Tag Archives: promotion

Cape Town is a fantasy reader’s paradise

At least, it is up until the end of August. Any readers of VCTB hailing from South Africa (or with friends and family out that way), take note:

The Reader’s Paradise Bookstore in Cape Town, South Africa, is having a special two-month promotion on fantasy and science fiction titles, including a big selection of books that come with a free signed bookplate from the author included in the price.

They’re also selling other fantastic-related stuff, including DVDs and kid’s costumes, and there’s a raffle for goodies that include more signed books.

Sounds like a whole bunch of good reasons for South African readers to not buy from Amazon for the next few months, don’t you think?

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[Disclosure: yeah, I know, that’s a blatant free plug. But you know what? The guy just emailed and asked really nicely, and I like the idea of supporting small bookstores. Plus it’s my own blog, so I make the rules.]

Publishing, promotion and print-on-demand

It’s been a lively week in the publishing world – or so it seems to someone who was away from his RSS feeds for a week.

Genre mags are giving it away for free

I’m very pleased to see that Fantasy & Science Fiction are experimenting with publishing full stories from their back-catalogue on their website. It’s a great way to raise the profile of the writers, and to drive traffic to their own site by providing uniquely valuable content with no strings attached.

They’re some way from the mass of content that Subterranean are giving away, but it’s a good start. I think the recent overseas postal rate hike is making a lot of the small press mags look seriously at new options before they discover a hard place to hem them in between the rock at their back.

For example, I will not be renewing my sub to Locus in paper format; not because the magazine is no good, but because the airmail price increase means that I might as well stick to getting the news from their website – meaning that I get it when it’s still relevant. Hard choices, sure, but it’s a changing world. Better to jump before the chasm gets too wide.

Talking of giving away content, Gareth L. Powell’s story “The Last Reef” is available to read in full on the TTA Press website, as is a teaser for his forthcoming “Ack-Ack Macaque” (at the bottom of the same page, as a downloadable image of the mag layout for the start of the story). We’re looking at ways of expanding the amount of content that the TTA Press site carries over the coming months; more news on that when I have it in a definite format.

The Waterstones cash-for-promo leak

Of course, there are other options for promoting writers – but as the recent alleged leaked memo from Waterstones confirms, they’re strictly for publishers who have a lot of cash to splash around. As someone who gets to see some of the machinations of the music industry, those figures aren’t even slightly surprising. The record companies, music press and brick-and-mortar stores work in very similar ways to the bublishing industry, and that’s a large part of why they’re in such a mire of quicksand at present.

As I’ve said before, this is something the genre publishers should learn from sooner rather than later. Being smaller, they have the ability to change more quickly, being less caught up with the train-wrecking momentum of the big boys.

Harry Haxxor and the Pilfered Plot

The saturation of blather about the forthcoming final installment of [popular children’s fantasy series that I can’t be bothered to name-check] is reaching ridiculous proportions. I was more than a trifle suspicious when I saw the news that OMGHAX PL0+ SU|/||/|4RY G4N|<3d FRUM W3BSIT3ZORZ!!!1!!1, and Bruce Schneier also seems to be less than convinced that this is anything more than a publicity stunt.

The question of which side of the fence the stunt has come from will likely never be made apparent – at least not with the same degree of headline-grabbing fervour as the original story.

OUP just wishes Google would ask first

On the subject of the pilfering (or not) of licenced content, an executive of the Oxford University Press has gone on the record as saying that all publishers really want is the opportunity to give permission for their work to be digitised by Google, rather than the opportunity to refuse the permission already assumed.

I need to research this matter more thoroughly, so I’m not going to call one way or the other on the veracity of the claims until I know the facts of the matter. But there are hints that publishers are starting to wake up to the usefulness of the digitisation projects, even though they don’t want to go back on their earlier statements of outrage.

Espresso Print-on-Demand Machine goes live in New York

If nothing else, digital copies of public domain material could become far more useful and accessible in the next few years, once a few more libraries and bookstores follow the New York Public Library’s lead, and install Espresso Book Machines to print titles on demand for customers. Until we reach a point that the vast majority of readers are prepared for reading in electronic formats at all times, these devices are as close as the publishing industry can get to the just-in-time customer-satisfying power of downloaded music – and as such represent a wise step forwards in trying to adapt to a changing business landscape.

DRM – what’s dumb for music is dumb for books, too

Thanks to Tobias Buckell, I caught another slice of wisdom from Eric Flint of Baen Books on the subject of piracy (though not the sort with ships and cutlasses, mind) and the genre fiction market:

“You literally can’t penetrate the obscurity of the book market. You’d have to spend every waking moment reading book reviews—and even that wouldn’t suffice, because the book reviewers themselves, all of them put together, can’t keep up with the production of new titles.”

(Yup.)

“In short, the book market is just about as opaque as any market there is. I might mention, by the way, that this is not the least of the reasons that the fears of authors that they’ll get “pirated” are almost always just plain silly. With the exception of a tiny percentage of very well-known authors like J.K. Rowling or Stephen King, the real problem authors face is that only a very small percentage of their potential customers have even heard of them—so how likely is it that the ravening hordes of electronic pirates are out there plundering their titles?”

And a little further on:

“In the real world, the only authors—or musicians, by the way—who get “pirated” in any significant numbers are ones who are already famous and enjoy top sales. (And all the “piracy” is likely to do, even then, is simply boost their sales. See my next essay for a further discussion.) The great problem faced by all authors—musicians are in a very similar position—is the opacity of the book market. The entertainment market in general, actually, even movies. Compared to that problem, all others are fleas standing next to mammoths.

It is therefore absurd for an author or a publisher to support DRM, when DRM not only makes the market still more opaque, but—worse yet—it removes the best tool any author has today to penetrate that obscurity, at least a little.”

That is, of course, the O’Reilly / Doctorow “piracy as progressive taxation” argument, but here it’s coming from someone who knows the industry of which he speaks from the beancounting end. And the music industry comparison is timely, what with plunging CD sales and corporate panicking making headlines. They’re failing spectacularly; publishing would do well to learn from their mistakes.

Further evidence from O’Reilly, via Doctorow (ZOMFG! H4X! k0nsp1r4cy!), in the form of a case study of sales and download figures for a non-fiction title whose free availability became a Digg headline:

“…what’s most striking (apart from the huge scale mismatch, in terms of the number of people accessing the content through the free online version), is that when the downloads spiked in January of this year from about 8000 a month to nearly 30,000 after the book’s free availability was noted on digg, we didn’t see a correspondingly sharp decline in sales. Of course, neither did we see any evidence that free availability of the book spurred sales. And as noted above, there is a sharp drop at about the time the download data starts that is likely unrelated to the downloads, even though we can’t entirely rule out the possibility that downloads had some effect.”

This is of limited relevance here – because popular fiction is a different kettle of fish to obscure geek tomes on the future of telephony, and because this is a case where a free, easy and perfectly legal source for the electronic version was made available. But even so, it’s worth noting that there was no sharp decline in sales.

Of course, the best way to nullify piracy, as Flint and O’Reilly have both said before, is to make the stuff freely available at source. Publishers have been reticent about this, which is probably no surprise – the economics of abundance is a pretty new phenomenon in creative works, after all – but the problems being experienced by the record labels should be sufficient impetus to start planning ahead.

And the options are there – even Google, those filthy copyright-infringing bookscanner types, are holding out a hand to publishers by offering them the chance to have branded portals to the content of theirs that Google makes available:

“Publishers can tailor the index of their search engine so that only books published by them show up in the query results, Google said Friday. As in the main Book Search site, these result pages give users the option to link to online shops that sell the listed books.”

Sure, Google gains from this. They’re not stupid. But publishers stand to gain, too – and while playing King Canute as your business dwindles might be a glorious stand for what you’ve always believed in, it’s ultimately an empty display if you’re in the business of getting good reading material in front of the eyes of readers. Go with the flow; it’s easier to adjust your stroke if you’re not swimming against the tide.

Books, music and education in Second Life

More metaversal antics from the world of books  – GalleyCat reports on publishers getting to grips with Second Life. Random House are going for the local library feel by starting a book discussion group for readers – with plans to get authors all av’d up and rolled out for digital meet-and-greets at some point down the line.

Transworld, however, seem to know the value of a good flame war. They’re screening a looped video of Richard ‘God Delusion’ Dawkins in-world talking about his latest controversial opus, and

“[o]utside the auditorium, Transworld have built two message walls, one for supporters of Dawkins’ thesis and one for the dissenters.”

That’ll be an interesting location to check out for the duration of the screenings, I’m thinking. Nothing like a faith fight to set the blood pressures soaring.

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Meanwhile, The Guardian has been chatting to Philip Rosedale (aka Philip Linden) about Second Life, the runaway universe he has created. They try to draw him out on some hot topics, but he stays pretty cool under fire:

“TG: You are running a real economy but it is essentially a dictatorship, one headed by you, Philip Linden – as you are known in SL – the dictator.

PR: Yes, but it is a subtle question. If a country establishes a record of repossessing land for no real reason, then that colours the extent to which it’s a dictatorship. We haven’t done that. Could we shut the servers down if we get pissed off with somebody? Yes, we could do that but we haven’t and I think it is very unlikely that we will because it would so risk everything we have built.”

And on the porn issue?

TG: I understand that porn is the biggest part of the economy.

PR: I don’t think it’s the biggest, but it’s hard to tell. Some of the transactions are person to person and some are transactions from vending machines. Sometimes the transactions have some text that allows us to tell what it is but people are so inventive that we don’t always know.”

As if being based on porn did any harm to the original internet! For a guy who’s currently under fire from the press (and constantly under fire from his user base) he deals with PR pretty smoothly. But the sooner the open-source iterations of the software get going, the safer a position he’ll be in – talking a good game is fine, but pretending to be deaf has never helped any business. SL has some serious operational problems, and its regular population are getting very annoyed by being continually fobbed off with filigree while the bugs go unsquashed.

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That’s not stopping people developing it as a platform for more than hyper-real kinky antics and combat sims, though. TerraNova has an interview with Rebecca Nesson, who is using SL as a platform environment for distance learning classes that have previously been run on websites and via email:

“I think that the Second Life had quite a lot of advantages for people. One of the main things is that Second Life really allowed us to create a sense of class community — something that develops fairly naturally in a face-to-face class. So students appeared at class and had that chance to meet each other, something that rarely, if ever, happens in distance education classes [using] previous technologies. And that helped keep students engaged in the class.”

Think about that for a second, and bear in mind the flood of overseas students that come to the UK (or the US) to be educated. That’s not a cheap proposition for, say, a Chinese or Korean family, even a well-off one. A virtual platform like SL could become a much cheaper way of getting the same education – why fly half-way round the globe when you can just log on to your PC for four or five hours a day? The world is getting flatter – and I don’t mean geographically.

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And, as I keep saying, this will effect authors eventually. The effects of the internet and the Long Tail are already causing fundamental changes to the lives of independent musicians, for example:

“Along the way, [Jonathan] discovered a fact that many small-scale recording artists are coming to terms with these days: his fans do not want merely to buy his music. They want to be his friend. And that means they want to interact with him all day long online. They pore over his blog entries, commenting with sympathy and support every time he recounts the difficulty of writing a song. They send e-mail messages, dozens a day, ranging from simple mash notes of the “you rock!” variety to starkly emotional letters, including one by a man who described singing one of Coulton’s love songs to his 6-month-old infant during her heart surgery. Coulton responds to every letter, though as the e-mail volume has grown to as many as 100 messages a day, his replies have grown more and more terse, to the point where he’s now feeling guilty about being rude.”

I know a lot of writers resist the temptations of blogging for exactly that reason, and it’s a logical approach. Whether or not that invisibility will hinder their career (because nothing gets Google juice like blogging regularly) or help it (will an air of mystery have a cachet of cool in a transparent world?) remains to be seen.

But see it we will – and Second Life (or something like it) will be the next step on from this, as Jason Stoddard suggests. New formats for a new era, perhaps?

Galleycat poll: does giving fiction away get authors something back?

Hey, you! Ever read a free ebook that you downloaded with the author and publisher’s blessing? Did you go and and buy something by the same writer afterwards or not? Go and give up the ten seconds it will take to tick a box in Galleycat’s poll to determine whether giving it away is an effective loss leader tactic or not. I’ll be very interested to see the results from this.