alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
Bank Square Books in Mystic, Connecticut had a fantastic signing yesterday! This was the latest stop on the Big Summer Road Trip Tour with four of Tor's authors: Max Gladstone, Elizabeth Bear, Brian Staveley, and James Cambias.



It's always a delight to spend time with fellow Substrater Max Gladstone, and it was really fun to chat with Elizabeth Bear about some of the details of her "Eternal Sky" trilogy. Both Brian Staveley and James Cambias made me intrigued by their work. We all lamented how mass market paperbacks are becoming fewer and farther between (because otherwise I'd have picked up some backlist titles!). We got some excellent selections from the children's department at Bank Square Books (where we also found Waldo), and I'll be looking into sadly unsignable e-book copies of the Tor tour writers' backlist books.

A lovely time was had by all -- thanks to the four authors, a shout out to Tracey Maknis/Trinitytwo from The Qwillery, and cheers to Bank Square Books for having such a great event!
alanajoli: (mini me short hair)
Happy New Year! It's been some time since I posted; it was a busy year at Casa Abbott for non-writing reasons. We've welcomed baby Fish into our family, joining his sister Bug, Three-stripe, cats Jack and Tollers, and I as members of our household. But while I'm behind on many things, I've continued to read a lot! Since I posted last year and the year before about my reading goals, I wanted to post last year's results and this year's goals before 2015 progressed too far!

This year, I did not count all the picture books I read, but I did count all my review picture books individually. For the year, I totalled 163 books, which is up from last year's 129 (probably in part due to counting all the review books individually). There was a method to my madness, however: I wanted to see what percentage of titles were review books as compared to non-review books. Here's some of the interesting breakdown:

  • 89 titles were review books

  • 106 were children's or YA books

  • Only 12 were graphic novels, which is rather low

  • I read 7 romance, 69 SFF, and 2 nonfiction


I did reasonably well on my goals. The 2 nonfiction titles beat my goal to read just 1. I read 13 out of the 15 novels from my TBR pile I'd hoped to read, 4 titles by autobio writers, 6 rereads (out of a goal of 3), and read one non-genre novel.

The most interesting statistic I kept last year was print vs. digital. I surprised myself by reading 91 books in paper and 72 digitally. I thought I skewed toward e-books, so it's interesting to me that I'm not even at 50% digital reading. Some of this is due to reading for the MFAs. I rely heavily on the library to provide me with MFA reading, and though some are available as e-books, most are more readily available in print.


Highlights of the year?
  • Rereading Max Gladstone's Three Parts Dead--and seeing it make the MFA finalists list--was great fun. It's been especially fun to read more of the Craft books, both post-publishing and in mss format, in combination with playing Max's Craftverse game Choice of the Deathless. Without the books being required for the game and vice versa, they work so well in conjunction!

  • Finishing Devon Monk's "Allie Beckstrom" series was bittersweet, but starting the "House Immortal" books makes me confident there's more excellent reading to come.

  • I had the fantastic opportunity to interview Gene Luen Yang for the autobio project, and I read The Shadow Hero and Boxers and Saints in preparation for that. They were both some of my favorite reading for the year, for very different reasons. I'd recommend The Shadow Hero to anyone, but especially readers who have a fondness for Golden Age superheroes. Boxers and Saints is a fabulous moral and ethical investigation of a historical period with a lot of magical realism thrown in, and I found it both enjoyable and tremendously moving.

  • The biggest surprise read was probably Eleven by Tom Rogers. It's a book about 9/11, mostly from the perspective of a boy who's just turned 11, and it's fantastic both as an exploration of the event through fiction for middle graders and as a coming of age story. It was also pretty wild to realize that 9/11 happened before the middle grade age group was born--so it qualifies, on some level, as historical fiction.

  • I'd also recommend without reservation the Super Lexi middle grade books by Emma Lesko. Lexi is neurologically and developmentally different from her peers, which makes her a fascinating POV character, and Lesko's commitment to neuro-diversity in children's books shows in how beautifully she captures Lexi and makes her so easy to empathize with.

  • I loved finally finishing Shanna Swendson's "Enchanted, Inc." series, which for ages looked like it wouldn't get to continue beyond book four. (I'd still read more books in that world!)

  • I'm also really eager to see where the "Kate Daniels" (Ilona Andrews) and "Safehold" (David Weber) books end up next!


There were, of course, a lot of other great books, but listing them all would be fodder for TLDR (if I haven't already hit that point).

I was pretty happy with this year's goals, so I'm planning to keep them the same. Here's to another year of good reading!
alanajoli: (mini me)
What a wacky month it's been! We had a great family vacation, a fantastic visit from my mother, and then a not-so-terrific summer-cold-gone-feral that the house is still fighting off. (Bug manages with a few coughs here and there, while Threestripe and I have been dealing with what my friend Jess calls the "Peruvian Death Cough." It's an evocative description to say the least.)

While I've been away from the blog, things have definitely been happening in the world of publishing:
  • Apple lost the e-book price fixing case (covered a bazillion places, and here by Forbes contributor Connie Guglielmo).

  • Amazon went into a price war with Overstock.com to see who could discount bestsellers the most (story broken in a Shelf Awareness article by John Mutter).

  • B&N's a mess, with its CEO resigning (he was the head of the digital initiative, which lost a ton of money, despite how much I and others love our nook devices). Again, coverage is everywhere, but here's Danielle Kurtzleben's coverage at US News and World Report.

  • Mythcon 44 happened, and the Mythopoeic Awards for 2013 were announced. I had a great time reading both the kids and adults fantasy lists this year, and can recommend every book that made the kids finalist list. I can also wholeheartedly endorse the adult list winner, which Max Gladstone had recommended to me as a web comic years ago. (I was conflicted about some of the adult finalists, but they were all solid books.

  • Speaking of Max, he's nominated for two awards this year -- the Campbell and the Legend awards. You should go vote for him. Details at his blog.




If that's not enough for one post, I also am delighted to share some thoughts on Jennifer Estep's two latest Mythos Academy installments, one of which, Midnight Frost releases today. Jennifer's been a guest blogger with this series for several installments, and I'm a fan of what she does working in world mythologies into a fun, YA mystery/adventure series. She very kindly gave me the NetGalley links for Midnight Frost and her e-novella Spartan Frost, and both were perfect additions to the developing world.

The series so far: Gwen Frost, a Gypsy who is Nike's Champion and uses psychometry, has accepted that it's her duty to fight Loki -- in this series, the big evil god -- and save the world. She has a fantastic growing sense of responsibility, despite being arrested by the supposed good guys in a previous book, and despite nearly dying by the hands of her then-possessed boyfriend in Crimson Frost (in a very Buffy vs. Angel-like encounter). It's that growth throughout the series -- accepting that this is her job, whether she likes it or not -- that makes Gwen such a great heroine to me. Not that she's getting better with a sword or that her magic's growing stronger. No, she's accepting that if she doesn't step up, the world will lose -- and if she doesn't accept her friends' help, she's going to lose. That gets intensified in Midnight Frost, where, when her boss and mentor (even if she doesn't think of him that way) Nickamedes accidentally takes poison meant for her. Despite knowing that saving him will put her into a trap set by Loki's minions, Gwen knows there's no question: she and her friends have to try to save him. And despite being burned by trusting the wrong people before, she's willing to accept new allies when the time comes. The villains in this series are still sadistic servants of an evil god -- there's no gray spectrum among them -- and most of Gwen's friends never get to experience the level of growth that Gwen's first person narration reveals about her. But that doesn't stop the series from being fun, and Jennifer does a great job of using the Chekovian guns that she sets up -- even if readers have to wait awhile for them to go off. All in all, this series keeps getting stronger, and I'm incredibly pleased that I keep getting the chance to read the books in advance. (Thanks, Jennifer!)
alanajoli: (mini me)
This has been a big week for e-book news, most of it coming from the old price-fixing suit (discussed here and here) about the agency model is now down to Apple. According to Andrew Albanese at PW, "Penguin Finally Settles Price-Fixing Charges, Will Avoid Trial." Apparently, since Penguin was the largest publisher involved in the suit, their settlement means that consumers who bought e-books under the agency model (like me!) will be receiving a bigger class settlement than anticipated: "With the Penguin deal, the settlement fund that will reimburse consumers has now more than doubled since the initial state settlement was announced in 2012."

Meanwhile, Apple is still holding to the position that they didn't do anything illegal, despite Judge Cote (the judge on the case) saying her initial reaction was that the government would be able to prove them guilty. (Albanese also covered this news in PW.) It does not look like it's going to be an easy battle for Apple, especially now that they'll be standing alone on the defendant's stand.

In other news, Apple is doing something I think is remarkably cool: they have started a publishing program for fan fiction in which both the fan fiction writers and the creators of the work on which the fan fiction is based will receive royalties for purchases. Fan authors can only work in certain licensed properties, which should remove legal issues, since it means that the original creators have to agree to let fans play in their worlds. Now, why would people buy fan fiction instead of just getting it for free on the web? I'm not sure. I don't read much fan fiction anyway. But I like the idea of creating shared worlds that can profit everyone playing there, which, given my background in role playing games and role playing fiction, shouldn't be a surprise. You can read more in the PW article.



And last, given the rumors about Microsoft buying B&N out of the nook section of the company, as well as the rise in popularity of tablets as reading devices, I've been having some concerns that e-ink is going to vanish, which will make me very, very sad. But lo, Sony and E Ink Holdings have just come out with a new device with a flexible screen that looks pretty darn cool! I don't see myself buying one any time soon -- I like my nook Simple Touch -- but I'm really glad that E Ink Holdings is still in the game, and I hope that's a trend that continues. (Full article, once again, via PW.)

Links

May. 5th, 2012 02:00 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
These links have been keeping tabs open in my browser until I wrote about them, so here's me clearing off my desktop:

  • My review of Grave Dance by Kalayna Price is up over at Black Gate. Spoiler: I loved it.

  • Target has decided that selling Amazon's kindle is a conflict of interest, Bryan Bishop reported over at The Verge. So, what's going on between Amazon and Target? I suppose we'll known in a few weeks – or it'll fade from the news and we won't figure it out.

  • Penelope Trunk wrote a really interesting post on Venture Beat on "Why Smart Authors Are Cutting Amazon Out." She's advocating what ends up being even more self-publishing than I usually see: effectively, be your own publisher and bookstore. I'm not sure I'm 100% behind her sentiment, but I do think it's a well-written and well-reasoned argument.

  • Tor/Forge e-books are getting rid of DRM, as announced on Tor.com and at PW. Thank you, Tor! I'd not actually noticed your DRM before, so at least you made it the kind that wasn't annoying previously. But I appreciate that you're getting rid of it entirely! (Especially as it's in time for me to buy Safehold 5 when it drops to mm price this fall, and, of course, Three Parts Dead, which is not yet listed as a nook book, but I'm assured will be.)

  • The success of Fifty Shades of Grey (the slightly-edited-to-not-be-Twilight-fanfic bestseller) is somewhat baffling to me -- PW reports that it was the top fiction seller in the country the last week of April. Smart Bitch Sarah Wendell posted with other recommendations over at Kirkus, and one of her comments made me suspect something: Fifty Shades of Grey may well be appealing to people who don't usually read or didn't previously read romance. I was reminded how I was relatively unimpressed with The Da Vinci Code when it came out, but it had huge, widespread appeal, perhaps also among people who were not typical readers or book buyers. I've nothing to back that up other than its just being a random thought. I've not read, nor do I intend to read, Fifty Shades of Grey.

  • PW also reported that B&N has just gotten into bed with Microsoft for their digital initiatives. If this means I will eventually be able to play Jade Empire on my nook (rather than my X-box), I am completely doomed.




  • Speaking of B&N, the nook's new advertising campaign (reported on by Lauren Indvik on mashable) is amusing.

  • And last, PW's coverage of the upcoming ruling on Authors Guild v. Google.
alanajoli: (Default)
Discussion on yesterday's post has been fun -- I need to go reply -- and thus I wanted to follow up just a little bit with some thoughts on the currently-under-fire agency model. To begin: writer buddy Max Gladstone (you can preorder his book here) confirmed that ebook royalty percentage is higher, but that doesn't mean that the royalty payout is higher; there's much complicated math involved in that equation (as the series of emails in our thread has shown). That thread led me to cite a figure [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann has offered before (once here in the comments on my blog) -- he estimates that ebooks cost half as much to produce as print books, and thus should cost consumers half as much. Based on the figures my writer friend was throwing out there, I wonder if this is truer for smaller publishers: big publishers have a lot more overhead, just by nature of having much larger staffing, needing a greater number of people supporting that staff, warehousing, etc., etc. Looking for Jeff's breakdown (which I did not find -- Jeff, if you're reading this and you've done a breakdown, we'd love to see it!), I stumbled on a few more recent entries of Jeff's defending the Agency Model.

You may have noticed that I've not had much to say in favor of the Agency Model, so that Jeff -- who has a better grasp of how the industry works than almost anyone I know -- was supporting it made me stop and take a look at his points. And here's what I discovered: I have been looking at the Agency Model issue first as a consumer, and second from the perspective of an e-book only retailer. As a consumer, it may not be super convenient for me to have to go poking around for different prices at different places, but if I bargain shop at several stores, I know I'm getting the best deal. I used to do that a lot pre-Agency Model. When the Agency Model came on the scene, I largely stopped shopping at Books on Board and Kobo Books, because most of the titles I'd been buying from them were now on the Agency Model, so I might as well buy them from Barnes and Noble and get them delivered wirelessly to my nook.



(I still shop at DriveThru Fiction, where my own books are sold, for a different niche of books. Fictionwise, Smashwords, and Bookview Cafe still had the kind of self-published stuff -- usually short stories or backlist titles from writers I knew had content there -- that they remained worth checking, but for different content than I'd purchase at B&N anyway.)

So, the Agency model drove me away from non-chain e-book retailers on the Web. It made it impossible for me to use coupons or to receive incentives from retailers -- something I've become accustomed to as a book buyer even at indie bricks and mortar stores over the years. Customer loyalty initiatives no longer worked for e-books for a large enough percentage of what I was buying that I quit shopping around.

Worse yet, the Agency Model didn't actually seem good for the publishers! My writer buddy reminded me of this post from Nathan Bransford from back in March 2011 about how Agency pricing works, which shows that publishers often make less money on Agency Model books. So it was looking to me like this: the consumer loses because the prices are higher and they get no incentives. The indie e-book retailers lose, because customers like me stop bothering to shop there. The publishers lose because they make less money per sale.

But hold the phone. Jeff (whose latest book, published by his publishing house, you can buy here) points out that the big publishers make less money per sale. Once you take out some of the risk factors (like print run size), publishers that publish e-books, either exclusively or as the majority of their business, have an incredible opportunity with the Agency Model. He writes: "An online ebook store’s capacity is essentially unlimited, and any number of publishers can play. If there are a million publishers and 999,900 of them sell products at lower prices than you do, your control of pricing is less than it was in the era when it was tough to get your books into stores and a relatively few large publishers dominated the market."

Scott Turow laments the potential loss of the Agency Model for its probable impact on bricks and mortar bookstores -- and it turns out that places like Barnes and Noble have done really well under the Agency Model, so even my preferred chain will be impacted if the DoJ does win the suit against Apple, Macmillan, and Penguin. So there are additional factors I'd not been considering in my previous assessment of the Agency Model.

As for now, however, I'm back to shopping around for good prices on ebooks. If you have a favorite indie ebook etailer I haven't mentioned already, I'm always up for a new place to price check!
alanajoli: (Default)
I had a great conversation the other night with my sister about e-books and pricing and the agency model mess and why e-books cost more at some online stores than at others. Given how much time I spend thinking about these things, it's nice to lay out the "here's what I think is happening in the industry" to someone who I go to for advice in her area of expertise. The most interesting part of the conversation, to me, was that we kept coming back to perceived value. Back when we first started getting e-books, I wouldn't buy an e-book if it was the same price as a mass market. To me, the physical copy had a higher perceived value, despite the fact that we don't really have the shelf space for all the books we already own. (The answer is not to buy or build more bookshelves; our house isn't that big!) Finally, Three-stripe pointed this out to me: why did I value the paper version more? A lot of times I prefer reading on my device now -- it's lightweight, it's easy to hold and "turn pages" on, and I can read it on the treadmill or elliptical or exercise bike at the Y if I turn up the print size. My perceived value shifted. After all, I know that the cost of producing print mass markets is so low that bookstores strip them and throw them away instead of returning them to publishers if they don't sell. As a bookseller, I actually got introduced to some pretty good authors through the strip box (and subsequently bought their books).

That breaks down for me in the e-book release that's simultaneous to the hardcover release. Those e-books are priced higher -- and as soon as the mass market comes out, the identical product will drop in price to match the mass market. Thus, the extra price for the e-book comes from impatience: I am paying to read it now. Sometimes, the value of having the content immediately does work for me; at other times, well, I can wait the year to own it and can check out the hardcover from the library.

Her limits were different from mine: the e-book must be cheaper, because this reflects the cost in production. I made the mass market case to her and she largely agreed, but still felt that if the "extra" profit from the e-books was just going to the publishing machine, she didn't support that breakdown. I said I'd heard of scenarios where e-book royalties for authors were at a higher percentage, but I've not seen that put forward in awhile, so I can't back it up.

I'm very curious about readers' perceived values -- and authors' perceived values. Paolo Coehlo's recent support of Pirate Bay and his drop of all his e-books to $.99 shows another interesting perspective on the matter. I suspect that, when I eventually get around to e-publishing novel three of the Redemption Trilogy, I may do a similar price drop of the backlist, not because I don't value my work or think it's worth the current $4.99 rate, but because I'd rather have people reading it than not -- and the work was all put in long enough ago that any additional pay I receive is dessert rather than dinner. But I may feel differently about the perceived value once I've put the additional effort into seeing Regaining Home finished!

As a reader, what is your perceived value of books? How do you make or limit your own purchases? My inquiring mind wants to know!
alanajoli: (Star Cruisers)
If I used my blog like I use my history column on Branford Patch, I'd create a feature called the "E-book Minute," in which I'd post all the e-book news I've been collecting. Because there seems to be a lot of it these days!

But I'm far more free-form over here, so today's e-book minute will surely be something else the next time it comes around.

The exciting news: I get to shout "Yay Amazon!" Tentatively, of course. PW speculates that Amazon may be giving up its e-book format exclusivity in order to keep its publishing arm in bricks and mortar stores. This is a big hooray for me, if it happens, because that means writers who are releasing books only on Amazon, like writer friend Audrey Auden, are no longer inaccessible on my nook. If something is only available for e-book on Amazon, I would no longer be limited to computer reading or not reading it. I am hoping that Amazon will make the shift, and I suspect they might actually see their sales increase in e-books if they sell in a format that non-Kindle users can read. (Whether they'll see changes in sales of Kindles, however, I'm not sure.)

In other news, Random House has decided to charge 3x the normal going rate for e-books when selling them to libraries; the ALA has asked them to change the policy. PW's Peter Brantley wrote a pretty insightful blog entry on how this reflects the difference in perceived value between publishers and end-users, and what kind of impact that may have on publishing -- or on libraries -- or both.

Tangentially, Overdrive just purchased an Australian e-book company, which might get them access to more material, but definitely gives them access to some nifty new technology that may improve the library borrowing experience for patrons. So even if all Big Six publishers drop off the library scene (since Random House's pricing may make them impossible for libraries to work with), Overdrive is still working on ways to get books to readers.
alanajoli: (writing)
I was going to write up something about the SFWA's removal of Amazon links from their Web site due to the current IPG/Amazon throwdown, but then I realized that a lot of people have had a lot more intelligent things to say about the whole situation, including the SFWA itself. UK publishers are also getting into the mix, and my favorite article, by Los Angeles Times contributor Carolyn Kellogg, compares IPG's move to the Boston tea party.

So, let's get rid of those Wild West metaphors for the e-book scene and instead make comparisons to the American Revolution from now on, okay?

In other news:

  • Teen say they're just not that into e-books, but YA books sold five times as much in digital as in print last year, according to Karen Springen in PW. (Must be all us grown ups buying YA novels...)

  • J. K. Rowling is lined up for a new adult novel.

  • Maria Bustillos wrote a very long look into romance novels and why they're awesome over on The Awl.

  • Greg Sandoval of CNet shares snippets from the nonfiction work Gotham to explain how American publishing was founded by literary pirates -- publishers of the past hired merchants to buy British books and transport them back to New York, where they then made American editions and sold them without paying the British publishers a dime. At the time, U.S. law only protected American copyright.

  • And lastly, a huge congratulations to Rich Burlew for his phenomenal Kickstarter success, which PW talks about here. If you haven't been able to get a hold of Rich's out of print Order of the Stick books, it won't be long 'til they'll be back on the shelves.


Hope everyone has a delightful March 1st!
alanajoli: (Default)
Just a couple of links today. PW blogger Peter Brantley wrote up what I think is an excellent entry about the problem with leaving libraries out of the e-book revolution. Brantley's assessment is that by making e-books unavailable through libraries, a whole class of Americans is denied access to those resources. If the market does shift so that more and more books are published exclusively in electronic format, I agree that this is going to become the problem that Brantley anticipates. In the mean time, thank goodness for paper books, Interlibrary Loan, and the host of other resources available at the public library.


(The rotunda at James Blackstone Memorial Library, my local source for research and reading.)

Who's getting e-books right? According to Kent Anderson, Amazon is getting everything about publishing right, and everyone else in the book world needs to seriously up their game. This is, at least in part, true: writer friend of mine Audrey Auden dumped all the other e-book retailers for her self-published Realms Unreel because Amazon's customer service and platform were by far more beneficial to her in convenience and sales. On the other hand, Jim Hines recently discussed how Amazon can change your prices without your permission, as recently happened with his Goblin Tales. I maintain my wariness around Amazon, despite finally jumping on board with Amazon Prime (as it keeps us comfortably in diapers here at Casa Abbott).
alanajoli: (Default)
Given the amount of library reading I do, I know that libraries in my area have a long way to go to keep up with the type of reading that I do digitally. It's no problem since I still like print, but there are plenty of books I'd rather carry around digitally. Recently, I actually ended up purchasing a book I had out on Interlibrary Loan (ILL) because I wasn't going to finish it by the due date, in part because the print edition was a little unwieldy (the hardcover did not fit in my purse for convenient reading-on-the-go, and I do try to carry around a hardcover-sized purse). A few years ago I was delighted that several of the books I needed to read for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Awards jury were available digitally through the library, but lately, I've not had as much luck. Partly I'm not looking as hard, but I'm sure it's also partly because the e-book/library connection is in a state of flux.

Publishers just aren't sure what to do about libraries and e-books, and Amazon seems to have exacerbated the problem. Random House, happily, has committed to continuing to make e-books available to libraries (according to Andrew Albanese of PW). But to do this, it's raising its prices. There was talk at one point of putting restrictions on the number of loans an e-book could go through in order to make the e-book comparable to a hardcover, which eventually does break down after too-many reads. They've moved away from that, which does make the decision a bit of a relief, even if it means higher pricing.

On the bad news front, Penguin has decided to completely sever its relationship with library e-book lending platform OverDrive. According to PW's Calvin Reed, a lot of Penguin's reaction seems to come from concerns about Amazon -- and it looks like they're generally uncomfortable with Penguin books being on the Cloud instead of downloaded. I understand concerns about Amazon, but severing ties with libraries seems to be the opposite of helping manage the e-book marketplace in a way that benefits readers, who are all potential consumers.

Making e-books too controlled, whether it's through too much DRM or by not making them available to certain populations, seems to me to be the wrong way to manage the shifting marketplace. But the flux will eventually settle, and hopefully the end result will be that frequent readers like me will be able to access plenty of e-books to read, whether for purchase or on loan.
alanajoli: (Default)
A few interesting topics in the last week and change that are relevant to previous posts on this blog:

  • The price fixing suit against Apple and the "Agency 5" has been amended so that it doesn't include Amazon (it surprised me that Amazon had initially been included, since they've never been pro Agency Model) and Random House. PW covers it here.

  • Verso Digital conducted a survey (also covered in PW) that shows book buyer preferences for a mixed digital and print market -- so print is likely to remain around for awhile.

  • Of course, according to Andre Tartar of Vulture, that will only be true so long as Barnes and Noble stays in business He views them as the last hope for print books reaching the public. The comments on the article are at least as interesting as the article itself.


  • And last but not least, Kermit the Frog and Miss Piggy address the complaint by Fox News that their movie promotes a dangerous liberal agenda in an interview with UK based Leicester Square TV. There are several other amusing clips from the interview on Leicester Square's YouTube channel as well.
alanajoli: (Default)
I've been working with Scott Colby for some years now -- he's been my editor for several of the Baeg Tobar pieces I've written, all of which have been better for his input. Now, he's just released his first self-published novel as an e-book! (It also features cover art by the awesome Jeremy Mohler, who was my editor on Cowboys and Aliens II.)

Shotgun is now available at Amazon, and if it's anything like the quality of Scott's short stories for Baeg Tobar, it will be well worth checking out. You can also keep up with news on Scott's novel on facebook.

In honor of the recent release, Scott wrote up a guest blog about his writing process. Without further ado: Scott Colby!


--

When I self-published my debut novel, Shotgun, a few weeks ago, it was the culmination of years of hard work, several dozen gallons of coffee, and lots of time spent staring off into space debating whether my latest idea was a brainstorm or just a brain fart. I wrote the first version of the story ten years ago, in the back of my high school classrooms, when I should've been taking notes. Following several rewrites later and a decision to finally get serious about it this summer, I've got a story I'm very proud of and a world I plan to play with for a while.

One of the most fun parts of this process has been looking back at how my work has changed. I'm not sure what happened to my original spiral notebooks, but thanks to the magic of technology, I can look back at what I wrote in college and directly after. I didn't do much thinking ahead back then, but for some reason I had the presence of mind to save multiple versions of Shotgun rather than just overwriting my previous attempt at literary stardom. I can find the point where, after reading Frank Herbert's Dune, I introduced a reluctant traitor and commoditized an item that had previously just been a plot device. There's a few discarded documents where the comedy went way over the top, and there's a version where I brought it back down to Earth–well, as close to Earth as contemporary fantasy with a dash of very silly magic can get. There's the point where I ditched my terrible original first chapter which featured my main character singing along to “Sweet Home Alabama” as his pickup truck bounced along a dirt road on his way to meet his soon-to-be-murdered friends in a hunting cabin. And there's the time I decided to stop taking my elves too seriously and just let them fall off the rails. I've got fifteen chapters of an unfinished sequel that doesn't work at all anymore and another twelve of a prequel that might be salvagable with a bit of finagling and a strong pot of coffee.

What I've got is a complete record of my favorite hobby. It's proof that even though I don't know all there is to know about writing, at least I'm improving. It's an in depth look into a corner of my psyche throughout the years, flavored with elves and magic and terrible, horrible ideas I'm glad I got rid of but which I know seemed awesome at the time. Nullet the talking donkey? Pike's live-in groupie? Good riddance! None of you were as good as the pound cake summoning scene that's survived three iterations.

Anyway, to the point: keep copies of what you write, even if you think it's absolute garbage. Maintain files for different versions, too, rather than just overwriting what you've all ready done. I've been lucky with my computers, but I'm not foolish enough to keep anything in just one place anymore. I'm a big fan of Dropbox and I suggest you find something that works for you. Losing work is one thing; losing memories is another.

Oh, and check out Shotgun. I guarantee it's worth at least the $2.99 I'm charging. And if you read it and you think it isn't, well, just be glad this easy self-publishing technology wasn't around when I was an even crappier writer.
alanajoli: (Star Cruisers)
A couple of interesting bits of knowledge about digital publishing came to my attention recently, both first via PW, but their link to the B&N/nook divide didn't work, so you get a TechCrunch column (via John Andrews) instead.

Here's the deal with B&N/nook: according to John Biggs at TechCrunch, the company has announced that they're considering spinning off nook as a separate company. What strikes me about this is that it's really not a new strategy for B&N to split off branches of the company into their own separate companies. B&N, B&N.com, and B&N College were all, at one point, separate companies. I want to say that the college stores are now back under B&N proper, but I'm not sure if B&N.com is operating as a separate company or not. Functionally, as far as the user is concerned, they're all the same, and they certainly share customer information among the companies. So it wouldn't surprise me if nook splits off for now, and as B&N figures out where it's going in the marketplace, it may recombine again in the future. That seems to be how B&N typically works over the long haul.

Now, granted, whether they can compete long term with Amazon and Apple, who knows? I hope so, because, well, you all know my customer loyalty bias. I do think it's too bad that the nook Simple Touch isn't doing better, since it's a pretty great little device -- there are some things that my nook First Edition did better, but the Simple Touch has some excellent features, and the hyperlinking works very well (for books that are formatted properly for the device; as always, some formats work better than others).

The industry is changing, and according to Hyperion CEO Ellen Archer, in a Digital Book World interview with Jeremy Greenfield, it's not just digital that's making the impact, but media arms. Archer is the publisher behind the Richard Castle novels (with Tom Straw writing as the fictional Castle); the most recent Nikki Heat mystery came in at #1 on a bestseller list (she doesn't mention which one), and she notes that another media tie-in also hit the #1 spot. Since Disney is the parent company to Hyperion, and ABC is the parent company to Disney, Hyperion has a lot of connections in that world, and Archer is projecting that as the future.

All that said, I think we've still got a long ways to go before the market for paper books burns out. (Pun intended.) There really is still an experiential quality there -- and there are still plenty of people who aren't willing to have a devoted digital reading device and hate staring at the computer screen when they're relaxing. Granted, that number grows smaller... but the market is still there.

Although, if it's true that the market for consumer goods is driven by fourteen year olds, the industry shift may come a lot sooner than I anticipate.

*Yes, the quote is from Leverage. Because that show is awesome.
alanajoli: (Default)
First, if you haven't picked up a copy of Haunted in print yet, it's available for a special discounted price by clicking this link until the end of the year. Get it while it's hot!



Second, friend of the blog John Andrews pointed out this article to me on Ars Technica, and the folks at PW talk about the same thing here. What it amounts to is this: Google has been engaged in a suit for some time about the issue of copyright. They believe they have the right to host scanned books -- often with library assistance -- and make information available for free to users. Copyright holders who make money by selling that information (fiction and nonfiction) feel otherwise, and don't particularly care for the opt-out policy that was offered. Jim Hines wrote about it back in March of this year, and back when I was writing for Literature Community News, a co-writer of mine did a piece about where she thought Google Books was headed (i.e. into controversy), which would have been back in 2005-06. In the past two weeks, Google has tried to convince the courts that the Authors Guild should not be allowed to represent the authors, and that only individuals should be able to press suit. This strikes me as kind of amusing, because my understanding of what the guild is supposed to do is represent individuals as a group rather than making them do all the work themselves. It looks, on the outside, like an attempt at union busting.

I like Google. I have friends who work for the company. They put out good products that I use. So I really wish there were a shiny happy side to this dispute. But there's not, and I find myself irked with Google for what looks to me like pulling an Amazon.

Last link of the day is also a lawsuit issue, as reported by PW: an anti-trust lawsuit against Apple and several major traditional publishers, accusing them of e-book price fixing, is moving forward. It sounds as though several similar cases are being consolidated, and the official complaint is to be lodged by January 20th. I am not a huge fan of the agency model -- it seems to me that retailers ought to be able to decide what they charge, and what they're willing to lose money on, so long as they pay an agreed upon price for a product. But I do think the agency model was a good attempt at trying to keep the value of writing up -- and keep us writers getting paid. So it's an interesting issue, and I'm eagerly awaiting further developments.

Someone (maybe [livejournal.com profile] jeff_duntemann?) said not too long ago that the world of e-books is publishing's Wild West. There's a lot going on with the digital world, and there's a lot of legislation trying to figure out how to manage this brave new world we're a part of. How it shakes out is going to affect us for a good long time!

Oh Amazon

Nov. 29th, 2011 08:45 pm
alanajoli: (Default)
When Amazon first said that the Kindle was going to work with Overdrive back in April, I was excited. As a former library staffer, I thought this could only be a win for library users and libraries in general. Good for libraries how, you say? Circulation statistics help libraries get funding, whether those circs are from print books or e-books. More circs = better library statistics = better chance for grants. So, hurrah Amazon for helping libraries out!

But wait. As of last week, Penguin just pulled all their new books from Overdrive. Why? Apparently the new Kindle/Overdrive platform has increased concerns about security for their digital files. Apparently if you want to borrow a book for your Kindle, your library directs you to Amazon's site, rather than to the Overdrive program (and Adobe Digital Editions), which is how I've always used Overdrive. (This is conjecture on my part, based on news coverage.) According to a recent article in PW, libraries may end up on the losing end of this disagreement, since now only one of the Big Six publishers (Random House) is fully on board with library lending. And they're taking a look at their policy, so who knows, what that will mean for the future?

I hate to sound like I'm always coming down on Amazon. As a resource, I love Amazon. I use them heavily for publication dates and information, and I shop there for all sorts of non-book items. I rent digital-streaming movies from Amazon. I buy music there. I really want Amazon to be the kind of company that I want to shop at. And I don't think that the traditional publishers are automatically in the right. But it seems like there are just too many hijinks where Amazon is concerned to automatically assume that Amazon is the good guy.

Especially, it seems, for independent publishers in international circles. I forget where this link came from (possibly also the PW newsletter), but Mark from The Writer's Guide to E-Publishing breaks down what your book actually costs on Amazon if you're selling it abroad. If you've priced it for free -- or at 99 cents -- that's not what folks in Europe are going to end up paying (and remember, they've got the exchange rate in their favor).

Some day I want to open up the PW newsletter and find some really awesome, feel-good, heart-warming Amazon related news. But I'm not holding my breath.
alanajoli: (Default)
Whenever new technology gets introduced to the publishing trade, people are sure that the old formats are going to die -- at least, according to the lecture I attended back in 2000, back when the Sony RocketBook was the height of e-reading technology. According to the speaker (whose name I sadly cannot recall), when the mass market paperback was introduced, people proclaimed that it would be the death of the hardcover. The hardcover market has certainly changed, but those big boys are still around, and I know readers who vastly prefer them to the paperback counterparts.

So whenever people proclaim e-books as the death of print, I'm skeptical. E-books as the death of bookstores, however -- well, there seems to be something to that. Not on the whole, I think, but I do believe that the digital revolution helped bring about Borders's downfall. A recent article by Ben Austen in Business Week looks at the Borders situation and comes up with an interesting hypothesis about what it means for the bookselling business: it's possible that e-books may actually make it more likely for small bookstores to survive. People who shop at bookstores tend to want to be at bookstores -- they like the environment, and they may want a physical gift to give to someone rather than a digital download.

According to consultant Jeff Green: “It’s the only retail industry I can think of that will go full circle, back to the way it originally was. . . . From the small-village bookstore to the big-box retailer and then back again. That doesn’t ever happen in retail.”

The full article is pretty interesting, and I think there are some good insights, not just into why Borders failed, but into what the industry may need to consider in order to stay flying.
alanajoli: (Default)
I am down to 33 messages in my inbox. This is the closest I've been to "success" since the end of September. I'm getting there! This means that work is getting done on this end, for which I'm glad -- but more on that topic later. Now, to the important business of interesting links, so I can close some browser tabs...

  • So, after I celebrated Amazon's cooperation with Overdrive as a success for library patrons (and library e-book circulation statistics), Amazon launched their own lending service for Prime members. The initial Publishers Weekly article gives some details, including how Amazon intended to launch without the Big Six publishers. PW blogger Peter Brantley followed up with his observations on the program, as well as the impact on libraries. Then yesterday, PW's Rachel Deahl reported that Amazon might be headed toward litigation, since they had apparently planned to lend books they didn't really have permission to lend. Additionally, agents are in an uproar because, although Amazon will pay publishers for books as a sale, the borrowed books will register differently from traditionally sold titles, meaning that the royalties could get very messy. I am never surprised at kerfuffles surrounding Amazon's business practices, and though I think the Kindle is a fantastic device (and I do rent, and occasionally purchase, streaming media from Amazon, at least so long as my free trial Prime membership lasts), every time a situation like this comes up, I'm glad I'm not further in bed with Amazon. Of course, if I eventually make the Redemption Trilogy available to Amazon customers, that relationship will inevitably change once again.

  • Speaking of e-readers, friend of the blog and former college classmate of mine John Andrews of the Hippo posted a concise and helpful overview of the different options on the market right now, including the new updates about the B&N line and price cuts (which, of course, come within months of my purchasing a Nook SimpleTouch, now known as the regular Nook). You're all familiar with my B&N company loyalty, of course, and thus can take all my commentary on e-readers with a grain of salt; John has no such biases that I'm aware of, and is, you know, a journalist and stuff, so his commentary is much more trustworthy.


  • The Muppets are coming soon! Tor.com very nicely linked to the last of the parody trailers for the film, which lampoons the first parody trailer and takes hits at the Twilight Saga. It makes me giggle. I'm so looking forward to it!

  • DriveThruRPG is hosting Teach Your Kids to Game Week from November 14 through November 21. Bug's already got her first set of dice, and she loves our huge-sized minis, so I figure we're already well on the way to a future gamer.

  • Jeffrey Taylor, another classmate of mine from Simon's Rock, is launching a new comic starting tomorrow. Clockworks Comics has its online launch party tomorrow -- you can check out more info on the facebook page.


And with that, I think my links are expended!
alanajoli: (Default)
Happy Halloween!

The news I know that some of you are eagerly awaiting is about the print release of Haunted. It looks like the anthology will be out in paper copy next week -- but sadly not in time for a Halloween impulse purchase. For e-book readers who may have hesitated in making the purchase, however, some news! Haunted is now available at Barnes and Noble for your nook; it's also on super sale (50% off) at DriveThru.

This is my first year in ages to not have a costume for Halloween. Bug is the real star anyway, so I'm not complaining! It does feel weird to be wearing my teaching clothes (for Mom Baby Fitness) and a "Serenity Valley: Historic Battlefield, Hera" sweatshirt on costume day, though. I am thinking of acquiring some hats over the next year, as with a bowler hat or a fedora, I can come up with costumes in my wardrobe without real effort. The hat makes the difference though!

Flash to the past: my Flames Rising article about costumes for 2010 and my creature feature from 2008.

Wishing you all a deliciously fun and spooky day (and, for those of you in New England like me, a warm reprieve from our sudden snow!).
alanajoli: (Default)
Like some large number of Americans (more than proportionate for any other week of the year), I'm celebrating a birthday this week! For me, birthdays are like New Year's Eve and New Year's Day: a time to look at what I've done that I'm proud of in the past year, and a chance to decide to improve on the things that need improving. So that's the type of thing I've been thinking about -- and hopefully, I'll be increasing my blog presence as one of those areas that needs improvement!

One of the big celebrations this week, however, is not personal but professional: my short story "Missing Molly" was just released in the anthology Haunted: 11 Tales of Ghostly Horror! It's currently available as an e-book, and the print edition will be available in the near future. Expect to hear more about the anthology here on the blog as we're all getting ready for my favorite holiday (Halloween!).

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Alana Joli Abbott

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