Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Ebook subscription models? Book It

Big news bubbling about Amazon's moves for Christmas, including the new Kindle Fire tablet and possible $99 Kindles, as well as a Touch Kindle. I'd never own a touch screen of any kind because I don't like greasy smears on my screen, but others like them. And I am not a techie by any means, I just want what works at a low price and doesn't give me headaches. IreaderReview is one of my favorite places to follow such Kindle developments.

But for readers and writers, the real issue is: What does this mean for ebooks? I've been predicting for about a year that Amazon will soon be bundling books into a "Netflix" model, where you get all the books you can eat for one monthly fee. Amazon already has the model in place, and they just announced new additions to its Prime offering. It's never really been a device war in the long term--iPad and Kindle never were direct competitors for the ereading audience. Just ask any author who has access to their sales numbers (and don't believe what you hear from publishing companies, who are still desperately trying to spin their Apple agency pricing as a win). People reading on iPads are using the Kindle or Nook apps. Apple maybe has 2 percent of the book market. Probably less.

The cheap Kindle will pretty much lock up Amazon's crown as the content king. At least for five years, which is eons in the technological era. Look how many different devices have come out in just the last three years. Yet Amazon continues to be the content king, with at least 70 percent of the ebook market. (Again, if you look at publisher data, publishers will claim BN has about 27 percent of the market, but their data is incredibly skewed--don't forget these two are joined at the hip through the physical bookstores.) And Amazon is rapidly expanding its world markets.

BN's problem is the weight of those physical bookstores. It's difficult to promote the Nook while still paying lip service to paper books and investing resources in managing the bookstores where books are an ever-lower percentage of their floor space.  Kobo will be lucky to survive another year. Google is still freighted with its illegally scanned books, plus they don't really have a device out there. Sony will ride the Pottermore wave until those buyers realize they really don't have a very good bookstore selection after Harry Potter.

I don't know the pricing structure of the Prime books model. I only know it's coming. It's not only inevitable, I would be shocked if it didn't happen by next summer. Amazon has already been sending out feelers to publishers, and the Kindle library lending is a big step in mainstreaming ebooks. We still don't know how authors will be paid--presumably enough to keep writing, making less per book on a higher volume of sales. And Prime is a natural fit for rolling in advertising which means even lower prices for devices and ebooks.

Is it a win for everyone? It certainly is for Amazon. And I signed a book deal with Amazon, which is where I am putting my chips. What's funny is that BN was uniquely positioned to become a publisher a decade ago, and even put out a few books under its own imprint. And traditional  publishers never built ebook stores where they could control their own catalog and peddle their own subscriptions. Probably it was the shortsightedness of having to show investors a nice return every three months.

Bottom line looks like: cheaper, faster, more. I don't know what the future holds, but I'm holding on for one hell of a wild ride!

Friday, September 23, 2011

Indie Publishing and the Bog of Eternal Stench

Conventional wisdom is not wise at all, especially in writing.

Think of every success you know, and think of how many of them are conventional. Any? If they are conventional, I can assure you that any success they have is fleeting, because the success came in a crowd (how many superstar horror writers emerged from the 1980s horror boom? Not many. Most of the stars were the ones who started it, and who were widely imitated, and they survived into the 1990s. The crowd of imitators didn't).

I see the same thing happening in indie publishing. A lot of writers saw "indie publishing" as one thing, a fixed process, a system that a couple of people made look easy. Well, maybe it was easy for them. That doesn't mean it would be easy for others.

There's a lot of indie panic right now because Amazon changed algorithms, or Amazon opened to the libraries, or the Kindle store now has one million titles, or...or whatever. If you expected everything to stay the same, and if you believed there was a "convention," and if you followed what seemed like conventional wisdom in a series of rapidly changing eras that were never fixed long enough to develop a convention, you lose. Simple as that.

In any mass extinction, the ones following the herd are the last to the dwindling resources. I don't say that because I see writing as a competitive blood sport. I am just saddened to see disillusionment built on unrealistic expectations. Writers are getting distressed and angry because they felt entitled to the pie, when three years ago they didn't even know a pie could be baked, much less what ingredients were required.

While some gurus preach ever-expanding markets and untold wealth in indie publishing, the reality is those days are probably already over. The easy money has been made. And the historic lesson of gurus is that they tend to go off with their Cadillacs and groupies to their luxury deserted island while the followers end up broke and feeling stupid.

I started moving away from the indie thing when I realized that indie is not a tribe. I thought it was, in the early days. While running Indie Books Blog, I featured hundreds of new books and new authors because of the energetic and exciting groundswell, as if we all were suddenly changing the world with our fresh voices. But there was no tribe at all, just tens of thousands of writers doing the best they could, often shouting over one another instead of combining into one voice. The outside world didn't really notice that much--readers were reading, traditional publishers went about their business, and the indie era keep slipping away beneath our feet.

Even a year ago, I realized that there was no way 300,000 writers could all earn a living, much less a fortune. I saw people projecting income over five years based on last month's sales. Yeah, okay... And I say that fully believing writers are not in competition--I believe we each must build our own ladders out of dreamstuff, and no one can knock us off our ladder but ourselves. And more good books create more prolific readers. Big wins.

But I quickly realized indie publishing was not one set thing, that it was going to spiral rapidly into unrecognizable shapes and detours and pitfalls. Indie publishing is like the Bog of Eternal Stench in the 80s fantasy movie The Labyrinth. Bluto has to call up the rocks to walk across the bog. Every step requires a new rock. With luck, you pass into the mysterious wilds on the other side, where other challenges will await. But some are going to step in it.

Because I saw my "advice" was unconventional, I quit giving advice. Nobody wanted to hear that we wouldn't all be rich and that the Golden Era of Indie Publishing could already be over. And, heck, I wouldn't have listened to my own advice, anyway. It's actually easier to do it than explain it. Far easier, and far more fun. I peddle dreams, and you should celebrate and pursue your own dreams.

I do believe, and have always said, that just as many writers would make a living as before the Indie Boom. And I believe half of those writers will be "new." In other words, traditional publishing stars would lose half their slots as readers select new favorites. There's a lot of luck involved in success, and we each have different measures of it. For me, it's to earn enough to sit here and type, with the occasional visit to the garden. For others, it's a yacht, or a traditional deal, or a position as a guru.

If indie publishing has truly peaked, I'd still say "Wow, I am so grateful I got to be there. That was one hell of a wild ride!" And you know what? We have just as many blank pages before us as we had before, waiting for us to fill them. Just don't step in the stench on the way.


Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Risks of Foreign Publishing

Today's Be Nicholson's Agent giveaway is a $10 gift card for Facebook sharing Drummer Boy via Ereader News Today. No purchase necessary. Just go here and click the Share button on the Drummer Boy entry and you're in! Thank you. http://www.facebook.com/#!EreaderNewsToday

I've received a number of email inquiries from authors in the past, and a recent flurry of them, asking about foreign publishers who contact them about book rights. The tone of most authors is one of wariness--the traditional system is still so ingrained in the writing culture that anything outside the norm instantly seems suspicious. "What? A publisher WANTS me?" (what a sign about how the publishing field has changed, huh?)

I can't speak for anyone else's experience, and I don't want to be responsible for anyone else's decisions. Some people tolerate more risk than others. Some writers believe foreign rights are best dispensed through agents (yeah, good luck with that!) From where I am sitting, there are no rules or conventions, and if a publisher has a new proposal that may seem suspicious just because it's new, well, you might be paranoid, whereas I would be intrigued. Because this era demands newness.

Every agreement and partnership has a risk. The two deals I did with supposedly "legit" foreign publishers never earned me a dime. Other deals have been fine, even with tiny publishers. So there are no guarantees in this game, and there never have been.

But on any offer, there are really only two real risks, assuming you already realize the greatest risk is to do nothing.

1) The publisher wants to steal your work and basically pirate it for sale. To which I say, "Why in the world would someone bother contacting you if they were going to do that?" Digital files are easily downloaded for free in torrent streams all over the world. Anybody can steal your file at any time and do anything they want with it. Why would an unscrupulous person email you about your work when that's the most difficult way possible to steal your file? If they wanted to steal it, they would have already stolen it, and odds are you would never even know it was for sale.

2) You don't want anyone to have your financial information. This is a little more valid, but think of how many times a day you willingly give your financial information over to complete strangers: the check-out clerk, the waitress, the online business. If this concerns you, consider setting up a separate bank account just to receive publisher payments. If you are like most writers, it will never have any money in it to steal anyway.

I suppose you could say a third risk is you have your book tied up by a contract and if the "publisher" doesn't publish the book, then you won't be able to sell rights to another publisher in that market. But that's not a risk. Because if the publisher doesn't meet the contract, it's not a contract, is it?

That said, the real bottom-line question is, "What do you have to lose, and is what you have to lose more valuable than the possible gain?"

Don't ever do something because I would do it, or I did it once. Only do it if you would do it.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Fiction and Book Translators Wanted

David Gaughran, author of Let's Get Digital, ran a post on my ideas for indie translators. I am actively seeking translators in any language, particularly Spanish, French, and German. Clearly ebooks are expanding across the globe and the former geographic limitations are meaningless, so I believe there's a great opening and opportunity for creative entrepreneurs.

Thanks to my wonderful German translator Christa Polkinhorn, we've spent more than a month in the German Top 100, and though some pricing problems caused Der Schadelring to be temporarily unpublished, I'm very pleased with the small but growing market. I can see that duplicated around the world--writers and translators earning a living from a number of small revenue streams instead of counting on the next big payday.

If you're interested in a 20 percent royalty for life, why not connect here in the comments section or email me at hauntedcomputerbooks AT yahoo.com? Happiness is a word in every language!

Also mentioned it in my Alchemy of Scrawl blogtalk segment with Coral Russell.

Gesucht deutsche ÜbersetzerInnen (mit deutscher Muttersprache) für unabhängige Veröffentlichungsprojekte in digitaler Literatur (eBücher). Honorar: 20 Prozent des Autorenhonorars. Bitte wenden Sie sich für nähere Informationen an hauntedcomputer AT yahoo.com.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

The Scott Nicholson Thought Silo

I read a cool post the other day (sorry, the link is long lost in the social media slipstream) that talked about "thought silos," and how the Internet has made it possible to find the people with whom you agree. The thrust of the post was that this also tended to isolate us from challenging or oppositional views. After all, it's natural that we find the tribes that welcome us and avoid the hostile ones.

Sure, there's a price to pay, because it makes us less likely to challenge or examine our own beliefs. We see it in politics with the Red and Blue states--those rarely shift because the climate reinforces the belief systems. I'm the kind of person who likes a passionate discussion--not an argument, but an exposure to conflicting ideas. This was one of the best experiences of my newspaper career, because I was forced to understand many, many viewpoints in my coverage.

An author once said something that made perfect sense to me: People on threads and message boards don't really want to change their minds. They'd rather be validated in their opinions than examine them. Therefore, they go where they can be validated instead of to the places where they are in the minority.

Not me. I don't go to any link or post or news story unless I think I can learn something (aside from purely brain-killing fluff like my NFL addiction). Now, I usually enter a thread with a caffeine-fueled sense of self-righteous indignation, like I know how things should roll and how anyone who doesn't believe me is an idiot. But it doesn't take me long to realize that I am the idiot. Because I see information and add it to my knowledge, and sometimes that's enough to change my mind.

An author emailed me this morning saying she agreed with one of my thread posts (in which I lambasted Polly Courtney for publicly ditching her publisher on the day of the book's launch in a melodramatic snit that may well have been a publicity stunt, but was incredibly crass and petty all the same). This author commented in the thread about her agreement, but later took it down because the other posters had "jumped on her." I replied, "I never go back and engage the enemy, I just drop the bomb and fly on." You can't win. And, ultimately, you're not likely to persuade anyone anyway, because they are shouting to be right. It's like talk radio that mutes any caller that doesn't agree.

Sure, I could have posted my opinion of the Courtney snit here, and probably had half a dozen people show up and agree with me because they like me. But there might have been one person who read that other thread without responding and thought, "Yeah, you kiss and smile at the altar and save your bitching for after the divorce." It's a simple matter of grace and good manners to me, as well as a commitment to professionalism.

I can understand those who are using the incident as a chance to defend the "authorial purity" of self-publishing--largely, self-publishers will hold this position even though almost all of them would turn gleeful backflips at an offer from a big publisher. Again, it's simply self-validation (which, indeed, is largely what self-publishing is all about, from one who has committed it himself). But I also wonder if this is a pervasive indie attitude that has now become inflated to "proof" that publishers don't understand books and authors.

Look at Barry Eisler and J.A. Konrath. They talk about legitimate mistakes they believe their publishers made, and how that has affected their subsequent decisions. But while the publishers were partnering with them, they went out and hustled the books. That's professionalism. I regret some of the choices I made in traditional publishing, but I understand why the publisher made certain choices. While they were publishing me, I loved them. Now I love them like an old high school flame who never put out.  

In my thought silo, I say what I believe is right, without debating the political gain or the Klout capital. I owe it to myself to do that. I owe it to the world. True, I can strive for more benevolent language, and a more accommodating platform, but too many people demean their beliefs by adding "in my humble opinion." I know some authors who are like politicians, checking the crowd's mood before issuing even the blandest pronouncement. I am a huge fan of humility, but too much of it turns the world to oatmeal.

In the Scott Nicholson thought silo, you may be right, and you may be wrong. In the Scott Nicholson thought silo, someone like Polly Courtney shouldn't whine unless she is willing to give the money back (and this holds true for every author who complains about the movie version of their book, as well). In my silo, I'll entertain your notion that Courtney had a right to be unhappy with the book cover (which she surely saw months in advance). You do get heard. Sometimes you make me a smarter person. I already know what I think I know. It's the other stuff I'm most interested in.

And my comment section is never moderated...


Friday, September 16, 2011

Writing the Dark Half

Stephen King's fictional character Thad Beaumont in The Dark Half has a great description of what happens to a writer. So anytime you think you have writer's block (i.e., laziness), just remember all you have to do is start the mechanical act of writing and soon you will be lost in the fictional world. Of course, that entire book is an allegory not just of King's writing half, but the addictions he overcame:

"But he learned that, if he kept at it, if he simply kept pushing the words along the page, something else kicked in, something which was both wonderful and terrifying. The words as individual units began to disappear. Characters who were stilted and lifeless began to limber up, as if they had to loosen their muscles before they could begin their complicated dances. Something began to happen in his brain; he could almost feel the shape of the electrical waves there changing, losing their prissy goose-step discipline, turning into the soft, sloppy delta waves of dreaming sleep."

Another analogy I often call to mind is Hemingway's Santiago in The Old Man and the Sea, where the old man starts out rowing in the early dawn all stiff and miserable but knows he will soon row himself warm. Sometimes it really is as simple as dipping the next oar or planting the next word. Over and over.

Don't forget gift card and giveaways here for Be Nicholson's Agent:

Sat, Sept. 10: Insatiable Readers ...Nicholson's Ghost Stories
Sunday, Sept. 11: Fang-tastic Books ...Ethereal Messenger
Tuesday, Sept. 13: Motherlode ...These Things Happened
Tuesday, Sept. 13:  My Reading Room ...The Skull Ring
Thursday, Sept. 15: Bookhounds 
Thursday, Sept. 15: Rex Robot Reviews ...October Girls
Monday, Sept. 16: Castle Macabre...American Horror

Friday, September 9, 2011

Be Nicholson's Agent: Book Blog Giveaways

Congratulations to the winners of the $200 "Like" giveaway. This week the giveaways are moving to the supporting book blogs, and many of these blogs have been helping me since the Digital Stone Ages of 2010. Since some of the posts are still being scheduled, be sure to drop back by here if you need a break from 9/11 commemorations, football, and the demands of little people with big eyes.

Fri, Sept. 9: Earth's Book Nook...Curtains
Sat, Sept. 10: Insatiable Readers ...Nicholson's Ghost Stories
Sunday, Sept. 11: Fang-tastic Books ...Ethereal Messenger
Tuesday, Sept. 13: Motherlode ...These Things Happened
Tuesday, Sept. 13:  My Reading Room ...The Skull Ring
Thursday, Sept. 15: Bookhounds 
Thursday, Sept. 15: Rex Robot Reviews ...October Girls

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Be Nicholson's Agent: $200 giveaway by Scott Nicholson

Winners selected: $100, Betty; $50, Donna S; $10, Mary, Trace, Rita, Tammi, Leslie.

Okay, you might be as lazy as I am. I want to give you $200, and I don't want a lot of hassle. So here's all you have to do between Sept. 1 and Sept. 8. You can do this all at once or a little at a time, all of them or a few, but the more you share, the better your odds of winning:

Go to the list of my books at Amazon or in the sidebar to the right, and for each book, click the little "Like" button and then share on Facebook and Twitter (takes two clicks--one click on the "Like," and then a click on the "F" and then click on the "T"). This shows your friends my books.Count the number of books you share--this is your number of entries.

Go to my list of books at Barnes and Noble or in the sidebar on the right. Click the Facebook "Like" and "Google+" buttons for each book, which shares that book with your Facebook and Google+ friends. Please click only on books where I am listed as author--not anthologies or people using my name. Count the number of books you share--this is your number of entries.

Add your Amazon shares to your BN.com shares. Email benicholsonsagent@yahoo.com and put in the subject line "Shares: XX," with XX being the number of your total shares. That's all you have to do except sit back and pop the bubbly.

I will add up the shares on Sept. 9, then randomly select a $100 winner, a $50 winner, and five $10 winners, paid in your choice of Amazon or Barnes and Noble gift cards. I'm going to trust you, because who wants to waste time verifying, even though I could probably track you down on Facebook or Twitter? If I get lots of emails but don't ever see the books popping up on Facebook or Twitter, then I will never trust humans again...(oh, how many times have I said that?)

I think that's simple enough. No purchase necessary. If you have any problems, email me or comment below. Thanks for helping, and be sure to check out the Be Nicholson's Agent support blogs for other giveaways and events. The total giveaway goal is $1,000--if I sell about $6,500 worth of books. I usually sell more than that, so this is the giveaway that keeps on giving. I'd love to give away a truckload, with your help.


Kindle Obsessed ...Liquid Fear
Rex Robot Reviews ...October Girls
Wendy’s Minding Spot ...Speed Dating with the Dead
Bewitched Bookworms ...Disintegration
Fictitious Musings ...Crime Beat
My Reading Room ...The Skull Ring
What Book Is That? ...Burial to Follow
JoJo’s Book Corner ...Transparent Lovers
Vvb32 Reads ...Zombie Bits
Booked Up (UK) ...Creative Spirit
Candace’s Book Blog ...The Red Church
Parajunkee's View ...The Harvest
Jenn’s Bookshelves ...Drummer Boy
Book Faery ...Flowers

Great Minds Think Aloud ...Gateway Drug

Fang-tastic Books ...Ethereal Messenger
Motherlode ...These Things Happened
I Smell Sheep ...Head Cases
Insatiable Readers ...Nicholson's Ghost Stories
Kindle on the Cheap...The First
The Top Shelf...Ashes
Castle Macabre...American Horror 
Earths Book Nook...Curtains
Kindle in the Wind...As I Die Lying