Multiple Enthusiasms

Infinite jest. Excellent fancy. Flashes of merriment.

Category: marketing (page 1 of 2)

When the free promotion for The Prodigal Hour translated to decent sales, I was impressed. Enough that I started to consider free promotions more strategically with the desire to use them both better and more deliberately, and I think that doing so is increasing sales.

In fact, I’m sure of it. Sales have increased, bit by bit, every month. Not by a whole lot, yet, but considering where they started, they’re building steadily and seem on pace to continue to do so.

So how?

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The other day, I talked a bit about my experiences using KDP Select as both an author and a publisher. I noted that I didn’t think timing made much difference and noted some things that hadn’t caught on in the way others had, but I’ve noticed some things I think do, and have some theories about some other elements besides.

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This past weekend, my novel Meets Girl was free at Amazon. I shared a link on Facebook and tweeted about it late last night, and in both posts I’d mentioned I’d previously forgotten to, but that was only mostly true. I did, in fact, forget to mention it on Saturday morning (I was getting ready for the Pittsburgh Parks Conservancy’s 2012 Hat Luncheon, which was a blast). I remembered it later that day, but by then I’d realized it was a good opportunity to conduct an experiment.

I see a lot of authors, and especially independent ones, participating in Amazon’s KDP Select program and taking advantage of the five free days the 90-day period of Amazon exclusivity grants. The two most important participants in publishing are writers and readers, and I think the program is great for both; readers get access to a ton of free books by authors they might not have heard of before or tried, and authors get new readers.

I see enough authors doing so, in fact, that it seems like free books are no longer news. Every day, my Twitter stream is filled with another author linking to a free book. Unfortunately, that’s sometimes all they tweet, ever, but that’s another issue entirely.

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It’s a way to help readers find new books.

Today, in keeping with celebrating National Poetry Month, The Inevitable Decay of Francis “Fitz-Pack” Fitzgerald is free, and will remain so for the week, but given that Exciting Press has more than 25 titles–at least 23 of which will be enrolled in free promotions over the next several months, and hopefully indefinitely, as well–it’s not really news that there’s a free title. Our hope is there will always be one, from here on out.

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Back in February, using a free promotion through Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing Select Program, my novel The Prodigal Hour attracted more than 8,000 downloads in a mere three and a half days. Enough to steadily climb Amazon’s rankings until it was the number one free science fiction novel on the site. And in the top five action & adventure novels. (You can get it, or any other title from Exciting Press, right here.)

Now, this was when it was free, but even after the $4.99 price tag returned, it stayed in the lists. Not as high, of course, but it sank rather slowly out of them. Moreover, its current ranking on Amazon is a couple hundred thousand higher than it used to be. More people have bought and borrowed it in the past month and a half than ever. The numbers aren’t astronomical, but they’re growing.

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Hey, right now, my pre-/post-9/11 time-travel novel, The Prodigal Hour is free for Kindle.

I have to be honest with you: I have absolutely no idea how to feel about that.

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The other day, Inside the Outside author Martin Lastrapes asked me about Kindle Select (or Kindle Direct Publishing Select, or KDP Select, depending on the day and who’s typing, it seems). I’m now several weeks committed to being a Kindle-exclusive author, and I thought I’d share some of my experiences.

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Lately, there’s been a price trick among independent authors using Smashwords and Amazon: if one made one’s ebook available to Smashwords’ distributors (like B&N and Kobo and Apple) free, Amazon might match that free price. It was the only way to offer a book for free at all, at least for independent authors.

This is no longer the case, and one of the reasons I went Amazon exclusive. In exchange for making my books exclusive to the Kindle platform, I also gained access to the ability to initiate promotions and could make my books free for five days out of every 90.

I did so this past weekend, over Christmas. Hoping to attract a few of all the new readers unwrapping and firing up their shiny new Kindles.

I think it worked.

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After careful consideration, I’ve removed my collection from Smashwords and enrolled all my books in Amazon’s new KDP Select program. I did it for both professional and moral reasons that disagree with most everything else people say about Amazon, so I thought I’d tell you about why, but first I wanted to mention that one benefit of doing so means that, for a very limited time (until December 27th, in fact, so just five days including today), all my short stories, essays, and collections will be available free.

Totally free. No catch. No caveat. You don’t have to be a Prime member.

You can find them all right here.

Now. Why am I going Amazon exclusive (if only for 90 days at a shot), when most people in the publishing industry are decrying the evil of the Seattle corporation–even though that’s kind of ironic, given that pretty much everyone who’s called them an evil corporation is either a corporation or deeply associated with one (or many)?

Because I don’t see them as evil. I’m a reader, first–I write because some of the books I want to read haven’t been written yet–and Amazon has done more for me as a reader than anyone else ever. It’s also done more for me as a writer than anyone save my editrix.

But let’s talk about Amazon. And evil. And corporations.

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Just received an email that Amazon has made a special KDP Select option available on its Kindle Direct Publishing platform, which what many authors–including me–use to publish our work for Kindle. Which is awesome. I know a lot of corporate publishers, literary agents, retailers, and authors are wary of Amazon, its continued growth, and its possible dominance, but for many of us–again, myself included–it’s been uniquely empowering.

The new Select option is interesting; authors who agree to digital exclusivity with Amazon can both make their books available as part of Kindle’s new Lending Library and take advantage of free promotions.

I decided to try it out to see what I could see. I went ahead and enrolled “Jamais Plus: Explorations in the Curious Case of the Mysterious Death of Edgar Allan Poe”, while at the same time increasing its “normal” price to non-promotional level (and taking advantage of that free promotion). “Jamais Plus” is a choose-your-own-adventure noir, a twisting-winding throwback to the adventure novels so many of us grew up on, in which C. Auguste Dupin investigates the death of the man who made him an infamous detective. It required substantial and specialized coding to make it work on Kindle, and it’s sort of even more a reading experience than a story.

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So what might a writer learn from Locke? You’ve written a “good enough” novel–whatever you’ve decided that means. Maybe you just finished it for NaNoWriMo (and in which case, congratulations!).

Maybe you’re an experienced indie author still frustrated when you see other authors selling crazy amounts of books while sales of yours trickle in.

Maybe you’re an author who got a corporate deal–advance and all!–but your publisher never really got around to marketing you. Maybe you signed with Simon & Schuster, and they’re too busy with uploading and then deleting Snooki YouTube videos.

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In discussing Locke and How I Sold (as well as Hocking and Eisler et al.), I think one huge caveat that must be enumerated, and can’t be mentioned often enough, is that: there is no magic bullet. What’s worked for one writer might not–and probably will not–work for others.

I’m sure someone could make the argument that people don’t discuss that bit because it’s understood, but I don’t buy that.

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In Malcolm Gladwells’ book “The Tipping Point,” Gladwell discusses myriad companies whose products tipped the industries they were in, changing them around them in such a way as to not simply be successful but even rewrite a paradigm. During the past several years, several different events have increasingly tipped publishing from being a business based on print and bookstores to transforming into one based on digital readers and online retailers; Amazon’s Kindle, which debuted in 2007, was a first step in a march of tipping points that has progressed inexorably since then.

Amazon’s announcement that independent author John Locke had sold a million Kindle downloads might have been the first real tip of independent publishing from a specific designator used in a specific way toward a more general appellation embraced by myriad creators operating outside of so-called “traditional” systems.

Over the weekend, I read Locke’s “How I Sold a Million Ebooks in Five Months!” The exclamation point is his (he has a propensity toward the punctuation. I don’t think a single page didn’t contain at least one). As I read his recounting of his experiences, I started to wonder how authors might use the knowledge, but I also started to wonder if the fact that Locke exists in the first place might be even more important than his techniques and books.

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After debuting at $2.99 and having a 99-cent pre-/post-9/11 sale, The Prodigal Hour is now on sale for $4.99 at Amazon.

Now that Kindle’s Direct Publishing platform has allowed so many authors to bypass both literary agents and corporations’ acquisitions editors in favor of connecting directly with readers, many conventions long simply rotely accepted are being questioned.

One is pricing.

In a corporate-type situation, it’s not difficult to determine pricing. Probably due to a confluence of complicated factors too boring to really contemplate, we all know about how much a trade paperback costs: usually between $12.99 and $14.99, right? I think that’s about the upper limit. Hardcovers are, what, $27-ish? Maybe $30?

(Which prompts a question: who pays full price for a hardcover? Don’t all hardcovers [and most trade paperbacks, nowadays] come with some discount or other? Back when I was a proud carrier of a Barnes & Noble card Members Receive An Extra 10% Off books already discounted by 30% or more.)

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In November 1913, Nils Granlund, a manager at a theater in Marcus Loew’s chain, produced a promotional video for an upcoming musical, which he intended to show after other movies had already finished, which was why such short promotional videos were called trailers. The Marcus Loew chain ultimately became Loew’s Theaters (now AMC), and savvy theater managers began to run trailers before movies, rather than after.

Now, of course, the trailers/previews/coming attractions are one of the highlights of going to the theater.

And they’re not just for movies anymore.

It was easy to appropriate the idea for television. Trailers were just commercials for movies, anyway, so previews for new and upcoming episodes and shows were just that. And then came MTV, which was basically trailers for albums in the form of music videos.

In recent years, authors and publishers have taken up the idea. James Patterson, who was successful in advertising before he became the brand-name author he has become, was pretty much the first author to use the idea successfully in 1993 to support the launch of Along Came a Spider. His publisher wasn’t exactly for it, but Patterson wrote, produced, and paid for the commercial himself, and if it wasn’t the first-ever commercial for a novel, it was certainly a milestone in the current big-name publishing landscape and brand-name authors. Now, the internet, YouTube, and digital cameras have made it simple for authors to make and distribute promotional videos for their books even more easily.

Now that the idea is more popular and more authors are using it, however, more people are wondering about how effective teasers are (I like to call them teasers. They’re not trailing after anything, after all). Should authors really be worrying about them, or are they a waste of time?

To answer those questions, we have to back up a ways.

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I’ve discussed earning it, completing the coursework, etc.

But look:

I’m pleased.

(besides time travel)

I thought I’d share the as-it-stands cover copy:

“Chance Sowin hoped only for a new beginning.”

On October 31, 2001, six weeks after escaping the World Trade Center attacks, Chance Sowin moves back home, hoping for familiarity and security. Instead, he interrupts a burglary as his father, Dennis, is shot and killed.

What begins as a homicide investigation escalates when the Joint Terrorism Task Force arrrives. Where he hoped for solutions, Chance finds only more questions: who killed his father, and why? Was his father—a physicist at Princeton’s Institute for Advanced Study—working on dangerous research? Why did Dennis build a secret laboratory in his basement?

Chance might not know the answers, but Cassie Lackesis, Dennis’ research assistant, thinks she does. She isn’t certain that Dennis discovered a way to time travel, but she knows who told her: Chance.

Together with Cassie, Chance will go on a journey across time and space that will challenge his every notion of ideas like “right” and “good.” One young man’s desire to make a difference will become, instead, a race against time as he tries to prevent forces he could never understand from not just destroying the universe but rendering it nonexistent.

When every action has a reaction, every force its counter, Chance will find that the truest measure of his character is not what he wants but what he will do when the prodigal hour returns.”

My aim was concise, elegant, and hook-y. My aim was those people who, inspired by the WTC-Light tribute that is the cover, flipped over the book to scope the back cover.

What do you think? It’s not final, yet, after all. Still a month before it’s available.

Are you excited?

Because if you’re not, you’re gonna be.

This week, two publishing deals made big news, each for very different reasons.

Early this week, in an interview with Joe Konrath, Barry Eisler revealed he’d declined a six-figure deal from a major publisher. Instead, he will publish his books independently, on Kindle.

On the other end of the spectrum, Amanda Hocking scored a seven-figure deal with Saint Martin’s Press. Hocking made a well-recognized name for herself by publishing low-priced Kindle-exclusive novellas and novels. Recently, she’s mostly known for having sold more than one hundred thousand books in January, which isn’t surprising given that she published eleven books since, like, April of last year.

I’m sure many of them were in a trunk somewhere, and she didn’t write them all in eight months.

Actually, considering their quality, I’m not sure of that.

This particular pair of writers has created a total binary in terms of discussion with regard to so-called “self-publishing.” It’s an easy black and white to paint.

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This one’s personal.

Exciting Books.

Many people seek meaning all their lives. Who are we, people ask, and why are we here.

I don’t.

I won’t say I understand it all fully, of course, but from the time I was eleven years old, I’ve known I’m here to tell stories, and I’ve known those stories must be exciting.

I remember reading Stephen King’s Needful Things; before then, I’d read the Hardy Boys and A Wrinkle in Time, Choose-Your-Own-Adventure Novels and whatever superhero comic books I could get my hands on (I wanted to fly, like Superman, but identified way more with Spiderman and the X-Men. The ones who were different, and knew it, but felt responsibility to the world). Before I read Needful Things, books were just words on paper, images I created in my head. Sure, they were fun, and I loved reading, but not a single one caused me to experience so singular a moment of transcendence as Stephen King (aided and abetted, as he was, by Alan Pangborn and Leland Gaunt).

The climax of that book was a moment I’ll never, ever forget, and partly because I knew I wanted to create moments like that for others.

It’s never been enough for me to write adequate, competent books. Which is good, because for many years, I never did. For many years, I wrote and rewrote bad Dean Koontz rip-offs.

I want my books to change the world. Not the one out there, but this one, here.


I want people to read my books, and afterwards for their lives to have changed, however slightly. I don’t want people to set aside my books and stories like literary detritus, enjoyed but then forgotten when everyday life resumes; I want my stories to cling to people by heart-barbs and brain-catches. I want people to chat with their friends and to start relaying a story that happened to a friend-of-a-friend only to realize, mid-anecdote, that really, they don’t know anyone who had that experience but rather read about it in one of my stories.

That is what I aspire to when I come to a keyboard. One word after another, each one leading toward some moment of revelation, epiphany, and transcendence. One word after another until one world changes the perspective of whomever reads it, so deeply is it felt.

To that end: Exciting Books.

Books and stories that change your world.

It’s so easy to settle for adequate, competent books. There are so many adequate, competent books out there. There are so many books that get the job done, provide mere escapes, momentary distraction from the routine and mundane.

Those are not what Exciting Books aim to be.

Exciting Books aims to be the choice for discerning readers who want extraordinary literary experiences. Exciting Books are meant for readers who don’t want another vampire, another zombie, another mash-up, another spy; Exciting Books are meant for readers who want to read better than incompetent pundits, stoned actors, bedwetters, and sparkly vampires.

For now, Exciting Books is concentrated on the Kindle platform. Why? Because Amazon’s latest Kindle is the most exciting thing to happen to reading since an eleven-year-old boy finished Needful Things and realized he was a writer. Apple’s iPad and Barnes & Noble’s nook color don’t compete, for two reasons. The first is their LCD displays, which are great for just about everything except long-form reading; the second is that both devices can run Kindle apps, which makes the need for Apple’s iBookstore or Nook’s Bookstore exceedingly small (also, they use ePUB, which isn’t nearly as simple or intuitive to create/design/manipulate as Amazon’s format, which is based on the Mobipocket platform and basically comes down to html). By making something available via Kindle, one is effectively making it available on every smartphone/tablet/computing platform in existence.

Company: Exciting Books

Product: Digital books; also, some print for readers who still love paper and bookshelves

Service: Extraordinary literary experiences


What good is that glorious, high-contrast, anti-glare, e-ink display if you’re not reading Exciting Books?

Without Exciting Books, it’s really just a gadget

Pitch: Exciting Books is an independent publisher of high quality, extraordinary, digital literary experiences for discerning readers. It’s not about either elitism or snobbery; it’s about good books written well and easily distinguishable from those offered by corporate publishers who favor books by reality-show stars, political pundits, and screen personalities. Exciting Books are available across all digital platforms, and perfect for laptops, tablets, e-readers, and smartphones.

Back when I was in college, I had an idea for a campaign for Structure brand clothing. The ad would depict men wearing only Structure boxer briefs in various situations: in a bar, in a boardroom, etc.

The copy would be “Every man needs a little Structure in his life.”

Structure was a brand of Express. It was a spin-off, and later, was spun back in.

Which is sad, because I thought that copy was terrific.

On the other hand, I think Express lends itself to a great campaign.

Company: Express

Product: Apparel

Service: Confidence in dressing well for any situation


Express: Your Life

Express: Your Body

Express: Your Self

I’d probably make one or two others. Certainly an “Express: Your Work” depicting a guy in business attire.

Or a woman. Express is not an exclusively male brand.

Pitch: Express is not merely a clothing company, nor an apparel company. If clothes make the man, Express is the clothing that man can wear, for confidence and style, in any situation.

This requires background.

Mercury International was the (I’m fairly certain) imaginary company for whom I “consulted” to fulfill the requirements for my MBA capstone course. In January, I teamed with four other classmates to work as a group with the intention of helping Mercury International increase revenue and market share.

I wrote about (and posted) the capstone here.

Mercury was a specialty athletic apparel company. The backstory was that a brother and sister had founded the company twenty years ago to bring to market the TrailStep, a specialty athletic shoe designed to handle “extreme” conditions like one might encounter on a nature trail, say, in the mountains of Colorado (Mercury’s home state). Later, it produced the SnowStep (for cold-weather conditions), and then SweatLess, which was apparel with those perspiration-wicking technologies that have become so popular.

You’ll notice here that there’s a lot of specialty, but nothing with broad appeal. My first thought was: “I’m a personal trainer and work out regular, but I have no need whatsoever for a trail shoe.” Though, admittedly, the SnowStep sounded useful for winters.

So our first strategy was to introduce the Mercury Wing. There were a few names brought up, but I suggested the Wing because I liked the reference to the winged talaria worn by Mercury, the god of commerce and trade. Who was known for being mercurial, traveling so quickly as he did from place to place. He was impossible to pin down.

He was, as they say, fleet of foot.

Which inspired the copy I suggested: “For the Fleet of Soul.” I liked it because I thought it captured both a quickness and a feeling of youth and enthusiasm. Those who are fleet of, say, heart or foot or mind are not just quick; there is an element of clever, as well as playfulness, I’ve always thought.

So that became the company’s tagline.

For the Forbes mock-up I did, I created some mock ads, as well. The first to introduce the Mercury Wing, and others to highlight already established brands.

If I were in this position, I’d do more to introduce the Wing, creating a solid campaign around it. I’d want to draft more copy to highlight its position. One I love: “Form follows function? With the Mercury Wing, you can stay ahead of both.”

Company: Mercury International

Product: Athletic Apparel

Service: Enhanced Athletic Performance/Experience

Copy: For the Fleet of Soul.

Introducing the All-New Mercury Wing

Happy Trails for You

Not Rain, Nor Sleet, Nor Gloom of Night Will Keep You from Your Run

Pitch: Mercury International gained success as a specialty athletic apparel company targeting niche customers. By introducing a mass-market product with broad appeal to the casual athlete, Mercury can retain its core customers while increasing market share and revenue.

Company: Victoria’s Secret

Product: Under-Apparel

Service: Support, intimacy, confidence


Best When Shared

These Are Victoria’s Secret. What’s Yours?

For All the Parts You Share

Pitch: Victoria’s Secret sells three things to women: anatomical support; intimacy enhancement; and confidence reinforcement. Ads focus on beautiful women wearing, in general, only Victoria’s Secret lingerie and a smile. To that end, the campaign centers around the sharing of intimacy (and secrets), as well as prompting women to claim characteristics that make them part of the Victoria’s Secret community of beautiful, powerful, confident women.

Note: Images are straight from the website for Victoria’s Secret (which you can find here, who in no way endorses this pitch (nor has even granted permission for their use. This post is merely a spec-pitch for possible non-commercial use as a creative portfolio.

A few days ago, I got the news that I’d officially aced both my MBA capstone course and its final. This is pretty big news, the culmination of three years of work in a field I never really thought I might find myself pursuing.

Now, I can’t imagine not having pursued it.

I remember the day I went to the open house at Regis University, in Denver. I knew I wanted to continue pursuing graduate education, but I had an entirely different idea about how; I’d recently had a huge idea for an enormous non-fiction project (so big I’m still working on it, in fact), and I thought I might pursue that. I though perhaps it would be a good idea to have university support for what otherwise might have been construed as something more akin to a thought experiment.

(At this point, of course, it’s still mainly a thought experiment.)

But I got to the open house and something changed. To pursue theology, or even anything in the liberal arts, I had to design my own curriculum. Which wouldn’t have been a problem; I’d already designed and implemented a syllabus at USC.

Rather, I didn’t feel at comfortable at the liberal arts information session. I can’t really explain it better, but I sat down in the classroom, and I looked around, and I realized I felt more comfortable in the bigger room with the business students in their suits and professional attire. Their demeanor had been different, as had their language.

Business, like science, is a realm mainly of objectivity, I think. I like science at least partly because it’s recordable, measurable, and it focuses mainly on tangibility. Same with business, focusing on things like revenue and earnings before etc., and market data and demographics.

Problem was, as I mentioned, my degrees were in literature and science. I had no background in finance and accounting and those sorts of things, so, to pursue an MBA, I had to fulfill some prerequisites, and start not just at the beginning but well before said beginning.

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Finishing my MBA at Regis University.

Regis splits semesters into two eight-week sessions, and this year, this Spring 2011, my first eight-week session was devoted to what they call the capstone, and which is actually titled Strategies in Global Environments. So the reason I disappeared was that, for the past eight weeks, I’ve been part of a five-student team acting as consultants, in a simulation, running an athletic apparel company called Mercury International.

Given that it’s a simulation, the whole experience has been rather like one long, turn-based RPG videogame. Well. I think that’s what it’s like. I tend to prefer third-person, plot-drive shooters when it comes to videogames (inFamous ftw!), and this was nothing like that. It was divided into weekly rounds, and every week, we held a conference call during which we discussed and agreed on strategies going forward, based on previous results and future objectives.

I had a great team, and a great time. But I’d wanted to finish this strong, and I feel, now, like I have.

And now, just one more course to go. Product Management.

Product management is interesting from my side of things. I’m a writer, but if you think artists are selling art, well, at least in a digital context that becomes slightly problematic. Ross Pruden has an #infdist hashtag on Twitter that discusses Infinite Distribution, which is basically how creators can make a sustainable living from their creations in an age where information pretty much, at this point, demands to be free.

Of course, that’s not even to mention how many creators actually ever make a sustainable living, anyway. Stephen King and Jo Rowling and Stephenie Meyer, sure, but they’re modern-day exceptions. Shakespeare pretty much made a living as a real-estate agent when he wasn’t collecting money from some lord or other (to whom he may or may not have dedicated his sonnets).

Really, nowadays, with sites and Kindles and apps and independence, what writers are selling is more themselves. Which tends to be even more problematic from the self-promotion side of things (because no writer wants to be Tila Tequila).

Which I think is going to be helpful for me, in approaching this final course. For years, now, I’ve been trying to work out the kinks in what I’m doing, between MySpace and Facebook and Amazon Kindle and this site and Twitter and work and teaching and writing. I go back and forth in terms of how rewarding any one endeavor is, but there’s so little cohesion between everything. I look at authors who have nine different profiles across seventeen different sites, and all I want to do is take a nap.

And write.

So wish me luck. Hopefully, after I finish, I’ll have some better ideas, some better strategies, and some better writing for your better reading.

After several years in a will-they/wont-they purgatory, the digital revolution in publishing has finally become more a matter of when than if, where “when” seems to be 2010. Apple’s launch of the iPad–which featured five of the big six corporate publishers as partners and only ignored the sixth because someone within the company had outed the device the day before official launch–got the ball rolling and demonstrated that ebooks were not just a novel trend but rather new media for novels and all sorts of other forms of storytelling. In late August, Amazon’s third-generation Kindle, with its improved screen and form factor and its lower price, effectively killed the counterargument. The only thing left to really argue about is price.

But really, that’s fodder enough.

Since Apple got all those publishers on board and got its iBookstore rolling (or did it? Has anyone heard anything about the iBookstore? All I hear about are the devices–Kindles, nooks, iPads. Not so much about the stores), there’s been a debate about what’s a “good” price for ebooks. One common idea discussed when the iPad launched was the so-called “agency model,” which basically meant that publishers got to set their own price. Tech Eye mentions that this is in opposition to allowing, say, the vendor to decide the price. In other words, it’s the difference between, say, Harper setting the price of its books and Amazon doing so.

Publishers, of course, want high prices. This was why $10 ebooks were so common during the beginning of last year. Right after the iPad? Seems like publishers–corporate and otherwise–got a little high off the power of the partnership and suddenly decided that the right price for ebooks was between ten and fifteen bucks. The New York Times discussed the phenomenon.

To really get into the discussion, though, we have to consider factors regarding price. There are myriad.

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I‘ve been posting stuff online, in various forums, for more than five years. A couple of years ago, shortly after graduating from USC, I realized I needed a while to be quiet. I needed some time to figure out what “being a writer” meant for me.

I’ve realized this is part of it. That the trouble with blogging is not something that concerns me anymore. Don’t take me wrong; I still want to explore the dilemma there, but more in the sense of what marketing and writing mean nowadays.

I’ve nearly completed my marketing MBA. I enrolled in Regis University when I lived, for a time, in Denver several years ago, and it’s possible to complete the program online without any of the connotations of online degrees. It’s not University of Phoenix–with no offense intended to that online institution.

There is, however, an interesting point I stick to there, and I think it applies overall. Nowadays, it’s so easy for people, online, to not only pose as experts but to become them. You get a lot of people talking very loudly in a small community, and regardless of their backgrounds, knowledge bases, and levels of expertise, people start to look to them for advice when the advice they offer is not actually all that sound.

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Let’s say you’re a business. You have a product that you dedicated a lot of time to. You’re not sure you can properly distribute that product on your own. Sure, you might be able to handsell your product door-to-door, but you realize that, maybe with some help, you can get your product distributed on a wider basis, and maybe even generate some great attention for the product. There are a few companies who specialize in distributing your product, companies who have a stranglehold on distribution, in fact–if you don’t partner with them, chances are you’ll never get that wide distribution.

Already it’s a problem.

Here’s the big question, though; say one of those specialty companies came to you and said they’d help you distribute your product. Would you enter into any business arrangement with them without reading a contract? Would you sign said contract without reading it?

That’s exactly what all the writers entering the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award are doing.

Now, I’d mentioned I considered submitting Meets Girl to the contest. I think it would have a solid shot at winning on merit alone, and that’s not even to mention that I think it would probably be right up the alley of Lev Grossman, who wrote The Magicians and who is one of the major judges of the contest. The Magicians was the first full-length novel I read on my Kindle, and it was solid–if not great–in a genre-bending sort of way that crossed literary with fantasy, which is what I think Meets Girl does.

I mentioned, in passing, there are other, better contests writers could enter. And commenter Sid (the only Sid I know is my graduate writing advisor, Sid Stebel, but I can’t tell by the email address if the commenter and my advisor are the same person) asked after those contests.

So here are the top-five writing contests I’d submit Meets Girl to over the ABNA.

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I’ve had my Kindle since September, and it’s one of the few electronics devices that, even several months later, I’m completely satisfied by. (That’s rare for me. Usually I fall in love with a new gadget for about a month before I start wanting something later and greater. See also: Vibrant, Nexus S, etc.) I’ve been positively hyperbolic in my praise, really, but I can’t stop using it, which means I can’t stop talking about it.

Right now, I’m reading Frank: The Voice, a biography of Sinatra. I like reading about Frank when he was my age, and it’s a good book, written by James Kaplan, who’s usually a novelist, apparently. Which I suppose helps the dramatic build of the story.


Last week was the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, which is a major event in which myriad companies display what will hopefully become next-gen technologies. New 3D LED televisions. Better wireless speeds for networks like T-Mobile and Verizon. New phones from just about everyone, including Motorola, Samsung, and even a new iPhone to work on Verizon’s wireless network.

Electronic readers–ereaders–are becoming trendy in gadgets. The category used to be niche, with little selection, but basically Amazon’s Kindle changed that. Not right away, of course, but now that Kindle’s on its third generation and selling strongly, pretty much everyone is getting in on the action. Barnes & Noble, and Kobo. Sony’s been updating their line to match Amazon, and the devices are becoming more common. Apple’s iPad isn’t really in this category, though it can fulfill the functions of said category; as more companies release more tablet computers, we may see some decline in ereaders.

Which would be a shame. The nook color is in the same category as a Kindle–a dedicated digital reading device–and it’s got some impressive features, but it’s least good at the one thing it’s supposed to be for; it uses an LCD screen, and that sucks. One of the great features of the Kindle is its gorgeous screen, which uses e-ink for display.

Now, the Kindle doesn’t do any color whatsoever. And it’s merely adequate at pictures. And if you want to read a magazine, you’re probably better off, you know, buying a magazine.

But for reading books? It’s almost perfect.


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Maybe it’s because I worked for more than a year as a broadcast production assistant at Young & Rubicam, but I find the relatively new popularity of so-called “book trailers” in the publishing world fascinating. I bunny-quote “book trailers” because really, they’re not actually that, and neither are previews in front of movies. People called them “trailers,” originally, because they actually trailed movies and played at the end.

But then Hitchcock and Psycho came along. Hitchcock didn’t want the ending of Psycho spoiled, so he decided audiences couldn’t walk in halfway through the movie. Before then, one could buy a ticket, walk in to any showing, stick around for the end, and then wait until it started over to catch whatever you’d missed.

I like to call them teasers. Because I like to tease.

So here’s another tease of Meets Girl, a little more elaborate than the first one. Hope you dig it.

Meets Girl Teaser Two

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