Archives for category: publishing

And now… on Kindle…

A.V. Walters

I attended a business conference this week. Most of the presentations were dry as dust, except for one woman, who is an expert on the psychology of purchasing behaviors. From a larger, societal, perspective, what she was saying gives me the shivers. She studies people and their shopping behaviors, which are increasingly happening on-line. There is an ever-increasing shortness of attention span, nowadays, (hello, are you still with me?) that can take your breath away—in a nanosecond kind of interval. She analyzed the time spent researching (reading other customer reviews or perusing manufacturer’s sites) and how long it takes to complete the purchase-cycle. Once a decision has been made, people react in a split-second. The difference between a sale and losing a customer’s attention can literally be a question of how few clicks it takes. Too many clicks, or too much text… and you’ve lost them. Alas.

This is particularly surprising when the product is a book. Consumers who cannot instantly obtain the book they want will be drawn and diverted by “People who purchased this item also purchased that item”—and off they go! In a product that will take them hours to read, and from which they should derive many more hours enjoyment and contemplation, they’ll change their minds (or simply lose interest) if they cannot have it… now!

She reported that Amazon knows this, and designs it into their interface. Amazon now sells more books than any other outlet in this country. Industry pundits claim that in a few scant years, Amazon will be the biggest retailer in the world. And, we’re not just talking books, either—Amazon sells everything.

I guess I’m old fashioned. Apparently, I frequently stand in my own way—the only thing between me and success is… well, me. My books are on Amazon. I’m a POD (print on demand) author, so Amazon is the best distribution vehicle for the small or self publisher.  But I have never listed my e-books with Amazon. I’ve been loyal to smashwords.com.  Something about its counter-culture approach has always appealed to me. And, I’ve been offended by the war of the Goliaths—the major players in the publishing industry who seek to turn authors into “content providers.” I see the squeeze between retailers and publishers and note that more often than not, the losers in that battle are the authors.

I know that the publishing world is in flux. It is both a curse and an opportunity for authors. Caught in the new age of information, the old stuffy publishing houses have pulled in, more than ever. They are reticent to take a risk on new talent. The only sure-fire books these days are celebrity tell-alls, diet books, or Clancy-type thrillers. Oh, yeah, and anything with vampires.  Literature is lost in the mix. And yet, in the corners of the maelstrom, good books are peeking out. There is a chance that an elegant or beautiful story can find its audience. Oh yes, your story has a chance, if it can find its nanosecond.

And so, I announce that my books are now available as e-books on Amazon for its Kindle readers. For the moment, I have stopped tilting at windmills and will go with the mainstream (read–tsunami.) My sister loves her Kindle. She reminds me of this, all the time. I see it in the grocery store, people reading in line. The marketing experts tell us that gum, candy and tabloid purchases are down, because folks in the queue are busy with their smartphones. The impulse purchase has moved online. And now, for better or worse, so have I.

So, if you have a nanosecond or two, check them out—The Emma Caites Way and The Gift of Guylaine Claire—now available, instantaneously, at an on-line retailer near you.

 

 

 

 

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Digital Pickpockets

They say that you should check now and then. I didn’t really believe it, but, because they say you should, from time to time I do a Google search on my own book titles. Really, to be extra careful, one ought to Google a section of text, which might be a better test.

So it’s the end of the month and I ran through the Smashwords standard SEO search on both The Emma Caites Way and The Gift of Guylaine Claire. I didn’t expect to find anything unusual, just the routine references to my blog and the on-line booksellers who carry the books. In all honesty, it’s a rote thing; I’m not even sure what I’m looking for.

And then, there it was! An on-line retailer (who, until this is fully resolved, shall remain nameless) that was listing The Emma Caites Way for download as a PDF. Looking closer it gave the online “handle” for the individual who “shared” it, and that person was not me. Somebody was actually stealing my book and making it available for online download. Can you say copyright? A few more clicks confirmed my suspicions. I don’t know whether to be outraged or flattered.

It wasn’t even a very sophisticated theft. The Emma Caites Way is a particularly distinctive title. I did that on purpose. They didn’t change it—I guess because that way they ride my negligible marketing coattails. Nor did they remove my name from the PDF (a not impossible task.) One has to wonder how this can pay. I’m a pretty small-scale target, a self-published author with only a couple of books. That leads to the inescapable conclusion that they didn’t select me specifically. It’s no measure of the quality of the product. To make such a violation financially viable, this character would have to hit many, many authors and let the numbers do their work.

This must be pretty common. The website has a message to copyright holders who contend that their work has been illegally listed. There’s a form you fill out, the DMCA Complaint Form. (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) I guess that with this kind of theft so common, one needs to streamline the process. That’s another argument that this is about the numbers, not about someone who picked me, because of the content and quality of my work. I suppose it’s an argument against smashwords free downloads, but I hate to restrict that as a marketing option for a new author.

I filled out the form and submitted it. Someone on the other end will look at the information and no doubt delete the pirated listing for my “document.” And that will be that. There was a time when theft of copyright was at least a compliment.

Heads up out there. It’s probably not about the dollars and sense of it, but you do need to watch your back. Constant diligence, in this, and in everything.

Now Ya Tell Me

(Not that I shouldn’t have noticed)

A.V. Walters

I’ve just logged over a year of blogging, and I‘ve been looking for a way to commemorate the passage, accounting for it, now that I’m no longer a newbie. The assessment isn’t an easy one. I broke my own rule when I started. Usually when I begin a new endeavor, I first ask myself the critical question—what’s the objective? If you don’t do that, then you’re left with no way to measure the results.

I confess that I blogged because people kept telling me I had to do it. I’d already self-published my first novel, (The Emma Caites Way) with another in the pipeline, and my writing compatriots kept saying, “You need an online presence, you need to blog.” Because I have privacy issues, I have steadfastly resisted having anything to do with Facebook. I can’t bring myself to hand over my personally identifiable information to a company hell-bent on constantly changing the ground rules, and often without meaningful notice. (Now they tell me that I’m suspect because of my failure to have a Facebook page!) Maybe I’m just old-fashioned.

Conventional wisdom told me I had to have a presence; I had to play the game. It was, they said, the way to sell books. So I gave in and blogged. It’s been like starting out on a journey without a clear destination, a little bit of a ramble, but if you pay attention along the way, not without its rewards. I’ve come to realize that I enjoy blogging. It gives voice to my gardener, rural alter-ego, something I haven’t explored in my other writing. I’ve come to know some wonderful people (and a few, slightly off-center) along the way—all over the globe. Who knew? But I cannot say that the blog has sold a single book. If it has, there’s certainly no evidence of it.

I follow a number of other bloggers. Many of them are gardeners, science geeks, or (like me) wannabee writers. I think we quietly blog for each other, lulled into the rhythms of it, like a very exclusive, private club.

Maybe I’m a failure as a blogger. But this week I made a discovery. I regularly read the newsletter from CreateSpace. I especially read anything by Joel Friedlander. He’s affiliated with BAIPA (Bay Area Independent Publishers Association) where I’m a member (and an award winner for The Emma Caites Way—Hey, it’s all about self-promotion, isn’t it?) His presentations are always informative and substantive. So after reading his headline article this month, I clicked on another selection, Is Blogging Good for Fiction Writers? (https://www.createspace.com/en/community/docs/DOC-2031)

Oh my! He nailed me (and many of you, as well.) I’ve been blogging away for a year, apparently without a clue. Yes, most of my readers are other struggling fiction authors; and yes, many of the blogs I follow are self-publishers and writers. Since my books (Yes, I finished and published the second one, The Gift of Guylaine Claire, and a third is in the works), don’t have a clearly defined, common theme, (and if they did, it’s not what’s in my blog) this lovely ramble has been just that.  It’s a clear demonstration of the blind leading the blind. And, given the fiction writer’s conundrum, a blog isn’t likely to achieve any results beyond that warm and fuzzy sense of community that I’ve come to enjoy.

I’m not sure where this all leads. I can’t imagine abandoning the blog after all this—after all, there are relationships in it now. All I can say is, Now ya tell me!

 

 

 

A.V. Walters

The rains have come. Those first showers over a week ago, have worked their magic. At first it was just a blush–a wisp of color if you caught it at the right angle. Now there’s no question, our hills are turning green. It’s a funny dynamic that our gardening season is the opposite of our green season. Still, after months of dead brown hills it’s a relief to the eye to see this transformation. There are still goodies from the garden, they’ll go on until the hard frosts hit. This is the seasonal pause, the green relief in still fine weather, before the storms and cold come. It’s a pleasure to work outside in the cool, sometimes grey days.

I’ll be posting a little less frequently this month. I am, after all, fully committed to NaNoWriMo. It could be that Editor Rick picks up the slack. He’s undertaking those end-of-season projects, readying for winter, seed-saving (he’s so organized), tool management, and soon, pulling buckets. All that stuff that I let lag until the storms force my hand. My head is miles and decades away, weaving the fabric of a 1931 speakeasy in Detroit. Outside, the creeping green is putting me in the mood with the intense colors of my childhood. While California is lovely, it is difficult to go without green for five or six months of the year. I’m not saying I miss snow (though sometimes, I do) but I do welcome the return of green.

It’s less than a week to the election–don’t forget to vote. If you’re here in California, and if you value good food and informed choice, remember to vote for Proposition 37. Let’s get those GMO foods labeled.

I’ll pull my head out of fiction at least once a week, to give you the what’s up in Two Rock.

Another View of Saint Kateri

A.V. Walters

Today, the Vatican is Canonizing a fresh batch of Saints. It’s sort of the “Hall of Fame” of the truly faithful. It’s interesting to note the blend of those selected–they don’t make new saints everyday, ya know. Among them is Saint Kateri Tekakwitha, “The Lily of the Mohawk.” This is notable because it’s the first time a North American, indigenous person has ever been granted saintly status. It seems that every 350 years, or so, they get it right.

A closer look at Kateri reveals that she presents with many attributes similar to the female saints of the middle ages. She was a young woman–of high rank (the daughter of a chief and then, when her parents succumbed to a small pox epidemic, the adopted daughter of her uncle, the new chief.) Small pox had left her scarred and partially blind–yet she still had opportunities for marriage, which she declined. Like many of the early European saints, the level of commitment to her faith was out of step with the expectations of her community. It was not regarded with favor, at least not during her lifetime. Kateri left her home and tribe, alone, and walked hundreds of miles north, to a tribe where she would be welcome because that tribe had fully adopted the new Christian faith. Disturbingly, she advocated harsh self-abdication–even to the point of endangering her already compromised health. She was a great friend to all, and dedicated herself to a life of service and toil. She died young–in her early twenties. On her deathbed, the first of her miracles was reported by the Jesuits who attended her. With her last breath, the disfiguring scars of smallpox were reported to have disappeared from her face. In the eyes of God, everyone is beautiful and equal.

It’s a story about finding a place for smart, uppity, young women. Scholars have noted the similarity between the female saints of the middle ages and young women of the modern era who suffer from anorexia or cutting behaviors. From a psychological perspective, unusually saintly behavior is coupled with refusal to adhere to the gender-determined norms of the day. It’s a narrow avenue of control by those whose social options were more limited than the powers of their intellectual, or spiritual, capacity. Not that I want to discourage selfless devotion to a cause–that being one of the hallmarks of humanity–but today I hope that the pathways to self-realization for young people are more open than, well, martyrdom.

I discovered Kateri during my research for The Gift of Guylaine Claire. Her story was the perfect counterpoint to the title character–who was herself an odd fit in society. Guylaine had been raised in a loving home, one that, almost accidentally, found space for her to bloom creatively. Kateri’s tale mirrored the pivotal story of Guylaine’s indigenous grandmother, Claire, and tied into some of the central themes of my book. Kateri was so perfect, that if I hadn’t found her, I would have had to invent her. Her actual role in the book, as the subject of one of Guylaine’s sculptures, is minor but thematically she is woven in throughout the story in terms of forgiveness, transcendence and making one’s own way. Kateri was drawn to her faith, despite the fact that her tribe blamed the “Black Robe” Jesuits for the very epidemic that had taken her family. In an odd way, both she and her tribe were correct in their convictions. So, today we celebrate the recognition of a young woman challenged by personal circumstance and race. Maybe we can all learn from it.

NaNoWriMo– Cheaper Than Therapy
A.V. Walters

So, what finally got me writing? I’d meant to do it, literally for decades. I had outlines, ideas, concepts…you name it. Two things finally turned the corner for me. The first was the complete unraveling of my life. Convinced that there had to be more–maybe even something in it for me–I walked out of a twenty-eight year marriage. I moved to the middle of nowhere, in part because I sought to recover the rhythms of my rural childhood and in part because I was broke and couldn’t afford to stay in the city where I was. And there I was. If ever you thought that you were held back by the cloying demands of a relationship, freedom comes with the hefty realization that if you don’t do it now, you have no excuse. If you don’t do it now, you might just as well have stayed, stayed to dedicate your every breath to the needs of someone else and let the creative spark within you suffocate and die. So there’s a pretty good incentive.

But, how do you start? Admittedly, for a little while, drinking helped. But the real impetus was NaNoWriMo.

What the hell is that? National Novel Writing Month. (NaNoWriMo.org) It’s a nonprofit group on the net that sets aside the month of November to challenge anyone brave enough to try, to write a novel in thirty days. A friend turned me on to it. The goal is to write every day with the objective of completing 50,000 words by the end of the month. There is no prize, only a lot of support, nagging, wonderful and dreaded email updates and writing for the sake of it. Really, check it out. Honestly, I never finished the 50,000 words in a month. Too much for me–but I got far enough in that I couldn’t stop and the end result of that first NaNoWriMo effort was The Emma Caites Way, an award-winning 400+ page novel. My second attempt–still without being able to finish the challenge of 50,000 words–was The Gift of Guylaine Claire, the novel I just published (though that one took two NaNo cycles to complete, even though it’s shorter.)

I’m gearing up again for November–and I hope to substantially complete my current manuscript, The Trial of Trudy Castor (again, a second time around Nano effort.) If you’ve ever dreamed of trying your hand at writing, I totally recommend it. It’s a maniac vacation (especially if, like most of us, there’s still the day job and Thanksgiving to distract you) into a self-inflicted world of angst, release, charging on–regardless and losing oneself totally in the story. It’s wonderful and hell, all in one. Its pressures (about 1,700 words per day) shake you free of the inclination to dither and sharpen your pencils relentlessly. You have to just do it.

For me, it came at just the right (write?) time. I was phenomenally depressed. I didn’t know where my life was going. I did know that I could weave stories and thus it started. Now, this is not the best option if you’re thinking that becoming an author is the path to wealth and fame. (That’s really fiction.) Writing is worthy in and of itself. It lets you explore the you of you. It helps you sort out your story and your characters and gives you insight into the you who created them. It is centering and terrifying. Here I am, five years later and I still don’t know where my life is going. Don’t expect NaNoWriMo to solve all your problems. But I have written two perfectly acceptable novels. I am a writer. I find that in a lifetime of experience, the only place you can really tell the truth is in fiction. I will continue with this, because I enjoy it, and because it allows me to explore and express. It turns out there was more to the me of me.

And so, if you ever thought that there was a story in you, I invite you to give it a try. November is coming. Sharpen your pencils. Breathe deep and ….. go!

If you’re from a small town, you’re always from a small town. They don’t let go of you, they welcome you home when you visit and they celebrate your triumphs with you, even from afar.

 

http://www.mininggazette.com/page/content.detail/id/526936/In-the-Catbird-Seat-Joe-Kirkish.html