The Old Bahia Honda Bridge in the Florida Keys

               Scroll down for "Writers Thought for Today" older posts up through 4/7/2010. New posts are on the new blog page  or click on "Writers Thought for Today" on menu at top of page


Welcome! Glad you dropped by...


I have two writers blogs: Writers Welcome Blog  and Publishing/Writing: Insights, News, Intrigue  

                         The Southernmost Point of the Continental United States in Key West .

                                                                       My home town.



 New Directions for "Writers Thought for Today"

Posted by John 4/7/2010:

This site is still under construction grrrrr!...Please go to menu at top of page and click on "Writers Thought for Today" to access the new blog page...I have a comments section but you may have to click on the title of the post to make the comment/s section appear! I haven't got it all figured out just yet...Yolasite presently uses a 3rd party company (Disqus) to do the comments and it is a little confusing!!


This Site is Under Construction!

Posted by John 4/6/2010:

Hey, Guys...and Gals, I am adding a "Writers Thought for Today" blog page to this site instead of me just posting here on this front index page...The blog page will allow me to get a RSS feed and some other nice goodies.

I've just been too damn lazy lately to go ahead and make the necessary changes! So, bear with me while I try to figure out how I can transfer all my old posts to the new blog archive section (that's IF I can)...I'm searching for an easy way, but I'll probably have to do them one at a time...In which case I may just forget about transferring them altogether!

Have a good evening and don't do anything I wouldn't! That leaves it pretty wide open...



 Former Publisher Buys Publisher’s Weekly


Posted by John 4/5/2010:

Publisher's Weekly (PW), that venerable old trade magazine that served as the bible for the publishing industry has been saved! And we should all be thankful!...There is gold in the many reviews in the archives that will serve as a beacon from the past to shed a little more light on the future road of ebooks, digital, multimedia and changing publishing business models.

Matthew Flamm, of Crain's New York Business, gives us the details of the ex-publisher of PW who returns to scoop it up from near death:

Reed Business Information finally found a buyer for the publishing industry trade magazine.

Continuing its radical weight-loss regime, Reed Business Information has trimmed another title from its list, selling Publishers Weekly, the bible of the book publishing industry, to a former publisher of the magazine, George Slowik Jr.

Mr. Slowik’s newly formed company, PWxyz LLC, announced the acquisition on Monday. Terms were not disclosed.

The deal was part of Reed Business’s ongoing efforts to sell off most of its business-to-business titles—a campaign that began after parent Reed Elsevier was unable to find a buyer for the trade publishing unit after putting it on the block two years ago.

Reed Business has sold a slew of titles in the past year, including television industry trade journals B&C and MultiChannel News. Finding a home for a magazine that covers book publishing and bookselling—two industries in transition—has proved harder.

Mr. Slowik, who was publisher of the magazine from the mid-1980s until 1993, said that he will keep all of the New York City-based publication’s editorial, art and advertising employees. The acquisition includes the publication’s Web site and Publishers Weekly Show Daily, a publication put out during the annual Book Expo America trade show.

In an interview, the new owner said that he’s bullish on Publishers Weekly’s future, noting that the magazine is profitable. With its daily, weekly and monthly online newsletters, it has a bigger audience than ever, he said.

A top priority will be digitizing the 138-year-old magazine’s archives, particularly its reviews, which go back to the 1940s. “There’s a treasure trove in that information,” Mr. Slowik said.

The growth in sales of e-books and an expected legal settlement that will eventually allow Google to begin selling digitized, out-of-print books will all work in favor of the publication, he added.

“It will bring thousands of previously unmarketed and out of print books into play,” Mr. Slowik said. “[Publishers Weekly] has the discerning view of those titles.”



Ipad, Therefore I Am

Posted by John 4/4/2010:

The iPad has blown away the misconception that reading was on the decline! And Joshua Gans, blogging for, has expressed this concept better than anyone else in his review today of the iPad:

It somehow seemed fitting that I would write my review of the iPad on the iPad itself. That is precisely what I am doing using the Pages application. And I have to tell you that while it is no keyboard, my typing speed is just as fast as usual. For anything short this is great. What is more the auto-correct options work like a dream.

But I digress. Before continuing, an admission. Had Apple put on sale today an undisclosed item for US$699 (which is what I paid for this) I would likely have bought it. Not a great strategy for an economist but that is how much faith I hold in Apple's reputation at the moment.

Fortunately, I knew quite a bit about what I was getting although that isn't quite the same as experiencing it.

So what is the bottom line after a few hours of playing with my new toy? You don't need to buy one today but you will end up using something like it fairly soon. Why don't you need one now? There aren't that many apps.

Yes I know that all of the 150,000 apps will work on the iPad but unless they are optimised the scaling up doesn't cut it. Fortunately, 1,000 odd apps are iPad ready but chances are your favourite apps aren't and the ones that are don't work the way you are used to.

So if playing games is your main use for an iPhone or you just want to know what restaurant to eat at, no need to rush.

However, there is one group of people who will fall in love with this instantly: people who like to read. I'm sure you are thinking at this point, oh yes, eBooks. Now it is true that that is great benefit. What is more you are not tied to Apple's iBooks.

It is beautiful and there will be a future fight but there aren't many titles on it at present. The booker reader of choice remains Amazon's Kindle which has it's own free iPad app that puts the actual Kindle to shame. Yes, the battery life is lower but it is far more book like.

Since Steve Jobs famously claimed two years ago that no one actually read anymore, it has been clear to all that reading is at an all time high. It is just that people read stuff on the web, blogs or emails rather than books and magazines. So much more of the day is spent reading. But it is completely unnatural.

People who claim to hate the idea of electronic books spend most of their day hunched over a laptop or bolt upright at a computer screen. But the natural position for reading is reclined. Maybe you could do this with an iPhone but let's face it, for anything serious a larger screen is required.

The iPad makes reclined reading possible again. This will be true for web browsing but also for emails as well. Once you have tried it you won't be able to return to the standard computer for your reading needs.

As an academic, the tools are there for the iPad on Day One. The fabulous program, Papers, that collects all of your PDFs and organises them is there on the iPad. There is simply no need to print anything. We professors will find the idea of carrying around our filing cabinets irresistible and Deans, once they work it out, will love the idea of smaller offices.

As a parent, I can see even more potential just around the corner. The few children's books ported to the iPad explode with colour and interactivity. This is as true of Dr Seuss as it is of the wonderful book, The Elements, which just falls short of letting you feel each individual one. There is unlikely to be any substitute. And just wait to see what it does to comics.

The killer app of the iPad is reading. And the amazing thing is it has so much more and also so much more yet to be done. It will define a part of our existence into the foreseeable future.



Is this the end of the $9.99 e-book?

Posted by John 4/2/2010:

Joel Evans, writing for ZDNet, laments the supposed loss of the $9.99 ebook. This writer feels where he is coming from but ALSO understands that he, admittedly so, is unfamiliar with the publishing business. Joel makes the common mistake that many do when they equate the lower ebook cost just with the lack of having to print, bind and distribute printed-word books...other costs are still very much present like marketing for awareness and the ever-increasing demand for fresh content from talented writers (who have to be paid a more professional fee to keep the best) to supply the hungry platforms of an increasing myriad of multi-digital devices!...E-books being a substantial part of the platforms.


AND, $12.99 - $14.99 is STILL better than a $26 - $30 printed-word book! 


Joel Evans says:
One of the things that I really liked about the Kindle was the fact that most new releases and books in general that I had an interest in purchasing wouldn’t cost more than $9.99 for the electronic version. Now it seems that Amazon has given in to its publishers’ demands and as a result the publishers will be setting prices for new releases going forward. The latest reports put new releases at between $12.99 and $14.99, compared to the previous $9.99.

There’s no doubt that Apple’s deals for the iPad have spurred the changes. I have to say that I’m disappointed in the change, though. For starters, I would expect the $9.99 price to hold, if not going even lower since publishers don’t have to incur the cost of printing or distribution. Then again, I don’t really know too much about the traditional book publishing business, but I would bet that the average person would expect to pay far less for an electronic version of a book than they would for a paper-based version.

Perhaps the rise in prices is just what the publishing industry needs? If people have to shell out a lot of money for an electronic version, they may be more inclined to buy the paper version instead.



Posted by John 3/30/2010:

What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This post is about choices we make...A good topic...Mostly one I appreciate and learn from in hindsight only.

Sasha White, a published author of erotica (one of my fav genres!), talked about choices a couple of times on the GENREALITY blog recently. Both of her posts were thought-provoking and I present one of her dissertations here for your enjoyment:

Last week I talked about the choices we make and the path we each choose, and I wanted to touch on that again… but in a different way.

When I first decided to pursue a writing career I went at it with everything in me. I was super focussed, determined and very lucky. I happened to be writing erotic before the genre really cycled in as popular. Therefor when I heard New York publishers were looking to start erotic lines I was in the right genre at the right time and things moved fast for me. 2 years after I decided to try to make a career out of writing I quit my full-time job to write full-time because I had contracts for novels lined up, and I couldn’t spare the time to work. I wrote 9 novels (and half a dozen short stories) over the next 2 years, and I was well on my way. Then I pulled back on the writing, and went back to work part-time.

If y’all want to know why I pulled back, I’ll blog about it another time for you, but right now I want to talk about my other job, and how it’s helped my career choices, and writing itself.

What I did full time before I started writing is the same thing I went back to – bartending and waitressing. I’m a 40 year old waitress, and I love it. (Okay, there are times I hate it too, but that’s life.)

What I’m loving about it right now is that I feel I’m actually helping some younger people find their own path in life. You see, I’m forty years old, and I work with a bunch of twentysomethings. Most of them in University and waiting tables to pay their way. Not only does working with them keep me young, but it also helps me with characterization in my stories. The funny thing is that I’ve recently realized that we help each other because they’re getting as much out of our talks about what’s going on in their lives, and life in general, as I am. It shocked me a couple weeks ago when one of the girls I haven’t shared a shift with in a while told me she missed me because I always made her think with my advice. I thought “Advice? I’ve been giving advice?” 

Then another girl came up and explained how I’d inspired her to follow her dream of being a singer. She’d tried out for Canadian Idol three times. The first two times she almost made it to Toronto Week, so on the third she’d fully anticipated making it only to have the judges comment on her eyebrows and say some not encouraging things. So she gave up the dream.
That made me sad because she was so passionate about singing, and I think if you’re passionate about something you should follow through on it. We talked a bit about how I got into writing ( how I have no education geared toward it, and it was basically all drive and desire that got me where I was) and I encouraged her. A couple days later she told me she was going for it- and she is. On Sunday night I went to a small private concert she did simply so it could be recorded for a demo/audition reel and I just have to say WOW!! This girl can sing.

I know that singing is a lot like writing in that theres so much more to building a career than talent, but just seeing the light in her eyes, the spring in her step, and the overall glow she had going on made my heart swell. She’s chasing her dream, and knowing that I helped her get back up after her confidence had taken a hit made me take a good hard look at some of my own recent choices. I really think I’ll keep working the night job for as long as I’m physically able because I love being part of so many people’s lives. Not only do they help me keep my characters real, they inspire me to practice what I preach. You’re never too old to chase a dream.



Smashwords Makes Self-Publishing/Distributing an eBook Free and Fast

Posted by John 29 March 2010:

I am promoting SmashWords today, a site that I use myself to sell my book...It's easy, professional looking and possesses all the technology necessary to allow visitors to your page to read a portion of your book before buying if they choose. You should check SmashWords out as another source to promote your works/projects...and it's FREE!

I am highlighting SmashWords through Resource Shelf, another site I'm promoting today which is a daily newsletter with resources of interest to information professionals, educators and journalists:

1) Smashwords, a publisher/distributor of eBooks that’s available to anyone (self-publishers) now has a deal to distribute on the Apple iPad.

2) Smashwords will soon issue ISBN’s for all of its titles.

Smashwords, a site where writers can publish their own e-books, said today it has signed a distribution deal with Apple to put its books into the iPad iBookstore. Mark Coker, chief executive of Smashwords, said in an email to authors that his company has been working on the deal ever since the iPad was announced. And, yes, this means that unpublished authors can sell their work on the Apple iPad at virtually no cost.

[The author of the article discusses writing a book and having it distruted by Smashwords.] It was a very easy process. I took a Microsoft Word file and uploaded it to the Smashwords site, set the price, and decided where I wanted the book published. Smashwords published it in nine formats and began distributing the book over a number of weeks to sites such as Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Stanza (on the iPhone), Aldiko and others.

Source: VentureBeat

See Also: How Smashwords Distributes Content

See Also: How Smashwords Defines Itself (via Company Web Site)

Smashwords is an ebook publishing and distribution platform for ebook authors, publishers and readers. We offer multi-format, DRM-free ebooks, ready for immediate sampling and purchase, and readable on any e-reading device.

Directly below the definition is a lengthy Q&A with the CEO of the company, Mark Coker. He answers questions about the company and electronic publishing in general.

Will libraries be collecting this type of content and making it available to their users? What format(s) would material be collected in?

Here’s the Smashwords Top 100, as you’ll see many of the titles can also be read online (with an eReader) and finally, their catalog. It’s updated daily.



The iPad is coming, and hardly anyone knows what to do with it

Posted by John 28 March 2010:

Has iPad screwed up a little on it's pre-launch marketing? Some surprising comments from our Australian friends...a potentially BIG market.


Julian Lee from The Sydney Morning Herald has this to say:

From media companies to telcos, the device remains a mystery, writes Julian Lee.

Many in media circles are hailing it as a potential saviour of the industry, a way to let them charge for content until now given away free.

Yet five weeks before its launch in Australia few have even laid eyes on the Apple iPad.

The California company is drip-feeding information about a device that, among other things, will let users view films, surf the web and read ebooks and digitised versions of newspapers and magazines.

Not a single iPad is believed to be on these shores, and few senior executives in the media companies banking on its success admit to having seen it.

Telecommunications companies - which will provide iPad users with the means with which to surf the web or send emails - have yet to finalise their packages. Again few have seen it.

The subject of what ads will look like in the digitised versions of newspapers and magazines and how much they will charge for them has yet to be raised with advertising and media agencies.

Some in the industry are questioning whether the iPad will live up to the hype, given that in the next year seven devices from HP, Dell and a host of cheaper Asian brands will be on the market.

One leading developer said none of the main Australian media companies was likely to meet the late April deadline.

Keith Ahern of Mogeneration said: ''Most of the media companies are already working on iPad apps for some or all of their titles, which surprised me given that we were coming out of a recession.''

But he added: ''I don't believe any large Australian publishers of print or news media will make the deadline. I think smaller publishers like Medwords and games companies like Firemint will. I have worked with [large media companies] and it's hard to make things happen quickly.''

Like other developers Ahern's company has been relying on an iPad simulator to build applications for clients.

Carter's Encyclopaedia of Health and Medicine published by Medwords will be available. The iBookstore will not be available in Australia at launch because of rights issues.

Larger media companies like Fairfax Media, publisher of the Herald, are keeping the market guessing.

Lloyd Whish-Wilson, chief executive and publisher of Fairfax Media's Sydney publishing division, said: ''We are very enthusiastic about tablet devices for newspaper and magazines. There's a lot of planning going into it, and we'll be ready by the time the market takes off.

''There is potential to extend our journalism in ways that I think readers, and I have no doubt advertisers, will find very exciting.''

Ed Smith, the chief executive content and commercial of News Digital Media, said that, much as he was excited about the possibilities, the iPad was only one of a number of devices to be launched this year. He said the category was likely to grow only once the publishers, telcos and manufacturers ''package them up''.

"Having said that, we do have to be realistic about how quickly the iPad will become mainstream, not least because demand is likely to outstrip supply for some time.

"There's also little doubt these tablets will be in great demand by advertisers - partly because they will want to reach the engaged, quality, audiences they will attract, but also because they have so much creative potential."

In the meantime, many publishers are expected to fall back on existing iPhone apps, which will work on the iPad.

As the deadline looms the debate in media companies continues to rage around whether to charge a monthly fee or a one-off fee. The Herald has sold ''many thousands'' of its Good Food Guide app for a one-off fee of $11.99. Many more of its Domain app have been downloaded free.

The Wall Street Journal, which with The New York Times has been granted continuous access to the iPad to develop specific apps, is reportedly set to charge $US17.99 ($20) a month to subscribe to the iPad version of its paper.

Mr Smith of News Digital Media said ''when the time is right we will benefit enormously from what our colleagues at The WSJ have learnt''.

Carl Hammerschmidt, director at ACP Magazines' digital division, said the iPad was one of a number of platforms the company was exploring.

"Our challenge is to ensure we are on the right platforms with the right products and, when it comes to digital magazines, that what we are offering is the leading product in the market … we also have to ensure the business models stack up."

He would not discuss how close he was to launch, though some media buyers are saying that ACP will offer near-replicas of the printed editions on the iPad. ACP's chief rival, the Seven Network-owned Pacific Magazines, declined to comment.

Overseas magazines such as Wired, GQ, Vanity Fair, The New Yorker and Glamour are all reported to be ready to go in mid-June. The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times are expected to be the only newspapers ready at launch.

Advertisers such as Coca-Cola, FedEx, Gillette, Volkswagen and Ford are understood to have bought ads on iPad editions or embedded in applications.

Media buying agencies say the topic of advertising rates and types of units has not been discussed in Australia. Toby Jenner, chief executive of the media agency MediaCom, said: ''It's just not on our radar; in fact I don't think it's on the industry's radar.''

The managing director digital of Mitchell Communications Group, John Murray, said he would get his first presentation of the iPad ''within the week'', but would not say from whom. He was not rushing to push clients into a device that has yet to carve out an audience.

Iain McDonald, founder of the digital advertising agency Amnesia Razorfish, was sceptical of the iPad's impact, saying that because it was "sandwiched" between an e-reader like Amazon's Kindle and cheaper laptops, he doubted it would be the game-changing device that the iPhone has become.

But it is the fact that the iPad will not play videos formatted in the industry-standard Flash format - used by most advertisers - that worries him most.

"Absolutely it does," he said. "We are in the business of creating experiences [online] and if Apple is removing one of them and that affects how video is played then that is not going to help my clients."

He also doubts whether it will go mass, despite predictions that between 100,000 and 200,000 units, retailing at an entry level price of $650, will be sold by Christmas. "We need to develop eyeballs, not niche audiences,'' he said.

While the media and advertising industries have an excuse to hang back, the same cannot be said for the telcos that will be providing one of a number of options that iPad users will turn to for connectivity to the web. On their state of readiness the top three mobile phone operators had little to say.

Optus declined to comment and a Telstra spokesman confirmed the company had yet to see a device.

''We are still talking with Apple and are waiting to hear back from them, as is everyone else."

A spokesman for Vodafone said: "Unfortunately we can't make any statements on the iPad and in fact we cannot even confirm whether or not we will be able to sell the iPad in Australia." He confirmed the company had not seen a device.



Apple iBookstore Prices Leaked

Posted by John 26 March 2010:

In an article by Nathan Eddy for he exposes what appears to be a leaked list of selections and prices that will be available in the new Apple's iBookstore.

Nathan reports:
As the release date for the Apple iPad draws near, information regarding e-book pricing from Apple's iBookstore leaks online, suggesting the company may have reached an agreement with publishers that Amazon failed to do with its e-reader, the Kindle.

Following a battle between publishers and Amazon over the price of digital books sold for the company’s e-reader, the Kindle, a photo showing the alleged pricing structure for Apple’s online iBookstore surfaced. The screenshot, by way of Apple blog App Advice, shows four current fiction bestsellers listed for $9.99 apiece. Blog author Alexander Vaughn wrote that he had the opportunity last week to view a “not-so-NDA-complying preview” of the store. “At the moment, out of the 32 e-books featured in the New York Times’ Bestsellers section, 27, including the entire top 10, are priced at $9.99,” he wrote. “As for the remaining five, the highest priced one… goes for just $12.99.”

As the launch date for the Apple iPad draws near, speculation is increasing as to how Apple will structure the pricing of e-books. The App Advice blog also published a second photo of the iBookstore showing titles from Project Gutenberg, a volunteer effort to digitize and archive cultural works. The project boasts more than 30,000 titles, including classics such as Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, which would be offered for free. Books would be downloaded using Apple’s iBook application, which is also capable of embedding video.
The information gathered by App Advice suggests Apple has been able to avoid the confrontation with publishers that Amazon found itself in earlier this year. In February, Amazon settled its dispute with publisher Macmillian over the price of e-books, as Amazon had relisted the titles from the publishing house after removing them from its online store. The two companies had a disagreement over Macmillan's request for control of pricing and the ability to offer different books at different prices.

A report surfaced later that month in The New York Times suggesting Apple was angling to control prices of its e-books, negotiating with major publishers for the ability to control e-book prices in the event that a particular text becomes a bestseller or starts selling at a discount in its hardcover version. Under the terms of that model, e-books that would ordinarily sell for $12.99 or $14.99 on Apple’s online storefront could be downloaded instead for $9.99. The article stated that the publishers involved in the Apple negotiations included Simon & Schuster, the Penguin Group, Macmillan, HarperCollins Publishers and the Hachette Book Group.

The news comes on the heels of a survey by comScore showing interest in the iPad is already very high. Consumers were asked several questions regarding their awareness of various e-readers and tablet devices and their past purchase behavior or intent to purchase these devices, with 65 percent voicing aided awareness, the same as that of Amazon’s rival Kindle device. The survey found consumers have demonstrated a high level of interest in digital reading devices: The survey found between 58 percent and 69 percent of consumers had conducted online research of the top five devices. "The iPad rated highest in terms of consumers seriously considering purchase over the next three months at 15 percent of Internet users, with the Kindle at 14 percent," the report noted. "The Kindle rated highest in terms of current device ownership at six percent of all Internet users, followed by Sony Reader at four percent." 



What Will Ads Cost on iPad ?

Posted by John 25 March 2010:

Stephanie Clifford reported in the New York Times, Media & Advertising Section, that advertisers are showing interest in iPad...And indeed they are! At least at the initial unveiling of iPad on 3 April 2010.

If iPad produces big results for advertisers, the resulting money will benefit all in the publishing food chain including publishers and writers...and might generate the sustainable business models that will save newspapers, magazines and perhaps the world, itself!...Just thought I'd say that...

Stephanie Clifford says:
Advertisers initially approached new media as if they were going duck hunting, tiptoeing cautiously into the waters of mobile phones and the Internet.

With the iPad, it’s big-game season.

Getting ready for the April 3 iPad introduction, FedEx has bought advertising space on the iPad applications from Reuters, The Wall Street Journal and Newsweek. Chase Sapphire, a credit card for the high-end market, has bought out The New York Times’s iPad advertising units for 60 days after the introduction.

Advertisers including Unilever, Toyota Motor, Korean Air and Fidelity have booked space on Time’s iPad application. In a draft press release, The Journal said a subscription to its app would cost $17.99 a month, and the first advertisers included Capital One, Buick, Oracle, iShares and FedEx.

At least initially, it should provide a nice boost for publishers. iPad advertisements on print publishers’ applications cost $75,000 to $300,000 for a few months with some exclusivity, said Phuc Truong, managing director of Mobext U.S., a mobile-marketing unit at Havas Digital.

But after the initial buzz around the iPad fades, so, too, might advertisers’ enthusiasm, with questions still swirling around how to price ads and how they will look on the iPad.

Some early advertisers hope to catch the tailwinds of the Apple marketing program.

“There is an appetite to be associated with the inevitable buzz — the buzz around the iPad has been so long-lived,” said Alisa Bowen, senior vice president and head of consumer publishing at Thomson Reuters.

FedEx, which will run ads on publisher applications for 90 days after the introduction, said Apple’s history of big product campaigns was part of the appeal.

“Part of being first,” said Steve Pacheco, director of advertising and marketing communications at FedEx, “is to be included in their in-store demos, to be a real-life example of a powerful brand going to market in a new way.” FedEx will be the exclusive advertiser on the Reuters and Newsweek apps for 90 days after their introduction.

After the initial promotion, though, advertisers may raise harder questions.

For one, pricing is a major sticking point between advertisers and publishers. Even at the end of last year, when the iPad was still a rumor, advertisers were arguing for cheaper ad prices on tablets than in print.

“It should, hopefully, lower the cost, because it’s a lot easier for us to create it electronically, and put it in an electronic book, than it is to print it,” said Steve Sturm, then a vice president at Toyota Motor North America, in a December interview. (He has since left the company.)

But publishers are pushing for higher prices than in print and have not come up with standard ways of charging for ads. “Some are doing it as a fixed fee, others are saying, ‘Hey, we’ll sell you up to X number of impressions for Y dollars,’ ” said Max Mead, vice president for business development at PointRoll, an ad technology company working on iPad ad formats.

Advertisers are used to paying based on the number of times their ad is seen online and on mobile devices, or on the circulation of a print magazine. No one knows how popular the iPad will be. There have been just under 200,000 preorders for it, said Gene Munster, an analyst at Piper Jaffray. But even assuming that a single application is near-ubiquitous on the iPad, that is still a fraction of the audience an advertiser would reach with an ad on, say, “Dancing With the Stars.”

For now, publications like Reuters, People and Time are charging flat fees. That will go on “for some time, until the download statistics become clear and usage reaches some kind of predictable pattern,” Ms. Bowen of Reuters said.

“Marketers are really excited about it, but they don’t yet know what type of volume they’re getting,” Mr. Mead said. “Nobody has any visibility.”

There is also confusion over other ways to measure the success of an iPad ad.

“We’ve got to figure out what the measurements are,” said Mark Ford, president of the Time Inc. News Group, which includes Time and Sports Illustrated. (Time is planning an app for the April 3 introduction, while Sports Illustrated’s is expected to be ready in June.) “It’s not how you measure print, it’s not, certainly, how you measure digital. It’s going to be something different.”

Fran Pessagno, director of operations at the media agency OMD, a unit of the Omnicom Media Group that is working on the FedEx tablet project, said he would be looking for firm results. “With everything we do, we’re just going to have to test it and see whether or not it actually results in new account signups,” he said, referring to accounts created with FedEx. “Until anything goes to market, it’s always viewed through the lens of, ‘it’s short term.’ ”

Another challenge is technology. Many online ads, especially those with moving images, use Flash, which the iPad does not handle. So advertisers must find other ways to enlivening their ads. People, for instance, is using the Adobe program InDesign to create slide shows, videos and animation.

“It’s a little more work for them, and for us, too,” said Fran Hauser, the president of digital for the Time Inc. Style and Entertainment Group, which includes People. (People’s iPad version is expected to be ready by early August.)

And while advertisers know the basics of iPad ad formats, they do not know everything: How will an ad look on a page, for instance? What kind of ad unit will most appeal to customers?

“There’s still a lot of questions about how developers are going to be building their apps and how we can create the best ad units for them,” said Nicole Leverich, a spokeswoman for AdMob, the mobile-advertising network that Google is acquiring. AdMob is not releasing software that will let developers run ads on apps “until we can test our ad units on a physical device,” said Mike Fyall, manager of product marketing, in an e- mail message.

Mr. Ford said that while advertiser interest had been intense, “we’re all learning.”

“It’s a moving target,” he said.

Brad Stone and Jenna Wortham contributed reporting.



Freelance Writing Jobs with the Federal Government

Posted by John 23 March 2010:

Allena Tapia, who writes Allena's Freelance Writing Blog for, has posted an excellent bit of information for those who may want to do freelance writing work for the U. S. Government at top dollar.

Being a retired government employee, I can vouch for the info related to becoming a government contractor...It really isn't hard to get registered.  

Allena posted:
When I heard about a colleague who had recently edited a set of journals for the U.S. Government, I wanted to know how to get in on that kind of  job! It took me three days, but I slowly worked my way through the process of becoming a registered government contractor, and I took notes for fellow freelancers the whole way through. How To Register for Freelance Writing Jobs with the Government tells you how to get through the contractor registration process, too. I now make checking the bid opportunities available a regular part of my search for freelance writing work.


The New Print Gimmick

Posted by John 22 March 2010:

New innovations in ink and paper technologies have breathed new life into the printed word! The new digital media tech stud has sprayed some innovative reproductive seeds, it seems, into the old printed-word Momma.

Jill Ambroz, FOLIO magazine, writes the following informative article on this subject:

David Granger likens print innovations to the new squeezable ketchup bottle, what he calls “the greatest consumer product in the history of mankind.” That little twist on the American staple “allows people to access it in a simple and fulfilling way.” The use of print innovations have yet to become as widespread as the ketchup bottle, but the new technologies are breathing fresh air into a mature industry that is battling its own digital counterparts for survival.

“In this era, when everyone’s excited about new media, we need to do everything we can to make older media as exciting as possible,” says Granger, Esquire’s editor-in-chief. The magazine’s latest print gimmick was its May 2009 issue where it featured a mix-n-match cover. The facial features of President Obama, George Clooney and Justin Timberlake became interchangeable thanks to a tri-perforated cover.

It’s not just the digital era, but also the poor economy that has publishers looking for new ways to stay viable. “The growth of the Internet as consumers’ primary news and content-delivery method, in combination with the impact of the recession on the publishing industry, has created a marketing environment that requires inventive and customizable cover and insert creative that will resonate with the consumer,” says Scott Berry, senior vice president of sales for specialty printer Vertis Communications.

Print Innovations, Past and Present

Four years ago, Rolling Stone made news with its 3-D lenticular cover for its 1,000th issue. Late last year, The Hollywood Reporter also produced a 3-D cover featuring the movie “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” for its November 30th issue. Some other recent covers include Esquire’s October 2008 e-ink issue, where it embedded an electronic paper device in the cover—a first for the magazine industry. Another Hearst publication, House Beautiful, featured a pocket cover with a pull-out for its September 2009 issue. The cover line asked, “What colors does your house need?” and the pull-out provided a sampling of colors with personality descriptions and suggestions for use.

Hearst Corp. seems to be embracing print innovations. The company’s 2009 annual report is a panoply of print gimmicks, including digital bar codes, pop-ups and magazines within magazines, produced by Sandy Alexander and Brown Printing Co. And for the past three years, the company has held “print expos” where it invites printers to set up display booths to showcase their cutting-edge capabilities in an internal tradeshow setting for Hearst’s publishers, editors and marketing people. In January, Michael Clinton, executive vice president, chief marketing officer and publishing director for Hearst Magazines, decided to open the doors to invite advertisers and agencies to the expo.

That was a smart move considering that producing these special issues usually requires advertiser buy-in. One of the reasons specialty print issues aren’t more commonplace is because they are more costly to produce. Granger notes that it wasn’t until the economy started to head south that advertisers got interested in collaborating on some print innovations.

“I have no budget for increased cost so I need an advertiser to do it with,” he says. “Frankly, there are costs that need to be shared. That’s why we haven’t done more; we have to find advertisers that get excited about doing something, as well as committing on the edit side.”

It should be noted that some of the best print innovations these days are showcased by advertising inserts. Take the magazine insert for Ubisoft’s Assassin Creed II, a video game. As you open the four-page spread, you actually tear off the head of the king, one of the characters in the game. “You can literally hear and feel the head tearing,” says Doug Hazlett, vice president of marketing and sustainability for specialty printer Sandy Alexander.

A Jump In Newsstand Sales

While specialty printing has been around for a while, new technologies coupled with publishers’ desire to stay relevant are leading to growth in this area of magazine publishing. “There are new techniques and technologies that are changing the business,” Hazlett says. “The advantage of specialty magazine printing is that it drives higher awareness, recall and in turn sales which drives a higher return on your investment.”

The newsstand sales of Hearst’s specialty print magazines are proof. House Beautiful’s September 2009 issue, featuring the pocket cover, was the top selling issue of the year for the magazine with 110,000 copies sold—24 percent higher than the average issue. In fact, it was the best-selling issue since September 2007, says a Hearst Magazines spokesperson. And the newsstand sales of Esquire’s mix-n-match cover for May 2009 were up more than 10 percent. Esquire’s e-ink cover for its October 2008 issue saw a newsstand spike of more than 15 percent with a 33 percent price increase, according to the spokesperson.

The payoff is also about generating buzz. “Great ideas and executions beget more great ideas and executions,” says Karen Wagner, production director for Hearst Magazines. “Not only do advertisers benefit from innovation, but so do editors and the editorial product.”

Challenges and Pricing

While it’s difficult to get a good idea of just how much these specialty printing projects cost, Granger says that Esquire’s issues that were innovative through its use of paper and ink cost in the “tens of thousands of dollars,” noting that it was only a “slight upcharge” and not “cripplingly expensive.” And Hearst maintains that its 2009 annual report with all the bells and whistles did not cost any more to produce than a regular report.

There are other challenges to producing specialty printed issues. The edit team, production staff, advertiser and printers must all be on the same page. Another challenge is the longer lead time. For example, a print unit that runs inside the magazine may take a week to two weeks to prepare, and can be produced earlier, but must be at the printer at the time of binding. And a specialty cover can’t close too early because of edit constraints, Wagner says. Esquire specialty covers have closed about 10 days earlier than regular covers, Granger says. He adds that time also has to be factored in to allow for the selling of the idea to an advertiser and for the manufacturing division to have enough time to order paper, etc.

What’s Next: Thermo-Dynamic Ink

Some of the emerging trends and biggest bangs for the buck include the use of 2-D bar codes and anything interactive. The use of 3-D covers still generate a tremendous amount of interest and activity, especially given the advent of 3-D movies and TV, Hazlett says. Special coatings, like gloss UV and metal effects, unique stocks, special colors and custom pop-ups and die-cuts are hot now, he adds. “Inside the book, a unique stock, custom shape or special finish provide the highest awareness and recall for a marketing campaign,” he says.

In addition, some of the updates to the actual presses have enabled many of these technologies. “There are so many different units that can be produced and bound, due to improvements to presses,” Wagner says. “We can do more on press in one pass than we could before. In the past, in some cases we’ve had to print a unit on press and then take it offline and do other things to it, like [die-cut] it, fold it or glue it. Now, the new technologies that printers have added to the presses enable them to do more of that inline,” saving time and money.

Hearst’s Marie Claire has something special in the works for select copies of its March issue, Wagner says, and Esquire is already planning something innovative for its November issue, which will feature “the sexiest woman alive.”

Granger wants to experiment with inks next, particularly thermo-dynamic ink, which changes color based on temperature, so words can actually change color. “There’s so much interesting ink technology and that’s one of the next frontiers I want to play with,” he says. We’ve already seen what he can do with paper.


Interview Magazine: The iPad is the Future

Posted by John 19 March 2010:

This insightful look at the latest developments from Apple and iPad comes from Laura Oliver writing for :

For a device that's not even being sold yet – though we're told it is imminent in the US and UK –  getting on the iPad has quickly jumped to the top of many news organisation's to do lists.

Described in equal measure as overhyped and journalism's saviour, the impact of the device is not yet known.

"The model is attractive: there are more than 100 million iTunes accounts with users' credit cards pre-loaded and ready to go. A new shiny, powerful device – somewhere between an e-reader and a netbook – could just persuade people to buy the news subscriptions the New York Times and Rupert Murdoch so desperately want to sell them," says Patrick Smith, in a blog post for following the device’s launch by Apple CEO Steve Jobs in January.

"But Apple's new device is just another distribution platform for words, pictures, videos and data, just like PCs, mobiles and print. Recreating a print experience on another device is not going to solve the economic crisis news finds itself in: Google will still be more efficient at selling advertising and will still point readers to free content."

Yet despite this unknown, plans for iPad apps from many publishers and news organisations, particularly those with strong smartphone and mobile offerings, have emerged.

Developing an iPad app of its own and for its clients were cited as top priorities when the Associated Press launched its new business unit, AP Gateway last month. Elsewhere Wired's US magazine was quick to announce its excitement and plans for the Wired Tablet, with editor Chris Anderson promising a full release this summer. Wired's plans have also been pivotal in the US' Audit Bureau of Circluations' (ABC) decision to change its definition of digital editions to include the iPad and so include the new apps as part of circulation figures for audit.

"Much is still to be answered about magazines and other media on this emerging class of devices, from the business and distribution models to the consumer response. But what is already clear is that they offer the opportunity to be beautiful, highly engaging and immersive, going beyond what's available on the web. I think tablets are going to sell like hotcakes, in part because they offer such an intimate, rich media experience," says Anderson in a blog post explaining the launch.

In Europe, Dutch newspaper De Telegraaf has produced its own iPad concept video:

But according to this week's census from the Association of Online Publishers (AOP), many UK publishers are taking a more cautious approach to the new device, as managing diector of Mail Online, James Bromley explains: "These are still really really embryonic devices that are great and fantastic, and I want to be at the top of the queue to buy one and play with it. But we're talking about a very, very narrow subsection of society that will have these in 2010. This is the time that we learn about these devices - 2011, 2012, 2013 is when these might become slightly more mainstream."

So what's the thinking for publishers who are preparing for an iPad app launch in 2010? spoke to one such organisation, US magazine Interview, which is readying itself for an iPad release next month. Interview's Scott Lambert sees the iPad as the future of publishing:

When will the first Interview issue for iPad be available?
[SL] The first Interview issue on the iPad (April 2010) will launch on the day the iPad goes on sale. We will also follow with back issues (40th anniversary issue with Kristen Stewart, Dec/Jan 2010 issue with Penelope Cruz and Feb 2010 with Jay-Z). This is the biggest launch of its kind - Interview will be the showcase magazine application for this device.

How much will it cost and are you offering subscription deals?
There will be a subscription-based system in place using Apple's capabilities to deliver this service. The price of an app on the iPad will be $1.99.

Is there something that the iPad offers magazine publishers that previous digital edition technology has not?
The application will utilise all of the latest Apple technology, which for anyone who saw the launch presentation by Steve Jobs will know is mind blowing. We have learned from our digital magazine and iPhone app experience how to deliver in these environments and the Interview Apple iPad app will be the pinnacle of these developments. It will be a true magazine showcase on a screen which is quite simply, made for a title like ours.

At the same time we have a version of Interview for laptops and desktops and another for separate mobile devices; and each of these are extremely high quality products in their own right. It really has to be said though that the iPad is a showcase in its purest form; slick, sexy and portable.

How will you use multimedia in your iPad editions?
The possibilities are endless here. Each issue has video and audio content unique to Interview - there may be a 'behind the scenes' clip showing how one of the photo-shoots is executed or an exclusive track from a featured artist an exclusively extended photo editorial.

The content will deliver an engaging user experience not seen before, and we have also applied these multimedia options to the advertising model. We have a lot of strong interest from a host of luxury brands who are looking for ways to showcase their campaigns on a multimedia rich platform like this. We have the capabilities to provide these clients with mobile, digital, online and print platforms to integrate campaigns like never before.

You're getting on the iPad very early? Why is this?
We have worked closely with Apple in the past and appreciate and see the quality of the technology. Apple is a leader in its field and has again and again shown that high quality design, an eye for detail and the highest possible user experience is essential in this technology age. The iPad is the future and we embrace it openly. No other device available at the moment can provide this kind of mobile experience for our readers - and we are confident that no other magazine can deliver content more suitable to this device.

Do you think the iPad is going to 'save' the publishing industry?
It will certainly become a powerful new platform to express great content. Apple has again played its cards at just the right time to ensure that they deliver something to the market place which is a game-changer. Magazines will survive, we all need to adapt to changes rapidly and effectively. It is important to listen to key stakeholders - our readers and our advertising partners - to know how we can best deliver the magazine experience in new and exciting ways.


Escape Boring Fiction-Discover the Reality and Excitement of Non-Fiction

Posted by John 16 March 2010:

Extolling the virtues of non-fiction and the REAL world today:

by Noelle Myers, writing for the University of Rhode Island student newspaper The Good 5 Cent Cigar:

University of Washington professor and author of "Reality Hunger: A Manifesto," David Shields, gave a lecture yesterday evening in the University of Rhode Island's Lippitt Hall, which concluded the English Department's Read/Write Series.

In his book, Shields discussed the past, present and future state of reality itself, and what it's like to live in 2010.

Shields said his inspiration for the book was two dominant features in his life: growing up with a stutter and living with two parents who were journalists.

"Language is always canceling itself out," Shields said. "[It's] terribly self-reflexive."

Shields began as a fiction writer and his first three books were novels, but he said he eventually became bored with this style of writing. He said he was not only bored with fiction writing, but teaching as well.

When he was first hired at the University of Washington, he was a creative writing professor. As a way of developing his interest in non-fiction, he created a graduate course, which helped him "find a way out" of his boredom and discover the excitement of non-fiction.

The course, "Self-Reflexive Essay and Film," and its material were composed of about 26 chapters, which included one half of Shields' findings.

"The book would never have evolved without the need to articulate to myself and my students what it was about non-fiction that was so exciting," he said.

Shields said he was essentially teaching himself and teaching his students at the same time.

He said the most exciting works of art leave the viewer or reader in a certain state of mind-a feeling he tried to replicate in the style of his writing. In "Reality Hunger: A Manifesto" Shields tried to limit the amount of cited material to try and engage the reader in a more active experience.

There is a note at the end of the book that includes various citations, but it also states that not all quotes or works in his writing are cited. Shields said he wants readers to recognize a quote in his writing and perhaps "Google" the material to find out where it came from. He wants readers to experience confusion about who the book's speaker is, hoping that it would bring excitement to his work.

Shields said few people understood the relationship he was trying to show between the refusal to quote and the points made in his book. Shields had to compromise with the publisher on his citing technique in "Reality Hunger: A Manifesto," as he wanted limited citing to help emphasize the purpose of the book. Shields also organized the book in chapters from letters A to Z to give the illusion that the book is organized and in order. He said it in fact contradicts itself because there is no exact order, which makes the book interesting.

"The main motive of the novel is to drive a narrative forward," he said, and as an author he wants to "make sure the reader keeps turning pages."



"Global Publishing" Published

Posted by John 13 March 2010:

Global Publishing is a great reference guide to worldwide publishing trends, analyses and forecasts. I present this post for all serious publishing enthusiasts: 

Datamonitor's Global Publishing industry profile is an essential resource for top-level data and analysis covering the Publishing industry. It includes detailed data on market size and segmentation, plus textual and graphical analysis of the key trends and competitive landscape, leading companies and demographic information.


* Contains an executive summary and data on value, volume and/or segmentation
* Provides textual analysis of the industry's recent performance and future prospects
* Incorporates in-depth five forces competitive environment analysis and scorecards
* Includes a five-year forecast of the industry
* The leading companies are profiled with supporting key financial metrics
* Supported by the key macroeconomic and demographic data affecting the market


* Detailed information is included on market size, measured by value and/or volume
* Five forces scorecards provide an accessible yet in depth view of the market's competitive landscape

Why you should buy this report

* Spot future trends and developments
* Inform your business decisions
* Add weight to presentations and marketing materials
* Save time carrying out entry-level research

Market Definition

The publishing market consists of books, newspaper and magazines segments. The book publishing industry comprises publishers of academic, professional, general and other (fictions, non-fiction etc) books. Market value refers to the domestic sales of books only at the retail sales price (RSP). The newspaper and magazine segment value is calculated as the revenues generated by publishers from hard or electronic copies of their products, whereas advertising segment represents revenues generated from advertising within those products. Any currency conversions used in the creation of this report have been calculated using constant 2008 annual average exchange rates.

For the purpose of this report the global figure is deemed to comprise of the Americas, Asia-Pacific and Europe.

The Americas comprises Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Mexico, Venezuela, and the US.

Europe comprises Belgium, the Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, the Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Asia-Pacific comprises Australia, China, Japan, India, Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan.

For more information or to purchase this report, go to:


Table of Contents:

CHAPTER 1 Market Overview 7
1.1 Market Definition 7
1.2 Research Highlights 7
1.3 Market Analysis 8
CHAPTER 2 Market Value 9
CHAPTER 3 Market Segmentation I 10
CHAPTER 4 Market Segmentation II 11
CHAPTER 5 Five Forces Analysis 12
5.1 Summary 12
5.2 Buyer Power 14
5.3 Supplier Power 16
5.4 New Entrants 17
5.5 Substitutes 19
5.6 Rivalry 20
CHAPTER 6 Leading Companies 21
6.1 Bertelsmann AG 21
6.2 Time Warner Inc. 24
6.3 Reed Elsevier NV 31
CHAPTER 7 Market Forecasts 37
7.1 Market Value Forecast 37
CHAPTER 8 Appendix 38
8.1 Methodology 38
8.2 Industry Associations 39
8.3 Related Datamonitor Research 39

Table 1: Global Publishing Market Value: $ billion, 2004-2008 9
Table 2: Global Publishing Market Segmentation I: % Share, by Value, 2008 10
Table 3: Global Publishing Market Segmentation II: % Share, by Value, 2008 11
Table 4: Key Facts: Bertelsmann AG 21
Table 5: Key Financials: Bertelsmann AG 23
Table 6: Key Facts: Time Warner Inc. 24
Table 7: Key Financials: Time Warner Inc. 30
Table 8: Key Facts: Reed Elsevier NV 31
Table 9: Key Financials: Reed Elsevier NV 36
Table 10: Global Publishing Market Value Forecast: $ billion, 2008-2013 37

About Datamonitor

The Datamonitor Group is a world-leading provider of premium global business information, delivering independent data, analysis and opinion across the Automotive, Consumer Markets, Energy & Utilities, Financial Services, Logistics & Express, Pharmaceutical & Healthcare, Retail, Technology and Telecoms industries. Datamonitor's market intelligence products and services ensure that you will achieve your desired commercial goals by giving you the insight you need to best respond to your competitive environment. View more research from Datamonitor at

About Fast Market Research

Fast Market Research is an online aggregator and distributor of market research and business information. We represent the world's top research publishers and analysts and provide quick and easy access to the best competitive intelligence available.

For more information about these or related research reports, please visit our website at or call us at 1.800.844.8156        

Bill Thompson



iPad Challenges Traditional Publishing Economics

Posted by John 10 March 2010:

You may no longer have the printing, binding, paper, packaging and shipping costs with the new digital formats...AND, on the selling end, no more brick-and-mortar stores, leasing space and employees; BUT, you still have editors, researchers, fact checkers, etc, etc. The new digital content cost formula should include these for better quality. Tony Bradley makes a good case  for this in an article he wrote for PC World Business Center: 

There have been various stories about the iPad emerging as the savior of print media, and an equal selection of reports that print publications have balked at the profit-sharing business model proposed by Apple. Print media appears to be making the same mistake that other traditional entertainment media have made in transitioning to a digital delivery system.

Media businesses--whether music, movies, books, magazines, or newspapers--seem to cling to a pricing model that fails to account for the significantly lower overhead of digital distribution. These entities seem hung up on pricing narcissism, rather than realizing that production costs are different and distribution is almost universal--changing the economics entirely from traditional models.

The problem is not unique to the iPad. It is indicative of traditional media reluctantly embracing digital distribution in all its forms. Amazon--which established the Kindle based on selling new release best-seller's for $9.99--recently experienced a publisher revolt and has had to agree to let major publishers set prices above the $9.99 mark for their titles.

I have written or contributed to a number of books. Royalties are generally calculated as a function of net revenue, not retail price. Distributing a book in ePub or Kindle format doesn't require the same investment in paper, printing, binding, packaging, shipping, etc. On the retail end, there is no brick and mortar store--no need for leasing space, paying employees, etc. Virtually all of the overhead in producing and selling a book is removed.

Basically, publishers should be pricing digital distribution based on what it would expect in net revenue from the traditional distribution method, not based on some calculated percentage of the traditional retail price. I don't know the exact numbers, but If Wiley is only going to n et eight dollars when it sells a printed version of my book, then it should create a digital pricing scheme that nets the same.

The issue goes beyond printed media too. Music CD's typically sell for around 15 dollars. Buying the MP3 version of the songs one at a time ends up costing nearly as much as purchasing the hard copy CD. You might save a few bucks if you buy the MP3 version of the whole album, but not as much as the distributor is saving by not producing and packaging discs, and by erasing the logistical expense of getting the discs to the store shelves.

My IDG peer Robert Cringely points out that there is more to the overhead than the cost of materials and distribution. "The premium rates publications charge(d) for print advertising subsidized a great many things--like teams of researchers, fact checkers, copy editors, and multiple line editors--that online ad models simply don't support."

Fair enough. Publishers should continue to factor those things in to the overhead associated with the digital distribution of their publications. The point stands that materials, and logistics make up a significant portion of the cost of a book, magazine, or newspaper, and that the online economics are entirely different.

There is also an economy of scale to consider. When a publisher prints and distributes a book, it publishes a finite number of copies which it makes available from a finite number of retail establishments. Digital distribution has no such constraints.

It remains to be seen if the iPad will be the savior of print media. The thing is, the iPad will probably do just fine regardless of what happens to print media. However, the reverse is not necessarily true.

Traditional media--whether books, magazines, newspapers, music, or movies--still need to grasp the digital landscape, and the changes that it brings for the economic models they have built their businesses on for decades. Somewhere out there is a revenue structure that creates a win-win-win for the publishers, the platforms (like the iPad and the Kindle), and the customers.



Pondering Good Faith in Publishing

Posted by John 8 March 2010:

Do publishers REALLY check out authors' sources sufficiently. Lately, big spotlighted stories have been less than truthful and have embarrassed some big houses.

Motoko Rich of the New York Times reports this:

'Book publishers have long seen themselves as the gatekeepers of literary culture. But when they’re not looking, the truth has a way of being left at the door.

Last week Henry Holt & Company stopped printing and selling “The Last Train From Hiroshima,” about the atomic bombing of Japan, because its author had relied on a fraudulent source for a portion of the book and possibly fabricated others.

This is not the first time a publisher has been humiliated by an author’s unverified work. But this instance has occurred at a time when the publisher’s traditional role is under economic and technological stress.

With the rise of electronic books, makers of reading devices and online retailers are putting pressure on prices and the traditional book publishing business model. And, as with record labels and newspapers, digital media raises the question of what part the traditional book publisher will play in the future.

“If book publishers are supposed to be the gatekeepers,” said Kurt Andersen, the novelist and host of “Studio 360,” a public radio program, “tell me exactly what they’re closing the gate to.”

In the case of “The Last Train From Hiroshima,” the author, Charles Pellegrino, said he had been duped by a source and insisted that other sources the publisher questioned definitely existed.

Publishers say that responsibility for errors and fabrications ultimately must lie with the author. “It would not be humanly possible to fact-check books the way magazine articles can be fact-checked, just because of length,” said Robert A. Gottlieb, the renowned editor who worked at the publisher Alfred A. Knopf and The New Yorker magazine, which has a celebrated fact-checking department.

But in many recent cases publishers did not seem to ask basic questions of authors, accepting their versions on almost blind faith.

Most notoriously, there was James Frey, who embellished details in his Oprah Winfrey-anointed memoir of addiction, “A Million Little Pieces.” More recently, there was Margaret Seltzer, writing under the pseudonym Margaret B. Jones, who made up a story about being reared by a foster family in gang-ridden South Central Los Angeles; and Herman Rosenblat, a Holocaust survivor who said he originally met his wife as a child while in a Nazi concentration camp, where she threw apples over the fence to him.

“There’s a hazy line between ‘truth’ and invention in creative nonfiction, but good writers don’t have to make things up,” Jeffrey Porter, an associate professor of English and nonfiction writing at the University of Iowa, wrote in an e-mail message. In the case of Mr. Pellegrino, whose book claimed to expose a secret accident with the first atomic bomb, Mr. Porter wrote: “Maybe the idea of a scoop was irresistible. But somebody should have been skeptical.”

Mr. Pellegrino said he had relied on information from a source, Joseph Fuoco, who claimed he was a last-minute substitute as a flight engineer on one of the escort planes for the Enola Gay, the plane that dropped the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Late last month, scientists, historians and veterans denounced Mr. Fuoco as an impostor who did not ride on the mission.

Questions were raised about “Last Train” only after it was published and readers complained. The publisher said it would issue corrected editions, removing references to Mr. Fuoco. But then Holt started examining tips it received about the possibility that other people in the book did not exist, and also began looking into a controversy over Mr. Pellegrino’s Ph.D., which he refers to prominently on his Web site ( and in his author’s biography in the book.

Mr. Pellegrino said he had been awarded the doctorate at Victoria University of Wellington in New Zealand in the early 1980s and then stripped of it a few years later because of a disagreement with department members over evolutionary theory. “It got to be a very hot and nasty topic in 1982,” Mr. Pellegrino said in a telephone interview.

On Thursday, Pat Walsh, vice chancellor of Victoria University, said that Mr. Pellegrino’s claims were “baseless and defamatory” and that the university never awarded him a Ph.D.

Mr. Pellegrino’s literary agent, Elaine Markson, and his editor at Holt, John Macrae, both said they had no reason to examine his credentials.

“I never questioned his scientific background because he was working on Titanic research and other research with laboratories,” Ms. Markson said, referring to Mr. Pellegrino’s previous books.

Mr. Pellegrino also brought some stardust with his project: he had consulted for the director James Cameron on the movies “Titanic” and “Avatar,” and Mr. Cameron optioned “Last Train” for a film about the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

In a telephone interview Mr. Pellegrino talked repeatedly of his supporters, including Stephen Jay Gould, who died in 2002, but who, according to Mr. Pellegrino, knew that he had been academically persecuted. And although agitated, he seemed to believe he could still find a publisher to help him release a corrected electronic or paperback edition.

In a follow-up e-mail message Mr. Pellegrino urged a reporter to call Eric Stover, a former executive director of the science and human rights program of the American Association for the Advancement of Science, to back up his claims.'

Read more 




Jodi Picoult: Her Daily Writing Schedule Under a Microscope

Posted by John 6 March 2010:

Jodi Picoult, 43, is a writer whose stories always involve great characters, good suspense AND my favorite ingredient, a current social issue or problem. A slam-bang formula for best-sellers!

She is the bestselling author of seventeen novels: Songs of the Humpback Whale (1992), Harvesting the Heart (1994), Picture Perfect (1995), Mercy (1996), The Pact (1998), Keeping Faith (1999), Plain Truth (2000), Salem Falls (2001), Perfect Match (2002), Second Glance (2003), My Sister's Keeper(2004), Vanishing Acts (2005), The Tenth Circle (2006) Nineteen Minutes (2007), Change of Heart (2008), Handle With Care (2009) — the last three of which debuted at number one on the New York Times bestseller list, – and her newest novel, , House Rules (2010).

Julia Keller, cultural critic of the Chicago Tribune, published an insightful interview with Ms Picoult in today's issue: 

She takes none of it for granted. Not the sales figures, the fame, the fortune, the fact that her name pops up on best-seller lists with the frequency of freakishly popular scribes such as Stephen King and Mary Higgins Clark.

If you're inclined to trust what Jodi Picoult says — and if you're not, then you're the kind of cynic who probably isn't interested in her or her books, anyway — she is still, after 17 novels and 18 years on the job, just as humble, wide-eyed and hardworking as she was at the beginning of her career.

"I can't believe anyone buys my books," Picoult says from her home near Hanover, N.H. "I would've been happy just being published and having my mother buy a copy. I've been very fortunate.

"It's still a little bit of a miracle."

Even miracles, though, need some muscle behind them. For Picoult, 43, the push comes from a rigorous writing schedule — she's up at 5 each morning and, after a three-mile walk with a longtime pal, settles down in her home office to write until 3:30 p.m., when her three children barge in from school — and an amazing ability to put her finger on hot-button social issues that her novels explore with honesty, authenticity and emotional power.

Her trademark is the domestic drama, the story that puts ordinary people in the midst of contemporary crises: teen suicide, bullying, childhood sexual abuse, school violence. But in novels such as "My Sister's Keeper" (2004), a story about parents who conceive a child so that an earlier child, ill with leukemia, will have a match for blood marrow donation, and which was made into a 2009 movie starring Cameron Diaz, Picoult doesn't use the family-in-peril motif as a cheap gimmick. Her books are written with naturalness and flair. She knows how to tell a story, and how to fill it with intriguing, believable characters.

Her latest novel, "House Rules" (Atria), published last week, is a whodunit with a twist. The young man accused of murder, Jacob Hunt, has Asperger's syndrome. It falls to his plucky mom, Emma, his brooding brother, Theo, and a bumbling young attorney named Oliver to go to bat for Jacob. Like many of Picoult's works, "House Rules" is told from multiple points of view and includes a great deal of information about its theme — Asperger's — but the facts are added gently, artfully, so that it never feels like a term paper.

To research "House Rules," she met with seven young people with Asperger's and corresponded with many more. "It was like cracking open their minds. This was an important part of making Jacob real."

Picoult, a native of Long Island, N.Y., is a graduate of Princeton University. That's where she met her husband, Tim van Leer. She began writing seriously in college and never stopped. "For me, books start with the voices of my characters," she says. "I can hear them all so clearly." And those topical themes? "I worry about these things myself. The things I write about are the things that keep me up at night.

"You don't do this to be famous or to have money. If you're going to write, you do it for you. It's a compulsion. When I don't write, I get itchy. The stories are like something under my skin."

Picoult, who says she receives about 200 e-mails a day through her Web site (, answers every e-mail personally. "If someone is taking time out of their life to read my work and then to write me a letter, it's just good breeding for me to answer.

"I'm a mom. I'm a writer. We have tons of land and livestock. I work hard to have the success I have. That's me, in a nutshell."

But surely there must be a scandal lurking somewhere in her background?

Picoult laughs. "The biggest scandal lately is that my husband broke his ankle in three places, and for a while, I thought I wouldn't be able to go on tour for ‘Home Rules.'"

And in what sneaky, seamy, untoward activity was he engaged when the accident occurred?

"Playing hockey."



Supreme Court Rules Freelance Writers Are Protected For Unregistered Copyrights

Posted by John 4 March 2010:

The Supreme Court ruled on 2 March 2010 that abuse of unregistered as well as registered copyrighted works can be brought to federal court. So it appears writers have another layer of protection against the misuse of intellectual property rights!

Adam Pollack of the San Diego Policy Examiner reports:

Online publishing rules just became more protective of intellectual property rights. The United States Supreme Court decided on March 2, in Reed Elsevier v. Muchnick, freelance authors can bring copyright disputes to a federal court even when they have not registered their copyright. In a unanimous decision, the justices agreed to let a $18 million settlement with online companies stand.

The copyright laws require writers, in most cases, register before suing for infringement. Section 411(a) of Title 17 does not, however, state the federal courts can not have jurisdiction over a case involving authors without registered copyrights. Justice Thomas explained, Congress would have to "clearly state" registration is needed for jurisdiction.

Disputes arose when online publishers and database owners republished author's newspaper and magazine articles without permission, and without payment. Following the court's Tasini decision in 2001, the freelance authors believed they could succeed in suits for infringement against online publishers and database owners. The companies decided to work on a settlement.

After three years of negotiation, six publishers, including Reed Elsevier, the owner of the online newspaper archive on LexisNexis, and New York Times Co., agreed to pay the freelance authors to settle their claims. Ten authors, including Irvin Muchnick, objected. The District Court overruled and approved the settlement in March of 2005. This court put the authors with a registered copyrights and those without registrations into the same class.

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals told the lower court it lacked jurisdiction to combine the authors into one class and approve the settlement. The justices read Section 411(a) to mean a case involving unregistered copyright holders could not be heard.

The National Writers Union, who won the Tasini case, hoped the Supreme Court would protect the freelance authors rights over works published online. President Larry Goldbetter expressed serious concern about the Second Circuit's decision that took away the settlement approval. In October of last year, he said, "To deny these writers their constitutional right to any copyright protection by federal courts contradicts the specific guarantees enshrined in the U.S. Constitution."

Compensation for use of unregistered written works is still a reporter's right the federal courts attend to. Online publishers can work out agreements with the freelance authors on how to republish and pay for the use of the works.




Printed Book Costs vs Digital Book Costs 

Posted by John 1 March 2010:

Were we expecting the price of ebooks to be too low since printing, binding and shipping costs were no longer involved? Other costs like overhead, royalties and marketing are still in effect, are they not? Hell yes they are...which means the low ebook prices during this digital transition period will not remain forever.

Motoko Rich, of the New York Times, dissects the new emerging digital costs in his article: "Math of Publishing Meets the E-Book":

In the emerging world of e-books, many consumers assume it is only logical that publishers are saving vast amounts by not having to print or distribute paper books, leaving room to pass along those savings to their customers.

Publishers largely agree, which is why in negotiations with Apple, five of the six largest publishers of trade books have said they would price most digital editions of new fiction and nonfiction books from $12.99 to $14.99 on the forthcoming iPad tablet — significantly lower than the average $26 price for a hardcover book.

But publishers also say consumers exaggerate the savings and have developed unrealistic expectations about how low the prices of e-books can go. Yes, they say, printing costs may vanish, but a raft of expenses that apply to all books, like overhead, marketing and royalties, are still in effect.

All of which raises the question: Just how much does it actually cost to produce a printed book versus a digital one?

Publishers differ on how they account for various costs, but a composite, and necessarily simplified, picture might look like this, according to interviews with executives at several major houses:

On a typical hardcover, the publisher sets a suggested retail price. Let’s say it is $26. The bookseller will generally pay the publisher $13. Out of that gross revenue, the publisher pays about $3.25 to print, store and ship the book, including unsold copies returned to the publisher by booksellers.

For cover design, typesetting and copy-editing, the publisher pays about 80 cents. Marketing costs average around $1 but may go higher or lower depending on the title. Most of these costs will deline on a per-unit basis as a book sells more copies.

Let’s not forget the author, who is generally paid a 15 percent royalty on the hardcover price, which on a $26 book works out to $3.90. For big best-selling authors — and even occasionally first-time writers whose publishers have taken a risk — the author’s advance may be so large that the author effectively gets a higher slice of the gross revenue. Publishers generally assume they will write off a portion of many authors’ advances because they are not earned back in sales.

Without accounting for such write-offs, the publisher is left with $4.05, out of which it must pay overhead for editors, cover art designers, office space and electricity before taking a profit.

Now let’s look at an e-book. Under the agreements with Apple, the publishers will set the consumer price and the retailer will act as an agent, earning a 30 percent commission on each sale. So on a $12.99 e-book, the publisher takes in $9.09. Out of that gross revenue, the publisher pays about 50 cents to convert the text to a digital file, typeset it in digital form and copy-edit it. Marketing is about 78 cents.

The author’s royalty — a subject of fierce debate between literary agents and publishing executives — is calculated among some of the large trade publishers as 25 percent of the gross revenue, while others are calculating it off the consumer price. So on a $12.99 e-book, the royalty could be anywhere from $2.27 to $3.25.

All that leaves the publisher with something ranging from $4.56 to $5.54, before paying overhead costs or writing off unearned advances.

At a glance, it appears the e-book is more profitable. But publishers point out that e-books still represent a small sliver of total sales, from 3 to 5 percent. If e-book sales start to replace some hardcover sales, the publishers say, they will still have many of the fixed costs associated with print editions, like warehouse space, but they will be spread among fewer print copies.

Moreover, in the current print model, publishers can recoup many of their costs, and start to make higher profits, on paperback editions. If publishers start a new e-book’s life at a price similar to that of a paperback book, and reduce the price later, it may be more difficult to cover costs and support new authors.

Another reason publishers want to avoid lower e-book prices is that print booksellers like Barnes & Noble, Borders and independents across the country would be unable to compete. As more consumers buy electronic readers and become comfortable with reading digitally, if the e-books are priced much lower than the print editions, no one but the aficionados and collectors will want to buy paper books.

Read more:




Amazon’s Desperate Phone Calls To Publishers

Posted by John 26 Feb 2010:

Making deals in the intriguing and on-fire world of e-publishing! Amazon intends not be undersold by iPad...Matt Buchanan, writing for, says it this way:  

Amazon started calling publishers before Steve Jobs had even left the stage at the iPad event, according to the NYT. They wanted to know what Apple promised them – and more importantly, what they promised Apple.

The deal Amazon’s been trying to ink with publishers for the couple months would guarantee that books on the Kindle would be the same price as on any other reader, if not, in fact, cheaper – the incentive, a bigger chunk of revenue, though Apple’s largely screwed that pooch for Amazon with their own offering, which lets publishers set their own prices, which is what publishers are really after: Control. (Though Apple might have more control than expected.)

One of the tidbits with larger implications is that some publishers are running on a month-to-month contract basis with Amazon, instead of a full-blown multi-year agreement, meaning they actually have plenty of room to manoeuvre in negotiations, especially with Apple at their back. What some publishers might do, they told Bits, is sign the Amazon contract now, and just push a limited free app on the iPad, then switching to a full-blown paid model whenever Amazon’s Kindle Touch arrives.

‘Cause that’ll make things simple.

Senior managers from were calling newspaper, magazine and book publishers trying to glean any information possible about the deals Apple was offering them to supply content for its new reading device.

The clause, a variation of a legal concept known as “most favoured nation,” would guarantee that Amazon’s customers would always get the best price for electronic versions of magazines, newspapers and books.

Many e-publishing contracts with Amazon are still in a month-to-month cycle as the publishers negotiate to try to gain more revenue or more control over their content.

However, to avoid losing their current subscribers on the Kindle, some publishers are considering signing the new Amazon contract now and offering a free, limited application for their content on the iPad. At a later date, when an Amazon product can display richer types of media, publishers could release a paid product that looks and works the same across multiple devices.




Asylum for the verbally Insane

Posted by John 24 Feb 2010:

We'll begin with a box, and the plural is boxes
But the plural of ox becomes oxen, not oxes
One fowl is a goose, but two are called geese,
yet the plural of moose  should never be meese
You may find a lone mouse or a nest full of mice,
yet the plural of house is houses, not hice.
If the plural of man is always called men
why shouldn't the plural of pan be called pen?
If I speak of my foot and show you my feet,
and I give you a boot, would a  pair be called beet?
If one is a tooth and a whole set are teeth,
why shouldn't the plural of booth be called beeth?
Then one may be that, and three would be those,
yet hat in the plural would never be hose,
and the plural of cat is cats, not cose.
We speak of a brother and also of breathren,
But though we say mother, we never say methren.
Then the masculine pronouns are he, his and him,
But imagine the feminine: she, shis and shim!
let's face it - English is a crazy language. There is no egg in
eggplant nor ham in hamburger, neither apple nor pine
in pineapple.
English muffins weren't invented in England.
We take English for granted, but if we explore its paradoxes,
we find quicksand can work slowly, boxing rings are square,
and a guinea pig is neither from Guinea nor is it a pig.
And why is it that writers write but fingers don't fing,
grocers don't groce and hammers don't ham.
Doesn't it seem crazy that you can make amends but not one amend.
If you have a bunch of odds and ends and get rid
of all but one of them what do you call it?
If teachers taught, why don't preachers praught?
If a vegetarian eats vegetables, what does a humanitarian eat?
Sometimes I think all the folks who grew up speaking English
should be committed to an asylum for the verbally insane.
In what  other language do people recite at a play and play at a recital?
We ship by truck but send cargo by ship
We have noses that run and feet that smell. And how can a slim chance
and a fat chance be the same, while a wise man and a wise guy are opposites?
You have to marvel at the unique lunacy of a language in which your
 house can burn up as it burns down, in which you fill in a form
by filling it out, and in which an alarm goes off by going on.
So if father is pop, how come mother isn't mop?
And that is just the beginning - even though this is the end.
Everything works out in the end, if it hasn't worked out,
it's not the end. 


How Do Laid-Off Journalists Reinvent Their Careers?

Posted by John 23 Feb 2010:

If you're a journalist, the present times are rough and scary...If you haven't already been laid off, you're constantly looking over your shoulder. Bill Lucey has written a very resourceful article for the Huffington Post delving into how journalists can remake and update themselves to become more marketable in the job market...Regardless of age!

Bill Lucey says:
It's not exactly breaking news to report how the newspaper industry has suffered immeasurable damage during the rapid migration to the Internet, made all the worse by the Great Recession, with lost advertising revenue translating into the shedding of jobs at an alarming rate.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, newsrooms have lost 9,700 jobs from 2001 through 2009, representing a 17 percent decline from 56,400 to 46,700.

With stacks of newsroom employees having been laid-off or forced to accept buyouts from their companies; a large restless battalion of reporters, copy editors, layout editors, and news researchers find themselves out of work, looking for new careers or ways to reinvent themselves in a new competitive technology-based environment without knowing which way to turn.

It can be a frightening, to be sure, not knowing what the future holds in a labor market with unemployment stuck at a grim 9.7 percent, with limited jobs available, especially within the media industry.

Typically, the sage words given to newsroom employees on their way out the door is to find a way to reinvent yourself.

Splendid advice. But unless you're Houdini or David Copperfield, it can be quite the challenge for someone in their late 40's 50's, or even 60's for example, to find ways to reinvent themselves.

But before raising the white flag and crying uncle, there are plenty of resources available online, offering video tutorials, webinars, and career tips to those out of work newspaper employees' trying to acquire new skills and become more marketable.

The Poynter Institute, a school and resource depository for journalists, located in St. Petersburg Fla, offers a variety of journalism courses through their News University website from journalism basics to photo journalism, producing news with your mobile phone, and variety of other ways to develop new skill sets.

Many of these offerings, moreover, are free. And during the coming year, Poynter will begin offering entrepreneurial courses for journalists and citizens interested in creating their own start-ups.

An often overlooked organization that offers a treasure of training tools is the Special Libraries Association (SLA), a professional organization for librarian information specialists working in media, government, law and non-profit organizations.

Membership is $185 for those making between $34,000-75,000 a year. However, if you are unemployed or underemployed, and make less than $18,000, an SLA membership is only $40.000. Membership then gives you access to SLA's online programs, which offers a number of online tutorials, including social networking training, how to create podcasts, setting up your own Wikipedia, converting your articles and text into Adobe, and searching public records.

One major hurdle many former newspaper employees are finding by going it alone on their own websites and personal blogs is they are without many of the handy tools they had in the newsroom, such as Nexis and Factiva. Searching through Google News and the New York Times historical archives, can only carry you so far.

If you are under a tight budget, buying a subscription to Nexis is practically out of the question.

Thankfully, however, there are some options worth pursuing.

LexisNexis and MediaBistro have partnered to offer access to Nexis' archives, a perfect tool for independent journalists. Once establishing a membership with AvantGuild, Nexis archives, which includes thousands of national and international sources, are available to members for $59.00 a month.

Even if this package is still too rich for your blood, a spokesperson from Nexis said the company "will work with independent journalists directly to try and put together a package that makes sense for their unique needs.''

Aside from offering Nexis archives, MediaBistro also features a variety of online courses taught through their "On Demand Video'' section, which offers hundreds of tutorials on using social media platforms or building a media business through user content and engagement.

Yet another alternative available to independent journalists and news researchers looking for news articles is through NewsLibrary, where millions of full-text articles nationwide are available for $19.95 a month or $2.95 per article.

And for those hard to find news articles, Newsbank Inc. additionally offers News in History, featuring news articles from all 50 U.S. states published from 1800 through 2000 and searchable through a single database. The subscription is $9.95 a month or $69.95 for an annual membership.

But even with all these new online searching tools, photo gadgets, and social media platforms saturating journalism, and being embraced by newspapers, seasoned professionals caution that news professionals shouldn't neglect the basics of being a good reporter or a sound news researcher.

Contacted on her cell phone, Dana Canedy, a senior editor at The New York Times, whose job responsibilities also include recruiting, tells me "despite the painful time the industry is going through, we shouldn't forget that whatever the medium and whatever kind of delivery system, whether it be through the Internet or print publications, the same principles apply, the same skills sets still apply.''

While all the bells and whistles of the new journalism (twittering, social networking, capturing images with your cell phone are certainly an added bonus to any newsroom); Canedy thinks they are only part of the package of what most newspapers are looking for from their newsroom staff.

It was reporters fluent in French, Canedy points out, that became indispensable to editors with the Haiti earthquake; and strong vivid concise reporting skills that led to staffers being dispatched to Iran that became important, more important than podcasts and social networking.

Colleen Eddy, Director of the Career Center at Poynter, tells me the most common attributes editors' tell her they are looking for are those individuals who are "adaptable to change, able to learn on the fly, have technical savvy, and know the value of teamwork and collaboration.''

And for those out of work journalists who think they are being pushed aside by a younger breed of tech journalists, Eddy says, forget about age. Instead, focus on your value by getting a career coach who will help you list your most transferable skills and market yourself. "Network, network, network! and stay young at heart'' Eddy stresses.

Who can argue with staying young at heart?



Hurt Locker and Up in the Air win Writers Guild of America writing awards

Posted by John 22 Feb 2010:

Iraq war drama The Hurt Locker and recession romance Up in the Air won top honours at the Writers Guild of America awards in Los Angeles this weekend.

Journalist Mark Boal won best original screenplay for The Hurt Locker ahead of winning the same award at the Baftas.

Writer-director Jason Reitman and co-writer Sheldon Turner won the adapted screenplay prize for Up in the Air before going on to win again in London.

Mad Men and 30 Rock were named best TV drama and comedy series respectively.

The Writers Guild awards are the last major Hollywood awards ahead of the Oscars, held this year on 7 March.

Both The Hurt Locker and Up in the Air are up for screenplay awards at this year's event.

Also recognised on Saturday was The Cove, a film about the slaughter of dolphins in Japan that won the best documentary screenwriting award.

Writer-director Barry Levinson, of Diner and Rain Man fame, received a lifetime achievement accolade at the event.

So did Larry David, the acclaimed writer and performer behind the TV comedies Seinfeld and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

Reitman, who did not attend the Baftas, thanked his father Ivan, best known as the director of Ghostbusters, as he picked up his award.

Boal, meanwhile, acknowledged the troops in Iraq with whom he had been embedded as a journalist before he wrote his screenplay about bomb disposal experts stationed in the war-torn country.




Publishing: The Revolutionary Future

Posted by John 19 Feb 2010:

A vision of publishing in the digital age by veteran editor and publisher Jason Epstein, a founder of The New York Review:

The transition within the book publishing industry from physical inventory stored in a warehouse and trucked to retailers to digital files stored in cyberspace and delivered almost anywhere on earth as quickly and cheaply as e-mail is now underway and irreversible. This historic shift will radically transform worldwide book publishing, the cultures it affects and on which it depends. Meanwhile, for quite different reasons, the genteel book business that I joined more than a half-century ago is already on edge, suffering from a gambler's unbreakable addiction to risky, seasonal best sellers, many of which don't recoup their costs, and the simultaneous deterioration of backlist, the vital annuity on which book publishers had in better days relied for year-to-year stability through bad times and good. The crisis of confidence reflects these intersecting shocks, an overspecialized marketplace dominated by high-risk ephemera and a technological shift orders of magnitude greater than the momentous evolution from monkish scriptoria to movable type launched in Gutenberg's German city of Mainz six centuries ago.

Though Gutenberg's invention made possible our modern world with all its wonders and woes, no one, much less Gutenberg himself, could have foreseen that his press would have this effect. And no one today can foresee except in broad and sketchy outline the far greater impact that digitization will have on our own future. With the earth trembling beneath them, it is no wonder that publishers with one foot in the crumbling past and the other seeking solid ground in an uncertain future hesitate to seize the opportunity that digitization offers them to restore, expand, and promote their backlists to a decentralized, worldwide marketplace. New technologies, however, do not await permission. They are, to use Schumpeter's overused term, disruptive, as nonnegotiable as earthquakes.

Gutenberg's technology was the sine qua non for the rebirth of the West, as if literacy, scientific method, and constitutional government had been implicit all along, awaiting only Gutenberg to throw the switch. Within fifty years presses were operating from one end of Europe to the other, halting only at the borders of Islam, which shunned the press. Perhaps from the same fear of disruptive literacy that alarmed Islam, China ignored a phonetic transcription of its ideographs, attributed to a Korean emperor, that might have permitted the use of movable type.

The resistance today by publishers to the onrushing digital future does not arise from fear of disruptive literacy, but from the understandable fear of their own obsolescence and the complexity of the digital transformation that awaits them, one in which much of their traditional infrastructure and perhaps they too will be redundant. Karl Marx wrote of the revolutions of 1848 in his Communist Manifesto that all that is solid melts into air. His vision of a workers' paradise was of course wrong by 180 degrees, the triumph of wish over experience. What melted soon solidified as industrial capitalism, a paradise for some at the expense of the many. But Marx's potent image fits the publishing industry today as its capital-intensive infrastructure—presses, warehouses stacked with fully returnable physical inventory, its retail market constrained by costly real estate—faces dissolution within a vast cloud in which all the world's books will eventually reside as digital files to be downloaded instantly title by title wherever on earth connectivity exists, and printed and bound on demand at point of sale one copy at a time by the Espresso Book Machine[1] as library-quality paperbacks, or transmitted to electronic reading devices including Kindles, Sony Readers, and their multiuse successors, among them most recently Apple's iPad. The unprecedented ability of this technology to offer a vast new multilingual marketplace a practically limitless choice of titles will displace the Gutenberg system with or without the cooperation of its current executives.

Read more



Is This The Most Exciting Time Ever For Book Lovers?

Posted by John 17 Feb 2010:

At the same time that so many are decrying the shrinking publishing industry and the printed word, others are saying that with the introduction of eBooks, eReaders, slate computers, eInk, etc, etc...books and reading are on many more people's minds than ever before!

Jason Pinter, bestselling thriller writer, wrote the following for Huffington Post:
Amidst all the doom and gloom (Books are dying! Print is dead! The Kindle will destroy us all! Big Publishers want to kill your pets! ARMAGEDDON IS NIGH!!!), I just want to take a moment to proclaim that this is quite possibly the most exciting period to be a reader in my lifetime. Think about it: when was the last time books and publishing were as much a part of the daily conversation as they are now? So enough with the catastrophic headlines. They might draw traffic and get people riled up, but they're empty bloviations. The bottom line is that, in my opinion, the written word is healthier than ever. The health of the book industry is never about the success of one book--it's a rising tide that lifts all ships. And the tide of buzz about books and publishing is perhaps higher than ever.

Sure individual books and authors have garnered their share of headlines--J.K. Rowling, Dan Brown, Alice Sebold, Stephenie Meyer, etc...--but in my thirty years on this planet, I cannot remember a time when so many people were discussing books themselves, the future of books, and what it all means for everyone involved. All in all books have a 'buzz' about them that I can't recall ever sensing. The future of publishing feels like an important discussion well outside the cul-de-sac of the industry itself, and there are more books and book-related discussions than I can remember in a long, long time.

So this is my 'The glass is half full' column, but in fact I think the glass is way, way more than half full. Let's look at a few of these discussions:

--Ebooks are on the rise. Hachette Book Group--one of the "Big 5" publishers--recently stated that ebooks accounted for 5% of their earnings in December 2009. Remember, this is a billion dollar company, so 5% is hardly small potatoes. Back in October, Michael Pietsch, Publisher of Little, Brown, stated that for LB's biggest authors, ebooks accounted for up to 15% of total sales.

--A movie based on one of the most popular children's series in the last decade opened to huge numbers. No, not "Twilight," but "Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief", based on the first book in Rick Riordan's series, which grossed over $38,000,000 over the President's Day weekend. Oh, and that whole "Twilight" thing? Well "Twilight: New Moon" has grossed over $295,000,000 since opening in October. Add to that the huge success of "The Blind Side," "Sherlock Holmes," "Up In The Air," "Dear John" and "Precious," and the hottest properties in Hollywood are based on literature. And that's not even counting films and television shows based on comic books and graphic novels.

--The Amazon/Macmillan brouhaha over ebook pricing spilled over into the mainstream media, covered everywhere from the New York Times to Gizmodo and earning comments from corporate titans like Rupert Murdoch. In the midst of al this, there was a public backlash towards the retailer in support of Macmillan authors whose books had their 'Buy Now' buttons removed, essentially cutting off their sales from that outlet. When was the last time the public at large cared this much about a corporate dispute about the pricing of books? Book publishing and pricing is no longer Inside Baseball, but something that the public now realizes impacts content creators and distributors, which in turn impacts their lives. I say that's a good thing.

--The Apple iPad was premiered, with Steve Jobs set to launch the new iBooks site, which he hopes will do for books what iTunes did for music. Between the iPad and the Barnes & Noble Nook we are ensured that there will be competition for the Amazon Kindle, so that books can be fairly priced and publishers can find the perfect X/Y axis at which to price ebooks, sell the most copies, without being bullied by one company with a grossly large market share.

--At CES, no fewer than a dozen e-readers were showcased and will soon hit the market. Clearly many manufacturers feel this is a growing industry, and one that publishers hope will expand the book market as a whole, drawing in hesitant and non-readers open to newfangled technology.

--Stieg Larsson, a Swedish journalist who died six years ago, has enthralled readers around the globe with his Millennium Trilogy (The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played With Fire, The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest). The trilogy has sold somewhere in the range of 30 million copies around the world (approximately 1 in 3 Swedes owns one), and the Swedish film adaptation is scheduled to be released in the U.S. in March with an American adaptation tentatively scheduled to be released in 2012. Add to that the scandal surrounding Larsson's death and subsequent fight for his millions between Larsson's longtime girlfriend and his family, and you have a thrilling book series with the backdrop of a family dispute worthy of Henrik Vanger himself.

--Book reviews are on the decline...but on the rise are hundreds of reader blogs and social networking sites such as Shelfari, Red Room, Goodreads and Bookcrossing that allow readers to interact with each other, write reviews, and recommend their favorite reads to one another. Not to mention the cornucopia of author blogs which grant us entry into the lives of authors--revealing the fascinating, irreverent and, of course, the truly mundane. Books and literature, at their heart, are communal experiences, and the Interwebs are a fertile soil for these communities to prosper.

--Social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook (sorry MySpace) host hundreds and hundreds of authors who interact with their fans on a minute-to-minute basis. Authors are now able to construct their very own platforms, a necessity as book reviews and traditional coverage has dwindled. 'Off the Book Page' coverage is more important than ever. And never has it been easier for a reader to finish a book, post their thoughts, then get feedback from the author him/herself.

Enough with the gloom and doom. These days I'm excited to be an author and even more excited to be a reader. Never before has it been easier to find a new release or an out-of-print backlist title, from the comfort of your local independent to the ease of an online retailer to the portability of an e-reader. And never has it been easier for a book lover to communicate with their fellow readers and even authors themselves.

Books are about community and the joy of storytelling. For my money, this is the brightest the present and future of books has looked in a long, long time.



Publishers Fear the Bite of Apple's Revenue Model

Posted by John 15 Feb 2010:

Apple's Steve Jobs is meeting with reps of magazines and newspapers in addition to book publishers to also pull them into the iPad lifeboat...The publishing industries' lifesaver! Or so everyone hopes! But, many obstacles have to be overcome, such as subscriber data sharing by Apple to allow the periodical publishers to track and manage lists for future sales.

More details are included in this Financial Times article by Kenneth Li in New York:
When Steve Jobs, Apple chief executive, unveiled the iPad late last month, the big question among media executives was how it would transform their businesses. Now, they have at least two answers and a tangle of fresh questions.

Apple scored an early hit with the debut of an online bookstore to accompany the arrival of its digital tablet, in the process rewriting the economics of the e-books industry. But the device's ability to transform other media segments will be more challenging.

Apple answered one question by acknowledging that it wanted to go beyond the iBookstore that Mr Jobs unveiled last month and construct a well-stocked online shelf of newspapers and magazines, according to executives.

Discussions about selling publications through the new store have stumbled on key issues.

Mr Jobs, who looked "much healthier in person" than he did on stage a week ago, according to one publishing executive, and whose health has been the subject of speculation in recent years, spent the first week of February courting publishers and the news media in New York.

Over three days, he met executives and reporters at the New York Times and News Corp. He had private meetings with Rupert Murdoch, chairman of News Corp, and about a dozen editorial leaders at Time Inc, including Ann Moore, chief executive.

Mr Jobs articulated his belief that a "functioning media" is vital to a "functioning democracy" and how his "gorgeous" device would help safeguard that role. "It sounds good to hear that from someone who's making that kind of money that what you do is invaluable," says one person with knowledge of the meetings.

Still, Mr Jobs has been unable to shake off the suspicion among publishers that what he terms the "the most important thing I've done" could also come to represent the most important issue publishers will have to deal with in their careers.

The question haunting publishers is whether they will suffer the same fate as the music industry, which was hit by Apple's 2003 deal to unbundle the album format by offering downloads of individual songs via iTunes.

Alternatively, could the iPad become this generation's iPod - a galvanizing force that will alter the media landscape and retrain consumers weaned on free web content to begin paying again?

"There are lots of questions about the revenue model," according to Steve Hasker, president of media at Nielsen, the media measurement group. "Is it swapping analogue dollars for digital pennies, or a viable and exciting growth path for newspapers, magazines, book publishers and producers of video?"

Ideally, publishers hope Apple's periodicals store will operate as seamlessly as iTunes does for music, films and television shows by offering simple, one-click purchases.

But Apple's history of sharing limited consumer information with partners beyond sales volume data could prove a "deal breaker" for publishers, says one senior media executive in discussions with Apple.

"Customer data is everything," another magazine publisher said shortly after the iPad launch. With publishers' having spent decades gathering information from subscribers, Apple's policy could rob them of their most valuable asset.

"We have for many years relied on subscriptions to be able to communicate with our readers," said Sara Öhrvall , senior vicepresident of research at Swedish publisher Bonnier. "It is absolutely crucial to keep the data. That's something that our advertisers need. It is something that we need."

Without the ability to identify customers on different digital platforms, publishers would be unable to offer print subscribers discounts or free access to new digital versions.

Customers "will be really upset if we try to charge [them] again", Ms Öhrvall says. Whether it's an Apple device or another device, "it's a deal killer".

So far, newspapers such as News Corp's Wall Street Journal have got round the data issue by offering free software on Apple's Apps store that allows subscribers to log on to the Journal website from their iPhone web browser. But it is more complicated than purchasing directly from iTunes.

Publishers, that have flocked to's Kindle e-reader store since 2007, now face the prospect of losing connections with customers due to the burgeoning e-reader segment. After initially receiving limited sets of customer data from Amazon, the online retailer abruptly cut off access a few months later with little explanation, one newspaper publishing executive complained.




Getting Your Book Reviewed

Posted by John 13 Feb 2010:

Happy Valentines Day all! Hope every single one of you have found love in some significant way on this day...Or will in the remaining year.

Let's shed a little love and info on courageous self-publishers today! How does an unknown, self-published author get his book reviewed? This really does help sales. He uses professional "book review" companies or other critically acclaimed review venues such as and the American Library Association (ALA) to name two.

Click here or go to and click on the "Self-Publish with Us" link at the bottom of the page.

Book reviews give the prospective buyer an idea of the story without giving away the ending and surprise tid-bits; also, buyers are more likely to purchase if someone else likes or loves the book...



Anne Rice Tries Her First Video-Enchanced Book

Posted by John 11 Feb 2010:

Motoko Rich of the New York Times reported on a multimedia company that is enhancing e-

books with video:

A 26-year-old short story by Anne Rice, the author of “Interview With a Vampire” and the “Songs of the Seraphim” series, will soon become a video-enhanced digital book to be sold for viewing and reading on iPhones, personal computers and other Internet-connected devices. Ms. Rice has sold the multimedia rights to make a so-called vook of “The Master of Rampling Gate,” a vampire story, to Vook, a multimedia company that has joined with publishers and authors to make enhanced editions of electronic books. The story was originally published in Redbook magazine in 1984. “I think the whole idea is very exciting,” Ms. Rice said in a telephone interview. “We’re in the midst of some kind of revolution here.” Bradley Inman, chief executive of Vook, said the special edition, which is to be released on March 1, will include a video interview with Ms. Rice and a tour of New Orleans led by her son, Christopher Rice, an author in his own right.




Why E-Books Must Cost More

Posted by John 9 Feb 2010:

A good analysis of the subject is given by David Coursey of PCWorld:

Big increases in e-book prices seem like a bad deal for consumers. They may be necessary, however, to keep authors and publishers in business as e-books replace paper ones.

The occasion for this discussion is Amazon's capitulation to Macmillan and others over the publishers' demand for greater flexibility in e-book pricing. Amazon has been selling many e-books for $9.99, while Macmillan wanted to add perhaps $5 to the price.

Amazon gave in and other publishers have been following suit.

The reason for the sudden pressure on Amazon?

Steve Jobs.

Apple made iBooks deals that give publishers flexibility in pricing e-books for the iPad. This is, of course, a complete turn from Apple's firm demand for standardized, across-the-board iTunes pricing.

If you are in the media business or just interested in other people's business models, let me explain how the publishing industry works. The numbers and examples are from discussions with friends in the business and are intended to be fairly non-specific.

Before I continue, let me disclose that in the past I have authored two books, so I am not an unbiased observer. Still, I think I can present the matter fairly.

Here goes:

Until recently, Amazon demanded a 70 percent cut of e-book sales. At $9.99-a-book, that left a whopping $3.00 for the publisher. Compare that to a 50/50 split for a paper book that might cost $26.95 in a store. At that price, the publisher got about $13.50.

Sure, it costs more to print and distribute paper books, but not so much as you'd think. Publishers would much rather sell a hardcover or paperback and get $10-$15 a copy than sell an e-book at get $3.00.

Consider that the author, who might have spent weeks/months/years working on the book, may be paid a 10-15 percent commission on the wholesale price. At $3.00 that's 30-45-cents-per-book. At $13.50, it's $1.35 to $2.00. A huge difference for the author.

Amazon, I am told, recently increased publishers' share of e-book sales to 50 percent. Now our $9.99 e-book delivers $5 back to the publisher.

A new $14.99 e-book price gives the publisher $7.50, a price that according to my publishing industry friends more approaches the actual cost difference between e-books, paperbacks, and hardcover editions. It also makes the e-book a tad less attractive to bargain hunters who'd otherwise buy a "real" book.

At $14.99 with a 50/50 split, writing and publishing e-books looks like a real business. When the bookseller takes 70 percent of a $9.99 sale, it means that a lot of books won't be written or published. Only a blockbuster could possibly make real money at such a low price.

(I have seen reports that Amazon sometimes paid more for e-books and subsidized the price down to $9.99. Not a long term winning deal for anyone).

As a consumer, the price increase upsets me and makes me mad at publishers. As the author of two computer books, I have some understanding of publishing economics and I am impressed that Macmillan stood up to Amazon on their authors' (and their own) behalf.

If the world is ever going to replace physical books with electronic ones, a new pricing model in needed. Macmillan, with an assist from Apple, has pushed Amazon to accept what may be a sustainable business model.

And that's good for authors, publishers, and, ultimately, readers.

David Coursey has been writing about technology products and companies for more than 25 years. He tweets as @techinciter and may be contacted via his Web site.



America Is Not Yet Lost

Posted by John 8 Feb 2010:

Today, a writer's thoughts on the present political atmosphere...It just so happens that I've been a fan of Paul Krugman, pulitzer prize winning columnist for the New York Times, long before he won his prestigious award. His op-ed on the latest GOP obstructionism and semi-governmental paralysis expresses my feelings exactly:    

We’ve always known that America’s reign as the world’s greatest nation would eventually end. But most of us imagined that our downfall, when it came, would be something grand and tragic.

What we’re getting instead is less a tragedy than a deadly farce. Instead of fraying under the strain of imperial overstretch, we’re paralyzed by procedure. Instead of re-enacting the decline and fall of Rome, we’re re-enacting the dissolution of 18th-century Poland.

A brief history lesson: In the 17th and 18th centuries, the Polish legislature, the Sejm, operated on the unanimity principle: any member could nullify legislation by shouting “I do not allow!” This made the nation largely ungovernable, and neighboring regimes began hacking off pieces of its territory. By 1795 Poland had disappeared, not to re-emerge for more than a century.

Today, the U.S. Senate seems determined to make the Sejm look good by comparison.

Last week, after nine months, the Senate finally approved Martha Johnson to head the General Services Administration, which runs government buildings and purchases supplies. It’s an essentially nonpolitical position, and nobody questioned Ms. Johnson’s qualifications: she was approved by a vote of 94 to 2. But Senator Christopher Bond, Republican of Missouri, had put a “hold” on her appointment to pressure the government into approving a building project in Kansas City.

This dubious achievement may have inspired Senator Richard Shelby, Republican of Alabama. In any case, Mr. Shelby has now placed a hold on all outstanding Obama administration nominations — about 70 high-level government positions — until his state gets a tanker contract and a counterterrorism center.

What gives individual senators this kind of power? Much of the Senate’s business relies on unanimous consent: it’s difficult to get anything done unless everyone agrees on procedure. And a tradition has grown up under which senators, in return for not gumming up everything, get the right to block nominees they don’t like.

In the past, holds were used sparingly. That’s because, as a Congressional Research Service report on the practice says, the Senate used to be ruled by “traditions of comity, courtesy, reciprocity, and accommodation.” But that was then. Rules that used to be workable have become crippling now that one of the nation’s major political parties has descended into nihilism, seeing no harm — in fact, political dividends — in making the nation ungovernable.

How bad is it? It’s so bad that I miss Newt Gingrich.

Readers may recall that in 1995 Mr. Gingrich, then speaker of the House, cut off the federal government’s funding and forced a temporary government shutdown. It was ugly and extreme, but at least Mr. Gingrich had specific demands: he wanted Bill Clinton to agree to sharp cuts in Medicare.

Today, by contrast, the Republican leaders refuse to offer any specific proposals. They inveigh against the deficit — and last month their senators voted in lockstep against any increase in the federal debt limit, a move that would have precipitated another government shutdown if Democrats hadn’t had 60 votes. But they also denounce anything that might actually reduce the deficit, including, ironically, any effort to spend Medicare funds more wisely.

And with the national G.O.P. having abdicated any responsibility for making things work, it’s only natural that individual senators should feel free to take the nation hostage until they get their pet projects funded.

The truth is that given the state of American politics, the way the Senate works is no longer consistent with a functioning government. Senators themselves should recognize this fact and push through changes in those rules, including eliminating or at least limiting the filibuster. This is something they could and should do, by majority vote, on the first day of the next Senate session.

Don’t hold your breath. As it is, Democrats don’t even seem able to score political points by highlighting their opponents’ obstructionism.

It should be a simple message (and it should have been the central message in Massachusetts): a vote for a Republican, no matter what you think of him as a person, is a vote for paralysis. But by now, we know how the Obama administration deals with those who would destroy it: it goes straight for the capillaries. Sure enough, Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, accused Mr. Shelby of “silliness.” Yep, that will really resonate with voters.

After the dissolution of Poland, a Polish officer serving under Napoleon penned a song that eventually — after the country’s post-World War I resurrection — became the country’s national anthem. It begins, “Poland is not yet lost.”

Well, America is not yet lost. But the Senate is working on it.



NSFW: Hey, 1997 ? Macmillan Called, They Want the Net Book Agreement Back

Posted by John 7 Feb 2010:

Are the higher eBook prices fought for by Macmillan against Amazon really going to help publishers and authors?

Read what Paul Carr of The Washington Post thinks about this subject:

This time last week I rattled off the world's laziest column. I was struggling against my book deadline which expired 24 hours later and I simply didn't have time to write anything else. This week should have been different; I should have finished the book days ago and now be sitting on a beach in the Caribbean, sipping a Diet Coke martini and lazily writing a long, well-thought-out column about some vital issue of the day. Why it's inadvisable to write a mea culpa in the passive voice (otherwise it's just a 'culpa'). Something like that.

And yet, the fact that, seven days later, I'm still sitting at my desk and I still haven't delivered the manuscript to my publisher, should give a hint to how perilous things are right now. I'm Wile E. Coyote about five seconds after he looks down and realises he's overshot the cliff. And yet despite my urge to sack off this week's column and focus on lessening the size of crater I'm about to leave in the desert floor, there's something on which I can't remain silent on any longer. Four words which I've been seeing again and again all week, and which threaten to drive me mad.

"A victory for authors."

That's how some people are describing Amazon's capitulation to Macmillan over the pricing of ebooks. They say it in the same tone as people describe more expensive milk as "a victory for farmers" or subsidies for domestic cars as "a victory for American auto workers", which is to say the same tone as you might use to pity a cat with three legs.

Poor authors, after all, need all the help they can get. They work for years on their Great Novel, probably subsisting on stale cheese and rats' milk as they do so, and what thanks do they get? A measly royalty, chipped away at by heavy discounting in book stores. Thank God then for Macmillan taking a stand against Amazon and its aggressive discounting. And thank Jesus for all of the other publishers bravely following them.

Oh please.

First a few facts, in the form of a disclosure statement. I am an author. Before that I was a publisher. Although my publisher is now Hachette, I've been published in the past by Macmillan, both in the UK and the US. Macmillan were a partner of the publishing house I co-founded, and were responsible for distributing all of our titles. Richard Charkin, the former CEO of Macmillan, was an advisor. I like Macmillan. I feel, then, somewhat qualified to call bullshit on the claim that this deal is good for anyone...including Macmillan and especially including authors.




Publishers Line Up Against Amazon’s $9.99 E-books

Posted by John 5 Feb 2010:

The ten-dollar e-book may soon be gone, replaced by the fifteen-dollar eBook.

Last week, VentureBeat broke the news that Amazon had removed all Macmillan titles from its U.S. site and its Kindle downloads. You could look up the books, but you could only buy them from third party sellers, not from Amazon.

The move turned out to be a reaction against Macmillan’s shift from a wholesale-retail relationship with Amazon to what the book industry calls an “agency model” for Macmillan’s e-books.

The term has nothing to do with the book agents who wrangle writers. Rather, it means that Macmillan now treats Amazon as a selling agent, not a retailer. That means Macmillan gets to set the price of its e-book titles on Amazon. In return, Macmillan claimed in a public statement, Amazon will now get a larger commission from each e-book sale.

What this means for  you: Macmillan e-books will not longer be $9.99 on Amazon, a loss-leader price designed to drive adoption of Amazon’s Kindle e-reader. Instead, Macmillan will demand $14.99 to $15.99 per e-book, with new bestsellers possibly going for $12.99.

Since last week, two more publishers have switched to an agency model for e-books. HarperCollins and Hachette, two very large and very powerful publishers, have also moved against Amazon’s $9.99 price.

Unlike Macmillan, Amazon has not removed these publishers’ books. An Amazon statement last week said, “We will have to accept Macmillan’s terms.” Obviously, the same goes for Hachette and HarperCollins.

Technology blog SoftSailor whipped up an illustration that explains a big part of the causality behind these publishers’ moves: They’re all partnered with Apple to create e-books for Apple’s new iBook store. As announced last week by Apple chief Steve Jobs, iBook prices will be compatible with the higher pricing sought by the publishers. Macmillan, Hachette and HarperCollins were three of five publishers that Jobs showed on a slide during the launch event for Apple’s iPad tablet computer.

Conventional wisdom among book industry gossips is that the other two publishers on the slide, Penguin and Simon & Schuster, will soon follow with their own agency models for e-books.

In a post-event interview last week, Wall Street Journal tech columnist Walt Mossberg asked Jobs to justify Apple’s $14.99 price versus Amazon’s $9.99. “That won’t be the case,” Jobs replied. “The prices will be the same.” Notably, Jobs didn’t answer Mossberg’s question as to whether Apple’s price would come down, or Amazon’s price would go up. Now we know.


Five Things Your Digital Staff Is Dying To Tell You

Posted by John 4 Feb 2010:

Todays "Thought for the Day" is from Matt Kinsman of FOLIO magazine:

Digital media may have grown from basically zero to 8 to 15 percent of total revenue for most magazine publishers in recent years but the gulf between online staffers and traditional employees (particularly the executive level) remains large.

Below are five verbatims from a mix of e-media strategists, developers, project managers and digital marketers on what they would love for the rest of their colleagues to realize.

1. "Instead of designing a site around editorial or spending days fretting over what color to make a link, actually think about a business model. Too many times we are tasked with a huge design and programming effort only to have someone say, ‘Oh, we'll just sell ads on it.' And then they don't. There's money to be made online, but you actually need a product to sell."

2. "All the higher-ups are publishing people. You need C-level people who understand the technology and what it takes to market a successful web business. When they do hire someone with a digital background, it's almost never someone with any practical development or business experience. They prefer the types that like to sit around all day with overpriced agencies fantasizing about ‘user experience.'"

3. "Trust our advice. We're always happy to explain if you're willing to learn. Publishing people say they want to understand digital, but in practice they are stuck in their old ways, and keep going back to what they know."

4. "Don't launch a Web product without a serious marketing plan to drive traffic. And no, a few e-mails to our existing customer base and two Google ads don't cut it."

5. "I'm not in IT. I'm not here to fix your printer."


Top Tools for Writers

Posted by John 2 Feb 2010:

Allena Tapia of gives excellent, consistent advice on freelance writing. She recently wrote on these top tools for writers to better practice their craft:

Although freelance writing is a relatively cheap undertaking, needing, at the very least, access to a computer, freelancers will find that a few tools of the trade will ramp up their prose and help them to more efficiently write the copy that gets them paid.

1. Chicago Manual of Style, or the Style Book of Your Choice
The style book that a writer uses depends on several factors, including the discipline in which you write, the needs of your clients, and perhaps even personal tastes. Many style books offer both an online subscription service in addition to a printed manual.

2. Digital Voice Recorder
Whether conducting interviews over the phone or in person, freelancers who write profiles or quote sources need a recording device. Prices vary widely, but a $30 no-frills recorder will be able to upload MP3s directly to your computer for transcription.

3. ReadPlease Software, Or the Proofreading Tool of Your Choice
ReadPlease is software that reads your text directly back to you, hence helping with proofreading, especially in errors of omission. However, writers swear by their text editing program of choice. One that was recently recommended to me: ErrNet. Get more polished copy by using whatever works for you!
Vendor's Site

4. Dictionaries, Word Books, Etc.
Again, your specific choice may be heavily dependent on the clients you serve. Certain industries will defer to certain dictionaries. In addition, some clients may require you to use specialized books. For example, an educational publisher that I worked for asked me to refer to a dictionary that assigned words to certain age levels- and I had to carefully mesh my vocab with the correct level..

5. Portable Writing Device
Let's face it, writers get ideas on-the-go. In addition, sometimes dragging the laptop around just isn't realistic. Portable writing systems like the Alphasmart Neo may be just the answer to the "should I pack my laptop or not?" question. In addition, it's a good idea to have an even smaller system for capturing ideas and pieces of copy. Many writers report using small journals, cell phone memo features, or smart phone/PDAs to quickly net ideas to take back to the office.
Manufacturer's SiteRead Review


Why Would a Designer Want an iPad?

Posted by John 30 Jan 2010:

Good question! This from Jacci Howard Bear's Blog at

In case you haven't heard, Apple has a new iThingamajig... the iPad. Macs Guide Tom Nelson tells us that Apple's Magical iPad "blurs many lines and effectively creates a new product category." It's sort of a netbook/eReader/iPhone sort of contraption. From a desktop publishing/design perspective, the features and capabilities of primary interest are:

  • The iPad can run iPhone apps which includes the various photo editing, photo sharing, color picking, font identification, note-taking, and organizational tools used by many on-the-go designers.
  • iWorks for iPad (to be available as separate apps to purchase) isn't exactly desktop publishing software, but it will include Pages (word processor) and Keynote (presentation). Graphics Software Guide Sue Chastain offers up some thoughts on the iPad's potential appeal to digital artists. While I don't find a lot of the iPhone/iPod Touch apps for creating art as appealing as Sue does, I tend to agree with her assessment of the use of those apps on the smaller iPhone/iPod vs. the larger iPad. It doesn't seem to offer much of an advantage over my iPhone except I'm sort of liking the sound of the eBook reader features.



Author J.D. Salinger Doesn't Go Out of Style

Posted by John 28 Jan 2010:

J. D. Salinger, who wrote about phonies in "The Catcher in the Rye" has past away at age 91. His work is still very relevent today and will be in the future. He has been a recluse for many years and we can only hope that in those years he wrote many magnificent works that might be published post-humously.

USA TODAY's Deirdre Donahue wrote this about Salinger:

J. D. Salinger turned his back on the world long before his death Wednesday in New Hampshire at age 91.
The last thing he published was a 25,000-word short story titled "Hapworth 16, 1924" in the June 19, 1965, issue of The New Yorker.

But the reclusive author's work, particularly The Catcher in the Rye, continues to connect with readers.

Narrated by Holden Caulfield, an angry prep school student who rails against "phonies," the novel has sold more than 60 million copies since its publication in 1951.

The Catcher in the Rye has spent 483 weeks in the Top 150 of USA TODAY's Best-Selling Books list, rising as high as No. 19 in July 2001, the month it turned 50.

Only three books have spent more weeks on the list since it was launched in October 1993.

The secret to The Catcher in the Rye's long-lived appeal? Caulfield.

"His voice reaches (readers) directly and immediately," says John Wenke, 57, a professor of English at Salisbury University in Maryland and author of the 1991 book J.D. Salinger:A Study of the Short Fiction. "He is unique in 20th-century literature."

Wenke has taught The Catcher in the Rye for 30 years and says his students today still respond to Caulfield: "He doesn't go out of style."

Salinger's seminal novel certainly spoke to one Minnesota high school student back in 1960.

Garrison Keillor tells USA TODAY that Salinger was "the great author of my teenage years. He was one of those authors you felt intimately friends with and wished you could call him up on the phone and talk, which is why, I suppose, he spent all those years in New Hampshire not taking phone calls. There must have been millions of young people who wanted to talk to him."

Another gauge of Salinger's influence: He still gets people riled up.

"The Catcher in the Rye has been a constant on our list of banned books for the past several decades," says Deborah Caldwell Stone of the American Library Association's Office for Intellectual Freedom. "It remains one of the most challenged books well into the 21st century."

One of the great literary mysteries of the last half-century is whether Salinger continued to write during his seclusion from the world.

"I'm guessing there is a trove of unpublished works," Wenke says. (Salinger's literary agent had no comment.)

Says novelist T.C. Boyle: "I wonder now if we'll see more stories. I absolutely hope so. I hope he's been writing some great stories that will blow us away."

Contributing: Anthony DeBarros and Bob Minzesheimer



Twin Cities literary publishers talk shop, make predictions

Posted by John 27 Jan 2010:

Three of the top five literary presses are located in the Twin Cities of Minnesota. Did you know that? I didn't. An interesting story.


Claude Peck of the Star Tribune fills us in:

Why would the Twin Cities be home to three of the top five independent literary presses in the United States? Publishers Fiona McCrae (Graywolf), Allan Kornblum (Coffee House) and Daniel Slager (Milkweed Editions) offered their explanations at a panel talk Tuesday at the central library in downtown Minneapolis. They were joined on stage by Jocelyn Hale, director of The Loft and moderator Marianne Combs of Minnesota Public Radio.

McCrae credited the “strong board of directors here,” who hustle to raise money for nonprofit publishers. For Slager, a culture of philanthropy is key, along with a literate, well-educated population of serious readers. Kornblum, who moved his small press here from Iowa in the mid-1980s, said he was originally drawn to the Twin Cities because of an offer to sleep free at someone’s house during a weekend-long literary event that also included free food.

In the ensuing years, Kornblum said, he also discovered that “there are no limits to how you can grow as an artist here.”

McCrae briefly outlined Gray Wolf’s biggest success to date, the 2007 publication of “Out Stealing Horses,” by Norwegian novelist Per Petterson, which went on to win prizes and sell more than 250,000 copies in hardcover and paperback, a nearly unheard of sales figure for a small-press title.

Despite studies citing a downturn in reading by young people, Milkweed has been publishing more books aimed at middle-schoolers, Slager said. Digital-only books are another niche, he said, and Milkweed will put out three or four dozen e-books by the middle of 2010.

Emerging technology was much on the minds of panelists, who all talked about new reading devices such as the Kindle and a new Apple tablet. Hale reported that The Loft is seeking funding to launch online creative-writing instruction for interested students who don’t live in the Twin Cities. McCrae said that Graywolf has an official “tweeter” with thousands of followers.

Gender plays an overlooked role in the dismal reports about the decline of young readers, McCrae said. “Girls read a lot, and boys are the ones driving down the statistics,” she said. The publishers seemed to take some comfort in the thought that young people, who may be reading fewer and fewer books, are actually spending more time than ever before “interacting with text” on their computers and handheld devices.


Will Apple Tablet Up the E-book Price Over Amazon?

Posted by John 26 Jan 2010:

The possible e-book pricing model being suggested by Apple for their Table will allow publishers more flexibility in pricing e-books above the $9.99 level set by Amazon. This will push more power back to the publishers and/or allow self-publishers to pocket more profits.

Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg, writing for the Wall Street Journal, puts it this way:

Book publishers were locked in secret 11th-hour negotiations with Apple Inc. that could rewrite the industry's revenue model after the technology giant unveils its highly anticipated tablet device Wednesday.

Apple's new multimedia tablet device, with a 10-inch touch screen that is expected to deliver video, text, navigation and social-networking applications, could change the way much of traditional media is delivered.

For the book industry, the Apple tablet is bringing to a head a brewing battle between Apple and industry heavyweight Inc. over how e-books—seen as the future of the book industry—will be priced and distributed.

 .Apple's business model for books, which the company has kept under tight wraps, shifts the focus away from the bargain-basement prices Amazon has made popular, according to publishers that have met directly with the company. Apple is asking publishers to set two e-book price points for hardcover best sellers: $12.99 and $14.99, with fewer titles offered at $9.99. In setting their own e-book prices, publishers would avoid the threat of heavy discounting. Apple would take a 30% cut of the book price, with publishers receiving the remaining 70%.

Among major publishers, News Corp.'s HarperCollins Publishers was in serious negotiations with Apple late on Tuesday to appear in the starting lineup for the tablet, set to be unveiled at a news conference in San Francisco Wednesday morning. News Corp. also owns The Wall Street Journal.

Apple's vision is at odds with, which has shaken the book industry by slashing prices of e-books on its Kindle reader and making the $9.99 e-book best seller an industry fixture.

The Apple tablet could reshape many corners of the media industry, just as Apple's iPod revolutionized the music business when it made its debut in 2001. Apple has been in discussions with television networks, magazines and videogame publishers about featuring their wares on the device. The stance of wireless carriers and some features of the first device were unclear on the eve of the launch.

Journal Community
..Many television networks remained skeptical of Apple's proposal to sell a "best of TV" subscription service under which customers would pay a monthly fee for access to programs. The networks are concerned about disrupting their relationships with cable and satellite-TV companies, which pay billions of dollars in annual fees to the networks.

In the newspaper and magazine industry, several executives were in the dark about how their content would be distributed and priced. Without much detail, some publishers have been readying electronic editions that could be adapted for the tablet.

Many media executives said they expected to get more clarity in meetings with Apple executives after Wednesday's presentation.

While some of the largest publishers may not be up on stage Wednesday, their books could appear on the device when it is shipped in March.

Harold McGraw III, chief executive of textbook publisher McGraw-Hill Cos., said on an analyst call Tuesday: "In the near future you will undoubtedly see a McGraw-Hill e-book for the college market running on an Apple tablet."

McGraw-Hill isn't expected to be part of Wednesday's unveiling.

Apple declined to comment on its pricing model or any aspect of the new device.

Publishers will likely have to choose between Apple and Amazon. While Amazon has established a dominant position in e-books with its cut-price titles and popular Kindle reader, publishers are anxious that consumers have come to expect such prices. By allowing publishers to set their own prices, Apple is enabling publishers to re-set the rules and reach a broad audience.

Aware of the threat, Amazon has been on its own offensive. In series of meetings in New York last week, the online behemoth made it clear to publishers that it is opposed to the Apple pricing model, according to people familiar with the situation.

"This is as intense a situation as the industry has ever had," said one publisher. "It's a huge chess match."

Amazon typically pays publishers about half of the cover price of a new hardcover book for e-book best sellers.

For example, Sarah Palin's recent memoir, "Going Rogue," has a hardcover price of $28.99, which means the publisher likely received about $14.50 for the e-book edition. Since Amazon today sells that e-book for $9.99, the bookseller is losing about $4.50 on each sale—a hit it has been willing to take to build a dominant market share in e-books and power sales of its Kindle reading device.

An Amazon spokesman declined comment.

The Apple model would bring in less revenue per title for publishers and authors. Since Apple will take a 30% fee on sales, a $14.99 e-book will generate $10.49 for publishers.

That publishers and authors stand to make lower revenue per book sold on the Apple model is one reason some are hesitating about signing up with the tablet.

But there is nevertheless a strong draw: In adopting the Apple model, the balance of power would shift at least partly back to publishers, which regain control of pricing. In setting higher prices, they could provide a level playing field for all e-book retailers. The potential for publishers is that the device may generate greater volume for e-book sales.

"The reason why publishers will consider this is to bring in Apple as a major distributor of e-books," said the publishing executive. "The gamble is if Apple comes to the table with their sexy device and their millions of customers, will they dramatically increase the e-book business the way that Kindle did?"

Amazon and Apple have gone to battle before on pricing, in the music industry. Even though Amazon has consistently undercut Apple on prices of digital music, it has made little headway in building market share. Since Apple's iTunes store, software and iPod work seamlessly together, few users see a reason to involve a third party retailer. In publishing, however, Amazon has had the advantage of being first to the game.

Michael Serbinis, CEO of Kobo Inc., an online e-book retailer, said that the new pricing model could add significant profitability to the e-book retail structure. "A good chunk, at least 20% to 30% of your e-books, are sold at a loss. This could bring up gross margins closer to those on physical books."

Whether publishers will be willing to risk a breach with Amazon is unclear.

"Amazon is a dedicated book channel, a long-time retail partner," said Arthur Klebanoff, co-founder and chief executive of New York-based RosettaBooks LLC, an e-book publisher. "Is there tension between the major publishers and Amazon today? Yes. But there are many overriding reasons why they will find resolution."

—Russell Adams and Shira Ovide contributed to this article.
Write to Jeffrey A. Trachtenberg at


Hopes and Fears for the iTablet

Posted by John 25 Jan 2010:

Many technophiles, advertisers and publishers have both hopes and fears for the upcoming Apple tablet. Mike Shields of discusses these hopes and fears in his published article yesterday:

Technophiles are aroused. Advertisers are fantasizing. And battered, skeptical publishers are hopeful but trying to stay grounded as everyone awaits digital Christmas, scheduled for Jan. 27, when Apple is expected to introduce its long-rumored tablet device.

In classic form, Apple isn’t saying much, but rumors have the company releasing some sort of aesthetically gorgeous, paper-sized tablet device that combines computing, Web browsing, e-reading and multimedia. The last time Apple released a product this shrouded and hyped—the iPhone-—it pretty much singlehandedly elevated the entire mobile medium.

The excitement has some advertisers swooning over the possibilities of communicating via the tablet—envisioning a beautiful new canvas and maybe even a complete rethinking of what Web pages look like. “Advertising is, at its core, about storytelling. And since the advent of interactive media, we have had to make compromises in how we tell those stories: character limits, file sizes, small and odd dimensions,” explained Eric Bader, managing partner, BrandinHand. “This tablet is the next step in vastly improving the experiences.”

Buyers also foresee the tablet as a channel for better targeting data. But its personal, portable nature may also make it tougher to make an impact. “How do I insert my brand in an era where it’s increasingly impossible to disrupt somebody?” asked Greg March, digital group director at Wieden+Kennedy. “That doesn’t change with a tablet.”

Most expect Apple’s tablet, like Amazon’s Kindle, to sell magazine and newspaper subscriptions. But publishing experts cautioned against viewing the device as a lifesaver. Sean Reily, Los Angeles Times director of editorial business and planning, said that Apple’s brand should lift the profile of e-reading overall and provide an attractive distribution outlet.
“But the business of publishing is a whole other ballgame,” he said.

Given print’s inherent problems, it’s a question whether “those industries can even be saved,” said Josh Martin, senior analyst, Strategy Analytics. “The problem with a tablet is the same problem with print—it’s an older way of distributing content”—meaning that a digital version of a newspaper is instantly old by the time it publishes. And if, as expected, the tablet serves as a superior portable Web browsing tool, won’t most users opt to view free news sites rather than pay for subscriptions? That’s one reason there’s a rush to incorporate pay walls on many sites.

However, according to Roger Fidler, program director/digital publishing at the University of Missouri, research on e-readers has shown that there are “print-centric people who prefer editorial packaging” and don’t want Web distractions like links, e-mail and instant messaging when reading. Surprisingly, that even includes some student-aged users. Then there are “Web-centric people who say, ‘no one's ever going to buy an e-reader.’ There are such absolutist views. Apple needs to find the middle ground.”

Apple also needs to come down in price fast to appeal to mainstream consumers, say many observers. The Tablet is rumored to cost around $1,000. “That’s a crucial factor,” said Fidler.

Another major factor to watch for, said Reily, is whether Apple demands a cut of ad sales—something that is unheard of in publishing. “That would be like Barnes & Noble and Walmart getting a percentage of our print ad sales,” he said.

Plus, many fear that Apple will launch some kind of restrictive iTunes-esque print store that dictates costs for the industry—similar to what happened with music. As Matt Buchanan, contributing editor at Gizmodo (which has been ground zero for tablet rumors of late), puts it, “The music industry says that Apple basically raped and murdered its children. If Apple becomes a gatekeeper of publishing, that's scary for some people.”

Consumers might argue that they came out winners when iPods arrived, which helps explain the anticipation over Apple’s tablet.



Will the iTablet Save Publishing?

Posted by John 24 Jan 2010:

Apple's Tablet, a device where you can read the written word with audio and video supplimentation, just has to be a publishing game changer according to Jeff Harper, the owner of Flying Fish Multimedia. I believe him.

Jeff says: Will tablet computers save the newspaper industry?

Apple is expected to release its highly anticipated tablet computer, dubbed iTablet or iSlate by some, later this month.

Like every Apple product, it will most likely look cool and people will line up for days to buy it, but the big question on my mind is: Will the device, and others like it, have the power to revive a rapidly decaying newspaper and publishing industry?

It is no secret the newspaper industry, as a whole, took a huge hit in 2009. Most were forced to lay off staff and others shut their doors. Besides a massive recession, publishers were having trouble adapting traditional page layouts, with their power to draw readers in and give them something they weren’t looking for, to the Internet. Even some of the best designed papers in the world had home pages that featured small photos, small headlines and even smaller text on their home pages.

Some newer media sites have recently popped up on the web, giving us a glimpse of what publishing 2.0 may look like. is one site that I love, as it combines written words with audio, video and interactive information graphics in a format similar to a magazine that you can "flyp" through.

Another exciting site is

Vook combines the traditional written word with videos for each chapter. The company offers two versions, an online platform and a mobile version available on Apple iTunes store. I downloaded a recent bestseller and was amazed at how easy it was to read on my iPod Touch and loved the bonus video content. The best part was, instead of $25 at the bookstore, it was only $6.99, which made it an instant impulse buy.

Now enters Apple’s new tablet computer. Since company officials are masters at keeping everything secret until their products are released, little is actually known for sure about the device.

Some of the bigger tech sources on the web suggest that it will have about a 25-centimetre screen and a touch interface similar to the wildly popular iPhone/iPod Touch. It will also have book reader abilities like Kindle, but with all the photography, graphics and multimedia the web can provide.

If you’re in the publishing business, you have to think this is going to be a game changer — the prospect of your readers once again sitting back and flipping through your nicely designed page with large photos and video, plus the ability to interact with your readers in new ways.

An added bonus: the high costs of printing and distribution will be reduced to almost zero.

Newspapers that were struggling to make money with their online product will now be able to harness the power of Apple’s iTunes store and sell monthly subscriptions there. It also allows papers to reach readers outside each business’s traditional boundaries of provinces and state lines.

If your content is good, people will buy it.




Rupert Murdoch, Paywalls and Why It's Hard to Charge for Quality Bagels

Posted by John 22 Jan 2010:

Ahhh, coming up with a way to charge for online news...


By Shane Richmond of Telegraph Media Group

Rupert Murdoch CAN charge for content, Malcolm Coles argued in a post for Econsultancy yesterday. It’s a wide-ranging post and worth reading in full. I agree with some parts, notably charging for ‘added-value’ content, and disagree with others – I don’t think you can compare news to audiobooks or music, for example.

One of the things Coles points out in his post is that plenty of people pay for Telegraph Crosswords so there’s a type of content that you can sell. He’s right. As I wrote a couple of weeks ago:

“We have known for years that readers will pay for niche services, such as Fantasy Football or crosswords. So what services, what products, what scarce goods can we provide to our regulars, our loyal readers, our community? I’m certain that the answer to our problems lies in the answer to that question.”

Many of the suggestions Coles comes up with – relevant offers, discounts, free books – sound like those scarce goods that I was talking about. Target them at the right niche and you might have a business, albeit a small one.

It’s a direction that we know the New York Times is exploring and now it seems that the Guardian is considering a similar plan. Though, as Paul Bradshaw notes, it’s amusing that “the opportunity to communicate with our journalists” is one of the Guardian’s add-ons.

Anyway, I want to pick up on one particular point from Malcolm Coles’ article. He writes: “But what if Murdoch’s paid-for sites were breaking exclusive stories at 8am – especially ones that were picture- or video-based? Sure, competitors will have versions of that story up soon, but they won’t be as good.”

Video and picture-based stories can certainly be kept exclusive to an extent. You’ve either got the picture or you haven’t and most newspapers will take legal action if an exclusive photo is used elsewhere. Exclusive stories, though? Sadly, these quickly become generic. And it doesn’t matter that versions of the story on free sites “won’t be as good” because they’ll be free, which offsets the loss of quality considerably.

Take bagels, for example.

Interviewed by the New York Times last weekend, Brian Tierney, leader of the ownership group for Philadelphia Newspapers, attempted to use a bagel to prove that people would pay for quality news. The bagels sold in the office canteen are crap, he explained, and yet they cost $1.25. If people will pay $1.25 for a crap bagel then surely they’ll pay for quality news.

However, as King Kaufman writes at Open Salon, Tierney’s example proves exactly the opposite: “Tierney paid $1.25 for that bagel because he didn’t have what he considered a better option. There are plenty of options for getting news without buying the Philadelphia Inquirer or Daily News or visiting But here’s the really crazy part of his bagel theory: He’s arguing that people will pay for quality by pointing out that he was willing to settle for crap!”

Rupert Murdoch’s exclusives are the equivalent of quality bagels and plenty of people will settle for free, stale bagels from his competitors.




What Happens If (When) Big Trade Publishers Stop Publishing Magazines?

Posted by John 21 Jan 2010:

The title of todays post, extracted from an article by Jason Fell of FOLIO magazine, is an interesting question. I don't personally feel that big trade publishers will ever abandon magazines's a media format that just has to be re-structured to find a new profitability...Just how will be more apparent when the dust settles around the newer digital formats.  

By Jason Fell:
Some recent events have pointed to the acceleration of two trade publishing giants leaving the magazine publishing industry.

After a failed auction in 2008 and closing all but one of the magazines published under its Associated Construction Publications group last spring, Reed Business Information in July said it was putting its portfolio of U.S.-based titles back on the block. Last month, it sold Broadcasting & Cable, Multichannel News and This Week in Consumer Electronics (TWICE) to Wicks Group-owned NewBay Media. And this month it ceased publication of Video Business, Manufacturing Business Technology and Industrial Distribution.

When it said it was putting its U.S.-based titles back on the block, RBI said it would retain its Reed Construction Data, RSMeans, Variety, MarketCast, LA411 and BuyerZone properties. Now, it seems even flagship Variety could be sold off.

Last month, Nielsen Business Media caused a stir when it agreed to sell eight of its media/entertainment brands—including Billboard and The Hollywood Reporter—to e5 Global Media, a new company formed by private equity firm Pluribus Capital Management and financial services firm Guggenheim Partners. The publisher then decided to shutter heralded newspaper industry magazine Editor & Publisher, along with sister publication Kirkus Reviews. (E&P has since been sold to a new owner.)

Now, president Greg Farrar is leaving the company and Nielsen said it does not have plans to name a replacement. After a "transition period," senior vice president Andy Bilbao will oversee Nielsen's magazines that are not associated with trade shows, while the company evaluates "strategic alternatives."

As of today, Nielsen still publishes 19 magazines.

Nielsen—whose parent company has been focused on its ratings business—for years has reportedly been looking for a buyer(s) for its trade magazines. It’s no wonder. Through the first nine months of 2009, Nielsen reported a $151 million operating loss for its business media segment, compared to an $85 million operating income during the same period in 2008. Revenues for the segment through the third quarter were $258 million, down more than 30 percent from $371 million during the same period last year.

Shortly before the New Year, FOLIO: spoke to a source with knowledge of Nielsen who said that insiders were saying the company was working on a deal to sell its three-magazine food group and said Nielsen’s travel group might also be on the block. The source said Nielsen most likely would use the proceeds from the e5 deal and any subsequent asset sale to either reposition or shut down its other magazine properties.

“When business was good, publishing was not strategic to the Nielsen Company. When business is bad, they want the hell out,” another knowledgeable source, who also wished to remain anonymous, told me this week. “If Nielsen sold its crown jewels, namely Billboard, THR, Adweek, etc., then why wouldn’t it sell off the remainder of its publishing assets?”

I asked Nielsen’s spokesperson Wednesday if the company was working on additional divestitures and if it is attempting to exit the trade magazine publishing business altogether. Her response, not surprisingly, was more of the same: “We are continuing to access the strategic fit of the remaining publications, but there are no immediate plans at this time.”

It’s no secret that trade magazine publishing is hurting right now and that revenues, especially from print, probably won’t rebound to levels seen before the economic fallout. Perhaps the bigger issue here is if major players like Nielsen and RBI are moving away from magazine publishing, then what, if anything, does that say about the sustainability and the future of the business for the rest of us?



Book Publishing - A World Market Analysis

Posted by John 20 Jan 2010:

"Book publishing, a huge market worldwide, is chiefly fostered by voracious readers, who make up the general consumer base and specific consumers such as students and professionals, and institutional buyers such as libraries. The market would be driven by the government's rising emphasis on education, higher enrollment in schools/colleges, rise in readership, and growing number of professionals in the modern workforce. However, there are challenges too in the form of the advent of information technology, and shifts in consumer preferences and hobbies towards other electronic forms of entertainment.

Despite the challenges, the book publishing market will stand enthused by market fundamentals, such as, conducive demographics, such as, students seeking educational books, reference volumes and textbooks, parents and governments focusing more on the spend on education, increasing number of women and the middle aged continuing with and reviving their reading habits, professionals in various industries seeking books that help them with their professions, parents wanting to read out to their children from books, and individuals wanting books that assist in self-improvement.

These and other market data and trends are presented in ""Book Publishing: A World Market Analysis"" by BizAcumen, Inc. Our reports are designed to be most comprehensive in geographic coverage and vertical market analyses. "

Book Publishing - A World Market Analysis:

Mike King
Tel: +44 203 086 8600        




Your Book Marketing Plan

Posted by John 19 Jan 2010:

I have often heard that writing your book is the EASY part! That it's what happens afterwards that is the hard part. Damn, ANOTHER little tid-bit that discourages new writers from pursuing their writing dreams...

Not only is it a small miracle to be chosen for representation by a literary agent...but a rather major miracle to be selected for publication...THEN you find out you must market and promote your own book!!! What the hell is wrong with the publishing industry anyway?

While I think the traditional publishing industry is in a state of great flux at present, due to new technology in media presentation and inroads in self-publishing, I feel everyone just dreams of being published in the old way by an established publishing house...So, we must accept all existing imperfections and plan accordingly!!!

A marketing plan to sell your book AFTER publication by an established house is, unfortunately, one of those imperfections (in most cases) and a fact of life that we must plan for accordingly...

I am therefore going to spend some time researching and recommending sites dealing with how to create good marketing plans.

First recommendation:



Fellowship Created To Honor Reporter Killed in Afghanistan

Posted by John 18 Jan 2010:

It is my honor to pass this on:

By Jamie Komarnicki, Canwest News Service

Michelle Lang, 34, a Calgary Herald reporter covering the conflict for Canwest News Service, was killed in Afghanistan during an IED attack December 30, 2009.Photograph by: file, Canwest News Service.

A new journalism fellowship has been created by Canwest Publishing in honour of award-winning Calgary Herald reporter Michelle Lang, who was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan on Dec. 30.

The Michelle Lang Fellowship in Journalism is a national program that will give a recent Canadian university graduate the chance to combine a passion for writing with an interest in current events.

The trust will award up to $10,000 annually to fund a "special news project that holds significance for a Canadian audience," according to a news release from Canwest.

The candidate will be expected to develop a project "that would address the goals Michelle aspired to in her daily journalism: telling stories that have gone unreported or unnoticed on topics of social significance."

Further, Canwest Publishing will fund the salary of a full-year internship for the fellow: six months at the Calgary Herald and six months at Canwest News Service in Ottawa.

Lang, 34, was the first Canadian reporter killed while on assignment in Afghanistan. She was riding in an armoured vehicle when it was struck by an improvised explosive device, killing Lang and four Canadian soldiers.

A public memorial is planned for Lang in Calgary on Monday at 1:30 p.m. at First Alliance Church.

"Losing Michelle was shocking and tragic," said Dennis Skulsky, president and CEO Canwest Publishing. "Almost immediately there was overwhelming support for the creation of a lasting tribute.

"We believe the Michelle Lang Fellowship in Journalism will honour the memory of a great person and inspire passionate young journalists for years to come."

According to Canwest, the fellowship will continue in perpetuity.

The selection will be guided by Lang's own journalistic principles -- including a drive to highlight "ordinary Canadians in extraordinary circumstances" -- with a panel of senior Canwest News Service and Calgary Herald editors choosing the candidate.

Application details will be available in March, with the first fellowship expected to be awarded in the fall of 2010.

The trust was established with an initial investment of $100,000, including a personal contribution from David, Gail and Leonard Asper totalling $20,000 and an additional $80,000 from Canwest Publishing.

Contributions can be made at any Scotiabank Branch across Canada starting Jan. 18. Further inquiries can be sent to: .



Publishers Welcome WTO Appellate Body Decision Regarding China

Posted by John 17 Jan 2010:

From The Association of American Publishers (AAP)...Press Center:

Tom Allen, President and CEO of the Association of American Publishers, issued the following statement regarding the decision by the World Trade Organization Appellate Body affirming that China is in violation of its WTO obligations.

“We welcome the Appellate Body’s findings that certain measures employed by China to restrict the importation and distribution of reading materials are incompatible with its WTO obligations. The decision is a significant development for the U.S. publishing industry and we hope that it will pave the way for further liberalization of the Chinese market. Increased access to China’s market will benefit U.S. and Chinese creators and will offer Chinese consumers a greater variety of copyrighted works.

“We thank the USTR (United States Trade Rep) team for their outstanding work and congratulate them on a victory that reflects the skill and dedication they brought to this endeavor. We encourage the Chinese government to move quickly in implementing the reforms required to comply with the decision.”

About AAP
The Association of American Publishers is the national trade association of the U.S. book publishing industry. AAP’s more than 300 members include most of the major commercial publishers in the United States, as well as smaller and non-profit publishers, university presses and scholarly societies—small and large. AAP members publish hardcover and paperback books in every field, educational materials for the elementary, secondary, postsecondary, and professional markets, scholarly journals, computer software, and electronic products and services. The protection of intellectual property rights in all media, the defense of the freedom to read and the freedom to publish at home and abroad, and the promotion of reading and literacy are among the Association’s highest priorities.



The Death of the Slush Pile

Posted by John 16 Jan 2010:

Katherine Rosman of The Wall Street Journal has written this interesting article that not only shows the demise of the old publishing system but, purposefully or not, points out the many frailties and flaws intrinsic in that stupendously inadequate system.

In the "against-all-odds" examples she gives of the successful and famous authors that got their start by being plucked out of a slush pile in the past, just think of all the equally great works that never saw the light of day and robbed us all of great stories and entertainment...not to mention wealth and fame for still unknown authors.

By Katherine Rosman:

In 1991, a book editor at Random House pulled from the heaps of unsolicited manuscripts a novel about a murder that roils a Baltimore suburb. Written by a first-time author and mother named Mary Cahill, "Carpool" was published to fanfare. Ms. Cahill was interviewed on the "Today" show. "Carpool" was a best seller.

That was the last time Random House, the largest publisher in the U.S., remembers publishing anything found in a slush pile. Today, Random House and most of its major counterparts refuse to accept unsolicited material.

When Minnesota mom, Judith Guest, sent out "Ordinary People" in 1975, it was refused by the first publisher. Another wrote, "While the book has some satiric bite, overall the level of writing does not sustain interest and we will have to decline it." It became a best seller and a movie.

Getting plucked from the slush pile was always a long shot—in large part, editors and Hollywood development executives say, because most unsolicited material has gone unsolicited for good reason. But it did happen for some: Philip Roth, Anne Frank, Judith Guest. And so to legions of would-be novelists, journalists and screenwriters—not to mention "D-girls" and "manuscripts girls" from Hollywood to New York who held the hope that finding a gem might catapult them from entry level to expense account—the slush pile represented The Dream.

Now, slush is dead, or close to extinction. Film and television producers won't read anything not certified by an agent because producers are afraid of being accused of stealing ideas and material. Most book publishers have stopped accepting book proposals that are not submitted by agents. Magazines say they can scarcely afford the manpower to cull through the piles looking for the Next Big Thing.

It wasn't supposed to be this way. The Web was supposed to be a great democratizer of media. Anyone with a Flip and Final Cut Pro could be a filmmaker; anyone with a blog a memoirist. But rather than empowering unknown artists, the Web is often considered by talent-seeking executives to be an unnavigable morass.

It used to be that you could bang out a screenplay on your typewriter, then mail it in to a studio with a self-addressed stamped envelope and a prayer. Studios already were reluctant to read because of plagiarism concerns, but they became even more skittish in 1990 when humorist Art Buchwald sued Paramount, alleging that the studio stole an idea from him and turned it into the Eddie Murphy vehicle, "Coming to America." (Mr. Buchwald received an undisclosed settlement from Paramount.)

Read the rest of the article here:



High School Grad Creates Publishing Company, Writes Six Months in Ipswich

Posted 15 Jan 2010:

Inspiring story of a 20 year old with lofty goals AND can write the first draft of a 248 page manuscript in three weeks! I salute his energy and focus.

FromThe Taunton Daily Gazette by Chris Shores of GateHouse News Service: 

Only 20 years old, Georgetown High School graduate Alexander DeLuca is already applying his love of business and writing by creating a publishing company and writing his first novel, “Six Months in Ipswich.”

“The book is about two families in a traditional New England town. The members of these families are at points in their lives where they can’t really move forward any further,” says the Newburyport resident. “A stranger appears in their town and no one knows where he comes from. He weaves his way into the lives of these two families and forces them to deal with their issues.”

The idea for the story came to DeLuca in June, and he began writing it the next month. It took him only three weeks to complete a first draft. After working on revisions for about two months, he then contacted Autumn Conley, an editor who specializes in working with first-time authors. The two began a month-long revision process before the book went to print in November.

For the first month, the book was sold exclusively on It is now available online at major outlets such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble. DeLuca hopes the book will appear on shelves soon, and has already begun to go to local stores, asking managers to consider carrying his book.

“The reaction has been really positive,” he said. “A lot of people have come out of the woodwork and tell me they’ve read it. They’ve all been saying really nice things about it.”

The novel was the longest thing DeLuca had ever written. He had tried to write things in the past, but couldn’t get past more than 25 pages. This time, he said, it just stuck.

“Once it started flowing, it felt like no effort at all. It came out as if it was already there,” DeLuca said.

As far as inspiration for the characters, DeLuca said he tried not to base any character too faithfully on one person. He instead wrote about situations, experiences or feelings that he, or people he knew, faced throughout his time growing up in New England.

As a whole, the novel is loosely inspired by Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” DeLuca compared the mysterious stranger to the Shakespearean character of Puck, saying that both are “mischievous and mystical.”

DeLuca said that the feeling of accomplishment upon completing his 248-page novel was worth the months of work he had put into the story.

“Before you start it, it seems like such a faraway goal that you’ll never really accomplish. Before you know it, you have this huge pile of paper which you know you created. There’s something very intimate about holding it for the first time and knowing that it’s yours.”

Creating a publishing company

Publishing company MediaCake is a product of DeLuca’s and two of his friends — Amin Roozitalab, a New York City photographer, and Gabrielle Paiella, a blogger and vintage clothing store owner. Together they created the company this past October, with DeLuca’s book being the first publication.

The company is in the process of developing an intricate online blog network. The desire to blend printed and online content keeps up with the growing trend that is happening in publishing these days, DeLuca said.

Those who buy a printed copy of “Six Months in Ipswich” will also get access to online content on Users can type in the enclosed password to see pictures, deleted characters and early outlines of the book. Readers can also download an e-book version of the novel. The e-book is for sale on the Web site, but readers who buy the book in printed form can have it electronically for free, said DeLuca.

At the moment, the novel is MediaCake’s main source of revenue, as the company does not charge users for online content.

“People have expectations that written content online is free. We do have some advertisements, but we try to keep it minimal and out of the way. Some revenue from advertisements cover the cost of posting and design but the bulk of revenue is from printed content,” he said.

Currently, the only blog available on the site is “Writing Without Supervision,” a blog established and run by DeLuca.

“It is a blog about writing fiction for first-time authors without experience or training,” he said.

Coming in the next few months will be “Underground Boston,” which will be re-worked onto the MediaCake site and set up as an online magazine. The “VuFinder,” a photography blog is set to be released in early spring.

MediaCake is also reviewing manuscripts from other authors that they will consider for publication.


As soon as “Six Months in Ipswich” went to print, DeLuca began working on his second novel. He has completed the first draft of “The Extraordinary Adventures of Nicholas Pierce,” a story which tells of a young man with obsessive compulsive disorder who travels the country searching for his real parents. DeLuca said he wants to let the book sit for a while, before editing it again with “fresh eyes.” He will then work again with Conley on the final revisions.

An undergraduate at Northeastern University studying business and minoring in international affairs, DeLuca recently completed a six-month co-op in New York. The company he worked for assisted doctors in writing journals, helping them make their ideas flow easier and making sure the work was grammatically sound.

DeLuca will return to New York for another co-op with a fashion magazine, where he hopes to gain some “national bylines.” He will then attend two more semesters at Northeastern, before graduating with a degree. He then hopes to then move to New York City to work in publishing and continue writing while he develops his publishing business.

“I definitely want to start my professional life in New York City. It’s the perfect place for what I want to do and there’s a life to the city that fits my personality well and it’s a great fit for me,” he said. “But I definitely want to move back to New England. Once I get to the point where I’m settling down and starting a family, I think there is no better place than here.”



Memoir Versus Narrative Nonfiction

Posted 14 Jan 2010:

From A Guide to Literary Agents "editors blog" the difference between memoir and narrative nonfiction is: Memoir is when someone writes about their own life. Narrative nonfiction is when someone writes about the lives of others.

Seems a little simplified...For instance: What is a story about you and others around you experiencing a common coming-of-age experience? Is it a memoir? Or a narrative nonfiction? Or both?

It seems to me it would be hard to write a memoir without including others who shared that same time and space with you.

Or is a narrative nonfiction a book researched by an author and is based on true events but the author was not involved in the events?

Please give this confused person some input at

Thanks so much for any input.



How Long (or Short) Should Your Story Be?

Posted 12 Jan 2010:

A common question which I'll address here and now. In my research on this topic I stumbled across this comprehensive list of story lengths by South Australian writer Lee Masterson:

One common question asked by many writers is: "How long should my story be?"The simplest answer is: As long as it takes to tell the whole story.

However, there are certain word lengths that editors prefer to see when submitting work.
Here is an approximate guideline for story lengths.

Micro-Fiction - up to 100 words. This very abbreviated story is often difficult to write, and even harder to write well, but the markets for micro fiction are becoming increasingly popular in recent times. Publishers love them, as they take up almost no room and don't cost them their budgets. Pay rates are often low, but for so few words, the rate per word averages quite high.

Flash Fiction - 100 - 1,000 words. This is the type of short-short story you would expect to find in a glossy magazine, often used to fill one page of quick romance (or quick humor, in men's mags) Very popular, quick and easy to write, and easier to sell!

Short Story - 1,000 - 7,500 words. The 'regular' short story, usually found in periodicals or anthology collections. Most 'genre' zines will features works at this length.

Novellette - 7,500 - 20,000 words. Often a novellette-length work is difficult to sell to a publisher. It is considered too long for most publishers to insert comfortably into a magazine, yet too short for a novel. Generally, authors will piece together three or four novellette-length works into a compilation novel.

Novella - 20,000 - 50,000 words. Although most print publishers will balk at printing a novel this short, this is almost perfect for the electronic publishing market length. The online audience doesn't always have the time or the patience to sit through a 100,000 word novel. Alternatively, this is an acceptable length for a short work of non-fiction.

Novel - 50,000 -110,000 words. Most print publishers prefer a minimum word count of around 70,000 words for a first novel, and some even hesitate for any work shorter than 80,000. Yet any piece of fiction climbing over the 110,000 word mark also tends to give editors some pause. They need to be sure they can produce a product that won't over-extend their budget, but still be enticing enough to readers to be saleable. Imagine paying good money for a book less than a quarter-inch thick?

Epics and Sequels - Over 110,000 words. If your story extends too far over the 110,000 mark, perhaps consider where you could either condense the story to only include relevant details, or lengthen it to span out into a sequel, or perhaps even a trilogy. (Unless, of course, you're Stephen King - then it doesn't matter what length your manuscript is - a publisher is a little more lenient with an established author who has a well-established readership).

Page Counts - In most cases, industry standard preferred length is 250 words per page... so a 400 page novel would be at about 100,000 words. If you want to see what size book is selling in your genre, take a look on the shelves. If the average length is 300 pages, you're looking at a 75,000 word manuscript (approximately). One reason it's harder for a new author to sell a 140,000 word manuscript is the size of the book. A 500+ page book is going to take up the space of almost two, 300 page books on the shelves. It's also going to cost more for the publishers to produce, so unless the author is well known, the book stores aren't going to stock that many copies of the 'door-stopper' novel as compared to the thinner novel.Remember, these word- and page-counts are only estimated guides. Use your own common sense, and, where possible, check the guidelines of the publication you intend to submit your work to. Most publishers accepting shorter works will post their maximum preferred lengths, and novels are generally considered on the strength of the story itself, not on how many words you have squeezed into each chapter. For lengths more specific to Children's books, please refer to Laura's article "Understanding Children's Writing Genres"
© Copyright Lee Masterson. All Rights Reserved.


What Advice Do You Give a Writer?

Posted 11 Jan 2010:

Here is excellent how-to advice to writers in today's publishing climate:


By Mike Shatzkin from the Shatzkin Files:

“what do you tell a writer about digital change in publishing?”

The view of the media world that I proselytize, which is that it is “going vertical”, is hard to accept if you are “general” (i.e. horizontal) and it is hard to accept if you are small. Both general publishers and small publishers have always depended on aggregators to create a large enough offering to be commercially viable. General publishers need bookstores, primarily, and general book review media (pre-pub and to the consumer) as well. Small publishers have required wholesalers and distributors to organize a large enough product offering to be effective with bookstores and libraries. The intermediaries have always found it difficult to deal with offerings of a small number of titles.

The vertical vision says that aggregation is not just necessary at the “book” level, but also at the “subject” level. If the vision is accurate, publishers of just a handful of titles — even if they are in a niche — will find it prohibitively difficult and expensive to reach their audience.

One reason why life is getting so much more difficult for general trade publishers and small publishers is that the capital barriers to entry for publishing, particularly ebook-first publishing, have dropped to near zero. The aspiring book author 10 or 20 years ago needed somebody to print a run of books, hold them, and distribute them — mostly one-by-one — to points of distribution (called bookstores, libraries, and wholesalers) all over the country. That took capital and it took scale.

This isn’t true anymore. Anybody with a computer and an internet connection can be a publisher. You can publish a blog on a free platform. You can publish ebooks through Smashwords by sending them your Word file. You can publish a document for download through Scribd by sending them a PDF. You can make your property available as a printed book through a number of services — Author House being the largest — without any investment in inventory and only a modest set-up cost.

This ease of entry is part of what bedevils the established publishers. They’re still gatekeepers, but the gate isn’t attached to a fence or wall anymore so aspirants just walk around it. That doesn’t mean that getting published by a real publisher is of no value; it is still the only way to sell significant numbers of copies, and it will remain that for some time to come.

Read the entire article here:



Does Book Scouting Have a Future?

Posted 10 Jan 2010:

Today's thought is by Edward Nawotka from Publishing Perspectives:


As our series on scouting has revealed, having inside information about the hottest books is very valuable to publishers, and scouts have some of the tastiest dish around. That said, digital communication has made the free flow of information about hot books much, well, freer. The risk for scouts is that the wealth and speed of book information — whether via email or the Publishers Marketplace deals database — threatens their livelihood.

A number of respected publishing figures are saying that scouting has a future, provided scouts can continue to remain in a position to garner information and act on it faster than their constituent publishers. This may be so, but scouting also depends to some extent on the deep pockets of large conglomerate publishers who can afford their not-insignificant fees, as is made clear by Publishing Trends annual list of who’s scouting whom. And the bottom-line expense for scouting is something that may or may not survive the belt tightening that continues at the big houses.

So, the question is: What is the future of scouting and what, in your opinion, does it look like? If you’re a small publisher, let us know if you would use scouts if you could afford them.  If you’re a big publisher, do you continue to find scouts useful?

Tell us what you think via Twitter using hashtag #ppdiscuss.



Will E-books Catch on Faster in the BRIC Countries than the US or Europe?

Posted 9 Jan 2010:

Thought on e-books...Where will they be mainstream first?

Edward Nawotka writes this for Publishing Perspectives:


Today’s lead story describes the launch of Gato Sabido, Brazil’s first e-bookstore. And in

addition, news has been coming fast and furious in recent months about the launches or

impending launches of e-bookstores across the BRIC countries (Brazil, China, India, Russia).

But the question remains to just what extent readers in those countries are willing to embrace

e-books. On the one hand, e-books can be a very cost-effective means of wide distribution,

provided there are good cell and internet connections across a large geographic area. On the

other hand, e-books also require expensive devices on which to read them, at least for the

time being.


My guess is that since technology tends to leap-frog in growth markets, you might just see a

faster adoption of e-books in those countries once the barrier to entry — specifically, the cost

of devices — comes down close to zero. Until then, e-books will likely remain for the

digitized elite.



Inside the Secret World of Literary Scouts, Part III

Posted 6 Jan 2010:

By Emily Williams

In part I we looked at the essentials of how scouting works and in Part II we discussed the changes scouting is going through. Today we look at what the future might hold for scouts.

The close professional ties scouts develop with their clients, sometimes over decades, are key to the role those scouts play in helping the editors they work with sort through the never-ending stream of new books on offer — a relationship where trust is fundamental. "This is what many people who haven’t been scouts don’t know," says Chandler Crawford, a former head of scouting at Sanford Greenburger, who has since started her own rights agency, "that at those meetings after Frankfurt or after BEA or after London, a foreign editor will say, ‘Well what do you think about this book?’ And the scout will say, ‘Oh it’s garbage, just forget about it,’ and then the editor puts a big cross by that title and it’s done. That editor is not even going to read it. And I think that’s the power of a scout that is probably not talked about very much."

This is why a negative assessment of a book is something a scout takes very seriously, because it often means the scout is making the decision for the clients, who won’t even look at the manuscript themselves. "But on the other hand," says Crawford, "if a scout loves and adores a book it can really help the cause. For instance with The Kite Runner, it was Mary Anne Thompson who was really pushing her clients Piemme and Belfond to buy the translation rights, and also Bettina Schrewe, who really pushed for her publishers in Sweden and in the Netherlands to buy the book. And when The Kite Runner was a manuscript, it was not a wanted item. For all four of those publishers the book was a huge bestseller, and they bought it very, very cheap, very, very early because they had really good scouts. So it works the other way as well."

Read more:


Inside the Secret World of Literary Scouts, Part II

Posted 5 Jan 2010:

By Emily Williams


Part II: Scouting Changes with the Times


NEW YORK: Last week in Part I we looked at the essentials of how scouting

works. Many of these essentials—recognizing a great manuscript when it

crosses your desk, cultivating a wide network of close relationships across the

industry ,understanding your clients’ needs and serving them well—will always

remain the same.


Scouts are also tasked with keeping up with trends in the industry, though, and

the nature of the job as dependent on the flow of information has made it one

of the fastest changing corners of a business that is itself in the midst of 

massive transition. Just to survive, scouts have to stay on top of any shifts in

the way books move or the information about them spreads, and this has made

for a lot of big changes in the past 15 years.


"When I was a scout we weren’t using e-mail yet," Gernert Rights Director

Rebecca Gardner remembers. "The whole concept of material was so physical:

messengers and copying and mailing and Fedexing, and I think that it was still

very possible to control material. That whole conversation is completely

different now. I pretty much assume now—which I don’t think was the case

10 and 15 years ago—that when I have something to sell, whether I’m at a

publishing house or an agency, by the time I’m focusing on selling rights, every

scouts seen it."


Chandler Crawford, who heads up her own independent rights agency, also

scouted in the days before e-mail. "When I was a scout we used to get

manuscripts—real manuscript pages, you know 600 pages—and we’d have to

get them Xeroxed for exorbitant amounts at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and then,

in between dinner and going out or after dinner and no going out, we’d have to

read the manuscript. That just doesn’t happen anymore."


The business of selling rights has also grown more sophisticated, the foreign

rights departments at publishers and agencies have gotten bigger and more

professional. Rights sellers in the US have more direct relationships with

foreign publishers and the practice of meeting with them two or three times a

year in London, New York and Frankfurt has become common practice.


Read more:




Inside the Secret World of Literary Scouts

Posted 4 Jan 2010:

Just like sports scouts researching promising players for professional football 

and baseball teams, literary scouts have the burdensome job of researching

promising stories for top publishing houses. 


Emily Williams, a former literary scout, has written a revealing article on

literary scouts for Publishing Perspectives:


Part I: How It Works

NEW YORK: For five years I was an international literary scout. That means for five years I groaned inside whenever anyone asked me what I did. Scouting occupies a strange niche in book publishing, itself a rather inscrutable business from the outside, and after a time most scouts resign themselves to working—very hard—at an occupation not even their closest family members will ever fully understand. (So, Mom and Dad, this one’s for you!)

My basic answer went something like this: publishing is a marketplace. Agents almost always submit a manuscript to more than one editor, and if that manuscript is good the editors who want to acquire it have to compete for it, both financially and by reputation. The same is true among international publishers—and film studios—who want to buy rights to the best American books. It’s competitive, and we help make sure the companies we work for know about the books that might interest them. In the best cases we can even position them so they have the first shot at something and get to read and make an offer before anyone else. The easiest way to understand it is as a consulting role—we’re our clients’ eyes and ears in New York, looking out for their best interests, keeping our finger on the pulse of the book world.

Cut-Throat Reality

All true, but none of this manages to convey the cut-throat reality of a scout’s day-to-day: The endless piles of reading at night and on the weekends, the long work hours spent managing copious quantities of information, responding to clients in six different time zones, meeting and winning over anyone who might ever be in possession of an interesting book, and alternately strong-arming, cajoling or begging agents and editors in an attempt to get your hands on this week’s hot piece of material before any of your equally charming and savvy competitor scouts beat you to it.

Read more: 



Thinking About Self-Publishing?

Posted 3 Jan 2010:

Self-publishing is a special journey and Dorothy Stephens, a freelance writer, tells of her own

particular trip:


One writer's self-publishing journey, bumps and all. The author of a memoir shares a wealth of practical tips and lessons learned.

It sounded pretty simple when I first decided to do it—"it" being the self-publication of Kwa Heri Means Goodbye: Memories of Kenya 1957-1959, my book about living in what was then a British colony.

I had landed in Kenya when my husband was posted to Nairobi by the U.S. Information Service. When he burst through the door one September night in 1957, I had no idea how the news he brought would change my life. In the next two years, my family and I would face attacks by safari ants, wild bees and a vicious monkey; visit African villages and travel over much of East Africa's wild bush country full of big game; get to know many of Kenya's rising young leaders; and be invited by the governor of Kenya to meet the Queen Mother of England.

I would also undertake a 300-mile safari that would change the course of my life. Kenya would uncover in me a strength and independence I didn't know I had, and lead to my entering graduate school and becoming a teacher and freelance writer.

Since then, I have co-authored a book, Discovering Marblehead, about my hometown of Marblehead, Mass., and my writing has appeared in many national newspapers, magazines and journals. But it is the self-publishing journey that I wish to share with you. My Kenyan memoir was published in final form in 2006. An earlier version of the book, with a different title, was a finalist for nonfiction in the 1997 Bakeless Literary Publication Prizes, sponsored by the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference of Middlebury College, and earned me a scholarship to the Breadloaf conference in Vermont.

Read more:



Letting Loose & Being Yourself

Posted 2 Jan 2010:

The following article gives great advice for all writers that can really boost their careers in

many ways in the 21st century:


It's important to have fun with new media

By Jeff VanderMeer -- Publishers Weekly, 11/9/2009

Writing a blog that often emphasizes strategies for sustainable creativity, not to mention having just published a book on the subject, has put me in the position of being asked to explain the soundness of my own approach to new media. For example, a friend recently asked me about the strategy behind my constant Facebook profile photo changes and status updates. This gave me a bit of a chuckle, because the fact is, my Facebook “strategy” is simply to have fun. Unlike some writers—who even go so far as to create accounts with “Novelist” as their first name—I take a more laid-back approach. I’ve posted status updates pretending to be a wombat, a toad, and a plastic alien baby. This type of behavior has elicited a host of playful responses and given me the beginnings of two short stories.

But my friend’s question speaks to something we as writers seem to have lost sight of in our quest to gain leverage through the Wild West of new media platforms: that having fun and expressing creativity are sometimes the best ways to advance your career. This isn’t to say that writers shouldn’t have clear strategic plans for their careers and book promotion. But a lovely element of chance comes into play when you do what comes naturally. Sometimes, too, it’s a great relief to relax into a situation instead of trying to be “on” all the time. Potential readers respond positively (and often joyfully) to such displays of calm and confidence.

Simply being myself on Facebook and letting it be a platform for creative displays has also inadvertently resulted in several career boosters. In one case, a noted West Coast graphic novelist whose books have been made into movies pinged me to let me know he liked my work. He never would’ve contacted me via e-mail, but felt comfortable getting in touch through Facebook. That contact resulted in a collaboration on an anthology that might not otherwise have happened. In another instance, I am now working on a graphic novel with an artist I met through Facebook. Several times, too, casual mentions of book tours or other events—almost always in a humorous context—have led Facebook friends to provide me with valuable information.

The idea of fun and creativity feeding into your career—that you don’t always have to be calculating or strictly functional—bleeds over into other platforms. The most lucrative post I ever wrote on my blog was a discussion between my wife and me about which imaginary animals might be kosher (a fish-tailed goat) and which might not be kosher (a snake-bird-lobster). That post not only led to a discussion on Sweden’s national public radio and on a slew of high-profile Jewish Web sites but also in a book deal for The Kosher Guide to Imaginary Animals, out next year.

More recently, an interview I did with the owner of a capybara (a relative of the guinea pig) in Texas led to tens of thousands of new readers for my blog. About 4,000 of them stuck around to explore my Web site. Some of them have returned to read more. Some of them will buy my books. Others will contribute to my creative life or career in ways I can’t anticipate today.

Why did I post an interview about a hundred-pound rodent that makes sounds like a Geiger counter when it’s happy? Was it part of a larger strategy? Did it fit into my personal mission statement, or my short-term or long-term goals? No, I did it because I thought it would be fun.

In that sense, doing a quirky, seemingly unrelated interview supports my Web “strategy”: that your public and private personas shouldn’t be too different, that you should try to multitask in ways that allow your career—or public side—to feed your private creativity, and that the only way to sustain both your career and your creativity is to be balanced and happy.

Posting about giant rodents makes me happy. It also gains me readers. What could be better than that?

Author Information
Jeff VanderMeer’s Booklife: Strategies & Survival Tips for the 21st-Century Writer is just out from Tachyon Books. His novels have been published in 15 languages, and his nonfiction has appeared in the Washington Post Book World and elsewhere.



Enjoying the First Day of 2010!!

Posted 1 Jan 2010:

Propped back, relaxed and waiting to see my Florida Gators play Cincinnati in the Sugar

Bowl! Will be a good game...The best way to get my new year off to a good start would be a

Florida blowout of Cincinnati to give quarterback Tim Tebow & coach Urban Meyer a

proper send off!  


Happy New Year Is Just 4 1/2 Hours Away!

Posted 31 Dec 2009:

2009 is slinking away and about to exit into past. 2010 is kicking and ready to burst forth

from the future and become present...Hope all are ready for what I believe will be an

outstanding and definitive year for our country and the world!


Happy New Year to all and may all the blessings you could ever imagine be yours tonight

and throughout 2010...John R. Austin


Magazines Get Ready for Tablet Computers

Posted 29 Dec 2009:

Publishers missed out in the development of eReaders but they are now jumping in on Apps for mobiles and new tablet computers. As reported by Stephanie Clifford in the NY Times:

Magazine publishers are taking a mulligan.

After letting the Internet slip away from them and watching electronic readers like the Kindle from Amazon develop without their input, publishers are trying again with Apple iPhones and, especially, tablet computers.

Although publishers have not exactly been on the cutting edge of technology, two magazines — Esquire and GQ — have developed iPhone versions, while Wired and Sports Illustrated have made mockups of tablet versions of their print editions, months before any such tablets come to market. Publishers are using the opportunity to fix their business model, too.

"It may help them reassert some, not just control, but reassert themselves and not be in the death spiral that some were in in the last years," said Ned May, director and lead analyst for the research firm Outsell.

When the magazine industry first made iPhone apps, the approach resembled how it had tiptoed onto the Web. The apps were free, the features were a little weak compared to what independent developers could do, and the rich design of print didn’t translate to a touch screen.

But the iPhone edition that Esquire expects to release alongside its January issue will offer robust interactive features, and it won’t be free. The price, $2.99 a month, is small, but it is a big statement.

"Throughout the magazine industry, with very few exceptions, we still charge too little for our products," said David Granger, editor in chief of Esquire, referring to both free Web versions and cheap print issues. In recent decades, publishers have discounted subscriptions to gain bigger audiences, assuming they would make it up with advertisers drawn by the big readerships.

Read more:


If New Media is a Giant Killer, Will Independent Publishing Get the Golden Eggs?

Posted 28 Dec 2009:

In these stormy times, large publishers are jettisoning everything they can in order to lighten their sinking ships. What are they tossing overboard? Among other things, promising authors who haven’t found an audience, as well as anything too literary, difficult, or narrow in appeal. As Random House clings to the desperately inflated Dan Brown, hoping a 5 million print-run and gargantuan promotional budget will keep its head above the waves, what becomes of the cast-offs? Might some happy-go-lucky independents haul a few brilliant writers into their skiffs? And what steps can independents take to ensure they are able to support the new writers and roles they’ll be taking on?

As Ursula K. Le Guin recently pointed out in Harpers magazine, publishing wasn’t always about profits, and isn’t capable of providing the fiscal growth that anxious shareholders require. Private independents, with their low overhead, small staffs, and narrower missions, are better suited to thrive in an age where profits are smaller, audiences are fragmented, and low-fi marketing can go viral. They can afford to experiment with affordable ebook pricing, iPhone applications, electronic subscriptions, and DRM-free formats. They can directly reach readers through email, blogs, and social networking tools.

Promotionally, the Internet is like the Wild West: boundless, lawless, and full of opportunity for the inventive, the hungry, and the risk takers. Unfortunately, "hungry" and "risk-taker" are not adjectives typically associated with an industry whose end product is best consumed by a reader curled up beside the fire. Books are sedate; they go well with tea. Like knitting.

Yet knitters are actually thriving online, thanks to the platform, advocacy, and community provided by innovator Good stories, like mittens, will always be welcome in a decent home. The question is, can independent publishers get them there?

Stitching Together a Movement

Etsy has taken handicrafts out of the flea market and into the global market. In doing so, they have exponentially increased the number of customers for craft. By uniting small independent producers, giving them online tools, sponsoring physical and virtual events, emphasizing community above competition, and vastly increasing their exposure, Etsy has been a catalyst for the blooming of craft culture. As in the local farms movement, when awareness is raised and barriers are removed, many customers will eschew the corporate for the individual.

With the right platform, ambition, programs, and marketing, the independent press can fill the vacuum left by the major publishers. Like craft, independent publishing has a great history and tradition. Also like craft, it is typically supported by a small group of informed consumers. Raising awareness, increasing exposure, and creating or leveraging online platforms can inform millions more. Rather than compete for a small group of educated book buyers, independents need to make a coordinated effort to increase the size of the independent publishing market, working together to advocate for the manifold virtues of independent publishing: quality, diversity, and personality.

The crisis in publishing creates an opening, an opportunity for independents to take the middle — the creative space between the avant-garde and the blockbuster — but it will require both virtual and physical activism.

We at the new literary journal Electric Literature have stood in Union Square in New York City in orange tee shirts asking passersby if they read fiction. It is as humbling as it sounds. At our pop-up independent bookstore at the Brooklyn Flea, we sell books and meet readers, building awareness and loyalty. Our goal is for people to think of local indies as "their" presses. You can know an independent in a way you never can a large corporation, no matter how strenuous their marketing efforts.

Still, flea markets and street teams will not ensure a golden future for the independent press. An online platform needs to emerge, something that is to readers, writers and publishers what MySpace is to musicians and Etsy is to craftspeople. Hundreds of thousands of self-published books sit online, but good luck finding the ones worth reading among the virtual stacks at Amazon and the iTunes Store. What new venue emerges, and who creates it, remains to be seen. But the keys to the kingdom are not in Amazon’s hands, nor are they in Apple’s, or Google’s. They are in ours.

The Robots are our Friends

Communications technology is democratizing. It provides tools that empower individuals and disrupt top-down control. Decentralization, in turn, fuels creativity. The information age will not, in the long-run, be bad for literature, despite the pain that many are currently feeling. Since major record labels lost their stranglehold on the market, music has thrived — fewer bands become millionaires, but far more are heard. In television, the proliferation of channels and fragmentation of audiences has allowed smaller programs to find avid niches. In each case, democratizing technology — despite the ever-present cries of doom by established interests — results in a creativity boom. Most importantly, deconsolidation allows an audience once treated as monolithic to reveal its true diversity.

As information proliferates, people need trusted filters, which — from the slushpile to the bookshelf — is a role publishers have always played. Independent presses must foster reputations as curators, with strong identities that readers relate to.

We are the Rule and the Exception

Everything paved over eventually cracks, sprouts weeds, and is overrun. The acquisition and corporatization of publishers was a paving over. Now that the pavers are out of funds, we can see the cracks emerging. Years from now, publishing will be a wild, sprouting, resurgent landscape.

No matter how information changes, or how wildly it flows through new and obscure channels, a person — with a soul, or a neurological simulation thereof — sits at its beginning and end. It is this fact that keeps the world from sinking into the doomsday scenarios so often floated in the popular consciousness. When music became too terrible to bear, punk broke. When Walmart and Target started filling our homes, closets and cupboards, people returned to local farms and crafts. With each trend that threatens to rob us of our culture, a counter-trend emerges that fosters it. So begins the heyday of independent publishing.

Andy Hunter is the Co-Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of Electric Literature, a new bi-monthly literary journal.


Merry Christmas Everyone!!

Posted 24 Dec 2009:

Our house is too full tonight and a lot of blah blah going on so I ran into my study to

escape!...And to say I wish everyone a very MERRY CHRISTMAS and a Joyous & Happy

Holiday Season!!!!  


Preditors And Editors

Posted 23 Dec 2009:

Today I am discussing a very useful and helpful site for both new and experienced

writers: The Preditors & Editors site.


This site is chock full of information to allow writers to make more informed

decisions and avoid the more scammy and incompetent agents, publishers, editors

and other so-called industry professionals.


Headquartered in Petersburg, Virginia, USA since July 1997, Preditors &

Editors is intended as a simple compendium for the serious writer, composer,

game designer, or artist to consult for information, regardless of genre. Even

readers will find Preditors & Editors useful in locating reading material. As

well, the listings may be freely copied and distributed without charge. After all,

our aim is to assist. However, please secure permission from the appropriate

authors before reproducing any of the opinions contained within Preditors &

Editors as those are copyright protected material.


Visit this site at




Fiction Writing Tips

Posted 22 Dec 2009:

Fiction Writers

Fiction writers learn to write by writing. Although writing is an art, there are skills, tools, and techniques that can be learned in order to develop talent. And constructive criticism and feedback can help this process.

To be a good writer you need to read a lot, listen and observe everything about you carefully, and write a lot. Writing a lot takes discipline, because writing can actually be hard work- but very satisfying. Setting up a routine for writing is important; it is very easy to find something else to do besides writing. A compulsion to write is very useful.

Fiction writers should have a good grasp of the language, but most of all they must be storytellers. A really good story can compensate for less-than-brilliant writing, but brilliant writing will not save a bad story.

Readers of fiction want very much to find the writer's work to be believable. It is the task of the writer to produce a story that does not jolt the reader into recognizing that the narrative is just the writer talking, just fiction. The writer should write about what he or she already knows through experience or can learn about through research. The narrative should read as if the writer really knows what he or she is writing about.

Major Components of Stories

Plot is the organization of events that will take place in the story.

Characters are the people or animals who will be in the story.

Setting is the physical time and place in which the story takes place.

Dialogue is the spoken words of the characters in the story.

Point of view is the relative identification of the narrator with the characters.

Theme is the main idea or meaning behind a story.

Style is the writer's use of the language.

Read more:


Writing Effective Headlines

Posted 21 Dec 2009:

Writing good headlines is an excellent skill to master. It will help you in other areas of your writing by teaching you to eliminate useless words and still be clear and concise AND complete in thought conveyance as well. One place you can definitely use this skill is in writing query letters.

Apply the following rules when writing headlines. The best way to write a good headline is to keep it simple and direct. Be clever only when being clever is called for. Puns are good, but only on “punny” stories. (For examples of the good, the bad and the ugly, go to Good headlines and Problem headlines after you read these tips on “Writing Effective Headlines.”) 

Read the rest:


Teaching Creative Nonfiction

Posted 20 Dec 2009:

A wonderful book review on a great subject:

Book Review: Nonfiction Writing: From the Inside Out—Writing Lessons Inspired by Conversations with Leading Authors, by Laura Robb

By: Rus VanWestervelt


Summary: Laura Robb's Nonfiction Writing: From the Inside Out redefines the genre of nonfiction writing, encouraging creativity and relevance for both the reader and the writer.

I don't have time for fun writing. . . . The writer is no longer important—just the writing. . . . It doesn't matter if they care about what they write, as long as they can communicate it clearly in forty-five minutes or less. . . .


These and other disparaging statements, uttered with frustration and resignation, greet me at the beginning of every workshop I offer in the teaching of creative nonfiction. We, as teachers, are being trained to instruct our students how to communicate effectively in a detached, cryptic manner that has little (if anything at all) to do with the writer. And, with the addition of the writing segment of the SAT, even greater pressure is being placed on teachers and students alike to look at writing as a means of pleasing hoop-holders instead of making even a subtle difference to an audience that extends beyond test readers and college admissions boards.

Indeed, this frustration is warranted. Teachers across the nation are abandoning their commitment to recursive, process writing and replacing it with repeated drills on how to write perfectly in under an hour, stay within the box, and never, ever color outside the lines. Ever-increasing pressure from the top demands that teachers do whatever is necessary to ensure rising test scores. "Whatever is necessary" usually translates to doing away with the very things that make reading and writing nonfiction interesting, passionate, alive. Don't bother reading the essayists, the biographers, the Thoreaus and the Angelous. Be rid of all writing and reading that matters and turn your focus to paragraph one, where you state your thesis clearly and with a strong point of view. Follow with three paragraphs with strong examples, and end with a summary statement that drives home your argument.

Set. Bump. Slam. Congratulations. You are a Writer.

Not really. We are teachers who are empowered to bring words on the page alive and stories in the hearts of our children to life. We may need to teach our students how to make a slam over the net when necessary, but we all know that they do this best if they are conditioned writers who know their process, their routine, their approach to embracing literature and creating prose that engages today's reader as much as those of the next generation. We all know that they do this best if they appreciate the importance of reading and of writing beyond the test, after the class ends, and in the years following graduation.

Laura Robb not only knows this firsthand, she has identified this urgency to re-energize our young writers in her new book Nonfiction Writing: From the Inside Out, a must-have for any teacher's collection of those few texts to keep at arm's reach throughout the year.

Robb recognizes that writing for standardized tests is here to stay for the foreseeable future, and we cannot ignore the necessity for our students to do well in these evaluations, regardless of what we may think of them. It is Robb's intention—one which I believe she fulfills admirably—to ignite young writers with a recognition of and appreciation for their own writing processes so that they may then apply those skills (on an as-needed basis) to the more prescriptive tasks required of them for assessments. She accomplishes this in a threefold manner: 1) redefining the genre of nonfiction writing in a way that encourages creativity and relevance to both the reader and the writer; 2) integrating the processes of established writers into the text and the minilessons so that students understand that the "league of writers" is not exclusive but open to us all; and 3) providing myriad student examples as models of writing-in-process to encourage risk taking and exploration of unconventional approaches to writing.

Simply put, Robb believes firmly that if we abandon our passion for reading and writing nonfiction to focus on getting near-perfect scores on standardized tests, we are contributing to the increasing indifference of a generation of writers who have been trained to believe that what they really think or believe, see, or feel is secondary to how well they can please a single reader who will slap a one-time high score for a job well done.

Nonfiction Writing: From the Inside Out is not one of those cover-to-cover reads that requires you to devote large blocks of time to understanding its content. Rather, Robb structures the chapters so that each stands alone and can be used on an as-needed basis, and every time I open it to a chapter I've referred to countless times before, I always end up discovering a new strategy or approach that I had not noticed.

Eight chapters focus on writing structures, strategies for each stage of the writing process, and understanding and connecting with various audiences. Within each chapter, Robb opens with "In Their Own Words," where established writers respond to questions relevant to that particular chapter. Where most writers abandon such quotes for the reader to ponder, Robb actually offers suggestions of how they can be used in the classroom. For example, in Chapter 5, "Part 1: From Paragraph to Essay," Robb asks writers Susan Bartoletti and Katherine Paterson how they narrow the scope of an essay topic. Bartoletti responds,

I make the topic as specific as possible. For instance, when I wrote the nonfiction photo essay, Growing Up in Coal Country, I narrowed the topic to child labor in the anthracite region of Pennsylvania. Through preliminary research, I realized that the anthracite region and its people could serve as a microcosm for the study of industrialization, immigration, and labor throughout the United States. (144)

As a stand-alone quote, this packs a powerful punch to teachers of writing and demonstrates how a topic specific to Pennsylvania can be made relevant to readers anywhere in the country. Students, however, may never see that quote unless teachers take the time to integrate it into the lesson. Robb encourages teachers to do just that by reminding us that the words of these authors help break down the stereotypical attitudes of dry, boring nonfiction that is far from being relevant to students across the country.

I imagine these writers would be disheartened to know that a simplistic, old-fashioned attitude about essays versus fiction prevails in many schools. The thinking is, any student can learn to write decent, factual essays, but only the talented, creative students can write fiction. . . . These writers knit self and world together, intertwining memories, facts, opinions, insights, and storytelling into an astonishing weave. Their clear and disciplined thinking enables them to knit their strands in such a way that one isn't fully aware of the logic at work until an essay's end—and then the reader is knocked breathless by the power of it. (146)

Robb uses Bartoletti to remind us the definition of "essay" transcends the regurgitation of facts and serves as an extension of the author to "inform, persuade, offer an opinion, analyze, entertain, or reflect on a life experience," all from a personal point of view (147). By identifying the differences between these essays and writing assessment prompts, students can reclaim their right to use writing effectively for their purposes, where they retain control of the piece until they are ready to release it to their intended audience.

Following the "In Their Own Words" segment, Robb provides minilessons that the teacher can pull right from the text and use in the classroom immediately. She provides student samples at varying stages along the writing process; necessary definitions to terms such as structure, voice, and purpose; day-by-day strategies to use in writing workshops; criteria for evaluating student writing; and even effective ways to integrate relevant lessons in grammar that students find necessary and important to improve their writing.

Nonfiction Writing: From the Inside Out uses examples mostly from middle school classrooms, but the lessons are appropriate and adaptable to all grade levels and with students of all abilities. Robb merely shares the strategies that work in the middle grades and gives us the room to make them work in our own classrooms. She offers the tools we need to make nonfiction relevant to our students while preparing them for quick demonstrations of mastery on standardized tests.

Laura Robb understands that we don't have a lot of time to theorize, ponder, and reflect on how to reignite writing that makes a difference in our classrooms. She provides all of that in this one text, and for that we are grateful.

Add Nonfiction Writing: From the Inside Out to your teacher's toolbox and use it often. Your students will thank you, and so will their readers.

About the Author Rus Van Westervelt, a teacher-consultant with the Maryland Writing Project, teaches at Townsen University in Townsen Maryland. He is the prime mover behind Maryland Voices, a biannual journal designed and edited by Maryland high school students and devoted entirely to publishing creative nonfiction written by teens throughout the state.



What's The Value Of Online Content ?...Nothing Per Demand Media, Inc 

Posted on 19 Dec 2009:

Demand Media is paying writers, video makers and other media artists pauper wages. The pay rates are actually un-American and smack of master-slave mentality...all for their own damn bottom line...which is substantial enough to pay the ones who create the stuff that makes them their money in the first place a decent, livable wage!

Demand Media is a superficial company and all writers and media artists should boycott them at ALL costs! After all, Artists, you have the power to set your own worth and market value...NOT some stingy, greedy company.

That's my take on Demand Media and here's an article by Folio Magazine's Jason Fell with more details:

I was thumbing through the November issue of Wired when I stumbled across an article on Demand Media, penned by senior writer Daniel Roth. It’s a detailed look at how the online network has successfully leveraged a user-generated content model and become the largest supplier of videos to YouTube. According to the report, Demand rakes in roughly $200 million a year and was valued in a recent round of financing at $1 billion.

Demand is reportedly the 15th-most-visited online media property, attracting 52 million visitors in September—bigger than, and

But what jumped out wasn’t the soaring profits. It was how co-founder Richard Rosenblatt thinks other media companies, which have been trying to increase the value of their content to at least match the cost of producing it, have the equation backwards. As he’s done with Demand, Rosenblatt said the trick is in cutting costs until they match market value for content.

Demand utilizes an algorithm system that mines search data, traffic patterns and keyword rates to commission stories/videos based on what online users want to know and how much advertisers will pay for it. The company has all but eliminated actual people from the process, other than to make sense of terms the algorithm spits out. ("Demand uses editors in its process, too," the Wired story says, but "they just aren’t worth very much.")

$15 Per Article

Another way to cut costs: Pay your content producers squat. Rosenblatt’s massive stable of freelancers earn just $15 per article and $20 per video produced, on average. Some writers opt to earn nothing upfront and instead participate in a profit sharing program, although it can take months to earn even $15 that way. Copy editors take home $2.50 per article, fact-checkers get $1 an article and headline proofers bank a whopping 8 cents a headline, according to the Wired story.

Fifteen dollars a story? Granted, the stories are far from 4,000-word investigative pieces, but only a few years ago I was freelancing for a Boston-area newspaper, writing 300-word lifestyle/entertainment stories at about $100 a pop. That’s more than six times what Demand pays.

The pittance Demand pays multiplied by the volume of content it produces has added up to $17 million in expenses so far. But even so, the idea that online content and its creators have been so devalued is truly astonishing.

Others Weigh In

I asked editorial director Bob Cohn his thoughts about Demand’s business model. He said that even though Demand doesn’t do "journalism," the downside is that its model might help reduce the amount of money writers and video-makers can charge for their work across the media industry.

"And it could well change the market when it comes to editing by showing that computers rather than people are ‘better’ at making story selections," Cohn said. "All this could have a negative effect on quality, especially in areas like complex financial reporting, investigations into government corruption, and explanatory journalism."

At—which is expected to ring up 103 percent digital revenue growth in 2009—Cohn said he and his team "strive for insight and distinction" in its news analysis. I asked Cohn if he thought publishers should be worried about what Demand is doing. "Demand is giving readers what they want, and doing it with ruthless business efficiency," he said. "That’s a model that’s bound to succeed."



Digital Rights Management (DRM)

Posted on 18 Dec 2009:

Digital rights management (DRM)Is a generic term for access control technologies that can be used by hardware manufacturers, publishers, copyright holders and individuals to try to impose limitations on the usage of digital content and devices. The term is used to describe any technology which inhibits uses (legitimate or otherwise) of digital content that were not desired or foreseen by the content provider. The term generally doesn't refer to other forms of  copy protection which can be circumvented without modifying the file or device, such as serial numbers or key files. It can also refer to restrictions associated with specific instances of digital works or devices. Digital rights management is being used by companies such as Sony, Apple, Inc, Microsoft and the BBC.

The use of digital rights management is controversial. Proponents argue it is needed by copyright holders to prevent unauthorized duplication of their work, either to maintain artistic integrity or to ensure continued revenue streams. Some opponents, such as the Free Software Foundation, maintain that the use of the word "rights" is misleading and suggest that people instead use the term digital restrictions management. Their position is essentially that copyright holders are restricting the use of material in ways that are beyond the scope of existing copyright laws, and should not be covered by future laws. The Electronic Frontier Foundation, and other opponents, also consider DRM systems to be anti-competitive pratices.

In practice, all widely-used DRM systems are eventually defeated or circumvented. Completely restricting the copying of audio and visual material is impossible due to the inevitable analog hole.

For more on DRM go to: 


Top Seven Self-Publishing "Must-Haves"

Posted 17 Dec 2009:

When self-publishing becomes your selected option to get your literary work

before the public, and you want to hire expertise that walks you through the

process and protects your rights, there are seven things you will want to use as 




Keep 100% of your rights

The intellectual property and copyright of your book is very valuable. You should always retain all your rights. The very first sentence of our contract states: “Author retains 100% of the rights and copyright licenses to the manuscript and all other materials submitted to Outskirts Press, Inc.”


Keep 100% of your royalties

Make more money by setting your own pricing! Only with Outskirts Press can you set your own retail price, author discount, and Price Plan. You receive 100% of your author royalties. The higher you set your retail price, the higher your profit. And guess what? You set your wholesale price, too. You are in complete control!


Unlimited wholesale and retail availability

Outskirts Press books are available for order through online retail sales channels like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders, and more. Plus, with our amazing distribution-on-demand your book can be available for order from just about anywhere that sells books. This means you receive unlimited wholesale distribution through Ingram, Baker & Taylor, and more. Regardless of how many books you sell via wholesale channels, we'll produce the inventory to fill those orders, without any out-of-pocket printing costs for you.


Additional marketing support and services

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if marketing a book was as easy as publishing one? Now it is! Our comprehensive suite of optional marketing services, promotional materials, and publicity products are the answer to your book marketing needs. And this is the home of the exclusive Marketing COACH, delivering Creative Online Assistance, Coaching, and Help via email to our Diamond and Pearl authors for 2 years after publication. No other publisher offers anything like it!


Publishing imprint and ISBN flexibility

Do you want the ultimate in self-publishing flexibility? Our Diamond, Pearl, Ruby, and Sapphire packages all include unique ISBNs, which are required for wholesale and retail sales. However, if you prefer to submit your own ISBN and publish under your own publishing imprint, our Diamond and Pearl packages offer options to accommodate those needs, too. In either case, you keep 100% of the rights to your work.


High-quality book design

Imagine a full-service self-publisher where quality book design is included. Your dreams are a reality at Outskirts Press. Depending upon the type of book you are publishing, our designers will format the interior according to industry best practices for a high-quality presentation that keeps your book from screaming “self-published!”

And the covers? Wow! They say a picture is worth a thousand words. If so, our amazing custom covers are a book unto themselves. Take a look....



Complete print-run flexibility (1 to 1000s)

With unlimited wholesale availability, printing, and fulfillment, we will handle all wholesale orders directly that come from sales channels like Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or Ingram, etc. When we receive a wholesale or retail order directly, we will print the book, send it to the customer, and then record your royalty. You never have to order any books unless you want to. Of course, if you want to order books, you always receive your below-wholesale price in quantities of just 5 or more. And if you buy more, you save more.

For more on Outskirts Press:    





Why Magazines Won't Die

Posted 16 Dec 2009:

When you get tired of looking up stuff on the internet and staring at a lighted

screen, you just want to get away and snuggle up with a comfortable magazine

and be surprised by what's on the next page, right? Well, Maria Rodale makes a

good case for just such a scenario:


I spend more time than most thinking about whether or not magazines will live or die, since my family and I own a few of them. I’ve been to conferences about whether or not they will survive. I am barraged by consultants trying to convince me magazines are on the verge of death, and therefore I need their services immediately, or else.

Now, I do think e-readers and Kindles and iPhones will, and to a degree already have, subsumed much of our reading and especially information needs. And Rodale Inc. is in the game with those things along with everyone else.

But speaking from personal experience, I’ve noticed something lately. The more I use technology (and I am on this damn computer a lot…too much), the more I want to read a magazine. But I want different things than I wanted five years ago. Frankly, I want a break. I want to be surprised and delighted. I want to relax and not have to decide which page I’m going to next. I want to look at pictures. I want to sit back on my couch and not have a glowing screen staring me in the eyes. I want to be inspired. It’s kind of like going on a great date, only I don’t have to get dressed up.

It started with my new all-time favorite magazine, Garden and Gun. When I heard about it at a magazine conference, I thought it was a joke. I picked up a copy just for fun and found myself completely and utterly hooked. It’s kind of a Southern lifestyle magazine. I’m not Southern, nor do I aspire to be. But they have gotten it right. They show me and tell me about stuff I would never think to look for myself. They take me to places in their pictures that I will never get to but so enjoy looking at. I’ve turned down the corners of many a page after finding places I want to visit, books I want to buy, or stores I want to shop from (online). There is an open copy of Garden and Gun sitting right by my computer right now. I’m going to book a room at a hotel I learned about from a page in the magazine. (And I’m not going to tell you which one because I want to make sure I can get a reservation first!)

Then there is People magazine. I’m too busy to check the celebrity websites every day. And I don’t care enough to seek out that information (although I must confess to being fascinated by all the adultery stories of people like Tiger Woods and that governor with the Brazilian mistress). When my People magazine comes on Friday, I sit down and don’t want to be bothered by anyone for the half hour it takes me to read it. That’s my time, and don’t forget it!

If I really want to learn about what’s going on in the world, well, actually, I listen to the radio—NPR and BBC Newshour. But I only listen in the car, and it’s not a consistent thing. So I back it up with a subscription to the Economist and the New York Review of Books. Those magazines help me fill in the blanks—or better yet, they teach me about things I didn’t think I wanted, or needed, to know about.

The Internet is a technology that enables people to go out in SEARCH of things. I’m all for that and love it to pieces. But sometimes, I just want things to FIND me. Sometimes, I am just tired of looking and typing and seeking, and I just want to sit on my comfortable couch and be surprised when I turn the page.

That’s why I believe magazines won’t die.



What Is Creative Nonfiction ?

Posted 15 Dec 2009:

Here is an article I ran across that gives one of the best definitions of Narrative Nonfiction:

What is Creative Nonfiction?

The Difference Between Narrative Nonfiction and Journalism
© Sarah Turner
Jan 9, 2008

Creative nonfiction is a hard-to-define genre. Also known as narrative nonfiction, personal journalism, and memoir, it is increasingly popular and amazingly diverse.

Creative Nonfiction Reads Like Fiction

Straightforward journalism is a basic recounting of the facts. When reading a newspaper, you expect to read a balanced, objective reiteration: facts and dates, names and places. The same is true when you read, say, an auto manual or a cookbook. In a newspaper or magazine feature there's a difference. The names are more than just names – the people in the story seem like characters. And the places are more than just names - they are suspiciously like settings. And the story reads like, well, a story. A good story.

If a story is true, but it reads like fiction, that's creative nonfiction.

Creative Nonfiction Uses Literary Devices

In a piece of narrative nonfiction, the reader should be able to identify:

clear, well-developed characters
a narrative arc
tension and revelation
engaging dialogue, written out as opposed to direct quotations
story told using scenes rather than straight exposition
an identifiable theme
careful use of imagery, symbolism and metaphor

Creative Nonfiction Tells the Truth

Everyone remembers the James Frey case. His book “A Million Little Pieces” was marketed as a memoir, and when it was discovered that he'd made up large parts of the story readers were furious. Why? If it's a good story, who cares if it's true or made-up? Well, the readers do. They felt like they were being duped. Essentially, writers have a contract with their readers. If you say you're telling the truth, tell it.

True, But Not Objective

When reading creative nonfiction, the reader assumes they are reading a biased account – the writer's account – of the story being told. They do not believe they are reading something objective, or universally true. Just true as far as the writer's experience of it. Creative nonfiction is often written in the first person point of view.

If a writer is trying to recollect something from a long time ago, the recreation of those memories will require a certain amount of creativity. Still, the basic facts should remain true to life. Dates, names, people's actions: these are non-negotiable. The feelings and thoughts that accompany these events – whether fear, exhilaration or guilt – are personal to the writer and should come across in the writing.

History of Creative Nonfiction

The genre of creative nonfiction emerged out of the New Journalism movement of the 1960s and 70s, led by writers such as Tom Wolfe, Normal Mailer and Truman Capote. Capote's crime novel “In Cold Blood” is often seen as the originator of the genre.

For a detailed history of the genre, check out Creative Nonfiction, an online website and journal devoted exclusively to the genre. Editor Lee Gutkind credits himself with being the first to use the term in 1983, during a meeting of the National Endowment of the Arts.

The copyright of the article What is Creative Nonfiction? in Resources for Writers is owned by Sarah Turner. Permission to republish What is Creative Nonfiction? in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.



Memoir vs Narrative Nonfiction

Posted 14 Dec 2009:

A Guide to Literary Agents "editors blog" definition describing the difference between

memoir and narrative nonfiction is: Memoir is when someone writes about their own life.

Narrative nonfiction is when someone writes about the lives of others.

Seems a little simplified...For instance: What is a story about you and others around you

experiencing a common coming-of-age experience? Is it a memoir? Or a narrative nonfiction?

Or both?

It seems to me it would be hard to write a memoir without including others who shared that

same time and space with you.

Or is a narrative nonfiction a book researched by an author and is based on true events but

the author was not involved in the events?

Please give your thoughts on these definitions at



Worthy of Being Read

Posted 13 Dec 2009:

You must often make erasures if you mean to write what is worthy of being read a second

time; and don't labor for the admiration of the crowd, but be content with a few choice

readers...Horace (BC 65-8) Latin lyric poet.  


Seeing Your Book So Clearly!

Posted 12 Dec 2009:

As I take up my pen I feel myself so full, so equal to my subject, and see my book so clearly

before me in embryo, I would almost like to try to say it all in a single word...

Georg C. Lichtenberg (1742-1799) German scientist, satirist and anglophile


Authenticity vs Originality

Posted 11 Dec 2009:

Some writers confuse authenticity, which they ought always to aim at, with originality, which they should never bother about...W.H. Auden (1907-1973) English poet and man of letters.   

JOHN'S NOTE: I'm not too sure that I agree with this statement from Auden. If any readers have thoughts on this, please email me at and I will address here in future. 



Writing Clears Thought

Posted 10 Dec 2009:

I never know what I think about something until I read what I've written on

it...William Faulkner (1897-1962) American novelist and short-story writer.


Is There Such A Thing As A Master Writer ?

Posted 9 Dec 2009:

We are all apprentices in a craft where no one ever becomes a

master...Ernest Hemingway (1898-1961) American Writer.  


Writing: A Mistress Or Tyrant ?

Posted 8 Dec 2009:

Writing is an adventure. To begin with, it is a toy and an amusement.

Then it becomes a mistress, then it becomes a master, then it becomes

a tyrant. The last phase is that just as you are about to be reconciled to

your servitude, you kill the monster and fling him to the

public...Winston Churchhill 


What To Write What To Do

Posted 7 Dec 2009:   Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing...Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790) American statesman, scientist and philosopher.


Rules For Writing The Novel

Posted 6 Dec 2009:

There are three rules for writing the novel. Unfortunately no one

knows what they are...

W. Somerset Maugham 


Writing And Childbearing

Posted 5 Dec 2009:

Writing books is the closest men ever come to childbearing...Norman Mailer  

Essential Writers' Gifts

Posted 4 Dec 2009:

The most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in, shock-proof, shit detector. This is the writer's radar and all great writers have had it...Ernest Hemingway


How Much Experience Do You Need To Be A Writer ?

Posted 3 Dec 2009:

There is no need for the writer to eat a whole sheep to be able

to tell you what mutton tastes like.  It is enough if he eats a

cutlet.  But he  should do that...W Somerset Maugham


What Creates A Writer

Posted 2 Dec 2009:

Today a bit of much-needed humor from Kathy Lette, an

accomplished writer from Sydney, Australia: 


What creates a writer is huge, psychological dysfunction...Kathy Lette


For more on Kathy Lette go to


Bad Books


Posted 1 Dec 2009:

 A bad book is as much of a labour to write as a good one; it comes as

sincerely from the author's soul...Aldous Huxley 1894-1963


Amos Bronson Alcott 1799 - 1888

Posted 30 Nov 2009:

Amos Bronson Alcott (father of Louisa May Alcott, a famous writer

herself) came forth with this bit of wisdom back in the 19th century:


"Sleep on your writing; take a walk over it; scrutinize it of a morning;

review it of an afternoon; digest it after a meal; let it sleep in your

drawer a twelvemonth; never venture a whisper about it to your

friend, if he be an author especially. You may read selections to

sensible women, -- if young the better."


For more on A. B. Alcott, an early Transcendentalist, see the Writers

Site Of The Day Site below


How To Get Published ?

Posted on 29 Nov 2009:

How do I get published ? Ahhh, that is the question now, isn't it ? Well

I'm going to extract one paragraph from an article by Elizabeth Gilbert

here to tickle this thought:


'There are heaps of books out there on How To Get Published. Often

people find the information in these books contradictory. My feeling

is -- of course the information is contradictory. Because, frankly,

nobody knows anything. Nobody can tell you how to succeed at

writing (even if they write a book called “How To Succeed At

Writing”) because there is no way; there are, instead, many ways.

Everyone I know who managed to become a writer did it differently –

sometimes radically differently. Try all the ways, I guess. Becoming a

published writer is sort of like trying to find a cheap apartment in New

York City: it’s impossible. And yet…every single day, somebody

manages to find a cheap apartment in New York City. I can’t tell you

how to do it. I’m still not even entirely sure how I did it. I

can only tell you – through my own example – that it can be done. I

once found a cheap apartment in Manhattan. And I also became a

writer...To view the whole article go to:


The Association of Authors Representatives (AAR)

Posted on 28 Nov 2009:

AAR is a not-for-profit, professional organization of independent

literary and dramatic agents that subscribe to an established Code of

Conduct that protects authors & other artists.


And one outstanding rule of the AAR is members can never charge

advance reading or evaluation fees for manuscripts. Professional AAR

literary agents make their money strictly from selling your

manuscripts to publishers. Part of their service, should they take you

on as a client, is to read & make suggestions to make your manuscript

more saleable to the publishing houses they are intimately  familiar

with. This is in their best interest to do, since if you don't make

money, they don't make money.


My advice for all those who are searching for an agent for

representation, or will be in the future, is stick to those agents that are

AAR members!   


For detailed information on AAR and lists of qualified agents as well

as links to many other AAR recommended writer resources go to 


What Is A Professional Writer ?

Posted 27 Nov 2009:

"A professional writer is an amateur who didn't quit."...Richard Bach


I love this one! It's short but it says volumes!


How YouTube Works

Posted 26 Nov 2009:

Ok, YouTube is about verbal words & not written words. But, we

writers need to know how to sell & present written words, right?

Using the technology at YouTube allows us to visually advertise our

works in entertaining fashion and "Tube" has a massive following!


So, I am again using Eldon Sarte of as a portal into

YouTube workings:


By Elton Sarte

Here’s a fairly comprehensive and interesting read on YouTube, its

design and methodologies, administration and a whole lot more info.  

Yeah, it’s about videos, not words exactly, but this deeper look into the site and its architecture and operations may translate into useful insight for your own online publishing projects.

Read How YouTube Works »


Two Great Ways To Get Ideas For Articles & Blog Posts


Posted 25 Nov 2009:

Many of us sometimes smash into a brick wall when trying to think of

a subject to write or blog about. Well, here are two fast ways that

Eldon Sarte from WordPreneur has come up with to generate ideas:


Every now and then, I see yet another article or blog posting promising a whole slew of article/blog post idea sources. What writer can really resist glancing through them…even though years of experience wasting time with those lists have taught me that I can always sum up what they contain in a single tip:

Keep your eyes and ears open — ideas can come from anywhere.

Yup, the lists typically include everything. May as well just hand you a dictionary to poke through for “inspiration.”

 Well, let’s see if we can change that with this post. I’ll just give you my top 2 sources of ideas for articles and blog posts. And they’re can’t miss sources at that. I only use them the few times I’m coming up dry and there’s a looming deadline. But really, they never fail. The first is something I’ve relied on for decades, now that I think about it. The second is a more recent “courtesy of the Internet” thing.

Source #1: Quotations. Get yourself a book of quotations, one indexed on keywords (that’s critical). Stuck? Just go through the quotes on the subject you’re supposed to be writing about. The quotes are short, the reading quick. If a keyword produces nothing, jump to another related keyword. Although, as I said, I’ve been using this source for decades, the Net has actually “enhanced” it. Just go to sites like The Quotations Page and keyword search away. Get a quotations book for your desktop or library anyway… you never really know when your Net connection’s going to go down. Besides, I occasionally like to do serendipitous searches just flipping randomly through the pages, an experience that nothing on the Web can really duplicate.

Source #2: Yup, the free articles site. It has now grown to such proportions that keyword searches are usually fruitful. In many cases, you don’t even need to do a keyword search — the content’s categorized well and intelligently enough that just clicking around often suffices.

This source is particularly suited for freelancers looking for article ideas they can pitch to paying publications. If you monitor the articles being released (which happen quite frequently and regularly for many of the categories), you’ll sometimes even notice topical trends, giving you some kind of unofficial “what’s hot” kind of insight.

And here’s one “feature” that’s actually more helpful than it would seem: Although the articles give you a good headstart on your work — ideas can’t be copyrighted, else all those articles on the very same thing on the EA site itself are all infringing on each other — most of what you’ll find there are poorly written or so-so at best, and decidedly on the less filling “lite” side info-wise that, really, it’s really difficult to get much more than just the idea from most of what’s there.

This means that you’ve often still got quite a bit of work to do even after visiting the site. But as a source of ideas, it’s tops.

So, what are your sources?


Top 50 Websites For Professionals

Posted 24 Nov 2009:

I have found a neat listing of top websites ! This is a ranking compiled by the staff at Website Magazine:


For someone in pursuit of Web success it is crucial to invest time and money on those resources that will most positively – and consistently – impact your Web enterprises’ bottom line. This edition of Website Magazine’s Top 50 showcases the most important websites for Web professionals. Keep in mind that the sites on this Top 50 are not an acknowledgement of their effectiveness (the manner in which you approach them influences success, too) but rather their popularity among Web professionals, the business community and consumers.

What is most fascinating about a list of this nature is the variety of industries it spans and the type of marketing and development resources it highlights. Ten years ago you would have seen a much different landscape of the top sites for Web professionals. For example, while search engines still top the list of the most essential sites today, social networking sites are quickly gaining traction as they continue to garner more consumer, business and media attention.

From Facebook and Twitter to Ning and Yelp — social is increasingly working its way into the marketing and development efforts of many enterprises. It is important, however, to apply Pareto’s Principle of the 80/20 rule to this list of sites. The top 20 percent of these websites will arguably yield 80 percent of the results — website traffic or brand engagement.

But it’s not only the pure-play social sites that are making an impact on the Web. Video sites such as,, and others are also noteworthy standouts on the list and signify an interesting shift toward a truly interactive marketing environment. While still cost-prohibitive for many marketers, consumers watch video in vast quantities and at a rapid pace — that alone makes those websites important to your Web success.

Another fascinating trend in this edition of Top 50 is the number of job and career related sites such as and While the economic realities might have brought these resources front and center, each can standalone as a vital resource regardless of what’s happening on Main Street USA.

And don’t even think about ruling out content and article marketing as a way to shore up brand visibility and drive website traffic. Longstanding success stories such as, and still generate the respect of many professional and aspiring Web professionals and will continue to do so until content is no longer king.

About This Ranked Data
Website Magazine’sTop 50 rankings are a measure of a website’s popularity. Ranks are calculated using a proprietary method that focuses on average daily unique visitors and page views over a specified period of time as reported by multiple data sources. The sites with the highest combination of factors are ranked in the first position. Website Magazine’sTop 50 List should influence your buying decision, but as in all things, perform necessary due diligence before investing your time and resources. Conducting research, making formal comparisons, and talking to existing clients and users before starting are always the best course of action. But let this act as an important starting guide for your Web success.












Get the rest here:


How To Increase Your Blog Subscription Rate by 254%


Posted 23 Nov 2009:

Nice simple thought on changing one or two words to increase blog



By Willy Franzen

There’s an action that almost every blogger wants his or her users to take. Most of these bloggers use a single word to convince readers to take this action. They use this word because other bloggers use it.

Do you know what that word is?


A week and a half ago I had a sudden realization. Subscriptions generally cost money. Think about that for a second. It’s jarring, especially if you’ve spent the past few months or even years incessantly asking your readers to subscribe.

What Does It Mean to Subscribe?

Here are the definitions of “subscribe” from two online dictionaries. “to pledge, as by signing an agreement, to give or pay (a sum of money) as a contribution, gift, or investment.” “to write (one’s name) underneath.”

Are you being completely clear with your word choice? When you ask your readers to subscribe, are you asking them to do the virtual version of writing their name underneath? Or are you asking them to agree to pay you a sum of money?

You want your readers to sign up for a free service because every time one of them does, your blog becomes a little bit more valuable (and you get a small ego boost). You need to make it absolutely obvious to these people that it costs nothing more than a few seconds of time to get valuable content delivered directly to them via RSS or e-mail.

Word Association

The percentage of readers who misunderstand what you mean when you ask them to subscribe is largely dependent on your niche. Readers who know what RSS is probably aren’t confused by the terminology, but most web users have no clue about RSS (as Brian has pointed out here and here).

I’ve found that a good measure of reader savviness is a blog’s split between RSS and e-mail subscribers – the higher the percentage of RSS subscribers, the more savvy the readership. I write a blog about entry-level jobs for new college graduates. Despite what you might think of the younger generation, the vast majority of my site’s visitors are not familiar with RSS. 55% of my subscribers get my daily posts through e-mail.

From what I’ve heard from other bloggers this is well above average, and I believe that my percentage of e-mail subscribers would be even higher had less savvy readers not been scared off because they thought “subscribing” would cost them money. These are the readers who think of magazines when they hear “subscribe.”

They think of paying to get something.

Great Theory! Now Back It Up

I use Google Analytics’ outbound click tracking on my blog so that I can analyze the subscription behavior of my readers. This method misses RSS subscriptions from the address bar, but the people who subscribe in that way are probably the most savvy readers and are basically irrelevant to this case study.

Most of my subscribers use one of the two large buttons on my site. The buttons used to include the text “Subscribe by E-mail” and “Subscribe by RSS” along with appropriate graphics. After I had my epiphany, I switched the text to “Get Jobs by E-mail” and “Get Jobs by RSS.”

I instantly saw results.

New Subscribers

The above graph shows the trend in clicks to my RSS feed and e-mail subscription buttons for the 8 days prior to the change and the 8 days after the change. My subscription rate has increased 254% since I made the change, and 66% of the new subscribers are e-mail subscribers.

This is in line with my hypothesis that the people who misunderstand the word “subscribe” are the same people who will choose e-mail over RSS. Although they may not be web savvy, these readers are extremely valuable. It is essential in all copywriting that you avoid unclear jargon, even if it’s not jargon to you.

Words Make All the Difference

OK, so I haven’t proven that my readers actually associated the word “subscribe” with paying money. The only way to prove that is by surveying readers.

But I believe I have shown that very small changes in word choice based on well-thought-out theories can have a significant influence on the actions that you urge your readers to take. Whether or not my theory on the connotations associated with the word “subscribe” is accurate is irrelevant. It’s results that matter, and changing one word on my blog has given me outstanding results.

When readers visit my site, I now invite them to “Get Jobs by E-mail.” Brian encourages readers to get “E-mail Updates,” and he did this way before I submitted this article to him.

How will you alter your word choice to increase your subscription rate?

About the Author: Besides writing about entry-level jobs on One Day, One Job, Willy Franzen also consults with employers on how they can use social media and the Internet for more effective recruiting.


Vanity Book Awards

Posted 22 Nov 2009: Want to win some props for your masterpiece? We can do that -- for a price By Laura Miller   "The above synopsis says it all. A great article about faux awards for self-publishers with some surprising conclusions!"...John Austin   In 1995, Laura Miller helped to co-found, where she is currently a staff writer. She is a frequent contributor to the New York Times Book Review, where she wrote the Last Word column for two years. Her work has appeared in the New Yorker, the Los Angeles Times, the Wall Street Journal and many other publications. She is the author of "The Magician's Book: A Skeptic's Adventures in Narnia" (Little, Brown, 2008) and the editor of "The Reader's Guide to Contemporary Authors" (Penguin, 2000). She lives in New York.   Read "Vanity Book Awards" at   

Getting Published

Posterd 20 Nov 2009:

Getting published is a daunting task and I am presenting an article

from Jeffrey A. Carver, a published sci-fi writer (Battlestar Galactica

plus many others), addressing his thoughts on this very subject:


Selling your first book is hard, no question about it. Most first novelists feel lost at sea, not knowing where to start. Do I need an agent, or not? Should I self-publish, or publish on the web? (Generally speaking, the answers to those questions are yes, and no, respectively.)



The most common email I get from new writers goes something like this:

"I am getting ready to self-publish my first novel. [Or sometimes, "My online publisher is getting ready to publish my first novel."] Can you tell me how to get a famous author to read it and give me a cover blurb, or write me a blurb yourself?"

The short answer is: "No."

The long answer is: "Most writers, including me, don't have time to respond to very many such requests, even when they come from editors we know. (And yes, requests for quotes come from the editor, not the author.) If a book is self published, the chances we will respond are just about nil. The automatic question in the busy writer's mind is, why isn't the book coming from a regular publisher? The most common answer is, because it isn't good enough. There are exceptions, sure, but how many? The publishing process, while hardly flawless, is on the whole a pretty good filter for a certain basic level of quality."

If the plan is to self-publish, the answer continues: "Why are you self-publishing? Have you tried to sell it to a publisher? If so, how many have you shown it to? I do not recommend spending your money on self-publishing or vanity presses. If you try repeatedly and can't sell your manuscript, maybe it's because you need to spend more time learning the craft. There will be exceptions, sure, but they really are the exceptions, not the rule."

But then comes the response, "How can I sell to a publisher without an agent? And how can I get an agent, if I'm unpublished?"

Good questions.



It's not easy to find an agent, but it's not impossible. Start by learning all you can. Read the articles at, and in particular, the pieces on writing at Most books on writing have sections on agents and dealing with them. Agent Richard Curtis has written several books on publishing and dealing with agents. The web is full of resources to help writers find agents. Here are two, to get you going: The Association of Authors' Representatives, and a good page on agents from SF writer Robert Sawyer. And here's a third, from Neil Gaiman's journal, which quotes at length advice from Theresa Nielson Hayden, a long-time professional in SF publishing. And finally, an excellent article by Victoria Strauss, founder of SFWA's Writer Beware.

In case I didn't mention it, read Writer Beware in its entirety.

Some publishers still look at unagented manuscripts, by the way. My own publisher did, the last time I looked. Research the market. Study publishers' web sites for submission guidelines.

If you submit on your own, and a publisher makes an offer, ask them to please sit tight while you hire an agent. (Your odds of finding an agent will have just risen dramatically.) Most publishers would much rather negotiate with an agent than with a new writer who's just learning the ropes.

It's a challenge, and anyone who says otherwise is lying or crazy. But the only way to start is to start. Dig in and do the research. Start pursuing contacts and/or writing query letters.



A query letter to a prospective agent should be short. Say a few words about yourself, and mention publishing credits if you have them. Presumably you have a finished manuscript you hope to interest the agent in representing. Don't try to summarize the plot. Do try to capture the gist in a couple of sentences. If your letter is longer than a page, it's too long. Remember, you're trying to pique the agent's interest. If you then get a request to see the manuscript, the work must sell itself.



The agent's job is to sell your book and earn you money, thus earning him or herself a commission. If the agent asks for money upfront, tiptoe or run, but get away fast.



Try to find ways to get to writing workshops or conventions where you can ask and share advice, and possibly even meet editors and agents. If your interest is in science fiction or fantasy, get yourself to some SF cons. Most of them have writers in attendance, and many have editors and agents, as well. The annual worldcon is an obvious large one; Readercon is an excellent smaller one. But there are cons in just about every corner of the universe, so find one that looks good.

Good luck!

Jeffrey A. Carver

  Jeffrey A. Carver's website is  


Character Profile Form

Posted 19 Nov 2009:

Here is a link to a form developed by Laura Hayden's "Left-Brain-

Right Brain/Creativity Program" to develop your characters.



 Sell Your Books Online Without a Blog or Website… for Free!

Posted 18 Nov 2009:

From Wordpreneur. is published, written and edited by Eldon Sarte. Eldon’s a freelance writer, editor, publisher, photographer, golfer, and general pain-in-the-you-know-what when he’s bored.

Ideally, you’ll want your own website/blog “working” for you and your book publishing promotions/sales. The expense isn’t a killer. Cheap, even (as I mentioned a number of times previously, I get my domains from GoDaddy and use Site5 budget Web hosting).

But, I got to thinking, what if you don’t really want to hassle with one?

No need to get into the reasons why not. Yeah, it’s easy. Yeah, it’s cheap. But maybe you just don’t want one. You just want to write your books and sell them online. And you don’t want to spend any money out of pocket doing it.

Yup, sure can do. Let’s take a quick look at a few of your available options. These are only the ones that immediately come to mind as I write this; pretty good bet there are at least a few more good possibilities out there. (Know of one? Let us know through a comment below, if you please. Thanks!)

Lulu — A Print-on-Demand (POD) publisher of traditional dead tree books. Customers shop at, buy from and pay Lulu. Lulu prints, binds and ships. Then they send you your share. By the way, Lulu lets you sell ebooks and other digital downloads too!

CafePress — Another POD operation like Lulu. Actually, books are just one of the items that CafePress PODs; the outfit has been around for a while, PODding your designs on merchandise (t-shirts, hats, bags, etc.). Print books are a fairly recent addition to their POD offerings.

Mobipocket — Now owned by Amazon, Mobipocket lets you publish and sell ebooks for reading on their Mobipocket ebook Reader Software. They’ve got a version of the reader for the PC; what you’ll maybe find most interesting, however, is that they’ve also got Reader Software for PDAs, the Blackberry and other portable electronics! Mighty interesting. They even give you the software that will help you create your ebooks in a format they can sell.

You do realize, of course, that you have to drive traffic to your product(s) on these sites to make any sales, not the service. Yeah, there’s “foot traffic,” but just like with regular brick-and-mortar bookstores, despite foot traffic, if your title’s on the shelf and no one’s looking, a sale isn’t exactly very likely, is it? And the service isn’t going to go out of its way to bring attention to you unless your title already happens to be a bestseller.

But there you have it… at least three ways to sell your books online without a blog or website. I’m sure I’m missing a bunch more, specifically in the digital downloads arena. Will let you know when I learn (or remember) more.



Do Not Self-Publish!

Posted 17 Nov 2009:

Give Our Literary and Book Agency 90 Days To Sell Your Work To A Publisher That Will Pay You.. NOT the other way around!
Sell Your Book Now! Submission Information Below.


A 10-Best Book List Without Women ?

Posted 16 Nov 2009:

Controversy about Publishers Weekly's year-end list has the Internet up in arms!
Laura Miller has written an insightful piece on PW's 2009 list of the 10-best books NOT including any women authors. A must read for equal recognition of talent:
When the editors of the trade publication Publisher's Weekly announced their list of the 10 best books of the year on Monday, outrage flared across the Internet: Not a single book by a woman made the cut. Comments on P.W.'s Web site likened the list to "a flier tacked to the wall at a men's club," and the fledging feminist literary organization WILLA (Women in Letters and Literary Arts) set up a wiki page inviting visitors to add titles to a list of "great books by women" published in 2009. Continue reading at





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