Archive for the ‘Ch – ch – changes …’ Category

Dog Team to Dawson: A Quest for the Cosmic Bannock – is now available!

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014

What do I think? Hey, I wrote this book! It is great!

The stories were written in the mid- to late 1970s. Two were published in magazines and books, but the other two (including the main story, A Quest for the Cosmic Bannock) have never been released. It was a marvellous process to go back through those adventure stories and polish these jewels – developing the character arcs and clarifying the themes and action. Now they really shine and I am very proud of them.

cover for Dog Team to Dawson

Marsha’s cover and interior design are gorgeous. What a star she is.

The book is available as of today at Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk.
Here is a link for buying through Createspace’s ebook store:
https://www.createspace.com/4631723

If you want a PDF copy to review, contact me at bruce.batchelor@gmail.com.

Could Your Book be an App? Here’s How – eBook gift April 9-13

Thursday, April 11th, 2013

“What is a Book App and Could YOU Create One?” eBook at no charge April 9-13

For just a few short days, a new eBook that can help make your publishing dreams come true, is FREE!
http://tinyurl.com/busd45c

“What is a Book App and Could YOU Create One? How 27 Writers Did!” is the eBook any children’s
writer who is considering digital publishing for their book should read! In this book, children’s book
app author, speaker and coach, Karen Robertson, explains what a book app is, why it’s such an exciting publishing option, what you need to know about this opportunity, and how it’s done, so you can decide if it’s right for you to publish your children’s book as an app.

Read the personal stories of 27 other writers who’ve turned their books into book apps to see
how many ways there are to achieve this publishing dream and deliver your book to a worldwide
audience. From these writers’ stories, you’ll see that there are a lot of ways to make a book app happen
in a way that will meet your objectives and budget, even if you aren’t technically inclined.

This eBook is available exclusively on Kindle and is FREE April 9-13 http://tinyurl.com/busd45c.

You don’t have to have a Kindle reader to read it! There is a free Kindle app that lets you read books
from the Amazon Kindle store on your Apple or Android devices. It’s super easy and the app is free.

Learn more about it here:
How to use the Kindle app on iPad, iPhone and iPod touch: http://www.amazon.com/gp/help/
customer/display.html?nodeId=200298460

How to use the Kindle app on Android: http://www.amazon.com/gp/feature.html?
ie=UTF8&docId=165849822

authors getting paid in an era of digital piracy

Monday, May 14th, 2012
Here’s a great article about where the discussion and newest legislation about copyright / digital piracy / collective rights management organizations / author renumeration is going in other countries:
http://www.transmitnow.com/magazine/ecad-brazil-volker-grassmuck-monetizing-file-sharing-p2p-user-freedom-author-remuneration-berkman-center-rethink-music-berklee-music
I note that this trend points to collective rights management organizations [CMOs] for authors — in a similar form to the existing CMOs for musicians — that are independent from the publishing houses. So “indie” (self-publishing) authors would be on the level ground as trade-publisher authors. This is yet another loss of advantage for the publishing houses! The best part of the proposed Google Books settlement, in my opinion, was the set up and funding of a single independent rights agency for all authors…
thanks, cheers,
Bruce

Moss Rock Review – May 2012

Friday, May 11th, 2012

Tell it to the world – and do it your way

In today’s rapidly-changing marketplace, the idea of an “author” (of books) is rapidly evolving into a broader concept of being a “storyteller.” A creator no longer needs to be limited by conventional practices, nor does he or she need the approval and financing of industry gatekeepers. If you have a story burning inside you – something that you simply yearn to tell, whether it is fictional or how-to, philosophical or entertaining, entrepreneurial or philanthropic – get ready to step up.

Traditionally, a story had to fit into rigid categories. It was either to be a magazine article or printed book, a radio or TV broadcast, or maybe a film. It could become more than one (a book made into a movie) but there were few examples of anything in between these categories. Books never had videos, radio didn’t show pictures. Everything had an expected length. Even if the creator’s purpose and message didn’t fit well, the content was shoehorned into a category.

To have your work considered meant appealing to corporate gatekeepers judging the economic viability of each potential venture. Production and distribution costs were high, so creative merit seldom trumped the financial imperative to make a profit. Over 99% of proposals were rejected.

Delightfully for creators (though terrifying for the publishing houses and networks), the situation is turning on its head. With the advent of “apps”, product categories are now being defined by each project. A story that would benefit from interaction, video, narration, music, location tracking, frequent updates, etc. can have these features and more in an iPad book app. Production costs have dropped drastically in this digital era, while new distribution channels are open to independent producers, making those traditional gatekeepers less relevant. Add the new phenomenon of crowd-funding, and we’re starting to witness an explosive release of pent-up creativity.

To illustrate the scale of these shift, Apple reports that over 25 billion apps have been sold (“downloaded”) for its iPhones and iPads, and stories make up many billions of those. Apple just sold another 11 million iPads last quarter. At this rate, within 2 years, 1 in 3 Americans will own one, reaching a tipping point beyond which few printed-on-paper book projects will be economically viable for conventional publishers. Self-publishing to the iBookstore and appstore is welcomed by Apple (and at Google and Amazon’s app stores), creating a vast, level playing field with nearly free distribution. Apple takes a 30% cut of the retail price, which is impressively small compared to 55% taken by distributors and retailers for printed books, plus ebooks and apps have no printing or shipping costs.

Storytellers are seizing the opportunities: fully 1/4 of fiction e-books sold in the UK are from self-published writers bypassing the conventional publishing houses (source: TheBookseller.com). The percentage is likely higher in North America.

Meanwhile costs have tumbled so a previous budget of $40,000+ to publish a printed book has dropped to $5k for a top-notch print-on-demand edition. (Free options exist for the tech-savvy.) An ebook edition costs nil to $500. Develop an iPad app, all singing and dancing, for $20k to $30k. If you can’t personally finance the venture, “crowd-funding” is allowing storytellers to raise money from friends, fans, even complete strangers. At Kickstarter.com, over $100 million is being raised per year for creative projects, most with budgets of $5k to $15k, though author/cartoonist Rich Burlew raised $1.2 million from 14,952 backers for his book/ebook publishing project! Indiegogo.com is another effective crowd-funding site.

Storytellers: costs are down and financing alternatives exist. Almost anything is possible in terms of formats and presentations. (Musicians will be selling apps of their performances, redefining the “live album,” and indie video entertainment will also distribute through these simple, open channels.) Is it time to dust off, even embellish, your dreams of presenting your message to the world?

Sadly, one local (Victoria, BC) society is stubbornly refusing to evolve with the times, and are blatantly discriminating against hundreds of local independent writers. To add insult to injury, this group is merrily using our municipal tax dollars to do this. The Victoria Book Prize Society exists expressly to administer awards for “literary merit” to writers living in the CRD. Yet the directors refuse to allow any self-published book to be entered. To tell the City how you feel about this, email Councillors@victoria.ca and Mayor@victoria.ca.

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Moss Rock Review – October 2011

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Spinning yarns around a high-tech campfire

By just about any measure, the book publishing industry is undergoing change so blisteringly fast and fundamental in nature, that the whole concept of storytelling in printed book form may become an anachronism within a few years. Maybe we should rename this Book Scene column to be Storytelling Scene instead to seize a longer-term view!

Although I wasn’t there, apparently the first human beings (homo sapiens) appeared on the scene about 500,000 years ago. For all but the most recent 200 years, storytelling was done orally, in-person, by elders or minstrels. Only with the great culture upheavals of the Industrial Revolution did the general population get an opportunity to learn to read and buy printed books. If 500,000 years is represented by the span of your two arms stretched out fully, the time we’ve been a book-reading species is less than the thickness of your thumb. According to evolution theory, we humans aren’t yet genetically evolved for reading books (and therefore will be prone to abandoning them for anything more similar to sharing stories around a campfire). Darwin figured that it takes a finch on the Galapagos Islands 500 generations to make a significant genetic adaptation. For humans, at 20 years per generation, that would be 10,000 years. So we need about 9,800 more years for our DNA to react to an environment of sitting on our butts staring at squiggly symbols on sheets of paper bound into a codex.

So, if we aren’t (yet) suited to books, what are we genetically coded to do? Let’s review what storytelling was like 10,000 years ago, and then consider if the next media fits better than our current fixation with books. Presumably an ancient hairy human could talk and gesture, use props to demonstrate, sing and dance, maybe act out skits. I presume the audience gave feedback through nods, grunts and other actions, encouraging the storyteller to expand, elaborate, create or repeat information.

By contrast, books don’t have the voice, gestures, songs, dancing, or props — they are totally linear and have no potential for reader interaction. They are great, and I love them, but they sure don’t score well in this Darwinian challenge. (TV would rank higher: people grouped around a flickering light to be entertained/ educated/ indoctrinated seems quite campfire-tribal.)

Are the new media more in tune with our DNA? The world wide web’s great claim to fame is its non-linear nature. Apps on an iPad have video and audio files, and even respond to finger gestures, blowing, tilting, shaking; they even know where you are located on this Earth, even if you don’t. Seems they are more “natural” in many ways.

Lately, along with our work to publish some great new printed books, I’ve been working with a very talented team building an iPad app (based on the book It’s Cool To Be Clever and scheduled for a pre-Christmas release). I’m reminded that automobiles were first labelled “horseless carriages”, presumably to make them more understandable and acceptable. After many years people simply called them “cars” and stopped needing comparisons to the old technology. Similarly, stories on the iPad initially were called “eBooks” and are sold at the “iBookstore”. On screen, the words were displayed as if on a book’s page. When you pressed an edge, the page “turned”, complete with an animation of a curling sheet of paper. Only 18 months after the iPad was introduced, the latest apps are already playing down the book metaphor. Blocks or text are no longer confined to “pages”; instead they float by in response to finger swiping. Animations and video are becoming commonplace. Each story-app comes with a mini-library of background materials, allowing the user to follow a thread into the author’s past and research the story’s topics more deeply.

Meanwhile, the Toronto Public Library is organizing a “human library” in which library patrons can “book” (pun intended) a half-hour, one-on-one conversation with a person who has expertise or compelling life experiences to share. Apparently this concept began in Copenhagen in 2000, and has been adopted/adapted in more than 30 countries. Seems a bit like coming full circle, eh?

(c) copyright 2011, Bruce Batchelor

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Moss Rock Review – August 2011

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Making a fortune from an out-of-copyright poem – APPsolutely incredible!

It is early June 2011 and the top grossing app for the Apple iPad tablet is… a poem first published in 1922? This is a joke, right?

Not a joke. For a few glorious days, the enhanced ebook of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land did edge out the Angry Birds video game for top spot overall. By the end of the summer, it was staying top in the book app category, just ahead of the Marvel Comics app. Something brilliant is going on here for publisher Faber & Faber to be bringing in so much attention — and money — for a poem so old that it is now in the public domain.

Taking full advantage of the iPad’s capabilities, The Waste Land app has not only the full text of the poem, but a new BBC-produced performance of the entire poem by Fiona Shaw, audio recordings by Alec Guiness, Ted Hughes, Victor Mortenson and Eliot himself, over three dozen expert video commentaries, and scans of the manuscript showing Ezra Pound’s extensive edits. All for $13.99. The reader switches seamlessly between video to audio to text-only; while Fiona or Alec performs, the text is always shown in sync. The app is like an interactive TV show cum encyclopedia or thesis, celebrating this iconic poem.

With this and other fantastic new enhanced ebooks (more examples later), I believe we are seeing the vanguard of the next era in publishing, with changes even wilder than the tumultuous upheavals of the past few years.

Henry Volans, head of Faber Digital, in an interview with The Guardian, said: “I used to be an editor here. Now the role is much more like that of a producer… you’re making something happen with a variety of skills, from software engineers and designers, and indeed a television director on one hand, to Eliot scholars, poetry academics and actors on the other… There’s this sense that book publishers will have a lot of competition from other industries [film, television] as well, so we have to learn these skills. I believe that the books business and writers and publishers could and should use technology to their best advantage because other people will if we won’t.”
(Full article at http://www.guardian.co.uk/technology/2011/jun/12/ts-eliot-waste-land-ipad-app.)

Meanwhile, Our Choice, which is Al Gore’s sequel to An Inconvenient Truth, is an interactive iPad ebook/ magazine/ presentation app so cleverly presented that it won the 2011 Apple Design Award. It costs $4.99. Push Pop Press, the design/software agency which created the multi-touch app interface for Our Choice, was just acquired by Facebook. Facebook apparently doesn’t plan to enter the ebook publishing game itself, and bought Push Pop for its designers and software engineers so Facebook might add storytelling/app capabilities for its 750 million users. Wow, that could be a lot of competition!

No doubt looking to generate new income while providing more access to its collections, the British Library just launched an iPad app which provides access to full scans of all its 19th century books for 1.99 GB pounds per month.

Produced by 1K Studio for Penguin is the “amplified edition” of Jack Kerouac’s 1957 beat generation novel, On The Road. There is the complete text, of course, plus an interactive map of the route taken, archival photographs, reproduction of the original 120-foot-long manuscript scroll, letters, video interviews with Kerouac’s contemporaries, documentary footage, even tributes by Bob Dylan, John Updike and others. The Guardian‘s reviewer James Campbell warns that all this “amplification” bogs down the reader with facts, footnotes and technical distraction. He recommends reading from a printed book so your imagination can soar.

Nonetheless, Cinram, a $2 billion Toronto-based company that is one of the world’s largest manufacturers of music and movie CDs and DVDs (who knew?), was impressed enough with the potential of On The Road that it bought 1K Studio, presumably so Cinram can get a jumpstart into the next big thing (diversifying away from what must surely be a declining business).

It seems that everybody wants to be an app producer/publisher in the iPad era.

(c) copyright 2011, Bruce Batchelor

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Moss Rock Review – June 2011

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

This column is now published in both Esquimalt Shoaling Waters and Fairfield/Gonzales Moss Rock Review

Headline: Novelist Tom Morison is living his own storylines
Subhead: Local writer advocates ‘living life broadly’

Seventeen years ago, Esquimalt writer Tom Morison received an ominous-sounding message from an insurance company. According to their actuarial tables, he had precisely 13.2 years of life expectancy remaining. More amused than shocked, Morison did what any good writer would do: he wrote a grand story inspired by that dramatic pronouncement.

Morison’s novel 13.2 followed a man (loosely based on the author) systematically pursuing a list of adventures and experiences into his senior years. 13.2 pre-dated by half a decade the Hollywood movie with a similar theme, called The Bucket List. Morison admits he was inspired in part by “the funniest movie I’ve ever seen, the classic Danny Kaye film called The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. Making a list is an exercise many people should take.”

His latest novel, In Search of Her Ayah, was just released in hardcover and Kindle ebook. It is a story of shifting emotions and responses — lust and desire; betrayal and revenge; mystery and adventure; and love and trust — as told through the eyes and the paintbrush strokes of four individuals with vastly different backgrounds and perspectives. This sad and happy story is played out across the world: from the tranquil remnants of a once bustling town on the coast of Oregon, to the peaceful beauty and charm of Victoria, into the steaming heat and poverty of India, in the metaphysical world of the wonders and magic and tragedy of Tibet, trekking through the towering Himalayas, and finally in a transplanted French chateau near Portland.

“My writing is based on incidents in my own life,” Morison said. “I can tell in the first five pages whether the author has lived the situation or is making it up entirely in his mind. With rare exception, one can only create an authentic story by experiencing life broadly.”

Morison is going strong well after his official 13.2 “due date” expired, largely living life on his own terms since selling his U.S.-based investment management firm (Morison International) in 1986. Back then he decided he would travel, paint, write and climb. He recently sold his second home in a southern French village but still globe-trots whenever the urge seizes him. He is completing a series of oil paintings inspired by the Canadian provinces and territories, and is starting a series attempting to paint the senses — as does a character in In Search for Her Ayah. In the mid-1990s, Morison, who has a doctorate in economics, penned a financial primer cum novel called Pounce: Couchon’s Billions, accurately predicting the subsequent major financial downturns. This book deserves to be re-read because all the same forces are still in place.

He has climbed extensively, including Europe’s Matterhorn, Kilimanjaro in Kenya, Popocatepetl in Mexico and the Grand Tetons of Wyoming. When his best buddy died in an unexplained climbing accident in Africa, Morison wrote about their shared climbs in the mystery The Gates of Mist (as yet unpublished). High treks in the Himalayas provided authenticity for scenes in In Search of Her Ayah. But age is taking its toll: his climbing has been halted. “When I got much past 70, my balance and leg strength were no longer up to it,” he said. “It wasn’t safe for me or for others climbers relying on me.”

Born in 1924 near Airdrie, Alberta, into a ranching family, Morison served as an armaments NCO for a Canadian Typhoon squadron in the RAF’s Second Tactical Air Force during WWII. “I wanted to be a pilot but was rejected for being colour-blind,” he said. “That turned out to be fortunate, because so many of the Typhoon pilots died.” Although “witnessing the awfulness, the death and destruction of Western Europe” convinced Morison of the massive faults in human nature and governments, it also made him want to “get on with life” and kindled a love affair with European culture that endures to this day.

Who does Morison read? “Emile Zola, one of the greatest writers ever and champion of noble causes. I read in the original French to get closer to the authenticity of his writing.”

A Minnesota newspaper reviewing Pounce opined that Morison’s writing was a cross between John Steinbeck and Evelyn Waugh, both of whom used their own life experience and wide range of people they met, as source material. Though he admits to slowing down a bit, Morison will continue to “live life broadly,” creating content for the books he has yet to write.

In Search of Her AYAH, Agio Publishing House, 2011, 340 pp, hardcover edition $29.00, ISBN 978-1-897435-53-3, available at Amazon.com and by special order through local bookstores. Kindle edition $2.99

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Moss Rock Review – April 2011

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Local authors are thriving in a rapidly-changing book world


Everywhere one goes in Victoria, there are interesting people with fascinating stories. “You ought to write a book!” is frequently heard. Many are seizing the moment and writing out their insights and experiences to inform and help others. Most are surprised to discover that publishing is much easier than ever before, and their prospects for “success” (personal and financial) have never been better.

The book industry is being rocked by enormous pressures to its business model that are causing some publishing houses, distributors and bookstores to fail. Entire chains, such as Borders in the USA, Waterstone’s in the UK, and Angus & Robertson and Whitcoulls downunder, are in bankruptcy. Yet delightfully, most changes are unfolding in the individual authors’ favour.

I’ll provide some examples of the upheaval. Remember the prediction of the “paperless office”? And how people have scoffed at that idea? Well, maybe your own desk in still cluttered with paper, but overall our society is consuming far less paper. In 2000, North American commercial printers used up 48 million tonnes of paper. By 2010 that amount had dropped by fully 1/3 to only 32 million tonnes, and industry predictions are for further decline over the coming years. Clearly we are shifting our paper consumption patterns, and consuming fewer newspapers, magazines and… printed books!

Sales of electronic books [eBooks] are skyrocketing. Simon & Schuster reports that eBook sales are now between 15 to 20 percent of its revenues. Random House reports digital sales at 10 percent of US revenues. Over 25% at O’Reilly Media. Hachette says 23.5% of sales are eBooks. Since most eBooks are priced much lower than their print edition counterparts, we can assume that eBooks are selling almost as many units as – if not outselling – print books.

How does this help the new author? By levelling the playing field. A 26-year-old Minnesota writer named Amanda Hocking has made this abundantly clear. She’s been writing young adult paranormal romances for years but couldn’t interest a publishing house or an agent. So she decided last spring to self-publish her series as print-on-demand titles and as eBooks through Amazon’s Kindle and Barnes & Noble’s Nook. Through the magic of Facebook and other social media, word spread quickly and she sold 185,000 copies by year end, earning herself well over $100,000. Sales continued to climb in the new year until at one point her books occupied spots #1, 2, 4, 7, 11, 12 and 14 in the list of top 100 paid romance eBooks on Amazon. If she maintains this pace, she’ll earn millions from her self-published eBook sales in 2011. All without a publicist, without any advertising, without any books in bookstores. No publishing house.

But Amanda’s story gets sweeter. An agent asked to represent her. He arranged a bidding war between the largest publishing houses. St. Martin’s Press won, paying Amanda a cool $2-million advance for a new 4-book series. It will take a year before the printed edition appears in bookstores. By contrast, when Amanda is self-publishing, she can write a novel in three weeks, then publish it as an eBook within a few days. But she wants to concentrate on writing, and not on supervising an editor and online promotion. And she wants to experiment at having one romance series promoted by a big name publishing house.

It is interesting that one of the losing bidders was Amazon itself. The online behemoth has since struck a deal with Houghton Mifflin Harcourt whereby Amazon will find and promote new writing talent for its Kindle store, and then subcontract to Houghton Mifflin Harcourt the publishing of the printed edition to bookstores (expected to bring in less revenues than eBook sales). Suddenly eBook rights – which had been a minor “subsidiary right” [or not mentioned at all] in writers’ contracts – have become the major focus in publishing deals. And, as Amanda Hocking has cleverly demonstrated, a writer doesn’t need a major publishing house’s help to exploit the eBook market’s potential, or to publicize.

For many Victoria writers, it is becoming clear that there is little point in following the old approach of applying to the big publishing houses, hoping to get “picked up”. Why wait for rejection letters? Instead they are using the rich local talent pool of editors, illustrators and publishing services, and controlling their own literary destinies.

Mel Anthony, who lives on his sailboat in Sidney marina, released Pranksters at Play: Tales Out of School in October with the pledge that all his royalties would go to his charity Christian-Out-Reach-Peru.com. His novel was based on his own experiences at boarding school in Ontario in the 1960s — so he targeted alumnus from that school. Within two months his plan has borne fruit: Mel’s charity received an initial royalty cheque for $2,259.29. More importantly, the book’s promotions are raising awareness for CORP and large donations are flowing in.

Local architect Alan Roy is another take-charge person. He’s already built two schools in Africa, with more planned, and will publish an account of this amazing work in June. From Clay to Classrooms tells how transforming these projects are – for the children and for Babu Alan himself. Primary Schools for Africa is the name of Alan’s charity.

  • Linda Hunter who has organized dry grad events at Parkland Secondary is selling copies of An Unforgettable After-Grad: Your guide to creating and operating a successful all-night safe, dry, grad event to parent committees around the world.
  • Caroline Whitehead’s sequel to Surviving the Shadows is Rowland: A Heart of Sunshine.
    Tom Morison just released a novel, In Search of Her Ayah which is set in Oregon, India, Tibet and Victoria.
  • Leanne Jones has written It’s Cool to be Clever, an inspirational children’s book about Edson C. Hendricks, who was bullied as a boy but went on to invent the network design for the Internet.
  • Lori Holmes-Boyle’s Second Seraph trilogy features the second coming of the Christ child – but this time it’s a girl….

Next time you meet someone around town with a fascinating story, you can ask when their eBook and printed book editions will be available.

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Moss Rock Review – January 2011

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Passing the tipping point for eBooks and audiobooks

By now, most people in Victoria will have seen someone reading a book using an Amazon Kindle eBook reading device, Sony Reader, Kobo (from Chapters-Indigo), Apple iPad or a smart phone. Early adopters include travelling retirees, who love being able to take dozens of new books along to read in a compact, 9-ounce, $200 device.

In June I reported analysts’ claims that, “During 2010, over 8% of all book sales will be in electronic formats, compared to 4% during 2009, 2% in 2008 and about 1% in 2007.” That trend would have been exponential, DOUBLING each year.

Well, like a weatherman’s long-term outlook, those predictions should be revised with more recent data. It turns out that eBook sales have more than TRIPLED so far this year (2010), and will likely be at around 14% of all book sales. Wow! Clearly what some people labelled as a “fad” isn’t going away until it eats everyone’s lunch.

A recent UK survey found that 19% of all British adults have downloaded at least one eBook from the Internet in the past 12 months. About 7% made a purchase, while the other 11% found free books. Either way, that is a lot of reading that wasn’t purchased in local bookstores. Likely residents of Victoria are acquiring eBooks at a similar pace.

When Ken Follett’s 1,008-page Fall of Giants was released in September, it sold 20,000 copies in Amazon Kindle eBook format in the first 7 days — more than in hardcover, even though the eBook was priced higher (US$19.99) than the hardcover edition (discounted to US$19.39). Ken likely makes 50% of the retail price on eBooks, so he pocketed $200,000 just for the sale of Kindle copies in a week. Not a shabby start, eh?

How will eBook sales growth impact bookstores, authors and publishers? In many ways. But first let’s look at another segment of the book publishing marketplace where the change to online sales is even more dramatic: audio books.

Most of us have listened to a book being read to us by a recorded actor. Back in the 1950s in Winnipeg, my childhood included listening to Jimmy Stewart reading Winnie the Pooh stories with a rather bizarre attempt at a British accent. Those were 45 rpm discs. Vinyl recordings gave way to cassette tapes. Then CDs took over the market. And then DVDs. Now the era of having a physical audio book is nearing its end. By late in 2010, we were at a pace for 43% of all audio book sales to be via download, compared to 57% for all physical media. At some point soon — a tipping point — it will no longer be economical for publishers to manufacture the CD or DVD versions.

Unfortunately, downloads of eBooks and audio books are bad news for local bookstores, since those are sales NOT happening through the store. How long the stores will survive will depend on what else in offered (gifts, food, coffee, live entertainment…) to replace declining book sales. (Ironically, used book stores may weather this transitional storm in better shape, as new-book stores become less common.)

The growth in eBooks has been good news for those independent authors who have a talent for online self-promotion. Using social media (Facebook, twitter, blogs, Lexy, etc.), it is possible for a “little guy” to break into the Kindle bestseller ranks — sometimes even without a version of the book available in printed format. In the new eBook marketplace, the big publishing houses no longer have the huge advantages of dominating the supply chain (as they did with printed books into bookstores).

A few of our authors who offer their writing in both eBook and printed editions have begun selling more eBooks than printed books, something that wasn’t happening six months ago. The good news is that their sales numbers for printed books are not decreasing, so total royalties are going up.

Not wanting to miss out on sales, publishers (our Agio Publishing House included) are scrambling to ensure all their titles are available in a wide range of electronic formats and through all major online distributors. At this point, some devices use proprietary formats (such as Kindle’s .azw and Sony’s BBeB), and most can display .epub. As the reading devices become more sophisticated, they will be able to display the trusty Acrobat .pdf format and the new HTML 5.

No one is sure how much included video and hyperlinking will become the norm, as books appear to be evolving from basic words-on-a-page-with-a-few-illustrations to full on multimedia entertainment. The borders between a “book” and a “movie” and “educational/entertaining products” are blurring.

Fortunately most authors appreciate that there will be many choices in the years to come, as the book industry moves through tipping points and re-aligns itself to new market forces. Indeed, as one of our authors, retired RCMP Superintendent Scotty Gardiner, wrote in his memoir, “There is no such thing as LUCK. Instead, focus on PREPARATION, so you recognize OPPORTUNITIES.”

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Moss Rock Review – June 2010

Saturday, October 22nd, 2011

Local author/entrepreneurs are nimbly surfing publishing’s waves of change

During a revolution, there are opportunities for those who are nimble and not encumbered with old processes and commitments. Today’s book industry is undergoing a transformation to a digital era, throwing large publishers and booksellers into a tizzy. Meanwhile three local retired businessmen have each started a cottage-scale publishing enterprise to showcase their creativity and leverage their previous career experience.

Before I describe these innovators, let me illustrate the scale of change in the book business. The latest tallies confirm that sales of eBooks are increasing exponentially (doubling each year), with a corresponding decline in sales of printed books. Over 8% of all book sales during 2010 will be in electronic formats, compared to 4% during 2009, 2% in 2008 and about 1% in 2007. All of those eBook sales are occurring on the Internet; the loss in business is occurring at real bookstores. Meanwhile promotions and publicity are moving from newspapers (who are featuring fewer book reviews) to the embryonic “social media” and “mobile marketing” of Facebook, Twitter and blogs. Social media tends to favour the “little guy” or underdog author who can amass a following; the larger publishers haven’t been successful yet in figuring out these new means of inter-communication.

“Although publishing is changing, books still represent the best way for an author to convey practical information to most people,” maintains Sidney’s Peter Dolezal who has just released The Smart Canadian Wealth-Builder. Dolezal, whose resume includes stints as CEO of public corporations and a successful second career in real estate, recently established Cufflands Publishing to market his three how-to books (the other two are The Naked Homeowner and The Naked Traveller). “The important part is still getting the word out so people will know about — and want to buy — the book.”

Dolezal is using radio interviews and advertising, locally on C-FAX, to promote The Smart Canadian Wealth-Builder, with notable success. For example, one store, Tanner’s in Sidney, sold 120 copies in the first three weeks.

“Part of my motivation is to increase financial literacy, especially for younger Canadians,” says Dolezal. “Investing prudently over a lifetime will allow them to retire quite wealthy. The book also brings new clients to my independent financial investment consulting business.”

UVic writing prof Paul MacRae created Spring Bay Press to publish False Alarm: Why Almost Everything We’ve Been Told About Global Warming is Misleading, Exaggerated, or Wrong. MacRae wanted to control the editorial aspects and timing of this controversial and provocative book, and of subsequent titles MacRae and other writers will create.

“Print-on-Demand for production and online sales means I can reach a worldwide audience, and quickly,” says MacRae. He is also arranging distribution in eBook formats on Apple’s iPad and Amazon’s Kindle.

A former Globe and Mail editorial writer and columnist for the Victoria Times-Colonist, MacRae has taken a journalist’s investigative approach to climate change — and found a surprising lack of objectivity and credibility around some of the “science.” MacRae will be leveraging his contacts, skills and credibility in the media to publicize False Alarm.

Another local author/entrepreneur is Carl Mawby, who retired almost 20 years ago to the Saanich Peninsula after winning $billions in international contracts for Canadian industry, and has been active here since in community, charitable and social associations. Collaborating with some of the world’s leading authorities, he has put together a readable security and safety manual for the over 55s. With his son Charles, currently senior vice-president of a U.S. high-tech company, Mawby has launched his own publishing company to produce the new book.

Mawby says, “We are never too old to learn,” and is relishing the opportunity to work with his son and use the exciting new capabilities provided by direct publishing and the Internet in his book promotion.

Times of change can provide windows of opportunity, as these three local author-entrepreneurs are demonstrating.

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