28 July 2011 0 comments

A Peon's Thoughts on Digital Publishing & Industry Evolution

I've watched yet another large-circulation newspaper make sweeping changes to their book review section.
From the Publisher's Weekly article [emphasis added]:
Sullivan, the VP of Communications for the LA Times, confirmed that this was a cost-saving move but would not provide details on the number of freelancers who were eliminated last week. “Staff writers from outside the book department will take over for those who left. We have not changed our commitment to book coverage or the amount of space the Times will devote to it.” 
I find it fascinating that no reference is made to the quality of the content the LA Times will offer, going forward. Parceling out review assignments outside the book department doesn't bode well. They aren't the first news organization to revamp their book-related content. Back in 2009, the Washington Post did something similar, condensing and consolidating what had once been a fully separate section.

Is it just a sign of the economy, businesses trying to cut costs and taking increasingly desperate measures?
Perhaps. This writer, though, thinks of it more as a sign of the times. The industry itself, whose shifting landscape is having an influence on the value-added by such venues in traditional sources. To put it simply, readers are turning elsewhere for the book reviews reading recommendations. And for reviews of niche releases, which are gaining momentum in the digital channel. Books that a traditional mainstream media outlet wouldn't bother touching. Some of the greater perception out there seems to revolve around a shift in focus, that consumers buying books are looking at reviews and ratings on Amazon, or other sellers, as an earmark for whether a book or author is worth reading.

I'm not certain how accurate this is, overall. I think the seller ratings have some influence, but I don't think that's where the greater part of the information channel is occurring. My money is on non-retail and social media sources. Word of mouth, after all, is the best form of publicity. And the word of a trusted friend or acquaintance has greater weight than an unknown.  Freelance book review bloggers are an increasing source of influence for consumers who are avid readers and heavily favor a specific genre, especially when it's a niche. Blog tours, coordinated by publishers to highlight releases over a series of blogger sites, are becoming an increasingly utilized strategy for marketing and publicity, reader visibility and awareness. Sites like GoodReads are taking a lions' share of the role also. They don't sell anything. They're simply a repository, an online library of publications which permits publicity and awareness and marketing through socialization. The ultimate word-of-mouth channel.

These marketing channels are a godsend for the 'little guys' -- creating equal footing with the big boys. Indie authors, small press sources -- years ago, these labels would have been considered derogatory and suggested poor quality product and writing. An author that couldn't hack it. Granted there's some weight in a 'big name' when it has that household name recognition in its favor.

The winds have shifted direction, though. I submit as evidence the bankruptcy and liquidation of Borders. The bookstore that offered coffee and ambiance and cozy little reading niches. Failure on a grand scale. They couldn't even whore themselves to another company in the industry to save themselves. Crash and burn. But why?

Because the sales, and the traffic, are going elsewhere. While the change is gradual, the effect is felt. And in a tight economy, competition has the wolves eating each other. Only the strong, and the quick-witted, will survive.

Electronic sales figures aren't that large, in comparison to print sales. The slumps can be attributed to economy and other factors as well.

Really? From the Association of American Publishers-- E-book sales show +164.4 percent gain for 2010:
E-books grew a dramatic +164.8 percent in December 2010 vs the previous year ($49.5 Million vs $18.7M). In the AAP’s ninth year of tracking this category, E-books once again increased significantly on an annual basis, up +164.4 percent for 2010 vs 2009 ($441.3M vs $166.9M). E-book sales represented 8.32 percent of the trade book market in 2010 vs 3.20 percent the previous year. A chart tracking nine years of E-book sales is included below:

These are US-only sales figures, though. Also, one could arguably interpret these statistics to conclude whatever they wish. That is, after all, the wonder of visual presentation and interpretation. Including that, with those levels of reported sales, trade print is safe from the influence of e-books. It appears to be so--I would only disagree on the grounds of fluctuating print-sales figures which make an intriguing contrast to e-book figures that only show steady growth by substantive percentages, year after year. Print sales figures were lower last year than they've been in six years. A fluke, I'm sure. Will e-books ever replace print completely? Immortal sky fairies help us, I hope not. I do enjoy picking a book up and flipping pages, now and then. But perhaps that's only because I'm too poor (read: stingy) to fork out the funds for an e-reader. Then again, I will always love being able to hold my very own book in my hand. But maybe that attachment to the tangible just makes me "old-school."

Brick and mortar retailers of books were late to jump on the e-book format bandwagon. They're also late/no-shows to the idea of assisting publishers with marketing/publicity from a digital/internet presence perspective. I'd venture a guess that, with other sources offering to fill this hole free of charge, there's no use in them even trying. And I expect Amazon will remain strong simply because it's developed a role similar to that of Wal-Mart in the retail industry. Online, instead of 'brick-and-mortar.' Even though their distribution network seems to be having substantive issues as of late.

Publishers are increasing their own burden of responsibility in reaching out to the readership for publicity and marketing online. This reduces overhead costs--one of the great wonders of electronic formatting, the severe reduction in production costs--and while the reader might not realize the full weight of that savings, the increase in realized profit per sale means that the publisher can afford to invest in engaging those responsibilities.

As this trend continues and strengthens, gaining momentum alongside the expanding e-book market, the middle-man retailers will continue to be hit, and hard. With each aspect of the channel that goes digital, the damage inflicted to the conventional industry model increases. The surviving brick and mortar stores are going to need to mix it up--and reinvent themselves, or at least update their wardrobe--if they want to remain viable. Whether this means the smaller, independent stores band together in a union format to serve as distribution and publicity outreach channels remains to be seen. I imagine that, in the near future, blog tours will begin translating into public signings--coordinated and advertised via social media forums alone.

I'm just a peon, though, a small shred of Styrofoam flotsam bobbing along on the industry current. It'll go where it pleases, regardless of what I think. Or do.
27 July 2011 0 comments

Food Porn with Jan: Dinner Delight

Decided not to try tackling any writing this weekend. Not today, anyways. Whole lot of nothing going on over here, today. Sometimes, I think, it's okay to let yourself have a goal of zero productivity. That way, when you get nothing done, you don't beat yourself up for it. There was no way I was getting anything writing-related done today.

Om Nom Nom
And now that I've been a good girl and eaten some actual food... I'm curling up on the chaise out on the porch with a good read and some Bordeaux Chocolate Cherry ice cream over a soft chocolate fudge cookie and slathered in chocolate syrup, and a smoke and finish off my lazy day.

I'm entitled to one a month, I think. Sadly, if today is any indication, tomorrow might need written off as well. If that's the case, I have every intention of making up for it later this week. Hamm & Marc's story arc is fleshing out steadily and while it'll need some tweaking, I'm happy with what it looks like thus far.

Good news coming soon. Biting my tongue for now, Generals' orders. Stay tuned though...
21 July 2011 0 comments

Calling a Do-Over On That One.

Apparently I got so excited that I fouled the link up in my previous attempt. So here it is, functional.
Carina Press updated their website with the August releases, so you can now pre-order Dark Edge of Honor. Or read the excerpt. :)
20 July 2011 1 comments

Food Porn with Jan: Morning Munchies

Extra-moist cream cheese banana bread, Mahogany dark roast spiced w/ cinnamon & cloves. And this morning's transcribing task!
Today's agenda will revolve around a number of activities: edits and writing for the Gunporn submission sequel, and outlining some promo requests and content ideas for the release of DEoH.

Less than a month now! Starting to get a bit excited again. Eager to drum up some awareness, and also to see what sort of reception and reaction it gets from readers.

And because I enjoy taking pictures to share here, I might decide to make Food Porn w/ Jan a regular feature.

I'm off to *omnomnom* that banana bread. Aren't you jealous? I'd share, but the internets don't work so well like that. Not yet. Pity, though. It's delicious!

Have a lovely hump-day for your week, I intend to be productive!
16 July 2011 1 comments

Food Porn with Jan: Midday Meal

Raspberry cheese danish, soft oatmeal cookie, & a mug of dark roast with a heavy splash of Godiva White Chocolate liquor. And a bit of magic for inspiration. And yes, that's a sink mark plaque sample I'm using for a coaster.
Have been doing some pondering this morning, as I repaired my lawnmower (so difficult, a bit of oil and elbow grease resolved the throttle issue) and gave serious thought to my increasingly dual careers.
Neither of which can be considered "professional" by any measure or stretch of the imagination, mind.

As time passes, however, I am hoping that the career of writer will slide to the forefront. As things stand, I find it rather difficult to consider it more than a very fun hobby, at which I like to consider myself talented. Hell, I'm my own worst critic, I'm entitled to cut myself some slack and be my own best fan now and again. It's healthy. (Obviously, my breakfast wasn't. But it was good.)

Trying to maintain balance, though, is increasingly challenging.
And I'm procrastinating now, and should get back to staring at the screen and fleshing out something of the untitled sequel for "5th Sound, 6th Sense" because otherwise the whole day will be gone and I'll have accomplished nothing in terms of wordcount...
14 July 2011 0 comments

Music Soothes the Savage Muse

It took all of yesterday and part of today to get the transcribing completed. Much longer than I wanted, but I have a functionally complete plot arc for this futuristic slavefic I've been poking at.
That I actually managed that much? Is mind-boggling to me, to be perfectly honest. I've no idea where it came from. It just kind of dropped into my lap one piece at a time over the past week. And suddenly I'm staring at my Scrivener porn going....

"Wow. I have a completed story arc here. ...How did that happen?!"

I even checked behind the monitor and under the desk for the real writer who came along and did the hard bits of my work for me when I wasn't looking.

Sadly, this is another of those stories that will obviously prove difficult to market. I'm writing it anyways, I don't care how many people think I'm crazy and threaten to petition to have me institutionalized LOL.

I still need to actually write the scenes. But I have a plot outline (that looks nothing like an outline, thanks to Scrivener, as I'm allergic to outlines) and I'm 5k into it, and I can see where it's going. I can't see all of it, not just yet, but I imagine this will lend itself to jumping around and writing more organically instead of chronologically.

Thank you to Tiesto, Armin Van Buuren, Above & Beyond, Beat Service, Chicane, Gaia, Governor, Motorcycle, and the hundreds of other artists whose music, via Pandora's trance station, has inspired me.

I couldn't possibly write without the tunage. I thought DEoH had strong trance roots. Maybe it's the science fiction angle that does it. I don't know.

Time to start fleshing out some of this plot.
Because I am going to have someone cracking the whip and brandishing a cattle prod at me on a tight editing schedule before too much longer. The details of that are being withheld for now, on grounds of OPSEC.
Stay tuned for updates.
12 July 2011 0 comments

I'll Never Be What You Want Me To Be

This must be the theme song for my muses. They never end up being what I expect them to be, and sometimes I wonder if people will like them for what they are. To say they are a strange, off-the-beaten-path group is an understatement. I know I'm not the only writer out there who has these types of muses. Who feels the need, occasionally, to tone back a little in order to not offend the entire readership base.

I get that readers want to read what they like. Totally. And publishers only want to print what's going to sell. As I see it, though, the problem becomes then -- who pushes the envelope? Who writes that book that encourages the reader to see things from a different perspective, to think outside the box, to understand something beyond their comfort zone? Readers don't often read to be challenged, though. They do it for escapism, or to pretend they're in the story.

Well, I do too... but my escapism stories would have most other readers pissing their pants, I imagine.

I'm not out to change how anyone thinks. Readers aren't required to agree with a word I say, right? It isn't like I have some superhero ability to reach out and flip a switch and change what someone believes.

But readers like their bubbles and their comfort zones. It's why Black was turned away. Not sufficiently marketable, pure and simple. If Hamm gets turned away for similar reasons, it isn't the end of the world. There's a publisher out there for both of them, if Black's current prospect ends up unwilling.

I'm never going to be the writer of contemporary or mainstream or romance. Unless those genres shift their definitions a great deal. I'm fine with that. I write what inspires me, and if it's too strange for most people, well, I know it isn't too strange for everyone. There are closet freaks out there. I'm not crazy.

...Okay, fine. I am crazy. As a loon. But in a good way. Or, it makes for good stories at least. And so long as it does, I'm not even considering treatment. *lol*

So the military science fiction with the gay alien-borderline-bestiality is subbed to the Gun Porn Anthology. My next project is either a short sequel for that one, a speculative/futuristic suitporn cum-fetish slavefic, or an m/m pirate story.

Or perhaps all three at once, if I can manage to get my notes from the past few days transcribed.
I imagine I'm probably a publisher's worst nightmare in terms of authors. I mean, how the hell do you market something that has no clear genre delineation? A story that defies logical labels? It seems those are the only kind I even know how to write anymore.

The only exception might be the Trunk Novel. It evolved from a military speculative fantasy... to acquire a gay romance aspect as well. I think it's better for it, personally, but that's mostly just because I'm incapable of writing within acceptable norms of relational parameters in fiction. Like with my second-year physics class in high school. Fuck the formulas. I know what's happening, and why, and can write you an essay about it, but don't ask me for calculations. (Also, don't ask about my final grade in that course.)