NaNoWriMo Tip #11: What It Takes to Write a Novel.

Chapterbook2008I got a very sweet email from a reader once, who asked if I could go to an online post where her sister had written a book, read it, and give her encouragement.

I have a sister. If I weren't already published, I could see her wanting to help me in this way.

I had to decline, for several reasons: I had a pending deadline to meet with my editor, and a book launch. When under deadline, I have to keep my head down, and doing my own plotting and scheming.

In fact, I shouldn't even be writing this post, but it touched me so much that one sister would reach out to a perfect stranger to help another.

There are other reasons published authors decline. For example, if they followed through on every request they got to the same question, they would never be writing at all. Others decline for legal reasons: they never want someone coming back and saying, "She used my plot!"

So did Shakespeare, and he's been dead for four hundred years. Go figure.

If she — or you — are  serious about her writing, that is, if you see writing fiction more as a craft (and possibly a livelihood) than a hobby, you should immediately join (or at least go to a first couple of meetings of) one of the many writers organization that nurture aspiring writers, such as Romance Writers of America or Mystery Writers of America.

Here's the beauty part; you have to write in these genres in order to join.

There are local chapters all over the country (and in RWA, they even have national online chapters for specific genres, such as YA, Paranormal, Regency, etc).

By doing so, you will learn from others the ins and outs of the craft (plotting, dialogue, voice, etc.) as well as the "business" end: how to team up with a lit agent, who will put you in front of an editor who "gets" your voice ; or how to self-publish, if you are anxious to see it out in the world in a shorter time frame. (Going the agent to editor to pub date could take two years or more, on average).

These organizations have guest speakers who are published authors who share with you their own bumps in the road on their journeys to publication. You'll take workshops. You'll listen to literary agents explain their end of the business.

And if they sell what you write, you can give them your elevator pitch. Who knows, it may be a match made in heaven.

This, my friend, is an aspiring writer's life.

(A published author's life is a whole OTHER post. But not for today. Like I said, I've gotta keep my head down. As if.)

Within a writers' group, she'll make friends with other writers, both published and aspiring, who may be looking for "critique partners:"  others who will read it and give advice on where she can strengthen a plot point, or her dialogue.

In other words, an ongoing support group.

Almost every published author I know (including me) has found some success in this route, so I want to pass it forward.

My very own RWA Chapter, in San Francisco, actually put together a book for aspiring writers. Writing Romance: The Ultimate Guide on Craft, Creation and Industry Connections, is filled with insightful essays of life in the trenches. You should check it out. In fact, you'll find an essay or two from me in there.

I've also written a slew of creative writing tips in celebration of last year's National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo).

If you don't have time to go this route, perfectly understandable. I wish you luck on your own road  to publication. I'm just hoping to pass along a shortcut in an industry which is changing so rapidly that you need a hovercraft to get to your destination: publishing novels, and being successful at it.

Warp speed, writer!

— Josie

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READ ALL OF MY NaNoWriMo TIPS, IN ORDER, HERE…

__________________________________________

I've got a question for you, and be honest:  Have you psyched yourself out about writing? If so, can you now psyche yourself UUP, and START writing? 

Happy National Novel Writing Month,

— Josie

A Must-Read for any author, novelist, or writer: Lloyd Shepherd’s dialogue with a book pirate.

JackSparrow
I love it when someone tells me they've read one of my books, and enjoyed it.

But let me tell you: I wince inside when they add: "My sister [daughter, girlfriend, whatever] lent it to me."

Admittedly, it also hurts a little when they tell me as much they took it out of a library. But because I too love libraries ( besides being a big user, I also support my library during their fundraising efforts, and by donating books I no longer use) I figure, "Okay, well then maybe they'll buy the next one…and the next one…"

I write because I have to. It's my life. It's in my blood.

And I'll do it for as long as others want to read what I write–and are willing to pay for it.

Aye, there's the rub…

I have to tell you: it kills me when I discover my books are being sold illegally on the Internet.

And no, I'm not fond of the fact that people are file-sharing them, too.

You see, not all pirates are Johnny Depp.

Let me explain something:  I spend months (and in some cases, years) research, plotting, and writing my books. I see only 8 – 12 percent royalties on books that are published via large publishers.That's only $1.14 per book, and that is after I pay back an advance–in which the publisher subtracts any (gulp) returns from bookstores.

On the books I've published myself and put up as digital files that are distributed by online bookstores, I net somewhere between 35- 70 percent of my reasonabe $4.99-$2.99 retail prices. That's only $3.50-$2.10 a book — and I see that, only after I pay a graphic designer, and editor. Let's not forget my taxes.

And I still have to make my rent. And pay for my own healthcare, like every self-employed person.

So, yeah: I'd prefer if you paid for my books.

As would every other author I know.

This isn't a rant. It's a plea. For the few hours of enjoyment you get, shell out what you would for a lunch. Or for that matter, a cuppa joe.

Call it your cuppa Josie.

In this article, which appeared in the UK Guardian, Lloyd Shepherd, who wrote the wonderful novel, The English Monster, put it quite succinctly to one book pirate.

Click onto the article to read the comments.

Guilt sucks. Here's hoping it also works.

— Josie

*Picture: Johnny Depp as Jack Sparrow, in PIRATES OF THE CARIBBEAN.

 

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Lloyd Shepherd: My parley with ebook pirates

When the author of The English Monster found a request to pirate his novel circulating on discussion board Mobilism, he decided to respond himself – and was surprised by the results.

My novel The English Monster was published on 1 March. A week later, a Google alert dropped into my inbox with a link to a forum post on a site called Mobilism, on which a character called "Fe2" was offering a reward to anyone prepared to produce a free ebook version of The English Monster for him to use.

Most books these days are pirated in some form or another, and having worked on the web before I was a novelist I was anticipating that with a fair degree of sang-froid. But this was the first piratical move on my book, and it was also an oddity – more an incitement to piracy than piracy itself.

This, I discovered, is how Mobilism works. The site is essentially an enormous discussion board. It started, as far as I can make out, as a place where people made "mobile" versions of games and other stuff and offered them to each other. It now offers mobile (read: pirated) versions of movies and music as well as games. And books. Lots and lots of books.

However, I need to be careful about my terminology, because Mobilism is very, very careful about its own. It states, often, that it does NOT host any files of pirated material on its own servers; it only links to them. It also provides a kind of currency mechanism for people to reward each other for producing pirated material; you earn things called "WRZ$" by posting on the site, and you earn a great deal more by producing versions of content and making them available for other users.

But – and I am being careful to repeat this – these versions are NOT hosted by Mobilism. All that Mobilism requires is that you put your pirated material at a website address where other users can download it, for free, without registration. Mobilism is like a catalogue of links to other people's warehouses. It's an index, not a repository. It's exploiting a characteristic of the legal arrangements around the internet – that you should be able to link to something without becoming liable for it. This is an essential element of what makes the web work. It also allows Mobilism to create entire cathedrals to pirated content, without hosting any of that content itself.

(As an aside, this legal arrangement is now under some attack. Richard O'Dwyer is right now facing extradition to the US to feel the wrath of the Hollywood entertainment industry for building a site that contained thousands of links to pirated material. It's hard to understand why O'Dwyer is attracting this kind of legal firepower, while no one seems to be extraditing Mobilism's owners. Perhaps because, as far as I can see, no one knows who they are.)

Many writers in my position, I know, have gone into a rage when their books are pirated – particularly those with no experience of the legal ways of the internet. How can it be, they yell, that these clowns are stealing my livelihood? And I felt some irritation, of course. But blind anger wasn't getting us anywhere, and here was an opportunity to ask this guy (in my head, he's a guy, although she may well not be) what he thought he was doing. I went on to the forum to put it to him. This is what I said:

So, I'm the author of The English Monster. Can it be that you're offering to pay someone to create an ebook of the book I wrote? I'd be interested to hear your justification for this. For your interest, this book took me two years to write, and represents (on a rough estimate) perhaps 500 hours of work on my part, not to mention the time and effort put in by others to design, print, copy-edit and produce the final version. And you're proposing to pay someone else – someone who had no part in the making of the book – to produce a copy for you. Is there a good reason why you can't pay through normal channels for my book?

Please understand me – I am genuinely interested in what you've got to say about this. This is my first book, and this is my first experience of someone attempting to produce a pirate version of it (I do not use the word "pirate" pejoratively, mind). Is there any reason why I shouldn't expect to be compensated for the time I have put into this?

To my surprise, this attracted a response.

Mr Shepherd, I can tell by your measured reply that you are trying to be as fair and nonjudgmental as possible, so thank you. I am not sure how to answer you – and our messages will no doubt be deleted soon.

Bottom line is, there is no justification or reason that would or should ever satisfy the author of original content. Anyone that tries to make sense of this process (that publishing houses are greedy; that knowledge should be free … just two reasons that I have seen bandied about) is just fooling themselves. There is also a Robin Hood aspect to this, that perhaps you may understand. Either way, I don't think there is a way of putting this digital information era genie back into the bottle.

I wish you every luck in future.

This was the point at which I did, I confess, lose it for a moment. This was such a stupid collection of cliche and childishness. It's the kind of pseudo-anarchist garbage we've come to expect from the more militantly dumb wings of the anti-copyright campaign. I wrote a long reply (you can see the entire discussion here) which said, in summary, that if authors couldn't get compensation for their work there would be no authors, and didn't he know that Coleridge and Wordsworth only wrote Lyrical Ballads to fund a holiday in Germany, and why was he blaming this "digital information era genie" for his own bad behaviour. But, you know, friendly-like.

At this point, two things happened. First, the mysterious powers at Mobilism moved the forum thread from its original location under "ebook requests" to a new place called "fulfilled ebook requests". Meaning, I suppose, that they had recognised I had a problem with what was going on, but didn't want to delete the topic. For this I give them some credit (perhaps in the form of WRZ$).

The second thing was that "Fe2" sent another reply, which again I reproduce in its entirety.

Mr Shepherd, again I thank you for your considered, elegant reply. I felt replying to you was not only appropriate, but mandatory.

A small note in closing, as the thread has been moved (but not deleted – my thanks to the moderator who made that decision): it was not I who advanced those reasons that you read. I do not for one minute think that any author is being "greedy" for wanting payment for their labour, nor do I think all knowledge should be free. In fact, I cannot fathom anyone thinking that, but I wrote it because I have seen some people in other fora write those very reasons as to why they want ebooks without remuneration. Slavery, which is work without payment, was abolished in all civilised lands a long time ago, so I wish said people would read our thread and understand that.

Me, I have lived in Africa and Asia, in such remote locations that it is difficult to get internet, let alone ebooks, even if locals could afford that. Yet I've met some who try to reach for better things in life, such as current or helpful books to read, and find their options curtailed by circumstance. I know it is no excuse, but since you ask for elucidation, that is mine.

I veered from rage to puzzlement. I even wondered if this post was the product of some kind of bot. The reply did posit a reason for this guy's behaviour. There was a sort of psychology at work. But it was pretty thin: he says, for instance, that "I have lived in Africa and Asia", where presumably ebooks are hard to get hold of legitimately, but he says it in the past tense. He doesn't let on where he lives now. As a friend pointed out, he basically seemed to be saying, "Yeah, you're right, but, you know, what's a guy to do?"

I decided to go into the main Mobilism forums and start a new topic, called "Novelist seeking understanding". I asked people to explain how they justified to themselves what they were doing, or whether they even needed to. I also wondered whether they thought what they were doing would damage the culture in the long run, if authors became disincentivised to write. It's had some pretty interesting responses. The reasons and justifications given for pirating ebooks include:

• that sharing a book is great publicity for the author. Lots of quoting of Paolo Coelho and Neil Gaiman here, who've both said this sort of thing recently;

• that people who travel a lot like the convenience of ebooks, and if they already own the book in physical form they feel justified in getting a free copy;

• that this kind of "free sharing" allows people to sample books (again, it's great publicity, is the argument).

Now, two of these are not justifications for freeloading; they're after-effects. If I let people pirate my book, this argument goes, I get publicity and create a "debate" around myself which gets me noticed. Only one point (the second one) is an actual attempt to justify piracy itself.

But all of the people who replied to my original post denied being "freeloaders" – they claimed to still buy books, as many as they ever did, if not more. Their argument seemed to be that Mobilism provided a platform for discussion and, yes, sharing of books – and that this kept up a high level of appetite for, and interest in, new authors.

Obviously missing on the forum were the voices of those "pirates" I had demonised in my own head: the ones who pirate gleefully and indiscriminately, who host vast folders of free content, who give the finger to anyone in a suit and tie and believe they are changing the world one cracked DRM at a time. You know. Pirates.

I'm not naive. I do believe that in the long run I am damaged by piracy more than I am helped by it. I also know that my publisher, on whom I depend for income, support and promotion, is severely damaged by it. On that level, I want it to stop. This feeling is made even stronger by the realisation that Mobilism can sell advertising (and presumably generate a bit of revenue for someone, somewhere) on the back of well-organised and ongoing larceny. Somebody, somewhere is making money from my own labour.

But I see the sense of what the well-mannered people who responded to my question were saying, and I have some sympathy for what Gaiman and Coelho have been saying about piracy – that the more it happens, the more people find out about their books. Neil Gaiman's recent point – that no one buys their first book, they are given it by someone – is a strong one. But then, Gaiman and Coelho are established authors. Is this kind of free-for-all the best way to launch a new author? I simply do not know.

Whatever my own response, publishing as an industry could respond to this. Is there a mechanism that allows people to discuss and share books, sampling them and even giving them away, in such a way that encourages the social appetite for books and reading? Could there be a platform for people to access books in places where local deals have not made them available through traditional channels; a kind of global meta-copyright which stands where no local copyright licence has taken place? How we do either of those things is beyond me, and perhaps beyond anyone. What I can't deny is that my parley with the pirates was more fruitful than I expected it to be, and there's a lesson in that for all of us.

What writers should do when they are in the 99% (of publishing’s many norms): stay in the game.

Sfarwabook[1]Because of a very fortunate turn of events this year in my writing career, I was asked to speak to other authors who had been my support system in the ups and downs of my 7-year career: the San Francisco chapter of the Romance Writers of America. This group is filled with an even mix of aspiriting and already published successful writers, all of whom have been there for each other with inspiring words, great advice, and a shoulder to cry on.

Yes, it was my turn to give back.

Here's what I told them (in the few moments when I wasn't dithering off-topic, on such things as house renovations from hell, book promotion, instore co-op and other necessary evils of success for the chosen few–

But then caffeine on a belly of oatmeal will do that to you. Next time: fill the ol' belly with pancakes first. Oh yeah: and look at your notes every once in a while…)

_____________________________________

The year 2011 did not start out well for me. I was one of many midlist authors who had a novel under contract  with publishing house, but then it was dropped as part of a loss-saving attempt in light of the Borders bankruptcy.

I made sure that my own private pity party was short and bittersweet, then turned my attention on promoting the novel which was due out in April. I was proud of the buzz I'd already built prior to its release, which turned into a 10-market tour hosted by women who had the same career as Katie, the heroine in my book The Baby Planner.

As far as my editor was concerned, it paid off — enough for her to ask me to lunch. As we nibbled lady-sized salads at the Bergdorf-Goodman Restaurant high over Central Park, she asked, "So what can I see next?"

This is why it's always a smart idea to promote promote promote your books, no matter what your publishing house is (or isn't) doing for it.

Knowing that you need to publish or perish, I was also smart enough to take the great advice of my writer pal, Bella Andre, who has hit it out of the park indie-pub'ing her re-acquired backlist and some new books. She convinced me that a novel which had had four editors salivating for it- (until it got shot down in committee) was the perfect test for me to indie-publish. The first book in that series, The Housewife Assassin's Handbook, is out now.

Thus far I'm loving the sales. The second in the series, The Houswife Assassin's Guide to Gracious Killing will be out by the end of the month. So yes, authors: Independent publishing is one way to watch your orphans thrive.

Writing novels is not for the faint of heart. I truly believe you need a wonderful agent to match you with the right editor: someone loves your writer's voice and your story, and wants to help make it the best book possible before showing it to the world.

But even a great agent and a superlative editor can't do the one thing that keeps an author writing for a living wage. For that, you need a legion of readers who fall in love with your characters, and wants to see more of them, and of you.

Thanks to my wonderful agent, Holly Root, who saw the potential in my books to translate into different media, my novels were shown to a talent agency which felt that they did indeed have the potential to be adapted into movies or as a TV series.

Secret Lives400Well, they were right. One of Hollywood biggest producers, Jerry Bruckheimer, has optioned one of my books, Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives, for a television show that will run on ABC.

So yes: this year has been a rollercoaster. But I was one of the lucky ones.

I'm making  a living wage as a writer.

These readers are out there. I know authors who exhaust themselves trying to find them: touring, social networking, responding to comments and emails.

I strongly feel that, with the changes that are occuring in the distribution of books — the surge of online book sales, coupled with the decline in the number of brick-and-mortar bookstores, not to mention the number of books they take on — will also change the role of publishers:

They will have to  get more agressive — and smarter — in how they promote the books they publish.

I have no doubt that they will soon publish less authors. But in order to thrive, they'll have to make the books they do publish as profitable as possible. This means focusing on marketing and promotion as well as distribution. They need to recognize niche markets for specific authors and their books, and court them…

Something that authors do, now, for themselves…if they're smart.

And could to even better if they had the financial resources and personpower of their pub houses.

Every author writing for that imprint is a brand.

Every book is a product under that brand.

This is, simply, Marketing 101.

Which brings me to you, the author:

If you're a writer, be prepared to spend most of your career in the 99 percent.

Everyone in this room writes, because we must write. This need to write comes from the depth of our souls.

Ninety-nine percent of the world doesn't have this desire. (Thank gawd! Aren't there already enough of us, in this very competitive field?)

So, consider yourself in the one percent.

Already, I applaud you.

A reality we all know: ninety-nine percent of aspiring writers will not get published by a New York publishing house. All the more reason I want to applaud the many I see this room who have made it into the one percent who have been traditionally published.

Of all traditionally published writers, how many have been able — or will be able – to make writing a fully-fledged career that pays the bills and puts food on the table? How many will still be published ten or twenty years from now?

I'm guessing that number is closer to one percent than 99 percent.

And of those who are lucky enough to make writing their vocation as well as their avocation, I'm guessing that 99 percent of them will never have the joy of learning that their book has been optioned and produced in an entertainment medium, such as film or television.

But here's the thing: If you ever want to be in THE 1 PERCENT (of the 1 percent who write; of the 1 percent who get an agent; of the one percent who get a publishing contract; of the 1 percent who can make a living writing; of the one percent who may enjoy watching their characters come alive in the small screen or the silver screen) you have to stay in the game.

You have to write.

Afterward, you have to edit, and re-edit, and edit again, until your manuscript is a page-turner.

Then you have to query a large, well-researched list of agents with your manuscript.

Once you get that agent, you have to to listen to him or her as to what else has to be done to it so that s/he will be enthusiastic when it is sent out to editors (remember: agents work on a commission, so they don't get paid until your book sells; they are putting sweat equity in you as well).

And once your book is published, you have to promote it.

And you have to write more books.

So, yeah: writing is the easy part.

Staying in the game is the hard part.

Last. Author. Standing.

 – Josie

(c) 2011 Josie Brown. All rights reserved.

The top photo is the book cover for Writing Romance: The Ultimate Guide on Craft, Creation and Industry Connections, which is published by the San Francisco Chapter of the Romance Writers of America

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How the Publishing World Has Changed…or Not

Kirk-scotty While Googling myself (Hey, 'fess up! You do it, too!) I came up with this article, in LiveWires.com, dated April 3, 2009. In it, I was asked: "How do you see the world changing from a writer’s point of view?"

 My answer is below.

Do I still feel it hits the mark? Hell yeah. In a nutshell, my two cents: as online distribution of digitial books grow, the roles of publishers, agents, and book retailers will have to change, in order for these functions to survive. I the article, I  give my suggestionsas to how these change will benefit authors.

Warp speed, Scotty: has anything changed in the year and a half that's passed, to validate my predictions?

Nah. But then again, we all know that the book publishing industry moves as slow as a Ferengi returning a lost wallet. I hope that doesn't get lost in translation.

I'm givin' it all I got, Cap'n,

–Josie


(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it TODAY!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in the bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly entertaining reading." –Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives

 

JOSIE BROWN ANSWERS OUR QUESTION

LiveWires.com

We are asking a few author friends a question: How do you see the world changing from a writer’s point of view?

Here is Josie Brown’s answer –

“The literary world is beginning to look a lot like the music and entertainment industries, at least as it pertains to the future distribution of its products: online sales and downloads, as opposed to instore CDs and vinyl (music industry), DVDs (film/TV entertainment), or paper (book industry.)

As technology moves by leaps and bounds, all these media are struggling to establish a viable revenue model that fairly compensates those who create the product (writers, musicians, directors) and those who bring it to market.

That said, short of having your book written on Charmin toilet paper, I’m guessing most authors will welcome any and all new media that allows their stories to reach new and or loyal fans–

That is, if the fair compensation model can be upheld.

Aye, there’s the rub.

The advantage to technology is also its Achille’s Heel: pirating copywritten material is very easy to do when it’s put online. The Google lawsuit  and settlement opened up a Pandora’s box of legal issues that we all will be struggling with for quite some time,

The current compensation model used by the original eBook publishers is as follows:

(1) to attract readers, offer  books for a price cheaper than printed ones. This was something they’re able to do since they don’t have printing expenses. And because eBook publishers sell primarily online and promoted their books there as well, they have no shipping expenses, retail discounts, or returns: all of which gouge a publisher’s return on his investment .

(2) To entice authors, pay higher royalty rates: 40-50%,  as opposed to the print standard of 8-15%, depending on formats and formulas–albeit small or no advance. (“We’re all in this together, right? And besides, since New York won’t publish you, we’re your BFF….”)

(3) Pay authors on a monthly basis, as opposed to twice a year. (That’s the real advantage to the digital era.)

Now that eBooks are predicted to be the norm as opposed to the anomaly, traditional print publishers are seriously reconsidering the eBook’s role in their business model. However, this sea change change in product distribution will affect print publishers’ role in an even more profound way:

They will no longer serve as the gatekeepers of what is printed. Their role will shift to that of brand manager: that is build, promote, and manage the brands of their authors their books, both the front and the backlist.

Ideally, promotion will begin much earlier – perhaps even the minute the book’s contract has been signed – and continue much longer than 60 days beyond the launch date. This is a model used in both the music and entertainment industries (both of which have much more expensive production costs) – so why not for books?

(Oooooh…..sorry! I got tingles just THINKING about this!)

And much of this promotion will happen online as well – because much of the traditional media previously used to promote books  – newspaper reviews and magazine excerpts – is also disappearing.

Or going online.

An promotionally aggressive media-savvy author can use this to his/her advantage. Blogging daily and uploading content to your blog that entices daily visits from your fans, utilizing social networks to reach out to them, offering contests and excerpts, posting events  – all of these marketing endeavors define your voice and your brand.

And in partnership with a publishing house which see you as a viable brand and treats you as one, this brave new world will be a great place to sell our books.”

Why MacBook Air is “Meh” for Authors

MacBook Air I'm a big Apple Mac fan. Always have been–

Until now.

This past year my travel schedule heavied up. I wasn't looking forward to hitting the road with my iBook laptop. (Walking through the streets of New York and Chicago with the strap of your computer bag dragging you down is not a great fashion statement.)

At first I thought I'd splurge on an iPad. Heck, that way I could easily read my (and other authors') books on it as well. The price was a bit daunting, I'll admit. But what really turned me against it was the omission of a real keyboard. No, not that li'l picture of one under glass, which shared the screen with anything else you were viewing, but a real, separate keyboard.

"You can always buy the keyboard attachment," my techno-savvy sis-in-law told me.

"What would be the purpose?" I answered. "For me, flying is down time. It's the best time to write chapters of my next book. The airplane seat room is small enough as it is! Usually I have to bribe the person in front of me with a drink so that they don't recline the seat, snapping off the lid of my computer. The last thing I need to do is juggle a tethered keyboard and the iPad on some little stand…"

Not to mention the crick I'd get in my neck, for hunching over that faux keyboard.

The solution: No Apple.

Instead I purchased a slim ASUS Netbook. It's 10 inches and under 3 lbs, has 13 hours of battery life, a 2GB memory, a pricetag of $349–

And best of all, a REAL keyboard.

The first few days I had it, I'll admit it: I got hives thinking about being away from my seamless OSX Apple Snow Leopard operating system. Slowly but surely, though, I let go of my iBook. It felt soooo heavy, compared to the ASUS.

Yeah, okay, I miss some of the wonderful shortcuts that Apples have, which make our lives easier. But I'll gladly trade it for the convenience of tossing my ASUS into a tiny bag and taking it on the road with me.

And I certainly don't miss the sore shoulder.

Apple must have missed me, too, because now it's got its own solution to the Netbook: the MacBook Air.

I thought it might bring me home to Apple . . .

But no. Why? NO HARD DISK DRIVE.

In other words no place to save my chapters, or access my research, or archive my most important (read: security blanket) files.

Grant it, it's wafer slim, only 11 inches in length, has a 5-hour battery–and yes, a keyboard.

But NO HARD DRIVE?  Fuggedaboutit. This article, in FORTUNE, convinced me to stay away.

I'm over forty. I''ve lost enough memory as is.

I guess Thomas Wolfe was right. You can't go home again.

Have Netbook will travel,

–Josie

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Josie's latest book:

SECRET LIVES OF HUSBANDS AND WIVES

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it TODAY!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in the bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly entertaining reading." –Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives

 

A Secret Agent Man, Nathan Bransford, Lets Clueless Authors In On: Yes, We Need Him.

Me, as Supreme Goddess of the Universe I love my agent (Holly Root, that'd be U!) She gives as much as she gets: that means advice, both to clients and to any author willing to ask questions–and more importantly, to listen.

Thank goodness for us writerly types, she's not the only agent willing to depart some important nuggets of knowledge. The indubitable Barbara Poelle does this also, on a weekly basis (Tuesdays, at Hey, There's a Dead Guy in the Living Room  ) and so does Nathan Bransford.

As way of example, here is a question I hear too often from my unpublished peers: "Do I really need an agent?"

My answer to them: YES.

Since I am not Supreme Goddess of the Universe*, most of you won't take this at face value. That said, if you need additional convincing, let me refer you over to this article of Nathan's, which I feel hits the mark on target. I missed it when it first ran, and since I'm Supreme Goddess of the Universe, I'm guessing you did, too.

Nobody says it better,

–Josie

*If I were, the picture to the right here is what I'd look like, fyi…

Hey, don't laff, coz I KNOW WHERE YOU LIVE. (I'm Supreme Goddess of the Universe, remember?

Josie's Latest Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it TODAY!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in the bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly entertaining reading." –Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives

 

Judging a Book by Its Cover: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

PosterSee that messy desk?

Ooops! Let me start again…

See that colorful poster over the messy desk? The one of the eye-catching book cover?

That book cover is mine.

It belongs to the novel you'll soon see in bookstores–June 1, 2010, to be exact–all over the country.

It will also be inside Target, which makes me very proud, because I feel that the story–about a marriage disintegrating, and what others who are close to it project their own fears into it–would relate to many of us who shop there.

This cover was blown up to a size that is close to 2 feet by 3 feet. Since a book's cover is the first consideration for a book lover's impulse buy, unfortunately for me (but fortunately for you, since, hopefully, you'll be lugging it to the beach with you I hope I hope) it won't be that big when see it in the store.

When you see it, will you pick it up?

My publishing house, Simon & Schuster, is betting that you will. And since they're the horse that I"m riding in on, here's hoping they're right. They created a cover that implies people in a very public neighborhood setting, in close proximity–husbands, wives, lovers and other strangers–and yet they are aloof. As Woody Allen would say, "friendly, but not familiar."

And that's the crux of the story: does, as the adage goes, familiarity breed contempt? Does it kill passion?

Do we fall out of love when we reach the point that we know too much? If our partner's actions are mundane, are we boring, too, for putting up with it?

In this book, the divorce of a community's "perfect couple" sets off a rash of soul-searching for those who are on the outside looking in. These neighbors reason: if it can happen to them, how about me?

The only one who doesn't want to consider this is my heroine, Lyssa. She gets close enough to witness the destruction, and feels immune to the arrows of outrageous partners behaving badly–

Maybe because it hits too close to her own marriage.

Which brings me back to my cover. On the bench (which wraps around the whole book) are these four people. The middle two are in each others' arms, but what are they thinking about? Are the other two who share the bench with them strangers, or acquaintances?

The cover lends itself to the darker side of the story, although there is a lot of humor as well. (That's just the way I write.) Divorce is not murder or mass destruction, but it is still the death of trust and love; it is the destruction of a union that held hope.

What does it say to you? I'd love to hear your comments. 

At first I didn't like it. I wanted something softer. In time, though, I
grew to appreciate its edginess. And in person, the colors are rich,
which make it eye-popping as well. 

A note: for those of you who presume that authors get to choose their book covers, think again. Maybe if your first name is Dan, or your last name is Grisham you do, but for the rest of us, when it comes to a book contract, you may get "consideration" — in other words, they may take your opinion as to what you'd like to see on the cover — but the publisher has final say. His/Her decision takes into account the reaction from the sales team, which is out in the field pitching it to their accounts (who, by the way, swing a big stick, too, when it comes to covers).

From concept to cover,

—Josie

http://twitter.com/JosieBrownCA




Secret-Lives400w
 
Josie's
Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it
TODAY
!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in
the
bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money
and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled
observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly
entertaining reading."

Jackie
Collins
, bestselling author of Hollywood Wives and Poor Little Bitch Girl

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Pre-order
today
:

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Books a Million

From Borders

From Copperfield's

From Your
Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's

From
Target

The Pulitzer Prize and the Novel TINKERS: What Dreams May Come in Publishing

Tinkers One of the hardest things to do is write a novel. I guess that's why everyone attempts to do so.

Even when you spin prose into gold, like Paul Harding has done with his book, Tinkers, you still have to overcome the reticence of those publishing industry decision makers (agents, then editors) that your book will somehow catch the zeitgeist and find an audience.

Even when word of mouth is enthusiastic, a book has to compete with those tried-and-true commercial (operative word here) bestsellers who come out the same month and also have three very big things working in their favor: "co-op" (the marketing push that gets a book on the front table beside the door, where 70 percent of most books are sold); vast distribution (not just independent bookstores, but large purchases from the chains, Barnes & Noble and Borders Books, as well as, perhaps some big box store sales, from Wal-Mart, Costco or Target; and most important of all author name recognition (James Patterson: I'm lookin' at YOU...)

Needless to say, I'm always happy to read a success story about a book that might have been mired in oblivion if it didn't get that extra push from somewhere. In the case of Mr. Harding, he had an angel of an editor (yes, they do exist: I am proof of that — thank you Ms. M, of S&S!). He also had a sales person on his publishers team who became his advocate in the wilderness; and those at the front line of defense–the independent bookstores–recognized his genius, too. That is to be expected: they love books with a passion, and and always the first to recognize a great one and put the wind beneath its sales (pun intended, thank you).

The New York Times has done a marvelous job of telling Mr. Harding's journey from first book oblivion to Pulitzer prize winner. It is also quick to give a mea culpa for missing out in reviewing the book for its readers.

It's not in 3-D, and there is no three-act arc, but that's okay. I can't wait to read it.

(And maybe that's why),

—Josie

http://twitter.com/JosieBrownCA




SecretLives400 Josie's
Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

In bookstores June 1, 2010. Order it
TODAY
!

"Hollywood's got nothing on the cast of characters living in
the
bedroom community of Paradise Heights, who have the secrets, sex, money
and scandal of an OK! Magazine cover story. Josie Brown is a skilled
observer whose clever dialogue and feisty style make for truly
entertaining reading."

Jackie
Collins
, bestselling author of Hollywood Wives and Poor Little Bitch Girl

April 19, 2010



IOWA CITY — Six years ago Paul Harding
was just another graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop with a quiet
little novel he hoped to publish. He sent copies of the manuscript, in
which he had intertwined the deathbed memories of a New England clock
repairer with episodes about the dying man’s father, to a handful of
agents and editors in New York. Soon after, the rejection letters
started to roll in.

“They would lecture me about the pace of life today,” Mr. Harding
said last week over lunch at a diner in this college town, where he is
now teaching at the workshop. “It was, ‘Where are the car chases?’ ” he
said, recalling the gist of the letters. “ ‘Nobody wants to read a
slow, contemplative, meditative, quiet book.’ ”

His manuscript languished in a desk drawer for nearly three years.
But in perhaps the most dramatic literary Cinderella story of recent
memory, Mr. Harding, 42, not only eventually found a publisher — the
tiny Bellevue Literary Press — for the novel, “Tinkers,” he also went
on to win the Pulitzer Prize for fiction last week. Within an hour of the Pulitzer announcement, Random House
sent out a news release boasting of the two-book deal it had signed
with Mr. Harding late in 2009. A few days later the Guggenheim
Foundation announced he had received one of its prestigious fellowships.

The early rejection “was funny at the time,” Mr. Harding said. “And
even funnier now.” Mr. Harding, a onetime drummer for a rock band, is
far too discreet to name any of the agents or editors who wouldn’t
touch his work a few years ago.

But he is quick to praise those who helped “Tinkers” become a
darling of the independent bookstore circuit, including Erika Goldman,
the editorial director of Bellevue, whom Mr. Harding described as a
“deeply empathetic reader”; Lise Solomon, a sales representative in
Northern California for Consortium, the book’s distributor, who
passionately advocated for the novel with booksellers; and the
booksellers and critics who embraced the book early on.

Although “Tinkers” sunk under the radar in some quarters (including
The New York Times, which did not review it), it made several year-end
best lists, including NPR’s best debut fiction and The New Yorker
magazine’s list of reviewers’ favorites. According to Nielsen Bookscan,
which tracks about 70 percent of retail sales, “Tinkers” sold 7,000
copies before the Pulitzer announcement.

Now many independent booksellers are claiming Mr. Harding’s victory
as their own. “This shows how indie bookstores truly are the ones that
can be movers and shakers when it comes to a book,” said Michele
Filgate, the events manager at RiverRun Bookstore in Portsmouth, N.H.,
who raved about the book on Bookslut, a literary blog. As it turns out,
it was Ms. Filgate who first told Rebecca Pepper Sinkler, a former
editor of The New York Times Book Review and chairwoman of this year’s
Pulitzer fiction jury, about “Tinkers” at a book-reviewing workshop Ms.
Sinkler led in Manchester, N.H., last April.

In classes at Iowa Mr. Harding has become an instant celebrity, of
course, but also, a reassurance. Marilynne Robinson, the Pulitzer
Prize-winning author of “Gilead,” Mr. Harding’s former teacher and now
a friend, said last week in her workshop office that she had already
repeated Mr. Harding’s story several times.

“One of the problems I have is making my students believe that they
can write something that satisfies their definition of good, and they
don’t have to calculate the market,” Ms. Robinson said. “Now that I
have the Paul anecdote, they will believe me more.”

Mr. Harding is an avid reader of 19th-century novels, theological
works (Karl Barth is his current favorite) and physics, making it hard
to believe his claims that he was a poor student at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, where he majored in English. The university does confirm that he took six years to complete his degree.

Wearing wire-framed glasses and a white button-down shirt tucked
into Levi’s, he talked effusively, the antithesis of the taciturn
father and son portrayed in “Tinkers,” a novel with sparse dialogue and
large portions set inside the characters’ heads.

Framed partly as a deathbed vigil for George Washington Crosby, a
clock repairer, the book wanders through time and consciousness,
describing in fine-grain detail its rural Maine setting and the
epileptic fits of George’s father, Howard, an old-time tinker who
traveled the countryside by wagon.

The story’s genesis came from Mr. Harding’s own grandfather, who
grew up in rural Maine and whose epileptic father abandoned the family
when he learned that his wife, Mr. Harding’s great-grandmother, planned
to send him to an asylum.

Mr. Harding spent his childhood in Wenham, Mass., a town not far
from where he lives with his wife and two sons, and he went fly-fishing
in northern Maine during the summers. He apprenticed with his
grandfather in clock repair, and after graduating from college he
recorded two albums and toured Europe with Cold Water Flat, the band he
helped form at UMass.

The band fell apart (the usual: creative differences), and Mr.
Harding decided to scratch another itch. He enrolled in a summer
writing course at Skidmore College, where he took classes with Ms.
Robinson.

With his application for the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, he submitted two stories, one of which was his first stab at “Tinkers.”

But for most of his time in Iowa Mr. Harding worked on a novel about
a 12-year-old girl who disguised herself as a boy in order to work in a
Mexican silver mine during the 16th century. As he graduated, he
realized the novel didn’t work.

Once again the story of his grandfather beckoned. Turning back to
it, he said, “was just such a sense of relief to not have to go looking
in history books.”

After his first son was born and he was teaching expository writing to undergraduates at Harvard
and creative writing to night-school students, the novel became an
extracurricular project. “It got so it was guerilla writing,” Mr.
Harding said. “I could flip open the laptop and start writing
anywhere.” He wrote on bookmarks and the backs of receipts,
transcribing the scraps into the computer later.

Finally, one Saturday night, he printed out his mishmashed computer
file and laid it out on the living-room floor. Nursing a few fingers of
whiskey, he cut up the document, stapling and taping sections into the
structure that ultimately made it to publication.

Shortly after Ms. Goldman finally agreed to buy the book — paying a
$1,000 advance — things began to go right. Ms. Robinson, who rarely
gives blurbs, gave “Tinkers” a stellar one, calling it “truly
remarkable.” Independent booksellers started to push it.

Meanwhile Ms. Sinkler began to champion “Tinkers” among her fellow Pulitzer jury members, Charles Johnson, the author of the National Book Award-winning “Middle Passage,” and Laura Miller, a senior writer at Salon.com.
“I think that sentence for sentence, it was the most beautifully
written and most gorgeous use of language of any of the books we looked
at,” Ms. Sinkler said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Harding is working on his next novel, set in Enon, the fictional
town where George dies, focusing on one of George’s grandsons, Charlie,
and Charlie’s daughter, Kate.

The Pulitzer may change some worldly things, he said, but not how he works.

“I sort of feel like I know how I got here, every step of the way,”
Mr. Harding said. “Something like this can befall me, and it won’t be
catastrophic success.”



Copyright 2010
The New York Times Company

Great article in Fortune: “The Future of Reading”

Fortune
Magazine has done an insightful and well researched article on how we may be
reading in the future. The big question: How will it affect what we read, and
how we buy it . . .

Not to mention, at what price?

I agree with what they say about our loss of journalistic integrity. I see it in the cutbacks in my favorite news media, and in the professorial cutbacks and class furloughs in journalism schools all over the country.

However, having spent a part of my career in advertising, I find it hard to believe that the ads we see alongside the online articles we read are not effective. According to the article below, traditional print ad spending is dropping. But that's due to drops in readership. Some of these same media outlets also have online entities.

I just don't buy the fact that you have to click onto an ad to see it, read it, admire it, and otherwise take in its message. For centuries other media, both print and broadcast ads — newspapers, magazines, radio, television — got us to react and to buy.

Granted, it would be wonderful if advertisers could have the kind of quantifiable data and analysis that the digital age promised. Frankly I think that's the icing on the cake. What they're discounting is that which may not be quantifiable, but qualifiable.

It's dumb to sell consumers (or for that matter, good ad campaigns) short. If the message is clear, and delivered in a manner that provokes a response — either direct or subliminal — then awareness will be created, perceptions will be enhanced, and products will be bought.

Hopefully, many many books will be among them.

—Josie




BestSLHW Josie's Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores June 1, 2010

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Bigger Books

From Books a Million

From Borders

From Boswell Books

From Copperfield's

From Your Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's

0:00 /4:31Extra! Extra! One newspaper prospers!

Top of Form

Bottom of
Form

Future_of_reading.top

The future of reading

http://money.cnn.com/2010/02/09/technology/tablet_ebooks_media.fortune/index.htm


By Josh Quittner / February 11, 2010:
11:05 AM ET

(Fortune
Magazine) — A few months ago the most amazing thing happened: Unbidden,
unpressured, and all by herself (armed only with my wife's credit card), my
12-year-old daughter subscribed to a magazine.


While
Clem has long harbored a fantasy of one day being the editor of the French
version of Vogue (inexplicably, she
is a life-long Francophile), it still surprised and thrilled me when Vogue started showing up in the mail.


Magazines,
books, newspapers — all that printed stuff is supposed to be dying.
Advertising pages, which have been steadily declining, dropped 26% in 2009
alone. But here, surely, was some evidence that publishing might have a chance.
If an adolescent who otherwise spends every waking hour on a laptop still
craves the printed word, then maybe, just maybe, there's a little new growth
left in old media.


This
tender, green, old-media sprout began to bloom in a curious way, however. Each
month Clem was excited when Vogue
arrived. She'd rip into the issue and scamper up the stairs to her chambre à coucher, with enough enthusiasm
to do Anna Wintour proud. But after digesting each issue, Clem would reappear
with it hours later — only now a zillion Post-its jutted from its pages,
stegosaurus-like.


Over
time, one by one, those stegosauri began to stack up, spines out, in her closet.
One day I decided to take a peek at the dinosaur graveyard to see what my
daughter was tagging so furiously. It turned out that she was trying to
annotate each issue, sorting the material by outfits, accessories, footwear,
and other categories for later reference. I noticed that the more issues she
tagged, the more frustrated she became. This was a lot of work. So why was she
doing it?


"Don't
you get it?" my wife observed. "She's trying to turn the magazine
into a computer."


Et voilà!
Of course she was.


The
more I thought about it, the more I decided there was good news for the
evolution of the publishing industry here — and better news. The good news is
that 12-year-olds, just like their parents and their parents before them going
all the way back to the publication of the first magazine in 1731 (the year
Charles Darwin's grandfather was born), still enjoy the medium. But they want
it delivered in an exponentially more useful way.


Raised
to expect instant, sortable, searchable, savable, portable access to all the
information in the world, these digital natives — tomorrow's magazine
subscribers, God and Steve Jobs willing — could well become the generation
that saves the publishing industry.


Gallery:
10 sages read the future of print


The
better news is that with the arrival of Apple's forthcoming iPad
and other tablet computers
— touch sensitive, full color, easy to watch
video on, network-connected to virtual newsstands and stores — the publishing
industry might once again have a remunerative way of giving it to them.


In
fact, for the past year I've been pushing the theory that the Age of Tablets
will give print media one last bite at the apple — and publishing companies
that are able to make the transition could one day thrive again. I'm so
convinced that it will happen that I've been working with other folks here at
Time Inc. (Fortune's publisher) to create prototypes of digital magazines that
will soon be delivered to tablets and smartphones. So consider this my
apologia.


This
isn't a case of excessive introspection on the part of a media insider: The
future of publishing is fast becoming topic A in business circles. Financiers
who make trades based on access to reliable information fret about the fate of
outlets like the Wall Street Journal
and the Financial Times. Urban
planners worry about what happens to communities if digital books make
libraries obsolete. Nonmedia billionaires, from Mexico's Carlos Slim to real
estate magnate Sam Zell, have invested their own money in newspapers.


No
one can accuse newspapers and magazines of failing to embrace the web. Shortly
after going to Time to write
full-time about the Internet in 1995, I abandoned print and did a stint on the
web. But I soon realized I couldn't do online the kind of long-form journalism
I wanted to do. The web is for scanning, not deep reading. People typically
spend two minutes or less on a site. Why do you think the killer app is called
a browser?


Worse,
it was hard to make a buck. While in those early days we were optimistic about
online advertising — the click-through rates were through the roof — it
turned out that users were actually clicking on ads by mistake. Call it poor
mouse control.


The
standardization of ad sizes and placements only worsened the problem,
relegating pitches to the periphery of content, where they are easily ignored.
Revenue growth rates quickly began to tank as it became apparent that no one
looks at ads online. (Name one you've seen in the past week.)


That's
why today online ads bring in junk CPMs — about 10% of the revenue per 1,000
views compared with print. The only new media life form that has managed to
live off those junk-ad rates is the blog, a medium that tends to favor breadth
over depth and cheap opinion over expensive, original reporting.


It's
no wonder that traditional publishing companies have been looking beyond the
"freeconomics" of the web to find new ways to turn a buck. (I'm not
even going to touch on broadcast media or movies here, which suffer from the
same problems.)


The
New York Times has said it will be erecting
a "paywall" on its website
next year and has been working with
Apple (AAPL,
Fortune
500
) to create a new (and, we can safely assume, paid) Times app for the tablet.

Rupert
Murdoch's Wall Street Journal, which
he initially wanted to give away online, is now in full-on pay mode. And
Murdoch is so pissed at Google (GOOG,
Fortune
500
) that he's reportedly been trying to get Microsoft's Bing to pay for
the exclusive right to search and index his publishing empire. As for the rest
of the newspaper business: Good luck, fellas!

Book
publishers, having been tortured by Amazon's attempts to cut them out, are now
running into Apple's embrace and will soon be hawking their e-books on the
iPad, which CEO Jobs unveiled in late January.

The
only media company that's in the money these days is Google, whose $23.6
billion in revenue last year dwarfed the entire magazine industry's. While
Google is paying lip service to how much it loves and respects professionally
produced media, its message is essentially: Adapt or die. Well, we've been
trying to, Schmidty.

Now
along come tablets. Apple's iPad was exactly what we all imagined it might be
— a giant, honking iPod Touch that does what we e-ink-stained wretches want it
to do: It browses the web superfast (thanks to Apple's new, homegrown A4 chip),
displays images and video in throbbing color, and runs downloadable apps that
we can sell.

Even
if consumers fail to stampede to the Apple Store, every major computer
manufacturer, from Hewlett- Packard (HPQ,
Fortune
500
) to Dell (DELL,
Fortune
500
) to Asus and a raft of others you've never heard of, is focusing on the
same form factor, which many people believe will replace not only the laptop
but the desktop too. (Just add wireless keyboard.) ABI Research predicts that
some 58 million tablets a year will be shipping by 2015.


Apple's
announcement — the product will be available in late March — already seems to
be helping the book business: Apple has said it will let publishers set the
price of electronic books for the iPad, something Amazon (AMZN,
Fortune
500
) has refused to do for Kindle books. Now Amazon appears to be
reconsidering its pricing policy.


While
old media can find much to cheer about with the arrival of the Tablet Age,
which promises to smooth old media's transition from paper to digital, the
publishing industry still faces considerable obstacles.


As
I zigzagged from the media capital of New York City to the tech wonderland of
Silicon Valley in my role as tablet evangelist, I sought answers to some of the
larger existential questions my bosses and their brethren will need to address.
Here are the fruits of my labor.


Question
1:
Will anyone
be willing to pay for content delivered to a tablet when they can get information
for free on the web?


Here,
let me quote my longtime sparring partner, Marc Andreessen, who happens to be
the father of the modern web, its greatest advocate, and one of the smartest
cookies in the jar. For years he's been (joylessly) predicting old media's
demise unless it figures out new business models. The tablet is a false
messiah, he argues.


"The
problem is that the successful tablet is also going to have a really good web
browser on it," he tells Fortune.

"So am I going to pay $5 for
something I download through the App Store when I could go on the web — using
the exact same device — to get it for free? Um, the answer to that is
no."


It's
an old argument. We heard the same thing about the music industry, back in the
days when the "music sharing" site Napster allowed people to
"swap" MP3s for free. I myself may have even sinned one or two times.


But
now? I pay $15 a month for a music subscription that lets me listen to
virtually anything, as often as I want. Why do I pay for it when I can still
get music for free from a dozen pirate sites? I'm lazy. My time is valuable.
And the price seems fair. Steve Jobs proved with that first iPod that people
would willingly pay for music when you made it easier to buy than to steal —
especially when the media is linked via a store to a cool, fetishistic device.


A
great device is actually the key here: When you've invested in a tablet (or an
iPhone or a Droid or a Kindle, etc.) and love it, you want to increase its
functionality — with media. That's why nearly half of the 75 million iPhone
and iTouch users download one paid app a month, by the way, when they could get
the same kind of stuff for free elsewhere.


Question
2:
But aren't
tablets just a better way to browse the web?

Almost
certainly, in a few years more people will be browsing the web via a tablet
than on laptops and desktops. Jobs pitched the iPad as a better way to access
the web, in fact. But with the tablet, there ought to be room for great,
downloaded apps that are usable offline too. Again, Andreessen takes issue.


In
fact, he says, there's a real danger if media companies waste precious time
trying to put the genie back in the bottle: "I think that's going to be
three to four years that are going to be really critical in terms of making the
jump to new models. And in this kind of transition, a three- to four-year delay
is really dangerous."


In
fact, he advises, apps aside, don't even put your websites behind paywalls
because you'll be losing your audience and "gutting your advertising
revenue and leaving your market wide open for a competitor." The
competitor, in this case, is a blogger who will simply read your stuff and
repost it in truncated form à la the Huffington Post and so many others.


It's
a persuasive argument. People definitely want to browse. And using your
headline, along with a few key bits of content, is fair use and legal. But many
also crave deep reading experiences. Man does not live by blog alone! It would
be like surviving entirely on cupcakes.


Downloadable
textbooks will be among the first paid-content to cross the chasm to the
tablet. A whole generation of readers will cut its teeth on that experience,
and, it stands to reason, they will grow up both browsing for quick hits and
surface understanding while buying the deeper reading experiences.


Question
3:
Reading?
Reading is dead.

Nearly
a decade ago Kevin Kelly, a co-founder of Wired
and a great future-of-business thinker, was so sure that reading was dead that
he, er, pitched a book on the subject. (He never sold that one.) Still, I think
of that these days when I see my daughter Clem communicating with her friends
via video messages on Facebook.


So
I called Kelly recently and was happy to hear that he has revised his opinion
and now thinks reading will prevail — in a wholly different form. It will, he
told me, "become embedded into screens that are full of moving images …
like subtitles in a movie, where you're reading and watching at the same
time."


The
point is, Kelly says, media are changing. As they get mashed up with other
media, newer forms are born.

"Right now digital magazines are in the same
phase that cinema was when it started out just recording plays. They weren't
really movies." Reading will evolve. It's our job to make sure, however,
that magazines adapt along with it.

Isn't
the idea of a magazine irrelevant in the atomized, buy-the-single-not-the-album
world? If that were so, we'd expect to see fewer people reading magazines. But
according to the Magazine Publishers Association, 174.5 million people paid to
subscribe to magazines in 1970; that number has steadily and consistently risen
over the years, to 324.8 million as of 2008. (Paid circulation, another measure
of magazines' health, has seen modest declines recently.)


Okay,
I know how the sausage gets made in this business — you can get almost any
magazine in America for around 50¢ a copy when you subscribe, vs. a newsstand
price that is typically 10 times higher. Publishers, eager to fatten their rate
bases — which ad pricing is based on — have been known to add other
incentives ("a free radio alarm clock!") as well. But even
discounting those shenanigans, it's pretty clear that people still derive value
from curated, packaged collections of content delivered to them.


Magazines
are just vertical collections of content that feed our individual interests.
Like blogs. The trick for publishers will be to figure out how to be
compensated for individual articles as well.


Question
4:
How will
tablet-based ads work better than the web?


Three
words: full-screen ads. Expect to see them reemerge in digital magazines and
other publications — even blogs. These ads actually have the potential to
deliver the best of both the old world and the new: They can have as much
impact and be as relevant as the most compelling TV commercials, with the same
analytics as the web.

While
prototyping digital magazines during the past few months, I've seen new kinds
of interactive ads that are cool and arresting — like highly produced
videogames. While I think most publishers will allow you to skip an ad with a
swipe of your fingers, a 10-inch full-color touchscreen gives the advertiser a
rich enough canvas to grab you by the eyeballs and make its case.


In
fact, I suspect ads will work so well on tablets that even if subscription or
pay-per-read models don't work, many publishers will be able to thrive on
advertising revenue alone.


Question
5:
Can
traditional publishing companies reorganize and move fast enough to embrace and
serve new platforms?


"They've
had 15 years to do so since the commercial browser came out," says Jeff
Jarvis, a reconstructed old media guy (he worked for years here at Time Inc.)
who's now a professor and author of the book What Would Google Do?


"They haven't reinvented or reimagined
themselves. The talk we're hearing now is not at all about reinvention and
reimagination — it's again about trying to shoehorn old models of content and
business into this new reality."


Jarvis
is right, of course. Publishing companies haven't reinvented or reimagined
themselves so far. That's because the old way of doing business has been
blindingly successful.


Can
you imagine being the operating chief of a newspaper company in, say, 1995 and
having the bright idea to start giving away classified ads? Had you done it,
you would have immediately gone from being a fiercely profitable business to a
highly unprofitable one. Over the next decade, though, you might have been able
to repel Craigslist, which has, in large part, decimated newspapers' revenue stream
by giving away classified ads. But what kind of a nut would have made that call
in 1995?


No,
the people running these companies weren't stupid. It's just that the
"reimagination" called for in the switch to the everything-is-free
web model was untenable and involved gutting multimillion-dollar operations and
giving up millions more of today's revenue on the chance that something would
happen tomorrow. It was spreadsheet-defying logic that looked like the right
thing to do only in hindsight.


The
biggest mistake they made was in ignoring the people who might have been able
to solve their problems in the late 1990s when things went bad: their best
reporters. Instead they tapped consultants and strategists. Publishers of the
greatest newspapers and magazines should have gone to their very best reporters
and deployed them!


The
best reporters I've met thrive on chaos. When men, women, children, and
livestock are fleeing the scene of some unexpected horror, the best reporters
are the ones running in the opposite direction. They all suffer from certain
personality defects — pursuing truth over money, status, personal safety —
that would have served their industry well here.


But
the consultants didn't do any new reporting. They prescribed old, tired fixes
— cost cutting, outsourcing back-office operations — but failed to address
the core problem: Distribution no longer had value.


I
doubt that we'll see publishers dragging their feet as tablets take hold,
because the potential revenue model is clearer. Publishing companies, however,
will indeed need to do more than simply port their print products to the new
tablet-friendly format. And dragging all that baggage from the old world to the
new will almost certainly slow us down. The whole enterprise is focused on
print because that's still where the money comes from. So in some ways, we
continue to face the Craigslist problem.


"The
model of the magazine as we know it is just outmoded," says Kelly.
"It's doomed if we think of it as the magazine we think of now." Instead,
he says, the publishing industry — books, magazines, newspapers — ought to be
approaching the problem of content creation differently. We should be thinking
about selling attention. "Wherever attention flows, money will
follow," he explains. "What shape that takes doesn't really
matter."


In
other words, in the ever-burgeoning universe of media overload, content
creators are battling for a user's time. If a book is a 20-hour call on one's
attention, a magazine might be better defined as a bid for an hour or so of the
consumer's day. "If we think of magazines as an intermediate form — a
read that can last several hours — it has a tremendous future," Kelly
says. "We've just begun to explore what it can do."


I
hope the tablet buys us enough time to finally figure all this out, because
someday I'd like to visit Clem in her office at French Vogue.

Reporter associates: Beth Kowitt
and Christopher Tkaczyk

 

I Want My Book TV! Using the AMERICAN IDOL Model in Publishing

If the publishing industry is to survive, it has to promote it's products (books and authors) and its brands (imprints — and again, authors).

That's the wave of the future.

And the eBook — the fastest growing distribution method in the publishing industry — ia taking us there, at warp speed.

Sure, technology is the lead horse, but shouldn't publishing houses be grab the reins — and the bulk of sales?

That means more promotion.

And creating more impulse sales.

And opening up point-of-sale in more venues.

Not just publishing houses, but bookstores, too. If they want to survive (let alone thrive) they must must get on the bandwagon . . .

Or go the way of the buggywhip store.

I'm talking bread and circuses here.

Yep, the more, the merrier. Make it a happening, a be-in.

I'm talking a book slam. In person, and in a BIG way.

Big venue, big crowds. 

Then invite the world.

Some booksellers get this.The town in which I was born and raised (as we say in the South) puts on a world-class book fair. The Decatur Book Festival (in Georgia) is something that the independent book stores in the area should be proud of. I know I am.

If the world can't be there in person, take them there, via TV and radio.

Podcast it. YouTube it.

Forget about "American Idol." What about "American Novelist?"

But big ideas take big bucks.

Which brings us to the pub houses — many of which are owned by media conglomerates. So CBS (Simon & Schuster) or ABC (Hyperion) or Fox (HarperCollins), why not devote a
few hours of TV programming each week to promoting your publishing subsidiary, and showcasing
your authors?

Make it an elimination contest. Each week, have the novelist contestants do round-robin reads of 2-3 chapters.

The audience can vote for their faves (via online, where they can also download .pdfs of the chapters they just heard).

You could have your bestsellers serve as judges–and showcase trailers of their upcoming books.

Bestselling_Novelist_Judges

Like most readers, I love any venue that helps me visual what I'm reading. More to the point, I want the readers of my books to visualize my characters and my plots.

But let's be honest: most authors read like frightened 5th graders giving book reports.

Solution: hire up-and-coming actors that act out scenes, or to give table reads.

Afterward, the host talks with the author about plot and character.

The requisite "video bio" of the author will help endear him/her to new fans.

And of course "American Novel" will culminate in a "grand prize": a bigger advance, multi-book contract, and front table status for mid-listers.

Talk about a way to build the brands — and the sales — of your authors

Then branch out: AMERICAN NOVEL: ROMANCE. AMERICAN NOVEL: MYSTERY.

You get the picture.

And yes, I am ready for my close-up,

—Josie




BestSLHW Josie's Next Book: Secret Lives of Husbands and Wives

Simon & Schuster/Downtown Press

(ISBN: 9781439173176)

Look for it in bookstores June 1, 2010

From Amazon

From Barnes & Noble

From Bigger Books

From Books a Million

From Borders

From Copperfield's

From Your Local Independent Bookstore

From Powell's