for 35 years.

Meanwhile, smaller churches linked to immigration open in garages, small buildings and such, and mostly prosper. The Spanish Catholic church still keeps some ancient buildings, which are expensive to maintain, and still tries to gobble land around mountain hermitages without even telling the neighbours (and sometimes legit owners of the land). Yes, many parish priests try to work their best in these conditions...

Same as some editors try to do their best in Big 5 imprimpts.

Take care.

So... How's the rest doing?

Recall this?

It gets better.

Take care.

domingo, 7 de septiembre de 2014

When your worst enemy is looking from the mirror

Yes, indeed, of course. Amazon is e-ville. Amazon is bad. Amazon wants to destroy books.

French bookshops:

  • We have 11,000 books. We are not here to be the dustbin for Trierweiler and Hollande

  • This bookshop isn't planning on becoming an outlet for Ms Trierweiler’s dirty laundry

Although some did, kind of, cater to their customers... a bit. With Balzac included, just in case they could get expelled from the guild.

Apologies - we don’t have Valerie Trierweiler’s book but we do still have some Balzac, Dumas, Maupassant, etc...

Meanwhile, at amazon.fr... 20 EUR te hardcopy, 14.99 the ebook.

Oh, the evil empire, how cunning it is...

And I don't give a damn who she is. I barely remember Hollande, much less his ex. But she's a writer. With readers. One would think bookshops could use the publicity of having new people in, buying her book, maybe some others.

But, of course, that would be marketing, business sense... We don't do that, do we?

Take care.

EDIT: Evil empire link added. Because when bookshops insist on purity... and fail, it's an amazon's war casualty. Nevermind that Virgin is the one that butchered Oldfield. Or that it's English (and if you don't think that's important, you don't know about the French and English... tradition). Borders, remember?

When a mindset pickles

Orbit is the new Science Fiction and Fantasy imprint at Hachette Book Group.

Hachette Book Group (HBG) was created when Hachette Livre, a global publishing company based in France, acquired Time Warner Book Group from Time Warner in 2006.

From Hachette's group porfolio.

Orbit's been with them since Time Warner sold its publishing arm. That 2006 over there.

But it's new. 8+ years later.

No wonder they're still catching up to ebooks.

Take care.

sábado, 6 de septiembre de 2014

Not available. Misfiring promos

Sorry, but this page isn’t available.

To see the great Kobo offerings that are available where you are, go here: http://store.kobobooks.com

Yes, sure. And then, I'll have to go to the homepage (which geolocates and doesn't allow for english titles), search Melissa Yi (from scratch, it doesn't keep what you were looking for originally) and hope. Oh, yes! Now... "add to library", register, download... Look, it even allowed me to!

No, it wouldn't be the first time it kicks me out when it discovers that, gosh, I'm not buying from CONUS.

It's unacceptable. And one of the reasons I don't use B&N. Everybody out there with B&N books? I'm not using it because I've tried a couple score times and I've always been greeted wtith the same "not available in your zone" message. Even with books I know are not maimed by distribution agreements, licenses and such.

And part of the problem is the language. It's dry, bureaucratic. It leans to a "and don't waste our time, you nobody" vibe that is... counterproductive when someone is trying to buy something from you. Why are those messages, often introduced by something that is the seller's fault (*), drier than a 70's syntax error? Compare with this. Sure, some of them are basic. Standard server ones. But people try to give you a certain good feeling when they know they're closing a door on your face.

Kobo, B&N... No, they're too classy. That would imply customer relations with... gosh... readers! Plebeians!

Take care.

(*) Because, if it weren't, then I wouldn't be able to get those books anywhere else.

Stop whining; write

I'm reaching the conclusion that Big 5 authors receive a complimentary lobotomy prior to them signing their first contract. For sure before their advance.

Behold Alison Levine. Author. She's been as high as you can get with your feet on the floor. Which means she's been through pain, difficulties, harsh conditions... Without having met her, without any extras but her article, her site [*] and her amazon page, I submit that she's not someone to wilt at first difficulty. Sure, mountain climbing is not as difficult these days, but it's not easy by any stretch.

Five links on its first paragraph. The very first, a hymn to Hachette. I think the very last paragraph sums it up, after quoting Hugh Howey in one of his unfrequent critiques to Amazon. The second is an article that basically quotes Amazon, trying to distance itself, as if afraid that not bashing Amazon full on would get the writer into trouble. Its two last paragraphs are, basically, everything you need to know for a start. The LA Times is basically a forward of Mr. Pietsch's babble. That's Hachette's CEO. The Guardian allows amazon two paragraphs after a tirade of Preston worship, maybe hoping to get one of his adds. [+] The last piece is, again, a dry rehash of a statement by amazon. It's interesting to see how the media reacts to statements by Preston or Pietsch on one hand, and amazon on the other. The fawning introduction, almost afraid to alter the voice of God vs. the cursory quote.

Yes, by the selection above you can see how the wind will blow in Mrs. Levine's piece.

that argument is bogus and here's why: saying that an e-book price should be based only on material, labor, and overhead is as ridiculous as saying that the price of a artwork should be based only on the cost of the paint and the canvas. What about the artist's blood, sweat and tears?

Why do "artists" think that their blood, sweat and tears are special? Why is the wannabe poet that woke me up this morning's sweat any more precious than that of the guy who reaches retirement with back aches all through the day, week after week, because he's been abusing his vertebra carrying iron since he was 14?

Also, she's introducing something in the argument. Amazon doesn't say that ebooks should be free, which is what would happen if you only accounted for costs (ask project Gutenberg). It does say that the extra costs once the book is typed are much lower for ebooks. And that should reflect on price. Also, about the "curator's argument" (that part about "their graphics department"), check my link on Mr. Pietsch above, search for "curator" (or, second list, first item) and follow the link. You know what? Easier for you. See this.

Then comes a line I'd never really expected to read from a wri... author. Not a current one, at least.

because my publisher basically takes care of everything so that I can focus on writing and not worry about anything else.

Do that. Write. Don't worry.

This comes from someone who's been at the peak of the world, felt its freedom. Either she did that having someone else "take care of everything" and simply focused on climbing, to the absolute exclusion of everything else, or she does it when in the lowlands. And she willingly surrenders her voice.

When one surrenders his voice, he can't get surprised if it's taken over.

If Hachette "takes care of everything", then Hachette takes care of complaining.

Basically, shut up and soldier. You enlisted.

This is where my patience starts growing thin. And it continues...

Well, if Amazon wants to provide a more affordable way for people to get their hands (and eyes) on books, guess what they need to do? Nothing. Because people can already buy used books on Amazon for a few bucks – sometimes less than that.

Certainly. By the same token, they can get Project Gutenber's files (link above). You do know, however, that they keep extending copyrights and pushing against libraries and second hand shops, do you not?

the e-book market might be growing


Indeed. That's the kind of red flag that tells you a lot about someone. It's almost silly, a small nugget of information. But. That "30%" quote is probably off (it happens, when Big 5 only look at their book sales), and you could probably use the same argument apropos hardbacks. But it would feel ridiculous. "Hardbacks make roughly 30% of the market, but paperback has not gone the way of the dinosaur". When did extinction become part of the issue?

For my book [in 3 formats] e-books only make up about 7% of my sales

If you bothered to check the reason behind Amazon's insistence on 9.99 USD prices, you might understand why a book at 12.99 USD is not selling well.

Supposing Hachette is not cooking the books. Again.

Lady, if you like old school so much, do your 8k peaks without O2 and technical clothes. Tradition!

Will the print book go away at some point? I don't know. I hope not.

So do I. That's not the issue, though. Again: hardcopy extinction is not the issue. And do please understand that there are layers of value for books. Personal ones. The book I treasure in trade is someone's already deleted ebook. Or I might have both: a collector's, signed, and the ebook. And so on. Again, not the issue.

As a first time author, this feud has opened my eyes to just how cutthroat the book distribution business has become. My book came out earlier this year and made the New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller lists. Amazon even labeled it a "best book of the month" and called it out as a "remarkable read" and listed it at the top of the page along with books by other "influential people" [...] But alas, the love is gone. Because while my book might be a remarkable read... I am a Hachette author.

To the bone, yes, I see.

Makes me think of those people who don't believe in awareness and get into "reality based self defense" after their first scare, never trying to understand what really happened.

United States of America v. Apple Inc., et al., 12 Civ. 2862 (DLC) was filed in April 2012. It had been grumbling for a while. And yet, you signed. Soon after that, I'd say. The US doesn't go into antitrust cases all that often. Are you one of those who think it was bogus? A simple spat?

NYT and WSJ Lists? Do read some of the critiques on those. I think Kris' site has several.

Also, the book distribution business is not cutthroat, by your post's standards. Hachette doesn't distribute. And what you claim amazon's doing to you is... not giving you preferential treatment as a "NYT bestselling author" any longer. Deal with it, most writers do. Stop whining. Write your next book. And don't choose convicted criminals for business partners at first acquaintance [#].

As Sylvester Stallone said in First Blood Part II, "To survive a war, you gotta become war." Well, this is war.

Yes. Against readers. Because you want your NYT treatment. I want to read. No DRM, no hassles, no over-the-top prices.

But, of course, you're a sworn trooper.

I'm a partisan.

Take care.

[*] Photo nbr. 2? "Building leaders"? That body language is insecure. Bad idea. Data point, though.

[+] And he even has the gall to utter

Honestly we are hoping Jeff Bezos will come to his senses and settle this problem with Hachette without hurting authors. Let these two corporations juke it out … just don't hurt us. If he does we can all go to writing books but if Jeff wants to take the long hard road with us, we will walk that road with him.

Bezos did offer to "not hurt you". Hachette refused. And you concured. I'm getting tired of Mr. Preston, so I'm linking to (one of) his opponent. Also, was that a threat or an offer for company in the "long hard road"?

[#] I'm not against having former bad guys as associates, even friends. But do take some steps to check they are, indeed, FORMER. (Love you, guys).

The scam thickens

Just in case you're just getting your feet dipped in "alternate" publishing and you happen upon his name.

There's a guy named Mike Shatzkin, out there, freelancing to ease publishers into the new world of publishing. If you come from the Big 5 publishing companies, his ideas are outrageously brilliant, risky, daring.

If you've been following this for a while, he's a scammer.

He's quoted here, and you can get the link to the original article and some counterpoints there. I simply refuse to send him traffic and promote his search engine results.

Two fragments:

Perhaps there will never be an “industry answer” to maximizing the marketing clout of our core “unit of appreciation”: the author. But we know that every author who has more than one published piece (book or article) on the Web under their name and who has the intention of publishing more should have the following built into a web presence they control and manage:

* a list of all their books making clear the chronological order of publication (organized by series, if applicable)

* a landing page for each book with cover, description, publisher information (including link to publisher book page), reviews, excerpts, and easy to find retail links for different formats, channels, and territories

* a clear and easy way for readers and fans to send an email and get a response

* a clear and easy way for readers and fans to sign up for email notifications

* a clear and easy way for readers and fans to connect and share via social media

* a calendar that shows any public appearances

* links to articles about or references to the author

Now, how someone who hasn't discovered the "unordered list" html tag can think himself able to counsel others on e-commerce is something that only looks sane from the intelligentsia redoubts.

That said, yes, a writer's site should have all that. There are systems out there that allow you to do it pretty easily (wordpress, the newer templates from blogspot...). That's about a given. It's also curious that he both recognizes and dismisses the brand recognition of a writer's name. On one hand, that's what marketing departments want to work with. On the other... the writer should submit to the publisher. He doesn't advocate for a channel between marketing and the writer. He insists that the writer should do A··Z to suit the publisher's need for brand recognition.

Meanwhile, publishers keep ignoring brand development. No? Tell me, when was the last time you saw a proper "author's page" in a publisher's site. One that included that writer's work outside the publisher?

No, sorry. If you want the benefits of the writer's brand, you have to nurture the whole of that, even that which benefits others. You may put your product first, but you have to acknowledge the rest. Otherwise, your site is misleading, and becomes irrelevant (and black-marked) when a reader notices it... which he will.

But, of course, it's much better to offload the work unto the writer:

They must have an active and up-to-date Amazon author page and Google Plus page; that’s critical for SEO. Twitter and Facebook promotional activity might be optional, none of the rest of this is if an author is serious about pursuing a commercially successful career.

My thoughts on that can be understood from here. Also, that's not SEO. Apparently, he knows "that internet thingie" about as well as publishing. I mean, I haven't posted the part where he admits to a 60,000 USD writer's website. Even if they didn't take that budget, the fact that it was even on the table is revealing.

And every publisher and agent should be urging authors to see these minimum requirements as absolutely necessary, offering advice, help, and financial support whenever possible. Authors should be wary of publishers who want to “own” the author’s web presence but they should expect publishers to be wary of any author who doesn’t nurture their own.

"No taxation without representation". Does that ring a bell? When publishers start giving writers enough say on their projects, then we can talk. Right now, they're getting about 80% of distribution net. No, you can't really consider their expenses, not when they insist on top Manhattan space and 5-figure websites. What's the current advance for a midlist writer, again?

My marketing whiz partner Pete McCarthy’s recommendation is that the authors own their websites but that the publisher run a parent Google Analytics account across author sites. That would enable them to monitor across authors, use tools like Moz to improve search (that would be beyond most authors’ abilities to manage and understand), and provide real support to authors optimizing their own web presence. This kind of collaboration is particularly appealing because it is reversible; the author can at any point install their own Google Analytics and remove the site from the publisher’s visibility. What this takes is for a publisher to set up the “parent” Google Analytics account and make a clear offer to authors of the support they can provide. As far as we know, only Penguin Random House — using an analytics tool called Omniture subsequently acquired by Adobe — offers this capability. Pete set it up a few years ago when he was there. As far we know, nobody else has done so.

This solution allows authors to own their own sites and email lists — ownership of email lists is a massively underdiscussed point between authors and publishers — but for publishers to have a sense of what’s going on. That means they can make recommendations about marketing, employing what is usually (and should just about always be) their superior marketing knowledge on behalf of the shared objective of selling more books.

Your whiz of a partner and yourself, sir, are scamming writers.

One, suppose that you have several publishers. Do you really have to give code access to your site to all of them? And, frankly, getting their widget and installing it yourself could be worse, if they approach coding standards the way they approach everything else.

But the thing is that he's advocating that writers give for free something that has a price (try buying data; better yet, try buying that kind of data to, say, amazon), a certain maintenance cost (small, but there), that gives data on their competition (heh... or do you suppose they should filter that before giving the data to the publisher?) and that they never shared themselves when that data was on paper and mainframes. That, by issuing cryptic semestral royalty reports, are still refusing to share.

Also, that article of his was over 1500 words. Good enough for a short story. Several printed pages long.

You should ask, where's his return of investment? That's a professional page.

Take care.

domingo, 31 de agosto de 2014

With friends like these...

I was reading the blog of a writer I respect. Not one of my musts, but still. And a man with quite the career. He'd made a couple of posts on the Amazon-Hachette tangle. With all his experience, his credentials, etc... he still managed to bungle up his data.

Since I'm not going to be able to keep the post minimally structured without using his name, the guy's David Wolverton (aka. Farland). Here is the original post. [EDIT: Missed the post wasn't his, but that of Kami M McArthur. Don't know about her, besides her work at Mr. Wolverton's site. So, the rest should be applied to her, with some remaining responsibility to Mr. Farland as publisher]

  • As you may know, they’re involved in a massive lawsuit. Really? What court? They're in a dispute, all right, but not a lawsuit. Not a good start.
  • Amazon.com is not a publisher in the same sense as Hachette. They’re a bookstore. Mostly, not only. Tell me, who publishes Barry Eisler?
  • That means that they make sure that they make a profit on every book before they even print it. That’s not what traditional publishers do. Again, publisher's last century methods are a reflection on their adaptability, not the nature of the bussiness.
  • Amazon’s pricing policies. Could be better in some markets. Short stories, textbooks... and so on. The example, however, is deeply flawed. A 50$ legal book? Traditionally published, sure. Indie? Why? And why is it a problem that "Amazon would be taking the majority of the profit" and not one of the Big Five? Also, why can't the book be published in volumes, at 9.99? Finally... "...market is fairly small"? Over 140000 law students in the US, and that assumes the book can't be used overseas. From all I know, most fiction doesn't even dare dream of such numbers. EDIT: Newest Hugo / Nebula, apparently 30000 copies. Might be higher, now, but I'd bet there isn't one for every undergrad law student.]
  • The traditional publishers feel that they should have something of a grace period And I feel I should be milionare. Feelings are nice and fluffy and put no bread on your table, unless you push them on someone else. Actors do that, businesses shouldn't.
  • In other words, they want to treat a book as if it were a movie. Aha... So, they're going to do like modern studios do, and minimize transitions? Put a complete series on the shelves in a week to profit from binge- reading? I'm calling bullshit on this one. I simply counter the rest; this one's bull.
  • If Amazon does this to a major publisher, it would “cannibalize the sales” on the hardback and paperback versions of the novel, causing the major publisher to lose money as they have to take in large numbers of returns or destroy paperbacks. Prove it. Prove it's not a Big 5 myth. Prove it's profitable. WMG Pub. seems to do well enough putting their hardcopy and e-books out together. Which, for practical purposes, means putting them first on ebook, since it doesn't have S&H delays.
  • Peter Jackson and the Tolkien estate have both sued the filmmakers because on the books, the movies still haven’t “earned out.” Aha... When Jackson and the Tolkien estate sue the filmmakers it's a data point. When Big 5 cook their books, basket-account and only pay twice a year with obscured forms, it's business.
  • So what is the fight really about[...]? It’s a fight over positioning. Well, all fights are. That said, yes.
  • If you want to try to create a market where bookstores thrive and traditional publishing thrives with it, throw your support behind Hachette. I'm sorry, mr. Farland. NO. I like paper books. I don't like being shanked. And equating books and bookstores with traditional publishing, and then traditional publishing with the Big 5 is false, tried and trite.
To say nothing of the obvious response to that reader he quotes (and he doesn't agree with). Does Amazon publish other people's slush? a) Not only b) So do they. How many writers are picked first try? It ends up feeling one of those "no, really, I'm on your side... BUT".

There's a second part to that... I was going to say I wouldn't answer to that, because this had been long enough. But the next post wasn't. It's a simple endorsement of what I punch agaisnt here.

Pity. Take caare.

PS: Ah, of course, "Fifteen years ago, my editor at Tor"

What I mean...

Apparently, some people get confused by my ideas on e-book distribution.


Check the table down there. It's not complete, and there are other channels. Also, a disclaimer: yes, they're my works. If you're a writer, contact me and I'll send you e-copies. Some of those are old and dated, some are new, all of them short. They're a test to explain to some people here what I'm explaining to you, and some other things.

It's the minimum you should have, if you're a writer. And, yes, your Amazon Store should be filled up. And the listing does not include Amazon's private mini-stores (and you should have one, if you are an e-social writer), Amazon's overseas stores, writer's site, facebook...

And that's a start.

Yes, they have their faults. Price predictaility. Cover misactualization... But it means that, only with that data, there are 33 sites to this name. 33 different points of brand discovery, in 5 different branches. The writer I talked about in my last post? Amazon and B&N. Writer's blog, that of friends... And pirate sites.

Take care.

Story AmazonB&NApple SmWKobo
3 trials here N/A N/A N/A N/A
Cuts both ways here here here here here
Good Instincts here here here here here
Sister here here here here here
Grandma's best here here here here here
Hidden blade here here here here here
Gatherings here here here here here

Eggs and basket

I touched this some time ago. I had another one about it, today.

You see, I googled a book. Its title words, without quotes, its writer (ibid)... And then I added "-amazon".

I didn't do it to bugger anyone, but I already knew amazon had the book and when you allow amazon into your search results you get them from each of their sites. US, UK, CA... Plus the author's minisite at amazon, plus related searches... Half of Google turns into a search within amazon itself. Pass.

So, what was the result? First three results, in order: Goodreads, B&N, and Google books. I don't usually get Google Books in my search results (which says a lot about their commitment to it). The fourth one was another review site, popular within the genre. Among the rest in that page, an ebay listing and another review site I'd never heard of.

The rest? Pirate sites. Both torrent and direct download.

So, the moment you extract amazon from your results (because you already know those, because you're a crusader against the amazon monopoly, because...), the first page in google, and very few go beyond that, is like this

  • Review sites: 3
  • First hand / e-book shops: 2
  • Second hand shops: 1
  • Pirate sites: 4
So, 40% of the sites are pirate sites, 30% are promotion. Only 20% offer the chance to the writer for some benefits. You might want to account second hand as promotion, but I don't think a general place that just happens to have some books on sale is really all that promoting. No data on this last item, though.

Now, that particular writer doesn't have an amazon exclusive. I happen to know she recently decided to quit smashwords. I'll grant you that smashwords' system is a pain in the ass, for publishers. For readers, it's suboptimal, but works just well enough.

Search engines don't give a damn. Now, you might choose, even so, to forgo smashwords. But then... Kobo, Apple, Omnilit, Baen, your own site... Yes, the amazon filter crippled that one a bit; not really that much: it comes up 10th if I don't filter that, and only points to a tag-filtered posts list.

In case I'm dancing too much around the point: with my standards in that post linked up there, my only choice in that first page of results is to get a pirate copy. I won't even enter the A-legality of that, here [*]. Even if I liked B&N and GBooks, which I don't, those are only two results out of ten.

Do please make it harder to find pirate books. And I don't mean "swamp Google with DCMA notices". Be aware that the moment I get a DCMA tag I won't buy your book. At all. But you have other options. Scribd, iBooks, Kobo, Paypal... At the very least, they'll help displace torrents farther down the list.

Guys, those proportions up there are unacceptable. Deal with it.

Take care.

[*] And, guys, Illegal and Allegal are not the same.

sábado, 30 de agosto de 2014

So, I suppose this would classify me...

...if I hadn't done it already.

You remember back when 'Brokeback mountain' was the new thing? The film, I mean. Yes? Back then, I was talking with a guy in a local university's GLBT group and in the cinema group, after another guy and him finished setting a date around the movie, and I asked him: "OK, let's forget for a second that the main relationship is gay. Is there anything else in the movie that makes it a must?". I go very seldom to the movies, so I try to choose things that, well, are above the average.

Thing is, he looked slightly shocked for a brief moment and asnwered, "no". This is the same year I argued with a self-declared butch in the same circles (no, I don't mean lesbian; that was obvious, but she didn't call herself lesbian, but butch, and I'm so not going to argue that) that 'V, for Vendetta' wasn't really queer-friendly. Yes, there's a reference to a lesbian couple (dead) and another character is gay (and he doesn't end well). Both mains are as asexual as I've seen in mainstream. So? Still, from her point of view, that was a friendly movie.

Now, I'm pretty blind to descriptions. From hair color to, yes, sexual orientation. It took me two books and a half (and not tiny books at that) to realize that the main love interest in 'Memory, Sorrow and Thorn' was black haired. I'm unable to tell you the hair color of a single character in Robert Jordan's saga, or a hobbit's, or... Raistlin's hair was white, yes?. Or the approximate real world race. Then, also, I'm Spanish. Racism expresses itself differently, here, and it's not as much of an issue (for good or bad, that pretty much depends).

So, all that "we need to include X in SF/F" leaves me basically unmoved. First, because I don't see the references unless you hammer me with them, second because I simply don't care. Yes, I'm "Latino". And "Caucasian". And God knows how many other things. I can hear Mediterranean cargo ships at the dock from home. The docks are owned by a Chinese company. Nobody cares. We don't have a box for "race" in our IDs. And, maybe, we do most of our racism amongst ourselves.

So the whole ruckus in US' SF is a tad weird. And, yes, I've ended blocking several sites that happen to share the "progressive" POV. Mostly, because of things completely unrelated to the matter and completely related to the form. Argue as you wish, but be a good lad and don't insult me in your first paragraph. I barely skim some other sites that would be "conservative", because of the droning on the subject, but they're, at least, way more polite.

Also, for whatever's worth, I visited the (last) Spanish Civil War museum at Gernika some years ago. And if you look at it in a certain light, you can see the war approaching... because people stopped talking to each other, looking at data, and started talking against a mirror.

Just saying. I don't really care, again, what your character's are. I want them to be characters, to tell me a good story. Don't hammer me with their ideas, but with their lives and adventures. If done properly, it'll have their lives, and it'll slither into my mind without triggering any alert. Paizo did it with their very first module, 7+ years ago. Octavia Butler did it for years way before that. And so on. Some of the current trend? Unreadable. Some other? Childish.

And it's a pity, because it looks like some writers' minds short-circuit when they include their "Big Idea", like they can't get past their own characters' race, or sexuality, and tell me why should I care about them, and give us characters that, if "classic" (young man, hetero, Caucasian...), would be widely laughed at. A single "item" is not making them interesting, specially if you have to hammer it time and again to cover for the rest. Emperor's new clothes and all that.

Take care.

Off with translations?

Sorry. Not that there haven't been things to write about this month. Rather, too many things. However, yesterday I knew of a couple of data...

Background: besides having mandatory agency pricing in hardcopy books, the Spanish entertainment market is heavily dependent on translations. Translations that aren't quite the same as in Ibero-America. Movies are translated (and subsidized; apparently, the majors and State keep pressuring the government to keep those, and yay for free market), which kind of feeds on the rest, and creates an environment where a few corporations get most of the public money, because tax rebates for filming, for example, are next to nil (so, they're subsidizing distribution but cutting down production; imagine that in any other industry).

Enter boardgames, RPGs and such. Again, the Spanish market is sub-optimal. But... You see, things like kickstarter, verkami (a local one, geared to films, music and books, mostly) and some small enterprises allow for small-batch distribution... and the batch is unlikely to be any much better, unless you're talking things like "The Hobbit, The Game".

Now, the thing is that Spanish publishers have been pushing for rather heavy venue promotions, exclusives and such for the big games (say, Tolkien-related launches; one of them had a 5-year exclusive deal with the local equivalent to Walmart [*]). And the small ones are starting to say they won't translate theirs and will, instead, redistribute originals, maybe slightly rebranded. Meanwhile, they scare off small shops and investors.

I hope they realize they MUST do this right, exactly right, from the beginning. They just lost the little bit of buffer they had (people who needed the product translated). Because if they don't translate, they're a pared down amazon, and I'm being polite. If their exact same product reaches me two weeks after US release, at 2x the cost... mayhaps amazon is better. If they couldn't translate soon enough (which, to me, means they didn't bother to get advance copies guaranteeed for translation in contract), I don't think they're going to ship soon enough and, frankly, Spanish S&H costs are off, way off.

But this is a blog on publishing, yes?

Yes, it is. My point is that every single point up there can be translated to troubles in hardcopy publishing, ebooks... My quip about amazon shipping US-pulished games before their Spanish distributor is a direct copy from the situation with the US editions of Harry Potter. The one on the government putting money in the wrong place could segue into the legal troubles and loops for publishing books privately, and so on.

Which makes the local ecosystem hostile to progress... which leads to disruption. What would be revolutions if we talked politics and has rallying cries like "Napster!" or "Down with Legacy!" in the e-publishing zone. Because if it's easier for me to publish through CreateSpace than a local printer, local businesses are losing a customer. A small one, sure... one after another. It adds up. It means that, instead of local production, you're importing. And so on, and on...

Take care.

[*] And entered into criminal-accomplice zone (and penalized) with certain things that cost them, for example, the local distribution of some trading card games. They had the harebrained idea that detail (one card at a time) had to be cheaper than bulk (packs and boxes). See why I don't trust their business sense?

lunes, 11 de agosto de 2014

Mr' Preston's personality disorder

For them to treat me as if I were a poster or computer cables or a TV set is really hurtful

At Salon. Do you imagine an enginer saying "for amazon to treat me as if I were a ream of paper is really hurtful" when talking about... a TV set he designed?

Take care.

Discourse and practice levels, about par

Spain used to have a bachelor & master degree, all in one, called "philosophy & letters". It's been a while, but it still features in the names of several faculties around. These days, degrees have specialized... and then they had to create another "general" degree when they found there was still a demand[*].

Thing is, that degree gave us high school teachers, editors, publishers, journalists... almost anything to do with letters. It included philosophy, of course, and so, things like... logic.

Apparently, Mr. Pietsch's curriculum didn't include that. It's only a guess, because I haven't been able to find anything on him, not even a wiki (compare that to the ammount of data on, say, Bezos or many Fortune 100 guys). Still...

withdraw the sanctions against Hachette’s authors

What sanctions?

It's interesting how Hachette (et al) likes to mistreat Orwell. "All books are special, but some are more special than others". Theirs, and Big 5's. Because that "mistreatment" is above and beyond what most indie writers can hope. Indies don't have... not preorders, they don't even have the ability to create a product page before it goes live.

Now, Salon's not what I'd call neutral. Not when it talks about "scorched earth campaign" (by amazon, of course) and posts an article with little more than a forward of Mr. Pietsch's letter.

Now, points:
  • Amazon punishes authors. No. And don't get me started on Amazon following the publisher's suggested price.
  • Hachette sets prices entirely on its own. The US DoJ and the Disctrict Court of New York would like to differ.
  • Those few priced higher most are less than half the price of print. That's where he could have a point. Baen had to raise prices of ebooks in order to get them into Amazon, and they have a layered approach (9.99 for hardback equivalents, 8.99 for trade and 6.99 for mass market). Doesn't explain why I can find ebooks at over 25$, though, some of them without print. Specially from the French parent company, but not only.
But the bullshit starts now...
  • Unlike retailers, publishers invest heavily in individual books Ah... yes, the curator's argument, indeed.
  • often for years, before we see any revenue. And your sluggishness is Amazon and its customers fault, how? Fiction River, from kickstater to amazon in 8 months, coordinating many writers. Check the budget.
  • advances against royalties. Talk with a writer about that, see him sob.
  • editing, design, production, marketing, Marketing? About par with design. About which, see Penguin's cover above. And that was for a children's classic. With a relatively recent Hollywood movie (basically, not yet dated).
  • warehousing, shipping "Warehousing" means "get amazon to stock it". See his comment about hurting writers when it stopped doing so. Hachette can't stock worth a damn any longer.
  • piracy protection A) Nice try. Ever heard of torrent? Or direct download? Or napster? B) Son of a bitch No, sorry, why should I respect someone who doesn't respect me? Respect is either a two way street or feudalism. Which, granted, suits Big 5 to a T.
  • We recoup these costs from sales of all the versions of the book Again, not my problem; nor Amazon's. If you want to subsidize your hardcover warehousing (heh!) with my ebook purchase, don't expect me to like it. Sure, some costs are shared. Some aren't. And I haven't seen a single item from Big 5 that acknowledges that. They seem to be unable to separate both common and particular expenses. Of course, Big 5 accounting has never been all that precise.
Basically, he's demmanding readers (and amazon, but it can defend itself) to cough extra money to account for bad business practices.

Not my money, scammer.

Take care.

[*] I'm not sure there was a need and, since the higher education system in Spain is mostly subsidized, I'm not sure it was the right thing to do, but...Well, it's a classic and I'm not going to get into educational politics, here. So not going to.

sábado, 9 de agosto de 2014

Amazon also has PR departments

NYT published a pseudo-interview on... Thursday? with Patterson, talky figurehead of Hachette.

Tomorrow, NYT will publish an ad, by Patterson, costing way above most writers' advances. Of course, the guy is in the 8 figures annually.

KDP writers are receiving a 1200-word mail from Amazon. This night-morning.

If you want to believe in coincidence, there's a bridge in London...

Website for the letter? Reader's United. Have to love it.

Waiting to see if the WaPo does the NYT equivalent... Meanwhile, I'll digest the mail. Let's see if it says anything new. And check the site and its links...

Take care.

UPDATE: (Note: yes, I'm playing with Mr. Patterson's court's name. Practice.)

Read. As expected, nothing new if you've listened to voices outside the hatched sphere. However...

The mail is supposed to be directed to KDP authors. Now, I rather doubt that. My reason is that KDP writers are... on Kindle, already. A good share of them (many?) are better informed than the average hatchet suit. They can certainly keep track of their sales better than getting that B&N surprise for inattention.

No, what I think curious is that vocal tóu bāng members seem to be hacking through the same statements, anonymous or otherwise. Which suggests very few sources of information. Opponents are discussing openly, getting sales info from Author Earning's... They're used to talk around.

Author Earning's data suggest they aren't four simpletons hiding in a corner. This petition suggests a much better interface between readers and writers that Mr. Patterson allows himself to think (from his quotes, he seems to be very much settled in the "Readers are mine or idiots" meme, which I hope you'll grant is not all that much prone to communication). Now...

If you have data, you don't have a PR filter in the shape of a media company, you get your information from your royalties daily, and you're used to talk... what happens when Amazon, so far critisized for not talking enough, sends you a mail? Do you keep that close until someone interviews you for the NYT (after showing 100k bucks) or... do you talk with your mates? Those include writers, readers, wanna be publishers... This, I believe, is where Amazon scored it. The add will be up tomorrow. Today, have a nice synopsis of Amazon's PoV.

Take care.

viernes, 8 de agosto de 2014


I was reading this and recalling this other one[*]. And...

Apparently, Netflix and other post-TV entertainment distributors are raising blood pressure all around because they produce series and put all those episodes online at once. TV companies are used to being THE arbitrer of your spare time. I don't know if anyone recalls the ruckus when someone got comercial-skipping VHS recorders. Not that they ever liked recorders any, whatever the kind.

Now... publishing is similar. All that "not more than a title per writer; two if you really must; and, for God's sake, put it on contract or he'll go somewhere else, the publishing junkie!" Or that other, "No, no... you must wait at least six months before you release the paperback, or you'll lose sales; no matter the hardback's only on display for a couple of months. The "E" book? That's a weird title for a marketing bible..." Or "Amazon wants to destroy US publishers selling UK Potter's overseas!" Or "Tie-in ads for the comic after the series broadcast? Are you nuts!? We don't talk with that company."

The reinforcement between different kinds of book, or what writers who care about day-to-day data see about different titles propping each other... All that's lost.

In legacy publishing. Not so with other sellers.

Take care.

[*] Note: I do NOT recommend taking the guy seriously as it reflects ebooks. He's in a time machine.

jueves, 7 de agosto de 2014

Logistics; do they still deliver?

One of the points that Big 5 had to its favor was logistics. A sudden success could bankrupt a small publisher, venues are easier to reach by the hand of a Big 5...

Is it still true? When you can reach your market through amazon and PoD, is the chance of reaching a gas station useful, when your distributor doesn't care about his own books, much less yours, in small shops? Yes, physical bookstores may boycott books sold through amazon [*]. And the buyer can open his cell and buy it right there. Those boycotts presume a brand fidelity they haven't nurtured in years.

So, let's say your indie book gets traction and goes to bestseller. Unless the terms are way better than CreateSpace... how is Big 5 distribution worth it?

Take care.

[*] Oh, you hand't heard? Fancy, that. They do.

PS: Yes, I know. Kris wrote it first. That's four years ago! I'm slow.

Start here:

The difference between Small Publishing now and Small Publishing just five years ago is in the all-important area of distribution. If you go back to my earlier posts, you’ll note that I said that publishing companies are really in the business of distributing books, of getting books from the writer to the reader.

domingo, 3 de agosto de 2014

Amazon's an NGO non profit

Isn't it?

Fascinating. Apparently, while...
You might say that publishers can’t be trusted to act in their own interest. [...] collusion resulted in higher prices and lower sales of e-books. So perhaps Amazon feels that it needs to force publishers to settle on $9.99 in most cases because otherwise they’d shoot themselves in the foot.

That could be so.

Indeed, it could. Yet...
contractually enforcing prices is something of an antiquated practice in digital marketplaces. Sure, [...] Apple [...] created a set price for songs. But that was more than a decade ago; since then, digital marketplaces have matured, and we’ve seen a dizzying array of new business models.

Points of order:
  • the publishing bussiness has not matured, digital or stone. It's the Peter Pan of bussinesses.
  • iTunes seems pretty healthy, mature as it is.
  • There are other bussiness models. Some of them trough amazon. Also, crowdfunding and bundles. Can you imagine Hachette's reaction to a bundle editor's proposal?
  • Amazon's not forcing them. Amazon's saying: "above that price, I lose money, so I want an extra". Beware of the myth, amazon's not asking for a set price at 9.99.
  • Contracts can be ammended. Even if things change and the market "matures", you can change your contract, move that 9.99 point up or down. Move your percentage... Whatever. However, thecontract reflects current realities. Amazon has other providers, and knows the price points. Evenif it changes some years later, amazon needs to make bussiness now.
And this is the easy way. Can you imagine the ruckus if amazon had said "we want floating price for books, linked to supply and demand, like a stock exchange"? It would be fun. And yet, some pubs do that with their drinks, and people play. And it would be good for bestsellers, even.

But, simply, Big 5 are not nimble enough, flexible enough. So they're being led by the nose. Because when left free they crash the barn.

Take care.

Too much to read

Remember what I said about blacklisting publishers (and, of late, writers), going indie and getting other sources of distribution?

I haven't had the time I wanted to read them through, but check R J Blain's crowdfunding campaign and this horror bundle.

From what I've been able to read so far, Inquisitor's voice is in the neighbourhood of Briggs, maybe Vaughn. And Bloom's theme, in the bundle, made me think of Ballard.

How are The Big 5 any special, again?

Take care.

viernes, 1 de agosto de 2014

Return of Investment

Check Dean's post. It's the basis.

Now, I've had the same discussion, from a slightly different perspective, with Kris. To wit, take into account time when you calculate your ROI. Submission time, time to asnwer, time to reversion... A market that pays you 100 bucks tomorrow and requires your story for two months is better than a market that pays 500 but needs 3 months to put your story up an wants it for a whole year. Unless the publicity pays that off.

Ok, priors covered. Now, a thought on Amazon and ebooks and such.

There's already people who only publish through Kindle. Amazon's ebook market is so big it's not worth for them to loose the benefits of KDP and work extra to upload to other markets. I don't like it, but it's their choice.

The time for that is reaching paper. Many bookstores don't order from small publishers, much less indie or self. Some avoid Amazon titles. Amazon reaches every single one of their buyers, and beyond. In print. But they prefer to gate their borders.

I know some people who're exploring the market of POD and small press runs in Spain. Besides the requirement of fixed price and something similar to Library of Congress registration, and some legal juggling, there's a requirement with most catalogs, to get an ISBN (about the price of some nice cover designs, out there; besides the fact that the damn Spanish ISBN web looks like a vanity scam, they don't seem to realize you can get US ISBNs for half the price). To say nothing of the convoluted (and often vanity-pressy) road for ebook publishing in some venues, here.

Amazon puts your book on sale without extra payments (through CreateSpace). No ISBN required unless you want frills and tassles. And so on. No convolutions, no roundabouts. No wated time (money), no payments (money), no sunk costs.

As is, for many kinds of book, it's simply cost-effective to forget about other channels. You can always waste your time there when you've started recouping your investment. But, so far, what for?

Take care.

miércoles, 30 de julio de 2014

Damn the man!

He must be smart. He's written some impressive things. And a bunch of crud, but that might be a matter of taste. He's, however, extraordinarily blind with certain things.

Touched the guy sometime earlier, on G+. Still...
I think Amazon’s math checks out quite well, as long as you have the ground assumption that Amazon is the only distributor [...] that publishers or authors [...] should ever have to consider. [...] Amazon’s assumptions don’t include [...] that publishers and authors might have [...] reason for not wanting the gulf between eBook and physical hardcover pricing to be so large that brick and mortar retailers suffer [...]. Killing off Amazon’s competitors is good for Amazon; there’s rather less of an argument that it’s good for anyone else.

Is there a law in the States, or something, that grants Amazon the monopoly of internet sales? Because that paragraph assumes that Amazon is the only seller of ebooks and that it only sells ebooks. Plus, "brick and mortar" is a red herring. That means Borders (oops) and B&N or does it mean neighbourhood shops? Those are doing rather well, remember? As long as they try to keep roots, true. Also, readers are only an add-on (between parentheses) in the original.
Amazon’s math of “you will sell 1.74 times as many books at $9.99 than at $14.99″ is also suspect, because it appears to come with the ground assumption that books are interchangable units of entertainment, each equally as salable as the next, and that pricing is the only thing consumers react to.

They are.

Oh, they might not be for a particular reader. I would give preference to Kris' work, for example, at, say 19.99$ over the newest Tor ebook at 5.99. And the whole Hugo ruckus shows that some people would go to great lengths pursuing the same idea. But things average out. It's called statistics. If people can have 20-25 hrs of entertainment at 18$ (current Baen Bundle price) or 2-3 hrs with a current Tor release... Yes, some people would still go Tor. On average? Is a Tor book really 6 or 10 times as enjoyable as a Baen, for the average guy? I rather doubt that.

Also... revising prices is well and good. How many Big-5 imprimpts do that?

His parenthesis about cost is right on the money. See? He does say thoughtful things, now and again. I wonder why he's blind to others so often, though.
Bear in mind it’s entirely possible that Amazon sells 1.74 times as many books at $9.99 than at $14.99,

Yes, it's entirely possible Amazon is not lying through its teeth. That's a generous gentleman conceeding a point.
but then Amazon deals with gross numbers of product, while publishers deal with somewhat smaller numbers, and the author, of course, deals with only her own list of books. As the focus tightens, the general rules stop being as applicable. What’s good for Amazon isn’t necessarily good for publishers, or authors.

Ah, of course! "but".

Mixing points. What's good for amazon is not necessarily good for publishers? Duh. What's good for amazon is not necessarily good for wri... er , authors? Hmmm... Yes, if Amazon manages to sell kitchenware with an extra margin, that's not necessarily good for wri...uthors. Ok, guys, amazon needs writers to sell books. Not the Big-5, but it does need books to sell them.

Also, the fact that amazon deals with gross numbers and that the variance diminishes... does not alter the whole picture. If the idea is bad for publisher A, then there's a publisher B somewhere who's even better to compensate the statistic.
I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I think it’s very likely that if $9.99 becomes the upper bound for pricing on eBooks, then you are going to find $9.99 becomes the standard price for eBooks, period

This is either silly or way above my possibilities. No middle ground.

I think Amazon taking a moment to opine that authors should get 35% of revenues for their eBooks is a nice bit of trying to rally authors to their point of view

And about time. Do say, sir: while you were the head of your genre association, did you "take a moment to opine" that mayhaps 12.5% was a tad low?

To be clear, I think authors should get more of the revenue of each electronic sale, although I’m not necessarily sanguine about letting Amazon also attempt to set what that percentage should be.

a) About time!

b) Attempt to set? A "moment to opine" is an "attemptto set"? What are you "attempting" with your statements, then, sir?

Increasing authors’ percentages of revenue on electronic sales is an exciting new frontier in contract negotiations,

Oh, please... [my emphasis, above]
[...] I really really really wish Amazon would stop pretending that anything it does it does for the benefit of authors. It does not. It does it for the benefit of Amazon, and then finds a way to spin it to authors, with the help of a coterie of supporters to carry that message forward, more or less uncritically.

Ah... of course. Amazon opening up these last weeks is "spinning it to authors with the help of a coterie of uncritical supporters to carry that message forward". Supporters like, say, Colbert, yes?

Oh. Not?
why does their Kindle Direct boilerplate have language in it that says that Amazon may unilaterally change the parameters of their agreement with authors

Taking your book back from Kindle takes a click. Taking it back from a publisher takes 35 years.

No, amazon is not an author's friend. It's a writer's ally.

Take care.

Current and future publishing 101

I often disagree with Barry, likely more than you'd guess, but... go on and read this. Then we can talk about publishers. No, don't think in "Amazon vs. the world" overtones. But...

Realize that a writer putting her book through CreateSpace & Amazon can reach about 50% of the US market. Anywhere, anytime, as long as there's a network up. What are your chances of getting a book to a guy in, say Castle Rock, CO, with Ingram and with Amazon? Ingram will offer it, sure, and then a manager in a mall several miles off town will decide it she buys it or not. And you'll get your car, make a trip to Wallmart (or Target, or...) and see if you can find it, along with the rest of your list. You want the same book through Amazon, its click & order. Yes, the impulse buy is not as high in hardcopy, but the rest of them...

Then, compare with this, and this. Traditional isn't going the way of bullwhip makers, but they are going the way of video producers, some huge releases now and then (blockbusters) a lot of small producers and services (commercials, clips, youtube fanart...). They don't like the feeling, and it seems they can't accept it.

Five stages of grief, anyone?

Take care.

martes, 29 de julio de 2014

Whatever the explanation, ouch

Hachette sales have gone down, hard... at B&N.

Take care.

Data on Spanish ebook publishing

Checking these things in part because a post on Passive Guy, in part for something around some friends of mine.

The more I look into it, the more I'm convinced that Spanish ebook sales suck. Which is the shorthand version for this. Now, I've looked into several Spanish ebook distributors:
  • One took me longer to find its Glorious Future presentation that it would have taken me to register a user and upload its first book on Amazon-KDP. I can't recall their terms, or even if they published them.
  • One is a strange variant of a vanity press, print only, with not all that undecent terms. It still requires you to buy some of your own books, at a discount, and says nothing about royalties, but it's not exclusive, for example. Wacky.
  • A third one allows for 10-15% of print royalties (depending on distribution channel) and a whopping 35% of ebook royalties.
  • Two best ones, by far, are one linked to both a bookstore chain and the main Spanish publisher. You already know my thoughts on that one. And a new entry in the Spanish market (but I bought an ebbok three years ago from them and it was a nightmare of DRM and OS-specific). Those offer 30-70 and 20-80 terms, respectively, although the seconf one discounts HW printing first. While that's natural, it doesn't allow you to check the price of the printed manuscript without going through the registration process. I think fnac has similar terms.
Amazon, KDP and CreateSpace win all those hands down. In ebooks, big boys offer the best terms, hands down. For mid-numbers, there are nice printers in Spain that can match CreateSpace. For low orders, not really.

Amazon might be the Evil Overlord, but it is a tempting one.

Take care.

You're providers, guys!

Cut the tassles and the glitter and the ooohs and aaaahs, and writers are providers. Fiction writers are providers of entertainment. Now, I came into a quote by Margaret Weis:

In answer to another oft-asked question, I don't read fantasy.

It does explain a certain "flavor" in Mrs. Weis' books. How she never quite manages, in what I read before I gave up in the mid 90s, to break beyond certain topics. 'Star of the Guardians'? Star Wars, lightsabers included. Rose of the Prophet? Al-Qadim campaign setting. Death Gate Cycle? Planescapish, gone emo. She is interesting as a world builder, but world building alone doesn't write a story. And since she doesn't read the competition...

Now, upset as I am about that, it's not the point. It's data. Data that accumulates over Mr. Preston's add, Big 5's practices... Can you imagine a furniture store's clerk telling you "Sure, it's a nice one. The designer's never sat on a couch!"? Meat providers buying adds in the NYT to pressure McDonald's into raising prices? Those providers would be off the rolodex so fast you could actually sell the energy.

But we accept it from writers. And many writers accept it from their, face it, service providers (publishers).

Writer's, read this one and apply it both to your providers and, as providers, to readers. Or be off.

Take care.

sábado, 26 de julio de 2014


"Never look at covers"? Well, sort of, sort of not. For example, I try not to look at Baen covers. I mostly find them horrible, and I wouldn't approach most of those books if I was checking those. I know, it works for them. And there are some good ones out there. Most? Way to 80s pulp, for me.

Romance? I positively hate romance covers, but I'm not quite a romance reader. I've read and enjoyed Kris deLake's work [aka, Kris Rusch]. Plus, her books don't violate one of my standards[*]. But most romance covers? Might as well burn them.

Ans so on. I do like some covers, and some others make me go "hmm... let's see". Most covers? Not really, no. Not even with fantastic artists. Part of it is clutter. Probably because artist and designer are not the same guy, many covers jam the visual impact of the art to properly impress the reader with the author's name. Or title. Or... Which kinda tosses away the whole idea behind hiring a good artist. See here.

So, basically, I try not to look at covers. On average, it's better for the writer.

Take care.

[*] I'm becoming an Equal Nudity Reader. Male nudes on cover? No problem. But then, don't dress the partner. Same for half nudes. I don't require full frontals (it's simply a cover), I do require "equal opportunity".

Agenda publishing

Everyone's free to have his own agenda, bias or thrust. It's tiring, specially from several timezones away, to see certain things advocated for in the US. Guys, dont' advocate for entire organizations, sectors or industries publishing more of this or that. Ask for readers to buy it, if you need, but if you think idea A is "not properly represented" in one market or another... put the book out yourselves. It's done, these days. If the subject is truly under-represented, it'll raise in the charts like beear foam. If it doesn't... then you know why it wasn't published. Not a conspiracy but good bussiness perception.

Take care.

viernes, 25 de julio de 2014


I just "unbought" a book. I had it in my cart, and a pop up warned me about its DRM. Now, I'm not all that bad with computing security, and I do have available extra resources that would allow me to crack any ebook out there should it be beyond my personal habilities. Plus, I could also download an already stripped copy once I got my own, and that would be perfectly legal where I'm sitting (like the first option, in fact).

So, why didn't I?

I work computers for a living, people. I don't want to spend extra time or money when I read.

Someone told me (a bookseller!) some time ago that he didn't like perfect bound hardcovers becasue they were a bother to hold, and he didn't buy them. Now, that's accepted. But when I say I don't want DRM because it's a bother to read and keep... oh, the horror!

Pity. Looked an interesting entrance into a genre I very seldom follow.

Take care.


Probably, the biggest difference between "Big Five" publishing (and its copycats) and small presses or individuals is something I believe Kris cals push / pull. I'm not sure, I can't find the article.

Thing is, Big Five are still trying to push their ways: their pricing, their layered releases, their tempo, their fashions... Oh, sure, if something like Shades of Grey comes out, Big Five will dump as many similar titles as they can. Which misses most of the point, sure. Or they will try to gobble successful indies... and smother them. That last is probably not their intention, but they're the scorpion on the turtle's back: it's in their blood. And, specially, it's not in indie writer's (or most succesful self-employed people, truly).

Small presses? They'll find something that works for them, something people want to read, and publish it. Individual writers will find something they want to write and see it if works, an adapt. Their nimbleness allows for that, but it's also a different paradigm. Big Five's R&D shows the tale. Compare with this.

It goes further. In the last month, since I wrote a small piece that did some traveling on Google+, I've been able to contact several writers who were pretty helpful providing paid copies of their work through different channels than their usual. Depending on how you do your accounting, in one case it cost me almost 20x the bargain price. As I see it, it cost me exactly the usual ammount, but I didn't get lots of things I didn't want. And it was, in fact, voluntary, almost a donation.

Compare that with over 10 USD for a single DRM'd book, and try to tell those publishers: "Guys, I'm having trouble buying from the Evil Amazon. Would you mind if I bought it directly from you?" I wouldn't probably even rate a response.

And that's another reason I'm going indie without even realizing it much.

Take care.

jueves, 24 de julio de 2014

Goal checking

I might try to adapt this to other endeavours. Meanwhile... Remember Kris' booklet on Goals and Dreams? This little barb by Larry Correia is a nice substitute for your own list.

My suggestion? Print it out and check what you might already have reached, what you lack (and wish), what you don't mind and what you'd rather avoid. Check again in six months.

Take care.

Going indie?

I didn't plan on it, I really didn't, but it's looking that way. There are two reasons:
  • I keep blacklisting publishers. Not my original intent, but publishers keep crossing the line. Hachette, Penguin, Tor... The Big Six Turned Five should, by rights, be all in the bag, but I'm trying to restrain myself. Still, there are publishers who insist on going the extra mile WRT alienating their readers. Not "customers", they don't think of readers as such. Their customers are big distribution chains and stockholders. And it works like it does. Or, in fact, does not.
  • Publishers keep off-listing themselves. If you treat books like perishable widgets, then it would seem obvious that if book A is twice the price and thrice as difficult (or long-winded) to obtain, then I'm going for book B. However, publishers seem to be unable to see this. While books are widgets, their books are Art.
It doesn't work that way, guys. Now, the first part is only a branch of ethical purchasing. Nor all that "ethical" itself, but I refuse to participate in bussinesses that insist in insulting me or going against certain values. I am, after all, sworn into this, like most Spanish males between 30 and 55 and a good extra of people, and certain businesses accurately possitively attack the first sentence of articles ("Sections", in the translation linked above) 15 to 18, at the very least.

But the second part is likely more interesting. I mean, the first one is often subjetive, and people (by and large) only mind about insults when they receive them, not when they hear them around. However... let me repeat: publishers keep off-listing themselves. It's silly. But that's, after all, the bluff behind Hachette vs. Amazon: "They won't dare off-list us". They didn't; they just stopped being a warehouse for them (which increases distribution lag), and look what happened. Oh, the horror!

But it goes beyond that. I've lost track of the times I've read about a book, searched it and found no way to purchase it. Now, some of that is my particular e-book "stance" WRT formats and such. Still... Except writers tied to Kindle Select [*], Big Five publishers are the worst to buy from. For certain values, even beyond Select guys. You read about a book at this or that blog, you check the publisher and then, like in other bussinesses, you expect a button to add your product to a cart. Or, at least, a link to a provider.

Most publishers fail to provide this. Sometimes, they provide a single link. To amazon, that most evil of evils. B&N, Kobo, WHSmith? No. Indiebound? You must be high.

Providing the first in a series widely, at a reduced price, to hook new readers? Joining things like StoryBundle? Call the medics!

They're cornering themselves into a niche of highly loyal readers, but nothing else.

Good bye, Big Five. Take a care, out there.

[*] And I'm going to look into that; I fail to see why writers put all their works under Select instead of a chosen few. A the very least, their first in a series whould be as widely available as possible.

miércoles, 23 de julio de 2014

The Readers against Douglas Preston

After reading a post by Hugh Howey I finally got around to reading the "Us vs. Amazon" letter penned by Mr. Preston. From Mr. Howey's post it would seem that Mr. Preston is both able to backtrack and apologize (good) and prone to view readers from an... er... exalted sense of self. Un-bad. As in un-dead.

Mr. Preston's letter includes the names of 780 writers (Oh, sorry, "authors"). It pains me to see some names, there. Names of people I'd read as a teen, valued, cherished and looked up to. Names of people who'd been with me as I explored new places, went through pain and joy. Names of people I'd discovered more recently and enjoyed. Some 40 wri... authors, in a rapid check.

Names of people I'm increasingly unlikely to ever read again.

Now, I don't buy through kindle. My computing environment would require way too much work. I fight computing emulators and file formats for a living, not to reach my hobby... when I have other choices. Also, it insists on computing taxes 21% higher than most of my dealers. That said...

Besides the fact that the original letter's links are extraordinarily biased (and that the WSJ should learn about bussiness from Amazon), what that letter is saying is that amazon should
  • Engage in risky bussiness practices, entering into agreements with its customers it doesn't know it'll be able to fill (unless it bows down and says "yess, masster" like it properly should).
  • Price its books at the writer's whim. Not its needs, its marketing analysis or even the price the publisher suggests. Amazon is expected to create its own price and guess what Mr. Howey thinks is an adequate one.
  • Fill its warehouses with items from a publisher in a contract dispute
To say nothing about the fact that some waits are normal for many other writers. No, amazon must handle Hachette writers like special flowers. Hachette is good, hachette is our friend, Hachette can't do wrong. All hail our glorious publisher.

As I've said before, I have other choices now. Often cheaper choices, choices that don't scam neither writer (or the occasional lost "author") nor readers. Farewell, gentlemen. Be seeing you if you turn around, but you just lost the advantage you could have.

Take care.

PS: As expected, SFWA joins a battle for irrelevance. Without checking its members, as far as I know.

sábado, 19 de julio de 2014

Bitching readers

Take a stroll outside and check Neil Gaiman's post. I just re-read it tonight after following Kris Rusch comments appropos the upcoming Retrieval Artist mini-series.

Mr. Gaiman is a Briton. You know, like Bond. Classy. "So-and-so is not your bitch" would be full of fucking expletives somewhere else. I can feel some of his pain.

And yet...

I stopped (dead stopped) reading epic fantasy in the mid 90s, after what the local publisher did with Robert Jordan's series. I was simply not in the mood for certain "coitus interruptus" that also cost a fortune. I really got fed up, with that publisher. And, with him, epic fantasy. Baby and water, yes. Also, the state of Spanish fantasy in the 90s.

But... Even so, that series took a while. Like Martin's looks to be set for. Now, I like Martin's work, I specially love his short stories. Because of my previous experience, however, I won't be touching the Iron Throne until he's done with it.

And that's a writer I like. Knew his work in the 90s, saw "his" TV series, back before I knew he existed. I think he's one of the best things to happen to literature since the typewriter. And yet, I won't touch his best known series.

Novels take a while. Good novels, good worlds, link the writer and the reader tremendously. More so, lilely, with modern media and communications. When you start a series, you stablish a contract with your readers, in that you'll try to finish it. No paper? No signature? So. There's no paper, no signature, that says I have to be courteous with my in-laws, but I should at least try. If I don't, there'll be consequences.

That's why Kris is trying to keep her readers appraised. Forget things like that and you're likely to see blowback (sorry, couldn't resist).

Just saying, but you might want to avoid it. Take care.

viernes, 18 de julio de 2014

He's a pirate!

I reached last post's link through another one, sent by a high school teacher (I said I wasn't joking about those attitudes WRT young readers; not hers, but...). One other link in that collection is this.

Basic recap? Very first paragraph:

Economic crisis, e-books' VAT at 21%, drop in textbook subventions, less investment in libraries, lack of book awareness policies and, above everything else, piracy

Above. Everything. Else.

VAT of the main modernization of reading habits at 7 times the tax of ordinary books pre-crisis (still over 5x). EU mandatory TAX, so it's not quite the fault of the national politicos. Who, nonetheless, risk EU sanctions WRT the energy market but won't even dream of touching ebooks.

But the fault is pirates.

Ebooks were the only area with growth, at 8.1% [...] second highest in Europe, but insufficient considering the effort and cost of digitizing and putting that content at reader's reach

Bullshit. Getting ebooks in Spain is above and beyond the nightmare I ranted about here. Way above and beyond. Digitizing is publisher speak for "I pushed a button on the Wordpro". Unless you still keep old metal plates you haven't digitzed since the 60s. Also, yes, single-digit growth is way too low. Which means it's starting... going to be fun. Let's see what certain seller says around Christmas.

Another touchy subject at the event has been what measures can be taken to stop the allmighty Amazon

Eisler and Konrath have been having enough fun WRT religious overtones in amazon-bashing. I won't go further there. Right after the previous...

who in the last weeks' conforontation with Hachette has even offered 100% of its sales to writers, for as long as disputes last. A standing Mallafré [publishers' rep] considers "unsustainable" and bordering "unloyal competition"

I'm not sure about the wording, but some actions around "unloyal competition" are illegal, here, and trigger something similar to what "unloyal opposition" could trigger in politics in the US. See what he's playing with? Also "unsustainable"? To whom? Again, check Author Earnings. Economically, amazon could ditch Hachette today. Legally, could have done it in March.

Hachette? I do hope you're joking. You are, right?

And, mind you, he does reach some sort of self-critique. Not much, but it's there, right at the end. But...

Amazon! Piracy! Poop!

Also: Agency pricing saves the day!

Take care.