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Right What You No

Right What You No: February 2011

Saturday, February 26, 2011

E-Books: The Publishers Strike Back

Fleeing the evil Publishing Companies, the indie and mid-listers have formed a base on the interwebz. Their new base is threatened though, as the Publishers have discovered their location and have sought to invade it themselves. Through their alliance with Amazon, Smashwords and other e-book publication platforms, the indie and mid-listers confront the Publishers and learn a dark secret – they still want to be published in paper.

I've been following a few conversations about e-books and the new industry for awhile. There are some interesting perspectives out there, ranging from some of the large publishing houses “We want the industry to stay exactly the same” to the kid in his room “I've just published 25,000 words of unedited crap – I is famus”. Both extremes are rather annoying, one might as well be sitting in a corner with their fingers in their ears shouting “La la la, I am not listening” whilst the other group really should have gone to the Dagobah system and learnt from Yoda the ways of the dictionary.

A fellow West Aussie has had an intriguing set of Aussie authors and publishers guest post on his blog recently. The result has been The Grand Conversation. Having not, as yet, published anything I can quite comfortably say that this entire conversation gives great perspective to anyone about to or wishing to enter the industry. As a long time reader though, I am qualified to cast as many aspersions on the industry as the next blogger. I am fickle, read my post!

Are the publishers really to blame for the current woes of the industry? Woes? I'd almost say that with e-books out there now it is an exciting time. Not so exciting if you planned on making a visit to Borders or Angus and Robertson stores any time soon, but with winners there must be losers. I'd actually say that book stores and publishers combined to make e-books and online shopping so attractive.

I'm sure I'm not alone in having traveled to a book store hoping to get the latest from Author X only to find it isn't in stock, which is amazing considering how prolific Author X is. Or possibly you have experienced wanting to stock up on your favourite author only to find the shelves bereft of those titles. Lets also face the fact that you are more likely to find a celebrity biography than you are to find much in the way of scifi, or similar genres (unless you are talking specialist independent stores). In fact quite often the bookstores with the best ranges tend to be second-hand bookstores. The range in e-books, despite only having a few 100,000 titles available, is vast and getting bigger daily. The e-book range also includes a lot of authors that we haven't heard of, or had limited distribution under the previous publishing model.

It isn't just the range of books available online or in e-book format, it is the pricing. Sure we have the Aussie online Dymocks, A&R and Borders charging trade paperback prices for an e-pub file, but the smarter companies are pricing their books under $10 and the independents are pricing under $5 – often as low as $0.99. Quite simply you can have a book in your hot little e-reader a minute after you readjusted your backside on the couch for much less than comparative entertainment. This is a big win for authors and readers alike. You no longer have to run the gauntlet of James Paterson, celebrity chef, cricket captain tour diaries and store clerks who can't read.

Wait, haven't I just absolved the evil publishers of blame for the dearth of decent documents? Well no. At some stage publishers decided to set up a business model that meant they lost money on a lot of titles to make money off of a few titles. I too would like to give the cast of Jersey Shore millions of dollars in advances for an “autobiography” ghost written by a clearly suicidal struggling author, to then release a book aimed at a target market not known for their ability to read. Makes sense to me. Most of what publishers produce is hit and prefix. With these grand mistakes they have essentially set themselves up to require 12 James Paterson books in a year and can't take the chance on anyone new.

Will E-books manage to rescue the novel from the publishers? Find out in Return of the Reader.
Book vs E-book: lets call it a draw.

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Sunday, February 20, 2011

Book Reviews - The Dead Man: Face of Evil by Lee Goldberg & William Rabkin

Before this review, in the interest of full disclosure, I should state that I have known Lee since last week when he sent me a pre-release of this book. We go way back. Now onto the review.

This was another book that I read during my lunch break. Please don't tell my boss, as I read more of this on the first day than my lunch break technically allowed - of course I still have enough overtime to miss a week of work so I don't feel so bad. Needless to say this book is far too engrossing for its own good. I highly recommend reading it when you have more than a half hour lunch break.

Lee and Will are the first in a team of 8 to write this Dead Man series. Face of Evil can be regarded as a stand-alone novella, but it does set things up nicely for more to come. This is primarily a thriller with aspects of horror, with a generous smattering of the paranormal. I'm not really a horror fan, I don't really need those details, but here it isn't overriding and the paranormal/horror aspects add nicely to the tension. The release date is February 20th, which is today for me, tomorrow for Americans (yes I'm coming to you from the future), so keep an eye open for this one.

I can't wait for the rest of this series.

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Saturday, February 19, 2011

Going For Broke

Everyone will have now read, seen or heard the news that Borders and Amazon have been heading up a fetid creek for far too long. In the land of Oz (the non-magical and not infested by Munchkins version) the media are now weighing in.
See this article

You see I'm to blame. I brazenly buy books from places other than big chain stores. I have a Kindle and enjoy reading e-books. I am, in short, the devil incarnate and will be sacrificed on a pyre of celebrity biographies, cookbooks and other non-selling book store stock.
A Recent Photo of Me.
Lets take a look at some of the points that were made.

I'll play devils advocate here and talk about taxes first. There are only two sureties in life; taxes and whining about them. In the non-Munchkin land of Oz we have a 10% goods and services tax (GST) on everything except food. This means that imports don't have this tax, because they aren't Australian. I guess we evil overseas book buyers paying taxes to a foreign country should pay another tax for daring to participate in the global economy. That way I can be more involved in the global economy with taxes in multiple countries.

Recently we also had a change in the Aussie dollar, it reached parity with the US dollar. For those who haven't studied economics, this means that if I have one Australian dollar I can trade it for one American dollar, I know because I saw an article on it - tricky stuff that economics. Now that means that if I wanted to, say, buy materials that are needed to print books they would have gotten cheaper. Equipment upgrades, cheaper. Printing ink, cheaper. So clearly a stronger Aussie dollar must mean that it is harder to compete............

The threat from online sales is, of course, just terrible. How dare our country sign up to a fair trade agreement and actually have its citizens abide by it. Who'd have thought that when you have a business competing in an international market it would mean that you would have to compete with stores all over the globe?

Of course this means that me and my evil kind are killing retail jobs.

One point that Bob Carr (former politician - which means dodgy) makes is about how it is all the government's fault that books cost so much. He states that they would be 33% cheaper if only his benevolent company Dymocks was able to buy their books from overseas instead of locally. 33%? I think it is basic maths time for this particular businessman.

As an example I will use the latest action-thriller by Andy McDermott. His book Empire of Gold (which I'm looking forward to getting my fiendish hands on) has just come out recently and is available from Dymocks in Australia, or for the evil book buyers, from Amazon.
Dymocks Australia online price: $24.79 (paperback)
Amazon: $9.99 (paperback) or $24.63 (hardcover)
So let us take 30% from the Dymocks price:
$24.79 - 30%(7.44) = $17.35

Well, I'm not a maths genius, but at a guess I'd say that being able to buy a hardcover at USA retail prices for the same price as the paperback retail in Australia is not exactly a 33% difference for a paperback. In fact, to buy it would be more like a 60% difference between the paperback prices. So I'd have to say that I'm not looking as evil as I first thought.

I wonder where that other 33% is going? It certainly isn't into royalties for writers. I'd just like to be reminded what the wonderful companies that have just left a hole in the heavenly book retail world went bankrupt not paying (analogy: imagine that the authors are Marsellus Wallace, the publishers are Butch, the retailers are Zed and Maynard, and in this version Butch just does a runner). While we are on the subject, I'm unsure whether Dymocks is a discounting chain store driving every other book store out of business or The Coalition for Cheaper Books.

Clearly I'm so evil and my kind are the cause of all problems in the publishing world. It could never be the fault of antiquated business models forgetting that there are only two important parts in the publishing industry, namely the readers and the writers, everything else is clearly expendable. Excuse me while I pay a 70% royalty to a new author for a book that you can't buy from a publisher or store.

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Friday, February 18, 2011

Book Reviews - Peace Warrior by Steven L Hawk

I have mentioned before how I am a chronic procrastinator. As part of my procrastination I frequent various forums that discuss topics of interest. Whether it be weightlifting, woodworking, reading or writing, I'll be there ready to pwn some newb (really I'm a nice guy). Anyway, over at Kindle Forums I stumbled across Steven's book and was inspired to read it. Basically the cover interested me enough to inspire a download of the sample. It was a lunch time and I wanted something to read, this book fit the bill nicely.

I can't remember how far I was through the sample before I was convinced to purchase the entire book, but it was within a few pages. This book was reminiscent of my favourite science fiction novels and had me hooked. Not bad for the first book by a self published author.

Steven has done a great job with the book and this is a very entertaining read. It is clear that he has drawn on his military background, whilst not boring the reader with it. I can recommend this book to anyone who enjoys sci-fi or thrillers. Imagine a Buck Rogers type scenario with aliens and you are most of the way to understanding this book. Steve has set up good pacing, an interesting take on the themes, and makes it an enjoyable journey for the reader.

So if you get the chance, look up the indie authors like Steven, they are giving readers something more than just another James Paterson release.

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Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Book Reviews - The Doomsday Key by James Rollins

Have you ever finished a book and felt like there was meant to be another chapter? Or is it that there was a chapter too many that makes you think there is more to the book? Either way, this is my second Rollins book and I have felt the same way after both. I'm unsure if this is a deliberate move by Rollins to make me want to read another of his books, or if it is just that I'm somehow unfulfilled by the end of his novels.

Guess I need to read another of his books to find out. Fortunately I have one on hand.

I'm giving this 3 stars, but it is really a 3.5 stars book. It was well written, intriguing enough, and moved at a brisk pace. So I really enjoyed reading this and would recommend it to anyone who likes the adventure/thriller style of novel.

Also with my background in agricultural science I was interested in the central themes. While most of the book was accurate I'd just like people to know not to think any of the GM things mentioned were plausible. I should also point out that imidacloprid has been implicated as one of many causes in CCD (bee colony decline). Yes it can have an effect a low concentrations on bees ability to forage, but it is one of many things impacting upon bees, and most research indicates that it is a combination of factors that is behind CCD.

More on Imi and bees.

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Tuesday, February 15, 2011

E-book: A New Hope

A long time ago, in a publishing house far far away, the novel was created. It was a time of unrest for the publishing empire as they sought to grow their industry, promote authors, create an audience and inspire the world. The empire grew and prospered and many got rich, some of them authors.

The empire changed though; the e-book arrived, promising a new age in the empire. Rather than embrace the e-book, the empire struck out and became recalcitrant. A small band of mid-listers and indie authors formed a rebellion embracing the ways of the e-book.

Honestly who can understand major entertainment companies? The music industry, the movie industry, the publishing industry, they are all guilty of resistance to change. A new way to deliver their products to their clients, while cutting out costs and intermediaries, is handed to them on a platter and what do they do? Embrace it or demonise it?

Sure, the music industry took a hit on sales because they no longer controlled the medium of consumption. But does anyone remember what was topping the charts the year after mp3s hit it big in 1999? The answer is 'N Sync, Madonna, Celine Dion and Britney Spears. Definitely worth buying their albums. The point being that the music industry was late to the party and they combined it with generic pop music releases. That's like mixing prescription drugs with alcohol only to realise that it doesn't actually get you wasted.

When you actually take a look at the music industry you don't see the new market as being plagued by downloads, but rather enhanced by them. Aside from that initial euphoric rush on downloads the music market eventually woke up next to Britney Spears and realised what a big mistake that last few years had been. They alighted that train wreck and downloads are now not really impacting upon real sales. Sure the music industry will point out that downloads are still high, but who would honestly pay for a Britney Spears album? I'm surprised anyone downloads her music. Maybe they have the Chinese firewall technicians downloading terrible western music to keep them focused on not allowing the west in.

The people who download music these days were either going to browse and buy or never buy (studies are showing this more and more in the past 3 to 5 years), so e-media is a good thing for sales now. I can confirm that downloads have actually increased my buying habits. It has also given me easy access to a much larger market of music. My local music store never used to stock much in the way of Pirate Death Metal (yes that is a real genre), but now I can download an album, see if the Arrr's are rocking and then buy the album to support the artists and their scurvy mates. With all the options now with e-books, free samples, cheap prices, access virtually anywhere, and the fact that you can find something other than James Paterson's latest, makes e-books a great new market.

So e-books are the New Hope. Then can boldly go........ sorry wrong Star Something.

Right now the e-book is booming at a whopping ~10% of the market, definitely time for publishers to worry. They have a Death Star, a fleet of Imperial Cruisers and the e-books have Harrison Ford. Great things are coming, even if it is ruined eventually by a crystal skull.

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Friday, February 11, 2011

The book to movie process

When I am not busy writing or researching I like to stretch out on the couch and revel in abject mindless entertainment. The problem is that even a Hollywood blockbuster can make me think, even it is just thinking of derisive comments.

Recently I finished reading a thriller that had been adapted into a movie. The book was ok, as was the movie, but aside from some character names there was very little resemblance between the two. Having experienced both within a short time period, and despite Hollywood's efforts to stop me thinking too much, I was left with a nagging question.

Why did they bother?

How many times have we seen a film that is supposedly based upon a book (or a play, or a short story, or a comic book) , yet if you were to compare the two you would be hard pressed to draw any similarities? In some instances the lack of resemblance is a blessing and gives people on the Internet something to complain about. In other instances it stops the movie adaptation from being a 10 hour long exercise in boredom.

The average book reader usually has an advantage over the average movie goer, in that they are intelligent and educated enough to be able to read. So obviously any movie has to be simplified, say by removing plot, characters and adding in more explosions, although in fairness on this last point I do think that the odd explosion could add an interesting twist to something like Wuthering Heights. But when does the adaptation go too far and waste the links to the source material?

I'm sure that there is a good reason to pay lots of money to an author for the rights to a book and subsequently ignore completely when making the film of it. I know that 80% of our movies have come from another medium, the popular source at the moment being comic books. Sorry, that should be 'graphic novels' because adults don't read comics because [insert lame justification here]. Do screenwriters really lack imagination and need to have the title of the book and main characters names before than can begin writing? Given how different the films end up being they certainly don't lack for imagination.

I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest that because movie studios go out on a limb and option every single book (etc) that sells more than 2 copies, they need to make a movie of some sort using the titles they have paid for. There would be nothing worse than admitting that they had spent lots of money obtaining the rights to a book that could never be made into a film. So they take this approach to most things they have optioned, as it saves them reading time, time that could be better employed making something up.

Here's to the pile of money for movie rights for authors! May Hollywood never realise that they should read the source material.

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Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Write what you know

Who hasn't received this sage advice?

What a fantastic way to make a new author feel comfortable writing a story. So in the interests of writing my first thriller I decided I needed to experience a few things.

In any thriller you have to have a hero. So my first stop was Man-Ville. For those unaware what Man-Ville is, basically it is a chain store catering to people who look like they just stepped in from the great outdoors and shave to leave a days worth of stubble. At this store I picked up several necessary supplies: boots, because no man wears anything but; pants that can actually hold a wallet, pocket knife and a set of keys that would undoubtedly unlock every door ever made; and a button up shirt that can have the sleeves rolled up. Clothes maketh the man, so now I was a hero. Of course I could have waited to be rescued from a natural disaster and have the media bestow the title of hero upon me for surviving, but I felt it was easier to shop.

With my new attire I am now ready to go to a bar. It is very important to know the ins and outs of every single bar, pub, drinking spot and speak-easy around the area in which your novel is set. It is also a very good chance to pick up some valuable research in one of the key aspects of any thriller, physical violence. I wanted to start out easy and only take on two guys in a pub brawl before working myself up to the impossible odds scenarios expected in fiction.

The next part of my experience necessary for thriller writing came very quickly. Pain in the form of broken bones, bruising and a nasty knife wound were all particularly good experiences. Now when my hero gets hurt I can actually tell that tale from first hand experience. I tried to get someone to shoot me as well, but apparently most people seem more content kicking you repeatedly whilst you are laying unconscious on the ground.

The next step is to be in a car chase, preferably at ridiculous speeds whilst being pursued by 'bad guys'. Unfortunately I don't know any people likely to chase me, short of stealing a police car and taunting some traffic police I can't see a genuine chase ensuing. So I decided to do some high speed driving along the city streets in my Toyota Prius. I really enjoyed taking corners as quickly as possible, driving through intersections with narrow misses all around, and out running an elderly gentleman on his bike.

Now my thriller is partly set in a neighboring galaxy where my hero's knowledge and skills of current society proves invaluable in a far more advanced alien culture. Obviously space travel is inordinately expensive and time consuming for a first time author, this leaves very few options to suitably experience alien cultures. So in order for me to fully appreciate space adventures, other worlds and live amongst an alien culture, I moved to Siberia. This was a great break from sunny Australia. Siberia also proved a suitable chance for me to tread in the footsteps, or thrust in the manner, of Captain Kirk. Any space hero is required to emulate the ultimate in masculine space heroes. Admittedly Siberian women are not green, more a pale white to light blue.

So now I'm ready to write what I know. Much better idea than doing research.

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Monday, February 7, 2011

A bit about me.

Hi everyone and welcome to my blog.

I suppose I should start off with a little background about myself.

I was born in a small town in rural Western Australia. After spending my formative years growing up on the family farm I was abruptly packed off to boarding school to learn about why the city doesn't like to spend money on rural schools.

Once at boarding school I discovered my love of being hung from balconies by my feet and being tormented for having an IQ in excess of 100. It was also here that I picked up the invaluable life long habit of procrastination.

After deciding that I didn't have enough education I gave university a go and diligently proved that you can graduate from a science degree whilst either drunk or hungover. It was during a sober moment at university that I met my future wife and editor when she inexplicably didn't run away when I introduced myself.

Not satisfied with punishing my liver with a mere Bachelors degree I signed on for a PhD before realising all too late that a PhD wouldn't grant me the power to write prescriptions. Now highly over-educated and in need of a job I proceeded to move out of the city in order to lower my chances of employment. But, as fate would have it, a job in the government sector hunted me down and has since trapped me in paper work.

It was only then after crawling out from under a very important piece of triplicate I was burying for the requisite 'filing time' that I decided to turn one of my hobbies into a career. Since Metallica didn't need a lead guitarist, and at 1.82m I'm too tall to be an Olympic weightlifter, I decided upon writing.

My first story was written at the age of 9 after discovering Douglas Adams. Like any other preteen, my writings reflected the last thing I had seen on TV. It was in year 7 that my teacher, Mr Melhuish, would encourage my writing further by actually praising it. It only took 22 years for this praise to overcome my diligent procrastination efforts.

I hope this blog will be of interest to some as I journey towards my first novel and beyond. Subscribe, comment and generally tell me how wonderful I am. I'll try to return the favour.

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