The Dispute Continues…

The author debate over the Amazon vs. Hachette business disagreement proceeds apace. The latest volley is an impassioned though civil discussion between J.A. Konrath, a staunch supporter of Amazon, and Lee Child, a very visible signatory of Authors United, and which was featured as an entry on Konrath’s blog on Thursday, September 25. It is worth reading, if you are at all interested.

I see strengths and weaknesses with the positions of both sides. Where I am having a problem, however, is the proposition that Amazon is doing something wrong or evil by refusing in some cases to sell Hachette books by pre-order (or at all). Permit me to draw a comparison with another product: there is a type of breakfast food that my wife likes; let’s call it “Flavored Cardboard to Go.” Six-count boxes of multiple flavors of this product were readily available at all of the supermarkets within a three mile radius of our home. I would buy a box or two during the course of my weekly shopping trip with the result being happy wife, happy home. That is, until one day when…it wasn’t available. I asked at each supermarket and was told that the item had been discontinued. But that wasn’t exactly accurate. The grocery supplier that serviced the supermarkets locally to me was no longer carrying it because…well, they just were no longer carrying it. Being the resourceful type, I checked the website of the company which manufactures the product and discovered that a certain national chain which I normally don’t patronize (let’s call it “Bullseye”) carried the item. They don’t have a store near us, but there is one I pass occasionally while out and about causing trouble. I will accordingly stop in every six weeks or so, stock up on Flavored Cardboard to Go, and all is well in the House of Hartlaub. Have I been a bit inconvenienced? Yes. But big whoop. There was no evil involved, however. A company and a distributor stopped doing business with each other and another company filled the vacuum. Nothing more or less was involved. 
I don’t see any difference between my experience in my role as hunter-gatherer and the current dispute between Amazon and Hachette. One can go to Barnes & Noble (or visit its fine, sparkling website which leaps to one’s command at a keystroke or two) or Wal-Mart, or, as they say, wherever books are sold (including Hachette’s own website) and buy or order any Hachette book you want, so long as it’s in print. Amazon hasn’t choked off the supply. You just can’t purchase certain Hachette books there at the moment. There was actually a similar dispute between Simon & Schuster and Barnes & Noble last year — bet you forgot about that, didn’t you? — where Barnes & Noble was cast as Simon Legree because they stopped selling S & S books when the two entities couldn’t come to terms. Again, Barnes & Noble didn’t shut off the supply. One could buy from other outlets. One DID buy from other outlets. The dispute was ultimately settled and things rolled on, until now.

Word: what is happening is a business dispute. It will get resolved at some point. It’s not a hero vs. villain issue, and casting it as such is a diversion, pure and simple. My questions for you, however, is…have you had trouble buying books published by Hachette? Has the dispute, and its fallout, changed your book buying habits? Other than in the abstract, do you even care?
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Writer Apps for Your Phone

Jordan Dane
@JordanDane

I recently upgraded my cell phone and I love being as connected as I am. It feels as if I could exist on my phone and not be so tied to my desk, work-wise. I get all my emails forwarded to my phone. Even when I am traveling on business, I can stay plugged in, but I’ve discovered new things on my cell phone that I’ve converted to my writer tools. Here are a few:

1.) Camera – I love my camera. When I research locations for my books or look at specific settings, I can take a photo easily and save it to create an image board, for world building. Or I can use the image for a feature I sometimes do on certain books, like my debut book – No One Heard Her Scream – My Story Within a Story. I post a pic on my website and tell something about the location, and include an excerpt, so readers can see the setting I used in the book.

2.) Pinterest – I have a Pinterest app where I can create image boards on characters or setting or evocative imagery that reminds me of the feeling of my book. This is usually something I like to do as I get started with a new book, but this Pinterest app is on my phone and I can add to my boards anywhere I am. This means no camera, just searching the internet and pinning any image to my boards.
 
3.) GPS – So I don’t get lost getting to locations I want to research, I love my GPS/Navigation app. I used to have a GAMIN navigator, but you had to buy updates. It’s amazing that there are better navigation apps on your phone for free and they are automatically updated. I can also do voice searches. I feel so Star Trek.
 
4.) Texting – I also love texting now. Who knew? I used to make fun of my niece, telling her that her fingers would fall off from lack of use and she’d only have thumbs if evolution is real. Now my family plays this “GUESS WHERE I AM” game where we send pics of strange places and we all try to guess where the sibs are. It’s like Find Waldo, without the little guy in stripes. As a writer, I can sharpen my “one liner” skills too. Win-win.
 
5.) Tweetcaster – I love this app, or some version of this. It allows me to set up tweets on a schedule in advance so I’m not tied to Twitter to get posts out. I mainly broadcast post links from the few blogs I belong to, so I can promote my friends blogs and interesting articles for my followers or fellow writers. It’s a great app.


6.) Voice Recorder – This app is NOT to be used while you are driving, but it is great to record quick thoughts to save for later. I have one on my phone, but there is also iTalkRecorder and it is a free app.

7.) Dictionary.Com – What is a writer without his dictionary or Thesaurus?
 
8.) NameShake – This is an app I’ve heard of but have never used. It allows you to research a name, along with any special meanings or history. 

9.) Stanza is a popular ebook reading app that can download off Fictionwise as well as other sites. There are several free apps to download digital content from Amazon, B&N, and others.

10.) GAMES – But where is the FUN, people? When I am waiting for my dentist, Lord knows I need a distraction. I have a very boring Solitaire and I just added Bejeweled Blitz, both free. Okay, no lie. This is a total time suck. Not recommended for serious authors. 


 
What are your favorite apps that you have on your phone? For all you writers on TKZ, what apps have you discovered have become an asset to your writing, rather than a time drain?
 
PS – I am the Simon & Schuster media escort for John Lescroart this weekend when he signs his latest book – The Ophelia Cut – at the local B&N in San Antonio at the LaCantera shopping center at 7:00 PM on Saturday, May 18. If any of you know John, I’d appreciate a shout out to pass along to him or a funny story. If you are in the area, please stop by and see John. Maybe he’ll bring his guitar and sing, too.

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Another Coup for Self-Publishing

Dovetailing on Joe Moore’s great post yesterday on “Show Me the Money,” I saw an article in Publishers Weekly and wanted to share this very interesting deal.
John Locke is my hero.
No, not THAT John Locke! This guy…
Publishers Weekly reported on Aug 22nd that John Locke, the self-pubbed Kindle bestseller phenom, closed a distribution deal with Simon & Schuster. The deal, negotiated by his agent, is an exclusive arrangement where S&S will handle Locke’s eight Donovan Creed novels and get them into retail markets for print books. These novels are expected to start releasing in Feb 2012 with more titles to follow.
This seems like a really different idea, but a rep at S&S said this concept mimics the type of arrangements made between distributors and small publishers. Whether you consider this unorthodox or not, this is news, people. Locke still distributes his e-books and retains his rights as publisher on all digital fronts. S&S is only getting the right to sell print books to retail markets. S&S sees value in print and paid accordingly for that privilege, but Locke didn’t have to give up his lucrative digital rights.
If Locke hadn’t self-published, he never would have known his true value in the marketplace.
I see this as very encouraging for aspiring authors. The digital marketplace has become the new resume, a proving ground. It requires work to market your own books, but traditional publishers expect authors to do this anyway. Quality and author craft is still important to this process, but I believe if an aspiring author has talent and a marketing platform to get the word out, this new digital world can be the best way to showcase work.
Published authors benefit from this development too. Striking a similar deal, they would get to focus on their writing, get their books into the public faster without all the approval and production schedule delays, and push the genres they write without NYC filtering the content for placement on shelves in retail stores. Established authors already spend time on promotion. Nothing new there, but there would be no more waiting to see if the publisher will spend money on promo or coop dollars for often limited time on the shelves. And the author retains control of cover art, book jacket summary, copy editing, and formatting, if they want it.
Even though S&S has limited access to Locke’s work, it can be looked upon as a WIN-WIN, in my opinion. S&S gets access to books that have a proven readership. They don’t have to “guess” whether a series will gain traction or not. They get exclusive print distribution rights for a known commodity. Not a bad thing to try in a changing world.
The author gets to take the risk of whether his or her book will find success, so they can push the genre or create a new trend—AND keep the rights that are most lucrative these days. The author would also free up time to write more, rather than spend time with the print side of the business—and gain access to retail markets he/she would not have reached on their own. PLUS a proven winner like Locke would also have the attention of NYC with his next project, opening more doors. Definitely a WIN-WIN!
I see this as a very positive arrangement—a healthy one for the industry. Both sides benefit from something they would not have tried otherwise. If a traditional bundled publishing deal can be broken apart for perceived value, how do you think this might change how deals can be negotiated in the future? Can digital rights be retained by the author for the right project? How would an agent’s role change? Would an author have to be a proven bestseller to have enough clout to negotiate a similar deal or does a deal like Locke’s foreshadow things to come for all authors?
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