Monthly Archives: October 2011

Is Obama Fit for Office

I KNOW, I KNOW. On a lot of bases, “No.” We knew that much before he was even elected. But that’s not what I mean.

I mean, all these late show-ups. All of the seemingly out-of-control behavior — aren’t his handlers competent to get him on a conference call with Democrat Senators on time? Is it possible these lapses, ellipses, and lacunae are symptoms of depression and neurosis that should render him medically unfit for office? Somewhat like Woodrow Wilson? Do we want Michelle Obama or Van Jones running the country?

Would we be able to tell?

And who decides?

Been Meaning to Address This

WHOLE TOPIC OF COVERS from the perspective of an indie writer, but keep hesitating because… well… A) I’m not 100% sure of my ground, for starters, and 2) the topic seems rather large and therefor daunting.I do have relevant experience — 30 years of it as a world-class pro — but keep wondering just what it is they know that I don’t. (They being the designers in the New York Houses.)

But it’s an important topic, I think, so I’m gonna take a stab or two at it.

As I see it there are three things you can do to ensure sales, and repeat sales.

First and foremost is to write quality content. No matter what else you take away from my musings, know this: your best — and ultimately only effective — method of promotion and advertising is word-of-mouth. This has been demonstrated so dispositively as to be beyond dispute. The reason you get word-of-mouth is that you have so impressed readers that they can be moved to say something to other people about this book they just read.

Third is to price your book appropriately. Lowball pricing is a signal, too. Books that people have never heard of by authors they’ve never heard of that are being given away free — with the possible special context of an explicitly promotional giveaway — send a signal that potential readers will react to by asking, “What’s wrong with it?” They may not say that — or even think it — out loud, but it will cross their minds, if only as a momentary flash of thought. Books that are priced inappropriately low betray a lack of confidence in the quality of the work, as though the publisher (that’s you,
bunky: as an indie author, you are also the publisher) doesn’t really believe the work is up to snuff and people won’t buy it unless it’s cheap. In fact, I suspect, the opposite is true: if it’s not priced right, how can it be worth anything?

Now, yes, fans of authors, or readers of classics, will spend hours on the Gutenberg Project site, downloading free eBooks to their Kindles, like so many monkeys on crack. (Trust me; I’ve done it.) But that’s like found money. If they had the money, they’d buy those books in paper in a flash. But they don’t, so they go for the free stuff. But they already know that product, and just want to own it for themselves. YOU, dear reader/writer, are in an entirely other position. YOU they don’t know, and the only things the have to judge you on are word of mouth from other readers, the confidence you display in pricing the thing right, and the quality of the cover art you display online.

Which is the second item in my list. More important than price, but less-so than word-of-mouth in the cosmic scheme of things.

Book covers are part of the larger topic of book design. Some points to consider, albeit not all relevant in the eBook world, appear Monday at AuthoPublisher. Not all of them are entirely relevant. It seems eBook readers, such as Kindle, take overmuch influence over style from the Web, which — after all — was set up by engineers and programmers, not designers, and shows it. You don’t have a lot of choice in typestyle, as far as I can tell, in the .mobi format. You do in .pdf, but there are problems with that. You can’t dictate line lengths without ruining text flow when your reader changes the font size, so you have to live with the reader’s defaults. But there are choices you can make — those relating to more-generic text issues, such as using “smart” quotes and proper dashes, and the like. (I think the Chicago Manual is full of it on ellipses, by the way, and I’ll own that.)

All that will only be seen by your reader once the eBook is already sold. That reflects on your attitude toward quality and professionalism in the presentation of your work, and that will affect — however subtly — future sales to the same readers. But only that.

But the cover, now… That is your billboard, your advertisement in the prime position that Amazon and Smashwords and the rest give you when you sell through them. And, pace Dean Wesley Smith, if you produce your cover in MS PowerPoint with stock imagery, it’s going to look it. And, for all the endless platitudinizing about how you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can. And people do. If covers didn’t affect sales, trust me: books would be sold with plain covers. In stock wallpaper patterns, maybe, but no custom graphics or embossed titles or holographic foil substrates. That stuff’s expensive, and it’s not there for decoration, it’s there to get the browsing reader’s attention on the shelf. And it serves the same function on an Amazon search page, or the item listing.

And, having gotten this far, and not touched the actual specifics of the topic, I realize I must continue another time, and so can only admonish you, Gentle Reader to Watch This Space — More To Come.

(Hat tip: Passive Guy.

Cross-posted at Musings of an Indie Writer

Kris Rusch

CONFRONTS HEAD-ON the blinders-on approach of traditional publishing to the oncoming changes in the book market. She links to a blogger who is apparently listened to in the corridors of powah in New Yawk Citteh. The man sounds to me like he’s trying to impress with his erudition to cover his lack of substance. That is to say, he can’t dazzle us with brilliance, he’ll try to baffle us with bullshit.

He asserts that nobody can know what’s coming down the pike. Which might be true if you wanted an absolute prediction of millimetric precision for two years out, every weekly high and low. But to garner a general impression of what’s up, one only need to open his eyes.

The thinking of the publishing industry — really, of every industry threatened with obsolescence as an effect of advancing technology — looks a lot to me like the magical thinking in other arenas: leftist statists and government “solutions” to problems and non-problems alike; warmistas and their hockey sticks; buggy-whip manufacturers… They tend to assume that trends will continue straight-line. Which trends never do. They curve down. They curve up. They curve sideways. They corkscrew. But they never continue straight-line. Why people always act as though they do is frankly beyond me.

People poo-poo the possibility that DiY authors can successfully market their own books. You need editors. You need book designers. You need cover artists. You need typesetters. If you go to press, you need expert printers who know how to not only put ink on paper, but how to bind the books. I know something about these things, and for people living in the future that started in the late ’70s and devastated vast swathes of the graphic arts, they really ought to know better. People in the printing business said the same things: you’re never going to get the same levels of quality; you can’t get the color matches, the saturation, the clarity with halography that you can from offset lithography or rotogravure. Print-on-demand will fall down when it comes to binding books in small quantities. And so-forth.

People in entrenched positions are whistling past the graveyard. Like so many Neros, they fiddle while the burning Titanic sinks beneath the waves, the deck chairs sliding down the inclined teak. They make the same mistake so many have made in the past when faced with losing position and privileges to progress. They discount human ingenuity. And, as I say, they assume present trends will continue straight-line.

Never assume the status quo will remain even quo, let alone static. Change is. People will push for change. Envelopes are made with flexible outsides for just that reason. If you can’t publish an illustrated book on Kindle, then people will seek out other platforms, where illustrations can be served up. And Amazon will either adapt or die. (And Wednesday’s release of the Kindle Fire should provide abundant notice as to which way Amazon’s management is playing things.) If publishing picture books isn’t on, creators will push until it is. As it is, I just the other day downloaded an eBook file of Howard Pyle’s Book of Pirates. If you’re at all familiar with it, you’ll know it is full to the gunwales with illustrations — even color illustrations. Yeah, it’s a .pdf file. Yeah, my little one-lung, 6″ Kindle will only display the illos in grayscale. But the Kindle for PC displays them just fine in color. You can bet the Fire, when it finally ships, will, too. That change didn’t take long, now, did it?

I hear Kris Rusch’s linked-to blogger wondering what market there will be for adult illustrated books, and wonder if this guy has been living under a rock in a Geico commercial for the last decade or so … has he never heard of Frank Miller’s Sin City or The 300? Is he familiar with the body of work by Neil Gaiman? Does the phrase Ghost in the Shell mean nothing to him? Does he know that national borders mean less and less with every passing day? Is he aware that an entire nation of hundreds of millions of people supports thriving industry of adult illustrated books? Does he think Manga in e-Book format wouldn’t drive the development of e-Readers? Does Kindle DX mean nothing?

What flabbergasts me is the seemingly deliberate obtuseness. There’s abundant opportunity for entrepreneurial writers. And if humans have demonstrated nothing else in our millennia of history, it is that we are an entrepreneurial bunch. SOMEbody will make money at this. (Some several bodies already are.) Why not you? Do these people not WANT to make money? As Heinlein said, it’s raining soup! Grab a bucket!

Cross-posted at Musings of an Indie Writer

SwearToGod

I’M GONNA START writing third-person pronouns in the genetive case with interstitial apostrophes…

JUST LIKE ALL YOU SEMI-LITERATE MONKEYS DO WITH THE THIRD PERSON NEUTER!

Do you write hi’s? Do you write her’s? WHYOHWHYONEARTH, then, do you write it’s for a third person neuter possessive pronoun?

I saw it in the Kindle User’s Guide, fercrissake! Sheesh! Get a frigging editor who didn’t fail second grade phonetics!

It’s (NOTE: contraction from “it is”.) considered declasse to correct people’s spelling online. “It’s a fast-paced medium,” they say, “with millions of people typing trillions of words daily. You can’t police them all. Save your blood pressure and bandwidth and let it slide.”

“When rape is inevitable, lie back and try to enjoy it. Think of England.”

And, although it does forsooth corrupt the dialectic, as it degrades the clarity of verbal communication, the error in usage represented is a small thing.

BUT! But: but…

Like a broken window in an abandoned building, poor usage in any form encourages worse crimes. And, as I say of egregiously bad drivers, the reason they get away with it is that people let them get away with it; blow your horn. So, too, here. If somebody doesn’t mention it at least once a day, the notion of correct spelling, grammar, vocabulary, and syntax in written communication being a sine qua non sinks beneath the waves of those trillions of words.

Cross-posted at Musings of and Indie Writer.

GM’S Got Bad News Again

HE’S CHIN-UP, which is the only way to fight cancer, but could still use some prayers, I’d wager.

Yes, I am Exactly Like a Monkey on Crack

WHEN IT COMES TO FREE books. Or a squirrel loading up for winter — cheeks fat with more nuts than I can ever possibly eat or even share with my family, the neighbors, and the whole damned block.

Since I’m really too broke to even be buying a Kindle, let alone books, I hit Project Gutenberg. You know: the place where they are trying to get every book ever anywhere online — and now in Kindle format.

FREE.

Well. You should donate. (Note to self: send those guys money.)

You know how you get stuck in places like Wikipedia? You’ll look at something, and there’ll be links to something else that look interesting, and pretty soon you’ve been sitting there for five hours reading all this really neat shit? Tam calls it a Wiki-wander?

Well… I skipped lunch. About five-thirty this Saturday afternoon, Earnie started climbing up on the desk, asking for attention. Sort of hinting that I should take a break. It’s now 1:30 in the AM and I’m hanging it up because my ass is sore.

I. Filled. My. Kindle.

I shit you not. The message window said, “The target disk is full. Please insert another and press any key to continue.” Now, I managed to back off of that to where I have about a third of the space on the thing free. But still…

Take a pill. Feel the buzz. Press the lever. Get the pill. Take the pill. JUST like a monkey on crack.

So now I’m going to read myself to sleep to Princess of Mars. Or The River War. Or Omnilingual.

Vapor lock. Decisions! Decisions!

Man, I Hate Networking!

SEEMS LIKE NO matter how hard I try to be prepared, exercise due diligence, read all the manuals in advance, understand the implications, networking in a new device always ends up in a marathon session of caffeine drinks at 1:00 AM and face-plant crashes on the keyboard.

So Kindle came down under a hundred bucks last Wednesday. I ordered one. Hell, order two. The wife is a reader, too, and would like to have one.

I took advantage of the one-month trial of Amazon Prime to get it here Friday.

Got home Friday night and started in trying to get the things to the point you could A) read content on them and 2) get new content.

Step one: enable WiFi.

18 hours later…

No. Seriously. I just finished getting the WiFi enabled on both Kindles at, like, 9:00 this morning.

The good news is that, once that’s done, the rest of it’s a breeze. But it was a royal pain getting the Kindles to talk to our home WiFi router. And, of course, all the jiggery-pokery with the NICs caused my computers to forget how to connect to the Internet, so that was a momentary albeit secondary panic.

GOOD MORNING!

How’s your day, so far?