Friday, August 30, 2013

New Kobo Tablets, Obama Responds to ABA, Battle of the Bands, and Friday Inspirational Photo

Industry News

Kobo is releasing several new tablets, designed with ebook readers in mind.

From Mashable:

"The new collection of devices, which are scheduled to hit stores on Oct. 16, includes the Kobo Arc 10HD, two Kobo Arc 7 tablets running Android 4.2.2 (Jelly Bean) and the Kobo Aura with a 6-inch e-ink display.

"Many may say [the] tablet industry is crowded, but until now, no one has developed tablet experience for readers first," a Kobo executive told attendees. "People who download apps on tablets don't read daily, and do so more like once a week. We talked to some of our best customers, and they said tablets are generally multi-purpose first and e-readers second."

"To change this, the Kobo Arc tablets are designed specifically for readers. Instead of bombarding users with emails and notifications, the devices put a hold on distractions that typically prevent peaceful reading."

Last month the American Booksellers Association and others sent a letter to the White House after Obama's televised appearance promoting his economic recovery agenda at an Amazon fulfillment center. They raised issues about Amazon's predatory pricing and fight to avoid sales tax, along with other issues that hurt small businesses. They finally got a response.

From Publishers Weekly:

"In a wordy, form letter, with no mention of Amazon, President Obama replied to Steve Fischer, executive director of the New England Independent Booksellers Association, last weekend. He, or more likely a staffer, used the letter to highlight Obama's commitment to job creation and particularly to helping small businesses, hit hard by the economic recession, grow."

You can view the full letter at Publishers Weekly.

For fun!

Lee at Tossing it Out posted about a Battle of the Bands that happens every Friday, pitting two versions of song against each other.

My entry is Mama Weer All Crazee Now. It was originally recorded by Slade from the UK in 1972, it was later redone by two bands in 1984.

The first version came from the Irish band Mama's Boys. They never made it big in the US (although I have a couple of their albums and they're great) but they did an excellent cover of the song, incorporating both story and performance into the video. The actual song begins around the 1:20 mark:

Sadly, that version enjoyed only a month of air time before a bigger band with a bigger label muscled it off MTV. I couldn't find the original music video, but this is the song:

Yes, it's obvious which one I favor, but which one do you prefer?

And your Friday inspirational photo, which is available for purchase at my SITE:

Monday, August 26, 2013

Quebec Considers Fixing New Book Prices to Protect Small Bookstores

Consumers may be asked to pay higher prices to keep Quebec's small bookstores in business.

From The Montreal Gazette:

"Under the scheme, booksellers, whether big-box retailers or hole-in-the-wall independent bookstores, would all have to sell new books for a predetermined price during the first nine months after their release. Retailers that want to put certain titles on sale would be allowed to knock no more than 10 per cent off the price."

Small bookstores saw their business drop this past year while chain bookstores saw an increase. Proponents say this will save independent stores from giant chains and big-box retailers. Mexico and France already have such laws in place.

Some say it will have the opposite effect:

"However, critics say the proposal is not only futile but would actually kill book sales, especially of made-in-Quebec books. 

"Fixing prices and limiting discounts to 10 per cent would result in a 14.2-per-cent drop in book sales, while sales of Quebec titles would plummet by 17.6 per cent, the Institut économique de Montréal warns in a recent study. 

"Some independent booksellers say the measure constitutes undue government interference."

What's your opinion? Should the government interfere in consumer practices? Is this law only prolonging the inevitable?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Write.. Publish... Edit... and Stock Photos

This is my entry for Write... Publish... Edit...
Hosted by Denise at L'Aussie Writing.

I am combining my entry with one of my photos. Bear in mind I didn't have time to write a prose piece and it's been YEARS since I attempted anything poetic. Vacations usually imply summer, which means it's hot, so this is what I envisioned.

Dusty odors drift on the summer wave
Shafts crackle under the oppressive heat
Respite found in the retreating day
The golden light waving goodbye

I'm also happy to report that I have a lot more images up at my site for sale, including the one above. You can find them at my Spunk On A Stick site: Stock Photos I and Stock Photos II

Monday, August 19, 2013

Don't Lose Email and Address Book Information

This past weekend was the Great Computer Shuffle at our house. That's when my husband gets a new computer and I inherit his old one. We do this every three years and it usually involves the shuffling of three computers. (I have two on my desk.) Thankfully we'd replaced my oldest one at Christmas, so only one was shuffled.

I had backed up everything on my external hard drive in preparation. My husband even took the hard drive out of my old computer and put it in the new one, giving me two hard drives. (I have a C drive and an E drive.) All of my programs were already loaded on the new one, so all that needed to be transferred was my email information and Internet bookmarks.

We'd done it before during the last time we played the Great Computer Shuffle. I had about 22,000 emails from the past six years, which scared my husband even more than the thousands of names in my address book. The Internet bookmarks were transferred successfully, as was my address book. The problem started when it came to my emails though.

On the first try, it said they were all there, but only a sampling of them appeared between 2009 and 2011. Not good. My husband tried again. This time the range included 2012, but even less appeared. Frustrated, he removed the E drive, put it back in my old computer, and I deleted 20,000 emails, hoping that would solve the problem. I did check, and didn't see any that were really urgent.

Third time - more emails showed up, but only through May 2013. My husband finally concluded that there was a corrupt file. We'll have to put the drive back in the old computer so I can go through my mail and forward anything of importance to him, and he will forward once the drive is back in my new computer.

Now, we all know how important it is to back up our computer files - external hard drives, cloud storage, thumb drives, multiple computers, etc. How often do we think about our email though? I still had all of my contacts and had copied most of the vital information, and I'll be able to get back to those missing emails. But what if your entire computer corrupted? You wouldn't have access to anything.

Back up your address book and emails often, and send important emails to another address, preferably a web mail account. Any other tips for saving emails?

In the meantime, if you've sent me an email in the past few days, sorry. My computer ate it!

Friday, August 16, 2013

New Google Algorithms - Social Media is Key

Google is always adjusting their algorithms for their search engines. In addition to key words for SEO and content for CDO, they are also using Online Audience Optimization (OAO.)

While they won’t reveal how their algorithms work, there are ten items that factor into the equation.

According to Publishing Executive:

"Of the top 10 correlating factors, seven are social. These are the seven:
Google Plus Ones
Facebook shares
Facebook page
Facebook comments
Facebook likes

Now we have three areas to consider - key words, valuable content, and social presence.

Are you utilizing all of these?

Two weeks ago I mentioned meeting the delightful Isabel who blogs at Tween 2 Teen Books. She just celebrated her one year blog anniversary and is offering these prizes:
1 copy of Darkness Before Dawn by J.A. London.
1 signed copy of The Circle of Friends Book 1 Lori by L. Diane Wolfe, with swag. And yes, I said signed!
Various swag for The Circle of Friends series.

So for a chance to win Darkness Before Dawn and Book I of my YA/NA series, visit her site!

And your Friday inspirational photo: 

"You looking at me?"

*I have a difficult time catching butterflies in photos, so I was really happy with this one.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Anti-Blogfest Gary Fest and in Need of a Proofreader

Today is "Anti-Blogfest Gary Fest," a blog hop in honor of Mr. anti-blog hop himself, Gary at Klahanie.

Hosted by Mark “Madman” Koopmans, Ninja Captain Alex J. Cavanaugh, “Life is Good” Tina, Rockin’ Robyn Engel, and Morgan “The Morg” Shamy.

The rules are *very* simple.

Create the titles of three PG-13 rated blogfests you would never join - and then add a descriptive sentence or two. That's it!

For example:
Cheesecake & Cauliflower Bloghop - "where dinner and dessert is mixed in one dish."
Blocked up Toilet Blogfest - "where crap happens."
Alphapet Zoo-mbie Bloghop - "where cuddly undead toys learn how to spell."

The three blogfests I would never sign up for are:

Favorite Snowy Owl Recipes - Endangered never tasted so good.

Fondest Potty Training Memories - Learning to poo when I was two.

Teaching Dead Dogs New Tricks - Beyond roll over and play dead.

Special request!

Bish Denham at Random Thoughts needs a proofreader for her collection of retold Anansi stories. If you can help out Bish, pop over to her site and let her know.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Self-Published Author Turns Down Publishing Deal with Amazon

Aubrey Rose turned down an offer from Amazon’s Montlake Press for her self-published title Me, Cinderella?

She cited concerns of her lack of control over such items as the cover. Rose’s erotic romance story focuses on BBW - Big Beautiful Women - and she did not want a thin girl on the cover.

Money and exclusitivity were the other deciding factors. From The Guardian:

“Rose was offered $5k, with 35% royalties, a post by the author on Reddit confirmed . But that turned out to be "less than I had made in my first month of sales", Rose wrote on her blog.

“She added that Amazon "couldn't guarantee anything – from cover image to pricing to marketing … ‘As I looked through the Montlake catalogue, I saw a mix of breakout hits and complete flops … And I would have to pull my book from every publisher except Amazon.’”

I’ve always been leery of exclusitivity on Amazon and wouldn’t want to take a pay cut either.

Several of you are self-published - would you have signed the contract?

Thank you for the response on Wednesday’s POST to my announcement of adding stock photos to the list of services I offer. I will continue to add more photos to my site over the coming months, so check back.

Today I leave you with some silly inspiration:

"A little help please? I think I'm stuck."

Wednesday, August 07, 2013

The Insecure Writer’s Support Group

It’s time for another edition of The Insecure Writer’s Support Group, hosted by Ninja Captain, Alex J. Cavanaugh.

I am venturing into new territory today!

As you may or may not know, in addition to being an author and speaker, I also format print and eBooks. (Call me weird but I love doing this kind of detail work.) A full list of my formatting services can be found HERE. In addition, I do private consultations with writers, helping them find the best publishing path and supplying them with resources. Details HERE.

Now I am taking another big step and combining my writing with my photography - and offering stock photos for book covers and other uses!

I’ve been a professional photographer for 23 years, doing weddings, portraits, stock photos, magazines, ad work, and even an album cover. In the past few years my photography shifted to more artistic, fun stuff and images better suited for book covers and ad work. I’ve already had three of my images used for covers. Now it’s time to take it up a level.

I have a page on my SpunkOnAStick website set up for stock photos and I’ll continue to add to the images over the next few months. Photos are $25.00, royalty-free, and I’ve listed the dpi and pixels of each one. You can view my gallery HERE.

I’ve already decided that when someone orders one for a book cover, I will remove it from the gallery. A book cover should be unique. The last thing an author wants to see is his or her cover art on someone else’s book.

Thanks to everyone who has encouraged me to offer my photos. It would be wonderful to see any of them on a cover!

Monday, August 05, 2013

Self-Publishing Made Easy with Author Robyn Alana Engel

Please welcome author Robyn Alana Engel!

Self-Publishing Made Easy

Hello, spunky readers, and thank you, L. Diane, for this opportunity to guest post. My intro’s at the end. For now, I hope this serves to inform and encourage.

The page has turned. It’s a new era. We’re zooming towards a day when 99% of all books are self-published. Despite what many think, this is good. And it’s simple. Our fore-writers would’ve died —they sometimes did—for the chance to get published. Now, the ease of publication rests at our fingertips. Why not take advantage?

The only viable reason not to, is that you’ve an already established, cooperative relationship with a publisher.

Money presents a semi-viable second reason. Traditional pub houses generally have the dollars that we don’t to design amazing covers and trailers, and to get our books into readers’ sight. But there’s no guarantee. After all, traditional publishers are folding by the second. Those still thriving are rejecting submissions at an even quicker rate. Book stores, too, are dramatically reducing the number of books they carry.

So why not self-publish? Are you holding out for an ego-stroking acceptance letter? Why? What does a publisher (or agent, for that matter) know about quality writing? JK Rowling’s original Harry Potter was rejected 12 times; Dr. Seuss received 27 rejections; Canfield and Hansen’s Chicken Soup for the Soul, 140; Jack London received 600 rejections; and CS Lewis, over 800!

Advantages to Self-Publishing

  • You have full control over your book – title, genre, editing, etc.
  • You get approx 70% of sales vs. approx 15%.
  • Patience. Immediate gratification is forthcoming, whereas traditional publishers impose 18 month lag-times.

How to Self-Publish

Know that my tech skills moved me to a T-Mobile rep for in-person lessons on sending text messages. Years later, I still mistakenly send scores of blank messages. Yet I’m telling you that self-publishing is easy!

You’ve thousands of options for a publisher. I’ve one recommendation: Amazon’s It’s free and has a 24/7 helpline. Plus your book will automatically be displayed on Amazon, the number- one site for readers seeking books on-line. Amazon takes you through the processes for Kindle Direct Publication and paperback publication.

  • Editing. Get it edited, and edited by someone you’re not sleeping with. (EL James’ Editor is her husband. He’s a good writer too. I’ll say no more here.)
  • Formatting is tricky, or can be. For those like me, you might want help. If you pay for this, you shouldn’t pay more than about $40, unless it’s really long or fraught with errors.

That’s all I wanted to say. So just do it: publish your book, your way, yourself. Self-publish!

Feel free to correspond with me, It’s a topic near and dear to me ever since I published Just the Right Time, in partnership with Blogger-Artist Robin Mead. Less than two months after I proposed the idea to Robin, we were published. Proudly so.

PS I’m Robyn Alana Engel at Life by Chocolate Have a good one!

Thank you, Robyn!

Special photo today! While doing a book signing at Quartermoon Books and Gifts, I met Isabel from Tween 2 Teen Books. She purchased Book I of my series and after reading it will be giving it away for her upcoming one year blog anniversary. Thank you, Isabel - and congrats!

Friday, August 02, 2013

How to Identify a Popular Blog for a Blog Tour

Today I am a guest of Michael Di Gesu, discussing the importance of editing and finding your target audience.

Here I want to talk about finding quality blogs for your blog tour. There are a lot of factors, such as genre and where will you reach your audience, but today I’ll focus on how to identify a popular blog:

“Alexa is the leading provider of free, global web metrics. Search Alexa to discover the most successful sites on the web by keyword, category, or country. Use our analytics for competitive analysis, benchmarking, market research, or business development.”

Google Analytics 
Another site that lists blog stats.

Hit Counters
While this might give some indication, hit counters are usually inaccurate. A hit or a visit could be a five second event and not someone who stayed around. Sometimes hits will show up from a Google search. And whenever a counter is created, it can be set at a higher number.

Blogs with 500 or more are good places to start. You won’t be able to tell how many are following via email and other means, but notice the totals of Google Friends Connect, Networked Blogs, and Linky Followers. (Google+ followers may or may not have much impact.)

Unique Comments
A large number of comments indicates not only are people reading, they are interacting. Be sure to pull up the actual comment thread though. Some people reply to each comment, thus doubling the comment count. Unique comments, the original comments from a visitor, are what matter. (As examples, last year I found a blog with over 200 comments per post, but the owner was responding to each comment individually, so the number of unique comments was 100+ - which of course, is still impressive. This week I found a blog with over 120 comments on a post, but there were many replies and less than 40 unique comments.)

All of the above will give you a good idea of the true popularity of a blog.

Jo, Tara Tyler, and Melanie Schulz all gave me the Sisterhood of the World Blogger Award. Thank you so very much. Jo gave it to me a while ago, and I’ve seen so many receive it, I’m not sure I could find someone who doesn’t have it. If you are an awesome woman of Blogdom and you’ve not received this one, consider yourself awarded.

And your inspirational Friday photo:

Reflection of an Alien Insect!