A Firestorm This Week- What Do You Think?

March 27, 2015
Is that what this is?

Is that what this is?

There’s been a big uproar this week over the creation of a new app to blur out and/or replace profanity in books. A couple designed it because their child read a book but was sad about the cuss words in it. (Why is a fourth grader reading a book with any cussing in it??)

I digress.

The idea is that if you buy a book from their site, then you get an app that will clean up dirty words. It’s important to note that they do NOT change the book in any way. This app is an overlay on the text and the reader can turn it off at will. The customer can choose the level of “cleanliness” they want and then it goes to town.

As you can imagine there have been some vehement opinions: (Be advised- there are many curse words in these two articles)

http://joannechocolat.tumblr.com/post/114425387366/why-im-saying-fuck-you-to-clean-reader

http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2015/03/25/fuck-you-clean-reader-authorial-consent-matters/

So there’s the argument.

I’m on the fence.

On the one hand, I understand the artist’s objection to someone manipulating their work without their consent. I get that, I really do. I don’t want people changing the meaning or the tone of what I write. What I’m having trouble swallowing is the impending disaster that is sure to happen if this is allowed. This app is such a censorship, it will ultimately end with book burning and banning. Hmmmm. This tool does nothing directly to the written work and they are not impeding it being sold in any way. It could be argued that a person who is careful about reading books with no profanity might choose a wider variety if they had something to “bleep” out those words. It’s a personal preference.

The other thing that was said almost immediately was that it was a “Christian” thing. I disagree. I have Zen Buddhist and Hindu friends who avoid all profanity to the best of their ability because it disturbs their balance. Again, personal preference.

The owner of the app wrote an article about the discourse and his stance is that they don’t believe they are infringing on any copyright laws and they are not taking anything away from the author. He also goes on to say that as a consumer, once the item is bought they have the right to consume it however they see fit.

http://www.cleanreaderapp.com/blog/

I do have a problem with him mentioning an author he likes to read because he “writes well enough” to avoid resorting to profanity. Whoops. You could sway me on most points, but this is where I draw the line. An author has to be true to their character. A special ops alpha hero will just not say, “Gosh darn it.”.

I know this is an emotionally laden issue. I’m not sure where I stand. Are the rights of authors who haven’t given their consent for the book to be read in a different way being violated? Does Clean Reader have the right to create something that changes nothing of the original work, but makes it far more palatable for some readers to consume? Are there copyright laws being massacred? Do they have a point with- “I bought it. I can read anyway I want.”? Sheesh! I don’t know the answer!

Help me wade through this topic. What are your thoughts whether you are a reader or writer?


Link of the Week – Gumroad

January 21, 2014

I admit, I find this week’s link intriguing. But I have no experience with the site.

Gumroad is “for independent writers, designers, game developers, musicians, artists, filmmakers, and anyone in-between.” It is a web service, a site for selling directly to your audience, a social toolkit, and is user friendly for both the vendor and the consumer. It’s a one-size fits all, including users Bon Jovi and Coldplay.

gumroadLearn more about Gumroad here.

https://gumroad.com/

https://gumroad.com/guide/basics/is-gumroad-for-me

https://gumroad.com/guide/basics/your-first-product

https://gumroad.com/features/customers


Best Practices for EBook Publishing with Mark Coker of Smashwords

August 7, 2013

Song of the Day: Prayer of the Refugee by Rise Against

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending a workshop hosted by Northwest Houston RWA, my local Romance Writers of America chapter. The speaker, Mark Coker, founder of Smashwords.

Now this is not the first time I’ve met Mark, nor the first time I’ve listened to him speak. But I couldn’t wait to hear him talk again. He has a very impressionable way with understanding the world of eBook self-publishing.

With his permission, I’m going to relay the notes I took from his talk on the best practices for publishing an eBook.

photo (22)

Mark and Jenn!

1. Write a fantastic book. Honor the reader with a great story and satisfy them by moving them to an emotional extreme. It doesn’t stop there. Make sure you are fanatical about the entire process, including the editing and packaging.

2. Create a great cover. The cover is not only the first impression on the path to discovery, but a promise to the reader. Use a professional cover artist, or, if you plan to do the cover yourself, make sure the cover is comparable to what New York publishers produce. Make sure your cover targets your audience. The cover is merchandised as a thumbnail. It should look great in that size.

3. A no-brainer, but warrants repeating. Write another super awesome book.

4. Give some books away for free. By doing this, you eliminate the financial risk new readers face. Free books builds awareness and trust. This especially works well for books of a series. If you have a series, at least one book should be free, even if for a little while.

5. Patience, it’s a virtue. Retailers force books out of print before they have a chance because new books are kept on the shelves for only a few short weeks. Most don’t have an opportunity to gain an audience, much less a fan base. EBooks are immortal…and changeable.

6. Maximize availability—don’t be exclusive. Play the field, play with everyone. If you are exclusive, you limit discoverability and become dependent on the site of the exclusivity. Oh, and by the way, retailers see no stigma in self-published books.

7. Build a platform. The larger your platform, the more power you have over your career. Connecting with readers becomes a form of currency. There is no single right way to do this. Use all the social media tools you feel comfortable with. Have a newsletter. Some will want to connect using blogs, but it is difficult to gain readership this way. However, once you do, they are yours for life. And here’s a biggie, offer a way for readers to connect with you at the end of your book, aside from your website. It simply makes sense, but is often overlooked.

smashwords style guide

Free! Click cover for your copy!

8. Architect for “virality”. “Spread the germ.” Get your fans talking about you. Word-of-mouth is still the most powerful way to discoverability. Book marketing is always going to stem from word-of-mouth. Utilize viral catalysts that makes your books more accessible, discoverable, desirable, and enjoyable—story, cover, title, editing, targeting right audience, book description, pricing, broad distribution, formatting, proper categorization, just to name a few. Eliminate the friction that limits the catalysts (think exclusivity, lacking cover, bad editing, etc.).

9. Unit volume is a lever for success. Every book sale has two benefits: money and a new readers. The latest survey conducted by Smashwords indicated that $1.99 was a black hole, not performing as well as higher priced units, and $3.99 was the current sweet spot for all genres. Proper pricing can maximize money made and the amount of readers. Keep in mind lower priced units will sell more units, and higher priced units will sell fewer, but the lower priced units under-perform as income and higher priced units will get you more readers. Of course, experience may vary and it is encouraged to play around with pricing to find what works best for your book.

smashwords marketing guide

Free! Click the cover for your copy!

10. Don’t worry about piracy. Obscurity is the bigger risk. Those stealing your books weren’t going to buy your book to begin with. Who knows, you may even gain a super reader out of it. Most piracy is accidental—a lending of a book, picking up a book at a garage sale, etc. This type of discoverability is effective and cheap! The best way to combat piracy is to make your book easier to purchase than steal. This goes back to distributing broadly and pricing fairly. And it doesn’t hurt to add a polite license statement in the book. (See Smashwords’ example in their style guide.)

11. Take advantage of Pre-orders. This will be available soon through all distributors. In short, list your book for sale before it officially hits the virtual shelves. Allow a sample to be downloaded. It is highly suggested books should be completely ready before listing it as a pre-order. Some retailers will credit all the pre-sales on the day the book comes for sale. This will possibly shoot the book onto various best-selling lists. Let me add here SHAZAM! Putting a book up for pre-order sale 4 to 6 weeks prior to release gives you, the author, a chance to market the book generating interest. Capture the reader and get them to buy while they are still fired-up instead of waiting until release day when they most likely have forgotten or are no longer as interested. Check out Smashwords’ blog post on pre-orders.

12. Practice partnerships and positivity. If you discover something that works well, share it with others. This builds friendships and a good reputation. Don’t be a complainer or behave badly. Everyone, including the marketing peeps at retailers, have Goggle Alerts. You will be remembered.

13. Collaborate with fellow authors. Short stories, bundles, or boxed sets are a great way to share, promote, and gain new readers with existing fan bases of your fellow collaborators. Plus the retailers like them and they sell well.

smashwords practices

Free! Click the cover for your copy!

14. Think globally. All retailers are expanding beyond the US. Aggressively. Over 40% of Apple sales are outside the US and looks to be trending higher. And these books are in English.

15. You are running a business. Business requires a profit. Most books don’t sell well, so control your expenses. Never borrow money to publish a book. Pinch your pennies. Invest in great service. If you can’t afford it, offer to trade services. Once you are profitable, reinvest in your business.

Whoa! That’s a lot of information. Absorb it! And to help, check out Smashwords FREE marketing books and style guides.

What do you think about these practices? Have you tried any? What has worked or not worked for you? Do you have other tips to share? Let’s hear from you.


Take some responsibility! by Candi Wall

September 12, 2011

So I hit the purchase button the other night SEVEN times. Yeah, you heard me right. Seven times. For a grand total of $21. and some change.

I don’t part easily with my money, except when it comes to books. I could spend THOUSANDS. (Checking to make sure hubby didn’t read that.) Below is what my house will probably look like some day.

I usually don’t complain. But here’s the thing. I read the first book – LOVED IT – and went on to the next. It was a .99 cent purchase from an author I didn’t know, self-pubbed and I liked the premise. Hey I’ll give anyone a chance. ONCE.

I hadn’t reached the end of the first chapter when I realized I’d given my money away for nothing. I groaned, archived the sucker and went on to the next one. The next wasn’t as bad, but there was a plot hole the size of Jupiter about midway through and by this point I was losing interest in the hero. Too bad, because it started off as a good read. Darn.

I’ve twittered several times about this as well, venting my frustration for the self-pubbed authors who are making other self-pubbed author look bad. Every reader who has a bad experience with a self-pubbed book makes it harder for other authors to sell! Argh, the frustration! And I’m not even self-pubbed.

At this point, hubby was starting to get sick of my ‘waspish’ attitude. After three more days, my results were:

Seven purchases

1- Loved

2- Liked

4- Couldn’t finish

I know – it’s a crap shoot right?!?

NO! It isn’t.

And here’s where dear hubby had all he was going to take.

In his words…

“What did you expect, hon?” Raising a quizzical brow. “If you go to Wal-Mart and buy a vacuum for twenty bucks, you get what you pay for. It’s like buying toilet paper at the dollar store. It ain’t gonna hold up.” (Yep, I’m married to a thinner version of Larry the Cable Guy.)

Well how dare he. I have friends who self publish. That’s not fair! (Insert indignant foot-stomping) “There are tons of authors out there with brilliant books!”

“Really?” says hubby. “Then you would think you’d do your homework before you buy.”

GADS! He’s SO right. And I’m so not going to tell him that. Sheesh.

What was I thinking?!?

We’ve been spoiled peeps. Let’s face it. The publishers we’ve come to trust have given us so many great books, we may have forgotten how to check the products first. Don’t get me wrong, one person’s crap is another’s gold. I hate what you love at times and visa-versa. But we came to rely on what they put out there.

Now if we, the consumer, are going to gripe about prices and go elsewhere to read at super cheap prices, we’ll have to start doing our own research. We’re spoiled again however, because there is this ingenious little thing called the World Wide Web. Search engines abound, and at any time, we can sluice through the crap to ferret out the truth, or at least get a sense of what we’re getting into.

Here’s my new list of things I check BEFORE I purchase:

  • Google the author
  • Do they have blogs?
  • Reviews? (Other than where I’m purchasing from and checking the author’s responses to reviews)
  • Any other books out?
  • Website?
  • And of course – I ask my writing/reading pals
Seems like a lot of work, but hey, there are some amazing authors out there getting lost in the shuffle of self-pubbing. I want to find, support and enjoy them. If that means I have to do a few minutes of research, so be it. I’m a big girl, I can handle the responsibility of checking out my purchase’s history beforehand. After all, who wants a $20 vacuum that doesn’t work, when you can get the fantastic $5 super sweeper that might just be the next big thing?
So take some responsibility as readers! Check it out first.
🙂

From Script to eBook

May 19, 2011

Frequent MuseTracks guest  William Simon is at it again. William describes how his recent release STREET HEAT found its way into the digital world of eBooks.

So without further ado, take it away, Will.

Long ago and far away (wow, almost twenty years ago!), I was determined to be a screenwriter for television and movies.  Came close a couple of times, but never really broke through.  I was determined, though, and, uh, well, maybe a tiny bit stubborn.  (cough, cough)

I wrote and submitted a spec script for a network series that I personally really liked quite a bit.  The characters were complicated and layered, there wasn’t always a happy ending, and the show tackled some serious issues before anyone else.  While a lot of it was exaggerated and ‘Hollywooded’ up, it was a more than pleasant way to kill an hour once a week.  (I am deliberately not naming the series for several reasons not worth going into.)  I had landed an agent at the time, things were going nicely, when the show was abruptly yanked off the air with no explanation.  To this day, I don’t know what happened, why it was cancelled, or just what went down.

Okay, this happens.  Things like this happen a lot more than most people realize.  The fact anything gets filmed, anything gets released, or a series actually makes it on the air is such an incredible long shot.  To be a success, well, someone just won the lottery and got struck by lightning simultaneously.

Anyway, I really liked the script, and it eventually dawned on me it could easily become a novel, hopefully the start of a series.  Of course, I couldn’t use the original series premise, so I started from scratch with a former police detective turned best-selling mystery novelist.  (This was 1991, so any comparisons to a current TV series featuring a best-selling mystery writer who ‘really IS Ruggedly Handsome’ don’t count.)  I wrote it the way I now saw it, and was quite pleased with how it turned out.

I sent it out to anyone and everyone I could think of.  Got some terrific rejections along the lines of “I really loved this, but my partner/associate felt it lacked a certain ‘something’ that prevents us from extending an offer at this time.”  Some editors responded with similar thoughts, others a form rejection.  Eventually, I slapped it on a diskette (remember those?) and filed it because writers never throw anything out.

Time passed.  The Y2K shenanigans came and went, the horrendous events of September 11, 2001 happened.  Technology moved forward at an alarming pace, the world changed, and then something came along I couldn’t believe:  the Kindle.

I’ll be the first to eat some crow on this.  I didn’t believe the Kindle would work, I didn’t agree with the concept at all of eBooks.  I want a BOOK book, not an electronic pad that I flick a finger on.  I want to turn a page, I want the smell of a new book, I want the feel of it in my hands.  Then I bought an iPad, and my world view shifted.  Dramatically.

Some friends of mine tried publishing their work as an eBook.  Some of them had terrific success, others sold slow and steady; kind of like Real Life Publishing.  After thinking and cogitating and mulling, I decided ‘what the heck’, dug out the diskette (with WordStar documents, if you remember that one), and decided to pull the trigger… so to speak!

For better or for worse, damn the torpedoes, full steam ahead, and a rousing cry of ‘Excelsior!’:

STREET HEAT, under the pseudonym ‘Will Graham’.

 http://tinyurl.com/3bfjjym

We’ll see what happens next….

William Simon is the owner and lead investigator of a licensed firm specializing in computer forensics and electronic evidence.  His fiction  has been published in the anthology MURDER BY MAGIC, “Suspense Magazine”, and the forthcoming THRILLER III from ITW, due Summer 2012.