Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Book News Roundup

There's stuff going on in the book world.

--Sony's got a new ereader for release. The only thing I see here that's notable is that when Pottermore goes live, they'll be getting a Harry Potter branded limited edition ereader, which is kind of cool and fanboyish.

--Barnes and Noble has 4 times the sales of Nook content over last year.

--Amazon has launched daily deals for the Kindle, with massive discounts on select titles. This isn't exactly new; they've often taken ebooks and made them free, but discounts instead of giveaways is something different. Further, these are daily deals, while the free books might be free for days or even weeks at a time. I like the urgency.

--DC relaunched their universe today. Reviews are in. I suppose I like that they're making everything very basic and introductory level, but even I, who know very little about comics, and less about DC, feel like it sounds maybe a bit slow out of the gate.

Daily Vocabulary

heretic: a person holding a belief at odds with what is generally accepted. Used normally in reference to religion, where it indicates anyone holding a belief not consistent with what religious authorities agree on. But the strange thing is that heresy goes in all directions: go too far ahead, you're a heretic. Lag too far behind, you become a heretic. Not just in religion, but in science, in literary theory, in anything, one can without a change in any opinion become heretical. All it requires is opinion moving on without you, which it does all the time. Just at the moment I'm reading John Julius Norwich's Absolute Monarchs: A History of the Papacy, and as one might expect, heresy appears. But what is and is not heretical could change in a generation; what was permitted could become forbidden more quickly than one would imagine. So, too, in modern life, though with less burnings and beheadings and such. Where once a person thinking gays deserved rights would be heretical, now the person who thinks they don't is, and that in 30 years. Where once global warming was a heretical notion, now the doubting of it is heretical. But the powers that enforce orthodoxy are so much weaker these days, at least in the United States, that heresy seldom gets punished at all. Laughed at, perhaps, but we do not take it seriously. Which I feel is for the best. Let every person have their own opinion, so long as no one is harmed, and all is well.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

ogre: a giant or monster from myth that eats humans; a brutish, savage or cruel person. I follow this path from yesterday's word, gremlin, to a real mythological being. Ogres enjoyed a long history in myth. They popped up in Arthurian legend, in the French versions, and from there spread into English. It's a word I greatly like because it can apply to almost any big humanlike beastie out in the wilds of myth or fantasy. What makes an ogre is that it is a brute, cruel and heartless, hungry for the flesh of weak and feeble man; but beyond that it can take many forms. The word is thought to come from the Latin name Orcus, a god of the underworld, who punished oathbreakers and was perhaps he who oversaw the treatment of wrongdoers in Hades in general. Certainly one can follow the path from the one to the other. Cruel the punishments of Hades must have been, and little liked the god Orcus. And so from a name scarcely whispered out of avoidance to a brute hunted by knights of legend.

Mad: A 20,001 Teaser

Our next featured work from the upcoming anthologie 20,001: A Steampunk Odyssey comes to us from Gloria Weber, author of Gaslight Demons:

Madeline Spencer was certain no one took their entry into the Airship Race seriously - until she was kidnapped, and her beloved Lord Fenwyck went missing. If that weren't bad enough, she knows her time-traveling "ally" Simon isn't telling her everything, nor can she be certain the genius-inventor Sidley's airship won't blow them all up! Alas, that's not the only thing that will go wrong before the race begins. Mad by Gloria Weber is a breakneck, action-packed adventure full of dangerous men, futuristic machines, and a madcap race to the finish line that will leave readers breathless!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

gremlin: an imaginary creature to whom mechanical problems are attributed. Most often in planes, as shown in a few Bugs Bunny cartoons. This definition has mostly been superseded by the movies from the 80s, which created a whole different sort of Gremlin in the public mind. But what is funny about this word is that is a new creation. It does not have the antiquity which goblin, ogre, elf or giant have; instead it came into being in the years after World War I, in the British Air Force. It referred to a guy who got stuck with the crap jobs at first, and then gradually, by World War II, came to mean a spirit or being that messed with electronics. One suspects that the inter-war gremlins, poor fellows, didn't do the best of jobs, and thus a lot of things got blamed on them. Even in absentia, I would suppose, and thus eventually all problems would be blamed on mysterious gremlins, a word which obviously was taken up by Americans and brought back after the war, and circulated into at least a limited usage, before Steven Spielberg and Joe Dante got a hold of it.

I prefer the original WWII meaning, because most technology seems less than fond of me, and it's nice to have someone to blame, even if it's a latterly-invented imaginary being.

When There Were Three

I try to keep up on my hominids. I like to imagine that somewhere deep in the human mind lurks a lingering memory of a time when we were not alone. Other races would dwell around us, and we had to be aware and wary and thoughtful concerning these other peoples. So I'm really kind of surprised that I had not heard of the (poorly documented but still discovered) Denisovans, who were perhaps a species overlapping with Sapiens and Neanderthals at about 40,000 years ago. The Denisovans appear to have lived in Asia in the main, but next to nothing is known about them. There's a few bones from probably one specimen, and that's it.

Yet it seems likely that, a long time ago and yet really the blink of an eye, we weren't just not alone, we were perhaps even crowded. We had to think of what it meant to be Human, and what it meant to be Other. Maybe that's why we were still thinking about it into the colonial period, and casting anything that looked different into the Other box. Our brains are wired for it, perhaps. It's a poor excuse, but we are made up of all the things we have been, and most of them aren't much use in the modern world. So we categorize wrongly here and there, and we make bad judgments; but once upon a time those would have been useful. Evolution has left us wonderful, and has left us crippled.

What a time, though, that would have been. Brief and brutish and horrid, but to have looked into the eyes of another kind of Human, how wondrous that would have been.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

elysian: of or relating to the quality of heaven. In Greek myth, the Elysian Fields, or Elysium, were where fallen heroes went to enjoy their afterlife; the word came into many languages as a result of the centuries of study of the Classics. Elysian can be used interchangeable, if you will, with heavenly, but one is rather more pagan in thought, and the other rather more monotheistically orthodox.

The Continuum of Words

I'm not sure if the average person is aware, but there are debates within book publishing as petty and pointless as ever the early Catholic Church thought up. In the age of ebooks, some of these debates can become almost of critical importance, because everything one puts up as an ebook is effectively self-described. So how you define things is of great importance, because if you use the wrong term, you may be thought of as wrong (or to pursue the Church analogy, heretical) and punished for your crime (sin).

I speak, of course, of the length of your piece, and how you thus describe it.

There is only two categories, the uninitiated might think: a short story, and a novel. But this would be wrong, and exactly how one defines the stuff in between (or even those two end points) determines the degree of heresy. At the top squats that novel: ponderous, weighty, with no real upper limit, but certainly a lower. What defines a novel is length, few would argue, but what's the bottom edge? Some say 50000 words (which is the definition assigned by NaNoWriMo), and would include just about every book you've ever read. But not quite all; there are a few, like The Old Man and the Sea, that fall below that threshold. And in Young Adult fiction, you can get away with a 40000 word novel and no one blinks. So even that low edge is a bit vague and ragged.

Below the novel but above the short story are several categories poorly defined and uncertain in nature. They are often seen but seldom measured. The novella comes next. Sometimes, it fills the entirety of space between novels and short stories: anything from about 10K to about 40K words. But some people think that it has to be more like 15 or even 20 thousands words to get the novella designation. So under that there is another named category, the novelette. It isn't a popular designation. I don't know anyone who uses it, but the Nebula Awards enjoy it as a category. Maybe they just wanted to be able to give out more awards, like the Best Animated Movie for the Oscars. Anyway, the novelette is sometimes defined as anything above 7500 words, but below 15 or 20 thousand. It's not well known, and not much spotted in nature.

Just for reference, a standard page in a book comes in at maybe 300 words, depending on how much dialogue there is. So a novel must be perhaps 180 or 200 pages; a novella can drop to as little as 30 or so, but the novelette lives in the 25 to 50 pages category overlapping the novella. All right, on to short stories. That should be simple, right?

Nope. There's the short story, which is technically anything that is a story, and that clocks in at under 10K words (or 15, or 20, depending on where your novella category ends). But there are subsets. A short short story is a category that includes anything that's under 1000 words, or about 3 pages at most. But there's the even shorter category of microfiction, which is half that length, or a third: under 500, or maybe 300, words. Flash Fiction is even tinier: perhaps 50 or so words, with one definition stating that it must be 55, no more and no less.  And then come the arguments over what is a word: do hyphenates count as one or two (there is disagreement, and it depends on what's hyphenated, is the answer), for instance.

One must be very clear when one defines a work. But one man's clarity is another man's obfuscation. So I think the best choice is to just pick one that feels right, and then state the word count, and then move on with your life. If you've been as clear as you can be, no one can really trash you for misleading them (though I'm told they still, in a few cases, will do so. "This wasn't long enough for the price" is a common complaint, or "I wish I had known how short it was before I bought it".)

To recap, from longest (normally defined) length to shortest: Novel, Novella, Novelette, Short Story, Short Short Story, Microfiction, Flash Fiction. All of them overlapping and blending, causing confusion wherever they are deployed. But that's the way of things, right?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

nostalgia: the ache for home, in the tradition Greek definition. It was once the feeling felt by settlers and travelers in the Classical period for their own place, their own home. It was felt most poignantly by exiles, those who had been cast out of their homelands. Greece was littered with the like of them. Now, in modern times, it means only the fond feeling for things which are past, possibly with a suggestion of longing. But we no longer ache for that home we have left behind us; we are too used to moving on, and the soil on which we are grown does not often cling to our feet. Yet today, for a little bit, on meeting with an old friend, I felt a hint of the old Greek nostalgia, and knew that there is a place that will always call me home, though I lived there only briefly.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Voyage of the Ponape Wind: A 20,001 Teaser

Our next anthologie teaser comes from veteran Kindling Press author Jason Vanhee:

The Voyage of the Ponape Wind

Army veteran Robert Hammaker grew up in the bowels of Jameson & Crow, the leading engineering firm of smoke-wreathed London. When his childhood friend Violet Crow asks him to join a mission to distant Ponape to consult with a mysterious scholar who can help keep the firm afloat, he cannot but agree. But the journey to the South Seas will be change Hammaker's life in ways he cannot have expect, and he will not return the same from the Voyage of the Ponape Wind, a dark and thrilling story from Jason Vanhee.

The Door and the Whale: A 20,001 Teaser

Our next anthologie submission takes us far from the ocean, into the endless wastes of a forgotten desert - or does it?

The Door and the Whale, by David Church Rodriguez

Lord Saltermont's quixotic expedition into the barren Thar Desert of India was an object of scorn and derision - but when his scouts locate the mysterious Door that he has long sought signs of, he knows that he is on the brink of a discovery that will change the world. But what is the strange silvery whale-ship that lies outside the Door? What does the deranged stranger they find know? And will Saltermont's party survive to share what they've learned? Find out in this tale of the unexpected by author David Church Rodriguez!

Submission nerves

I wonder when it stops. I assume it must. That horrible feeling, just before you drop something in the mail or hit "Send" or what have you. Just before you submit a work. You'd think I wouldn't much be bothered by it anymore. I've submitted plenty. And the same feeling, strangely, exists just before you upload a new piece to the Kindle. Which I've now done a lot of times, though most of those are minor changes and edits. And yet, it has not gone.

I just sent out a query to an agent whose existence I was aware of only because of a half-seen post on Google+. I don't know what if anything to expect, but the query is for the book that is about to be looked at by a publisher, so maybe something, right? Agents have got to be eager to find clients who have already done much of the work for them. And there's nothing invested in the idea for me, not really: the book's already there, in the publisher's hands, and their consideration of it probably wouldn't be influenced by an agent being in the picture. So I don't know that I need the agent.

It doesn't matter, though. I put together a really brief letter (really brief, because I think saying the book's at a major publisher as I type is about all I need to say), and I copied and pasted the first few pages, and then I hit send. And my stomach twisted and my heart stopped for just a second and I felt rather sick, and then, as always, it was gone. I hate that feeling. I hate more the waiting that comes after, but that feeling is so sudden, and so intense, that it is in many ways worse.

I wonder if it will ever go. I wonder if there are still moments for, say, Stephen King, when he mails off the latest manuscript, and he thinks that just maybe this time they'll say it won't work. Or, even knowing they won't, if he gets queasy all the same. I doubt it, rather. But who knows? Writers are not the most confident of people, and Mr. King is off the drugs now, so maybe he's as mortal as you or I.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

Yesterday we introduced the neologism, or "new word" as a source of interesting vocabulary. Today we'll extend that discussion with a subset of the neologism:

Portmanteau, n. A blend of two words into one.

Some portmanteaus are so familiar we might not even notice them: Smog (smoke+fog). Spork (spoon+fork). Brunch (breakfast+lunch). Tanzania. Cambozola. Verizon.

Others are more abstract: Liger (a hybrid lion+tiger). "Turducken" is a chicken stuffed into a duck, stuffed into a turkey. "Slithy" is a word from the poem "Jabberwocky" (lithe+slimy). The author of that poem, Lewis Carroll, used numerous portmanteaus in his poem; in fact, he is credited with the first use of the word portmanteau in this definition! (Before that, it meant, in English, a type of suitcase.)

"Portmanteau" comes from French porter, to carry + manteau, cloak. This means that the word portmanteau, in its meaning of a combination of two words to make a new word, is itself a portmanteau.

Ah, the English language. Is there anything it can't do?

The Atlantic Affair: A 20001 Teaser

Over the next few weeks we will be posting a series of short teasers for the upcoming Kindling Press anthologie 20001: A Steampunk Odyssey. Our latest teaser is for The Atlantic Affair, by talented young writer Simon Newby:

"What are these reports of a strange new Isle in the Atlantic? Why can only the Iron Duke, captain of the Lemurian, secure it for the English Crown? And why does Casper Bottleswick, reporter from the London Mercury, suspect there's something fishy going on? The Atlantic Affair contains the answers to all these questions and more in a short story by Simon Newby that will wash you away..."

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

10% chance of horrible success

I've done Nanowrimo several times. Some six or seven, perhaps. All three of the novels I've put out on the Kindle are Nanonovels. I'm pleased with that result, but I know it's not typical. I do good work under time pressure, and so I do well in a month long writing contest. But some challenges are too much. The 3 Day Novel Contest is just about as ridiculous as words can manage: you take Labor Day weekend, and you write a novel. You send it in, it gets judged, winners get prizes. Of course, you pay a registration fee to do this, and you have only 72 hours total. Seventy two. Seven, two. That's it. To get even a short novel (let's say Nano length, 50k words) you need to write on the order of 600 or 700 words an hour. Which is only two or three pages. Every hour though, for the full period. No sleep, no socialization, nothing, at that pace. If you do it in only 36 hours out of that 72, however, you just have to write a mere 1400 words an hour. 5 pages an hour. That's quite a lot. So...I'm not doing it. It's crazy. But if you're up for it, you can still register as late as Friday, and then you can drive yourself mad at leisure in a week more.

Daily Vocabulary

I have a soft spot for neologisms - new words, crafted from the bones of Greek or Latin roots. Today's word is one such.

Petrichor. Say it with me. Feel the syllables strike your hard palate on the "t" and the soft palate on the "ch." Petrichor, petrichor. Say it softly, over and over; it sounds like raindrops striking the hard, dry earth. Petrichor, petrichor, petrichor.

From Greek petra, "stone" + ichor (the fluid that flows in the veins of the gods in Greek mythology), petrichor is the name of the scent of rain on dry earth.

No, you haven't imagined it: the smell of fresh rain on dry earth is real, and two Australian scientists coined this name for it in a 1964 paper in the journal Nature. And with the recent, brief rain here after a dry spell, we have a reason to use it, even while most of the US still has to wait for their autumn rains... Petrichor, petrichor.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Fictionále: End of the Line

They crept along the marbled corridor, their footsteps a hollow echo. “Are you sure we should be here?”

Martin grinned. “Cold feet? You?”

Cheryl snorted. “Whatever.”

Her partner in crime chuckled as the intrepid pair went ever deeper into the abandoned subway station. Cheryl had doubted when he told her about what he had seen through the century-old stained glass from the outside, but the chance to hide from the IRT authorities and enter the closed-off section of the Brooklyn East Line, she had been unable to resist. Getting into places she wasn’t supposed to be was her Kryptonite.

“Look at that...!” Martin played his flashlight over the arched ceiling, glass panes glinting and refracting as the LED hit them.

“Point that down, idiot. You want someone outside to notice it?” He obeyed, but the glittering image of those old leaded-glass arches lingered in their minds like a perfect night sky. She consulted her CPS, a battered chron she’d obtained on an escapade not unlike this one, some years ago. Beat-up and archaic as it was, she felt it was a kind of techno-rabbit’s foot, a good luck charm. She wasn’t even sure it matched Universal Time any more, but it had kept her in sync during adventures far riskier than this one. “Not long now.”

Martin nodded and they crept onward, keeping the light low and their footfalls soft. A layer of dust shrouded the marble tiles and she wondered how long it had been since anyone had been here. The longer it had been, the better this was. The research she’d done suggested the station had been closed for over a century. But that was realtime. What she sought would have been here in stasis far less quicktime than that.

Martin paused, raising his flashlight a bit. “I think we’re close, Cher. Look at that map of the East Brooklyn Line on the wall there.” And she did. It was beautiful, all antique art deco, bold black and sepia. Martin put a finger over a section, careful not to touch it. “You’re sure it was the City Hall station, right? Here, I think.”

She nodded and hit the calibration key on her CPS. It flashed for a moment and then settled down, showing the quicktime field was disintegrating rapidly. “Hurry up, Martin. A few minutes yet. Maybe less.”

They broke into a jog. Martin’s flashlight left a bobbing after-image as it bumped and jostled in his hand. Cheryl kept looking down at her chron, worried. They were going to miss the window!

“There.” Martin pointed, and there it was, just ahead: the circular room with the stained glass eight-pointed compass in the center of the ceiling. Cheryl didn’t wait but jogged up the last stairs and across the tiled mosaic floor until she stood almost directly beneath the compass. She glared at her CPS in frustration as it recalculated, slowly, so slowly.

“Dammit!” She banged her hand on the unit and its display fuzzed and broke as the old thing went into reset mode. “Martin, get over here already. The CPS is onoffing I need another pair of hands.”

He juggled the flashlight, finally holding it between his teeth while she put the CPS in his hands and operated it with both of hers, focusing on it with teeth gritted.

A pinprick of light appeared in the air, hovering just above eye level, and Martin made a noise like ohwoh deh! Cheryl swore and punched buttons faster. “Come on, come on...” The light waxed brighter, tracing downwards until it formed line. Martin made an even less coherent noise and Cheryl hit the last key on her CPS.

Whirling, she dug in her jacket and pulled out a long glove traced with lines of flexible circuitry. Stuffing her right hand into it so fast two of her fingers didn’t quite get into the right place, Cheryl thrust her gloved hand into the line of light. It disappeared up to the wrist and she gritted her teeth. “Help me, Martin!” He hastily set down the chron and took her left hand. “Pull!”

They pulled, and a moment later they both fell backwards into a heap on the tiled mosaic floor. The line of light winked out, leaving Martin’s flashlight – now lying on the ground – as the only light source.

“Did you get it?!” Martin scrambled out from under her and snatched up the light. Playing it over her, he saw she held something bright and ovoid in her hands.

“Yeah, we got it.” Cheryl tried to keep the triumph out of her voice, tried to stay tough and sharp and pro. But every time, her heart beat fast and her nerves sang with the thrill of it. “Get the journal. We need to mark this one.”

Grinning, Martin pulled out his leather bound notebook and made the entry.

23AUG2087 – City Hall Station easter egg chronocache FOUND 23:17:47MK

“C’mon. Let’s go get this home and see what they sent us from 2012!” Cheryl snorted at his enthusiasm. “Cool it, will ya? It’s probably just a tiny two-tb flash drive full of antique ebooks or something.”

Martin shrugged. “Whatever. I like that old stuff. It really makes you appreciate the story. Maybe it’s not flashy, not like z-fic or the thrillies we have now, but those people really knew how to write!”

He sighed happily. Cheryl shook her head. Nostalgia wasn’t her thing.

“Time to go,” she said.

This is a good list

I'm always looking for a great list of books, and this is a superb one. I can't really argue with any of the choices, or why they're on the list, and that's not very common. I'm not often pleased with the totality of a list, but this one does it pretty damn well.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

garnish: to provide something with ornamentation; in food, to add something that provides flavor or decorative color; legally, to take a portion of wages to satisfy a debt. Mainly most of us run into the food based version, and that's as it should be. Food is around us all the time. The legal one is mentioned on TV a lot, but I've not really seen it happen much in life, and I'm happy with that. I don't like the idea that people I know are losing money due to legal problems. And the first definition: ornamenting something. I don't think I've actually heard that version. The food variant obviously comes from that one, but has in fact seemingly taken it over entirely. Poor definitions, taken over by other meanings with time.


The excitement grows here in Kindling Press land. Peter and I are working like madmen at getting an anthology up to snuff. We've got 10?11? contributions to the nautically Steampunk collection 20001: A Steampunk Odyssey to put through rounds of edits. I'm thinking we're doing something wrong, though. We're doing rounds and rounds of edits, and from what I can gather, that's not often the way of it. I am picking at some serious nits here. And we haven't even sent stuff to the copy editor yet. But I think the product is getting better and better and better, and that's the important thing. Well, that and getting it done on time (it's supposed to go live as an eBook on or around the 14th of September. Make a note.)

But that's not all. I'm also getting ready my next individual effort, a novella called Last Days of Atlantis. I've got a cover; I've got a document that's being looked over; I've got a plan to put it up tomorrow. Or Wednesday at the latest. So there's that.

But biggest and (to me) best of all, I've got a book with an editor, and it's going to an acquisitions meeting at a publisher this week, and if they like it, I get a contract. Which is superior, really, to What Has Gone Before. I'm very pleased, and pretty full of anticipation.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Weekend Vocabulary

sultry:  hot and humid. Which is today in Seattle. By which I mean it's not very hot, and not very humid, but unlike places where it actually gets hot and humid, there isn't much in the way of air conditioning. And so we here must suffer in our homes with the sultry weather, and cannot sleep, and all of that. So all of you in the South, where you have AC in homes and cars and work and shopping and everywhere else, do please stop pointing out how much hotter it is down there. It's like mentioning the Sun's surface is hot: you are not present in that temperature gradient either.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

belated: later in relation to the appropriate time. This post is pretty damn belated. But I keep being busy, and it's not actually late, not by West Coast time. So it counts, right? A belated vocabulary of the day to one and all, if your time zone permits.

Hawkwood's Folly: A 20001 Teaser

Ove the next few weeks, we're going to be posting a series of short teasers for the upcoming Kindling Press anthologie 20001: A Steampunk Odyssey. This is the first of those, for Hawkwood's Folly, by Tim Reynolds.

 "From gunshots in the streets of Paris to brass-and-glass automatons on the sea floor off the coast of North Africa, Hawkwood's Folly draws an English lord, a French doctor and a young Russian bo's'n's mate into the deadly ocean depths on their quest to build a Utopia where no man has ventured before. Tim Reynolds blends together equal portions of science, philosophy, and adventure in a Jules Verne homage that asks 'how far is too far?'."

Is this actually cost effective, I wonder?

There's a new service just arriving in the United States, based on one that exists already in Japan (we're so far behind!). 1DollarScan will convert your print material into PDFs and email the documents back to you as a file. And it only costs a dollar, as they claim (per chunk of material, mind you: War and Peace would not be a dollar scan.)  But I'm trying to figure out the point for most things. Your personal documents that you don't need print copies of but are too lazy to scan, yes, I understand the value. But your library? And that was why the service exists, because a Japanese businessman laboriously made digital versions of his large library and then thought that people would pay him for the service. Which, apparently, they will.

But look: you have to pay shipping. You don't get your materials back, unless you pay return shipping. And so I don't see how this works out to be at all useful or effective. But if it works in Japan, it's got to work here, right? I mean, sushi, Nintendo, nation wide public transit? Wait, strike that last one. That would actually be great. Instead we get book to PDF mail order. Sigh.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

nauseous:  causing nausea, but sometimes popularly meaning inflicted with nausea. As opposed to nauseated: which only means inflicted with nausea. So it's more proper to say the rotting zombie was nauseous, and made me feel nauseated, then to claim you're nauseous at the sight of the rotting zombie. But it's a fine line, apparently, and like most usage battles in English, there are no winners, only words that end up behind enemy lines, being used for dirty, quite possible nauseous purposes.

Graham Swift is an Idiot

British author Graham Swift, who won the Booker Prize 15 years ago and thus is pretty established, is an idiot. In an interview with the Telegraph, he states:

“The e-book does seem at the moment to threaten the livelihood of writers, because the way in which writers are paid for their work in the form of e-books is very much up in the air.
“I think the tendency will be that writers will get even less than they get now for their work and sadly that could mean that some potential writers will see that they can't make a living, they will give up and the world would be poorer for the books they might have written, so in that way it is quite a serious prospect.”

To which I say, he is a fathead. Allow me to point out the average writing based income of an aspiring author: $0.00.  That is, to be clear, zero dollars and zero cents. And further, the average lifetime earnings from writing of the majority of aspiring writers: $0.00. Again, that is absolutely no money at all. So unless a Kindle is going to walk up to an aspiring writer and take his lunch money, it is not mathematically possible to make less as an average aspiring author.

Does it potentially threaten less money for published authors? It could. That's up to them, their agents, their publishers and how well they negotiate. But probably no, it does not mean less money even for them. It should mean more, with backlist coming back into availability, and with authors getting (even from traditional publishers) a much higher percentage from ebooks then print books.

Further cementing his idiocy, Swift said:

"If aspiring authors see that they are unable to make a living from their work, it may cause them to give up and leave potentially great stories unwritten."

Allow me to explain to Mr. Swift that the vast majority of writers, published or not, don't make a living from their work. Even many reasonably well known authors keep their day jobs. Writing is not a thing which supports the family, it is a thing which allows the family to have a night out sometimes. Writing is a thing which most writers do because they feel they can, or should, or must, not because of the big paychecks we all assume we're going to recieve (we don't assume we're going to make real money at this, by the way.)

I've read his book Waterland. It's quite good. But Swift should stick to writing his books (which apparently must pay quite well) and shut the hell up about a topic (aspiring writers, not ebooks) about which he knows seemingly nothing at all.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

bore (noun): a dull, tiresome or uncongenial person. I just had the misfortune to be trapped by such a one in a customer service situation. He was the customer. I was the service. I could not flee the scene as he spent 15 minutes detailing how poorly put together most paperbacks were; how his grandfather was a never defeated congressman and senator (state level); about how physics and all science are of interest to everyone, or would be if teaching were not so horrible; and how I was obviously stunted by a terrible teacher because I did not find the numbers behind science fascinating.

Eventually, I just walked away. It's not what one is supposed to do, but I'm a human being, not a worker bot.

So anyway, bore. I end with a quote: 

A bore is a man who deprives you of solitude without providing you with company. ~Gian Vincenzo Gravina  

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

dolor: sorrow, grief, pain or distress. There is no good use of this word, but there are appropriate uses.

More about Cory Doctorow

You know how I mentioned he's got those four covers for his new book, and that you can get it printed up on an Espresso Book Machine? Well, you can also win a copy in the cover of your choice by just going to that link and leaving a comment there, or on the other post that it links to.  The University Bookstore in Seattle is giving away two free copies to two lucky commenters, and that could be you.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

bibulous: drunk, most specifically and accurately, wine drunk.  From Latin; in Roman times, one really one ever became drunk on wine, and thus the word for drinking/being drunk is still strongly associated with the fruit of the vine. For myself, I enjoy the wine drunk, which seems to be a quieter, easier sort of drunk than that of hard liquor, and a deeper sort than that granter from beer. And now that I'm a man of years, I find that I enjoy the vague air of sophistication that clings to wine as it does only otherwise to good whiskey, which I do not enjoy.

One's Next Project

I'm assuming (perhaps wrongly) that I'm not alone in my current conundrum: what to write next.

It's not that I lack for ideas. If anything, there are too many. But that, for me at least, has always been the case.
But no, the lack or presence of ideas is not what I'm pondering. It's the proper order of things. When I consider what project to work on next (beyond the editing/formating/publishing of works which are already in essence complete) I have to consider a number of factors.

1) What I'm interested in. Not all ideas are created equal, and some of what I could write, I don't really want to. I can't picture sustaining my own attention over the amount of time (a month, three months, what have you) that a first draft would take me. Likely I would prove myself wrong: almost anything becomes interesting once you're really working on it. But that's the problem. I would have to start working on something, and it had better, at least at first, interest me.

2) What I think has value, that is, what I could sell. Pet projects are nice, and there are some things I've written that I know are just too particular/strange/pointlessly attuned to me/whatever that I'm certain there's no market for them. This didn't used to be a problem. I wasn't selling anything at all, and I didn't have to worry about whether something would sell. Now, of course, I do sell some books (not a lot, but see my next reason), so I actually have to think about what could sell when I'm all done with it.

3) What I think not just could, but will sell. I have some notion, faint as it is, of what I am selling. So I have some idea that if I produce something similar, such a thing might also sell. Which means it's not just whether I'm interested, and whether other people could be interested, but whether they in fact have shown an interest.

So I have to decide: do I write something new that I find interesting but that is totally unproven? (I've got two of those that I could start working on right away.) Do I write something connecting to something that may or may not have any real value because the first book isn't necessarily doing great? (I've got one of those.) Or do I go with something that my evidence suggests will do the best, but which, frankly, I've tried working no before and not really liked.

The one thing I know is, after some months of mostly editing/formatting/cover designing/etc, I've really got to get back to writing on a longer project, and promptly. So I have to make the choice, and soon. But not, I think, today.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Cory Doctorow, always ahead of the curve

For years now, Cory Doctorow has been selling massive amounts of his books, which, oddly, he also gives away for free. That link is for Little Brother, probably his biggest book to date, which he's been making freely available since before it came out in a Tor books print edition.  I assume his publisher thought he was crazy; I assume they tried to stop him; I can tell you with certainty that the fact that it's free hasn't stopped the independent (and thus generally full price) book store I work at from selling mounds of the same book in paper form.  Cory Doctorow just knows what the heck he's doing, is all I can think.

So what he's doing now is making four different covered versions of the sequel to Little Brother available. For A Little Help he went to four different artists (some of them authors), did cover designs with them, and then made them available for printing on Espresso Book Machines, including the one at my store. You can call, email, go in person, what have you, and half an hour later hold your cover choice, still warm from the printer, in your hand.

That's pretty damn neat.  That's the way of the future. Or a way of the future, at least, and Cory's pretty good at figuring that kind of thing out.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

grotto: any type of natural or artifical cave that is associated with modern, historic or prehistoric use by humans.  There's a lot of these things, scattered about. One can find close approximations in bars, in restaurants, in the basements of some homes: little nooks or private areas tucked away from the mainstream of the locale. I enjoy them greatly; if you're lucky enough to have them around you, so should you.

On Editing, from the Writer's Viewpoint

I'm given to understand that there are people for whom editing is a delight.  Writers who enjoy the process of taking their rough work, and sprucing it up until it looks just the way they want it to, like some sort of Martha Stewart of the fiction world. Samuel Johnson, a man never at a loss for something to say, wrote "Read your own compositions, and when you meet a passage which you think is particularly fine, strike it out" Which makes one wonder what exactly he left out, as a grant many of the things he wrote were quite fine. But in any case, it suggests he was more than willing to do a mass of editing and suffer the indignities of removing passages he quite approved of, all that sort of thing.

I am not one of those people.  I never have been, and I rather doubt I ever will be.  I enjoy the end result well enough: looking at a book or story after its been fixed up is very pleasant indeed.  Sometimes the changes have been small but meaningful; sometimes they're large and impressive; but in any case they are there, and especially to the author they're usually quite noticeable. But it's much like the process of taking a very long flight, or of making a wildly complicated meal. While the end result is grand, getting there is not, as they say, half the fun.  It's all work, unpleasant and grinding and disagreeable.

Whenever confronted with an editorial statement, my first reaction is, well, reactionary. I bluster. I huddle round my poor defenseless words like a broody hen around her eggs.  I metaphorically hold my breath until I turn blue, in hopes that the nasty comments will just give up and go away.  They don't, of course; being written, they have no concern for my tantrums and egotism, and they wait patiently for the storm to pass. After a bit, I discover that the comments are almost always justified; a few may be a matter of taste rather than serious contextual issues, and taste can go one way or the other, but that isn't very common. Really, one almost always discovers that any editorial note, given by almost anyone at all, has some substance. That's the first hard part of editing: just looking at all those notes, and realizing that each one attaches to something one has written, and proclaims it broken and defective.  Which it almost assuredly is.

So then one must change things up. How much to change, though? Sometimes a note is quite helpful: it will state what the problem is clearly, and succinctly describe what needs to be fixed, perhaps even telling one how to fix it. This is uncommon, however. A writer will usually be faced with something vague. "This is awkward" is a common one, or "Please revise for clarity". Both of these are perfectly acceptable notes, of course, but they leave the author a bit stumped at times. A read through of the offending bit may get the author to think that there is awkwardness or lack of clarity, but the writer is the least likely person to see such things, and at times won't be able to figure out what the editor is talking about.  Poor fellow, he will then still make changes, because there's a note, but perhaps not for the best. Too obvious instead of too obscure; jarringly simple language; broken sentence structure. I've made bad changes, and will again, I'm sure, and it's not the editors fault for unclear notes, but my own for failing to see my own faults.

Then there are the larger issues, of course. Unbelievable motivations; flat characters; poorly realized settings.  Things that require real work scattered through the piece: a few extra descriptors here and there all through, and a juicy new scene, and more explanation, and clearing out the dead wood of bad scenes, all to make one secondary character acceptable, or the quiet town seem a quiet town instead of a farm, or a city, or whatever it seems like instead of what you meant. That sort of thing can be a lot of work, because not only must you achieve a goal, you must also make sure not to leave behind any remnants of the old version.  But one often does: a line here or there in some hidden paragraph of the story, where an old version shows through, confusing all future readers until someone finally calls it to your attention.  Sometimes it's a name change that didn't take everywhere; or a time change that was missed in one place so that for a moment an afternoon surfaces in the middle of the night; or an entire shift in characterization betrayed by one sentimental instant that should have been excised.

And then there are the real doozies.  Sometimes an editor realizes that the story you're telling is entirely wrong in execution, and while there's a good bit, or good bits, in the work, it's not what it should be.  Take the same characters and put them in the big city, for instance. Move the action from a one day affair to a slow monthly progression. Change everything but the central idea, including genders and relationships, but make sure to keep the same emotional feel.  I've not ever done this, but I've seen examples of it. And I don't know that I could do it. I have a particular weakness for not wanting to write something if I know how it turns out, and general revision I can do by not thinking of it as actual writing (it's revision, you see), but recreating a piece, that would be a real and perhaps impossible challenge.

As you might guess, I'm in the middle of edits on various things right now. They're going well enough. I should perhaps be working on them in some fashion, but I'm waiting for feedback at the moment, so instead I can write a nice long post about the process. I'm not wasting time, is what I'm trying to say. But of course I am doing just that, because I could be working at edits even without feedback. A critical eye has been applied, and I can now see the tatters and worn patches better, and should work on them on my own.

Only I don't like to. But there's a lot of work to get to, and so I must. I suppose I will go and look for any passage especially fine, and select it, and think of deleting it. I won't, but I'll consider it for a long while.  Off to it, then.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

iteration: a procedure in which repetition of a sequence of operations yields results successively closer to a desired result; one execution of that sequence; alternately, just a version of something (but usually meant to be part of that sequence just described).  

Many, many iterations passing through the Kindling Press emails these days.  And we are in fact drawing closer to that desired result.  So that's good.  See you tomorrow.

I'm more of a Beethoven

Slate again.  They've got good writing stuff at the moment.  Which is great.  This one is about writing quickly, or at least, getting a lot done in a short while.  I've done that, in fits and spurts.  It's fun.  But sometimes it's tough. I have long dry spells, too.  So these tips, maybe they'll come in handy.

For me, it's Jane Austen

We had the list of books one should have read but probably avoided because they were assigned.  Now from Slate we have a series of authors, many of them quite good, talking about the books they absolutely can't read, thought were vastly overrated, or outright hate.  It's good stuff.  For me, as noted, it's Jane Austen: I've tried, but I can't get into her light prose of manners and obligations and so many pounds a year.  I just can't. I get why a lot of people like her (all right, I don't, but I know that a lot of people like her), but I cannot wrap my head around the idea of tearing through her collected works with anything but a grimace.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

I include this because I just put it to work.

turgid: swollen and distended, as with a wildly flowing river.  Or alternatively, overblown and bombastic, as with dreadful prose. 

You may decide for yourselves which version I am referring to.  It's fine to guess both.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

natal: of or relating to the place or time of one's birth.  Your birthday is thus a natal occasion.  Or your natal day, if you will. 

But then also: natal: of or relating to the buttocks, as in the phrase (unfamiliar to me but rather clear all the same) natal cleft. 

Apparently, at some point people had enough completely assy birthdays that the association stuck.  That's probably how it happened, right?

An Interview at Write Cafe

Nancy Wing writes a delightful blog about writing (and coffee consumption) and was kind enough to talk to Kindling Press.  Here she interviews us about KP, and why it exists, and what it's meant to be.  Thanks, Nancy!

Sometimes it cannot be said often enough

It takes a long time to grow young! - Pablo Picasso

Old age isn’t so bad when you consider the alternative. -
Maurice Chevalier

The best birthdays of all are the ones that have not arrived yet. - Robert Orben

Happy birthday, Jason!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

How to not take it personally.

So, my fine feathered friends, today we're going to contemplate something that can be a very touchy subject: taking criticism personally. Now I understand that writing is a deeply personal pursuit. Writers tend to pour their hearts out, and in so doing, sometimes have a hard time when the suggestion to cut or move or change something altogether is offered. What I call the "it's my baby!" syndrome is a tough one to let go of, but you can and should learn how to deal with this effectively.

You absolutely must understand that the suggestion(s) that are meted out are for the benefit of the work, they're not meant as a personal attack on you. When someone that is not you reads your story, they will have opinions - it is the nature of being human. Venturing suggestions for improvements is (almost) always in the spirit of creating a better end product. The people that you trust enough to ask for their thoughts are usually the ones that have your best interests at heart, right? That means that you're going to have to disassociate at least a fraction to prepare yourself for critical feedback.

Take a moment to read the entirety of the critique before you jump to defensiveness. This one step alone can save you untold agony. Read it twice to make sure that you understand what the reader is saying, for all that. If there are a great deal of changes suggested, take some time to imagine the story with the changes that have been offered up - would you have written it that way, had you thought of it at the time? Would the changes make your story something other than you'd envisioned? Do you feel like the reader just "didn't get it"? If that is the case, then you must seriously consider that other readers will have the same experience and you may need to revise it anyways.

People will always view something from different angles. When you're asking for help, you don't turn an offer down just because it wasn't phrased as you would have, right? This applies to feedback about your book, too! When you approach it from the defensive, you will not be able to absorb and understand how to best utilize it. If someone asks an honest question, ruminate on it for a bit before you answer. The best cure for defensiveness is to think before you speak.

Also remember that you do not need to incorporate any of the changes suggested by your editor/feedback-giver/writer's circle/mom. It's your work and your vision should be realized. I should add, though, that spelling and grammar changes are probably best left modified - you'd be surprised at how many authors don't use the correct to/too/two or they're/their/there. Or maybe you wouldn't. Suffice it to say that when you're asking someone for their thoughts, it is always up to you to utilize that feedback or not. You have the power!

Your readers will always have opinions. They may vary wildly from your own. Be open to the different points of view you may be exposed to, it is only in the best interest of your work. Your friends, family, and editors really do want to see you succeed. Believe that!

20001: A Steampunk Odyssey

We have an exciting thing going on.  We're working on an anthologie (spelling intentional).  There's this fancy little convention called Steamcon coming up, and it's a delightful event that's all about gears and fancy hats and Invention! and that ilk of things. My cohort Peter came up with the notion of putting together an anthology for it, and of using the previous alternative spelling, and a lot else.  Like doing most of the solicitation for submissions, and handling the early correspondence, and generally proving himself to be worth two or three of me in this regard.  I just wrote something for it, and felt like I was doing my part a bit.  But now we've come to the fun (read: hard) part of the process: the editing.  There's all these stories, you see, and we like them, but we'd like them more if they were better.  Which, strangely, doesn't happen just because I want it to.  Instead, we have to get in touch with the talented writers who've submitted, and boldly claim that we know better than they do what their stories should be like, and then insist they follow our every freakish whim.  Or something like that.  I'm pretty new at this whole editing-other-people thing, so maybe I'm doing it wrong.

Surprisingly, it's more pleasant than I imagined it would be.  Mostly, everyone is very open to the notion of changing things.  And when they do, it tends to be for the best, not the worst, as might be feared.  To be honest, I wish I was as good at paying heed and making changes when they are suggested.  With a month left to get edits done and do layout, formatting and cover design, I feel pretty strongly we're going to end up with a very good body of work, one that everyone involved can be proud of.

I think in the end though, that's not so much the point.  The point for me, and I think for Peter, is that we've given some good, new writers a reason to think they're good.  We're a first credit for a number of these folks, and that makes me feel just amazing, that I can be a part of that happening.  So 20001: A Steampunk Odyssey, while it's a lot of work, and will be a whole lot more, is pretty satisfying already, and only going to get more so.  I'm very happy we decided to do it.

Look for the ebook editions on or about the 14th of September.  Print to follow shortly after, we anticipate.  It's going to be well worth your time and your book buying dollars.

Daily Vocabulary

pertinacity: persistence or perseverance. What I will need in order to keep up with this daily vocabulary.  It's not at all hard to do, mind you.  It just takes active thought and then deed, every day.  Hopefully as the days go by, this will become second nature, and I will not need so much pertinacity as before.

Bricks and mortar

Bookstores are some of the best places in the universe, estimating conservatively.

First there is the smell: musty, secretive, and mysterious. A hint of dust, laden with the memories of childhood books. Then, the sights: gilt lettering on leather spines, well-loved titles, favorite authors, classics. Tall shelves march in endless stacks until all is dim-lit and indistinct. Sounds are hushed, save for the tinkling bell at the door whenever a new patron enters. Perhaps the friendly bookstore cat will rub up against your leg.

It is true the ebook revolution has done wonderful things for authors and readers. We have more selection and lower prices than ever before. Opportunities for new authors and new media are burgeoning. And that's a good thing. But bricks and mortar hold a secret not to be neglected or forgotten in this age of electrons - a secret held we are pushed toward by the nudging of a furry feline head-bump, by the faded lettering on a timeworn leather spine, and by the scent of old, old books.

That secret is connection. Connection between reader and author; between reader and reader;between reader and book-as-book. But those things need not be lost simply because of the ebook revolution. Though harder to find, their value has only increased. They are there to be found if your eyes are open.

Have you made a friend through ebooks? I have. And I'd love to hear about yours.

[Special thanks to A Softer World for the picture. Go. Read. Connect. They're great!]

Monday, August 8, 2011

Whiter teeth and Russian porn

God bless the Internet.

No, seriously. Not just because it desperately needs it. Also: because you can apparently get from anywhere, to anywhere. Via tubes.

What am I smoking? More blog-stats! This time it's the "referring website" function, the one that tells us what webpage directed folks to get to the Kindling Press blog. Some of them are pretty obvious: Google Plus. FaceBook. The Write Cafe. But others... well, let's just say the title of this post should give you some vague idea as to the pure weirdness of where folks were browsing just before they were directed to this page.

I'm not here to judge; I'm only here to think gee, for serious? We don't really care how you found us. We're just happy you're here. Really. And for that, dear Internet, we salute you! Viva la Internet!

I differ, on a technicality

Hybridbooks, which are print books with bonus digital content. So you can use the code to get a better map, or background information, or what have you.  Which I think is a great idea, actually.  But it's not a hybrid book.  It's not print and digital.  It's print, with extra features you can get to online, and that's not exactly new; publishers have provided additional content online for years (book group guides, interviews with the author, often even additional material of just the sort that these Hybridbooks are supposedly newly introducing.)

So I like it in concept, but I think the way it's talked up is silly.  It's nothing new, not really. Is this perhaps more or better?  Could be.  And that's good.  But it's not groundbreaking.

Daily Vocabulary

dilly-dally: to dawdle, delay or waste time.  I'll use it in sentence: Jason dilly-dallied yesterday, and so there was no daily vocabulary.  But he's backdated one, so that you can't notice unless you're paying attention.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Weekend Vocabulary

Yesterday was pretty busy for me, so a day slipped by without words.  But that's okay; we'll do a double today.

Inauspicious is a word which means ill-omened, or unfortunate, or unlucky.  To be inauspicious, an event or person had to be found against by augury, a manner of reading omens.  Auguries were of various sorts: entrails of sacrificial animals could be read, the flights of birds could be watched and analyzed, dreams could be consulted.  All of this was done by a person called an augur or sometimes an auspex, from which inauspicious as a word arises.  The Romans were huge on all of this sort of thing, and all these words come to us from Latin.

Really, it was kind of a triple, more than a double.  But all the words are related closely, so...we'll just call it a quick vocabulary and history lesson, and let that be the double. Have a good, auspicious Sunday.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

A Real Zucchini Drink

In case you ended up here by searching for zucchini drinks (and someone has), we aim to provide service.  So here's a link to a real live zucchini drink in the making: the zucchini tini.  I don't know that I'd drink it, but I don't know that I wouldn't, either.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Daily Vocabulary

Some words I just hate.  Not always, but at times.  Today's word fits that category.

Inflammable.  Meaning something that can be set on fire.  Which is the same meaning as flammable.  The "in" prefix is thus completely unneeded, and yet there it is. 

So let me be on record as saying I pretty much always hate inflammable.  Flammable is my word of choice. 

I suspect few people read these in High School

A few days ago we had the list of ten books you should have really read (for yourself, not for your class) in High School.  This is not that list. I suspect anyone who read all these in their teen years would be a deeply weird person.  Probably a very interesting person, but deeply weird.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Zucchini drinks

Just to show my last post about the person who googled "i want to be jk rowling" is about as statistically significant as the sun rising in the east of a morning, I wish to present a few more google searches that have recently brought people to our bloggish doorstep:

  • "jason vanhee" blog
  • i couldn't say better
  • zucchini drinks

It is good to know that the citizens of Blogsylvakia know where to go when they are in search of JV, bon mots, and, of course, zucchini drinks. Really, what else does one need?

Daily Vocabulary

Today's word: Fremdschamen (literally, friend shame).

This word is one of those delightful German expressions, like Schadenfreude, that has no real English equivalent and yet really should.  Fremdshamen is the feeling of shame or embarrassment one gets on seeing a friend do something humiliating: hit on the wrong obviously unobtainable person, fall over drunk, bomb at karaoke.  It is not just fellow feeling, as you might have for anyone, but the painful, exquisite empathizing that can only happen with a friend, where you feel personally involved.  I don't know that it has much use in normal writing, but as a feeling, it is one that we all know, but don't use very often as a literary device. 

Plus, I just discovered the word a couple of days ago, and I think it's neat, so here it is.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

A last word about Borders

A good piece from the Stranger's books editor Paul Constant, one of Seattle's best voices about the industry.

Kindling Press gets interviewed!

Well, today it's actually me and Peter getting interviewed.  Tomorrow it will be all about Kindling Press.  Give it a look, folks, because we can't always talk about writing and stuff here, we have to do it somewhere else sometimes. And thanks to Nancy at the Write Cafe for being willing to chat with us.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

"i want to be jk rowling"

One of the nicest features of blogspot is the stats function.

With this handy tool, bloggers can see how much traffic their blog has received, where it came from, and all sorts of interesting data to help improve their traffic. No, nothing personal or identifiable - but occasionally, something unusual crops up and presents itself as worthy of commenting.

In this case, it was a person who was directed to this blog after googling the phrase, "i want to be jk rowling".

Stop and think about that for a moment. J.K. Rowling. Author of the Harry Potter series. One of the best-known authors in the world, not to mention the richest. Somewhere out there, someone wanted to be her. And google, in its infinite wisdom, gave that person a link to the very blog you're reading right now.

I am utterly blown away by that. Who the heck are we, anyway? Kindling Press has existed barely a few months, officially. Its authors have been writing for a while, sure, but neither of us is what you would call a bestselling author. There is no reason on earth why anyone using that web search text should have found our blog.

But then again, that person was looking for something - something we're also seeking. Success. Maybe not J.K. Rowling-grade success, but success nonetheless. We're kind of like that anonymous seeker, in our own way. We're working toward it, building readership, exploring new markets and new opportunities, reaching out to other writers and doing everything we can to show them what we think is our best work. So yes - in our own way, we too are trying to become like J.K.R.

So, to the person who found us with that web search, I say: follow your dream. Never let go of it. And be prepared to work really, really hard. Maybe you won't reach that goal, but that doesn't mean it isn't worth trying for. I certainly wouldn't be here, writing this, if I didn't feel the same way you do.

Thanks for reading.

What would your list be?

10 books you should have read in high school, really should have read, I mean, not just read because they made you, or avoided because they were trying to make you.  Here's one list with a local input from Misha Stone, once one of my coworkers back in the day.  But what books that we all should have read do you think we really should read?  I actually go along pretty well with this list; I'd take away Pride and Prejudice and Siddharta, and add in Go Tell It On The Mountain and Red Badge of Courage, maybe, and then I'd have ten.  There could be twenty or thirty, or fifty, though.  What books should we all have read?

Monday, August 1, 2011

How much for those electrons?

Everybody knows there is a sweet spot.

In cooking, in driving, in relationships - everything seems to have its sweet spot, a point of diminishing returns beyond which extra effort does not produce extra results. Business is no exception. In the publishing business, book pricing is an art. Where do you set a price point to maximize profit? The trouble for traditional publishers is that there is fixed cost to produce a printed book ( or "treebook" as author Bill Jones calls them). But what about ebooks? Once you edit it and give it a cover, electrons are so cheap to produce (and reproduce) it begs the question: is there a non-fixed production cost for epub books?

"Every single time I’ve heard anyone defend higher ebook prices, they cite the fact that “just because the publication is electronic, that doesn’t eliminate costs.” This fact is what I like to call “true but useless.” Yes there are costs associated, but all costs in ebooks are fixed. The publisher does whatever they need to do editorially, formatting wise, etc. When that is done, they push a file to Amazon/B&N/Smashwords et al and that is that. Whether there is 1 sale or 1,000,000 unit sales, the costs are identical. I’m treating promotion as a fixed cost although I can be argued on that. Regardless, the costs of promotion do not rise as a function of sales. They may drive sales, but if you sell 10x what you estimate, your promotion costs don’t expand ten-fold."

What this means is that ebooks can and should be priced differently than pulp books. How much less? That is still an unfolding question. According to David Slusher's analysis from 2010, $3-4 is how much an ebook should cost. Certainly there are many books both more and less expensive than that, and many of them do well. The curve is currently so broad the market cannot be pinned down to a standard price. But the idea that ebook production costs are non-fixed means we must change our mental approach to pricing them, understanding that the business model is so different they may not be compared with pulp books. In price as in so many other areas, ebooks are truly in a class by themselves.