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Another Nail in the Coffin – Part 2

Last week, I wrote about how publishers and agents were crying “FOUL” over news that Amazon would be publishing some 120 over the last few months and yet few were talking about how Perseus was going to “help” authors self-publish.  My basic points regarding these two pieces of news were that publishers wouldn’t have to worry about authors leaving them IF the publishers and agents were really doing the job they said they were.  I honestly thought that would be the end of the post and I’d move on to something different this week — of course, it is never that easy.  So, to continue from where I left off, sort of. . . .

Publishers were busy puffing out their chests and declaring that e-books were reaching a saturation point in the market when July’s sales figures were released.  After all, hard cover sales had increased 33%.  At the time those figures were made public, a number of people — yours truly included — wondered if that was an anomaly caused by the sell-off of stock held by Borders.  Well, confirmation, at least partial confirmation, of our suspicions came this week when the Association of American Publishers announced the sales figures through August.

From Publisher’s WeeklyFor the first eight months of 2011, e-book sales increased 144.4%, to $649.2 million, from 18 reporting publishers to the AAP monthly statistics program. Sales were off by double digits in all trade print segments in the January-August period, although sales in the religion category were up 9% in the year to date at the 22 reporting houses.

GalleyCat has the complete breakdown:

With regard to the August figures, for the month, hard cover sales declined 11% and adult paperback sales declined close to 6%.  According to the AAP (again from Galleycat), “Strong, continuing revenue gains from digital formats in the Trade market – both e-books and downloaded audiobooks – helped offset declines in revenue from physical formats, resulting in only nominal, near-identical decreases vs the previous year’s and YTD’s figures

So, for the first eight months of the year, e-book sales are up 144.4%.  It is this increase that kept the figures from looking truly abysmal.  The only other areas to post gains are religious books and downloaded audio books.  If you’ve been tracking the figures for the last year plus, this follows the trend.  Even I, who run far and fast in the opposite direction when someone tells me I need to do math, can see that the figures for July when hard covers posted a double digit increase were not the start of a new trend.  Instead, it was an artificial increase in sales caused by the discounting of merchandise during the Borders bankruptcy sale off.

And yet, even with the figures staring them in the face, legacy publishers refuse to admit that e-books are not only a viable part of the marketplace, but all that is keeping some of them afloat right now.  Just think how many more units they might be able to sell if they simply lowered the prices of their new releases below hard cover prices.  Oh, I know.  They tell you they have to price e-books at near hard cover prices in order to make a profit.  Bull!  Remove DRM, admit that once they have the final text, all they really have to pay for above cost of setting the book for print is the conversion price and then the cost of having someone do a check of the conversion files to make sure nothing got screwed up.  Lower the price to even $9.99 — a price point most e-book buyers will pay for a new “best seller” — and they will sell more copies and that, eventually, will lead to more profit.  Not to mention more good will for the publisher which will also lead to more sales.  More sales equal more money.  Makes sense to me.  But then, I’ve never been a bean counter, much less one in a rarified office in NYC.

Going back to the cries of anguish last week caused by Amazon, there was a deafening silence this week when Kobo announced it would now start publishing books.  For those of you not familiar with Kobo, it’s an online presence, not unlike that for Amazon or B&N when it comes to e-books.  When Borders still existed, Kobo was associated with it for e-books.  This isn’t a self-publishing venture for authors.  No, according to the article, Kobo will do editing, design, marketing and the selling of the books.  Sound familiar?  So, why no hue and outcry by the publishers?  Simply put, they aren’t scared of Kobo because its name isn’t Amazon.  It doesn’t matter that Kobo is offering the same service as Amazon.  All that matters is that Kobo isn’t the 800 pound gorilla.  The publishers have forgotten about the tortoise moving slowly and surely toward the goal.

So, does all this mean the end of publishing as we know it?  Eventually.  Even if legacy publishers were to suddenly understand the importance of e-books and reasonable pricing, the snowball has already started rolling down the mountainside.  Publishers — and agents and authors — are going to have to adapt to the changing expectations and demands of the reading public.  Just as publishers had to change as technology and society changed in the early to mid 1900′s, they are going to have to do so again.  If not, the publishers will perish.  But, in their places will be new publishers, those flexible enough to adapt to the changes.  In other words, there will always been books and short stories.  It’s just the format and pricing that may change.

Cross-posted to Mad Genius Club as well as here.

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ConVent – Snippet Two

Good morning, everyone.  Before we get to the next snippet in Kate Paulk’s irreverent and hysterical take on sf/f cons, a quick word from the management.  If you look at the top of the page, you’ll see a new tab for snippets.  Starting next week, our regular snippets will be announced on the blog and the reader will then be redirected to the snippet page to finish reading.  The reason for this is so all our snippets are easier to find.  Also, we will start a regular snippet process.  Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, we’ll have snippets from upcoming novellas and novels.  And now, without further delay, here’s the next snippet from ConVent.  As usual, the standard disclaimer applies:  this is not the final edited product.  This is similar to the ARC of a book.

*     *     *

    By the time the cops and paramedics arrived, Sean and I were in the middle of a crowd of rubbernecking con-goers. The nurse — her name was Gina — and I kept guard over the girl, while Sean helped hotel security keep the door clear.

The presence of uniformed, armed cops did what nothing else could. The onlookers faded off to other things. I doubted any of them had anything to fear, but the whole science fiction scene is kind of weird that way. Paranoia is the norm, not the exception.

At least I could do the vampire mind thing and make sure the cops believed what I told them. Not that it was anything exotic — everything except the reason Sean and I went into the art room was bare truth. If they checked out my credentials, they’d find it all matched up, too. I’ve been careful with that. Always make sure the paper trail matches your cover. Getting locked up on suspicion because your credentials don’t check out can do really bad things to your quality of life. Ending up in a lab as someone’s experiment would be worse.

All told, it was a relief when the cops left. For maybe five seconds.

Raph’s voice behind me put an end to any happy thoughts I might have wanted to harbor. “Lil says you’ll need help with this one.”

I didn’t groan. Yet. Instead, I turned around to face him. He had a succubus with him — the scent of sex mingled with expensive perfume overlying a hint of brimstone is unmistakable — presumably ‘Lil’. She oozed seduction, of course. The Star Trek costume helped: it was from the original series with the tight-tight minidress that showed off her legs and other… assets. This was one Uhura who had probably done the entire crew several times over. Even Scotty would have inspected that engine.

Raph was done up as Spock, complete with pointy ears and strange eyebrows. It would be the only time in history that anything involving Leonard Nimoy actually looked sexy. And no, I don’t swing that way, but I know hot when I see it. Raph sizzled.

It wasn’t because he was an angel, either. Most angels I’ve met aren’t earthy enough to be sexy. They’re more ethereal. Raph… I guess he takes his undercover work seriously enough to project like an incubus, only he doesn’t quite manage it. Typically your incubi and succubi project a kind of illicit sexiness. Raph gets the sex part, but it’s kind of wholesome sexy, if that makes sense.

“Thanks.” I might as well be polite — I’d never figured out precisely where we made immortals fit in with the natural immortals, and it never hurt to be on good terms with representatives of the current management. Besides, Lil was right. I might hate to admit it, but I did need help. Demonic rituals aren’t my line.

I nodded to the succubus. “Pleased to meet you, Lil.”

She smiled, the kind of demure, almost shy smile that would have been ordinary from anyone else. From her, it was practically an invitation. “The pleasure is all mine.”

Yes, she purred. Succubi do. It’s part of what they are.

Raph slipped his right arm around her waist. “You promised you wouldn’t go after the regulars, remember?”

Fat chance. Succubi and incubi are sex on legs. One of them thinking with their brain counted as a miracle in my book. “I’m immune.” I shrugged. “You might want to tone it down around Sean, though. He goes wolf when he’s aroused, and I’m not going to tweak the entire con because he couldn’t control himself.” I had to do that last time, and it takes all the fun out of a convention.

Lil giggled. “I’ll be good.” She turned a sly look on Raph that got the expected reaction. “You’re going to make it up to me, Raphie darlin’, right?”

That tight costume didn’t leave any room for imagination. Raph was trying to make it up to her right then and there. I half expected the spandex to tear.

“Get a room.” Sean’s low growl crawled up my spine. There wasn’t a hint of civilized in it. I hoped he was holding onto his human shape, because I really wasn’t ready to deal with another convention fiasco.

Raph blinked, and his eagerness deflated. Some. “Um.” He actually looked embarrassed. “Sorry.”

Lil tried to simper in Sean’s direction, and froze when he snarled. I got a glimpse of her true shape before she controlled herself: take away the hair and add wings, scales and a tail, and you’ve more or less got it.

Raph ignored her slip. “As far as I know, we’re the only regulars here. I haven’t come across any newcomers, either.” He shrugged. “Nothing to suggest any of the mortals are dabbling with anything they shouldn’t. All the interesting items in the dealer’s room are well warded.”

Pretty thorough, but then, that kind of thing is part of Raph’s job. Neither side is all that keen on a war — not what you’ll hear from those who are supposed to know these things, but most of them are fooling themselves. The world’s been pretty much neutral ground for years. Occasionally Someone will nudge, but for the most part it’s just people doing what people do.

Depressing thought, really.

Something nudged at my memory. Bill… and the Heart’s Blade. “You checked on Bill?”

Raph had the Spock eyebrows down perfectly — they moved the right way when he frowned. “Who?”

“Minor demon lord. I know him from way back.” I wasn’t about to explain when and why. “I saw him wheeling stuff in. Mostly he had books, but there was a Heart’s Blade on the trolley.”

Lil’s sharp gasp hissed just as much as Raph’s.

The angel shook his head. “I didn’t see any demons in there, or… that.”

I couldn’t blame him for not wanting to name a Heart’s Blade. The cursed things are the closest to pure evil you’re ever likely to see. “Crap.” I’d have to check the dealers myself. Not that I don’t trust Raph’s judgment or anything, but… I don’t actually know where he stands in the angelic hierarchy. A demon lord might well be able to trick him. Me being effectively immune to magic — I can feel the discharge when I break a spell, but that’s about it — I can see straight through illusions. It’s got to be a full masking to make me see something that’s not actually there.

I sighed, and turned my attention back to the more pressing issue. “Did either of you pick up anything from the… site?” I really didn’t want to call that setup in the Art Room a sacrificial altar. Old superstition, I guess. If it can hurt you, you don’t name it in case you summon it.

Lil nibbled on her lower lip. “I think it was supposed to be a gateway anchor.” With her eyes downcast while she thought, she looked almost demure.

I’ve seen Raph’s skin in circumstances I don’t want to think about, and I’ve never seen him this pale. “You’re sure about that?”

She nodded. “You big boys don’t need them.”

A few minutes ago I would have sworn a succubus couldn’t say anything like that and not sound flirtatious. You learn something every day.

“Mortals use them, same as we lesser demons, if we want to bring in one of the big players.”

Lovely. Major demons. Just freaking wonderful.

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Cat’s Paw by Robert A. Hoyt — snippet 1

Robert Anson Hoyt is one of those writers other writers could easily hate.  He’s young and talented and, well, more than a little warped.  How else can you describe a writer who can think up such things as vampiric shopping carts (Bite One, Get One Free) or sentient dinosaurs who build spaceships or champion ecological causes (The Last Voice)?  Cat’s Paw, which NRP will be bringing out later this month, is Robert’s first novel.  It’s all about a drunken cat, a totally p-o’d bird with the unfortunate name of Happy and the end of the world.  And, no, this is not your child’s bedtime story.  This is a twisted and entertaining and, imo, wonderful piece of satire.  It also proves that cats really do rule over humans, we just haven’t figured it out yet!

Edited to add: As with all snippets, this is not the final edited form.  The final edited book is with the editor it is assigned to and with layout designer.

Extended Eternity

Many humans know there is a mountain at the end of the universe to which a bird flies every thousand years to sharpen its beak, until the end of the mountain comes, and thus the end of eternity.

What few know, however, is that a rather unimaginative power-that-once-was had, in a fit of originality, named the bird Happy.

Thusly, the bird also had the sort of monumental chip on its shoulder which could only come from spending several billion years with the name Happy. To add insult to injury, it was also the dullest grey bird in existence, which seemed to it a disgraceful state for a creature of its stature.

And, more the worse for humanity, is the entire fate of the universe was in its wings.

***

It was about half past noon at the end of the universe, and a sort of pale light which had no discernible source poured in, flowing into the air like warm butter in spongecake.

Happy was within sight of the mountain, which was not a very great distance, because, at this point, the mountain was little more than a pebble rooted in semi-existent turf. The Bird landed and, with great ceremony, bent over, scraping its beak until it sent up brilliant white sparks which died with little pops.

Somewhere behind Happy’s mad little red eyes, his brain could process the idea of the universe ending. That was fine by him. Overall, he hadn’t been too impressed with the universe to begin with, and several millennia had not improved his opinion.

Casually, the way one might realize they had forgotten to buy cabbage on their last trip to the market, he remembered his most recent master would be dead by now. It would be time to find another one.

Fortunately there were always creatures ready to provide shelter for an innocent-looking, harmless grey bird.

Not that this made him feel any better.

After five minutes, he was contented with his beak’s edge, and took a quick look at remainder of the mountain.

Only one more trip there. Just as well, my wings are getting tired, he thought. A malevolent little smile decorated his drab features. Serve them right to find themselves nonexistent. Humph…Happy.

At the end of the universe, something was listening — in an equal state of discontent. Anyone present would have been certain the wind was swearing.

The trip back would prove to be filled with extensive grudge-keeping on Happy’s part. And after so much time, The Bird was very good at keeping a grudge.

***

One thousand years later, Mr. Beaconcaw stepped out into the dawn rising over the city. Or at least what passed for dawn in his much befuddled mind. From a technical point of view, there were no stars; but then again, there was also no sun. However, the faint red traces at the horizon signaled the possibility of it rising, and a dyed-in-the-wool pigeon hobbyist is up before the chickens.

His penthouse apartment had a lovely rooftop loft. Mr. Beaconcaw was in possession of a fortune of the sort of undefined size which suggested he could buy a small city, so the landlords just sent him regular bills, thoughtfully adding their tip to it so he wouldn’t have to bother himself about it.

Fortunately, he never noticed, since he was also in possession of the sort of mind that would buy a small city, and then shortly thereafter misplace it somewhere among candy wrappers and stale bread.

He only really cared for his pigeons. Or anything vaguely pigeon-shaped.

His newest acquisition was an extremely boring bird in a cage which appeared to have been pieced together by a master rust craftsman. It seemed as old as time itself, and was his latest and most single-minded interest.

He walked slowly to each pigeon cage, sloshing coffee about as he attended to the various birds. Thanks to the caffeine-soaked food he owned some of the most alert pigeons in the country.

But he attended to the grey bird with extra care. As far as his failing eyesight could determine, he was looking at a solid grey pigeon, a valuable and beautiful bird.

As far as the bird was concerned, he was looking at a large absentminded lump of food.

Mr. Beaconcaw was now to the point where the bird took enough regular chunks out of him that it really had no need for other means of feed. But today he got a bitten finger for a different reason.

There was a clink of an opening cage, a piercing scream which woke up a city block, and a solid thud as a coffee cup hit the ground, falling down so straight not a drop was spilt.

A very disappointed pigeon hobbyist watched as far as his failing eyesight would allow as his new bird flew out of sight. For a second he nursed his bleeding finger. Then, bending, he picked up the coffee mug, took a sip of stone cold. pigeon feed infused coffee and then turned around and very quietly walked down the stairs, having forgotten why he was looking at the sky.

It was a lovely day for the universe to end.

***

Tom was spending what he considered to be a very productive morning in the dumpster behind Penne Pizza. Penne Pizza was not your classy eatery — cockroaches often turned it down over hygiene issues — but Tom was not a classy cat. It was a dumpy building which gave the impression of having been drawn in pencil and much smudged, with a cracked cement facade and a clientele list that was very similar to the college frat house assignments. Saturday night encased the building in a visible cloud of alcohol fumes.

It was this smell that attracted Tom, a disreputable-looking cat with a white mark on his chest that could have been a cravat. Granted, it would involve wishing very hard, and squinting harder.

Tom also liked beer. He didn’t think about why. He just told girl cats that he drank to forget.

But then, being as he had started drinking beer four weeks after birth in the dumpster his mother had birthed him in, he had forgotten just shy of everything.

Sometimes, when he finally passed out from a pleasant stream of alcohol, he was thankful for that much. The nightmares he had while inebriated were enough to make a fellow take to the bottle.

Carefully he worked through the beer bottles, his black and white fur acquiring a fine layer of dust, while Tom gained the interesting world view held by a cat who had long since departed sobriety.

It was eight ‘o’ clock, and the beginning commuters for Broxton, Colorado, were flooding the sidewalks.

It was Tom’s favorite time of day, since the rest of the feral cats around the city were hiding in dark corners catching oversized city rats — unless the rats happened to catch them first. This meant that Tom was free to enjoy the beer leftover from those in the city who had no reservations about drinking liquor in vast quantities.

Halfway through managing to stick his tongue completely into a lovely bottle of Guinness, Tom suddenly sensed a newcomer in his alley. He also caught on the newcomer was female.

Pulling his tongue out of the bottle, Tom looked her up and down. She was a beautiful white Persian, who looked like someone who had gotten lost in her mind and couldn’t find anyone to ask for directions.

She had a faux diamond collar, which as a cat either meant you were an indoor cat or you were a hard case; in the former, because your owner didn’t want you lost, and in the latter, so you would never run out of people who you could beat up over eyeballing you.

Tom immediately decided on indoor, if only because trying to imagine her in a fight was like imagining a small, dense rock as an Olympic sprinter, and then only if everyone else got a head start.

She was, however, definitely Tom’s type. Not that this was hard, since his type ranged between animate and inanimate objects, and — on one memorable occasion – both. But she was a cute, uncorrupted bit of fluff, a state which he hoped to change.

Tom abandoned the beer bottle. Sitting up, he made a half-hearted attempt to groom himself, up until the point as realized this was impossible.

Dizzily, he sidled up beside the girl cat.

In as sultry a manner as an extremely drunk cat could, he spoke.

“Hello kitten. Need some help?” His tone implied the word help had several contexts.

For a moment, she continued to look intensely at nothing, and then turned to acknowledge the extremely tipsy apparition standing in front of her train of thought.

“Do you know where the mountains are? I don’t see any out here.” Her question took Tom by surprise. He wasn’t used to geography anywhere near foreplay. The gears in his head ground to a nerve-racking full stop, as lust met trivia head on.

In the middle of the collision, another fact cut in. He was beginning to become aware of an unpleasant smell about her which he recognized all too well. It had a disappointing tone to it, best defined as a bucket of cold water in the face.

Edgily, he answered the question. “You would be referring to those big blue lumps in the distance, right?”

She looked in the direction of his outstretched paw, and brightened up.

“Oh, those aren’t very big; I’ll be there by the end of the day. I would have thought this business would be harder. Thank you.”

Something about the words “this business” had caused the bits of Tom’s brain which managed his love interests to tell him to cut his losses. His alcohol impaired nose almost had a fix on the smell he recognized. Against his better judgment, he forged on.

“You don’t get out much, do you? Mountains aren’t known for being small. They are, however, several miles away. Exactly why do you want to go there, anyway?” Suddenly, the smell clicked into place. His amorous ideas shattered painfully.

After a second he added, “And more importantly, are you pregnant?”

***

Eye sat on the carved throne at the head of the cave. Around it, ten foot thick columns supported a cavernous ceiling like giants holding up the sky. Carefully hewn statues of creatures not seen since the dawn of time ringed the cave, staring at the mass of followers.

Eye was ancient. The scars about his body bulged on layers of muscle unnatural for a cat of his age. His blood-ringed sightless eyes shone an unnerving red in the darkness. But then, vision would have been an unnecessary distraction to Eye, considering his impossibly accurate hearing.

He listened studiously to the chanting of his followers, bouncing off the walls of the cave, and forever telling him what the room looked like.

Indeed, it was better than sight — he could feel the room around him. He waited patiently for the hymn to end, and then rose to his feet in the silence.

It was a massive motion, like ten thousand mountain ranges rising in chorus.

He towered above his audience; easily four or five times the size of anyone present. When he spoke, his voice battered the walls like a cannon, hard and metallic; No trace of compassion tainted his speech.

He did not speak above a low growling whisper, but everyone heard him.

“Brethren. You all now know I destroyed the royal family, their proud King and their arrogant Queen, and put to death four of the royal princes with my army so they might no longer hinder us,” The crowd nodded, and a general sound of agreement, in a low, deep, growl echoed.

“One of my loyal followers has brought news of the fifth. Talon, step forward,” A beautiful Cornish Rex materialized out of the shadows behind him. Eye could sense the minute light reflecting off of the brown and black tortoiseshell fur that made her glinting golden eyes startling in the blackness.

He felt the air shift as she bowed deeply “You summoned me, lord?”

“What of the prince? Have you dealt with him as bidden?”

“Yes, my lord. With him, we have disposed of the last of the princes.”

“Well done, Talon. I shall see to a reward for you.” He turned his head to face his audience, and with a new passion began “And yet I see in your hearts that still are unsatisfied. Some among you even dare to doubt I deserve to rule above the royals…” He smiled.

It was an incredibly unpleasant smile, which chilled your heart and made you wish you had lived a much better life.

“…And say I should have dealt with them myself, to prove that I was worthy. To which, I reply that you needn’t wait any longer – the last of the royal line will come here, and I will eradicate them myself. When I am done, I will crush all those who dared to oppose me as well.”

He noted those who shuffled, weighed every echo of those who coughed, before finishing his speech. They would find guards waiting at their doors, and be taken publicly as an example.

“Rest assured, the noble lineage of the brothers will live, and with the end of the Royals, the bird which shall destroy the universe will fly unopposed. Our long awaited rise will come, and we shall recreate all things again as it pleases us,” He paused for a second. Time stood still, and the air itself seemed to be anticipating the next thing he would do. Finally, his voice came, more quietly than before.

“I dismiss you, Brothers — I shall summon you again, when the Royals arrive.” And he turned his back to the assembled congregation.

In a voice like the crack of doom, the cats replied “Hail Eye, Seventh Lord of the Bird.” It was an ancient tradition, and the age made itself felt as it was spoken. The sound echoed off the walls and returned joined with the harmonics of more ancient voices. As the last trace of resonance died the acolytes filed out swiftly and silently.

When the throne room was empty, Eye called out to his adviser.

“Beak, come to me.” From the shadow beside him stepped an incredibly old Manx cat, its flesh withered by the ravages of age and disease, its voice cracked and dusty.

“Lord?”

“I have listened carefully of the prince’s last hour. Keep an eye on the female whom the prince impregnated. Never let her out of your magic’s sight. I must know everything she does now. The prince has told her to return to the mountain — he didn’t know we had destroyed the palace. He’ll have sent her there for safekeeping, among the servants whom we killed. Tell me all that occurs.” He turned away as Beak departed.
“Talon, come.”

“My lord?”

“Despite what I said there is no use my fighting a pregnant female; at best it takes my time, and I doubt it will calm those in the order who are insufficiently loyal — I’m depending on you to arrange an accident for her. It must, however, look as though you were not involved, to avoid unnecessary upheaval. Beak will be most obliging in keeping you abreast of her movements. I can gloss it over in my court, and then I will put you to the task of destroying those disloyal elements. When we rebuild the world, you shall see your just reward.” Talon bowed deeply, touching the floor, and then disappeared into the inky blackness without a sound.

Eye sat alone, listening blindly in the darkness.

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Who is the keymaster and where is the gatekeeper?

No, I’m not talking about Ghostbusters.  Although it might be time to watch the movie again.  This post has been bubbling around, trying to take form for several weeks.  Kate’s post this past Sunday, and the comments to it, brought it to life.

A little background first.  When I first got my kindle, I was a skeptic.  I love books.  I love the feel of them, the look of them, etc.  I couldn’t imagine reading on anything like the kindle.  For one thing, I spend so much of the day sitting before the computer that the thought of reading on some sort of device simply didn’t excite me.  Then I got the kindle and very quickly realized that I preferred it to physical books — at least when reading for entertainment.

It didn’t take long to realize something else.  The errors in spelling, punctuation and formatting I’d started seeing in hard copy books seemed to leap off the digital page.  There is something about reading on my kindle — or on my tablet — that seems to accept the errors that have gotten past the copy editors and proofreaders.  Was it because there were more errors in ebooks than in hard copy books, or was there another explanation?

A figurative stroll through different e-reader related forums quickly revealed I wasn’t the only one asking these questions.  Even now, two years after receiving my kindle, the question is asked in the kindle forums almost weekly.  Speculation runs from laziness by legacy publishers to too many people thinking they are the next great writer waiting to be discovered and who are taking advantage of the ease of self-publishing digitally.  The truth of the matter is a bit more complex.

When it comes to problems seen in e-books put out by publishers, the first occurs when titles are scanned and then digitized.  This process often creates OCR errors where letters are altered.  This usually occurs near the margins and is easy enough to spot — if the file is proofread.  Unfortunately, it appears that many of these titles aren’t proofed before being put on sale. I’ve seen a couple of examples where the OCR errors were so bad, the text was almost unreadable.

The bulk of errors in e-books seem to come from the lack of proofreading and, to a lesser extent, copy editing.  This occurs, despite what a lot of the complainers in the different fora believe, in both indie and legacy published titles.  It occurs in indie titles, especially those that are self-published, because authors are, on the whole, their own worst editors.  It occurs in legacy published titles because they have cut back on their employees so much that they now rely on the authors and agents to do much of the editing and proofreading that editors used to do.

So, how does this relate back to Kate’s post and what are we, as authors, supposed to do?

Simple, we follow the guidelines, especially the one that almost every publisher includes: make sure your work is as close to publishable as possible.  That means more than having a good story.  It means making sure it is formatted according to guidelines.  It means having beta readers who know to look for more than misspelled words and comma faults.  It means, if necessary, hiring an editor to go over your manuscript before submitting it.

There are reasons for guidelines that go beyond making it easy for the editor to read the submission.  First — and this is very important — your ability to follow the guidelines is the editor’s first impression of your work.  Take the guidelines for Naked Reader press for example.  The very first thing listed under “guidelines” is the fact that we have set submission periods.  So, if you send something outside of the submission periods, I know you haven’t read the guidelines.  The same goes if you fail to send a synopsis of your novel or if all you send is the synopsis.  We want both.

Now, back to Kate’s post and some of the comments.  Part of any publisher’s guidelines are how to format your submission.  NRP uses standard manuscript format:  double spaced, one inch margins, 12 or 14 point Courier or Times New Roman.  Simple, right?

Apparently not.  We get titles that are single spaced.  We get titles without first line indents.  We get titles where there are additional spaces between paragraphs.  We get submissions that don’t have a cover email with the information asked for: name, contact information, publication credits.

NRP hasn’t gotten to the point yet where we are refusing to look at submissions that don’t meet our guidelines.  I know of a number of other publishers and agents that have.  I will tell you, though, that a manuscript not formatted according to guidelines starts with a strike against it.  Why?  Because I have to wonder about an author who doesn’t care enough to follow them.

So, it is up to the author to make sure he’s followed the guidelines just as he’s done all he can to make sure he is submitting the best story he can.  Frankly, this is true whether the author is submitting a title to a publisher or he’s publishing it himself.  If there is a reason for not following the format guidelines listed by a publisher, tell them.  Or at least send an email and ask if it’s okay.

I hear you saying that you have decided not to submit to a publisher but are going the self-publishing route.  After all, you have a great novel.  You’ve done your homework and know there are free programs out there to help you create your e-book.  So why worry about format guidelines and submission processes when you can take your e-book directly to the public?

As an author, I understand the sentiment.  It’s hard to get a publisher these days, especially a legacy publisher.  It’s even harder to get an agent — something you need to get your foot in the door at most legacy publishers.  It really is easy to understand why so many writers are choosing to do it themselves.

What many of them seem to have forgotten is that the same rules for submitting to a publisher apply to self-publishing.  You have to have a well-edited, proofread manuscript in a format readers are used to.  That means beta readers, proofreaders and, if necessary, professional editing.  It also means cover art and GOOD cover art.  Readers will tear you apart on the boards for bad cover art, or for generic cover art.  If they don’t like the font you use for your title, they will let you know.

Despite what you hear from a lot of bloggers, despite the fame of some indies like Amanda Hocking, there is still an onus about self-published work.  If you doubt it, read the boards.  See how many people won’t buy a novel originally priced at 99 cents because they know it’s by an “indie” and won’t be any good or will be so poorly formatted as to be unreadable.  Check out threads like those asking why indies keep shooting themselves in the foot by not having their novels professionally edited or formatted for e-books.

Don’t get me wrong.  As quick as they are to condemn a poorly written or poorly edited/formatted book, they are just as quick to praise one.  So, what does that mean?

It means he writer is not only the keymaster — the creator of the story — but is also the gatekeeper.  It doesn’t matter if the novel is going to a legacy publisher or is being self-published.  It needs to be as clean — as well written, edited and proofread — as possible before submission.  You are the master of your story.  Don’t be afraid to act the role.

In other news around the industry, check out what Kris Rusch and Joe Konrath have to say about the future of traditional or legacy publishing.

What do you think about the keymaster/gatekeeper roles and about the future of publishing?

Cross-posted to Mad Genius Club.

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What’s worse than piracy?

As most of you know, everyone involved with NRP is very anti-DRM.  We feel that it is an insult to our readers because all DRM says is that a publisher or an author doesn’t trust the reader.  We also feel that you, the reader, should be able to read the e-book you just purchased on any e-reader you own.  Finally, we feel that adding DRM to an e-book is like waving a red flag in front of a bull.  It simply eggs on folks to try to break it and then, once they have, to offer it for free to others who haven’t paid for the book.

So, do we like piracy?  No.  If we find out that a site is offering our titles without permission, we will go after them.  After all, we’re here to make money for our authors.  However, we also know that a little bit of piracy is inevitable and, frankly, it is promotion.  The vast majority of people who read e-books are honest.  If they read an unauthorized version of one of our titles, they’ll go out and find the legitimate title and buy it or they’ll buy more titles by that author.  So it’s a win situation for us and for our authors.

What is worse, in my opinion, is what happened over on fanfiction.net recently (and this isn’t the first time something like this has happened, nor will it be the last).  Basically, Cynthia Eden was notified by a number of fans that her book, Deadly Heat, had shown up on the site in the guise of fanfic.  Oh the names had been changed — to Edward and Bella — but that was basically all.  The so-called author of this piece of Twilight fanfic also changed the POV from third to first AND — and this is where I can understand Ms. Eden getting a bit hot under the collar — acknowledged that the names of Edward and Bella belong to Meyer and the Twilight franchise but that she meant not copyright infringement.  Note that she said nothing about the book she plagiarized.

You can read more about this on Ms. Eden’s blog and this post on PW.com.

Plagiarism is the bane — and greatest fear — of most authors.  We work long and hard to write a novel.  It’s so much more than just sitting down at the computer and writing.  In a lot of ways, it’s like giving birth.  To then find that someone has taken it, filed off a few of the identifiers and claimed it as their own is enough to send us screaming into the night.  It doesn’t matter that this was posted on a fanfic site.  You’d be surprised how many people — people who buy books — read these sites.  Can you imagine how they’d react if they paid for the novel that had been plagiarized — after they’d read the so-called piece of fanfic?

All it takes is one reader saying in the right forum that author A stole a plot from a fanfic site and claimed it as her own.  The damage is done because someone else is bound to pick up the thread and spread it.  Even thought the author is the one who had her plot ripped off by the fanfic poster, it is the author who will have to defend her work against the cries of plagiarism.  After all, how many times do we compare the date of fanfic post to the publication date of a book or short story?

According to Ms. Eden, the fanfic poster has taken down the plagiarized piece, noting that it was an “experiment”.  Sorry, I buy that explanation no more than Ms. Eden appears to.  I’d like to give the fanfic poster the benefit of the doubt, but the fact that she made the disclaimer about Twilight and yet remained silent about the true basis of the work speaks volumes.  At least to me.

Don’t get me wrong.  I have nothing against fanfic.  I’ve been known to write it, as have a number of authors.  It is a wonderful way to hone our craft and have fun doing it.  But the key here is that you have to “write” it.  That means coming up with the idea, the plot, following canon — or having a darned good reason for breaking it — and putting your own spin onto it.  It’s not just changing the names and POV of someone else’s work.

Whether the plagiarized work is offered for sale or simply put up for free on fanfic sites, it is still plagiarism.  Worse, it’s stealing.  The poster has stolen another person’s hard work and is stealing their credit.  Instead of taking the time to go through and file off the literary serial numbers, spend that time and effort to write your own story.  It’s a lot more fun.

–Cross-posted here.

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One Year and Counting!

First of all, apologies for the silence of the last week, but we’ve been busy, busy, busy at NRP getting ready to kick off our second year in business.  When you visit our homepage, you’ll see some subtle and some not so subtle changes to the site.  One of the subtle changes is that you can now navigate directly here from the website instead of jumping through hoops to get here.  You’ll also see a less cluttered menu and homepage.  Our submission guidelines have been updated as has our links page.

But what we are most proud of is our new storefront.  We’d wanted to update the store for several months.  However, I’ll be honest.  We hadn’t planned on doing it quite this soon.  Unfortunately, when we migrated the site to a new server, the store links were broken and we decided it was the perfect time to make the changes we wanted.

What does this mean for you, our valued customers?  It means a cleaner, easier to navigate site.  You can go straight to new titles for the month.  You can go to an author’s page and see everything he’s written for us.  You can see our specials and freebie and, coming later this week, you’ll be able to view our upcoming titles.

This new storefront operates a bit differently from our previous store.  You’ll receive an email notice confirming your purchase and directing your back to your account page.  From there, you will see a link for downloads.  When you click it, you will see each of the titles you’ve purchased, the download links for those titles as well as the number of downloads remaining.

For those of you who have already purchased titles from us, never fear.  We are in the process of inputting your account information and linking the titles to your accounts.  You should be receiving an email sometime during the next week to ten days with the information for your new account.  Once you receive it, you can update your account information, change your passwords, etc.

Now for the really fun part.  For the next month, we will be offering free titles as well as placing others on sale.  There may even be a contest or two.  To start things off, we’re offering our very first titles for free.  You can find them here.

Check back on Monday for more about the plans for our second year.  In the meantime, I’m going to go sit on the back porch and enjoy the fact that it is in the 70s and raining — both of which have been non-existent in Texas for far too long.

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Catching Up

It’s been awhile and I apologize.  You’d think the beginning of summer would mean things would slow down.  Wrong!  Seems like things are just getting busier and busier.  But that’s good, because it means business is continuing to pick up.

Just a couple of quick notes and then back to work.

First, if you check our schedule on our homepage, you’ll see that we’ve made a couple of slight changes to our publication schedule.  The first is that the titles initially set to come out today will be out later this week.  We’ll blog, fb and tweet when they are out.

Second, because these titles are coming out a bit later than initially planned, and because we only have one release date next month, we’ve changed that date from July 5th to the 15th.  Then, in August, we go back to our regular twice a month release schedule.

Finally, a reminder that we open to submissions July 1st.  The submission period runs throughout the month.  For those of you who sent submissions in April, if you haven’t already received a response, you will in the next day or so.  We had a number of very good submissions and it’s been a hard task determining which ones to accept.

Until later!

Amanda

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