Yes, Virginia, the economy isn't just in the toilet - it's already in the sewer. So it comes as no surprise that the publishing and e-publishing industries are circling the drain. Will they go the way of the job market, the housing market and the credit market? Not if we can help it. But can we?

Most of us don't have the ability or the resources to hire a bunch of folks. We can't even save them from the scary place after the unemployment benefits run out. We can't buy a hundred houses or donate enough money so that the banks and credit card companies stop acting like Chicken Little. There are so many really big things we can't do, can't help or can't stop that we lose site of one really, really ENORMOUS thing we can do, we can help, we can stop.

We can save publishing and e-publishing.

Yes, you and I and all of the regular average folks like us can save the industry that means so much, that has given us so much. Who hasn't sat in the waiting room of a doctor's office or by or in a hospital bed and read a book or an e-book to will away the worry? We've all given friends or family a small inspirational book or two about overcoming grief, suicide, addiction or debt.  Haven't we all gotten up during the night to read a few pages from a book to chase away the fears and doubts that keep us from sleep or invade our dreams? Just think about all the things the words written by others have meant in your life.

I write romance because that's what takes me out of my world and inspires me to enjoy or create another world, another place. The books I read and those I write have always included second chances that led to happy endings. When has that ever mattered more than today?  The news, the blogs, and even the water cooler conversations today are all about poor Bob who lost his job or Jane's family who just got served with foreclosure pleadings.  If we let in too much of that negativity, then it begins to seep into our blood stream until it finds its dastardly way to our spirit.  Once there, the bleak black void will eat away at the edges until it's destroyed the seat of our hopes and dreams.  Soon it will convince us that nothing is worth trying for, believing in or battling to save.

This year lots of families can't afford their usual trip to the mountains or the beach.  But all of us can afford to buy a book that will take us to Paris or Tahiti or Mars.  Not only can we afford that book, we must consider it not so much an indulgence as an act of protest.  Whatever the rest of the economy and the bleak prognosticators throw at us, they can't destroy the spirit that allows us to believe we can survive, we can overcome.  They can't destroy our hope if we don't wave the white flag and surrender it without a battle.

If every person who has ever gotten joy, hope, belief or renewal from the written word just buys one book or one e-book a week, then the industry that's fed our spirits can survive.  And when we have a better week, instead of going to a movie, we can buy a second book or a third.  Come on now, we all know whatever entertainment we get from the movie will fade mighty fast.  But we'll dig out those books time and time again.  The books and e-books that build your spirit, bolster your hope and make you believe in happy endings this month can do it again next month and next year. 

Yes, the economy has already circled the drain, gone down it and now lurks in the sewer, hoping it is recycled rather than washed out to sea.  And yes, the publishing and the e-publishing industries are now circling that drain.  But it's not inevitable that the book and e-book industries go the way of the rest of the business world. 

Some things are still worth fighting for, and by God, I, for one, find books and e-books to be amongst the things I refuse to lose. 

We can be the stopper and plug the drain, one book purchase at a time.

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In this corner, we have Mobipocket, a wiry French fighter. He's got a lot of experience but it takes a whole team of folks to get him into the ring.

In the other corner, we have PayPal, a brawny little up and coming American pugilist.  He's well financed but the set of his jaw speaks to a hidden agenda. 

But wait, sports fans, if we want to get a real handle on this battle, we can't look at the boxers in the ring.  We've got to check out the training rooms in the back.  Wait a minute, they look a lot alike.  Full of skinny businessmen in dark suits with fire and dollar signs in their eyes.  Who are these guys? 

It's not Mobi vs PayPal at all.  Why, it's, it's ............Amazon against Ebay!!

We don't know whose gonna win, but we know whose most likely to lose - the writers who carry as much weight in this battle as the bait at the end of a fishing lure. 

Mobi has been having some trouble for a while.  Allegedly, it has a long, long list of e-tailers that carry the e-books of authors who offer them for sale through Mobi.  But in recent months, sales of writers have been drying up until they disappear altogether.  A read of Mobi's chat boards features posts of a number of authors, including yours truly, saying that their sales had been going gangbusters until presto, chango, they came to a dead stop.  At that point, some enterprising authors - not me, but I wish it had been - commenced looking for a way to get their royalty money out of Mobi's accounts and into their own.  See, Mobi has a policy.  It pays no royalties to writers until they total $150.00.  Funny, sales seems to stop about the time many writers would reach that threshold. 

Anyway, at least one enterprising chap figured out that if he canceled his Mobi account, that Mobi would have to pay him all accumulated royalties, whatever they totaled.  Great.  Since nobody seems to be selling enough to reach the magic number, why not pull out and wait for Mobi to suffer enough losses that it fixes the royalty structure.  Well, there's just one problem with that.  It's the little matter of getting the money to the writer.

Mobi has stated on its forum site that PayPal is not processing payments to writers from Mobi.  Other comments, from e-tailers, say that PayPal is also not processing payments to Mobi.  Why?  Mobi says PayPal objects to some of the content carried on Mobi. The Mobi site does carry a large erotic section that goes a lot further than sensual romance description in more mainstream books.  Mobi carries erotic tales that are more like a literary version of porn movies.  Essentially, Mobi carries what people post and leaves the filtering to the e-tailers and to the public's power of the mouse.

...continue reading "David vs. the Munchkins, or is it Goliath vs. Gigantor?"

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Currently, I'm terminally indecisive about Mobipocket. I think there's something strange with my sales declining about when I'd have earned out royalty. But then again, I've been married to hubby the magificent for over 20 years. Likely, I've acquired his gift for seeing conspiracies around every corner.

I had deactivated my books on Mobi. But realizing that I may be seeing a boogeyman that's not there, I just reactivated.

I want to beat the invisible monster, but I also want to get my money. They're holding a sizeable chunk until I reach 150 Euros. Let's see how long it takes!

Personally, I'm counting the days until Smashwords starts their new affiliate program. Smashwords does something amazing. It pays the royalties writers earn every month. Imagine, if you earn the money, Smashwords pays you. What a concept.

Announcement time from Mary Anne's husband here!

Thanks to the wonderful new technology of print-on-demand (or as they call it in publishing circles, POD), we now present to you Mary Anne's first book, Brotherly Love, in paperback form!

You may purchase Brotherly in all of its solid, material, flingable glory from two online POD publishers, Lulu and CreateSpace.

We will publish the remaining titles as paperbacks on CreateSpace and link them via our Complete List of E-Books section here on the Quacking Alone weblog. We published Brotherly as a paperback on Lulu before we realized the advantages of using CreateSpace instead - the main advantage being a lower price to you, the customer. It doesn't hurt that CreateSpace is an Amazon.com company either, and that they distribute books via Target Stores in some cases.

As always, we will still make Mary Anne's titles available as e-books through Kindle, Mobipocket, Smashwords, and Lulu. These are the quickest and most cost-effective means of getting content out to you, so we wouldn't dream of cutting off these channels to you technologically savvy romance lovers out there, what with your iPhones and Kindles and all.

I simply recommend that you don't hurl such expensive pieces of machinery towards somebody's noggin - buy a nice paperback for that sort of thing, mmkay? You'll thank me later.

UPDATE 04/30/2009: Remember what I said about Amazon.com? Well guess what? Here it is, the paperback on Amazon.

It's almost like being a new Daddy again. With more sleep and less baby spewage.

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A book cover has always been a marketing tool.  But with a paper book sitting on a brick and mortar shelf, the quality and impact of the cover art isn't the only selling tool.  The book has a physical presence and sometimes the art does too.  Keyhole covers and snazzy cut outs get to play with textures.  The cover is often what gets a buyer to pick up a book, but then the buyer can read a paragraph from the first chapter, the middle chapter and the last chapter.  It all combines to make an impact that makes a difference.

An e-book has to make the sale with the quality of the art first.  It has to catch the eye with more than a visual impact.  It has to carry the book's pitch clearly enough to hint at answers to the questions that the sample pages can't convey.  The art has to carry the author's message and it can't do it with texture or snazzy cut outs.  It takes a gifted artist to create an e-cover good enough to seal the deal. 

The artist who designed the covers for Brotherly and E-mail is a phenomenally creative soul who had the good taste and poor judgment to marry me.  I think my hubby did a great job with both covers because he cared about the message of the book and even bothered to learn some of the finer details.  My husband considers learning anything about a romance novel to be a sign of supreme love and a sacrifice beyond measure. (He never knew I spent so much time thinking of creative ways to refer to men's members.)  But beyond all else, he put his artistic talents to work to design a quality cover I'd be proud to have my name on anytime, anywhere.

I don't think authors of e-books always take enough time or pay enough attention to their covers.  In many ways, e-books are to publishing what no fault was to divorce.  And that's a mixed blessing.  Some good work can now get to readers that they could never have had the freedom to choose just a couple of years ago.  But just as no fault made divorce so easy that couples too often don't try to work on their marriages, e-books can make publication so easy that authors don't take the time to design the best image for their work. 

E covers matter more and we should all work to get them right. 

And to John, the creative genius unfortunate enough to be married to a (sometimes more than slightly) warped writer in lawyer's clothing, I love you very much -- and thank you.

3

Amazon introduced the Kindle and it became the new "must have."  The device seems to be on permanent back-order, a status that didn't change even when Amazon announced it was about to introduce the Kindle 2.  Other companies, like Sony, have e-readers too, but it's Amazon that led the charge into a brave new world.  It was Amazon that told authors that if we wanted to publish our work, just upload it and they'd make it available on their site to all those Kindle owners. 

Wait -- there's a way to get my work out there and off my hard-drive without spending a fortune to self-publish?  I can, gulp, make my work available to actual readers?

As my husband would say --- CUE MR. BRICK!!!

Okay, I know that Amazon didn't introduce e-publishing.  It just gave it feet.  With the growing number of Kindle owners, soon, e-publishing may run.  When the app becomes widely available for cell phones, e-publishing may take wings and fly.  The possibilities percolated in my disturbed little brain and one day I turned to my hubby the computer guy and said - Give me a book cover

The first book I ever wrote, the one I wrote before I had any concept of the tight little rules in what the majors will and won't publish (Brotherly Love) became my first Kindle book.  After I uploaded it, I discovered the Mobipocket forum that formats and distributes e-books for PC and other online e-publishers to a list of great e-tailers. 

I wasn't surprised to read my Mobi contract (I am a lawyer) and learn that AMAZON OWNS MOBI.  So,  one writer who appreciates Amazon for being far-sighted enough to give everyone a forum and let the buyers decide what they want gives three cheers for Amazon.  Yip, yip, yipee!

Today the Kindle and Mobi, and tomorrow - the world.  The possibilities are endless, now that I've opened my eyes to see them.  Maybe it was all the publicity surrounding the new Kindle launch or maybe, it was a conspiracy between my hubby and his co-hort in crime, Mr. Brick.