Does Amazon’s lending service help or destroy authors?

Amazon Prime members can now borrow a book for free with no due date.

There seem to be mixed feelings among writers about this offer. What does it mean for authors and publishers?

Complaints about this are similar to debates regarding ebook pricing and giveaways. At what point are authors pricing themselves out of business?

Assume that it takes about six weeks for a seasoned author to write a strong first draft of a novel. Depending on the writer’s process, research may come during these six weeks (lengthening this time) or after, when revisions take place. Critique partners read the chapters and make comments. Changes are made. This may take several more weeks, depending on deadlines and other issues.

If the writer already has a publisher waiting, then it’s time to send the work there to be read, marked up, and sent back for final revisions. Tack on some more weeks and hours of work on the author’s part.

If the writer does not have a publisher waiting, then begins the submission process, which can take months or even years to complete successfully. Finding the perfect match in an editor or agent is a notoriously difficult thing to accomplish, and many writers never find that “best fit.”

Count up the hours and weeks/months/years it took the author to write, research, revise, promote, query, revise, submit, revise, and finally realize publication, and then that $0.00 price tag looks a bit low.

But is it a killer for the industry?

Amazon’s new lending service is technically a subscription model, since borrowers must be Amazon Prime members – they must also own a Kindle to participate. This reminds some users of the Netflix structure, where subscribers are able to put some films in their “instant” queues indefinitely. I have over a hundred in mine right now. Some I have watched multiple times.

I also already have an Amazon Prime membership; it gives me deals on shipping and renting films online that I can’t find on Netflix. In addition, I own a Kindle and am constantly purchasing new titles to save for a rainy day. Amazon Prime lending is definitely a service that is intended for a consumer like me.

When I consider the debates surrounding Amazon’s lending subscription, I take the writer’s process very seriously. My YA fantasy finished its contract with its original publisher after a good two-year run, and I decided to indie publish it to keep it out there while I work on other titles.

The opening week cost was a choice I had to make carefully. Should I go for a standard rate of $2-3 for a full-length novel that has been thoroughly edited and vetted by readers and reviewers already? Or should I lower the price to attract new readers who might be willing to take a chance on something when the risk is only $0.99?

For my opening week, I have offered From Light to Dark at under a dollar because I ultimately decided the extra readership is my most important asset. This isn’t the only work of fiction I will want to share with audiences. The larger my audience grows, the better my returns will be – and, consequently, the more I will write.

I wonder whether the Amazon lending service will provide a similar result for authors. It’s worth noting that many of the major publishers have rejected this new borrowing plan and will not offer their books as part of it. Are they making the right decision?

I keep thinking of Cory Doctorow’s Little Brother, which he released for free as part of Creative Commons, and his description of Neil Gaiman’s question to fans:

“Hands up in the audience if you discovered your favorite writer for free ­­because someone loaned you a copy, or because someone gave it to you? Now, hands up if you found your favorite writer by walking into a store and plunking down cash.”

According to Doctorow, it was the freebies that made life-long fans of writers. These people came across a title by paying no money at all, but after that they bought several copies of each title the author put out, some to share with others, and they attended book signings and generally spread the love.

So, readers and writers, what do you think? Are authors pricing and lending ourselves out of business? Or are we taking a loss up front to expand our readership down the road?

From Light to Dark

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Anonymous, Shakespeare, Nerdiness… and a book!

I’m guest blogging over at the Madhouse! Come see what I have to say about Shakespeare, the new film Anonymous, and generally being a nerd.

And, speaking of Shakespeare, have you seen the release of my book yet? It has a Romeo and Juliet theme — with magic! What could be better for a fall read?  🙂  Get your copy now and let me know your thoughts.

From Light to Dark

Release!

I’ve been a bit quiet lately for a reason: I’ve been gearing up for the re-release of my book, From Light to Dark!

This Halloween, get your romantic fantasy fix!

(cover artist Justin Togail)

Life Less Awesome, Akoha closing its doors

Akoha.com is shutting its doors on August 15.

Perhaps this means nothing to you. You’ve never heard of Akoha before, so the fact that it will close three years after opening isn’t on your radar.

But it should be.

Akoha is built on the basic premise that special little moments make life more awesome,” its site reads. This is a social media company that encourages networking through acts of kindness, awesome, and fun. Players get missions — some posted online, others available through a pack of cards — that prompt people to go out and be nice to others. Once you complete a mission, you “play” it forward to that person, and then he or she will go out into the world with more kindness to share.

“Give someone flowers,” one of my cards reads.

“Invite someone for drinks.”

“Give someone a surprise gift.”

The Akoha website offers a regular feed of people updating their mission completions, displaying pictures, descriptions, and testimonies to happiness and the pursuit of awesome.

This company is closing its doors.

Why? Don’t we like being nice to others? Don’t we have fun finding the awesome in life’s special moments?

Or was this simply a problem of advertising? I suspect many of you are hearing of Akoha for the first time, though it’s been open for three years.

I will admit that, though I kept my cards displayed on my office desk and I have the iPhone app, I have only played a handful of missions. The concept intrigues me, but I never felt properly motivated. And, of course, there was the strange problem of how confused people seemed when I tried to explain Akoha to them, or how occasionally friends took offense at the suggestion I was only doing something nice to “win” a game.

Akoha isn’t the only group to seek gameification of improving the world. But is this vision an attainable one? With this sudden closing of Akoha on August 15, I wonder. What do you think?

Give Someone a Book

Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry.

Last night I saw the midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2.

There it was, the second half of the seventh book unfolding in front of me and then slipping away like a wisp of magic leaving a broken wand. With every event that happened on screen, I was that much closer to being done with Harry Potter forever.

Harry has been my friend for over ten years. I started reading his stories  in a Denny’s, where I would go to be alone during my lunch breaks. The real world just melted away as I snuggled up for a few chapters each afternoon. Once, a woman dashed over to my booth and tapped me on the shoulder, snapping me out of Hogwarts and back to the diner. Looking a little embarrassed, she asked, “Are you reading those, too? Aren’t they amazing?”

When the movies started, I loved sharing the fun with friends by dressing up and generally acting insane. Have you read John Scalzi’s blog about just how unique these films have been?

Yes, I'm a Hufflepuff.

To prepare for the theatrical release of one of the best of the series, my mom and I bought an audio version of Prisoner of Azkaban and listened to it together every day, remembering our favorite parts of that great story.

My brother accompanied me on a road trip to my grad school one summer, and in the hotel he hooked up a PlayStation and put in a Harry Potter game. I had fallen asleep critiquing manuscripts for class when he woke me up with a loud, “ALRIGHT!” My eyes flew open, and there he stood next to the television, one arm behind his back like a General instructing his troops, the game on pause. He pointed at the screen dramatically, tapping locations on the game map. “We have Prefects HERE, HERE, and HERE!”

Now that the books and movies are complete, we’re done. I look back on those years of joy that surrounded Harry Potter, and I know I’m really going to miss it. Of course we’ll have fun in other ways, but there’s nothing quite like sitting around with your friends and family late at night, adamantly defending Snape’s innocence to the one person who admits to being on the fence.

🙂  Oh, Snape. You’re so dreamy. Sirius, too.  /swoon

So, let me take this moment to make a desperate plea to JK Rowling:

Please write more! How about the story of Dumbledore vs. Grindelwald? Or seven books about the Marauders? We can’t really be expected to get by without any Wizarding World fiction ever again, can we? Can we???

Okay. We’ll see how that works.  🙂

In the meantime, though, what do we do? It’s easy enough to say, “Here’s a great book to read if you love Harry Potter!” but somehow I wonder whether anything can really touch the magic that Hogwarts brought to our lives.

The Wizarding World at Universal Orlando

Are you a fan who misses the Wizarding World? How are you coping? What are you reading now to get by?  🙂

Grit City: Ron Gavalik guest blog

~Today’s blog comes FROM RON GAVALIK!~

Grit City Emotobooks Revolutionize Fictional Storytelling

As a writer it’s always been a goal of mine to bridge the gap between the cerebral gratifications of well-plotted writing and the visual stimulation of illustrative art or film. Like a mad scientist with crazy hair and a battered lab coat, I experimented with various styles, structures, and word painting exercises. Nothing seemed to achieve my goal.

Then it came to me. I had a mini-epiphany. Insert abstract, emotionally representative illustrations during peak moments of tension. By delivering a visual experience of what the character feels and experiences, the reader is more intensely immersed in the story.

The term emotobook is simply a portmanteau word I conjured as a fun and memorable label for this new medium of fiction.

Unlike comic books that use direct illustrations as the primary storytelling device, Grit City emotobooks are written mystery noirs, with an urban fantasy twist. The four of five illustrations in each thirty-page installment merely lend a visual experience to the internal emotional processes of the characters.

It’s lots of fun.

Grit City is continuing story, published each month to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and other eBook retailers. In each installment the reader is exposed to a dark and calamitous world where the nefarious rule.

Our main character is Dillon Galway, an idealistic freelance journalist in his mid-twenties, who barely scrapes out a living reporting on corruption for the metro newspaper and his own blog.

Dillon embodies a double meaning of the term grit. He is a gritty individual who drinks and lives meagerly. But he also possesses grit. Courage and strength of character are his dominant personality traits.

I’ve constructed a world where Dillon shares a symbiotic relationship with the city. Its failures have lowered him, yet he remains hopeful for the restoration of peace and opportunity. Occasionally, he relies on the sexy and sultry Alyssa Stephano (gun for hire) to help when situations require her nickel-plated Colt .45 revolvers.

Grit City was an ideal place to live at one time. We all know of towns that have fallen over the years. The murder of Dillon’s Father and the rise of the Syndicate started Dillon’s downward spiral. All meaningful power in business, politics, and law enforcement was funneled into the hands of this wealthy organization.

But in the shadows of the back alleys, whispers stir in the underground of an unnamed force. Something or someone that’s determined to upset the status quo. When Dillon is tipped about horrifying activities he’s propelled into a perilous investigation that may lead to dire consequences.

As the series progresses he’s faced with unfathomed challenges, but also gains abilities most consider impossible.

The creation of Grit City is a collaborative process. Jim Settnek is our illustrator and e-publishing layout master. It’s his years of experience that breathe life into the emotobook illustrations. Nikki Hopeman is our proofing editor. Her eye for detail ensures the story installments I write are held to the highest possible level of storytelling. Kunta is our web and electronic media guru, who likes to eat…a lot. We just feed him cookies and let him work his magic. Without this team my vision of emotobooks never would have existed.

With that said, we’ve all dedicated our lives to this pursuit. We’re thankful such a broad audience is heralding the story. It seems our tagline on the website is true.

Read one installment and you’ll be hooked until the gritty end.

Twenty Questions

Sitting in a car for hours or days on end with several other people can either be the perfect vacation or a painful exercise in maintaining composure. Sometimes it’s both.

As you may know, right now I’m on my way back from a super fun writer’s conference in Pennsylvania. The thing is, I live in Florida – and we drove.

Luckily for me, my car mates are two of my favorite people in the world, so most of the time we’re just enjoying each other’s company. However, there’s only so much we can chat about before the experience starts to seem pretty endless. When that happens, we play games!

Our favorite is 20 Questions.

Rules

Think of something. Announce whether it’s animal, mineral, or vegetable. Your friends may ask yes or no questions only. Twenty isn’t really the limit in our car; we just keep asking until we figure out what the other person is thinking of.

How to tell when you’re so tired it’s time to pull over

When you start to miss the obvious. Last night I was thinking of a pretty iconic spaceship. Keep in mind that we’re all Doctor Who fans. Our conversation went something like this:

Me: I’m a mineral.

Them: Are you in your natural state?

Me: No.

Them: Are you a specific one?

Me: Yes.

Them: Are you fictional?

Me: Yes.

Them: Are you from a book?

Me: Not originally.

Them: Film?

Me: Not originally.

Them: TV show?

Me: Yes.

Them: Are you a tool?

Me: In a way.

Them: Are you a transportation device?

Me: Yes.

Them: Do you fly?

Me: Yes.

Them: *sleepy pause* Are there real-life versions of you in use outside of the show?

Me: No.

Them: *longer sleepy pause* Are you a spaceship?

Me: Yes.

Them: *even longer, sleepier pause* Are you from Star Trek?

Me: You guys must be super tired.

Any guesses what I actually was?  🙂  They did get it a few minutes later, and then we pulled over for some much-needed rest.