Archive for the ‘Amazon Publishing’ Category

Round up #236: demographics, what’s an author?

January 23, 2014

Round up #236: demographics, what’s an author?

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Give a Kid a Kindle update

I’d like to give a new Kindle to a deserving child, and have set up a way to do that:

Give a Kid a Kindle

So far, though, I don’t have any nominations for a recipient.

I’d appreciate it if you spread the word. I don’t think it would be appropriate for me to post something about it in the

Amazon Kindle forum

but I think it might help if one of you wanted to do that.

I’m going to look for more ways to do outreach on it. I think if you checked with your child’s teacher or the local librarian, they might know someone.

Update: we now have our first nominee! I will post nominating comments through January and February and March, and you can support nominees (multiple, if you like) by “recommending” them to get a Kindle using the polls which will appear in March.

A different demographic

I was quite pleased to see a picture on the Mindle (that’s what I call the least expensive Kindle) product page of someone who wasn’t in the New Millennial generation using a Kindle! Even more interestingly, that person wasn’t show interacting with a child or someone in a different age group.

Early on, informal surveys were showing that the majority of adopters of the Kindle were in the “Baby Boomer” and “Greatest Generation” age groups. It makes sense: a non-Fire is more of a book reader than a tech gadget, and older folks may benefit more from things like increasable text sizes and light weight.

Amazon’s ads, though, tended to feature young twenty something hipsters…not unlike many Apple product ads.

So, while I don’t typically call attention to inherent  characteristics  (like age and gender), I do think this is a good thing. :)

Hm…the fact that I mentioned that it isn’t an older person interacting with, say, a grandchild reminds me of the Bechdel test. That’s an interesting (and sometimes controversial) test of works of fiction. It’s usually stated something like this:

“Does the work have two named female characters who have a meaningful conversation with each other about something other than a man?”

“Meaningful” isn’t even part of it at

Bechdeltest.com

which tracks current movies. According to that site, a bit more than half the movies meet all three criteria.

That could also apply to books, of course, but I think the percentage of books which would pass the test would be much higher.

Although, I have to say, the last fictional book I read would fail it, I think:

I did enjoy the book: I was impressed with Will Murray’s take on Doc Savage. I suppose one could blame the book’s period setting for failing the test, to some extent, but it’s interesting to consider.

NYT: “Reading Books Is Fundamental”

I think this is a great

opinion piece in the New York Times by Charles M. Blow

Let me just quote the opening:

“The first thing I can remember buying for myself, aside from candy, of course, was not a toy. It was a book.”

I think many of us understand that. The piece goes on to talk about the state of reading today, and what a big difference it can make for people. I highly recommend it, not just for the memoir quality of it, but for the stats included about what groups are reading. It quotes another article that indicates that the number (perhaps the percentage?) of non-book readers in the USA has tripled since 1978. I’ll have to look at that story…if it’s the raw number, the population has gone up a great deal, which could help explain it.

This difference that reading can make to a child is the biggest reason I want to give away a Kindle. Once a child had one, they would have access to many classic books…for free.

The Guardian: “Does digital publishing mean the death of the author?”

Thanks to Publishers Weekly for the heads-up on this

The Guardian post

It brings up an interesting point.

It used to be pretty easy to determine if someone was an “author” or not. If they’d had a book traditionally published, they were considered authors by most people.

When that was really the only way to reach a wide audience, the fact that it had gone through that curation (as arbitrary or unjustified as some of it might seem to people) was an understandable standard.

Now, anybody can publish a book themselves, without too much difficulty.

Are you an author when you’ve done that?

Are you an author if you do that and no one buys it?

Are you an author if your write a book, and give away the e-book for free yourself through your website?

I suppose the important distinction here is between being an author, and being a professional author.

If you make a living just on your writing (I don’t), you’d be a professional author.

I certainly felt like it was something different the first time someone paid me to write something.

However…what if somebody has had New York Times bestsellers, but also has another job…even another job that makes them more money?

What is somebody just hasn’t sold a book…yet?

I’m not sure on this one. My instinct is to say that anybody who writes is an author, but that then becomes a decreasingly valuable label.

Amazon launches a Christian tradpub imprint

Amazon continues its march into traditional publishing territories with this

press release

about Waterfall Press, its new Christian publishing (both fiction and non-fiction) imprint.

Christian books are a significant part of the market, and this is an intriguing move.

It’s being handled through Amazon’s Brilliance Publishing, which I associate with audiobooks…since Amazon also owns Audible, I’m guessing it has had to change its mission somewhat.

Here is a search for

Waterfall Press in the USA Kindle store (at Amazon Smile)

I think that some of the other Christian publishers are going to have to have meetings about this…

What do you think? When do you call someone an author…what are the criteria? Do the inherent characteristics of people in Amazon’s marketing materials matter? Does the Bechdel test matter to you? Do you think e-books will make more people into readers…or fewer? What was the earliest book you remember buying for yourself? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.

Nominate a child to be given a free Kindle at Give a Kid a Kindle.

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. :) Shop ’til you help! :) 

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #221: PODBAM!, customizable covers

November 14, 2013

Round up #221: PODBAM!, customizable covers

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Now you can judge a Kindle by its cover

In this

press release

Amazon announces a new ability to customize your Kindle cover. You can upload a picture, and get it printed on an Origami cover (or some other options).

Well, I should say, “…a new to Amazon ability”. It’s been possible to have custom covers/sleeves made at third party sites for some time (I had one years ago that my adult kid had done for me), and these are being done by those other companies from what I’ve seen, and being sold through Amazon. I’ve seen ones both from CafePress and DecalGirl.

It’s pretty simple.

You go to

www.amazon.com/kindlecreateyourown

or, if you want to support a non-profit while shopping*, to

smile.amazon.com/kindlecreateyourown

You pick your device (the HDXs, the new HD, the Paperwhite ((both generations use the same cover)), the Touch), the underlying color of the cover (you may be covering only one side), and the type of cover (mostly Origami now, Marware coming in the future, from what I saw).

You pick from existing library images, or upload your own…and that’s about it.

The cost?

The same as without the personalization!

Why not do this? Here’s a great idea for a gift: buy the cover through AmazonSmile, support your gift recipient’s favorite non-profit (you can switch to it just for that one purchase), and upload an image that says something like, “I support XYZ”. The recipient gets a nice cover, gets to make a statement, and Amazon donates to that non-profit (for a $50 cover, they get twenty-five cents).

I just have one problem with this so far, and I asked Amazon about it when they sent me the press release.

The release says,

“… a library of hundreds of images, logos, designs and patterns—including popular comic, movie and television show graphics from Peanuts, National Geographic, Breaking Bad, Star Trek, and more.”

I haven’t found any of those brand name image options, and I’ve checked quite a few of the choices.

For some people, of course, there will be an irony here: Amazon doesn’t generally let us change the sleep pictures/screensavers/wallpaper on our devices. :) That’s different, and would be complicated for people who have Special Offers on their devices, but this is a nice option.

Buy a Kindle Fire HD, get a $15 gift card today only

If you buy a

Kindle Fire HD 7″

Kindle Fire HD 7″ and support a non-profit through AmazonSmile

today (Thursday, November 14) only, you get a $15 Amazon gift card for free! Do make sure you see that banner on the page before you click…this certainly might not apply in your country (I know I have readers around the world).

It applies to any of the configurations of this model, so you could get a Kindle Fire with the new Mojito operating system for $124, effectively.

By the way, I’ve also seen a story today that you could get $40 off, but when I’ve tested that links, that doesn’t seem to be working. It might be for only certain people, or it may have been withdrawn.

BAM! goes POD

This one will particularly appeal to my reader, Roger Knights, who has advocated for the idea of Print-On-Demand (POD) in bookstores…we’ve had some lively discussions about that.

Well, Books-A-Million, now the second largest bookstore chain in the USA, has just announced in this

press release

that they are going to start installing the Espresso Book Machines in their stores (two at this time, one in Maine and one in Alabama).

What does that mean?

A customer can select a book from about seven million titles, and a machine prints the book for them right then.

One concern in the past has been the selection of books, but it looks like that has been solved. They say,

“These titles are available through partnerships with Google, Lightning Source, Harper Collins, Hachette, Penguin, Macmillan, McGraw Hill, and others, and includes content from publishers like Random House, W.W. Norton, and Simon & Schuster.”

That probably won’t mean every book from those publishers, of course, but it might be a great way to do the backlist.

How long does it take?

It happens “within minutes”, and produces a bookstore quality paperback.

How much does it cost?

Hmm…it says they are priced according to length, but I’m not seeing what the prices would actually be.

Still, this is an exciting option for people who still want p-books. I was really expecting us to see them in other kinds of stores, retailers of more general interest (is that like Rodents of Unusual Size?).

Score one for Roger! ;)

How much is that Penguin in the galley?

You know how Amazon recently introduced Kindle First (Kindle First and support a non-profit), where eligible Prime members can get an Amazon published book before it is released at no additional cost?

Penguin has something similar.

First to Read

You can sign up (through Facebook, if you want, but you can do it without that), and then request upcoming books (just like Kindle First, from a very specific short list)…for free.

Although, I have to say, it’s a bit weird and complicated.

I signed up for it today, and it kept kicking me out (I had to switch to Chrome from Maxthon).

There was a particular book I wanted to get…and it didn’t show up in all the places I could see choices.

There are appear to be a limited number of “copies” available, and there seems to be some sort of lottery for who gets them.

You get points, and you might be able to spend them to guarantee that you get a copy…but none of that was spelled out easily for me.

Overall, I’m happy that a publisher is trying this…but it really shows you what Amazon has figured out about making things simple!

Yes, we pay $79 a year for Prime…but in terms of Kindle First, getting a book is super easy.

This “First to Read” was a bit complicated and frustrating, certainly by comparison.

Still, you know…free books. ;)

* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. I recently polled my readers about my linking to AmazonSmile, and while more than two-thirds of the respondents said they would like it or didn’t mind (and about 15% didn’t know), there were enough people who wouldn’t like it that I’m not going to just jump into it and do it for everything. I’m going to try doing both links in this post, and see how hard and/or confusing that is for people. You can let me know how you feel about having both links by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy  Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.

Round up #188: bookstore sales down, refurbished Kindle Fire less than $100

July 16, 2013

Round up #188: bookstore sales down, refurbished Kindle Fire less than $100

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Refurb Kindle Fire for $99.99

This one doesn’t come from Amazon (at least directly?) but is available on eBay. You can get a refurbished Kindle Fire for $99.99:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/Amazon-Kindle-Fire-HD-16GB-Wi-Fi-7in-Black-Latest-Model/350830042024?pt=US_Tablets&hash=item51af199ba8

At least, I’m hoping you still can when you see this. :) There is a limited supply, and at time of writing, according to the

LIKEACOUPON page on the deal

2,278 people had already gotten one.

The eBay listing is by

DirectSourceLiquidations

which has an over 99% rating and nearly 500,000 ratings or transactions (I don’t use eBay much, so I’m not sure what that second number measures).

I normally would not recommend buying a Kindle from someone you don’t trust (due to the risk of it being stolen), but that doesn’t seem to be a risk here.

The obvious question, since we are dealing with thousands of devices: is this a suggestion that a new model is coming soon?

I think that’s not an unreasonable interpretation.

The Company Profile at eBay says they are a, “Liquidation and overstock asset recovery company.”

Amazon could have turned to them, but so could another retailer. I find it interesting that you have the option to buy a GeekSquad warranty for a year. eBayers, is that something you typically see? Or does it suggest a connection to Best Buy?

Solved a problem with my Paperwhite

I was trying to help someone who asked about the SDR folders on a Paperwhite. I went to look at them, and plugged my Paperwhite into my desktop so I could use Windows Explorer to look at what was in them.

The Paperwhite started charging, but wouldn’t go into USB mode.

I restarted the Paperwhite…nope.

This was the same cable and same USB port I had used previously.

I decided to try a different USB port, just in case. When I unplugged the cable from the computer, I realized I didn’t have another port immediately handy, and plugged it back in.

That fixed it!

I think that what happened here is that I had “safely ejected” a device plugged into that cable at some point. The computer is on the floor, and I just leave that USB cable plugged into it all the time, so I don’t have to get down there and plug it in.

The port must have remembered (I almost never turn off this computer…it’s getting on in years, and knock virtual wood, restarting it is always a risk. It’s like having general anesthesia…there is always a small chance you won’t wake up) that the device connected to it had been ejected, and just kept it in that state.

I figured that might knowledge might help somebody out there at some point.

As more of a software person than a hardware person, we always blame the latter. ;) The old joke goes, “How many software people does it take to screw in a  light bulb? None, we don’t do that…it’s a hardware problem.”

Marvel, DC…and Amazon?

According to this

press release

Amazon is launching a new traditional publishing imprint, and this one is for comics…Jet City Comics. Like other

Amazon imprints

(and that’s a cool new website with perhaps the cheeky name of address of “http://www.apub.com” (not ePub, see, aPub?), the name comes from Seattle. “Jet City” is a nickname of Seattle, due to Boeing being there (say that three times quickly). It’s the name of an improv troupe, pizza places, veterinary clinics, that kind of thing.

George R. R. Martin and Neal Stephenson are involved.

This is the first offering from the imprint

Symposium #1: A SideQuest Comic (The Foreworld Saga)

and it only has three reviews right now…which aren’t good. Hopefully, that changes over time.

Even if you don’t read comics, this another important step in “disintermediation”, which can’t make publishers happy. Traditionally, artists and writers create comics (often as employees of the publisher…that’s different from book authors, who are usually not employees) for the publisher, the publisher sells them to the retailer, the retailer sells them to the public.

In the case of Jet City, Amazon is both the publisher and the retailer…removing one step between (intermediate) the creator and the reader.

Amazon does take on expenses doing that, but gains a lot of control (and responsibility…you know, with great power, comes…never mind). ;)

I suspect it will be some time before a fan changes “Make mine Marvel!” to “Just Jet City!” ;)

J.K. Rowlingbraith

My Significant Other and I had some discussions about J.K. publishing under a different name. I suggested we might want to read The Cuckoo’s Calling, since we both liked Harry Potter, but my SO didn’t want to get it, because of the deception.

It’s interesting: I generally have no problem with pen names (I use my real name, the one on my driver’s license and with Social Security), but I do generally think it’s fine and even fun.

What bothers me a bit in this case (but on my own, I probably would have still tried a sample of the book at least) is the apparently deliberately misleading author bio. We aren’t told that it is a false bio, just that the name is a pseudonym…which I would have presumed was like the old Dragnet line, “The names have been changed to protect the innocent.”

I would have thought the facts were true about the author, just that it was a different name.

So, I’m wondering…could I use a pen name, and have my bio read, “Dr. Uri Bestinteress is a registered dietician and has lost 107 pounds following the diet in this book. While your results may differ and this book is not intended to treat any disease, Dr. Bestinteress has climbed the world’s seven highest mountains, run three marathons this year, won the Nobel prize…and is Batman.” ? ;)

You know, because I didn’t want my work to be pre-judged by the fact that I haven’t done any of those things…

Using a name and relying on the readers’ own prejudices to influence their buying decisions is one thing. Lying about the facts about the author feels like another.

Stephen King, by the way, is quoted in this

USA Today article by Bob Minzesheimer

as supporting Rowling in this, and I think King’s comments are good. The super successful author who also wrote secretly under a pen name (Richard Bachman) doesn’t talk about the fake bio, but about how freeing it is…and I’m sure that’s the case, and a legitimate desire.

Bookstore sales down 1% in May

According to this

Publishers Weekly article

bookstore sales were down 1% in May, while general retail was up 5%. That’s drawn from this

Census Bureau research

Stores want to say that this is because Fifty Shades of Grey (and the rest of that series) was such an anomalistically successful book last year that the stores got an unnatural bump (hm…I wasn’t intending an allusion to the book’s subject matter there), and that has dissipated this year.

As a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, I’ll concede that it could have had an impact…but you are going to have to learn how to ride a success like this (drat! That also reads like an allusion to the book…). ;) Once you get people into the store, you have to make it a place where they want to come back…not just dash in, buy a book, and dash out.

What do you think? Does the false bio feel any different to you from the pseudonym? Will Amazon’s comic imprint make an impact in the notoriously difficult comic book market? Will Amazon introduce a sub $100 tablet this year…available new? Any insight for me on eBay, based on my questions above? Feel free to let me and my readers know by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Round up #179: updates, DRM that changes the words

June 18, 2013

Round up #179: updates, DRM that changes the words

The ILMK Round ups are short pieces which may or may not be expanded later.

Playing “Hangman”…

Amazon claims in this

press release

that its publishing division has had a million seller. It’s significant that Amazon could, with its traditional publishing business, sell enough of a work to challenge the Big Six publishers. As I wrote about a couple of years ago in A Tale of Two Middles, that’s one way that Amazon can potentially work around the publishers. The e-tailer has tended to lose when going up against them (text-to-speech, and the Agency Model, for two examples), but as indicated in the current Apple trial, the publishers are worried about Amazon gaining more power and luring away their authors.

Congratulations are definitely due to Oliver Pötzsch, who is the author featured in the press release.

However, this isn’t exactly Stephen King territory yet.

Here’s the telling part of the press release:

“… the first Amazon Publishing author to sell 1 million copies in combined print, audio, and Kindle English language editions worldwide.”

That’s right…this is not the same thing as selling a million copies of a hardback book: it combines hardbacks, paperbacks, audiobooks, and e-books. This is also the combined figure for three different titles (the fourth, The Poisoned Pilgrim: A Hangman’s Daughter Tale, can be pre-ordered for July 16th, 2013).

Still, this is no small accomplishment, and can’t make those other tradpubs any happier.

Steve Jobs in the Apple trial

We are winding down in the Apple Agency Model trial, and today, Eddy Cue talked about Steve Jobs role, as reported in this

AllThingsD article by Peter Kafka

Honestly, I looked at another article first to bring you, but it was too tacky. Steve Jobs didn’t always do things with which I agreed, certainly, but I do think that respect is reasonable here.

Cue talked about how Jobs got into the iBooks project, once it was decided it was a go…including picking Winnie-the-Pooh as part of the launch.

It looks like we’ll have closing arguments on Thursday, and I would expect there to be a decision fairly quickly…I like Judge Cote, and I don’t think this will get stretched out for months.

As this point, I do think it’s possible Apple will prevail…

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of years…”

Just doesn’t have the same ring as the original, right?

Well, according to this

PaidContent.org article by Janko Roettgers

Germany’s Fraunhofer Institute is working on an anti-piracy DRM (Digital Rights Management) scheme that would change words in books so that you could identify which copy belong to whom, as a way to combat piracy.

Wait, what? ;)

I mean, I’m sorry, but authors sweat blood sometimes picking just the right combinations of vowels and consonants to tell their tales. I can’t imagine that this kind of “finger-printing” is going to be embraced. I hope-I hope-I hope… :)

Netflix to introduce user profiles

The video giant has figured out that not everybody on the same account has the same tastes. ;)

Huffington Post article by Alexis Kleinman

My adult kid and I share an account (my Significant Other just doesn’t use it), and that does make for some odd recommendations. For one thing, my kid is a linguist…we aren’t even always watching things in the same language! We don’t know quite how it will work yet, but it is supposed to be here by the end of the summer.

Why report on that?

We’re still waiting for Amazon to get something like that going for Kindle accounts. Yes, we have FreeTime for the Kindle Fire, and parental controls on the RSKs (Reflective Screen Kindles…anything but a Fire at this point), but we could certainly use something simpler. My SO is not going to read the Doctor Who book I borrowed from the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library this month, so it just sort of clutters things up.

I mentioned that we might see more software/service changes from Amazon this year than radical hardware changes (although I would figure that we’ll get new hardware), and this “profiles within accounts” kind of thing could certainly attract a lot of people.

Kindle for Windows 8 update

In this Amazon Kindle forum thread

Kindle for Windows 8 update 2.0

Amazon announced a new version of Kindles for Window 8. It’s bringing quite a few new features:

* Ability to search from inside a book
* Redesigned home screen and in-book navigation
* Easier bookmarking
* Filtering of Notes and Bookmarks
* Option to sample recommended books
* Live Tile displays of the book you’re reading
* Updated view options menu, library and search views

I’ve seen quite a few threads where people complain about the limited functionality of this version, so this should help. I’m intrigued by “filtering of Notes and Bookmarks”…I’ll look for more info on that.

Kindle Paperwhite update 5.3.6

They also announced the

Kindle Paperwhite Update Version 5.3.6

While it appears to have brought some other minor changes, this is the big new feature:

* Improvements when buying from a book sample – While reading a sample of a book, you can view the price of the full book and purchase from the reading toolbar with one tap

That seems nice…we all want things that make it easier for us to spend money with Amazon, right? ;) Well, if it’s money you were going to spend anyway, making it easier is a plus for the consumer.

How to support a blog

I do get asked about this, and I’m reluctant to bring it up. I don’t accept payment for ads (any ads you ever see here are added by WordPress, and they get the money. You don’t see that in the regular blog feed, I think, but I have seen it on individual articles on the website.

You can certainly subscribe (thanks, subscribers!) if the blog is in the Kindle store…but that doesn’t work for a lot of people (if you are outside the USA, I think, or if you are using a reading app).

I’ve had people ask me if I accept donations, or if they can just send me money. I’m not a non-profit, and reporting money given to me for the blog on my taxes would really befuddle me.

One thing you can do: if the blog has a link for Amazon Gift Cards, that can be a good way to do it. You can buy gift cards for other people, or you could just buy them and apply them to your account. That’s a pretty painless way to help out. :) It doesn’t change what you pay for anything at all.

As long as I’m writing about this (and so I can get back to something where I feel more comfortable), let me talk about Amazon Gift Cards a bit…I often see questions from people who are confused about how they work with Kindle books.

There are no Kindle gift cards…there are Amazon gift cards with pictures of Kindles on them, but when you buy a gift card with a picture of a birthday cake, that doesn’t mean you can only buy cake. ;)

You apply the gift card to your account.

The way that we buy books in the Kindle store is with “1-click”. 1-click will draw from any available gift card balance on your account until it is exhausted, then go back to whatever 1-click payment method you’ve designated (if any).

Let’s say somebody gives you a $25 gift card, and you want to spend it on books. You apply it to your account, and someone else on your account buys, oh, mouthwash (I’m not suggesting anything about their personal hygiene here, by the way). ;) If they use 1-click, it will take away from that gift card balance.

You aren’t asked if you want your gift card balance applied to your current Kindle store purchase, because you would have to click on something to do that…and it’s called 1-click. :)

That’s why some people have an account just for Kindle purchases, so they can keep them separate.

Infographic of mysteries in different US states

This

Ebook Friendly article

has a nice infographic from Open Road with e-book mysteries in different states in the USA.

I have to say, I’ve never gone to this site before, and I’m impressed! I don’t follow a lot of sites on Twitter, but I’m going to start following this one, which will put it in my Flipboard read in the morning.

I’m going to explore

http://ebookfriendly.com/

more, and then report back to you on it. I always figure there is room for a lot of good writing on the web about e-books, EBRs (E-Book Readers), and publishing. You’ve probably noticed that I tend to link and credit…I like being a place you can find the good work that others do. :)

What do you think? Is changing words in a book an acceptable way to combat piracy? Will you just be happy when the Apple Agency Model trial is over, however it goes? ;) Am I making a mistake when I promote other sites, or do you like it? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Kindle Worlds: Amazon mainstreams fanfic

May 22, 2013

Kindle Worlds: Amazon mainstreams fanfic

Characters live in our heads.

Not just characters we create, but ones we encounter when we read (or watch TV or a movie, play a game, and so on).

Imaginative people have always thought about what those characters do outside the story they’ve seen.

Some of those “shared dreamers” have written the stories down and made them available to other readers…even though the stories aren’t authorized by the rightsholders.

That’s part of what has made fanfic (“fan fiction”) complicated.

You do not have the legal right to publicly distribute stories about characters that someone else owns (especially if those characters are trademarked, but that’s not required).

However, people do it anyway.

Some rightsholders have tolerated it, even practically encouraged it within certain guidelines.

J.K. Rowling of Harry Potter fame has done that…no explicit sexual relations between the characters, but fanfic has been okayed by the author.

One of the biggest sites is

http://www.fanfiction.net/

It covers many, many properties, but a search for Harry Potter gave me 65,678 results just now.

Some fanfic authors put a lot of time and energy into it…for no pecuniary compensation. While not charging for something doesn’t exempt you from copyright (as some people seem to think), you are clearly more likely to draw the wrath of a rightsholder if you do get paid for it.

So, there have been a few conflicts here. One is rightsholders wanting to protect the characters. Another has been fanfic authors who may be really good, but aren’t able to financially benefit from that…which might be reducing their output.

Getting permission from a rightsholder to do an authorized work has been very complex.

Amazon, demonstrating their remarkable innovativeness, is about to change that.

I was sent a press release about it, which is now available at the official:

Kindle Worlds site

Here’s how Amazon has changed the game.

The “fanfic” here will be licensed, approved by the rightsholder.

The rightsholder will get paid by Amazon…and so will the fanfic author.

This could be extraordinarily significant.

Why does it matter so much?

Exclusive content.

Part of the information for authors reads

“When you submit your story in a World, you are granting Amazon Publishing an exclusive license to the story and all the original elements you include in that story.”

Let’s lay this out a bit more.

There is a creative work (TV show, book) that has an intense fan following. The fans want more than what they can get officially.

A fan writes a new story. That fan follows the guidelines provided by the rightsholder.

The fan publishes the story through Kindle Worlds.

Other fans buy the story. The author gets a royalty…and so does the rightsholder.

The only place you can get that story is from Amazon.

Typically, Amazon’s independent publishing platforms have not involved Amazon having the exclusive license for the content*: this does.

Tie-in novels, which are authorized by a rightsholder, have been big business (think Star Trek, Star Wars, Monk, and many more).

There could definitely be a market for this. Part of that is going to depend on the licenses Amazon can negotiate. They are starting out with Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars, and the Vampire Diaries (all held by Warner Brothers). I think that will rapidly expand. Other e-tailers might try and set up similar programs…but very few will have the clout and willingness to spend the money on this to make it happen.

One neat thing Amazon has done is gotten established authors to write in Kindle Worlds. Barbara Freethy, a #1 New York Times bestselling author, has written a Pretty Little Liars piece, for example.

Of course, not everybody submitting stories will be that quality. That’s going to be a risk: if the stories are bad, does it damage the brand? I think not…it’s so clever that Amazon will label these as to show that they are non-canonical (not part of the official oeuvre), so I think the main universe is protected. Think of it like “plausible deniability”. ;)

Another question will be if authors will embrace it. I think they will. You can earn royalties, even on very short works. That’s a new piece of this as well: a separate (lower) royalty rate for short shorts (5,000 to 10,000 words). Authors are fans, too…they’ll want to do this without the complication of getting their agents involved (although they agents might not like that part). Sure, some people will continue to do fanfic outside this system for free…partially because they like that community feeling, and partially so they don’t have to follow the guidelines. They’ll risk legal action doing so, as they do now…and that prosecutorial attitude may increase, since there is a legal way to do it now that benefits the rightsholder.

Oh, and Amazon is going to pay the royalties monthly! That’s another attraction for writers.

Would I do this personally?

Quite possibly. As regular readers know, I have written parodies here. You don’t need permission to do that (in the USA…interestingly, that’s different in Canada, which I hypothesize is one reason we get a lot of Canadian comedians here). However, that requires that you are using your piece to point out flaws in the original, and, well, it would be nice to write something where that wasn’t the case.

I have started scripts for shows I liked at times, intending to submit them through the proper channels…but the shows always got canceled before I finished, so I started to worry if I was the cause. ;) I had a nice one started for the Planet of the Apes TV series, for example.

I’ve also written in the style of public domain (not under copyright) works…and was really pleased when a site that matches your style to famous authors’ styles did say I wrote like those authors.

This may also be a great launch platform. Somebody who writes a terrific Kindle Worlds piece may be contracted by rightsholders to write something in the actual world…contribute a novel or a script to the official series. It’s happened before (at least that a fanfic author has added to the canon), and this makes sure the work would get noticed.

This sort of thing is why you can have faith in Amazon’s future (knock virtual wood). Their future isn’t tied up in having the next best hardware…it’s in having the next best idea.

Will there be pushback? Absolutely…”Amazon is turning a labor of love into sell-out commercial hackwork”…”Why do I get paid less for 10,000 word than for 100,000 words?”…”Why do they consider what I wrote pornography?”…”Why did they do that to that character?”

However, I think for the vast majority of authors, rightsholders, and readers, this is going to be a wonderful opportunity.

What do you think? Feel free to tell me and my readers by commenting on this post.

* The exception to indepedently published exclusivity with Amazon is when a book is part of the Kindle Owners’ Lending Library (KOLL). Amazon also makes exclusive deals with some tradpubs (traditional publishers)

Update: I just want to say, I’ve been thinking about this and talking with people about it. I think that, if I was the rightsholder for some older properties, I would jump on this. For example, people would want to write Dark Shadows or Man from U.N.C.L.E. fanfic. Thundarr the Barbarian and Thundercats also come to mind. Yes, there are or have been updates to those, but I don’t think any of them are literary revenue streams to any great extent right now. Putting them in KW (Kindle Worlds) would generate both income and interest…which might lead to more opportunities.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Hey, bookseller: sell the book!

November 5, 2012

Hey, bookseller: sell the book!

Sell the book.

Sell the book.

Sell the book.

Look, this drives me crazy!

I’m a former brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, and every time I hear about bookstores refusing to stock a book in order to strike a blow at Amazon, it just makes me want to run into a store, point at the books on the shelves, point at the cash register, look at the poor person behind the counter who can’t make the decision anyway, shrug my shoulders in a big exaggerated cartoon way, and walk out again.

However, I’m too nice a person to do that. ;)

Physical bookstores can survive in an internet world.

They can do it by being places people prefer to shop.

People won’t prefer to shop there if you don’t have the things they want to buy.

People won’t prefer to shop there if they think you are using them as pawns in some battle they either don’t understand or understand too well to want to be a pawn.

This

New York Times article

has the latest example of what I consider to be self-destructive behaviour.

Timothy Ferris is a super successful author, and the upcoming book

The 4-Hour Chef: The Simple Path to Cooking Like a Pro, Learning Anything, and Living the Good Life

should have been a guaranteed hardback bestseller.

Trust me, it’s the kind of book a bookstore manager wants. It expands your customer base beyond the typical serious reader, and it will make a great gift this holiday season.

Get them in the door, satisfy the minimum (you have the book at a price they’ll pay), and make the shopping experience superior to what they get on line. If they like you, they will want to support you and will be willing to spend more money than they would spend on line to do so.

Customer service oriented stores (and a bookstore better be one) like to say that they are “Making customers, not sales”…but you can’t make a customer if you can’t make a sale. You can’t make the sale if you don’t carry the book.

Sell the book.

The part that really gets me about this, as detailed in the article, is that they will sell you the book (despite what is presumably a principled stand against giving Amazon money)…but only if they make it as unpleasant as possible to buy it in the store.

For example, you can special order it.

Yes, that’s going to get people to want to shop in your store instead of on line. Tell them it will take them longer to get it than it would if they bought it with 1-click…and they’ll have to get in the car, and drive through the seasonal weather twice to get it.

You know that second time they come into the store to pick up the special order? I’ll bet they don’t tend to shop as much that second time. Picking up the book is a chore, not a pleasure. They want to get in, get in line, and get out.

That’s very different from if they had walked into your store, seen a “wishing well” of the book on the floor (those stacks of books we used to make with a hole in the middle), or walked past it on an end cap. Bam! You’ve satisfied them, and as long as they are there, they might as well browse a bit. They didn’t know if they would have to go to another store, so they haven’t allotted a specific amount of time in your store. When they come to pick up a special order, they can budget the time (“I’ll just pop in for five minutes on the way to the dry cleaners”).

Sell the book.

The stores are also selling these Amazon-published books on their own websites: yes, that will clearly encourage people to shop in your store instead of on line!

Customer: “Do you have the 24-hour Chef?”

Bookstore: “No, but you can get it from our website.”

Customer: “Why did I even come in here then?”

Bookstore: “I really have no idea…”

:)

Oh, good: I made a smiley face. My passion is winding down.

I don’t like it when emotions drive a post: I’d prefer to look at things logically.

“I can’t afford the luxury of anger.  Anger can make me vulnerable. It can destroy my reason, and reason is the only advantage I have over them.”
–Dr. Robert Morgan (played by Vincent Price)
Last Man on Earth (1964 movie)
screenplay by William F. Leicester, Richard Matheson*

It’s just that I’m passionate about books and bookstores. I want them to survive and I think they can. There is still a special experience to browsing in a bookstore with a knowledgeable and friendly staff. Even thought that vision of it may be partly just nostalgia for me, I still think it is possible.

But not if you don’t sell books.

What do you think? Should brick-and-mortar bookstores refuse to carry books published by Amazon? If they do, should they still sell them by special order and on line? If this book doesn’t do well, will that drive other megabooks away from Amazon as a publisher? How long can bookstores maintain a policy like this before it creates a death spiral of disappointed customers not shopping there any more?  Is it Amazon’s own fault for saying they love to “mess with normal”? That doesn’t tend to make the people who depend on normal happy. Will the longer sales cycle for e-books make up for a short-term loss at boycotting bookstores? Feel free to let me and my readers know what you think by commenting on this post.

*One of hundreds of quotations in The Mind Boggles: A Unique Book of Quotations…not available in any brick-and-mortar bookstore. ;)

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Bookstores that won’t carry books

July 10, 2012

Bookstores that won’t carry books

What is the raison d’etre for bookstores?

It’s to sell books, right?

If a bookstore refuses to sell books, that seems self-destructive.

One of my regular readers and commenters, Harold Delk, directed me to this:

Publishers Weekly article

The Judith Rosen piece quotes several owners, managers, and other executives of brick-and-mortar bookstores explaining why they won’t carry books published by New Harvest.

Those are paperbooks published by Amazon imprints, and distributed by venerable (founded in 1880) publisher, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

I have to say, there is some of the most upside down and backwards reasoning I’ve seen…at least, that’s the way it appears to me.

Let me address first the basic principle of not selling books. Absolutely, bookstores have the right to choose their merchandise (I’m a former bookstore manager). You don’t want to carry a book because it won’t sell? Perfectly reasonable. You don’t want to carry a book because you think it will offend your customers? Makes sense.

You don’t want to carry a book because you want to hurt the publisher? That’s just bizarre.

Who does it help and hurt?

The Customers

In the short run, this clearly hurts the customer. They can’t buy a book from you that they want. In the longer run, you might think you are helping them, by changing somebody’s else’s business practice…but the customer is likely to just buy the book somewhere else (like Amazon). If the customer doesn’t hear of the book, yes, that could hurt the publisher’s sales, which could encourage that company to change some practice, I guess.

The Store

Again, clearly a short term negative impact. The store loses sales. Perhaps more importantly, they could lose customers. You shop in a local store because you like their service (and maybe selection, although the internet beats that). It’s not good service to not have the book the customer wants. One thing that makes you return to a bookstore: you got a book there you loved. Fewer books, fewer chances for that to happen. Think you can explain it to the customer? “Yes, I know it has great reviews, but Amazon has business practices that we don’t like, so we aren’t going to carry it.” Customer’s response: “Who does carry it?” or “What practices?” Store: “They are selling books for lower prices than we can match.” Customer: “Um, okay…” Harold says that he won’t shop at any store that refuses to carry books like that…I would guess he won’t be the only one. Of course, many customers will have no idea about what is happening.

The Authors

They get hurt. Fewer sales, fewer royalties. Less discovery, fewer future sales. That even gets mentioned in the article.

The Publisher

They probably lose some sales, but this also weakens the power of the brick-and-mortar stores to influence the market in the future.

Other Publishers

They potentially win, but if this leads to fewer people shopping in brick and mortars, it means the tradpubs (traditional publishers) have to compete online…with Amazon.

Seriously, this is a lose/lose/lose/lose/lose. Of course, there are times it makes sense to hurt yourself. You see a little kid in the street, about to get hit by a car. You run out there and throw the kid to safety, getting hit and breaking your leg. That’s worth it. I can applaud the bookstore magnates for taking a moral stand. I just honestly think it’s hard to justify from a business standpoint.

Take this short quote excerpt from Vivien Jennings of Fairway Books in Kansas:

“Even if I’m super busy,” says Jennings, “I explain to [CreateSpace authors] about the sales tax thing and the DoJ.”

Let’s go through those two, and how I would explain them.

Amazon favors having a national sales tax policy. They want all internet retailers to be compelled to collect sales tax. Amazon’s Paul Misener has testified before Congress in favor of equal collection legislation.

What they don’t want is states making up their own (and very different) rules about who has to collect sales tax.

Amazon’s stand (and efforts to make it become reality) would likely benefit brick-and-mortar bookstores, because all (well, at least one that met a sales minimum, most likely) internet and mail order places would collect sales tax the same way those neighborhood stores do.

Is that what Jennings explains?

As to the DoJ (Department of Justice) thing…

There has been a real effort to spin this into an anti-Amazon case, when it is the opposite.

Does Jennings say, “Amazon was discounting e-books to customers, even though they were paying the same amount to publishers, and authors were therefore getting the same amount. Apple colluded, according to the Department of Justice, with five of the six largest US publishers to raise the prices that customers were paying…and to eliminate price competition, by making the e-books the same price regardless of what outlet was selling them.”

That’s what is happening.

I’m not saying that the DoJ couldn’t go after Amazon for anything…the e-tailer does have a “most favored nation” requirement in their contracts with independent publishers using their Kindle Direct Publishing , saying that the publisher can’t sell the e-book cheaper somewhere else. That one concerns me.

However, the current DoJ action says that Apple and the publishers were the bad guys and hurt consumers. Some of the publishers, without admitting wrongdoing, have already agreed to settle.

Maybe Jennings is explaining that, I don’t know. It doesn’t sound like it, though.

Here’s the hard part for me in this.

I think running a bookstore is a noble pursuit. Many bookstore owners/managers really want to help people find great things to read. I’ve spent many a wonderful time in bookstores.

These complaints, though, mostly sound like they are about money.

Clearly, if the goal was to help connect readers with books, you wouldn’t do it by keeping books out of the hands of readers.

Are bookstore owners/managers/CEOs upset because Amazon is doing that  better?

Sure, that makes sense. You want to make a profit, you want to stay in business.

It just doesn’t sound like the goal here is the enrichment of the reading community.

After you’ve read the article, I’d love to hear what you think. I’d be more than happy to discuss these points with any of those bookstore folks. Book people, as I’ve mentioned before, tend to be empathetic. While there are certainly passionate discussions around books (nowadays, you can find those online, in the “bookstream” inside a book on a Kindle Fire, and so on…and yes, probably in some bookstores), I think readers tend to be able to look at things logically and from many viewpoints.

What do you think?

If you have more to say to me and my readers, feel free to make a comment on this post.

Thanks again to Harold for the heads-up on this!

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

How is Thomas & Mercer, Amazon’s mystery imprint, doing?

May 5, 2012

How is Thomas & Mercer, Amazon’s mystery imprint, doing?

I’ve written before about how Amazon has become a traditional publisher.

I’m not talking about Kindle Direct Publishing, where publishers (who are often just the author) upload books and Amazon sells them and pays them a royalty.

I’m talking about Amazon selecting books, and taking editorial responsibility for them.

This is an important development. If Amazon can publish the books which would otherwise go to the traditional publishers, it changes the whole balance of power.

So, I was curious…how is Amazon doing?

What I decided to do was look at Thomas & Mercer, Amazon’s mystery & suspense imprint, and see how their topsellers are doing in the store, how many titles they have, and if authors do as well with them as they do with other publishers. The last one is hard to figure exactly, since no two books are the same. However, I could take a look at the author’s other popular books and compare rankings.

Thomas & Mercer
genre: mystery & thrillers
Contact: thomasmercer-pr@amazon.com
Submissions: tm-submissions@amazon.com
Thomas & Mercer books in the Kindle store

Top five titles:

You may have noticed that the books aren’t in order. Amazon’s popularity sort and their sales ranks don’t always match up, which is the case here. I don’t think they are updated at the same time, so they can get out of sync.

How are the authors doing with Thomas & Mercer?

All of the David Lender books in the Kindle store are published by T&M, so there isn’t a comparison to do.

Looking at Michael Wallace’s books, from most popular down:

  1. Independent
  2. T&M
  3. T&M
  4. T&M
  5. Independent
  6. T&M
  7. Balsalom (independent?)
  8. Balsalom
  9. Balsalom
  10. Independent

and then it goes on…forty titles (!) showed up in the search.

T&M does better for Wallace than the other choices…except for the very bestseller.

Both of Grundler’s books are T&M.

Aaron and Charlotte Elkins:

  1. T&M
  2. Independent
  3. Independent
  4. Westlake (independent?)
  5. Westlake
  6. Westlake

So, the Elkins benefit from T&M.

How about Nelson DeMille?

  1. T&M
  2. Grand Central (an imprint of Hachette, one of the big six US trade publishers)
  3. Grand Central
  4. Grand Central
  5. Grand Central
  6. Grand Central
  7. Grand Central
  8. Grand Central
  9. Grand Central
  10. Grand Central

and on through twenty titles.

That one is interesting! It could be because it’s a Kindle Single, but Amazon beating Hachette is pretty impressive.

T&M has also been spending money. They licensed the backlist for the Ed McBain books…and the original James Bond books (which should get a boost from the next Bond movie, Skyfall, opening November 9th). You have figure there was some bidding for those.

My opinion?

This is informed partially by my experience as a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager.

I think they are making it work, and doing better than might be expected. They are being somewhat conservative at this point, and that’s working for them.

They aren’t there yet, but the progress is good. I suspect that some brick-and-mortars, including Barnes & Noble, refusing to carry the books in paper is hurting. However, that will become less important in the next year or two (especially in the Barnes & Noble chains dwindle seriously as B&N concentrates on digital with the Microsoft cash influx).

Owning the major backlist like that will move people towards Amazon…if that means away from stores that choose not to carry them, so be it. They may have to change their minds…or give up and just sell toys. :)

If Amazon stays committed to this for another five years, they could be have a seat at the major players table.

What do you think? Will major authors have to pick sides…and will they pick Amazon? Will Amazon promote their tradpub books over the KDP? How important is the backlist to credibility? Feel free to let me and my readers know  your opinion by commenting on this post.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.

Add Amazon to your list of major publishers

October 13, 2011

Add Amazon to your list of major publishers

Many people think Amazon publishes everything it sells. They think Amazon chooses which books are published for the Kindle, how much the list price is for the book, and so on.

I see this quite a bit in the forum: “Why doesn’t Amazon publish Jurassic Park for the Kindle?”

That’s a simple misunderstanding.

I’ll also see people respond, “Amazon isn’t a publisher.”

That’s also incorrect.

I’m not talking about Kindle Direct Publishing. That’s more of a distribution platform.

I’ve written a number of times before about Amazon’s imprints, and that is straight up traditional publishing.

What’s the difference?

Well, one of the key things is that a traditionally published book is selected by editorial choice. The publisher chooses to publish that particular book (and may reject hundreds of others before they do).

The default with the KDP is to have it in the store if it doesn’t violate any guidelines.

When Amazon publishes a book through one of its imprints, the default is to not have the book in the store…unless they judge it is good and/or will make sales.

Amazon publishing a book cuts out the (other) traditional publishers.

In this week’s

USA Today bestseller list

the number three ranked book is

The Hangman’s Daughter

by Oliver Pötzsch.

The USA Today significantly misidentifies it as “…Self-published via Amazon Digital Services”.

That’s the same basic way they identify the other six books that came from Amazon on this list (like #15, The Mill River Recluse).

They are apparently confusing who published it with who is selling it.

In the case of The Hangman’s Daughter, it is published by

AmazonCrossing

That’s the one of Amazon’s imprints that is dedicated to publishing English translations of books originally published in other languages.

As with its other imprints, Amazon is going slowly on this. There are currently thirty-two

AmazonCrossing titles

How are they doing?

The least popular of the English language AmazonCrossing books that have already been published (I’m not counting pre-orders and Spanish language versions) is in about the top third of the Kindle store titles. Given all of the Kindle Direct Publishing books which may sell very few copies, that’s not necessarily great.

However, Hangman’s Daughter is #66 paid in the Kindle store.

If it’s #3 at the USA Today, why is it only #66 paid in the Kindle store? Well, for one thing, the Kindle store ranks are much more volatile…I think they change them once an hour instead of once a week.

While the fact that this was published slipped by the USA Today (and I don’t blame them for that), it seems to me to be very important. Just as there were doubts that Amazon could sell hardware before the Kindle, people have doubted Amazon’s ability to be a significant player as a publisher. One book does not a publisher make, but this is significant.

If Amazon’s genre imprints start doing well, authors (even famous ones) may consider more strongly going with Amazon as a publisher.

These books aren’t just published in e-books, by the way…Amazon does paper, too.

Certainly, this gives rising authors more negotiating power…it’s another player in the game.

What do you think? Am I overemphasizing this? Is it too soon to tell about Amazon as a publisher? Is this one just a fluke? Feel free to let me know.

This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog.


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