What To Do When Your Book Gets a Bad Review (via @epublishabook)

Along with a form rejection, a bad review is up there on the list of soul- and ego-crushing things that can happen to a writer in the course of their daily working life.

Patricia from http://www.epublishabook.com/ has a two part article discussing some prevention and coping strategies for bad reviews.

There are different kinds of bad reviews, and each should receive a tailor made treatment. Bad reviews can be divided according to their source or to their content.

Patricia provides a very nice, detailed breakdown of how to respond. The core message, as you should already know, is that an author should always be polite and courteous. Your image is your brand, and your public behaviour is your image.

I particularly liked how to avoid (not cope with!) criticism of your style:

Critics about the style
These are best avoided by offering free sample chapters.  A reader who does not like your style will simply not buy the book and have no reason to complain. If it happens nevertheless, most of the time, it is best to ignore it, or to hope that other readers will comment on that critic.

Note that doesn’t help you if you’ve already received the bad review, but it’s a healthy and supportive mitigation strategy.

Do check out the rest. You can read part 1 here: What to do with a bad review – Part 1 – Looking at the source of the review

…and part 2 here: What to do with a bad review – Part 2 – Looking at the content of the review

Discussion on Ebook pricing using the Starbucks pricing model (via @sydneywriters)

The Sydney Writers centre reposted a great article by Elle Lothlorien about how she adjusted her ebooks prices upwards and increased sales. She postulates that a few different reasons account for the behaviour, and compares this to expensive coffee at Starbucks. There are a couple of insights into reader approaches to pricing. Having started at $2.99 she says:

The first revelation took place at the beginning of October. While skimming various Kindle reader forums, I ran across a thread on the topic of pricing. One reader wrote that she never bought a book that was $2.99 or less because it was sure to be self-published “indie crap” riddled with typos.

This reader perception doesn’t even have to be true; the simple fact that it exists needs to be taken into account.

Consider this: In mid-October I raised the price of The Frog Prince to $3.99. I immediately saw a jump in sales. And when I say immediate, I mean overnight. Within a few days the book had leap-frogged for the first time onto two Amazon Top 100 lists.

The article is fascinating and pretty detailed. But if you are feeling a glimmer of excitement, read what happened next:

At the beginning of November, I raised the price to $4.99. In November I sold 224 copies. I raised it again to $5.99 at the beginning of December, and that’s when the whole thing began to pick up steam.

Even more excitement! If you’re interested in managing pricing on your self-published books you could do worse than read it: http://www.writingbar.com/2011/12/interviews-with-writers/one-author-shares-what-she-learned-from-starbucks-pick-an-ebook-higher-price-and-turbocharge-her-sales/

Amazon signs up authors; Publishers need a new angle

You won’t hear me saying that traditional publishing is dead. But I will say that if they don’t pull their act together and reconfigure for the new world, they’re going to be dead. The old model, where a good author didn’t have nearly as much choice in getting their work in front of people as they do now, is becoming uncompetitive. Change-or-die, frankly.

So to add to the old-school woes, the New York Times released an article talking about Amazon’s role in signing up authors directly, offering them more creative control than a traditional publisher, and generally treating them like what they are: the actual source of  their income. This isn’t news, of course, but the NYTimes article is pretty thorough.

Publishers say Amazon is aggressively wooing some of their top authors. And the company is gnawing away at the services that publishers, critics and agents used to provide.

I read about plenty of discontent with Amazon, often from booksellers (remember this?), but the reality is that if Amazon is offering a competitive package to authors, why would they go through the trials of self-publishing/traditional publishing at all?

“It’s always the end of the world,” said Russell Grandinetti, one of Amazon’s top executives. “You could set your watch on it arriving.”

He pointed out, though, that the landscape was in some ways changing for the first time since Gutenberg invented the modern book nearly 600 years ago. “The only really necessary people in the publishing process now are the writer and reader,” he said. “Everyone who stands between those two has both risk and opportunity.”

I have to disagree in part: there is an ever growing need now, more so than ever, for the hidden heroes of publishing, the service providers formerly hidden behind the walls of traditional publishers: the typesetters, the cover artists, the freakin’ editors. Literarium is pretty much predicated on my expectation that these professionals will be more in demand than ever, from both self-publishers and small publishers who outcompete the traditional businesses. Saying that editors don’t fall into the ‘really necessary’ part of the writing/reading process is foolishly overvaluing the quality of unedited writing out there.

Just sayin’.

He is right about one thing though: it’s like the shift in the music industry (which almost destroyed them due to their inertia) and the shift in the movie industry (which despite their imbecilic decisions on content availability is thriving, contrary to fearmongering reports by industry bodies).

Amazon has started giving all authors, whether it publishes them or not, direct access to highly coveted Nielsen BookScan sales data, which records how many physical books they are selling in individual markets like Milwaukee or New Orleans. It is introducing the sort of one-on-one communication between authors and their fans that used to happen only on book tours. It made an obscure German historical novel a runaway best seller without a single professional reviewer weighing in.

There’s also a reference to Kiana Davenport’s dramas with Penguin. All very interesting, and interesting times. For people who are invested in the publishing industry, as opposed to a specific business model in the publishing industry, it’s all pretty exciting.

Here it is: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/17/technology/amazon-rewrites-the-rules-of-book-publishing.html

Brand Recognition in Publishing (via @steampress)

Martin Latham blogs on http://www.thebookseller.com/ about publishers squandering significant brand recognition through mergers.

Nobody knows who published Stieg Larsson. By this, I mean no normal customer—even a Larsson fiend—could tell you the publisher. This matters because readers follow particular publishers, and this silent relationship is a rich source of whole genres. For instance, Picador can take chances because it has a following of customers who expect edgy, often unpleasant tales, such as Ian McEwan stories in the 70s, and Emma Donoghue’s Room in 2011.

It’s an interesting thought: do you expect a certain quality of material, or a certain approach to a genre, based on the publisher?

Few other imprints have kept their audience so carefully. Pan, with its satyr flautist logo, gave us Ian Fleming and lurid thrillers. Collins, with its fountain logo, meant wonderful non-fiction. These two names have lost their discrete identity, but customers would still get their wallet out if they suddenly reappeared.

I know that Angry Robot Books has a reputation for quality writing. So does this mean that the indie presses are beginning to take over the distinctive qualities of old?

Read the rest here: http://www.thebookseller.com/blogs/making-imprint.html

Demographics of eReaders in the US

This is a short Nielsen report on the changing demographics of eReaders (that is, the electronic devices). Most tellingly:

In the U.S., as recently as last Summer, tablet and eReader owners tended to be male and on the younger side. But according to Nielsen’s latest, quarterly survey of mobile connected device owners, this is no longer the case.

Read the article (with pretty graphs!) here: http://blog.nielsen.com/nielsenwire/online_mobile/changing-demographics-of-tablet-and-ereader-owners-in-the-us/

What are the publishers doing for us? via @pubperspectives

This is an article from Publishing Perspectives covering the inaugural Publishers Launch London conference recently.

One of the quotes that stood out to me is relevant to last week’s discussion about cover design. Jonny Geller of Curtis Brown says:

“The reason we have so many jackets looking the same is that publishers will say ‘oh, we can’t choose that one because Tesco won’t like it’”

It’s easy to wave at the rebirth of self-publishing in this digital era and dismiss the traditional publishing industry’s contributions, but:

Stephen Page, Chief Executive of Faber, suggested that publishers perhaps don’t do as good a job as they could of communicating to authors the value publishers offer. “We forget the difficulty of the remote position that writers occupy.”

This hearkens back to the discussions we’ve had here about the perceived value of the digital container, and so highlights a deficiency in the publishing industry – communications. I’d hazard a guess that traditional publishing houses have not had a requirement to explain themselves for decades, nor any dearth of quality submissions. It seems to me that in a world where authors have increasingly varied avenues to publishing, they really need to improve this aspect if they want to continue to attract the best talent.

The article also contains some perspectives from both sides regarding territorial rights and the place of digital formats.

Read the rest of the article here: http://publishingperspectives.com/2011/06/authors-what-are-publishers-doing-for-us/

Take a look at T.S. Eliot’s ‘The Waste Land’, converted into a premium digital container (via @touchpress)

I stumbled on the TouchPress website recently, and onto a really interesting example of adding value to classic texts by translating them into a digital format. By utilising the power of the digital format, TouchPress hope the create more powerful interactive experiences.

You’ve heard all this before, of course, but it’s nice to see a practical implementation.

Books are one of the great defining inventions of our civilization—and today they are poised for a revolution. Our goal is to create a new kind of book that makes use of emerging consumer platforms such as iPad, as well as the latest computation capabilities and high-performance visual media.

A prominent example of the kind of digital book they’re talking about is their The Waste Land:

This new digital edition of T. S. Eliot’s The Waste Land brings alive the most revolutionary poem of the last hundred years, illuminated by a wealth of interactive features. The title’s groundbreaking design carefully respects the typography and integrity of the original poem, yet offers spectacular new ways to explore The Waste Land‘s significance and influence

Listed as features of this book-as-app are:

  • A powerful filmed performance of the entire poem by Fiona Shaw, synchronised to the text
  • Complete audio readings of the poem, also synchronised to the text, by T. S. Eliot himself, Alec Guinness, Ted Hughes, and Viggo Mortensen
  • Comprehensive interactive notes to guide the user through the poem’s many references
  • Over 35 expert video perspectives on the poem, filmed in partnership with BBC Arena, including contributions from Seamus Heaney and Jeanette Winterson
  • Original manuscript pages revealing how the poem took shape under Ezra Pound’s editing

I’ve spoken to Virginia from booki.sh about adding value to the digital container in the past. She had commented:

Improving the container – beautifully designed ebooks, rather than some of the fairly appalling dross we’re seeing at the moment – is something I’m very interested in, but there’s a huge amount of inertia in the publishing industry.

Although I’m not generally a fan of books as applications, there is a point where you have to ask whether this kind of innovation can be provided by a generic digital format such as .ePub. To make an eBook more than a digital version of ‘real-life’ books, are hyperlinks sufficient, or does this kind of added value requires its own custom container?

You can preview the Waste Land application here: http://www.touchpress.com/titles/thewasteland/. It’s definitely worth checking out.

You can find it on the Apple store here.

The Indie bookseller vs The Amazon Imprint

Hm, I don’t entirely agree with this, but I’m not an independent bookshop and can only view it from a writer/reader perspective.

Basically the Seattle Mystery Bookshop has posted a polite series of emails they had with a writer being published through Amazon’s new publishing venture. The writer asks for a stocking/signing opportunity and is politely rebuffed.

It’s an interesting insight into the shifting relationships between traditional publisher/self publisher/self-promoter/book seller. As the author says:

I know your mind is set, and I do not expect my email to change it. But I do want you to know that my experience with Amazon as an author has been second to none. They are incredibly supportive and responsive and beyond author-friendly. They flew me to NY for a book signing at BEA, something unheard of for a first-time author in my genre. And the list goes on.

Although book sellers are affected directly by the market strength of Amazon, Amazon does offer a radically different publishing relationship for writers. So is the bookselling industry shooting themselves in the foot by rejecting work from writers who want better publishing terms? It’s not as if a boycott has any practical effect, it is purely an ethical position.

It’s a worthwhile read:  http://seattlemysteryblog.typepad.com/seattle_mystery/2011/06/cant-shake-the-devils-hand-and-say-youre-only-kidding.html

Finding an editor (and treating them well) – via @BothersomeWords

I found this blog post via Angela Slattery’s blog (to which you should also subscribe, as it is quite useful).

Bothersome Words is a provider of literary services (eg. proofreading, editing), and wrote an article comparing hiring editors to hiring any tradesperson. This in itself is a worthwhile read, but what particularly struck me (reading writing-related posts with Literarium ever-watchful over my shoulder), was the introduction:

There are many ways to go about hiring a freelance editor to help you with your fledgling manuscript or document. You can trawl through the Yellow Pages, check Google, contact your local Writers’ Centres or dip into the directories of numerous Societies of Editors.

Just as there are hundreds of tradespeople to choose from, so there are hundreds of editors. So you narrow it down. You look for editors who specialise in your subject area. Maybe you take advice from fellow writers, get recommendations.

Finally, you have a list of people who you think would suit your manuscript. So what next?

What’s next is you hire the services of someone like Bothersome Words. But of course, finding Bothersome Words is one of the problems we hope Literarium will solve.

Lucas and I are aiming to be able to provide that directory of services, sortable and searchable by as many different tidbits of metadata that we can think of. Do you have a fantasy romance novella of 15,000 words? We can bring back all Editors in your state that accept fantasy and/or romance and work with projects of that size. Literarium will speed up that initial process, cutting out all the clumsy googling, yellow-page hunting, writing-list bothering and friend haranguing.

Why? I’ll end by quoting from my own comment on the post:

[...] I see a massive boom in self-sourced literary professionals now that self-publishing digitally is a much more viable path; illustrators, typesetters, proofreaders – all the services that would once have been provided inside a publishing house. [...]

That’s why. :-D

Digital Rights Management – Some Problems via @DouglasCootey

This article was brought to my attention by Sean from bookonaut.com.

Although long blog posts about DRM are always boiling beneath the surface of my skin, they aren’t really appropriate for Literarium and more likely to appear on my personal blog.

Make no mistake, though: Literarium does not support digital rights management of files. Chiefly because it doesn’t work, doesn’t achieve its goals, and treats readers like criminals. It’s also expensive and frustrating. But let’s move on…

Douglas Cootey details his experience in dealing with the most common flavour of DRM currently inflicted on legitimate ebook customers, Adobe’s Digital Editions. Tragically writers rarely have much of a say in how their publisher decides to package their work electronically, but imagine placing one of your loyal readers into Douglas’s shoes. At the end of this harrowing ride, is the reader going to be angry at your publisher or you?

Have a read of: http://douglascootey.com/trouble-with-adobe-drm-too-many-activations

I think Douglas might have a follow up in the future, and I’ll try to let you know how it turns out.