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.
  • 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... " 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.