Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Library Closing: What Does It Mean?

Newport Beach Public Library in California is planning to close one of its branches and will replace it by adding a computer area to a planned community center. This new electronic space will feature computers and access to eBooks while allowing patrons to order print books from other branches (like the interlibrary loan system already in place).

I'm of two minds regarding this issue. And really, it's indicative of the transition we're seeing in the publishing and distribution of books right now.

The part of me that embraces the digital book movement thinks this is a splendid idea. It's refreshing to see a community adapting to changing technology. But the part of me that is still nostalgic for the "old days", when I first discovered the joys of reading in the basement of my hometown's old library, screams at the notion.

I think the reason I'm squeamish about this is because kids need libraries. Not every child is able to jump onto a computer or use an eReader to explore new books. The appeal of the library is that kids can go there for free, discover new books, and explore the wonder that is reading. I know that not every child WILL do this, but the opportunity should always be there.

When you take away the entire concept of The Library and simply put up a handful of computers at a place that is decidedly not The Library, I think you'll see an even greater decline in literacy. Kids will forego the exploration for knowledge and opt for something else. Also, it's been my experience that libraries are rarely up to par with their implementation of technology; I can't count the times I've been to a library and seen people just waiting to use a computer. So, as the article suggests, when a computer is basically the only thing available, and those computers are always full, people will stop waiting.

I would much rather see a building that is dedicated entirely to reading; I'm thinking of perhaps a new kind of library that is more tech-inspired with a smaller collection of books coupled with a more modern setting. An amalgamation of the coffee house, internet bar, and limited archive might be the answer.

Communities need to find a way to redefine the notion of The Library in terms of what it has to offer and how it is arranged. I definitely don't think it's time to start knocking down the buildings to make parks or parking lots.

Then again, I'm no expert; I'm just the Noob.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Write Stuff

Horrible title. Sorry.

On to the news: I can't help but feel inspired by what has happened to self-publishing author Amanda Hocking. In short, she has been self-publishing amazing fiction for some time, making a living off of it and paving the way for others like her. And now, she's attracted the attention of a legacy publishing house.

Seems the internet isn't entirely sure about what to make of her decision to go with the publishing house. I have one word for her: awesome.

The choice is hers to make and, seriously, who wouldn't refuse a huge contract from a publishing house (besides this guy)? Her goal was to be a writer with job stability and with the extra services of a publishing house, I'm sure she'll be able to focus a little more on her marketing and, most importantly, her writing. She says she'll keep self-publishing and I really hope she does. She's helped create a community of writers and readers that are part of the next generation in publishing; she's a crossover model of the standard epublisher. One part indie author, one part legacy author.

I don't look at her case as a detriment to the indie author's crusade. I think her getting a contract at a legacy publisher indicates the transformation that the publishing industry will be undergoing in the years to come. Once upon a time (not so long ago), self-publishers were treated like lepers by publishing houses. Ms. Hocking's aligning with the legacy publisher suggests that the model is changing drastically; look at publishing industry news of the last year or so and I think you'll see a trend.

An indie author can keep self-publishing to her heart's content, adapting with technology and finding new ways to reach customers. That same author has a growing opportunity to be accepted by a legacy publishing house. Arguments can be made for both methods of publishing. In the end, it's a choice, probably not an easy one, and I think it's something every indie author needs to take into consideration. Writing, at its core, is a risk. Anyone who publishes (whether it's fiction, art, or music) is taking a risk, legacy publisher or not. Writers take risks with each word they throw into the universe. It's a matter of taking the right risk and having a plan.

A special note to Ms. Hocking: Good luck with your risk. 

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Prismatica Book Trailer

Yes, that's the new trailer for my ebook PRISMATICA.  For some reason, the title is coming up incorrectly. The Internet likes to frustrate me from time to time.
Please pass this video around to anyone who may be interested. Throw it on your blog (with credit to me, of course) or post it on Twitter. Whatever you need to do.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Twitter Short Story - SEVER

I'm beginning an ongoing, free story via Twitter. The story is called "Sever" and will be a dark and brooding little piece of work.

My favorite part about writing a story using Twitter is that the word limit forces an economy of language normally reserved for poetry. So each entry feels like a work in and of itself, but once they are all collected (and they will be), the posts will create one heck of a strange and winding story.

Check out the first few posts on the sidebar below my profile picture. Or, just follow my Twitter page for new pieces of fiction throughout each day.

Sunday, March 20, 2011


Here's an intriguing conversation between JA Konrath and Barry Eisler. I'll let you read what they have to say about indie publishing and the state of legacy publishing as it stands today. If you are a writer and have even a remote notion to self-publish, this post is worth your time.

It re-enforces what I've been feeling since starting my own publishing endeavor.

Konrath is fond of the phrase "virtual bookshelf" and I think it's a wonderful idea.

Essentially, he suggests that the eBook has infinite shelf-time, as opposed to the finite amount of time any given book is allowed upon the shelves of a brick and mortar book store. As a piece of nearly eternal digital content, an eBook that is published today will be available ten, twenty, fifty years from now (as long as there isn't any fundamental redesign of the internet). A writer who publishes today will have royalties coming in forever.

Some might argue that the same can be said of a book produced through legacy publishing; but the paper product has no guarantee that it will remain on bookshelves. An author might put out a book through legacy publishing, but that book may only be on shelves for a few months.

The eBook is available indefinitely.

Think of a snowball tumbling through the void of cyberspace, collecting visitors and viewers and readers, and growing in size as it jumps down the infinite hills of the internet. You see the magic of that tumbling snowball?

The internet never stops.

So your precious snowball has limitless potential.

It's a perfect time for indie writers to step forward and cast a few snowballs into the great open frontier. It isn't like this is a "get rich quick" scheme. It's a revolution. And an evolution of the way that writers get their work to the readers. The playing fields are leveled and writers can actually spend time writing while they're making money.

And that's one of the most important aspects of this whole concept of indie publishing or self-publishing or whatever you decide to name the process. Writers are able to make a living by writing and are able to sustain themselves by writing even more.

With that said, I'm off to work on an upcoming story. Enjoy the link, and definitely check out more of JA Konrath's blog. He is a pioneer in the whole indie publishing revolution; I wouldn't be surprised if there was a statue created in his likeness.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Wait For It...

Nobody told me about the anxiety I would feel just prior to publishing my first book on Amazon. It’s like performing in a high school play for the first time; you’re afraid you’ll l forget the lines or that some part of your costume might malfunction and all the kids in the audience will laugh. All this, even though you’ve rehearsed for weeks.

I take comfort in the knowledge that if I need to make changes to the book, I can make immediate revisions and republish.

That, dear friend, is the power of self-publishing. It’s all in my hands.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Fun With Formatting

My first eBook is currently being reviewed for publication on Amazon; overall, it seems like the publishing process takes about two days for English-language books. However, there's something I hadn't taken into consideration.The formatting of your text prior to uploading at Amazon is key. 

There are people who will format an author's writing for a fee (like Rob Siders at 52Novels) and I'm sure they can make a book look flawless. The only problem is that I don't have the extra money for this kind of service, so I had to go through the process myself. 

Basically, Amazon's Kindle reads the story or novel as an HTML file. An author can upload a Word document to the server and the file is reformatted as HTML. Or, for the codemonkey who may be reading this, the author can convert to HTML prior to uploading; I believe this can make for a visually stunning book. 

Alas, my history with HTML coding is haphazard at best; the preview of my book (provided by Amazon at the time of upload) looked good. It took me several times to get it right, though.

I had a book of 85 pages filled with tabs and a few fancy fonts for titles or headings. Page breaks weren't necessarily included in the document. Amazon disapproved. 

In order for the piece to be converted properly, it has to be simplified and Amazon provides guidelines for how to do this; there are also tons of helpful YouTube videos regarding the topic. Beware: it is time consuming. I get a little anxious when I consider the time it will take me to convert my novel (around 105,000 words) so it is compatible with the eReader.

Maybe by that time, I'll have sold a few copies of the first book. Then I can have someone else format the novel for me. 

I'm not lazy, mind you. I just want to spend my free time writing. I mean, that's my job, right?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The (r)Evolution Begins...

A life-changing moment occurred to me last week.

Sometime between my ritual perusing of Gregory Brothers videos and HOPING (hold on to that word because it's important later) that I could get my finished novel ready for submittal to a literary agent, I received a link to an article about someone named JA Konrath.

And what followed was mind-bending.

JA Konrath is a proponent of "indie" publishing. He is a prolific writer and blogger, and after last week, my mind is infected by the notion that the publishing world has changed. The age of the successful DIY author has finally arrived.

At first, I thought his whole philosophy was an affront to the Gods of Legacy Publishing, those elder beings who dictate what is read and what lies eternal in the forsaken Pile of Slush. I sent a reactionay email to my brother, who originally turned me on to Konrath's amazing story, and I was very keen to point out that this digital self-publishing idea was a fluke.

Two hours later, after reading about other authors who enjoy the same kind of success selling eBooks via Kindle and Smashwords, I sent another message to my brother. It went something like this: "Maybe there's something to this." Sure, maybe. But print publishing was still the safe and respected norm, right? I like safe and respected; doesn't everyone?

After another two hours, I admitted to my brother that this was possibly a turning point in how fiction is produced and shared with readers.

The next day, after tossing in my sleep and waking up with the phrase "Self-publish" on my lips, I was a convert. A true-friggin-believer, in theory at least.

Better yet, I was already planning my own venture into the undiscoverd country of eBook publishing. Armed with a novel in its final stages of the production process, along with a book of short stories that are connected to that novel, I felt it was time to take action.

You see, for years, I hoped for a break; a short story here, a poem there, all submitted to various publications coupled with a little hope. Hope is not a bad thing at all, but hope without action is just a waste of time. Hope by itself is like stepping off your front porch and running without a purpose; without a destination or a goal, you're just losing your breath and, more importantly, running away from your home.
My action is this: I am a writer, so that means I must write. It means I must also embrace the evolving technology that has been changing the face of entertainment for the past ten years or more. I must walk out from the shadows of those Gods of Legacy Publishing, mighty as they may be, and walk the path of the indie writer. It's in my blood already (I'll get to that in a later post, I promise).

Hope + Action equals.... well, I think it equals success. If you stick around for the ride, we can find out together.
- The Noob