Thursday, January 26, 2012

Self Publishing Success: Digital Book World 2012 Summary

I attended Digital Book World 2012 in New York this week.

It was a great conference with a lot of fascinating discussion about ebooks and the future of the publishing industry. Of course, as new and exciting as the digital space is, there are already tired old discussion points that feel as if we’ve been talking about them for the past 10 years.

Oh wait a minute, we HAVE been having these discussions for at least a decade now.

I’ll take that frustration with a grain of salt because, after all, the publishing industry hasn’t had a major significant change or alteration for about 500 years – so please forgive the industry if it takes a couple of decades for them to get their head around another significant change.

Given my own role within this industry (Director of Self Publishing & Author Relations at Kobo), there was one particular session that interested me a great deal, so I wanted to focus on the Doing It on Their Own: Self-Publishing Authors Find Success panel that happened on Wednesday afternoon.

Jeremy Greenfield did a great job moderating this panel which featured Tony Van Veeth from BookBaby and independent authors Bella Andre, Elle Lothlorien and Bob Mayer.

There were some interesting discussion points, facts and quotes tossed out that I thought was interesting to share.

  • Bella Andre sold 400,000 copies of her books in a year and made 1 million dollars in 2011 – the largest monthly “royalty” cheque she rec’d in 2011 was $75,000
  • Elle Lothlorien has gone with a philosophy of higher price points for her books and was able to quit her day job in June 2010 to focus on her writing/self-publishing career.
  • Lothlorien also states that while she doesn’t subscribe to some of the popular self-published authors like JA Konrath or John Locke who have priced their work at 99 cents, she highlights the importance that you “have to hear all the sides and all the opinions” and make the choice that is right for you.
  • Bob Mayer, who not only thinks outside the box but says he and his publishing company designed to help self-publish authors “don’t believe in boxes.”
  • Mayer also doesn’t believe in backlist any more based on the manner by which ebooks can be discovered and consumed in this new environment. “If you have backlist you have CONTENT” he says. “That’s GOLD!”
  • Mayer believes the traditional advance model has to go away, which would ultimately put less pressure on publishers and more pressure on the actual performance of a book’s sales.  
  • Mayer believes that nobody markets the book as well as the author “because nobody cares as much as the author.”  He says that whether a book is self-published or published with a major publisher, the onus is on the author. His frustration is outlined in this statement:  “You go to BEA and see Random House pushing four authors from their entire Fall catalog.”
  • Andre hasn’t just seen success in the English language market in North America, but she believes strongly in the global distribution of her titles through multiple languages. She has a team of between 26 and 30 consultants working on her books in foreign languages. And a huge bonus to this author, but she ensures her teams translate not just the content of the book, but take care to translate the metadata.
  • Tony Van Veeth, whose BookBaby offers authors various a la carte services ($49 to $250 cover design, for example), recognizes different authors will choose different approaches. 
  • Towards the end of the session, Van Veeth commented that “Bella is the most extraverted person in this room, perhaps even in this hotel” highlighting the fact that sometimes authors (particularly reclusive types) might need the support and help from either a traditional publisher or a company like his or Mayer’s
  • Andre, who was at the conference specifically to build relationships (she reached out to me weeks before the conference, securing a lunch date with me – an enjoyable and fascinating chance for us to chat one on one and face to face).  “My content is great,” she says, “But my relationship with my retailers is key to my success.”
  • Andre offers another bit of advice to self publish authors. “Pay attention!” she declares in a loud voice. As illustration of this, she explains how she follows and pays attention to industry trends, what new markets ebooks are being expanded into, who is moving where within the industry. (Again, she was following the progress of Kobo, noticed they had posted a job for my position and knew exactly when I started in my new role)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Death By Salsa Recipe

My buddy Chad visited a Pepper Palace location in Myrtle Beach when he was in the U.S. over the holidays and brought me a jar of Death by Salsa.

Here is the description from their website:

"This ridiculously hot salsa is sure to push the envelope of pain for all but the “tongue dead.” It has a phenomenal sweet flavor for all those who can endure the heat. The Habaneros, Jalapenos, tomatoes and onion supply the flavor while pepper extracts supply the fire If your taste buds must die let it be Death by Salsa"

Needless to say, this salsa is ridiculously hot and painful. Perfect for a chili-head like me.

The one drawback to it, though, is that, because of the intense and over-the-top heat it delivers, most people can't really do more than dip an edge of your chip into it and then eat it.

But with salsa, don't you really want to scoop up a nice big chip-full? If the average person (even one who likes hot and spicy food) did that with this salsa, they'd still regret their boldness. Having watched more than a dozen people try it, there were only 2 or 3 people who didn't gasp and get a panicked "oh no, what have I done" look on their face when trying just a tiny bit on the end of a tortilla chip.

I solved the issue yesterday by mixing Death by Salsa with a couple of other ingredients adding a different flavour to it but allowing the opportunity to dip and scoop and really experience the dance of taste buds that ultimately lead to the nasty tongue and throat-burning sensation the salsa delivers.

I took three equal parts of Death by Salsa, spaghetti sauce (Francine's home-made sauce with lots of chunks and flavour) and Kraft Three Cheese Ranch Dressing & Dip and mixed them together. The sauce cut the heat a bit and added a bit of chunky flavour and the three cheese dressing further cut the heat and added a cheesy sort of tang.

This blending allowed me to scoop up generous portions but it still delivered a painful blow of pain.

You could easily substitute spaghetti sauce for a mild or medium salsa and the three cheese dressing for sour cream or a plain yogurt to offer a similar cutting, chunk adding effect.

And for those less adventurous, I would strongly suggest you don't go with 1/3 of each, but rather 1 teaspoon of Death by Salsa mixed with a full cup of sauce of salsa, and adding perhaps a couple of tablespoons of the cream sauce. Trust me - most people will still find THAT too hot.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

I, Death Begins Anew

Back in 2006 I experimented with the idea of rolling out a novella length story in blog format.

The idea was the story would be told from the POV of a young man, Peter O'Mallick, who was writing an online journal as a way of dealing with the loss of his girlfriend and the belief he was inflicted with a death curse, causing others around him to die.

The story was called "I, Death" and was inspired by an extremely short story I had originally written when I was about 16 as well as a sequel to that tale, which I wrote when I was 20.

I had taken these "truck" stories and, finding something worth exploring further, was going to attempt to merge them into a slightly longer, combined piece.

That's when the idea of rolling out the tale in blog format struck me. I took the original short piece, which was told in person first narrative, and started to modify the structure into an online journal format. By the time I had constructed the first three or four posts I thought it might be fun to tell the story live. All I knew for sure were a few specific plot points I wanted to cover as well as how the tale would end. Everything else would be constructed on the fly and filled in as I went.

So, on Wednesday January 18, 2006, I began to tell Peter O'Mallick's tale. Or rather, Peter started to tell his tale. A few friends started following the story. People started to comment. Some of them, who thought Peter was real, needed to be contacted to have their minds put at ease and ensured they knew that both he and his tale were fiction - intrigued with Peter's unfolding story, they continued to follow along.

One of the great things about making the story up as I was going is that I had the pleasure of responding to comments and feedback and modifying certain story elements as I went along, either to tease the readers or to play upon the things that touched them the most.

At one point, there was even a "two paths in the woods" moment where I wasn't sure if I should go left or right, and the readers responded with their votes which affected my decision.

When the story finished, the sequel storyline (which had still been mostly untouched) was still there; but I had invested so much time in character development that I was moved to keep writing the story -- as in, sure, this tale is over. But what might happen next? How might this tale continue?

Those questions were eventually answered with a book length manuscript that incorporated the original online journal. After a couple of years of pitching the book, it found a publisher. My novel I, DEATH is scheduled to be released in November 2012 by Atomic Fez.

So what better way to celebrate than by offering readers who weren't along on that first journey to enter Peter's world, see the pain and tragedy through his eyes? Particularly since the years lined up perfectly and Wednesday January 18, 2006 so easily transforms into Wednesday January 18, 2012 - at least date-wise. Some elements, of course, needed to be updated to better suit the setting. I mean, I couldn't have Peter visiting a Borders anymore, now could I? Just kidding. The story takes place in Levack, Ontario (where I grew up) and in Sudbury, Ontario (about 45 minutes SE of Levack and, from the POV of a person growing up in Levack, the nearest "big city.")

The story, which does tell a complete tale in and of itself, is speculative horror of an extremely graphic and adult nature. It is not for the faint of heart and contains adult situations meant for those 18 or older.

If you're interested, you can check out the tale as it unfolds on Peter's blog, you can also subscribe to the RSS or even receive the story via email. For those who prefer all their action in Facebook, I've created a profile for Peter O'Mallick there so the story can be consumed within that realm.

And if you're following the tale along, do let me know what you think . . .

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


Today, a good part of the internet is going on strike to protest SOPA and PIPA.

Major sites like Wikipedia have gone dark today.

Fortunately, Wikipedia DID leave up some good background information about SOPA and PIPA to help people understand why.

Today, learn more about the issue (link to video) and, if the issue concerns you, act.