Friday, February 29, 2008

Borders Personal Publishing -- Dusk Peterson

Emily Veinglory wrote here on February 17 about a partnership between Borders bookstore and self-publishing service Lulu.

I've had a look at information on the partnership, particularly the FAQ, and it looks as though Borders is simply setting itself up as a subsidy publisher. In other words, it's the middleman between the author and Lulu, while Lulu in turn is the middleman between Borders and Lightning Source, which actually prints the books.

This strikes me as being no different (other than in its level of complexity) than the deal between iUniverse and Barnes & Noble, which people report is meaningless in terms of greater distribution than with, say, Lulu's regular distribution program. However, I've noticed that subsidy-press authors have a somewhat better chance of being regarded as "previously published authors" than self-published authors.

Dusk Peterson writes fantasy stories on friendship, gay historical fantasy tales, and contemporary gay fiction. Occasionally, a heterosexual love story will appear as well. Peterson's stories are often placed in dark settings, such as prisons or wartime locations. Romance and friendship, especially male friendship, are recurring themes.

REVIEW: 'Homicide Insecticide' by Orthi Rabbane


Title: Homicide Insecticide
Author: Orthi Rabbane
Price: $12.50
Genre: Sci Fi
ISBN: 978-0-6151-8612-2
Publisher: Rayney Days Publishing
Point of Sale: Lulu


I admit I have a weakness for odd shape-shifters, so a teen girl were-mosquito was an auto-buy for me. The author of this work is apparently still in school so this will be to some extent a 'kid gloves' review with no empirical rating. So here, simply put, are the pros and cons.

Pros: Some of the passages were really brilliant, including--surprisingly enough--some dream sequences which I normally find too cliched. Some of the relationships were quite touching with convincing teen angst and the pregnancy of one of the partially-insect characters had real pathos. The overall concept has a wonderful originality to it, a kind of magical realisms meet YA paranormal. The ensemble of characters all had a lot of potential.

Cons: That said, some elements of the story seemed implausible and the overall plot seemed to lack direction. There were a few technical issue and awkward use of language. Flashes of brilliance were separated by pages of sometimes bland or confusing events, and the ending seemed anti-climactic.

Overall I would say this book provides ample evidence that Orthi Rabbane will be a wonderful author, but this book may be more a learning experience than a fait accompli.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Promoting a Book on Self-Promotion Sub-Forums--veinglory


Many forums have an area that is specifically set aside for promoting your work. Examples that spring to mind are the Lulu and AbsoluteWrite forums, and I have actually purchased books promoted in both of these forums. I go to these forums not only to see which authors are taking the trouble to promote their work, but to scan for genres that I like or anything clever, quirky or different. I feel like authors should keep some of the following points in mind when posting to a self-promotion forum:

1) Compose your message separately in a word processor and proofread it. Avoid any use of capitals, text speak or other affectations.
2) Post just once, in one sub-forum and in the correct sub-forum
3) If at all possible take part in the forum for a while before promoting. I find I am immediately more interested in a member of the forum who has been around, shared the discussions and become somewhat familiar.
4) Choose a specific, intriguing subject line that will appeal to your target audience. i.e. not ‘my new book is out’ or ‘you will love this’.
5) Within the post start with a short message that connects to the members of this specific forum and recommends your book to them. Avoid material that seems like it has been ‘cut-and-pasted’ all over the internet.
6) Include the title and blurb, and a link to a point of sale that offers an excerpt from the book. Ensure that the link works. Ensure that the excerpt is easily accessible.
7) Come up with an approach that is fresh without being offensive, gimmicky or in any way misleading.
8) Reply to any comments left in the forum. Even if the comments seem less than polite respond courteously and constructively in a way that demonstrates you really read and thought about what was said. These replies are also part of your self-promotion and contribute to the impression readers will form of you and your work.

What makes me check out a book and potentially buy it is 1) it is clear what the book is about and that is something that interests me, 2) I feel some kind of connection to the author, 3) the author conducts themselves in a way that is intelligent and courteous and 4) something sets the book apart from the crowd. And of course that last point is the difficult one. I think authors sometimes struggle to express what really makes their book something special or unique. I suspect authors are often too close to their work even to know.

If I look through the last few reviews of self-published books that I have written I would offer these examples of what the X-factor of the book is, in my own humble reader's opinion:

'20 Years After Night' by Dillon Langlands: stepping outside the usual novel format, going for a completely new look.

'Chion' by Darryl Sloan: Just astoundingly well written.

'ClimBing' by Henk van Os: A humorous and quirky perspective expressed in illustrations rather than words.

'Vermin Street: Life in these Walls' by Mike Robinson: Furry noir, that's all I needed to know.

'A Man and His Maniac: The Bunkie Story' by Charles Emery: The story has genuine warmth and an 'everyman' perspective that makes a connection to the reader.

So my question to authors is: what sets your book apart from the rest, and how could you describe that to readers in one sentence?

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Pea plant or shrinking violet?--veinglory

A new blog for lulu book reviews has opened. In their first post, as in most summaries of POD review sites I see a number of blogs are mentioned--but not this one. So after three years and 68 reviews I have to ask, why does POD people as one of the most long-standing and productive review blogs in this area continue to fly under the radar?

Because, to be honest a little light ego-stroking is all our get out of this. And also the point is not just to create reviews but promote them and self-published books in general. Ergo a higher profile would be helpful.

All suggestions greatfully received. For example, what types of content, what tone and what other strategies might I employ to increase our profile online and in the minds of people writing about indy books and indy book reviews?

Sunday, February 24, 2008

The season of the underdog--veinglory


I read this in Times today:

"This has been the season of the underdogs, of plot twists and reckonings, a Superbowl of the ages that saw David smite Goliath ... Dogs, however, are judged not against one another but against perfection, and here, in all its modesty, was the magic: Uno became the first beagle to win the hound group since 1939. ... This was, the fans declared, a victory for the People's Dog, the dog next door..." (Nancy Gibbs, Times, February 25).

I think self-publishing is an underdog. But the answer is not to dress up a beagle like a borzoi, to set the dogs against each other or declare the competition is rigged. All we can ever do is write a book that is as close to perfection as we can get it and give a good book its due.

Some people will never find a beagle beautiful, but I genuinely believe that self publishing is the peoples publishing: of the people, by the people, and most importantly for the people. It is the publishing next door. And if the book is good, genuinely good, and it is out their where readers can find it, it's time will come.

Friday, February 22, 2008

Survey for Authors--veinglory


I would like to encourage authors to participate in the following survey:

The Populist Publisher Blog Author Survey

"This is a survey for authors who have published books through subsidy publishers. (Publishers who charge authors a fee to publish their books--sometimes called POD publishers or self-publishers.) If you own your own publishing company, please don't complete this survey. All responses to the survey will be aggregated and will not be connected with you as an individual in any way. Please complete this survey only once. Thank you."

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Reader Needs--veinglory

I think that as authors we sometime lose track of what really drives publishing, and that is what readers want--what readers need. I have a nascent idea. I want to really hear what kind of books readers want and have trouble getting. So I am going to ask. I encourage everyone to report this question and let me know so I can link to it and take note of all the replies. Post it in any kind of forum where it will be welcome, and where some kind of reader is to be found. I will really appreciate it.

The question: As a reader what specific kinds of books do you most enjoy but have trouble finding? Please be as specific as you can and describe any kind of book distinguished by any quality such as sub-genre, non-fiction subject, time period, length, writing style or anything else that is important to you as a reader. I am looking for the kinds of book you would buy more of, if you could only find them.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Just... boggled--veinglory


I recently came across this book on Amazon.

200 Authors and How They Were Published

This work holds two hundred authors in one book, each with their own pages and each with their own stories to tell. These are the authors from PublishAmerica, and this is their book. To become a published author is a dream come true, but to share that dream is an even greater ambition. [...] For those of you who are pursuing your own dream of becoming a published author, this book will be an inspiration. For everyone, 200 Authors and How They Were Published will be an amazing insight into the lives of some very incredible authors. Although there are many publishers to choose from, all 200 authors featured in this book have chosen PublishAmerica-and with good reason. This publisher is amazingly supportive of new and existing authors, and they treat everyone with the respect they deserve. This book is personal; this book is special; this book is the TWO HUNDRED.

This book is un-bloody-believable. 493 pages of authors puffing their PA books. Believing that anyone would want to pay $29.95 for it is... special. Sorry, that may sound harsh, but, I really am astounded that this was ever offered for sale. I presume the fact it has an Amazon ranking at all is down to some of the 200 buying it.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Borders concept store--veinglory


I am still vague on what makes a concept store. It seems to mean you can try and make your lulu book while sitting in a bookstore rather than from the comfort of your own home.

The do say "Some customer-written books may eventually be sold in Borders stores and select customer authors could even host in-store signings", but frankly I wouldn't suggest holding your breath. I predict a few highly commercial exceptions to raise the expectations of the potential customer-base for Lulu, but not much for the average user.

See more here

Saturday, February 16, 2008

REVIEW: '20 Years After Night' by Dillon Langlands


Title: 20 Years After Night
Author: Dillon Langlands
Price: $18/$9
Genre: Sci Fi
ISBN: 978-0-9784-4964-3
Publisher: Penniless Canadian Stereotypes
Point of Sale: Lulu


One of the things that is often missing from self-published books is a truly envelope-pushing approach. After all, one of the advantages of not having to deal with an editor or third party publisher should be the ability to take some risks and be truly idiosyncratic. 20 Years After Night at least takes a stab at this. It is presented as a battered journal somehow sent back from a future in which various kinds of zombie rise up and lay waste to civilization as we know it. Of course the problem with taking risks is that it is, well, risky. I would say this book is about 50% successful. I gave it 5/10 then kicked it up to 6 for at least having the balls to give it a go.

First let’s say what I liked. I liked having a good at recreating a hand-scribbled, half-censored post-apoalyptic journal. Some details are really fresh like simulating a censor's black pen, faded just enough for the words beneath to still show through. The idea of the censor reading the work and deciding what to obliterate from the record has the potential to add a whole new level to the time scale and perspective. The rushed first person narrative is given so much more freedom in the format than it would in a typed novella. And some elements of the world building are interesting and benefit from not being over explained as they are seen from the point of view of a single wanderer. There are some scenes such as finding a tape made by a doctor undergoing undead transformation that are truly chilling.

However…

As a whole, the book never quite came together for me, never quite meshed. A telling example might be the paper is textured to look deeply creased and crumpled but it is also printed with the blue and red lines of journal paper—that are perfectly straight. The font is selected to look like handwriting, but it clearly isn’t. Even in journal format the story is too rambling and 'telling' to come together as a narrative. At a pithy 48 pages (rather less of actual text) it didn’t have time to get too wearisome, but it was going in that direction. And perhaps my version of Adobe is too old to do what it was meant to with this e-book, because I got some blank and duplicate pages.

Given that each page is basically a picture (making for a rather large file as an ebook) I was left rather wishing all of the half-effective digital tricks had been put aside and the journal actually hand written on paper that was actually crumpled and stained (it could then be scanned to produce a similar file, but more authentically). And also wished that the story didn’t lean quite so heavily, in the end, on its formatting and framing to be effective. In fact, just to contradict the very point I started on, I feel this book was taken about as far as an author could but with the input of an editor and book designer it could have really crossed over so that the reader is not appreciating the details in the worthy attempt at something a bit different, but really feeling like the are holding a convincing artifact of a terrible future in their hands.

RATING: 6/10

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

A little lite Lulu gossip--veinglory


BBB Accreditation Status

"On February 6, 2008 the accreditation was suspended due to failure to respond to one or more customer complaints filed with BBB. The matter will be reviewed by BBB's Board of Directors at its next meeting ... When considering complaint information, please take into account the company's size and volume of transactions, and understand that the nature of complaints and a firm's responses to them are often more important than the number of complaints."

p.s. look like PODdy #2 is taking her (?) ball and going home. [shrug]

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Tracking Your Amazon Rank--veinglory

Once you book is up on Amazon there is a temptation to keep checking that sales rank. I was an early adopter of Titlez, which still works but seems fairly neglected. There are not recent updates to the sites which is a pity as it might also have been a useful publishing news source.

Now there are other services that will track your ranks for you including Charteous and Sales Rank Express. The latter offers a real time widget for your site, but a word to the wise--it is not good marketing to post this if your rank is not good! Anything greater than #50,000 suggests less than a sale per week, and the cany Amazon customer knows this and might be put off.

If you are using any of these services please let me know what you think of them.

Friday, February 01, 2008

iUniverse--veinglory

Okay, so I admit I didn't--and to some extent still don't--see the move of iUniverse away from Lincoln as being very important. However reading posts such as the one by PUBGUY and seeing comments around the place I am beginning to wonder. Is this really the beginning of the end for iUniverse as we know it?