WRITING ON THE ETHER: They, the Readers

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour


The Prodigal Hour by Will EntrekinThe Prodigal Hour by Will Entrekin

Six weeks after escaping the 9/11 attacks in New York City, Chance Sowin moves back home, hoping for familiarity and security. Instead, he interrupts a burglary and his father is killed.

“Audacious, genre-bending … a thrilling head-rush of a book.” Elizabeth Eslami

Find out more on Amazon and download a sample to your Kindle.


Table of Contents

  1. DoJ – They, the Readers: Owen, Cooper
  2. DoJ – We, the Industry: Aiken, Shatzkin
  3. Tribal Drums/Seth on Kickstarter: Blank/Morris
  4. Community of Pirates: Bjarnason, Wikert
  5. Media Mea Culpa: O’Leary
  6. Reductio-ad-Russo: Canfield, Greenfield, Steele, Dawson
  7. Library eBooks – Lend & Publish: Kelley
  8. Craft/Johnson: Speaking Roles
  9. Craft/Wagstaff: deWilde’s Covers
  10. Craft/Vorhaus: Voicing the Challenge
  11. Craft/Fields: Morris’ Artful Launch
  12. Books & Conferences: Reading on the Ether
  13. Last Gas: When To Stop Blogging

“The General Public”

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal HourDon’t be ridiculous. Get out. How can it not be about us? The United States Department of Justice is raining terror down on our lunch menus and…wait, who did you say? The General Public? Who is “The General Public?” Who? Readers? OH, of course, the readers. Our readers! Our gorgeous and/or handsome readers, as the case may be. Good God, salt of the Earth! What? Wash your mouth out, we do not consider our relationships with distributors or retailers to be more valuable than our relationships with our readers. That was some other traditional publishing industry you’re thinking about. Maybe Russia. Not here, nyet. We are working every day in every way to get closer and closer to our readers, so close that we can scan the numbers on their credit cards and store them up along Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hourwith that three- or four-digit code off the front of the card and the Holy Expiration Date, store ’em up, right here in our bright shiny whatever it is, The Thing That Stores the Data, there’s a more technical term but you’ll have to ask our cloud-banked 12-year-olds in IT about that…sorry, whose letter to the DoJ?  About our lawsuit? Consumer representatives wrote to the DoJ? Representing who? The General Public? And that would be….? Readers? OH, readers. We love our readers…

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DoJ – They, the Readers: Owen, Cooper

The date set for next year’s trial coincides with the beginning of BookExpo America…which will run from June 4-6, 2013.

Allow me to introduce our special new line of EtherWear Flak Jackets. You’ll place your orders at Bryant Park next year, and thus arrive wearing them at Fort Javits.

Laura Hazard Owen

It was Laura Hazard Owen — who else? — who went onto the paidContent site on Saturday to let us all know that Bloomberg Businessweek was reporting a trial date for Apple, MacMillan, and Penguin: DOJ e-book price fixing trial set for June 3, 2013.

How will we survive a year of this? Half the industry seems to be attacking the other half continually: a black-belt Cato springing from behind every slush pile onto the nearest Clouseau. Amazonnnnnnnn!!!”  Big crash into the furniture. It was funnier in the films.

The date next June is for the trial of Apple, Penguin, and Macmillan, the three companies that have declined to settle with the DoJ.

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Meanwhile, as you know, the public comment period has been running on the proposed DoJ settlement with three other publishers accused of collusion and price-fixing: Hachette, HarperCollins, and Simon & Schuster.

And yet, how much do you feel you’ve heard from the public about the price-fixing and collusion allegations? The public.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal HourYou remember the public, don’t you? People with other things on their minds than the state of publishing. People running other kinds of races, and not obsessed with digital distribution or DRM. Another kind of agile. People to whom ebooks and print books are just…ebooks and print books.

Readers? OH, of course, the readers. Our readers!

Mark Cooper has filed with the Department of Justice an extensive statement about the settlement on behalf of the Consumer Federation of America. He is its research director.

Of course, many people and groups in the industry have written to the DoJ, as well. Some have published their statements. Eventually, the DoJ is to release all those documents. And we’re going to get into a couple of new comments from inside the industry about the settlement a bit later in the Ether, as a matter of fact.

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But first, I’d like to call to your attention to the statement from the Consumer Federation. You may be familiar with this outfit. It’s been in the news lately, for example, with a 15-city study, reported in the Times by Ann Carrns: Consumer Group Questions ‘High’ Auto Insurance Rates.

The federation describes itself as “an association of non-profit consumer organizations (nearly 300 of them) established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education.”

I have no association with the federation, I know no one who works with it. Nor am I saying to you that the position the federation takes on the DoJ settlement is correct or is more nearly correct than that taken by anyone else.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal HourBut I do think that a reading of this document — Comments of the Consumer Federation of America on Proposed Final Judgment as to Defendants Hachette, HarperCollins and Simon & Schuster — reveals a view of all this from outside the industry, a viewpoint that’s valuable to us.

Time and again, what you hear our folks saying inside the publishing industry is that the DoJ — the whole world, in fact — just doesn’t understand publishing. Doesn’t know what it takes to run this business. Doesn’t get it. Nobody knows the trouble we’ve seen.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Mark Cooper, Consumer Federation of America

Here is Mark Cooper writing for the federation. His use of the phrase “celebrity authors” refers to the Authors Guild and its June 4 piece, The Justice Department’s E-Book Proposal Needlessly Imperils Bookstores; How to Weigh In:

The self-interested claims of brick-and-mortar retailers and celebrity authors who profit from price fixing at the expense of consumers must not mislead the court into thinking that
(1) the public interest lies in anything short of restoring full price competition to the book publishing marketplace or
(2) that the harm to competition inflicted by the agency cartel price-fixing for digital distribution of books at a critical moment in the nascent development of new digital business models can be repaired without a significant period of close oversight and scrutiny.

Some inside the industry argue that the settlement’s restriction of agency agreements for two years is a burden.

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By contrast, the federation argues:

The two-year period in which the consent decree restricts the use of agency agreements by the cartel members in an effort to allow competitive, commercial relations to return to the book publishing market is dangerously short and a break with past antitrust practice. If any modification of the consent decree is needed, based on the record and past practice, it should be to lengthen the period in which behavior of the members of the cartel is restricted, not shorten it.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal HourThere’s also an interesting view of the plight of brick-and-mortar bookstores, free of the sentiment and loyalty-to-tradition that many in our industry hold fast:

Unfortunately for the bookstores, the readers who need the functions of the specialty bookstores don’t value them enough to pay for the services they provide. Since the specialty bookstores cannot compete on price or service, cartel agency pricing is the only solution, a solution in which consumers are forced to pay a higher price, but get services that they are unwilling to pay for. Colluding publishers, not the marketplace decide what is good for consumers.

Such statements are as radicalized in tone and expression here as any that come from inside the industry.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal HourBut if we gathered a group of citizens who had no ties whatever to the industry — our readers — and asked them whose claims and interpretations of the situation sounded right? They may well side with the association complaining that agency pricing allowed publishers to set and hold ebook prices higher than the largest retailer wanted. A baseline premise here is that an awful lot of ebooks may have cost less if the publishers hadn’t handled things as they did.

In sum, as the federation’s document has it, the agency pricing arrangement at the center of the DoJ case is:

…a vain attempt to preserve an inefficient distribution system and protect the interests of the incumbent physical space distributors at the expense of the public interest.

And evPorter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Houren if you reject that view — even if you believe your industry understanding gives the lie to every syllable of it — it may help to realize that this could well be how the world outside the publishing community, including many readers, sees this.

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Now, let’s get back into the industry, and hear from stakeholders again.

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DoJ – We, the Industry: Aiken, Shatzkin

As Don Linn has reminded us in that useful tweet (above) this week, “The DoJ-Agency case is not about Amazon yet all the letters to DOJ are about…Amazon. (Looking at you, AG).”

“AG” is the Authors Guild. Its CEO, Paul Aiken, wrote the Guild’s official statement on the case. It was posted Tuesday on the Guild’s site.

It’s headed Guild’s Tunney Act Filing to the DOJ. The Tunney Act is the  Antitrust Procedures and Penalties Act of 1974.

And I count 109 appearances of the word “Amazon” in the body of the document, before an appended list of “selected references.”

Aiken’s letter, in fact, is almost entirely about Amazon, a litany of grievances against Amazon — just about everything except bad weather and the Bush re-election — many of them capturePorter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hourd in this line:

Awful as it is for our literary culture, the balkanization of the book market is but a logical extension of Amazon’s no-prisoners approach to competition.

Note, however, that while the overwhelming majority of the statement derides Amazon, the Guild never tries to say that Apple and the publisher-defendants didn’t collude. Which is what the lawsuit is about. This is basically a “The Devil (Amazon) Made Me Do It” defense.

The Guild asks the Antitrust Division to “please find another way to address the collusion you believe you’ve uncovered.”

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Mike Shatzkin

Meanwhile, Mike Shatzkin, returns to the topic, offering us something of an “And another thing” kind of article. His piece is headlined (Ken) Auletta’s New Yorker piece is good orientation for thinking about the DoJ case.

Reading Auletta inspires me to extend or re-emphasize a few things he said or touched on, some of which I learned from his piece.

Shatzkin is, as ever, fully clear about his position, which befits his work as a paid consultant to various stakeholders:

I think the DoJ is terribly wrong in pursuing this case, that the consequences of doing this will be dire for the industry and the reading public.

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I hope you’ll walk through his several points gathered from Ken Auletta’s New Yorker story, Paper Trail. (That link takes you to a free précis for readers who don’t have a New Yorker subscription.)

I particularly appreciate Shatzkin — who writes about complicated topics in publishing all the time — pointing out how hard it is to write about the DoJ case (and how) because it involves not only publishing but antitrust law. He’s right. And many have written to the legal side of the story well. In the last Ether, for example, we heard from Jane Litte in her explication of the DoJ settlement.

This time, as part of his column’s conclusPorter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hourion, Shatzkin gets us back to that industry refrain we hear around the DoJ debate, I mentioned it above in relation to the Consumer Federation’s statement — it’s this idea that the rest of the world, and certainly the people of the Justice Department, simply can’t understand publishing.

Writes Shatzkin:

I think the DoJ is making it very clear that smart people with a lay knowledge of the publishing industry routinely misapply what they think they know from other places. Publishing one book is complicated, although a bit simpler if digital only. Publishing 200,000 books a year, which is what the industry does, is infinitely more complicated and made only more so by digital opportunity.

What will keep us staggering along in a gray area, through both the settlement issue and to that year-off trial next June, is the fact that Shatzkin may be right.

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Maybe the rest of the world really can’t understand the publishing industry and the forces that collided (I didn’t say colluded) to put things where they are today.

And then again, what if publishing is not so arcane? It’s strange, yes. We all know that. But so complex that it’s beyond the understanding of people outside it? Maybe. Maybe not.

And, writes Shatzkin:

It isn’t Amazon’s job to figure out what the book business needs to look like. They’re doing their job, which is to maximize the opportunities for their business as they see them within the rules of the game and the limitations imposed by competition and their trading partners.

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Tribal Drums/Seth on Kickstarter: Blank/Morris

I am a bit surprised by some of this, because it seems to imply that maybe there was a heated debate where a world-renowned author and marketing expert (SETH!) went back and forth with his publisher about whether you could engage people via Kickstarter.

At this Etherly writing, Seth Godin’s Kickstarter total for his Icarus Deception project stands at $237,045. As mentioned in the last Ether, it was opened on Monday, June 18.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Dan Blank / We Grow Media

And by Friday, Dan Blank of We Grow Media was posting Lessons from Seth Godin’s Kickstarter Project.

Blank’s examination of Godin’s written and video pitches reveals that:

Two things are happening here…This isn’t about how powerful his (Godin’s) book is…but this is about “SENDING A MESSAGE!”…

And:

A bit further down, he hits this same “US VS THEM” point again, positioning him and us as the underdog:  “Sink or swim–I’ll need your help. If this Kickstarter campaign reaches the minimum, then the publisher has agreed to launch a major retail campaign to introduce the book to readers in bookstores.”

There’s a sense you’re going to hear the Battle Hymn of the Republic come across your speakers at any moment. And what an insight into the “permissioning” tactics that Godin espouses. Once you’ve picked up on this double-rallying technique (community as us-vs.-them and the need to “send a message” to some unseeable foe), you’re struck by how silly it is.

Blank didn’t use the word “silly.” That’s all me.

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Here’s how Blank gets at it:

It seems to paint his (Godin’s) publisher as folks who either don’t believe in his work or don’t believe in physical books…ONLY if Seth raises $40,000 will they promote his book in bookstores? REALLY? Exactly which person sat across the table as Seth told him about his new book, and then said to him: “Gee, Seth, I don’t know, can you PROVE to us that we should promote your book in bookstores?” Who? Who said that to bestselling author Seth Godin?

It takes a lot to tick off Dan Blank, by the way. He’s easily one of the mildest-mannered dudes working the industry! the industry! today. In fact, I’m always on him for his love of these church-ly phrases he uses — he never tells you anything, he “shares” it. Amen.

So if Godin got Blank’s goat this way, you want to pay attention. This, at We Grow Media, is soaring blood pressure.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Seth Godin

Here, for example, Blank quotes Godin’s message to the tribalists. He has Godin saying:

“Maybe this will help authors like me continue to make books by hand, and maybe this Kickstarter will outline a way other authors can rally a tribe, connect them, engage the early adopters and then reward them with an artifact they helped bring to life.”

And then here’s Bwana Dan buzz-sawing his way through that jungle of platitudes:

Really? Without Kickstarter, authors like Seth Godin won’t be able to publish physical books? And what does “by hand” mean? This is not a letterpress book is it? Is there really any danger of Seth’s books not coming out in print form? Maybe Seth has lots of data here, lots of examples, but I just wish he would have shared it within the context of this campaign, to educate us about the issue. Otherwise, I am left guessing, and I am reminded again of a political candidate making a claim without backing it up…We are asked to rally together to protect something, and the only way to do so is elect this person, or in this case, buy this person’s book.

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And your little dog, too. Blank isn’t done yet:

It seems odd to lump Seth Godin into the crowd of people fighting for bookstores to consider carrying him. Is there really a chance that a bookstore wouldn’t make space for his physical books?

I mean, we may have to hose Dan down soon.

I would guess that any physical retailer would stock Seth’s books because he is a known bestseller who is incredibly relevant to the conversation in many topics nowadays. But his campaign seems to be a rallying cry to “show them” that both he and physical books are not irrelevant. Was this in question?

Pulling up just before crashing into a mountain of frustration, Blank does remember himself and get out of this section (yes, there’s more) of his post with a grace note:

What Seth illustrates so clearly is that people want to turn their belief into action. They want to support those who inspire them in deeper ways and they often want recognition for doing so. Every aspect of this campaign illustrates the power of Kickstarter, the power of his supporters, and Seth’s brilliant marketing mind.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal HourMinister’s son that I am, I’d have cast this in a somewhat less “brilliant” light, relating the Godinesque appeal of this Kickstarter campaign to some religious groups’ fondness for perceived persecution. You tell them the world is against them, you tell them they’re “sending a message” to the forces of evil, and, lo, they bond — and they put more money into the offering plate, too.

In a coincidence, author and writing coach Roz Morris has written a cautionary note this week on Kickstarter. In her post Who will read my book? she writes:

While we dodge the rip-offs, we’re giddying from goldrush to goldrush. Last December, it was free Kindle books. Now people are so used to piling free books into the infinitely deep pockets of their Kindles they never look at them. Right now we’re dancing can-cans about Kickstarter. How long before some investor makes a mighty fuss that all they got was a lousy T-shirt? There will be a sacrificial lamb – whether a crook or a well-intentioned author – and that will be the end of it.

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Meanwhile, Blank sorts out a series of “lessons,” including, “Set an artificially low goal” (Godin started with $40,000 as his Kickstarter target) and “People want to be insiders.”

Blank’s post is well worth a read, not only for its incredulity at the dynamics of the pitch but also for its study of the premiums Godin offered, the architecture of the appeal, and the trend rolling past us.

Blank:

With Amanda Palmer’s fortune with Kickstarter, we are in the gold rush for already successful people to become Kickstarter media darlings. My gut is you will see this again and again throughout 2012. It’s great marketing.

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Community of Pirates: Bjarnason, Wikert

Joe Wikert has just released an O’Reilly Media statement against DRM, “Lightweight” DRM isn’t the answer, in response to the International Digital Publishing Forum’s (IDPF) call for input on developing “light” DRM (one form of which is electronic watermarking, for example).

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Joe Wikert

Writes Wikert:

Since Amazon owns approximately 60-70% of the ebook market, your proposed standard would only apply to the remaining 30-40%. Why would anyone want to develop yet another DRM option for, at best, 30-40% of the market?

Good question. And here with an interesting answer is Baldur Bjarnason, who uses Japan’s manga community as his basis for The Community’s the Thing at TheFutureBook.

It’s worth walking through the steps Bjarnason lists in the formation of what he sees as communities around restricted content.

  1. Restrictions lock out a large group of interested buyers.
  2. A segment of those buyers forms a piracy group reasoning that they can’t be harming anybody because none of them could pay even if they wanted to.
  3. A community is formed that grows used to getting stuff for free.
  4. The existence of the community readjusts the audience’s expectations of what is right and what is wrong.
  5. Piracy becomes endemic and impossible to eradicate, even if you do address all of the concerns that caused the groups to form in the first place.
  6. Attempts to take out the communities result in massive consumer backlash because the consumer now expects these things for free.
Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Baldur Bjarnason

This is not piracy-as-flattery or piracy-as-free-advertising. In fact, Bjarnason clarifies, “I’m not arguing right or wrong here, just that this is what happens. Ignore it at your own peril.”

What he’s saying, in fact, is more sophisticated and more disturbing:

The reason why this happens is simple:…human beings rely on social proof to tell them what is right and what is wrong. People will use social proof to rationalise cheating. Many people will ignore their own beliefs and conscience if most of those they see as their peers say or act differently.  Once these communities have matured, the audience’s mentality and expectations will irreversibly change.

And while I can’t speak for Tim O’Reilly’s and Joe Wikert’s highly respected, longtime stance against DRM, when it comes to this concept of a social rationale for piracy, I do think that Bjarnason goes into an important zone of potential cause and effect:

The tragedy of modern publishing is that the industry seems to be trying its best to promote and foster the creation of ebook piracy groups.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal HourThere are nuances to Bjarnason’s argument for which you need to read his post at TheFutureBook.

  • Note, for example, that he’s not talking about “generic piracy groups that unload hundreds of titles at a time.”
  • Also note that he includes “legal ebook versions are much more likely to be filled with errors or even missing text than their print equivalents.”
  • And there’s something of a coda on the piece, too, addressing the question of regional rights restrictions and their importance to authors.

The over-arching point, however, is provocative and urgent. Writes Bjarnason:

That the publishing industry stops creating these problems is essential to its survival. Now’s the time to do it. It’s still early days in the ebook transition and the industry has a narrow window of opportunity to address these problems before these groups become more common.

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Media Mea Culpa: O’Leary

A quick item here, just to harken back to the endlessly discussed issue of author and columnist Jonah Lehrer and his re-use of material he had published elsewhere. Here’s our Etherizing of the story.

As is frequently the case with Brian O’Leary, he came up with an interesting point I’d like to have read in other newsy-viewsy venues.

Why yank us back to that business again now? Because O’Leary added it two days after his original post, Curate This, as a footer. You’re likely to have missed it, I almost did. But it’s an important point.

O’Leary’s apt addendum:

Although some voices have questioned whether Lehrer’s self-plaigirism is a big deal, I’ve yet to see anyone else question what the editors at Wired, the New Yorker and elsewhere were doing while Lehrer recycled material on their watch. That Wired is reviewing 300 of Lehrer’s past blog posts feels less like editorial judgment and more like a witch hunt to me.

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Reductio-ad-Russo: Canfield, Greenfield, Steele, Dawson

Confusion met the news that Amazon-bashing author Richard Russo is making a point of publishing his book Interventions only in print.

As recently as BEA and the paidContent conference that preceded it, Russo had gone to great lengths onstage to describe his anger at what he says is Amazon’s “direct impact” on booksellers.

You can see Russo’s conversation with paidContent’s Jeff John Roberts here, if you’d like.

You’ll see that in this case — which I covered on the Ether in May — Russo readily disclaimed the fact that his daughter Emily is an independent bookseller. This was appropriate — having a family member in the business allegedly being affected by Amazon is an important fact to announce. The event was written up by Jeremy Greenfield at Digital Book World in Best-Selling Author Richard Russo Has Harsh Words for Amazon at PaidContent Conference.

 Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal HourWhen Associated Press writer Clarke Canfield wrote up Russo’s print-only decision on Interventions, however, he noted that the book includes the work of Russo’s artist-daughter Kate and her husband, very nice. But Canfield either missed or neglected to include the point about the other daughter, Emily, being in the business of independent bookselling.

Greenfield did revisit the connection in his write on Tuesday, Richard Russo Puts Money Where Mouth Is With New, Print-Only Book, noting:

Russo has criticized Amazon for what he calls “predatory” and “unfair” business practices. His daughter Emily Russo Murtagh works at the Greenlight Bookstore in the Ft. Greene neighborhood in Brooklyn.

But Greenfield then went on to note, “While this book (the print-only Interventions) may still be sold on Amazon.com, it will not be available in Amazon’s Kindle store.” And it is, indeed, selling at Amazon, as are other Russo books.

So Russo has not “put his money where his mouth is” in terms of his hostility for Amazon, but in favor of print-only publication.

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Other observers, including author-publisher Bob_Mayer, have called on Russo to stop selling his work on Amazon if he’s so critical of its effects in the marketplace. So far, this hasn’t happened.

Chandra Steele at PCMag writes in Download This Book, “Richard Russo is segregating readers when he should be uniting them.”

And Laura Dawson, in I Can’t Even, writes:

The idea that an author would refuse to sell his book in a certain manner – which would prevent many people from buying his book altogether – strikes me as…utterly meaningless. A waste.

Steele:

I have shelves and shelves of books that I still add to. But I also have an ereader that gets regular use. I don’t view these two libraries as being at odds with or imperiling the other.

Dawson:

Russo’s love for independent bookstores is fantastic, and I would never dispute what a gorgeous phenomenon a well-run independent bookstore is. But for many, many places all over the world, it’s just that – a phenomenon. Not a reality. These are communities who cannot sustain such a store – and railing against the reasons for this doesn’t stop it from happening.

Russo, as quoted by Canfield for AP:

It’s the idea of buying locally. I think this particular book is part of that groundswell of people who are beginning to understand that buying all of your books through online booksellers is like buying everything from online sellers, whether it’s flat-screen TVs or flowers or whatever. I think there’s a groundswell of people who are beginning to understand the implications of that.

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Library eBooks – Lend & Publish: Kelley

Under the deal with Smashwords… Califa will be able to purchase about 10,000 of the company’s top titles for about $3 a title.

The Califa Group, based in San Mateo, is reportedly California’s largest library network. Its 220 library systems are closing in on a deal with Smashwords, writes Digital Shift’s Michael Kelly.

Smashwords’ always quotable Mark Coker tells Kelley, “Other publishers think libraries are cannibalistic, but our folks are much more progressive. This project further expands the availability and accessibility of our books; it helps our authors and publishers to connect with readers, and libraries are real important to that mission.”

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And in one of those twists that can thrill fans of Internet empowerment — and weary those for whom Internet “democracy” is more exhausting than exhilarating: there’s a component of the Califa program that will allow local library patrons to publish their own books.

Writes Kelley:

A patron will be able to use the Califa interface, being built with VuFind, to upload their manuscripts to Smashwords, which then will make the books available to its retail partners (such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Apple, Sony). But Smashwords will also notify Califa that a patron has uploaded a title and see if Califa wishes to purchase the title for its collection.

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He quotes Coker on this aspect of the plan:

“This is a chance for local patrons to publish into the library, and authors who are hungry to promote books would love to see their books in the local library and share their knowledge with the local community. This is an opportunity to promote a culture not just of reading but of authorship.”

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Craft/Johnson: Speaking Roles

I watched a lot of great speakers give great talks, and asked them how they gave such great talks. The universal answer is always: “I lock myself in my hotel room the night before and rehearse.”

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Clay Johnson

Author Clay Johnson of The Information Diet offers a candid, actionable look at his preps for the speaking-tour circuit in support of his book and expertise.

One thing I didn’t understand for years is the dynamic going on between speaker and organizer. The organizer wants you to give a great talk, and will generally do whatever they can to make that happen. So don’t be afraid to make a request.

 

I always ask for a screen on stage to see the next slide, or the ability to use my own laptop (so that I can have that) and to date, I’ve never gotten turned down. So if you need something, ask for it.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal HourJohnson, whom I’ve seen speak at conferences, goes from the careful preparation steps to take well out of sight to the travel and travails of getting there and getting it done.

His post is headlined How to Prep for a Presentation.

If you are traveling to give your talk, try not to travel on the same day you’re speaking. Besides the unreliability of air travel, the TSA is great at causing you stress that can fry your brain and make your talk go poorly.

And showing that his own time at conferences has been well-spent, Johnson has a great note about not bolting once your stint onstage is over.

Don’t forget to thank the organizers for their hard work. At large conferences, there’s a lot that goes on that you don’t see. A conference organizer’s job is thankless, and a bit of appreciation to the people who are running your slides and wiring your mic go a very long way.

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Craft/Wagstaff: deWilde’s Covers

I wanted to be an artist, but my parents forbid me to pursue art as a major. My act of defiance was to be an Education major, but to take as many art classes as my schedule could hold.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Barbara deWilde

Dan Wagstaff’s “The Casual Optimist” blog deftly displays some of the strongest cover designs in a dustcover career, in his Q&A with Barbara deWilde about her work.

The intuitive approach is fine if you work primarily with yourself or with one other person. When you work on building a service, a website, let’s say, or an interactive mobile product, you are working with a team of people. You need a common language, models, and writing skills. The collaborative nature of the work and the relentlessness of content and tasks makes an intuitive approach, if not obsolete, at least secondary.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

deWilde’s design for Jennifer Egan’s book

Wagstaff asks deWilde about her favorite types of projects.

I like anything that’s well written. I can tell you what I don’t like to work on…anything in the category of “chick lit.” I’m not great at thrillers, but I like working on them occasionally.

And when he asks what challenges book designers face, the answer is telling:

Publishing execs are always grumbling about not making enough money, but lately I think they really believe it. The economics of the publishing model are being challenged by the internet and that turns publishers from idealists to technocrats. That downward pressure always hurts production and design. In addition, whenever a publishing house becomes risk averse, their designers’ choices are limited.

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Craft/Vorhaus: Voicing the Challenge

I’m working in a new genre, something I call “voice fiction,” by which I mean, simply, writing with something to say. In order to accomplish my goal of having something to say, though, I had to confront an issue that many authors struggle with: the matter of telling other people what to think.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

John Vorhaus

In Saturday Spotlight: John Vorhaus–Lucy in the Sky, author John Vorhaus gets into the tricky terrain of “telling other people what to think,” in the book he’s talking about, Lucy in the Sky.

Philosophically, I have no problem with this. As a longtime teacher of writers, I understand that writers are there to explain things to readers. Basically, that’s our job. So this notion of “telling other people what to think” is an implicit part of the package you accept when you first put fingers to keys.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal HourOn the other hand, Vorhaus writes, there are issues here. And one of the most interesting is that he’s got a coming-of-age story from a different era.

It should…appeal to people like me: people who were hippies or near-hippies and who wish to be in touch with those times and those feelings again.

 

At the end of the day I claim that the book is “a sixties trip for young seekers and old geezers alike,” but I do worry that, from a promotional point of view, that puts me sort of neither here nor there.

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Craft/Fields: Morris’ Artful Launch

I’m very connected to objects and art and the power they can hold. Talismans, ephemera, trinkets we put on our altars that evoke something for us…I love all that.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Cynthia Morris

Jonathan Fields interviews author and coach Cynthia Morris about her new book, Chasing Sylvia Beach. One point Morris makes clearly is the process of self-publishing was, for her, a team effort.

I wanted to create a book that would stand proudly next to traditionally published books. I knew I couldn’t pull that off by myself. I spent a lot of time looking for the right people on my team, and I made sure I had it in my budget to pay for quality support. I hired editors to guide the novel’s development. I contracted the best designers and I worked with industry experts to strategize the publishing process. I have an assistant to help with all the details.

Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal HourAnd as part of her launch, Morris tells Fields, she created a “novel shrine” for a limted edition.

It’s a pleated four-panel card. I illustrated the panels with a question that unfolds along the panels. The back is dated, stamped and signed. It comes tucked in a library card pocket affixed in the back cover.

 

Readers can prop it up on a bookshelf, use it as a bookmark, have it as a special little piece of ephemera that illustrates the central question of the book. I hope the book itself will be delightful but I wanted something unique and charming for my readers.

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Books & Conferences: Reading on the Ether

For an updated list of planned confabs, please see this Publishing Conferences page at PorterAnderson.com.

And here are books mentioned recently in Writing on the Ether. There’s a Flash slider with covers here for you. If you’re of the Mac-ly persuasion, though, you won’t see that Flash-iness, though. So I’m also listing the books for you here. No extra charge.

The inclusion of these books is not necessarily an endorsement. It’s a chance for you to check out work that’s come into play in the column recently, and for various authors’ work to get one more digital shelf.

I encourage you to read anything and everything that interests you.

To paraphrase a recent United States president, you are the endorser.


 


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Last Gas: When To Stop Blogging

My husband is a wildland certified firefighter for the City of Colorado Springs and he’s out there on the front lines.

 Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Rachelle Gardner

Agent Rachelle Gardner is no stranger to Ethernauts. Her current situation, however, is — mercifully — alien to many of us.

As you may be aware, I live in the Colorado Springs area and we’re having massive wildfires. It’s pretty scary — I’ve honestly never seen anything like it. My family is safe for the time being as our house is a good ten miles away from where it’s burning.

The photos she includes in her post, Fire, are from the endangered zone. They’re as dramatic as the fictions we might concoct.

Many homes and structures have already burned as I write this, and I have several friends who’ve had to evacuate their homes.

 Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Waldo Canyon fire, Colorado Springs / Rachelle Gardner

Among the many new and overheated realities being adjusted to by the industry! the industry!, one is that no, we are not all in New York. All publishing is no longer seated in Manhattan. All staffers no longer go home at night to Brooklyn. That center cannot hold.

As this edition of the Ether comes together, Reuters and NPR report more than 32,000 people are under evacuation orders in the Colorado Springs area, home to 650,000.

This is properly known as the Waldo Canyon Fire, which had been burning for three days, when it “erupted with catastrophic fury,” in the words of a Denver Post gallery packed with riveting photos.

 Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Waldo Canyon fire, Colorado Springs / Rachelle Gardner

“Not even remotely close to being contained” is the awful announcement from the area fire chief. The Air Force Academy is among the threatened properties. The White House is mobilizing for a presidential inspection on Friday.

In the parlance of United Nations agencies, this is publishing’s new “deep field,” revealed to us all, still dimly, in the blinking LEDs of our digital disruption.

 Porter Anderson, Writing on the Ether, Jane Friedman, author, publisher, agent, books, publishing, digital, ebooks, Will Entrekin, Exciting Press, The Prodigal Hour

Waldo Canyon fire, Colorado Springs / Rachelle Gardner

It’s where our suddenly visible authors live. Along with editors who don’t ride subways. Designers who don’t worry about which side of the street their cars are on overnight. Publicists who don’t eat at Pret A Manger. Agents whose spouses’ certifications can place them in front of walls of flame overnight. Offices that don’t empty out for the weekend at lunchtime on summer Fridays.

I just couldn’t bring myself to come up with a blog post today. Everyone in this area appreciates your prayers and good thoughts. If you want to help, the Red Cross is the best place.

And we pray for our brothers and sisters in peril.

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Main image: iStockphoto / thehague


The Prodigal Hour by Will EntrekinThe Prodigal Hour by Will Entrekin

Six weeks after escaping the 9/11 attacks in New York City, Chance Sowin moves back home, hoping for familiarity and security. Instead, he interrupts a burglary and his father is killed.

“Audacious, genre-bending … a thrilling head-rush of a book.” —Elizabeth Eslami

Find out more on Amazon and download a sample to your Kindle.




Posted in Writing on the Ether.

Porter Anderson / @Porter_Anderson

Porter Anderson (@Porter_Anderson) is a journalist and consultant in publishing. He’s The Bookseller’s (London) Associate Editor in charge of The FutureBook. He’s a featured writer with Thought Catalog (New York), which carries his reports, commentary, and frequent Music for Writers interviews with composers and musicians. And he’s a regular contributor of “Provocations in Publishing” with Writer Unboxed. Through his consultancy, Porter Anderson Media, Porter covers, programs, and speaks at publishing conferences and other events in Europe and the US, and works with various players in publishing, such as Library Journal’s SELF-e, Frankfurt Book Fair’s Business Club, and authors. You can follow his editorial output at Porter Anderson Media, and via this RSS link.

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12 Comments on "WRITING ON THE ETHER: They, the Readers"

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KathyPooler
Porter , what I love about this edition is despite all the intricacies of the DoJ, DRM, Kickstarter, eBook pricing,Amazon/Apple,etc debates, authors are getting their work out in fine fashion. I’m pleased to say I have received @CynthiaMorris’ limited edition of Chasing Sylvia Beach complete with a “novel shrine” and am ready to find my way through her 1937 Paris bookshop. There really is room for creativity as “the industry” struggles to find its way and we all try to find our own path through the chaos. In the words of Friedrich Nietszche, “One must still have chaos within to… Read more »
Porter Anderson
And thanks to you, too, Kathy, for such an upbeat reading of things. 🙂 I hope you’re right that there’s room for creativity at this point. I definitely think there WILL be, eventually, but I fear that at the moment, the stakes are extremely high and a great deal is on the line. Certain waves of panic are still to come, and this will be the state of things for a while. So while I’m glad to see work get out, I’m not sure the fashion is all that fine in every case. (The Russo situation, for example, seems pretty… Read more »
shirleyhs

Porter, you continue to astound me with your roundups. I picture little elves scurrying around your workshop, bringing you reviews of new toys and fake
santas. I can never absorb all of what you say in one week, but you certainly help me keep my head above water with the new lingo and issues.

How did you choose the picture representing readers? I have read that up to 75 % of book buyers are women, mostly over the age of 40. Is this true?

Porter Anderson
Hey, Shirley, Thanks for reading and commenting! I want those elves, where are they?? 🙂 Sounds like some pretty excellent assistance to me! Seriously, thanks for your kind words and for being a faithful reader. It really is hard to keep up with everything, just reading along each week is no mean feat. As for the image, I didn’t choose it in an attempt to represent any specific gender division of readers. I did want a mixed crowd, though. I know of the types of figures you’re talking about, but I mistrust them. Men don’t talk about their reading as… Read more »
Friend Grief
I had to laugh at your depiction of Dan Blank angry. I had the same reaction when I read his post about Seth Godin. and I was reminded that in this strange moment in publishing, there are very visible (and often very rich) exceptions to every rule. Not just Seth, but 50 Annoying Shades of Grey and our girl, JK Rowling. I’m not sure any of them should be held up as examples of anything but “don’t even think about it”. What worked for them – whether you agree with it or not – will likely not work for you.… Read more »
Porter Anderson
Hey, Viki. Yeah, the industry is very “anecdata” prone (this is Brett Sandusky’s term, by the way). All the way back to the Hocking-Eisler match, we saw everyone proclaiming this and that based on impossible-to-replicate examples. I mean, sure, if one person can do it, there’s hope for every kitty on YouTube, but there’s next to no likelihood that all those cats will succeed, as well. It’s symptomatic of the fear these days, and this week, the tension was especially high. Conference wi-fi is actually a known headache, as in known to be hard to get right, not just a… Read more »
Thad McIlroy

I agree with Brian O’Leary for calling out Jonah Lehrer’s editors. I called myself out, along with Jonah Lehrer’s other –readers–…we who thought ourselves so clever enjoying ideas that we had already congratulated ourselves for finding clever just six months before.

Porter Anderson
Ha! I have to join you on that, Thad, having read Lehrer in several venues (Wired, New Yorker, and his books — I like “Proust” in particular — and not felt I was getting recycled work. That being said, I’d wondered at times about some of the seemingly hard-and-fast conclusions he drew from such things as historical sources (for, say, Whitman, George Elliot, etc. in “Proust”), but had not considered redundancy something that was bothering me. This, I’m sure, is part of the wide, wide field we all read now — we probably are seeing more of this than we… Read more »
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