Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Choosing The Right eBook Publisher

So, you finally finished that eBook you've been working on all year and now you need to publish it. The question is: What's the best way to publish an eBook?


No doubt you have heard of that little company, Amazon. They represent about 60% of the eBook market, making them the largest eBook publisher in the world. But they are definitely not the only game in town. Companies such as Apple, Sony, Barnes & Noble, and most recently, Kobo and Copia also have eBook marketplaces open to authors. Obviously Amazon is the largest, but since they don't control 100% of the market it makes sense to fill the small void they do not occupy.

You could publish your eBook yourself, do all the work of formatting, design a cover and post it to Amazon or one (or all) of the other sites. Or there are a host of smaller eBook publishers which can not only help you get your eBook published, but also help you with proper formatting, editing; selecting and designing an eBook cover and choosing which markets to use to get your eBook in front of the largest possible audience.

Many of these smaller eBook publishers include Amazon in their list of eBook markets. They have experience designing eBooks so the process is much easier for them than it might be for you (especially if you're busy working at your day job or writing your next book.) These companies all charge a small fee for their services, but the end result is a product which looks better and stands a much better chance of success in the flooded eBook market.

Before you choose a route, however, it's best if you have a clear expectation of your eBook success, of lack thereof. If this is your first time writing a book you might want to consider trying to complete the process yourself. Yes, it is more time consuming and requires more work, but at least you will come away with a better understanding of the process. Also, doing it all yourself saves you all the upfront costs, so if your eBook bombs (which many do) you're not out any cash.

Once you have a better understanding of the process, however, you might want to consider a professional eBook publishing company. Choose one which provides a complete service and reaches the most eBook markets. Also, if you are uncertain of the eventual success of your eBook (and who isn't?) be certain you choose a company which offers you a good deal.

Remember, the more you do something, the better you will get at it. Expecting overnight success as an eBook author is unrealistic and liable to result in disappointment. Start small, start slow and you will have a much better chance of exceeding your expectations.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Books Will Last Forever And So Will eBooks

I have heard a number of people, many of them authors, publishers and writers, saying that eBooks represent the end of publishing as we know it. This is not necessarily a bad thing, and not necessarily true, either.

I always like to remind people about the continued success of the vinyl record industry. Yes, those big round waxy looking discs most people used to listen to their favorite musical artists.

Although most music today is released in a digital version, either via a CD or an MP3, there is still a lucrative and viable market for people who prefer listening to their music on vinyl.

People who prefer vinyl records say the sound quality is more "real" and more enjoyable than digitized version. In fact, 2011 marked the sixth straight year of increased vinyl record sales, with about 3.5 million records delivered in the United States alone. Not bad for a technology that is decades old and threatened by an assortment of other methods for delivering music to fans.

Now compare this to eBooks. Digitized versions of books are proving they have legs; sales of ereaders and tablets (devices used to access eBooks) are exploding, and publishers are clamoring to deliver new releases and convert exiting stock into a digital format.

This does not mean traditional print books are dead. To me it means more people are reading and they need better access to their library of titles. In fact, I myself have an extensive library of print books, am reading three traditional print books at the moment even as I work on my first digital eBook.

I also read eBooks on my smartphone. Especially when i am stuck in an office waiting room, sitting in my car waiting for my kids to get out of school or just lounging around someplace where my print books are not. My smartphone weighs much less than any book I am reading so when I travel that is the tool I reach for.

So, print books, like vinyl records, are not likely to go away any time soon. There will likely always be people like myself who prefer the feel of a real book in their hands; who prefer to know they content they read cannot be digitally altered, taken away or in any way kept from them in the future.

Traditional publishing, however, is a different story. I think eBooks have created a tidal wave of change which has only just begun to sweep across the landscape of traditional publishing. The changes it has already wrought are only beginning to be understood, and more changes are no doubt coming soon.

No, eBooks do not spell the end of traditional print books. They do, however, mean the end of traditional publishing; the end of a few publishers having control over what is made into print, whose words are found worthy of being made available to the masses and ultimately, in its most basic form, what books see print.

And that, I believe, is a good thing.

Friday, January 27, 2012

Newspaper Publishing Rebounding (Somewhat)

The print news industry has been taking a beating these past few years but revenues are finally starting to turn a corner (for the better) and the outlook is not looking as gloomy as it has.

There are a number of factors which led to the decline of the print news industry, but every one of them was made more devastating by the industry's own reluctance to change, adapt or take advantage of new media in ways which would benefit it.

I know this because I saw it first hand. I was a print news reporter for more than decade. I worked at a variety of newspapers, both large and small; in urban and rural markets; dailies and weeklies.

I heard editors decry the Internet as a tool only "geeks and nerds" will use. I listened as they explained, at length, how social media was a "passing fad" that was basically just a tool for gossip and games. I watched as IT professionals employed by the newspaper industry worked feverishly to cut off all access to social media sites, outside email services, forums and any and all Internet marketing tools, and then listened as they bragged about how "tightly secure" their infrastructure was.

In the meantime other companies worked feverishly to fill the void left on the Internet by newspapers as they locked down their content, offered advertisers no options for making good use of their web sites, and avoided social media like the plague.

I remember begging our IT guys to please load a 30 second video clip of a man starting a bi-plane to our web site as a media accompaniment for a story I had written, only to be told it was too complicated and that "nobody would watch it any way."

Fortunately for me, because I did pursue social media as a tool for myself and my newsroom I survived the drastic wave of lay offs and cutbacks that decimated newsrooms around the country. Yet even as I found success promoting my stories with tools like Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, I encountered the same level of contempt from editors and publishers who were so used to being the only news source for their community they failed to see the many ways their position was being usurped.

And reporters were no better. In journalism school they learned that their trade was a skill which should not be sullied with "tricks" of the Internet, and that as long as they wrote traditional news stories they would always have a job. Even as they were laid off, cut back or just plain "let go" they continued to eschew all forms of digital media; many didn't even have a LinkedIn account much less a Twitter or Facebook account. Finding a new job became all the more difficult because they didn't have anything except a pile of newspaper clippings to promote themselves with.

So, if the print news industry is rebounding, finally, it has much more to do with the fact that readers simply want to keep them around. Just as enough music listeners continue to enjoy vinyl records, making it a billion dollar industry, so are newspaper readers helping that industry maintain a niche.

How long they can hold on to even that niche, however, will depend a great deal on whether or not they have finally learned their lesson and are prepared to take full advantage of the many and varied ways to tell their stories in the Digital Age.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Bad Time To Be A Writer In Iran

You might think, after the events of the Arab Spring, things would be getting better for writers, journalists and bloggers in countries like Iran. For although they did not have the type of social upheaval within their borders that swept across Egypt, Libya and Tunisia, they are in the same region and likely noticed how people have begun to respond to totalitarianism.

Unfortunately, I guess they've had their hands over their eyes and ears, because in the run-up to national elections there police have begun rounding-up and arresting journalists, bloggers and writers.

There is one sure way to end public debate: silence the public.

Writers, especially in the Digital Age, have become targets for people in power who want to remain in power. It is very easy today to spread an idea with just the click of a button, allowing criticism to wash across the land. China knows this all too well, but they have been more selective with the voices (or pens) they have tried to silence, focusing on a chosen few individuals rather than the broad spectrum.

Iranian officials apparently think a clean sweep is needed to be certain there is not too much public dissent, and not too many "radical ideas" being spread around during a time when public dissent and radical ideas are most needed.

It has never been more dangerous to be a writer than it is today. The Digital Age has brought great power to the desktop of anyone with something important to say, but as Stan Lee wrote, "with great power comes great responsibility." And great peril.

Two bloggers in particular has been arrested, though no official charges have been filed and no official reporting of their arrest has been allowed. Parastou Dokouhaki and Marzieh Rasouli are both imprisoned somewhere in Iran, likely until after the national elections have passed. Their friends and families anxiously await some word from the government on when or if they will be released, or even why or where they are being held.

I ask all writers to keep these two women, and every oppressed writer (and person) everywhere in your thoughts. The power of these two bloggers is evident from the way an entire regime seems to fear them.

Together we are powerful, yet so we are as individuals.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Apple's iBook Not So Useful After All

Apple is now the world's most profitable company, with a net worth that makes it more valuable than the country of Greece, but that doesn't seem to be enough for them. They want more.

Apple was once known as the underdog; a computer company the 'average joe' could use to thwart the designs of mega-corporations who wanted to bend the will of every person alive to their own evil ends.
Only now Apple is a mega-corporation, trying to bend everyone to their will, which means buying their hardware to run their software and selling anything you might create with either of those things only to them.

Apple makes cool looking computers and nifty devices, but no more nifty than the devices made by other companies. Apple products are also more expensive, by far, than alternative devices which do much the same thing. And, since Apple has become the King of Everything Proprietary, after you buy their overpriced hardware you are stuck buying their overpriced software and digital media as well.

So when Apple announced last week they were rolling out a new iPad tool for creating digital books, called iBooks, I immediately started looking at how they planned to trap users into buying and selling and dealing only with them.

I didn't have to look too hard.

With iBooks, if you create an eBook on your iPad be prepared to upload it to the Apple iBooks store. Only. It is not compatible with Amazon or Barnes and Noble or any of the dozens of other eBook publishers out there.

This is great news for Apple which is obviously trying to corner the market on publishing eBooks, but it's terrible news for people who want to maximize exposure for their eBook.

Sure, the iBook software lets you add lots of bells and whistles to your eBook, but what good is all that if the marketplace is limited? And if you created the eBook, why can't you take it and sell it wherever you wish without some sort of software work-around that lets you do so?

I am a fan of writers because I am one. I recommend that before anyone go out and buy the iBook publishing software, they finish their book on a cheap-o desktop, save the file as a PDF and upload it to Amazon. You are no more or less likely to sell more books there than any place else, and at least this way you won't be hamstrung by a mega-corporation seemingly hell-bent on owning or at least controlling everything their customers create with their tools.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Power Of A Single Word

Cats die. Especially when we let them wander around outside, roam the neighborhood and do as they wish.
I own a cat now and I have owned cats throughout my life. It is not uncommon for a cat to disappear for weeks at a time, not return home at all; be found dead in the yard or along the roadside, killed under suspicious circumstances.

But if your dead cat is found on your front porch with a single word scrawled on its body, that changes everything.

This past weekend Jacob Burris found exactly that on his front porch. Or rather, his five-year-old son did. The word scrawled on the cat was "Liberal."

Burris is the campaign director for Ken Aden, a Democrat who is running for Arkansas’ 3rd Congressional District seat.

Just one word changed the death of a cat, perhaps from some cause other than human hands, into a felony animal cruelty charge. The police in Burris' community, Russelville, Arkansas, have increased patrols in the neighborhood and say they are committed to finding the person or persons responsible.

The Humane Society of the United States is now offering a $2,500 reward for the arrest and conviction of those responsible.

Burris and Aden have both said this only increases their commitment to the community and to the election, using the death of the cat as a rallying point.

All of this because of a single word. One word, scrawled on the body of a dead cat. If the cat had simply been found dead someone might have called the death suspicious, but with little evidence other than a dead cat. With one word scrawled on the body, the entire situation changes. Now there seems to be little doubt the cat died as a result of the politics of its master.

I am fairly certain the cat had never voted in its life or expressed any interest in politics at all.

Nevertheless, its death has become a poignant political statement. With one single word a simple election to find the person best able to represent their community changed dramatically into something altogether different; it's now about animal rights, intimidation, animal cruelty, criminal activity, dirty politics and "liberals" versus "conservatives."

The power of a single word is an awesome thing.

Monday, January 23, 2012

eReader Owners Double; eBook Publishers Rejoice

According to a new Pew Internet survey, the number of people owning eBook readers and tablet computers doubled this past holiday, giving eBook publishers a reason to be optimistic about the future.

Of course, owning an eBook reader or tablet computer and enjoying it are two totally different things.

According to the Pew survey the number of people who owned a tablet or eBook reader went from 10% in the autumn to 19% after the holiday season. This is made even more significant by their report that ownership of these devices stayed static for most of the year, only rising in the last quarter.

This marked rise in eBook reader/tablet ownership is due in no small part to the increase in things that cane be done with them. There are now an abundance of tablet applications, meaning they are good for something other than watching movies or surfing the Internet. There are also more eBooks in circulation now than at any time before, with hundreds of new titles being added every day. Plus, the latest batch of eBook readers come with an assortment of features that make them more than just a book reader. The Nook Tablet and the Kindle Fire split the difference between traditional ereaders and tablet computers by offering a decent number of features common to both.

The fact that more people are buying these new gizmos is hardly shocking, even in this economy. If you're looking to upgrade your hardware, traditional laptops and desktop computers hardly seem worth the effort (and desk space) especially when WiFi signals are available just about everywhere and there is so much new content to enjoy.

For eBook publishers this is good news because although they are already turning a tidy profit, the influx of new users, hungry for eBooks will only add to their bottom line, giving them even more reason to release new books.

Friday, January 20, 2012

eBook Libraries Succeed, For Now

The idea of being able to borrow an eBook rather than buy one, really caught on in 2011. Unfortunately it seems they may become a victim of their own success as publishers have started to see eBooks not as a novelty but as a growth opportunity, provided people can't get them somewhere else for less.

Take OverDrive.com, for example. They are a global distributor of eBooks, audio books and other digital media. Their latest statistics showed borrowers doubled in 2011 from 2010, and viewing more than 1.6 billion books. They actually checked out (borrowed) more than 35 million titles, putting OverDrive firmly on the path to success.

This is great news for OverDrive, except for one thing: Last year Penguin Books pulled their eBooks from the OverDrive catalog, and this week they decided to pull their audio books as well. And Penguin is not the only publisher looking to find better ways to generate revenue from their eBook catalog. Every major publisher is now pouring money into their eBook division in the race to the top of the heap.

Many local libraries still offer free eBooks, and OverDrive is still in business, but publishers are becoming more savvy about just how lucrative the market is and what the sales potential for eBooks might become. This does not bode well for third party companies who make a profit from loaning eBooks. In my opinion, I don't think public libraries are at risk, yet, but if they detract from the revenue model, they will be.

What about you? How many of you would be more interested in borrowing your eBooks rather than buying them?

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Ebooks Offer Story Telling Alternatives

One of the things I like the most about eBooks is their ability to offer more ways of telling a story. By incorporating the whole range of digital media offerings, your next eBook could be full of bells and whistles.

There is a new eBook publisher, Coliloquy, which is making a name for itself by offering choose your own adventure stories via the eBook format. Not only can the reader plod along a few specific paths, they can see alternative viewpoints from other characters, share insights, vote on outcomes and unlock new portions of the story.

In my opinion, this just scratches the surface when it comes to eBook possibilities.

With the integration of music a savvy author could add a soundtrack for each individual character, mood music or just help set the scene with snazzy sound effects. Suddenly you're adding depth to your story beyond just the words you put down on paper. You can add layers to your story which help enhance the feeling of actually being inside the story.

The possibility of adding video is another way in which eBooks can provide a more fulfilling reading experience. Short clips of action sequences, dreamy flash backs or just something to further draw the reader into the story--make it real--are tools which will soon be at the ready for all eBook authors.

Does this mean the simple act of reading a story, words on paper (digital or not) is going by the wayside? No, of course not.

There will always be a market for great authors who can weave a magical realm with nothing but their words. There is plenty of room in the Digital Age for another Charles Dickens or Jane Austen. Ebooks do not preclude the continued success of wrters who can tell good stories with words.

Having an abundance of new tools for eBooks is a way of making new and exciting books. Books which seem to come to life of their own accord are something altogether different from anything we have seen before. It's a way of tapping the multitude of talents many authors have today--music, film, poetry, technology; whatever they do beside writing, they will soon have the option of including in their eBook.

I think this is great for the industry, great for the authors and great for the readers.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Protect Yourself: Stop SOPA

As a writer I fear a lot of things: Being unable to finish a book, being able to sell a book; losing my eyes or my hands or my ability to think clearly.

What I don't fear is someone stealing my work and using it for their own purposes.

Why? Because there are some very basic laws which prevent that from happening. Ever hear of a "poor man's copyright?" If you're a starving writer, I'll bet you have.
With a "poor man's copyright" you can take your written work, seal it in an envelope, mail it to yourself and leave the letter unopened. If someone then tries to steal your work you can retrieve the letter, deliver it to the court and the stamp from the post office will show the legal date your work was created. As long as nobody else can prove (in a legally binding way) they created that work before you did, you are protected.

With the Internet it is even easier to protect your work. Check the date stamp on the post you wrote. The earliest post always wins (unless it's been plagiarized.)

So why do we need the Stop Online Piracy Act? Well, the government, the film industry and the recording industry say we need it to combat the continued growth of free-sharing torrents. Places where people can go online and share copyrighted works with impunity.

Is there a problem with pirated material on the web? Yes. Are there tools to fight this type of piracy? Yes.

SOPA doesn't add to the arsenal any more than an atomic bomb stops wars. The fact is, it's simply a tool which gives the government complete control over the Internet. Something they have been trying to get for years.

If I download a copyrighted movie without permission I leave a digital trail a mile long. The recording industry has had no trouble finding and suing people who illegally downloaded copyrighted songs. Why do we need a new law to help them do what they are quite capable of doing right now with current laws?

Because with SOPA nobody gets a black eye except the government. Record companies don't have to sue little old ladies because their grandchild used their computer to download the latest Lady Gaga song.

SOPA is a tool to be wielded by companies and anyone else with an axe to grind against another company or entity they are not happy with. Instead of blaming an individual for doing something illegal--shut down an entire web site.

I cannot think of a more chilling fate for the Internet in the United States. Internet companies will be forced to set up shop in other countries where THEIR freedoms are protected. This will cause a major loss of intellectual talent and billions of dollars in tax revenue and make the United States the most censored country in the world.

And who wants that?

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Apple Diving Into Digital Textbooks

Looking to further re-invent the way we consume information, it appears Apple is ready to take on text books.
Tomorrow they are expected to make an announcement regarding digital textbooks and their iPad, no doubt sending ripples throughout the publishing world.

Text book publishers have been wary of digitized versions of their books, not readily seeing the value. As eBook sales have been soaring for the past 12 months, with no sign of letting, publishers have finally started to come around. In fact, now they are salivating at the very idea of digitized text books because they know that the resale market for them will vanish overnight. Students will have to buy the latest updated version each time it comes out, rather than pick up a second hand copy, or loan theirs to someone else.

This is money in the bank for publishers which have seen their profits slipping following the success of Amazon and Barnes and Noble in handling eBooks.

So, what can Apple offer a digital textbook publisher that they can't get in print. (Besides increased profits?) Plenty.

By using their iPad as the hardware platform, Apple has an opportunity (a very big one) to make textbooks interesting. The new digitized textbooks can contain links to interactive videos, slide shows, audio recording. Instead of reading about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., click a button and listen to his "I Have A Dream" speech. Instead of looking at photos of the solar system, click a link and get a virtual 3D tour of the planets and moons.

The opportunities available to multi-media publishers on a tablet computer are nearly endless. You could do just about anything, provide any resource, information, or file format you want. And, when the latest edition comes along, instead of handing down an old textbook, just download a new one.

It's a win-win-win scenario for Apple, textbook publishers and students.

Click here to read more about Apple's upcoming announcement.

Monday, January 16, 2012

More Proof eBook Sales Are Getting Stronger

Although electronic books, ebooks, have been around for years now, the demand for them has not diminished. In fact, sales of eBooks have continued to grow, even as more traditional publishers have started to get into the game.

A recent report from London’s Bloomsbury Publishing shows that although the traditional book market slowed down last year (slowed, didn't die), their ebook sales were enough to increase their profits, possibly as high as $16 million. The sales of eBooks grew a whopping 38 percent last year from the year before, and the company is now looking to increase its holdings of eBooks to make better use of that growing market.

Bloomsbury Publishing is the company that brought us the powerhouse which is now known as "Harry Potter" so clearly they understand a burgeoning trend when they see one.

This past year more than 1 million e-readers were sold in the UK and those sales continue to climb, making eBook holdings even more relevant going forward. All this interest in eBooks by traditional book publishers is not simply grasping at straws. These are real numbers, signifying a growing trend which, if they are smart, more book publishers will grab hold of.

In the meantime, authors who are looking to reach new audiences, or those who cannot attract the attention of traditional publishing houses, have a new outlet in the form of eBooks which not only makes sense as an easy-to-use option, but is also a lucrative and growing market where new books are eagerly awaited.

Click here for more information about London’s Bloomsbury Publishing.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Chinese Writer Yu Jie Flees China

There's really only so much to be said for standing your ground. What good does it do your cause if you are killed, imprisoned or indefinitely detained?

No doubt these were the thoughts going through the mind of Chinese dissident writer Yu Jie before he fled his native country and took up residence in Washington D.C.

Yu Jie says it will be at least a few years until he returns to China. He claimed the Chinese government has threatened him with punishment as a subversive if he continues posting comments critical of their policies and writing stories which put the spotlight on what he considers the injustices committed by officials.

Yu Jie is just the latest in a long line of Chinese writers who have been outspoken with regard to the practices of the Chinese government. He risked his own life and the lives of everyone who knew and supported him in order to bring to light things which he believed were undermining Chinese society--the majority of which were committed, he said, by the Chinese government.

I am not here to take one side or the other. These arguments are best left to people who understand what is actually going on; who live there day after day; see with their own eyes and feel with their own hearts.

However, the fact Yu Jie felt so threatened he had to flee his country for a land on the other side of the world says a great deal. It also says something for his skills as a writer. China currently has what is arguably the largest military apparatus in the world. The fact they consider a single man, armed only with a laptop, a threat, is very telling indeed.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Amazon Rife With Plagiarised Ebooks

A new story at FastCompany.com seems to show that the majority of erotic stories being sold as ebooks on Amazon are complete rip-offs.

The article offers an in-depth analysis of several ebooks and the original works they were taken from, in some cases word for word.

True, the article focuses solely on ebook erotica, not any of their other genres, but the facts seem to show that Amazon has a problem with plagiarism. Whether it is erotica or not, plagiarism is stealing. Period. In fact, it's the worst kind of theft because it involves not only stealing what doesn't belong to you, but also lying about the fact you had nothing to do with its creation.

It doesn't matter if you steal an entire book, a page or a single sentence. When you put your name on a finished book or article, you are telling the reading that you created the work they see before them. If you didn't, if you instead stole the words they are about to read and are passing them off as your own, this is a fraud of the highest caliber.

An intellectual fraud.

More to the point of MY article, however, is this: Why doesn't Amazon verify the contents of the ebooks they sell? There are an abundance of copy write services on the Internet. For a few pennies, and in less time than it takes to file a copyright infringement case, you can have any written work checked for originality. We're not talking about rocket science, here, folks. This is amounts to common sense practices, especially when you are talking about publishing.

Regardless of the subject matter, if Amazon is going to sell ebooks, they have an obligation to be certain they are not selling stolen material. Just as Walmart cannot sell bootleg CD's, DVD or Gucci handbags. Even sites such as Ebay and Craigslist have rules forbidding the sale of stolen property.

And make no mistake--if you plagiarize someone else's story, you have stolen their property. Wanna be a novelist? Write your own damn story--don't take work that someone else created and put your name on it.

Until ebook publishers can guarantee they are not selling stolen merchandise, buyers should beware. And so should writers.

After checking the author page for Maria Cruz, who that day had the top-selling erotica book in Amazon's U.K. Kindle store, she counted 40 erotica ebook titles, including Sister Pretty Little Mouth, My Step Mom and Me, Wicked Desires Steamy Stories and Domenating [sic] Her, plus one called Dracula's Amazing Adventure. Most erotica authors stay within the genre, so Sharazade was surprised Cruz had ventured into horror. Amazon lets customers click inside a book for a sample of text and Sharazade was impressed with how literate it was. She extracted a sentence fragment, googled it, and found that Cruz had copy and pasted the text from Bram Stoker's Dracula. Curious, Sharazade keyed in phrases from other Cruz ebooks and discovered that every book she checked was stolen.

Click here to read the rest of the story at FastCompany.com.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

New Writing Opportunities Mean More Pitfalls For Writers

I came across an interesting article today about the growing number of publishing and marketing opportunities called, "Writing the new formula for success."

The article goes on at length about the abundance of new opportunities for mobile apps, digital media and new forms of marketing in general. What is missing is an emphasis on the need for writers to supply all this content.

It can be argued that the importance of good writing for these near endless new opportunities afforded to us in the Digital Age is an understood. Of course not everything we think of as being an "understood" is, well, understood at all. In fact, many of the people I see creating new forms of digital enterprise seem more focused on sales of their product(s) than they are on the writer(s) hired to write the copy which sells it.

This is nothing new. I said when I started this blog that it "Seems to me writing is yet another art which goes largely unappreciated by the people who rely on it the most."

All of the new content being created for this plethora of new digital media is being created by writers, most likely for less than a penny per word, and with little or no credit whatsoever. Yet the content being created is the lynchpin upon which any and all success of the aforementioned digital media is pinned. If the copy is not well written, there will be no interest, no sales and no success.

So while there are perhaps more opportunities for writers than ever before, it is incumbent upon the writers that they demand to be both recognized for their hard work and paid accordingly. Not everything you write will have your name on it, but you should be paid an amount which is equal to the quality work you provide.

Before you agree to provide any digital content be certain the job is worth your time and effort. The sooner individual writers recognize their work has real value, and demand they be remunerated for it, the sooner all writers will be treated as a important piece if any successful business plan. A place they have always held, yet have not always been appreciated for.

However, the Financial Times predicts further digital integration in terms of advertising this year: “We are seeing rapid growth in our digital subscriptions. Our research shows that readers who see an ad on more than one channel are much more likely to be engaged with the brand than those who see it once. More advertisers are asking for mobile elements in their campaigns,” says Ben Hughes, global commercial director and deputy chief executive at the FT.

Online advertising is also seeing a rapid change and demand for new ways to advertise. The simple banner demonstrating what brands have on offer on a news platform is becoming a more interactive experience.

Click here to read more of the article in Marketing Week.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Facebooking Your Way To Print

Are you an avid Facebook poster? Do you relish creating little quips and jokes; making Facebook posts which reach the heights of popularity and get Shared across the network?

Then you should "Like" Outskirts Press Facebook Page.

Outskirts Press is the self-publishing company that already turned their Facebook Wall Postings (the stuff posted by fans) into a very popular anthology. The revenue generated from the sale of their first book, Fandemonium, which they published last year, went to the American Red Cross.

For Fandemonium Volume 2 they are hoping to receive just as many submissions, all of which will be voted on via the "Like" button by other fans, and the most popular will be included in the book.

Here's some of what the press release said:

Authors with a poem, short story, joke, recipe, or any form of writing they would like to share with the world can visit the Outskirts Press Facebook page at facebook.com/outskirtspress to submit their work. The entries must be five thousand words or less and the writer must be the sole copyright holder for the piece they submit.

Submissions can be voted on by Facebook members with a click of the "Like" button to help Outskirts Press determine which contributions will be selected for the anthology.

Click here to read the entire press release.

If you have a Facebook post which you think deserves some recognition because of its uniqueness; an interesting topic or some similar thing, why not post it on their Page and see what happens.

You could simply collect all of your interesting Facebook posts into your own book and self-publish it through Amazon.com, but that might take a while. Using the Outskirts Press Fan Page you can get some immediate feedback from other users and you might just wind up in print.

It's probably not the right course for a novelist, but if you're into quips, why not give it a go.

Monday, January 9, 2012

What You Put Into Your Writing Matters

I think I write best after 10 pm, most nights, unless I've had no sleep, in which case I will spend most of my writing time fixing errors. Still, late night writing works best for me so I try to be certain I am well rested when I know I have some free time to write.

Writing for me is both an indulgent choice and my profession. I write for myself, short stories, a few unfinished novels long in the works and a few blogs. I also write for a living--producing blogs on varying subjects; articles, web content, etc. etc.

This means when I am awake, I am usually writing. It's a job and I am very happy for it. I put a great deal into my writing, spending time I I would otherwise spend watching cartoons or working in a fast food establishment producing content I am pleased with and that I hope others find interesting and/or useful. I completely altered my career choice when it came to being a full time write, first as a journalist, now as a freelancer, but then again, this is what I have always wanted to do, so i guess it would be fair to say I simply went back to doing what I had always wanted to do when I became brave enough to risk everything to do it.

I am sure I am not alone in my desire to risk everything in pursuit of my passion. In fact, I read an article by Al Kennedy, who makes a similar case for her own writing career. Although she does so with more flair and from her desk at The Guardian in the UK where she has made an excellent name for herself as a journalist, columnist and writer extraordinaire.

At some point during 1986, I made the decision to be a writer and to do so absolutely. Rather than having a go, or trying, or tiptoeing forward, I decided to write as well as I could. This was, in a way, an extreme decision and an open invitation to risk, because if I really threw everything I had into writing and got nowhere, then I would be definitively No Good At It. I hadn't worked out that going halfway into writing (or any art, or anything else worthwhile) wouldn't be safe, it would be a guarantee of failure. The joy and fear and work involved in writing have to be real and full to have meaning and to achieve anything. I didn't know that, I was simply feeling useless in the midst of Margaret Thatcher's recession with no proper job I could go to. So I wrote. I really wrote. And I was lucky. I got published – and therefore found a way of life and a profession and a love I could never have anticipated. The same drive that leads me into foolishness with curry, means that I committed to an art and craft and that it could commit to me.

Click here to read her entire article.

Friday, January 6, 2012

Stories I Loved To Write

I don't normally wax nostalgic but today I will make an exception.

The other day someone asked me about my former career as a journalist. No sooner did they learn I had been a print news reporter for more than a decade, they asked: "What was the most interesting story you ever covered?"

Wow. That's a hefty question, especially when it is directed at someone who has written thousands of stories. I felt obliged to pick one, mentioned it, described it, and he was satisfied. That night, however, I found myself still turning the question over in my mind. I was dissatisfied with my own answer because it hardly scratched the surface of what I found to be my most interesting stories.

Elmer Popejoy fought across the desert during WWII as a part of Operation Torch. He distinguished himself in combat as a sergeant and later wrote an autobiography of his experiences. I met with him many times prior to the U.S. invasion of Iraq. I listened carefully as he described the screaming sound of the German planes ("Der Stuka", he said) as they strafed the desert all around him on a near daily basis. I saw the pain in his eyes as he described each of the young men who were blasted to pieces right in front of him.

I interviewed firefighters who were part of the response team during the 9/11 tragedy in New York. I remember how they spoke in stunned tones about the tragedy; explaining their surprise at finding debris from the collapse a mile or more away; reams of paper from the office buildings, jammed into tiny cracks in the concrete buildings, or wedged with a vengeance into steel fire escape ladders. Even months later these men and women, trained though they were to handle even the most dire emergencies, were still coming to grips with what they'd experienced. Some of them still are, to this day.

Most of all I remember the day I was to fly with the Red Baron Pizza Squadron. My daughter, Annabelle, was just three at the time. The squadron was in town for an airshow and I had secured a ticket to fly with them, interview their flight leader and even shoot some video. I was nervous--it was my first flight in a WWI bi-plane with an open cockpit. Similar to what Snoopy flew when he went into battle with the Red Baron. Anyway, I woke up early and was headed out the door when my daughter stopped me.
"Where are you going daddy?" she asked sweetly.
"I'm going to work, honey. I'll be back later."
She paused, a worried look crossed her face. "No," she said. "You'll never be back again." Then she turned around and toddled away.
Needless to say it took every ounce of my courage to get into that cockpit and fly with those guys that day. No matter they were some of the most skilled pilots who ever took to the air. Never mind that they logged a safety record which was exemplary; I was afraid my daughter had psychic powers and this was her first prediction.
Fortunately for me my daughter is NOT psychic. I came home safe and sound with some awesome photos and videos, and a story I can tell my grandchildren.

So, when it comes to my favorite stories, I guess the answer is, I have so many it is difficult to narrow it down. But a few always seem to push their way to the surface.

How about you? As a writer, what are your favorite stories?

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Write More; Lose Weight

An interesting new study was released this week. It seems a certain group of Canadian researchers has discovered there are serious psychological benefits of writing, including being a very influential factor for those trying to lose weight.

That's right. You read that correctly, according to these researchers, if you write as a part of your weight loss program you are much more likely to actually lose weight.

The fact is, writing does more than just help us lose weight. It helps us achieve balance in our lives; express thoughts, dreams, desires and feelings of inadequacy that we can then examine from a distance, thereby gaining a better perspective of them.

Every true writer already knows this. Writing is healthy for a great many of us. That's why we write regardless of whether or not we receive a penny for all our hard work. We might write from an autobiographical perspective or we might write fiction; we might write copy, blogs or white papers; but whatever we are writing likely has at least one or two identifying characteristics which are ours alone. In this way we are marking our territory and lending credence to our inner-belief that what we do actually makes a difference.

Losing weight from writing? Sure, why not. It has certainly proven an effective psychological restorative. That's why journaling is a part of almost every wellness program. It helps us heal because we can put down on paper what we feel inside without fear of reproach (so long as we don't let anyone read it.)

I have heard of wondrous results from those who have written down a list of the things which hinder them the most; their personal fears or weaknesses, then burn that piece of paper and blow away the ashes. I have also seen the power of making a list of things we WANT to happen, and then set about making them happen simply because they are on the list.

Writing is powerful. The "pen is mightier than the sword" was not said in jest. It was said as a point of fact. Everything we do today has its basis in something which was first written down.

So, if you're trying to lose weight, keep a journal of your thoughts, make a list, write down how you feel, what you are doing to make your life better; whatever you feel you need to say. Whatever else happens, writing certainly won't hurt the process and it might just help.

The research, published in Psychological Science - a journal of the Association for Psychological Science - stated that women who wrote about their most important values (like notes on close relationships, music or religion) lost more weight over the following few months than women who did not. The study was based on the ability to maintain self-control... a trait that becomes essential in a calorie-dense society that has succumbed to over-eating.

Click here to read more about the latest research.

Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Amazon Fiction Wing Starts 2012 With A Bang

Have you heard the latest news about James Franco? His new book, Actors Anonymous, will be published by Amazon's new fiction publishing wing!

I am much more excited about the move by Amazon toward publishing than by Franco's new book.

Franco is a decent writer and a decent actor, but Amazon is setting the literary world on fire with its ever increasing volume of ebooks and now, by stepping into a world formally bought and paid for by traditional publishing companies, is taking direct at them.

Amazon has reportedly been selling slightly more eBooks than print editions for the past year, so it makes sense they would seek to increase their sales by recruiting more quality writers. (I will not take aim at Franco's literary skills--they are what they are.) This makes sense from a marketing point of view, especially when you consider the success of some ebook authors who, while publishing a decent story idea fail to deliver the sort of literary quality that attracts a great number of readers.

I have talked about my disdain for churning out ebooks just for the sake of churning out ebooks before. This is nothing new coming from me. As far as Amazon's new publishing wing, only time will tell whether or not they can increase the quality of their offerings through a more selective process. But it gives me hope.

As long as Amazon continues to offer a simple solution for self-publishers there is no danger to the existing ebook trade. By offering higher quality published work Amazon might be able to raise its profile from being a peddler of self-promotional material (a vanity publisher, at best) to being a true purveyor of literature.

This would be great for everyone who loves to read, providing a fresh perspective when it comes to who gets published, how and where. And would no doubt be great for Amazon's business, as well.

Yesterday, the New York Observer reported that James Franco has sold his first novel—and not to Scribner, which published his story collection, but to the fairly new publishing wing of Amazon. Cue, predictably, the eye-rolling: “a New Year has never truly dawned without announcement of something that James Franco is doing,” wrote Sean O’Neal at the A.V. Club (sarcastically, in case that’s not immediately clear). Amazon’s publishing wing, O’Neal says, “threatens to upend traditional publishing models forever, which is something they probably said to James Franco, probably in a wild-eyed and flamboyant manner they thought he might find attractive.” O’Neal also poked fun at the tentative title for the book, Actors Anonymous, and the novel’s reportedly autobiographical nature.

Click here to read more about James Franco's new publishing deal from Slate.com

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Amanda Hocking Translates eBook Success Into Print Success

Amanda Hocking was just 17 when she wrote her first novel, but it wasn't until she became a self-published millionaire that she finally received the traditional publishing recognition she yearned for.

Hocking is the author of a genre of books known as "paranormal romance" made popular by author Stephenie Meyer with her "Twilight" series. Hocking wrote a few novels, loaded them to Amazon in 2010, and within a year had set the ebook self-publishing world on fire by amassing a whopping $2 million in sales.

Traditional book critics often blasted her work as being amateurish or sloppy but her fans didn't seem to care or notice. At one point she was averaging 9,000 book sales a day. Her continued success in the ebook work has also translated to traditional publishing success. Recently she signed a $2 million publishing deal with St. Martin's Press and is about to embark on a media tour of Europe. he has also optioned the rights to one her novels to be made into a Hollywood film.

So, besides making me feel bad for having STILL not finished my own novel or launched a single eBook, what does all of Hocking's success mean? Not much.

Hocking didn't write to become rich or famous. She wrote as a teenager; she wrote when she worked a regular nine-to-five job; she is probably writing right now. It's her passion. She does it not for recognition, but as a matter of survival.

I write to live and live to write. If I were unable to write I would never truly be happy. Whether my work is ever published in any form, or simply sits in a desk drawer, or some unread blog somewhere; I do this because my spirit feeds on it. My soul is more alive with every word I write. Every time I compose a sentence whose structure is flawless; which conveys my thoughts in succinct purity, I reap the true benefit.

So, while I congratulate Amanda Hocking on her success, and wish her nothing but the best, I cannot help but chide anyone who thinks this is a reason for them to publish an eBook.

The only real reason to write a book is because you have something important to say. If it's important enough, you'll say it. If it's written well enough, people will read it. Everything else is just coincidence.

The traditional publishing world that once rejected her took notice, and consequently, Hocking's empire (and bank account) has grown even bigger.

After a headline-making auction in March, Hocking signed a multimillion-dollar deal with the traditional print publisher St. Martin's Press. The deal gives St. Martin's the right to release Hocking's "Trylle Trilogy" in trade paperback and as e-book editions.

The first novel, Switched (St. Martin's Griffin, $8.99), hits stores today with a first printing of 250,000 print copies. The St. Martin's e-book edition also is $8.99. (The sequels, Torn and Ascend, are due Feb. 28 and April 24.) Meanwhile, the Trylle (pronounced "Trill") film rights have been optioned by Media Capital Rights. Screenwriter Terri Tatchell, Academy Award nominee for District 9, has completed the first draft, Hocking says.

Click here to read more about Hocking's success.

Monday, January 2, 2012

William Gibson: Writer, Dreamer, Fortune Teller For All Humanity

As a futurist, William Gibson is decidedly a pessimist, or at least he seems that way when you read a few of his dark works of fiction.
Gibson is perhaps most well known for the word "cyberspace" which he introduced in a short story, "Burning Chrome" which published in 1982, decades before most of us even understood exactly what it was. In his novel "Neuromancer" which he published two years later, he extolled the virtues of a wired world even as he seemed to indicate this meant the end of humanity as we now know it.

Which might not necessarily be a bad thing, I suppose.

What I find most interesting about Gibson is the way he innovates as he writes. He doesn't take an idea and make it new, he creates new ideas and make them seem, real, expected, perfectly acceptable and in fact, inevitable.

This is what has made Gibson so influential. His followers are legion; an entire generation has grown up using his work as their own personal guidebook for the future they are creating. Even now his books are being dissected, broken down into their individual parts in order what else he predicted that could now be made real.

Gibson has an eye for the future and the for the way humans will react to that future. He predicts the rise of technology and the decline of humanity. In its place, he tells us, is a new reality no more strange to those who will inhabit it than our so-called modern world would be to the people of the last century.

As a writer Gibson is a work-a-holic, having published 11 novels and more than a dozen short stories, some under a duress of his own making. Gibson has said on more than one occasion that his fame as a writer was purely an accident brought on by a desperation to become something he wasn't sure he could be.

At 63, Gibson hardly looks a day over 40 and by the way he continues to re-invent himself, and further extend his credentials as a writer, it seems he is so-far uninterested in slowing down or settling down. Instead I expect Gibson is right now thinking about something most of us know nothing about (or have long since taken for granted) and imagining how this thing will eventually change everything about the world we live in.

In this way Gibson is far and away one of the most influential writers of our, or any, generation.

What do you think of William Gibson?