Monday, April 29, 2013

Cooperative Business and the Kobo

On Thursday, I attended my first live author event at Annie’s Book Stop in Plainville, MA. Of course, as an aspiring author, I don’t appear on anyone’s radar. So, it was more of an educational opportunity for me to go and get an idea of the dynamics of what might or should go on at such events.
 I got a better education out of it than I expected.
Ann, the owner of Annie’s Book Stop in Plainville, is a friend of mine. Her bookstore is the prototypical small bookstore. New and used titles sold side by side, avid readers coming in at any time of the day to pick out their next read. Her store has survived the arrival of the megachain bookstores and has outlived at least two, Walden Books and Borders.
Annie’s Book Stop has thrived because Ann has eschewed the luddite attitudes of some of her peers—some of whom don’t even accept credit cards as payment. While maintaining the feel of a local bookstore, she has kept a careful eye on the book market and the trends that come and go. One of those trends was the coming of the ebook.
Many have touted the coming of the ebook as the end of the independent book seller. can be credited with really giving ebooks their opportunity to finally get a foothold in the market. While ebooks have been around for many years, it wasn’t until made a go of it by bringing a reliable ebook reader to market and giving it a true and broad library for reading that ebooks finally were accepted by consumers.
But has also been considered by many to be the enemy of the independent bookseller. Cutting prices to often less than wholesale, Amazon has forced prices to the point where many small booksellers simply can not compete. Amazon’s Kindle ebook reader used a proprietary format which could only be purchased through This effectively locked out any direct competition. This also meant that libraries built up by consumers would not be compatible with other ebook readers, negating any chance that a better ebook reader could lure readers from the Kindle platform.
Barnes & Noble stepped into the ebook market in 2009 with the Nook. Where Amazon’s Kindle used a proprietary format, the B&N Nook focused on the EPUB file format for ebooks, an open format developed by an approved standards association, the International Digital Publishing Forum (IDPF). The Nook represented the first real competition to Amazon’s Kindle.
Then, in 2010, Apple entered the fray with the iPad, a tablet computer as opposed to a dedicated ebook reader. Rather than go the proprietary file route, Apple chose to adopt the EPUB file as its native ebook format for the iPad.
These three platforms became dominant in the ebook market.
Amazon aggressively tried to corner the market by locking customers into their platform. Ebooks from B&N and Apple, both using EPUB files, meant that an ebook purchased from one would work on the other. That is, so long as Digital Rights Management (DRM) hasn’t been implemented on the given EPUB file in question. Apple, has merely used ebooks as a lure to get customers to purchase the iPad, and seems to have no interest in creating a monopoly. Apple has encouraged producers and publishers not to use DRM, even though it is an option.
Either, way, locking customers into a platform using DRM or proprietary formats means that those customers would only be able to purchase their books from a given and controlled source. It also locked independent booksellers out of the competition.
Then, enter the Kobo…
The Kobo is an alternative ebook reader. It uses the same screen as the Kindle. So the visible quality of the text is equal to the Kindle series.
Rather than trying to lock customers into their platform, Kobo Inc. decided to take a different path. They decided to follow a cooperative business model.
And this is where Annie’s Book Stop comes into the picture.
While Amazon and Barnes & Noble, and to some degree Apple, are pretty much closed eco-systems in ebook sales, Kobo opened the door for independent booksellers to sell ebooks.
Kobo created a program so independent booksellers could connect to the Kobo library to sell an ebook. Of personal importance to me, the independent bookseller gains a profit from an ebook purchased from Kobo through the independent bookseller’s site. This, instead of creating a walled-garden approach to selling ebooks. Kobo has decided to share the wealth with independent booksellers. I get the impression that it isn’t a large percentage of the sale price, but it is something. This is unlike the other ebook retailers, who basically leave independent booksellers out in the cold.
This gave Ann the opportunity to have her little bookstore tap into the potential of ebook sales and move her business into the 21st century. Thusly, Kobo has given independent booksellers a way to remain relevant in the modern book selling markets.
For this reason, if asked what ebook reader would I recommend, I would say the Kobo. Instead of trying to corner the market and squeeze everyone else out, they are creating the opportunity for others to enter the market.
So, I recommend if you are using an ebook reader or tablet computer that can render EPUB files, you should consider buying that ebook through one of the independent booksellers that are partnered with Kobo. This way, the independent booksellers have a chance to make money off the ebook market. Ann invested in creating a web site so her store could do just that.
Look around your local area for an independent bookstore and ask if they are selling ebooks via Kobo. It does mean they may need to set up a web site. But it is a good way to help support local and independent bookstores that otherwise may be left in the dust of the ebook revolution.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Status on Nobody

So far: 96,250 words. In a 9x6 hardcover book, that means 287 pages at 12pt print.
To do: adding two more chapters to the story to round things off a little better. Plus a few other small parts to add to the book.
The end result should be between 106,000 and 110,000 words, making it roughly 310—320 pages long.
If I really push, I should be done with the two chapters by the end of this week. This means I put Nobody into final edit next week.
I give it about three or four weeks of scouring over the returned editing suggestions and rewriting the mistakes. Once that is done, the ebook gets constructed which takes me anywhere between a couple of days to a week.
Then the book as a whole gets reread by editors to look for any other mistakes, continuity, errors, etc.
At that point, if there are no glaring errors or continuity problems that stand out, I’ll package it all up and Nobody gets released.
Idealistically and not being very conservative, I’m looking at a possible release date of May 25. Once I've reached a point in editing where I know it is going to be complete on time, I'll open Nobody for pre-order online.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Look for the Helpers…

“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, 'Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping,'" – Rev. Fred Rogers, Mister Rogers Parenting Book.

I first found out what happened in Boston after I came in from a walk. The first image I saw on the television was of the second explosion being replayed by the news.
My first thought was, “I sure as hell hope that was just a stupid prank.”
Then the report mentioned that two people were confirmed dead at the time.
I knew it wasn’t a prank.
I’m not going to discuss the horror, the anger and rage, the injured or the tragic losses of the three families who lost their children. That’s been played out on the news enough times for all to see.
But I want to point out something that could be plainly seen in all the news clips. That no one on the news seemed to be commenting about as the event unfolded.
Even as the debris was still falling from the explosions, people were rushing in to assist and help the injured. Bill Richard—the father of eight-year-old Martin Richard who was killed in the blast—credits the immediate response of rescuers and medical personnel for saving the lives of his wife and daughter who survived the blast.
While the smoke was still rising from the explosion, police, organizers and bystanders were pulling down the barriers so emergency medical people could run in and attend to the wounded. Racers who had just run 26 miles, stepped up and helped carry away victims.
A number of the racers ran another two miles from the finish line to the hospital to donate blood. One of the surgeons from the hospital was in the marathon, he simply ran straight for the hospital and got right to work.
Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.
Those words, Mr. Rogers attributed to his mother, Nancy Rogers. In times like this, they are truer than ever.
There are so many other examples. In Utah, when bystanders ran together to lift a burning car off an accident victim. In Mississippi, motorists pulled over to rescue two women from a burning car.
This is Boston.
This is America.
This is what we do.

As far as the people who perpetrated this act and those who are either hiding them, helping them, or not turning them in, their lives are pretty much over. Until they are captured and brought to justice, every waking and sleeping moment of their lives will be spent continuously looking over their shoulders, wondering when the moment will come when justice catches up to them.
When it does, they’d better hope that it is the police and not someone from Southie…

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The End is Near!

March certainly sucked as far as productivity is concerned—as my previous blog entry indicates. I am happy to say that matter is now behind me and well under control with a very low dosage of medication to stop the irregular heartbeat. I’m back on track and working furiously away at finishing Nobody.
The end of the book is truly in sight! The narrative will soon be wrapped up and I’ll enter into the final edits. 
As far as my plans for a March 21 release…. The best laid plans of mice and men often go awry. (Go read the link in the first paragraph above.) I’m pretty certain I can get this done and out in April.
For those of you who have been waiting so patiently, thank you. For those of you who haven’t been quite so patient, bear with me. It’s just a little bit longer.
It is said the first book an author writes takes the longest. In my case, it’s been about four years. Which, it turns out, seems to be the average. Does that mean it will be another three or four years for the next book in the Aggadeh Chronicles to come out?
Hell no! I expect I’ll be able to produce book two much more quickly. I’m setting the target of summer 2014 for book two. (See the second link above and find a few grains of salt to go with my intended schedule.)
Looking back, I was making no ground writing Nobody until I got serious about actually writing. I set aside all other projects and most other activities and went all in with writing. Only then did I finally begin making headway. I am not, nor have I ever claimed to be a multitasker. I do well when I focus on just one thing. When I find myself doing more than one activity, I get bogged down.
In just a few months, one of the biggest draws on my focus and energy will be coming to an end. So, at last, for the first time ever, I’ll be able to focus wholly on writing. This other task, in my opinion, slowed down by nearly two years getting this first book out. Without this, I’ll be able to ramp up my production and work faster.
And, my phone won’t ring a dozen times a day anymore. Each time the phone rings, I’m looking at a delay of one to two hours before I get back into the flow state of writing. In fact, I won’t have to answer my phone at that point.
Learning from those mistakes, I’ve got a better idea now how to maximize my productivity. No more extracurricular activities for me!
Where does the story go from here?
For one thing, many people have expressed an interest in Nem’s back story. Who is he? Where does he come from? Why does he know all this stuff? How come he can’t use magic, yet he seems to do things that appear to be magic?
That’s one of the key points in the Aggadeh Chronicles. To reveal who Nem is just a little bit at a time. A piece here, a piece there. The reader should be as in the dark as to who Nem is as the characters are in the story. The reader should get to know him as do the characters in the story.
We know Nem is from a place called Aboria. We know he can talk to dragons—or rather, dragons will talk to him. We know he has an unusual sword called Dragonclaw. And we know he is well educated.
For that matter, who is Ophelia? Why does she keep dreaming about Nem?
Eh? What? You mean Ophelia hasn’t been mentioned yet? Of course not, because those chapters have only just been added to Nobody. Ophelia appears in the preface, which was not included in Nobody (The Pirate Arc).
You’ll be seeing, or dreaming with her, soon.
Back to work…