Tag: Readers

It’s a Service Issue

I know I have been a little distracted by video games lately, in particular retro video games. In truth I have been indulging my nostalgia a little more than the law allows. Get me an eye patch and a Parrot named Mr. Stubbs because I’ve been trolled the deep waters of a pirate life. To the end, I came across an interesting article on the Penny Arcade. http://www.penny-arcade.com/report/article/nintendo-isnt-losing-to-the-ouyas-high-quality-emulation-of-classic-games-i

The interesting bit I took away from this was the quote from Valve’s Gabe Newell who once said that, “Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem.” That started me thinking. What is the chain of events that allow our works to go from our heads into readers’ hands. In the past the independent writer typed up the pages, running them by a Kinko’s after which he or she would fill up the trunk of his or her car with copies to distribute. A little less further further back and it would be paying a small publisher and then getting a trunk full of bound books. Now we can upload a file to our publisher, let’s call them, Amazon, and 24 hours later you can still order a trunk full of books. See the problem isn’t getting a copy of your work to sell it is getting it someplace to sell, a service problem. The challenge is still getting the books someplace where readers can read or buy them. That is the service problem we as independents have.

Traditional publishing encompasses the production of a book but more importantly holds the apparatus for getting said book into readers’ eager hands. From whipping people up into a frenzy for it to making sure the bookstores have stacks on hand in all the key locations of the store, this is the one service that technology has not taken away from traditional publishing. But the technology has shaken the tree hard enough that bits and pieces are falling down to where independent writers can make use of them.

We are already use to the bookstore as publisher, hello Amazon and Barnes and Noble, but did you know the library may, one day, also be your publisher. When you think about it, what is more likely to be in your town a library or a Barnes and Noble, we’ll pretend the internet doesn’t exist otherwise this thought experiment fails. But even in that libraries have made their presence felt in cyberspace and their legions of users know just where to click for the latest books. As libraries struggle to meet costs for e-content amid shrinking budgets the turn to local writers and home grown content is looking like a promised land for them. Are we writers up to the challenge? Only time will tell.

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Tips for Surprising Your Readers

IMG_20130607_123445When I read, I envision each sentence as a path carved out by the author. The path twists and turns and along the way I encounter different sights, sounds, emotions, actions. I stay on the path until I reach the end of the story, which usually coincides with the end of the path. This is not too different from hiking along a path in the woods. Sure you are moving from point A to B but reaching that point is not really the goal. Reading, much like that hike in the woods, is not just about finishing the book. It is the journey that is the entertaining part.

As you read the path can be straight, curved, hilly or any combination. My favorite is when the path has not a neat twist so much as an interesting bump or wrinkle in it, something that makes me stop and examine it closer. Those are the surprises I like the best and I try to use in my own writing. Here are just a few of my favorites. Sure you plot could be full of surprises, in some genres it better be, but it’s the embedded surprises in your writing that will catch most of your readers. Here are some of my favorites.

Alliteration. Often when reading I pay attention to each word. In English we have some many words that mean the same thing so why an author chose a particular word is something that fascinates me. Simply put alliteration is the repetition of certain sounds in words. Alliteration is not as big a fixture in modern literature as it once was. Still I think it can, when used sparingly, surprise and delight the reader. Think about this, would you set foot in a tomb that, reeked of death, decomposition and decay? Granted those words all convey essentially the same thought but when put all together they give the description an emphasis any one alone would lack. Remember, like cooking with chili pepper, a little will do wonders but a lot will cost you friends and readers.

Synesthesia. Can you taste the color blue? What about a ring that sparkles so brilliantly it makes your ears ring in sympathy? Synesthesia is the impact of one sensory input being experienced by another. This is one of my favorite ways to surprise the reader and in turn to be surprised when reading. I love descriptions that go beyond words to actually bring me back to sensations from my memories. To do that you should try to avoid descriptions that treat senses individually. When you are at the movies the sight and sounds of an explosion hit you at the same time. There is no reason not to make use of a similar technique in your writing.

Meter. Poetry is distinct from prose in many way, one identifiable way is the use of meter in each line to develop a rhythmic motif. Now unless you are writing a children’s book you may not have given thought to the rhythmic flow of your sentences. But every once in a while it is good to use a sentence that stands out  from the ones around it, either by sight or sound. I am one of those readers who hears the words in my head when I read them so I am often keenly aware of meter even in prose. I trust others are too.

If you aren’t already, try slipping one of these into your writing and see what kind of reactions you get. You may be surprised.

E-booking on the Cheap

The other day I came across a review for J.K. Rowling’s new work, Casual Vacancy, interested I clicked on over to Amazon to see about getting a copy. Well any thought of that happening went away when I saw the price. Really, J.K. now I know you’ve been hitting the butter beer hard. $17.99 (update: it’s not $14.99) for an e-book? Are you kidding me? That experience had me thinking, since getting my smart phone I have been an avid reader on it, if I had to pay eighteen bucks for each book I read I would be in the poor house. To that end, I figured I might share some of things that keeps me reading but not wringing my wallet dry.

First the obvious choice. Clean off your library card. If you happen to have a public library that has access to Overdrive you could be a few clicks and some DRM away from e-books. Your library may also have access to another service, Freading. Then of course there is Open Library. All these services can keep your e-reader going for no money at all.

If you are a kindle owner then you must take advantage of their lending library, just one of the benefits of signing up for Amazon Prime. You should also subscribe to email alerts for the Kindle Daily Deal. At only $1.99 a book these deals are about among the best you can find. Also the deals cover a wide selection of genres and non fiction as well. I frequently browse the deal pages of the Nook Store and Google Play. There are bargains to be had. If you don’t mind a little bit of homework you could offer to review works for an independent author. A quick Google search can lead you to a number of websites connecting eager readers to authors looking for reviews.

Lastly I would be remiss if I did not mention the myriad torrent search and download options. I am not going to take some moral high road and tell you that pirating only hurts the creators. Nor do I think pirating is the same as stealing. It is closer to the idea of a chew and screw. You are consuming the content but not paying for it. My experience with torrents is pretty hit or miss. In most instances I have found it not worth the time involved to find a good file for what I am looking for. So, for me the old skull and crossbones are a last resort.

Despite what the big six publishers may like you to believe, e-books do not have to follow the same pricing as print books. Then again I also do not know very many people who pay full price for a hardcover book. Let’s face it, that went away with the mass market paperback. One would think the publishing industry would not repeat the same mistakes as the music industry. Then again I could be wrong. Happy reading.

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Another Brick in the Publishing Wall

This post by Rebecca L Boschee appeared in the Wordserve Water Cooler last week. I wanted to share it because I thought it was really done well and points to a huge misconception about consumers. Price does not drive everything. For me it is the trifecta of price, selection and convenience. Amazon has pretty much locked this battle up. There will always be people who find fault with a particular seller and there are those who just rebell against what the masses do. Still at the end of the day there is much to be learned from how Amazon does what they do and how they became the behemoth they are. You can read the full post here. http://wordservewatercooler.com/2012/07/05/another-brick-in-the-publishing-wall/

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I Have Given up on Library E-Books

Since buying my smart phone two years ago I have seen a dramatic increase in the amount of reading I do. The convenience of e-readers on a device that’s always in my pocket has given me more opportunities to read. Alas this happened just as e-book prices began thier trek north, so my new pastime has become a costly one. I had hoped the library would have helped.

I have never been a big library user, (big revelation for a librarian huh). I am not the quickest reader, though I have gotten better, so the two week lending period for most items rarely gave me enough time to finish. Thank the library Gods for renewals, am I right? Right off the bat I was a little bummed that I could not renew the e-books that I borrowed from the library. That is not such a problem as I rarely find what I want to read in the lending que of my library’s e-book offerings. When I did find one I was promptly shuffled to a hold que and told to wait a few weeks. That thirty second download from the Kindle store is looking much better.

My next hope came from Open Library. A project form Internet Archive, Open Library boasted a collection of public domain and for loan books provided by member libraries. The open domain books come free of DRM so no checkout period hurdles for me. The borrowing library books did come with DRM (Adobe Digital Editions) and a two week loan period. Not so bad because at least I could find what I wanted to read.

Here is where it all went south. I recently upgraded my phone to the HTC Evo 4G LTE (clunky name great device). I was also halfway through Isaac Asimov’s The God’s Themselves on my old phone. Once I loaded up my e-reader app you can imagine my surprise, shock, anger and banging my head against the wall when my shiny new uber-smartphone is not supported by Digital Editions. I now had two choices, wait to finish the book or head over to the Kindle store. Eight bucks later I am continuing my read and I have lost all hope of libraries ever getting the shit together in regards to e-books.

Weighing in on Self Publishing

Here is a post from agent Rachelle Gardner fresh from her blog. She is weighing in on the self publishing revolution.


I don’t know about calling the recent rise in self publishing a revolution, I am sure it is a disruption to the traditional way that publishing has been handled. I have to disagree with Rachelle on the issue of quality being a primary service to readers that publishers bring. True a traditionally published book has been through the editorial wringer but how many of us have read a book from a published author and found typos, or characters they felt were weak or even plot lines that failed to come together?

As I commented back, what do we make of publishers who tell new writers there is no room for them yet shell out millions for the latest flavor of the month biography? Warts and all I think self publishing opens up unique opportunities for both the writer and readers. Writers for better or worse get there works out there, readers have an even larger sea of books to chose from. About the only ones to not benefit are the traditional publishers. Then again has independent labels brought the end to the major record labels?

I do see a moving of the fabled slush pile from under the agents’ and editors’ desks to the eBook stores on the web. In the end I think this will be a test for what the market can support. I know realistically as an unpublished writer the best I can hope for is a single book deal with a caveat of, don’t quit your day job. Well if I’m keeping my day job I might as well get out some of these manuscripts that are pilling up. If I can sell a few and cut out the middle man I’d say I’m right where I would be if I had scored an agent or publisher.