A Hodgepodge of Useful Bits & Pieces – Mid-February 2014

Posted February 19, 2014 by Kathy Davie in Author Resources, Building Your Own Website, Conference/Workshop, Hodgepodge Newsletter, Marketing, Publishing, Writing

Contents of this Post

Posts that share a common theme — Bookstores, Kids, Social Media, etc.—are in ALL CAPS.

The Hodgepodge of Bits & Pieces is a bimonthly link round-up of articles and posts I’ve run across online which I thought may be of interest to writers and readers. I’d appreciate feedback on any of the bits or pieces which spoke to you — good or bad!

I dunno. Is the year split into seasons of lists? Has anyone noticed, paid attention? I know I haven’t. Yet. And I’m becoming curious with the 10 Dirty Romances, that collection of awful jobs, the odd list of wonderful Russian novels, those movies-from-books for 2014 that Gabe Habash notes, the literary road trip, those 40 words, and the luscious nail art have set me to wondering…

Lastly, more apologies for the lateness of this Hodgepodge. There was my temporary move which really ate up my time, then I hunted for a place of my own. Now that I’m in my new place, I’m never moving again! With luck and a decent Internet connection!!

In General

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Apple Hit Hard

And not in a good way as Carl Franzen with The Verge reports: “Apple hit with $840 million damages claim for ebooks price fixing“. Based on the Department of Justice’s (DoJ) decision over the summer of 2013 regarding the eBook price fixing trial, a lawyer in New York has brought a class action suit against Apple, claiming Apple owes eBook consumers for overcharging them.

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Just for Fun



Capitola Book Café in Capitola will close at the end of the month after 34 years in business, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.

“Longtime employees Yolanda Bragg and Rina Castro have purchased the Fashion Bookstore at the California Market Center in Los Angeles.”


The News Times reports that The Bank Street Book Nook at 50 Bank Street in New Milford will be staying open. The new owner, Vanessa Gronbach, will be closing the store February 16 to reorganize and reopening with a grand opening on February 22. Gronbach will restart children’s story time and will continue with authors’ readings and book signings and is considering a Connecticut authors’ section.


Red Emma, the Baltimore radical bookstore and coffeehouse, has reopened in a larger, new location in the city’s Station North Arts and Entertainment District, Baltimore magazine wrote.


Matt Robare with the Roslindale Wicked Local notes that Seek Books at 1747 Centre Street became the second West Roxbury independent bookstore in less than a month to announce that it’s going out of business. It joins Pazzo Books, which announced it will shutter its doors in March. Seek Books is up for sale, which would include the name, inventory and website, but until someone buys it, there will be a 25 percent off going-out-of-business sale.


Well, there can be negatives to greeting card manufacturers finally discovering there are colors other than white out in the world as The Shrine of the Black Madonna Bookstore and Cultural Center in Detroit has discovered. With people being able “to see a large assortment of greeting cards with black people on them [and being able to] … buy them at Target, … you’re not going to make a special trip to come to the Shrine.” Hence the liquidation sale,” and the Detroit Free Press reports that “there was no word on the fate of the Shrine bookstore and cultural centers in Houston, Texas, and Atlanta, Georgia.”

Schuler Books in Walker over on Alpine Avenue plans to close when the lease ends in April.


Chaun Webster explains the Kickstarter campaign to open Ancestry Books by this June — the fundraising effort will run until March 8! He and Verna Wong “believe that it is important that communities of color can see themselves in the literature that they read, that this has a profound impact on increasing confidence, readership, engagement and critical thinking.”

The bookstore will open at 2205 Lowry Avenue N,” and “located next to the Lowry Cafe, North End Hardware, and blocks from Lucy Craft Laney Elementary School. … Instead of a pop-up bookstore that would utilize our front porch, it will be a ‘pop-up’ walking distance from the places we sleep, eat, and play. It is perfect. This would be a unique space for high touch interaction that would focus on making under-represented authors available in a community that has little access to them.’ He told City Pages: ‘It’s not just a space where people will buy books. People can organize in a space like this.'”

The Star News reports that the last Reading Frenzy stores have closed, leaving Zimmerman and Elk River without a bookstore.


Main Street Books in St. Charles has found a buyer!

The Book House in Maplewood, which, “after months of waiting, hard work, and raising funds,” has officially opened for business in its new location after having to leave its former home in nearby Rock Hill when the landlord decided to tear the building down. Its new 6,000-square-foot space — twice the size of its old location — is in a building that was vacant for nearly two decades and needed extensive renovations.


Joe Schoenmann with the Las Vegas Sun reports that the Writer’s Block Book Shop is opening in downtown Las Vegas in early March and moving again, later this year, into the old Alicia Motel.

New Jersey

Seventeen-year-old Mendham Books in Mendham is the latest bookstore to announce that it will close now that the holidays are past. “We will miss our friends and neighbors, but we leave with many happy memories,” wrote owner Tom Williams in an e-mail blast that went out to customers yesterday. All inventory has been discounted 25%, except for special orders. Bookcases and displays materials are also for sale.

Further news has the Mendham mayor, Neil Henry, commenting that there are too many people in Mendham upset about the bookstore leaving town, and they’re working to find a way to keep the store. Williams has mentioned that there is a possibility of opening the bookstore in Madison, New Jersey. Mendham’s loss will be Madison’s gain.


Powell’s Books in Portland “is reluctantly closing two of its three stores at Portland International Airport on June 30, when their leases end. The two stores are in Concourses C and D. Powell’s Oregon Marketplace store, before airport security, will remain open.”


Let’s Play Books! in Emmaus celebrated its grand opening [the beginning of February] with a ribbon cutting with the town’s mayor and Chamber of Commerce and a champagne (and apple cider) toast.

South Carolina

On March 15, the State reports that Books-A-Million is closing its store in Trenholm Plaza in Forest Acres with the remaining chain bookstores in the area a B&N in Columbia and two BAMs: one in Columbia and the other in Lexington.


Galaxy Bookshop in Hardwick has announced the return of its Stories & Stitches Book Club, which will meet on February 12 and 26 and ‘doesn’t require any reading — just come, and we’ll read to you. Bring along a portable craft project to work on if you’d like, or come empty-handed and just listen.’ Last year’s readings included short stories by Alice Munro, Sherman Alexie, and Megan Mayhew Bergman.”


Linda Dewberry, owner of Whodunit? Books in Olympia has put her mystery specialty store up for sale. A classified item at NW Book Lovers lists the sale price as “the cost of the current inventory (approx. $25,000 new and used),” noting that there “is potential for growth, a great local landlord, and a prime location with other specialty stores.” Her lease expires at the end of April and if the business, which she launched 14 years ago, hasn’t sold by then, she will close, the Bellingham Herald reported.

Pacific Mist Books in Sequim has been put up for sale until the end of March, the Gazette reported. Owner Vickie Maples, who purchased the bookshop in 2011, cited “urgent family health and business needs in California” as the primary reason for her decision.


Chapter 2 Books co-owners Sue and Brian Roegge announced that, unless they are able to sign a lease on another space this month, their three-year-old bookstore in the Twin Cities suburb of Hudson will close its doors by February 28.

In West Bend, the 5,000 square foot Fireside Books & Gifts is up for sale as the owner, Gary Christianson, wants to retire due to health problems.


Oscar’s Art Books, an independent bookstore that has been operating for 24 years on Broadway in Vancouver is shutting down and will close by March 31.

18 Bookstores for Book Lovers

“Noting that ‘bookstores can be a destination upon themselves,’ Ashley Lutz from Business Insider featured ‘18 bookstores every book lover must visit at least once‘, including BookPeople, Austin, Texas; the Strand in New York City; Books & Books, Coral Gables, Florida.; Politics & Prose, Washington, D.C.; Bart’s Books, Ojai, California; Prairie Lights, Iowa City, Iowa; Boulder Books, Boulder, Colorado; Powell’s Books, Portland, Oregon; and, John K. King Used And Rare Books, Detroit, Michigan.

First Online Arab Bookstore

Virginia Di Marco at the Anna Lindh Foundation notes that “Kotobi.com launched, first Arab webstore for e-books” that can be can be downloaded and purchased online. Launched at this year’s Cairo International Book Fair, which ended on February 4, Kotobi.com offers several hundred books from about 40 publishers, available with a credit card or downloadable on mobile phones and tablets. Vodafone Egypt is a huge supporter, noting that “reading is a ‘key factor in the development of any nation’ [with] the aim … to increase the number of Arab-language readers.

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Four Local Libraries Honored for Offering Cutting-edge Services

“The American Library Association (ALA) recognized four libraries for offering cutting-edge technologies in library services, honoring programs in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Bridgewater, New Jersey; Raleigh, North Carolina; and, University Park, Pennsylvania” in Four Local Libraries Honored for Offering Cutting-edge Services“. I want that Me Card!!

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French Voices Grand Prize

Melanie Mathner and Archipelago Books won the French Voices Grand Prize for Mathner’s translation of Our Lady of the Nile, a.k.a., Notre-Dame du Nil. It was also awarded the 2012 Prix Renaudot.

2014 William E. Colby Award

“Logan Beirne has won the 2014 William E. Colby Award, recognizing ‘a first work of fiction or non-fiction that has made a significant contribution to the public’s understanding of intelligence operations, military history, or international affairs’, for Blood of Tyrants: George Washington & the Forging of the Presidency.

2014 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Awards

Poets & Writers has chosen Ian Frazier, Haki R. Madhubuti, and Joyce Carol Oates to receive the 2014 Barnes & Noble Writers for Writers Awards,

  • Recognized for “his dedication to the Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen Writers’ Workshop, which he started in 1995: Ian Frazier
  • Recognized for “his efforts to expand opportunities for African American writers. Those efforts include co-founding Third World Press, leading the establishment of the Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Center at Chicago State University, and founding an MFA program at Chicago State that is one of the only graduate creative writing programs in the nation at a predominantly African American university, with a curriculum rooted in African American literature: Haki R. Madhubuti, poet, publisher and professor
  • Recognized for “promoting emerging writers through the Ontario Review and Ontario Review Press, which she founded and ran with her late husband, Raymond J. Smith, and the Pushcart Prize anthology, for which she served as a founding editor: Joyce Carol Oates
  • Editor’s Award: Kate Medina, executive v-p, associate publisher and executive editorial director of Random House

2014 Island Treasure

John Willson, a poet and a bookseller at Eagle Harbor Book Company, Bainbridge Island, Washington, has been selected as a 2014 Island Treasure by the Bainbridge Island Arts & Humanities Council. The award honors ‘excellence in the arts and/or humanities by two individuals each year who have made outstanding contributions in those areas on the Bainbridge Island community’ and comes with a $4,000 prize.”

2013 Montana Book Award

The 2013 Montana Book Award is given to “literary and/or artistic excellence in a book written or illustrated by someone who lives in Montana, is set in Montana, or deals with Montana themes or issues, and this year’s winner is Larry Watson’s Let Him Go.

Pol Roger Duff Cooper Prize

Lucy Hughes-Hallett won the £5,000 (about US$8,225) Pol Roger Duff Cooper Prize, which “celebrates the best in nonfiction writing,” for her book The Pike: Gabriele D’Annunzio, Poet, Seducer and Preacher of War.

38th Annual PROSE Awards

“The PROSE Awards annually recognize the very best in professional and scholarly publishing by bringing attention to distinguished books, journals, and electronic content in over 40 categories.

Each year, publishers and authors are recognized … for their commitment to pioneering works of research and for contributing to the conception, production, and design of landmark works in their fields.” The following are those honored in 2013:

2014 ALA Youth Media Award Winners

The top books, video, and audio books for children and young adults.

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Improving One’s Vocabulary

Oh, I did enjoy this one by Peter Sipe over at Glimmer Train on “Some Material May Not Be Suitable for Children“. Mind you, it did take until the third-to-the-last paragraph before I began to get a glimmer of what the essay’s topic was. And for those of you interested in words or searching for a way to intrigue your child about words, you want to read this. I loved Sipe’s exploration of draft and the way in which he made me think about it. Which naturally led me to consider a host of other possibilities!

Textbook Nationalization

Jaroslaw Adamowski has a guest post at Publishing Perspectives wondering, “Can Textbook Nationalization Curb ‘Profiteering Publishers’?” I could see doing this with college textbooks which publishers seem to reissue with minute changes, forcing students to purchase the “new” edition for exorbitant amounts, however, Hungary, South Africa, and Poland want to control lower level textbook costs so they can provide books to students for free.

A negative consideration: “Marciszuk also said that providing a single state-made book could tempt governments to try to influence its historical narrative in a way which would present their opponents from left and right in a negative light, or even ignore certain children’s book writers regarded as controversial.”

Ringo Starr turns “Octopus’ Garden” into Kids Book

Edna Gunderson at USA Today reports that Ringo Starr turns ‘Octopus’s Garden’ into a kiddie book with the help of Ben Cort, the artist behind The Shark in the Dark and the best-selling Aliens Love Underpants using Starr’s lyrics. The book includes a CD with Starr’s new live and spoken versions of the Abbey Road track.

BookPeople’s Literary Summer Camps

It’s never too early to start thinking about summer camp for kids and BookPeople has two literary summer camp programs: Camp Half-Blood (Rick Riordan’s series) and Ranger Corp Training Camp (based on John Flanagan’s Ranger Apprentice series).

“We do all the regular camping stuff — archery, swimming and all that,” said BookPeople owner Steve Bercu. “But we’re fully committed to the books themselves.”

All the activities tie back into the respective series from hiking and swimming to archery and mythology to acting performances.

“All I can tell you is that the program has been wildly successful in every conceivable aspect,” said Bercu. “It has been great for our involvement in the community. It has been great for our outreach to parents and students and teachers. It’s been good for our relationships with publishers. And it’s great financially for the store.”

Transgender Teens Speak Out

Sally Lodge at Publishers Weekly looks “‘Beyond Magenta’ Spotlights Transgender Teens” with Beyond Magenta: Transgender Teens Speak Out by Susan Kuklin carefully explores “six transgender or gender-neutral young adults … follow[ing] the teens’ emotional and physical journeys before, during, and after their realization of their gender identity. Could be a good one for parents with gender-conflicted teens.

Allowance Worthy?

Josie Levitt’s post at Publishers Weekly on “Allowance Worthy? is only partially related to books, but it does offer up a good lesson to use with your kids in teaching them about budgeting.

Lessons From Classic Children’s Books

Amanda Scherker at The Huffington Post points out “9 Life Lessons Everyone Can Learn From These Beloved Classic Children’s Books” and the “irreversible impression on our childhoods and on our lives … [that] helped us understand the world around us[, … and how] they shaped our imaginations, our aspirations and our sense of right and wrong.

What to Read Next

Lincoln Michel, a guest contributor at Buzzfeed, lists “13 Literary Books That Young Adult Readers Will Love” in case you’re wondering what to read after you’ve finished Harry Potter and The Hunger Games.

Making History Fun

I know I’m prejudiced toward history, but it truly can be fun, and I think David Cutler over at The Atlantic has it right with “Down With Textbooks“. That they do “give students a poor understanding of what it really means to study history”. Hmmm, study is the wrong word. I’d say explore, understand, live vicariously instead. Do check out the “Fabulous, Interactive Maps” for additional possibilities.

As Cutler points out: “Textbooks present history as unchanging, but as time passes, our understanding and interpretation of the past constantly evolves”; they’re “one-sided, offering a top-down, often white-male-centric view of history”; they’re “boring and intimidating”. Then there’s his point about how “textbooks can serve as a crutch for teachers who don’t know history or the historian’s craft”. Considering how often schools seem to assign people willy-nilly to teach, that’s not too surprising.

I disagree (or don’t understand) his point about why “teachers should assign readings that model effective historical writing”. I’d prefer teachers assigning readings that pull students into the period. Books that make history personal. Sure, dates are important, at least in terms of placing events at the proper time in the chronology — you do know I’m OCD on that, right, LOL? — and it’s understanding how decisions and policies affect the average man-in-the-street that makes history real.

It is promising that AP History classes are evolving, moving into more primary and secondary sources. Yes, it’s more work for the teacher, but think how much more students will understand and retain about history!

Black Historical Fiction

Kelley Jensen at Book Riot provides a thin “Black History in YA Fiction: A Time Line” with a list of YA and middle-grade books that feature black characters or stories. It’s pretty cool. A timeline with icons of the various books in their “proper” time — and Jensen provides a PDF if you’d like to download it. I’m hoping it could be blown up to poster size for the classroom! She does include a text-based list at the bottom of her post as well.

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Flicks & TV

Trailer for Upcoming Game of Thrones

Megan Frampton over at Heroes & Heartbreakers has posted “Is it April Yet? Game of Thrones Season 4 Foreshadowing” with “a 15-minute preview of the next season of Game of Thrones [premiering April 6], with commentary from the actors”.

A Harry Bosch TV Series

Fans of Michael Connelly’s Harry Bosch series will be pleased to learn that “the pilot episode is streaming live now” having aired February 6, 2014 (free for Amazon Prime members), and you can watch a couple trailers on Connelly’s website.

John Scalzi’s Redshirts a Miniseries

Tor.com announces that Redshirts by John Scalzi is being developed as a TV miniseries.

Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale is Dissed and Loved

I definitely get the impression that Chris Lough hates Mark Helprin’s steampunk Winter’s Tale, but does feel a need to find a balance in his post, “Mark Helprin’s Winter’s Tale is a Failure that Genre Fans Must Experience” about the book-turned-movie. He disses it so well that I want to see the movie! How’s that for a turnabout?

Eleanor Catton’s The Luminaries to Become Miniseries

“Eleanor Catton, author of The Luminaries, has signed a contract for an adaptation of her Man Booker Prize-winning novel into a television miniseries, NZCity reported, noting that Catton ‘says she wants to keep the filming in New Zealand, in particular in the novel’s setting of Hokitika, on the South Island’s West Coast.'”

Michel Faber’s Under the Skin Up for April Release

Kevin Jagernauth at IndieWire notes that a trailer has been released for Jonathan Glazer’s Under the Skin, based on the novel by Michel Faber.

Neil Gaiman’s Books Going Ahead

“Neil Gaiman’s Anansi Boys (American Gods, 2) will be developed into a television mini-series by the production company RED for the BBC while American Gods (American Gods, 1) … is now being developed by Freemantle Media.”

Odd Thomas to Premiere February 28

A trailer has been released for Dean Koontz’s Odd Thomas, which will be released to theaters and iTunes on February 28th.

Veronica Roth’s Divergent to Be Released March 21

The final Divergent trailer “will make you jump with excitement,” Buzzfeed noted in featuring a final peek at the movie, based on the first novel in Veronica Roth’s trilogy, before its March 21 release.

Casting Underway for DBC Pierre’s Vernon God Little

“God bless Werner Herzog because sometimes we need a reminder that cinema can be unpredictable and unexpected,” Indiewire observed in reporting that the cast for an upcoming film adaptation of DBC Pierre’s novel Vernon God Little begins with Russell Brand, and “Mike Tyson and Pamela Anderson are now in talks to join the movie.” The project … will begin production this spring.”

Johnny Depp to Star in Black Mass

Indiewire reported that “Johnny Depp will star in Black Mass, based on the book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerald O’Neill.

Sherryl Woods’ Chesapeake Shore Novels Become Prime-Time Series

“The Hallmark Channel and Harlequin Mira have struck a deal with author Sherryl Woods to develop her Chesapeake Shores novels for a potential prime-time series in 2015. Two new books in the series are also in the works to coincide with a possible launch of the show.

The 11 Most Anticipated Book Adaptations of 2014

Gabe Habash at Publishers Weekly looks at “The 11 Most Anticipated Book Adaptations of 2014“, and Habash repeats with John Le Carré’s A Most Wanted Man to two of Patricia Highsmith’s novels — The Two Faces of January and Carol (based on The Price of Salt) to a fourth version of Thomas Hardy’s Far from the Madding Crowd, Dennis Lehane’s The Drop (based on a short story titled “Animal Rescue“), Laura Hillenbrand’s Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption, John Green’s The Fault in Our Stars, Lois Lowry’s The Giver, part 1 of Suzanne Collins’ Mockingjay (the third novel in the trilogy), and Thomas Pnychon’s Inherent Vice.

Habash also has hopes for Ron Rash’s Serena getting distributed this year. Gillian Flynn’s books are busy this year with Dark Places and Gone Girl plus “an adaptation of the Flynn-like bestseller by S.J. Watson, Before I Go to Sleep, coming this year”.

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A Peek at S Day’s Crossfire #4

The team at Heroes & Heartbreakers and “Sylvia Day Shares a Peek at Captivated by You (Crossfire, 4)” with this excerpt. Hmmm, not that impressive…

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Adobe Screwing the Reader Over

Unfortunately, I am not feeling reassured by Nate Hoffelder’s updated post over at The Digital Reader, “Adobe to Require New Epub DRM in July, Expects to Abandon Existing Users“, that Adobe is not going to force everyone to upgrade or replace their eReaders by July 2014*. Just because Adobe isn’t requiring eReader manufacturers to implement the new DRM by that date, doesn’t mean that readers using “various Adobe DRM-compatible ebook readers on the market”, “including Pocketbook, Sony, Gajah (a major OEM), and others won’t have to do it at all. And if you don’t upgrade the software, you won’t be able to read the eBooks you have already purchased. Hoffelder has included a video that talks about “how and when the new DRM will be implemented (as well as a lot of other data)”.

Hoffelder goes on to point out that eReaders that are no longer supported by the manufacturer, those that are used or refurbished, or even new eReaders manufactured in 2010, 2011, and 2012 will have problems. He also notes that libraries and bookstores are likely to be hit hard.

If you’re thinking of buying an eReader, seriously consider whether you want an eReader that uses Adobe’s DRM. If they’re willing to screw you over now, they’ll do it again.

* Readers using Kobo, Google, Kindle, or Apple won’t be affected as Kobo and Google don’t use the Adobe DRM internally while Kindle and Apple use their own DRM.

Sony’s Reader Store Customers Heading to Kobo eBookstore

Sony is shutting down its Reader Store in the U.S. and Canada. Beginning in late March, Kobo will start providing Sony’s digital reading customers with full access to its online catalogue, moving current Sony Reader Store customers over to Kobo’s platform via what was described as “a simple and easy migration process.” The Reader Store will close March 20, but until then Sony’s customers can still purchase e-books there. I hope this means that Adobe’s new DRM won’t affect Sony eReaders!

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Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park Influence Found

Sam Marsden at the Telegraph reports that “New Jane Austen manuscript criticises ‘men repeating prayers by rote’“. It’s actually a snippet written on the back of one of her brother’s sermons in which Austen questions men and prayer. Now conservation experts are painstakingly lifting the snippet from the book it is stuck into so scholars can read the mysterious words she wrote on the back.

“The passage in Austen’s handwriting, dating from 1814, states: ‘Men may get into a habit of repeating the words of our Prayers by rote, perhaps without thoroughly understanding – certainly without thoroughly feeling their full force & meaning.'”

This reflects a theme that she wrote about in her novel Mansfield Park, which was published in the same year. David Dorning, a conservator at West Dean College in Chichester, West Sussex, has the job of removing it from the book so the passage on the back can also be seen. The book containing the scrap of text was recently bought by Jane Austen’s House Museum at Chawton in Hampshire with the aid of funding from the Jane Austen Society. It will feature in an exhibition at the museum later this year to mark the bicentenary of Mansfield Park.

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Amazon Adds Kindles to Brazil Kindle Store

I should have thought this was a no-brainer…? But Amazon is just now adding “Kindle devices to its e-book website [in Brazil]. Reuters reported that by “shipping its e-reader devices across this immense country, Amazon will now get a taste of Brazil’s notorious logistics problems, widely seen as a deterrent for a full-fledged retail operation like the one it has in the U.S.” Hmmm, wonder if Amazon’s drone program will launch here first *grin*…

Amazon Ups Showrooming Game

I almost don’t want to mention this, what with indie bookstores already in such trouble from showrooming, but now Amazon has “introduced Amazon Flow, an image recognition feature on its iPhone and Android apps that allows users to take a picture of a product and then compare prices and buy it immediately. The technology is simpler than the more widespread ‘showrooming’ app that recognizes bar codes.

Telecrunch noted that Amazon Flash “works by identifying not only media package covers, but also logos, artwork, and other unique visual features — and can cover a much broader range of packaged items. You still can’t take a picture of, say, a pair of headphones you have lying around the house out of box, but for showrooming purposes (its main use case) that shouldn’t matter all that much.”

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Even Editors Make Mistakes

For all y’all who think editors are an unnecessary expense…you may be right IF you can spot the error, LOL.

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Road Trip: America’s Most Literate Cities

Bob Minzesheimer at USA Today notes “America’s Most Literate Cities” with “Washington ranked as the USA’s most literate city, continuing its reign … according to the annual study conducted by Central Connecticut State University president John Miller. The study is based on data collected from the largest cities (population 250,000 and above) in the U.S., including number of bookstores, educational attainment, Internet resources, library resources, periodical publishing resources, and newspaper circulation.”

The top 10 most literate cities in 2013 were:

  1. Washington, D.C.
  2. Seattle, Washington
  3. Minneapolis, Minnesota
  4. Atlanta, Georgia and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania (they tied)
  5. Denver, Colorado
  6. St. Paul, Minnesota
  7. Boston, Massachusetts
  8. St. Louis, Missouri
  9. San Francisco, California

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10 Dirty Romance Novel

It’s a bit late for Valentine’s Day, but a good sinful romance is never unwanted, LOL. And Victoria Dahl, author of Close Enough to Touch (Jackson Hole, 1) picks her favorite naughtier romance books. And no, they’re not all erotic!

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10 Worst Jobs in Literature

Rachel Cantor at Publishers Weekly is confessing to her weakness for workplace literature, and she lists “The 10 Worst Jobs in Books“. I gotta say, these were not jobs I could have possibly imagined on my own! Most are depressing and a few are downright gruesome!

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There’s More to Russian Novels Than Tolstoy

Emily Temple at Flavorwire lists “10 Wonderful Russian Novels You Probably Haven’t Read“.

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Ooh! Sensory Fiction!

Ooh, Elise Hu at NPR suggests “Sensory Fiction: Books That Let You Feel What The Characters Do” with the Sensory Fiction wearable book. It’s “a wearable vest that hooks up to an e-book to enhance your reading experience even more” by triggering discrete feedback based on changes in a book protagonist’s emotional or physical state.

It does require an “augmented” book — “the engineers tested out their device with The Girl Who Was Plugged In by James Tiptree. Unfortunately, there are no plans by these clever engineers from MIT to produce it any time soon. They claim it’s simply meant to provoke discussion…sigh…I suspect it could go over well with romance novels…ahem…*grin*…I’ll pass on the novels with fighting in ’em…eek

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Mental Floss: 40 Weird Word Origins

Hank Green hosts a lists program on YouTube and episode 46 was on word origins. A fascinating look at the unexpected origins of 40 words with great commentary from Green. If you like words, check it out!

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Charlie Chaplin Novella Found

The BBC notes that “the only known novella by film star Charlie Chaplin has been published, 66 years after it was written”. Seventy pages and some 34,000 words long, “‘Footlights’ was the basis for Chaplin’s 1952 film Limelight, and was been reconstructed by Chaplin’s biographer, David Robinson, … [based on] drafts of the work … uncovered in the Chaplin archive at the Cineteca di Bologna in Italy.

The novella was published February 4 as Charles Chaplin Footlights with The World of Limelight by David Robinson.

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Check Out the Nail Art!!

This is just gorgeous and sure to raise a smile as Alanna Okun at Buzzfeed displays “15 Works Of Nail Art Inspired By Your Favorite Children’s Books” and created by “nail artist Just_Alexiz”. Carry your childhood around wherever she you go!

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Writer-Poet-Performance Artist, Maggie Estep, is Dead at a Too-Young 50

EV Grieve reports that “Maggie Estep, the ‘writer-poet-performance artist and all-around cool person who came to some fame while living in the East Village in the early 1990s, died Monday [February 10] at 50. Read more.

Poet, Painter, Art Critic, and Actor, René Ricard is Dead at 67

René Ricard, ‘an influential poet, painter, art critic and actor in Andy Warhol’s films’ died Saturday, Rolling Stone reported. He was 67. GalleristNY noted that Ricard ‘is perhaps best remembered for his collections of poetry and for his influential essay “The Radiant Child”, which appeared in Artforum in 1981 and effectively launched the careers of painters Jean-Michel Basquiat and Keith Haring.”

Wine Writer, Pamela Vandyke Price Dead at 90

The Guardian reports that Pamela Vandyke Price, “one of the first women to write about wine” whose books included monographs on the wines of Alsace and the Graves, two Penguin handbooks on wines and spirits, a guide to the art of tasting wine, and a memoir, A Woman of Taste, died January 12 at 90.

Poet Maxine Kumin, Dead at 88

The New York Times reports that “Pulitzer Prize-winning poet Maxine Kumin, ‘whose spare, deceptively simple lines explored some of the most complex aspects of human existence — birth and death, evanescence and renewal, and the events large and small conjoining them all,’ died Thursday at age 88. A poetry collection, And Short the Season, is scheduled to be published this spring, as is Lizzie!, ‘a partly autobiographical novel for young adults about a girl coping with a spinal-cord injury,’ the Times noted.”

Poet Sebastian Barker, Dead at 68

Sebastian Barker, a “lyrical poet, much influenced by William Blake, whose later work contained a strong philosophical and reflective streak,” died January 31 … He was 68. Barker “was an important public spokesman for poetry, sitting on the Pen executive committee, and chairing the Poetry Society,” The Guardian wrote.

Children’s Book Artist Erik Blegvad, Dead at 90

A fascinating look at Erik Blegvad, a “prolific children’s book artist renowned for illustrations whose fine-grained propriety could barely conceal the deep subversive wit at their core,” died on January 14, the New York Times reported. He was 90. Blegvad illustrated more than 100 picture books, including many by his wife, Lenore.

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Amazon, the Real Gorilla in the Room

George Packer writes of “Cheap Words: Amazon is good for customers. But is it good for books?“, and I have to wonder whose pocket Amazon is lining that they can get away with all that they have. Packer writes a fascinating — and horrifying — look at all that Amazon has accomplished and extorted from publishers.

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I Likes What I Likes

Laura Miller at Salon wonders, “Is the literary world elitist?” It’s a curious read with Miller pooh-poohing the readers who object to words new to them, and it’s mostly an examination of readers who razz or get razzed over their choice of reading material. God knows I’m one of those…I greatly disliked the Fifty Shades series and loved Stieg Larsson’s books. I enjoy a good intellectual read every once in awhile, but greatly prefer to escape into urban fantasy, the paranormal, mysteries, thrillers, and suspense with historicals and romances running rampant. I used to feel inferior for not seeking out the “literary greats” to while away the hours, but I’ve gotten comfortable. I like what I like, and Miller gives us permission, *grin*.

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Track Your Books and Blogs Income!

DeNeen L. Brown at the Washington Post notes that “Best-selling author ‘Zane’ faces financial mess worthy of a plot twist in her steamy novels” with the back taxes she owes. It’s a good reminder to keep track of all the royalties and other income you’re getting from your books and blogs, as the IRS is relentless!

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The Hermione-Harry Controversy

Eliana Dockterman at Time takes a look at “9 Other Things J.K. Rowling Got Wrong” in the wake of Rowling admitting that Hermione should have ended up with Harry instead of Ron. I gotta confess that Ron and Hermione made sense to me. It’s the Ginny–Harry combination that didn’t. I was expecting him to end up with Luna. As for the “9 Other Things, yeah, I’ll agree with Dockterman that these could use tightening up, but considering how incredible the Harry Potter stories are, I am not going to quibble…

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EU Book Trade Creates Manifesto

Lisa Campbell at The Bookseller notes that “European book bodies create election ‘manifesto’” just in time for the European Parliament elections that will take place May 22-25 this year. It’s the usual concerns about Amazon taking over the world.

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Writing Tips


Fabulous, Interactive Maps

The Digital Scholarship Lab associated with the University of Richmond has recently completed an Atlas of the Historical Geography of the United States, which was “first published in 1932. This digital edition reproduces all of the atlas’ nearly 700 maps. Many of these beautiful maps are enhanced here in ways impossible in print, animated to show change over time or made clickable to view the underlying data — remarkable maps produced eight decades ago with the functionality of the twenty-first century”.

The site has a range of maps from a Literary New Orleans which show where native and non-native authors “set their works and created a timeline indicating when the writers lived in or visited New Orleans”; “Visualizing Emancipation is a map of slavery’s end during the American Civil War. It finds patterns in the collapse of southern slavery, mapping the interactions between federal policies, armies in the field, and the actions of enslaved men and women on countless farms and city blocks”; “the History Engine is an educational tool that gives students the opportunity to learn history by doing the work — researching, writing, and publishing — of a historian.

The result is an ever-growing collection of historical articles or ‘episodes’ that paints a wide-ranging portrait of life in the United States throughout its history and that is available to scholars, teachers, and the general public in our online database. Many of these beautiful maps are animated to show change over time or made clickable to view the underlying data — maps produced eight decades ago with the functionality of the twenty-first century.”

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Simon451 Announced Novel-Writing Contest

A press release at Digital Book World announces that Simon & Schuster’s new imprint, Simon451, has announced a Novel-Writing Contest for Students” which began February 1, 2014 and will run until “March 15, 2014, during which entrants are asked to provide a 250-word synopsis and the first fifty pages of their novel via the online entry form, in accordance with the full contest guidelines. Ten finalists will be chosen and contacted by April 15, 2014, at which time they will be asked to submit their complete novels for consideration. Read more for information about categories and what the prizes are.

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Using Lyrics in Your Story

Using Song Lyrics in your Manuscript

Susan Uttendorfsky provides some food for thought on “Using Song Lyrics in your Manuscript“, and she makes some excellent points about how the reader may interpret those lyrics.

So You Want to Use Song Lyrics in Your Novel?

Uttendorfsky mentions Ruth Harris at Anne R. Allen‘s blog who notes the 5 Steps to Getting Rights to Lyrics and includes Michael Murphy’s step-by-step guide on those “Five Steps to Obtain Song Lyric Rights”. There’s plenty of useful information in this post, and it makes for a very useful read.

“Thing is: fair use doesn’t apply to songs. That’s because songs can have very few lines to us — fairly or otherwise … What you CAN use without permission is a song’s title. Titles can’t be copyrighted.”

Checking To See What’s Safe to Use

Ruth Harris’ post on “Five Steps…” included a mention of the Public Domain Review, which notes which artists and authors’ works have entered the public domain and are available for use. It’s a fun site to explore as well!

Basic Rules of U.S. Copyright

Cornell University has a useful table of the type of work, the copyright term or number of years which apply in an instance, and what is in the public domain in the U.S. as of 1 January 2014. It’s majorly divided into never published, first published, published by foreign nationals or citizens living abroad, sound recordings, special cases, and architectural works.

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Know When You Need the Omniscient POV

Celeste Ng has written a guest post at Jane Friedman’s blog on “The Challenges and Opportunities of an Omniscient POV” which introduces her fears of using the omniscient point-of-view (POV) and sends you off to read her essay at Glimmer Train on how she discovered it was necessary. I found Ng’s reasoning provided a very useful visual, as of someone telling a story and weaving these five different threads together into one. For those of you struggling with multiple POVs, you may want to read this.

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Write What You Don’t Know

Molly Antopol provides a complete 180 in her essay “On Quelling Writerly Doubts” at Glimmer Train with her belief that a writer should write about what s/he doesn’t know. I have to confess I love this idea; it’s so much more fun!

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Soundtracks For Books

CBS This Morning reports that BookTrack “has expanded from creating soundtracks for classic e-books ‘to letting both readers and authors create their own custom Booktrack from 30,000 different sounds and songs’.”

As much as I enjoy listening to TV while reading (music for others), I can’t really see having a soundtrack for books. How does the book know when you get to the part that requires that particular “background music, ambient noise, [or] sound effects”?

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Going Farther With Howey’s Author Communities

Suw Charman-Anderson at FutureBook discusses “Setting Up Communities: Author, Reader and Publisher“, and she doesn’t believe that Hugh Howey goes far enough. I did enjoy Charman-Anderson’s post. There are some good ideas writers might like to explore.

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How to Start That Book

Nina Amir at How to Blog a Book discusses “How to Start Your Blogged Book (or Any Book) Using a Mind Map” in which Amir points out different ways to mind map, or brain dump, yourself into starting that book you keep wanting to write using the Post-It note version, the whiteboard, or computer software.

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Who Owns That Copyright in the End?

There’s a useful bit of info back in “Basic Rules of U.S. Copyright” you might want to explore as well.

Copyediting Does Not Create a New Copyright

It does make a good threat for the editor, though! Meanwhile, Nasims at Copyright Librarian discusses “Where Copyrights Come From (Part I): Copyediting Does Not Create a New Copyright” and points out that “in US law, copyright magically comes into existence when someone creates an original work of authorship. The copyright is actually based in the original expression contained in the work, not whether there was effort involved in the work’s creation”. This means that the author has to actually sign away their rights to a publisher for them to lose their copyright right. And when/IF the author does this, then that author has no more rights than I would to post the manuscript or anything else to do with it. UNLESS it’s in your contract with the publisher. I strongly suggest you read nasims’ post today. AND read any contracts about copyright very closely.

“Copyrightability is not a commentary on value, it’s reflective of original expression.

Who Owns the Final Version

Kevin Smith, J.D., over at Scholarly Communications @ Duke is “Setting the record straight about Elsevier” with regards to Elsevier’s “policy regarding authors’ rights to post his or her article on a personal website or in an institutional repository. Since Elsevier began sending take down notices last fall, first to Academia.edu and then to individual universities, it has become well-known that authors are allowed, under their contracts with Elsevier, to post their ‘final submitted version’, which refers to the last version of the article, after peer-review, that is sent to the journal, but not the final published version with whatever copy-editing and formatting that the publisher has added.

This is a difficult distinction for faculty authors to understand. My colleagues and I talk about it all the time with our faculty authors, but they persistently do not see much difference between the two versions, so they sometimes believe that there is little reason to observe the distinction. Publishers think (or at least say publicly) that they add a lot of value to submitted manuscripts, but a great many authors do not see it that way.

The gist of what Smith is rebutting is that copyright belongs to the employer of the work-for-hire IF the author has been hired specifically to write the article/book/post. If the author has chosen for him- or herself to write the article/book/post, then copyright stays with the author. The author has the option of signing away his or her copyright OR negotiating rights into bits and pieces. (See Sherpa RoMEO for a summary of permissions that are normally given as part of each publisher’s copyright transfer agreement.)

“When we turn to the issue of article versions, the situation is the same. Each version is a revision of the original, and the copyright is the same for all these derivatives. When copyright is transferred to a publisher, the rights in the entire set of versions, as derivatives of one another, are included in the transfer.

Once a copyright transfer has been signed, all of the rights that the author may still have are because of specific contractual terms, which are usually contained in the transfer document itself. In short, these agreements usually give all of the rights under copyright to the publisher and then license back very small, carefully defined slivers of those rights back to the author. One of those slivers is often, but not always, the right to use a submitted version, or post-print, in carefully limited ways.

Read this post to learn more about just how important and CRITICAL “publication contracts are … [as] they entirely determine what an author can do with his or her own work in the future. For many academics, signing such agreements is a very bad idea; they should be negotiated, either to make them licenses to publish, which allows the author to retain her copyright, or to be certain that the rights that are licensed back are broad enough and flexible enough to permit the future uses the author wants.”

“…the whole idea of article “versions” is artificial. It has been developed primarily by publishers in order to make a claim that they add substantial value to the final published version, which may or may not be true, depending on the article and the publisher. Another marketing advantage that publishers get from this fabricated distinction is the ability to claim that they support author rights and reuse of articles to promote better access, while still retaining the ability to slap down authors who use their own articles in ways the publishers have not pre-approved. As my colleague Will Cross has put it, ‘This versioning is a creation of publishers to reenforce [sic] the sense that they are following the academic “gentleman’s agreement’ that Elsevier has been breaking here.”

Draft versus Final Version

Kevin Smith replied to assorted responses to the above-mentioned post in “It’s the content, not the version!” writing “that different versions of an article were derivatives of one another. That is probably a defensible position, but Nancy Sims, of the University of Minnesota, made the point much clearer — the different versions are still the same work, so subject to a single copyright.”

“The [concept of] versions are artificially based on steps in the publication permission process (before submission, peer-review, submission, publication), not on anything intrinsic to the work itself that would justify a change in copyright status.” Smith goes on to note that, while publishers claim they don’t do this, it’s easy enough to read in various publishers’ actual copyright transfer agreements.

Who Owns Rights to Scholarly Articles

Charles Oppenheim has done a guest post over at Open and Shut? on “who owns the rights to scholarly articles” and argues that Kevin is incorrect. Oppenheim does define a few of the terms tossed around. Words like assignment, license

I gotta go with Smith on this. I can’t imagine that publishers are that altruistic, and his arguments make sense to me. When Oppenheim goes into his D rights versus F rights…I think he’s being very naive. His claim that “If D is identical to F — in other words, the reviewers and the editor are so happy with my manuscript that no changes are needed, what follows below does not apply. However, I suspect in the vast majority of cases, D is different to F.”

Well, of course, it’s different. The point Smith (and the Library of Congress) is making is that there is no substantial difference! How is it that editorial changes to a manuscript make that ms so radically different as to create a whole new copyright for it? According to the Library of Congress, to “claim copyright in someone else’s work, … only the owner of copyright in a work has the right to prepare, or to authorize someone else to create, a new version of that work. Accordingly, you cannot claim copyright to another’s work, no matter how much you change it, unless you have the owner’s consent. (See Circular 14, Copyright Registration for Derivative Works.)

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More ‘Worlds’ Added to Kindle Worlds

Publishers Weekly notes that “Kindle Worlds Expands” with “seven new rights holders for Kindle Worlds, the company’s publishing model that allows writers to publish and sell authorized stories inspired by popular worlds. New partners include Hasbro’s G.I. Joe brand and T.V. shows Pretty Little Liars, Ravenswood, and Veronica Mars as well as comics properties from Valiant Entertainment.

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Upcoming Writing Contests

These are contests which are soliciting entries; I’m not endorsing these, I’m simply relating the information.

Deadline, Cost Prize Contest
Weekly & monthly
Varies Needle In The Hay
Needle In The Hay is a creative writing competition that runs weekly and monthly awards for participants in a variety of genres and categories.

The aim of the site is to encourage writers to participate by offering more frequent incentives than the traditional annual writing award. The funds for the awards come from my own pocket and the kind donations of others.

Some awards may have eligibility criteria. Check the Upcoming Awards and Submission and Reading Guidelines for more details.

Submissions must be postmarked by Feb 28, 2014
$25,000 in prizes The National Amateur Poetry Competition
All poems 26 lines or less (STRICTLY ENFORCED) ANY SUBJECT, IN ANY STYLE. All qualifying poets will receive an editorial comment from a qualified editor.

Mail one original poem to:

Poetry Contest
1501 Broadway
12th Floor N
New York, NY 10036

Upcoming Writing Conferences

I’m not endorsing these, I’m simply relating the information.

Date, Time, Cost Location Conference/Workshop
Feb 20, 2014
Telephone seminar Get Paid to Speak
Steve Harrison hosts this free telephone seminar along with six successful speakers who will explain how to get started, although two decades ago, it was a lot easier for a speaker to book a paid gig and walk away with a check for several thousand dollars.

If you refuse to brand yourself as a ‘free speaker’, you can still make decent money speaking, but only if you know the ropes, the best strategies, and the handy tools that are right at your fingertips. Learn why you shouldn’t ask for less than $3,000 as a speaking fee — even if you’re a complete unknown with an “ordinary topic”.

Register for the free call here.

Joan Stewart of the Publicity Hound is “promoting it as one of Steve’s affiliates”.

Feb 20 at 6pm EST

Feb 21, 22, 25
Each at 10am EST

Feb 23 at 9pm EST

Free replays

Online Tablet Video Training & The Social Media Video Quadfecta
Shooting video has never been easier! No more hassling with shooting video on a camera, then transferring the file to a computer and using complicated editing software to edit.

You can do it all — shoot, edit, add music and special effects — all with the iPad and a $5 app. Mike trains you and answers all the basic questions in the first 90 minutes. You can stick around, if you’d like, to listen to more Q&As. Have fun shooting with the iPad!

Feb 21-22, 2014
12pm-8pm (Conference hours may change a bit to allow for more workshops)
Online WANACon Feb 2014 Writer’s Conference
Truly interactive entirely-online Writer’s Conference. No Yahoo loops or text based online conferences here. You’ll be able to chat with the presenters, see most presenters via their webcam, see a slideshow or the presenter’s screen, type text questions if the pets or children are making noise, and of course, pass notes behind the moderator’s back.

Explore our full website, with full descriptions of presenters and sessions.

Feb 26, 2014
8:30-11am EST
Students – $25
Random House Café Auditorium
1745 Broadway
2nd floor
New York NY
Are Publishing Seasons Relevant?
With seasonal lists that can stretch to 1,000 titles, more drop-in books to keep pace with events, and faster turnaround times, publishers are constantly selling. Has the time come to revise the traditional publishing seasons? This discussion will examine the pros and cons of keeping — or changing — the seasons.

Publishers Weekly Discussion Series is designed to explore the future of book publishing and address hot-button issues with leading experts in the field. Each panel will be moderated by a PW editor and will look at the challenges and opportunities facing the publishing industry. Space is limited, so early sign-up is advised.

Panelists: Kim Wylie, VP of Sales, Publishers Group West; Mary Beth Thomas, VP, Deputy Director of Sales, Harper Collins Publishing.

Mar 13, 2014
3:30 to 5:30 EST
Webinars How to Use LinkedIn Company Pages and Ads to Attract an Audience, Promote Your Heart Out and Help Them Buy
LinkedIn expert Wayne Breitbarth will present a power-packed demonstration and will include a segment on how to buy LinkedIn ads because, if done correctly, you can target your message with amazing accuracy. If done incorrectly, you can lose your shirt.
Mar 3–30, 2014
$179 for DBW Members
Online?? Metadata and the Future of Publishing
Find out what industry leaders think about metadata and the future of publishing with opportunities to engage in dialog with industry leaders. Lessons will include presentations and direct interaction with industry leaders. At the end of the course, students will submit and share a presentation on their own thoughts regarding the future of metadata and publishing.

Course Outline:

  • Lessons 1: Recent History and Trends in Book Publishing and Metadata – 1995-Present
  • Lesson 2: Metadata Challenges Today: Observations from Industry Leaders
  • Lesson 3: Exploration of the following questions with industry experts
  • Lesson 4: Student presentations and discussion of student ideas on the future of publishing and metadata
Mar 12, 2014
2-3pm, EDT
Online BISG Metadata Best Practices
You can’t sell books online if people can’t find or don’t know what they are purchasing — metadata gives customers the information they need to buy. Rebecca Albani of Bowker and Rob Stevens of Firebrand Technologies will cover the basics of industry metadata standards and clarify common points of confusion regarding the vocabulary of the book industry.

In this presentation, Rebecca will review some of the BISG metadata best practices and provide examples of what metadata should look like based on these standards. Rob will then show you how to enter metadata into Firebrand’s Title Management system so that it is correctly transmitted to your partners. Creating and distributing correct — in terms of both content and form — metadata increases title discoverability and therefore sales.

Apr 7, 2014 San Antonio, Texas Children’s Institute
Graphic designer and author Chip Kidd, author and social media expert Austin Kleon, and professional storyteller Anastasia McKenna will be among the presenters where the ABC Children’s Group at ABA has planned two focused, 45-minute talks and an hour-long education session featuring the three experts in their respective fields.
May 2-4, 2014
$285 – 490
Discounts to Grub Street members
Park Plaza Hotel
Boston MA
The Muse and the Marketplace 2014
A three-day literary conference designed to give aspiring writers a better understanding about the craft of writing fiction and non-fiction, to prepare them for the changing world of publishing and promotion, and to create opportunities for meaningful networking. On all three days, prominent and nationally-recognized, established, and emerging authors lead 110+ sessions on the craft of writing — the “muse” side of things — while editors, literary agents, publicists and other industry professionals lead sessions on the business side — the “marketplace”. We expect nearly 800 writers and publishing professionals to attend, while maintaining the conference’s wonderfully intimate, “grubby” energy that we love.

Special events include the Manuscript Mart, the Social Media Mart, and the Marketplace Clinic.

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The Publishing Business

Recorded Books and Its Assets Acquired

BusinessWire notes that “Wasserstein & Co. Acquires Recorded Books LLC from Haights Cross Communications” along with all of its assets. So if you had audio books with Recorded Books, they should be available again.

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Evaluating Your ePub Files on Multiple Devices

Jeff Bach has a guest post at Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer and talks about “A Step by Step Guide to Evaluating Your ePub Files on Kindles, iPads, and Smartphones” to ensure that your book looks and acts as it should on a variety of eReading devices. It does provide a great excuse for getting an iPad!

For me, an unexpected benefit of testing my epub file like this turned out to be that simply reading my words on a different screen in a different layout revealed typos and errors that I had repeatedly glossed over on my main laptop.

Bach’s post could be more clearly written — and I haven’t gone through his step-by-step guide. Still it does give suggestions and ideas on what to be aware of and its usefulness. I’d be curious to know if anyone does try it out and how well it works for them.

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A Free eBook Editor

I learned about Sigil from Jeff Bach’s post on ePub testing, and he likes it for their supplied CSS, table of contents construction, and working with cover images.

Sigil is a free (donations are requested), open source, multi-platform ebook editor designed to edit books in ePub format and has the following features:

  • Online Sigil User’s Guide, and Wiki documentation
  • Free and open source software under GPLv3
  • Multi-platform: runs on Windows, Linux and Mac
  • Full UTF-16 support
  • Full EPUB 2 spec support
  • Multiple Views: Book View, Code View and Preview View
  • WYSIWYG editing in Book View
  • Complete control over directly editing EPUB syntax in Code View
  • Table of Contents generator with multi-level heading support
  • Metadata editor with full support for all possible metadata entries (more than 200) with full descriptions for each
  • User interface translated into many languages
  • Spell checking with default and user configurable dictionaries
  • Full Regular Expression (PCRE) support for Find & Replace
  • Supports import of EPUB and HTML files, images, and style sheets,
  • Documents can be validated for EPUB compliance with the integrated FlightCrew EPUB validator
  • Embedded HTML Tidy: all imported files have their formatting corrected, and your editing can be optionally cleaned

If you wish to discuss Sigil, feel free to do so on the Sigil Forum at MobileRead. For a list of all changes made to Sigil, you can view the Sigil Changelog or even track updates as they happen.

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eBook Cover Design Awards, January 2014

Joel Friedlander’s “e-Book Cover Design Awards, January 2014” are up for our perusal. I do enjoy these and find I learn something from each month’s display, particularly when Friedlander makes a comment.

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The Business of Being a Writer

Pricing Your eBook

Lindsey Buroker provides an easy-to-follow assessment of how to price your book — and why in her post, “Ebook Pricing: What You Think Your Book Is Worth vs. The Point at Which It Will Make the Most Money“. What I particularly like is how easygoing she is. The only point Buroker insists on is doing what makes you comfortable, and along the way, she provides a slew of reasons for trying. Read it. You’ll like it.

“…my ultimate message here is to try and maximize your overall monthly income rather than getting hung up on the price of a particular book. Try free. Try 99 cents. Try 2.99. Heck, try 7.99 or 9.99 if you want. Experiment.”

Show Me the Money — What’s the Skinny on Author Earnings?

Jami Gold has a guest post at Kristin Lamb’s blog to “Show Me the Money — What’s the Skinny on Author Earnings?“, and wow, Gold digs in and dissects Digital Book World‘s report. Gold shows us the numbers on what it takes to make a living writing books. There isn’t much that’s new here, but the numbers do persuade me: a professional cover, a professional edit, multiple books — preferably in a series, although it’s not the number of books you released that’s the key, free books, and more.

“Writer’s Digest, who’s been known to recommend vanity publishers to those interested in self-publishing.”

“A look at Brenda Hiatt’s amazing site Show Me the Money lists the advance, royalty rates, and earn-out for various romance and YA traditional publishers. The vast majority of earn-out amounts on her site are over $1,000, so even if an author publishes only one book a year, they’d still beat that DBW figure. And Brenda’s gathered data from almost 2,700 traditionally published titles.” (Hiatt has a free 29-page report of her analysis.)

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Get an M.A. in Self-Publishing!

I love it! Self-publishing is gaining respectability — partly through the effect that E.J. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey has had on the market, LOL.

Alison Flood at The Guardian in “First self-publishing MA offers DIY education” reveals that “the University of Central Lancashire in Preston, which has had an M.A. Publishing program for several years, is now offering a Self-Publishing M.A., which introduces itself this way: ‘Having produced commercial success stories, such as 50 Shades of Grey, self-publishing is now a highly successful and respected business model for both new and established authors. This dynamic course, the first of its kind in the world, reveals how to make self-publishing work for you.’

Taught by ‘industry experts’, UCLan’s Self-Publishing M.A. program promises to ‘equip you with all of the necessary skills you will need to be a self-published author, including how to edit your book, how to lay it out, how to monitor sales, how to manage yourself and your finances, marketing yourself and your book, and how to create an e-book. The final part of the course will give you the opportunity to complete a finished copy of your book.'”

So there all ye naysayers *she says with a laugh*!

Self-Publishing is Not the Minor Leagues

Chuck Wendig at Terrible Minds notes that “Self-Publishing is Not the Minor Leagues“, and while the post is somewhat disorganized, I do agree with his message that self-publishing is not a place for an author to practice. An author who chooses to self-publish has (almost) a greater responsibility to do his or her very best to release a well-crafted book from its edited text to its amazing cover. That your book should be as good if not better than the books on Barnes & Noble’s shelves!

“The culture criticizes the faults of traditional-publishing, but excuses (or celebrates) its own. And yet, sometime in the same breath, self-publishing gets painted as a path to traditional publishing, not as a path separate and scenic all its own.”

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Finetune Your Categories in KDP

India Drummond at The Writer’s Guide to E-Publishing has figured out a workaround for KDP books when it comes to fine-tuning categorization of your books and relates it in “Amazon’s New SciFi, Fantasy, and Romance Subcategories“. She does note that these categories are NOT available in KDP, but they are available to readers. Which doesn’t make much sense as it would be ideal for authors to be able to assign categories to make it easier for those readers to find what they want to read…!? Anyway, Drummond points out the changes in Fantasy, Paranormal, and Urban as well as Science Fiction AND the new additions of genre, character, and theme.

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Marketing Ideas

7 Blog Tour Sites

Greg Strandberg has done a guest post at Joel Friedlander’s The Book Designer on “7 Top eBook Blog Tour Sites” which help authors organize their blog tours.

“While many eBook promotion sites require you to have a handful of reviews for your book, blog tours don’t.”

It’s a nice synopsis of seven blog tour organizations along with Strandberg’s assessments on each.

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Get Results *Cheap* on Facebook

Joan Stewart at the Publicity Hound provides links to two sites that show you how to get results on Facebook without dipping into your wallet: John Haydon’s “18 Ways to Improve Your Facebook News Feed Performance” and Mitt Ray’s “13 Ways to Get Boost Your Facebook Posts Exposure” [Infographic].

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Book Publicity Tips

Joan Stewart at the Publicity Hound discusses “11 things authors must know about book publicity to create a best-seller” that she taught during her Publishing at Sea cruise.

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Find the Readers Who Buy Your Books on Amazon

Connie Brentford at ALLi explains “How To Reach Readers With Social Search Techniques when she realized that Amazon was collecting the email addresses of her readers — and she wasn’t.

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Four Steps That Lead to More Readers

Jonathan Gunson at Bestseller Labs points out the “Doorways That Lead To More Readers For Your Books“, and he cracks me up with his first analogy! It’s exactly how it feels when I follow someone on Twitter or in Facebook and their response is for me to “like” their book or check out their book. Geez, I’m just feelin’ the love! *eye roll*

“Being an author is a career, not a get rich quick scheme, and marketing your books does take time and effort.”

Instead, Gunson lists four steps to persuading readers to open their doors and buy your books using the AIDA formula.

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Avoid Social Media Time Suck

Frances Caballo, a social media expert who has just released Avoid Social Media Time Suck, has a guest post at C.S. Lakin’s Live Write Thrive on, you guessed it, “4 Time-Saving Social Media Tips“: 1) curation, 2) schedule, 3) socialize, and 4) ROI. Thankfully, Caballo does explain ROI and provides four sites to use to explore that ROI! One’s even free.

Caballo draws a distinction between broadcast media and social media, pointing out “Writers who don’t schedule time to be social on Facebook or Twitter are turning a social platform into broadcast media. If you simply broadcast your messages — “Buy my book!” — you won’t be rewarded in website visits or book purchases. However, if you allot time for talking with your readers via a social media network, you will gain loyal followers who, in many cases, will help to market your books”.

I gotta confess how horrible I am at this. And I don’t see how scheduling a “whopping” 15 minutes to deal with thanking people, having conversations, retweeting, commenting, or sharing that dahlia from Pinterest can all be done in that “huge” *eye roll* amount of time. Does this really work? Does anyone seriously do this in this short burst of time??

I do get the “time suck” concept. God knows, my time gets sucked away with an industrial whoosh, but still…15 minutes?

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Sorting Out a Tagline

Joan Stewart of the Publicity Hound tells “us about SloganSlingers.com, the service that helps you find a clever slogan or tagline.

You can pay however much you want.”

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FREE: Best of 2013 Publicity Tips

Joan Stewart of the Publicity Hound is giving away a free eBook of tips, Best of 2013 Publicity Tips. It includes a link to a Social Media Press Release; links to tips about publicity on TV, radio, newspapers, magazines, and online; get testimonials for your LinkedIn page; checking for plagiarism; Facebook calls-to-action and cover photo guidelines; ideas on how to pitch to magazines; how to get coverage for your startup; a link to a free blogger outreach guide; a link to an expert on contacting Google (I needed this one weeks ago!); how to shoot video with the iPad and a $5 app; Pinterest tips; and, more.

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Building Your Own Website

Free Vector Graphics Program

A vector graphics program like Adobe Illustrator is ideal for creating any text-based graphics, only it costs a lot. Instead try something like Mondrian a free web app for creating vector graphics online. It’s “similar to a simplified version of Adobe Illustrator and is fully open source, with all the basic tools you’ll need to create your own vector graphics”. The post I read claimed “it’s easy to learn, too, giving it an edge over a lot of other vector programs out there”.

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ThirdScribe: All Things to Authors?

Wow, ThirdScribe certainly sounds like it could be all things for authors — they’ll even let you use your own custom URL for your website! Their FAQ page does provide a lot of information, but I couldn’t find a compelling reason for an author to take on yet more expenses. Not, at least, until I clicked on “How Does ThirdScribe Reduce My Costs?” and found the following:

“ThirdScribe is dedicated to providing authors with a complete social platform, which includes a social network, book landing pages, a website, and their own eNewsletter. These are the four main [tenets] to social marketing for authors. There are several free social networks available, but each of those are stovepiped and don’t interact very well with each other. Goodreads provides a book page, but it’s not that social. You can create a book page on Facebook, but it’s not that helpful. Websites can be gotten a lot of ways, but even the “free” options cost to get the ads taken off (WordPress.com charges $6.95/month to remove ads). Newsletters are incredibly useful, and services cost about $15 a month, or $180 a year.

But authors get all of this — tailored to their needs — from ThirdScribe for $50 a year. You can’t even host your own website for that little ($6.99 a month from Bluehost = $83.88).

Compared to the other services, using ThirdScribe saves an average of $30/year on web hosting and up to $180/year for eNewsletter service. With that savings, you get a much more powerful book page than GoodReads or Facebook provide, and it’s all completely integrated into a social network that actually interacts and reaches out to the other major social networks. And, lets not fail to mention that you get spam protection, nightly back-ups, managed hosting and updates, tons of premium plugins, and service and support.”

No. I haven’t tried this out. I was out hunting down something else when I came across this and explored. Tweet ThirdScribe’s offer to your friends!

If you enjoyed this newsletter, do me a favor and share it with friends by tweeting it.

One response to “A Hodgepodge of Useful Bits & Pieces – Mid-February 2014

  1. Thanks for mentioning us, Kathy! Our third day open and we’re already getting fantastic write ups! We feel so grateful for your support!

    We did change our pricing level right before our launch, though, and you got to our FAQ before we could! We added an intro level Basic Author membership for $25/year — on special right now for $1 the first year — and we changed our full membership price to $70/year.

    However, since you wrote us up at $50 before we published our final pricing, we’re going to honor that for your readers. If they use coupon code KDDIDIT50 they will get the first year at the Full Author level for $50.

    You can see the ThirdScribe Network in action right now at http://thirdscribe.com

    If you want to see a ThirdScribe Author mini-site, check out http://shonbury.thirdscribe.com

    And here is a Full ThirdScribe Author site: http://katherinereay.thirdscribe.com