Are We Cheating Other Authors by Buying Used Books?

Old Open Bible

This debate featured back in 2016 by Nate Hoffelder on The Digital Reader about the vice and virtue entailed in buying used books—knowing full well that the author receives no compensation—resonated for me because I’ve been feeling guilty about my own Half-Priced Book purchases. I’m not sure I’m feeling less guilty, but at least I know that some defend the practice. The short argument is that used bookstores are where readers are created when they “discover” authors they come to love.

A couple of personal observations:

I’ve long been a fan of Dick Francis (and every horse person and most mystery readers should be as well, IMHO). I reached a plateau where I had overdosed on his formula and quit reading his new ones, and at some point I lost/gave away/never owned copies of his early books, among them some of his best. Off I went one day to my local B&N to pick up new copies and rekindle the relationship. NOT. B&N had none. Not even a recent title, for example those co-authored or authored by Francis’s son Felix in the writer’s final years and after his death.

So off I went to HPB. I was able to find copies of Dead Cert, Nerve, For Kicks, Flying Finish, and many others. Now I often find more recent titles for my bedtime reading and find that Francis is as entertaining as I remember him.

I guess I could buy these on Amazon. Not from Kindle—I hate reading online at bedtime. But am I cheating Francis’s estate, or his son? In my defense, often the earlier titles are available only from third-party sellers, usually used booksellers themselves. What’s more, checking on Amazon for this post, I found that some of the older titles are being released only on Kindle, with all print editions relegated to third-party sources.

I do use HPB and other used bookstores to “discover” authors I might like. I often feel that my reading is too limited and that I ought to be more up to date with what EVERYONE is reading. Every time I venture into the store, I pick up a book by an author I’ve not yet sampled,  sometimes by authors I’ve never heard of, or by authors who have been declared the Next Great Thing. Just to see. If I’m going to toss a book to the floor after forty pages, I’d rather it be a book I paid $3.99 for rather than $29.95.

Will I then pay full price for the next title of an author I like? Hmmm. I did pay full price for a new title by Sarah Waters and might again. But I must confess, I tend to search at HPB first.

I missed this debate when it was supposedly “raging,” but it seems to me worth continuing.

What are your views on Used-Book-Buyers-Remorse?

 

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The Ultimate Guide to Writing?

I’m posting this list of writers’ lists of “rules for writing” just for fun. If we read one list a day, we’d be done in 41 days, and who knows what we’d know then that we don’t know now.

On the other hand, maybe we should just start with #42:

42. Phillip Pullman’s One Rule for Writing

“My main rule is to say no to things like this, which tempt me away from my proper work.”

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Fake, Pirated And Counterfeit Books A Big Problem On Amazon – by Derek Haines…

Chris shares some frustrating news, but it’s information we should probably all be aware of–if only so that WE don’t end up buying pirated books. Check out Victoria Strauss’s account of her interaction with Internet Archive. But Derek Haines tells us that Amazon is just as guilty—and indifferent (no surprise).

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

on Just Publishing Advice:

Counterfeit books are still a big issue on Amazon

I can only write about the ongoing problem with books.

But Amazon has taken so little action, there could also be a problem with other counterfeit goods.

You could think that identifying counterfeit books would be easy. If you publish a book on Amazon, surely Amazon could at least check for plagiarism when pirates copy your text.

The problem is not new. I have been writing about pirated ebooks and books for a very long time.

Third party sellers are making a lot of money from pirated, fake and counterfeit books.

More importantly, so is Amazon.

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A Manifesto for Overwriters!

Overgrown planet!

No one knows better than I do the anguish of being an inveterate overwriter. Here are some of the ways my penchant manifests itself:

  • Stacking up adjectives, sometimes without any particular point other than the love of words. One example at random from my Failed Novel: “By the time he pulled out once more onto 41, the Tamiami Trail, the sun had turned dusty red behind him, piecing out of the sky faint, ominously pendant, pink-tinted blooms of cloud.”
  • Piling up metaphors and images until I end up with a bean soup of ingredients that don’t always play well together and end up siphoning reader attention away from characters and into the quagmire of the language itself. . . . Need I say more?
  • Hunting obsessively in thesaurus.com for THE PERFECT WORD so as to avoid settling for what Mark Twain would have called “the lightning bug”—but ending up with a choice (often a verb) that is so far out there that writing groups suggest gently that I probably ought to settle for something a little less . . . well, I’m having to go to thesaurus.com to find THIS right word. “Arresting”? No, that’s not right. Disruptive? Intrusive, contentious, militant. . . . You get the point.
  • Diving into long passages of introspection in which I explore the character’s relation to life, the universe, and everything from so many directions readers probably feel as if they’re inside a disco ball.

What a dangerous way to write! Here are some of the sad consequences of this indulgence:

  • Too much verbiage, even the brilliant kind I am so clearly expert at, slows the story pace. Readers emerge from even a page or two exhausted, just wanting to move on—or quit.
  • Too many details, descriptions, and distractions dilute important moments in a scene so that what should be on display gets lost in the window dressing. Scenes should have a structure that builds to the crucial turn, but overwriting drags out scenes so that every event, line of dialogue, metaphor, or action carries equal weight.
  • The words themselves start demanding the focus that should go to the characters and their interactions.
  • The backstory in introspection loses its force when not linked to the characters’ actual experiences in time. If we’re told in a long, over-filled expository paragraph on page 10, among seventy or so other details, that a character had a traumatic experience at age seven, by the time we see that trauma play out on page 100, we’ve forgotten its source. We don’t know about that trauma from being told it exists, but from seeing in the moment what it does.

I’ve seen writing group members defend some pretty egregious excess by insisting that what they’re writing is “literary,” a form in which the language itself becomes the focus rather than the “plot.” I guess there was a time when I retreated behind this rationale myself. But I’ve come to apply terms like “lazy” and “self-indulgent” to pile-it-up-on-the-page writing these days. I confess I’ve arrived at this judgment after seeing how some colleagues’ drafts exhaust me when they do all the things I tend to do.

So the moral here must be “Don’t Overwrite.” Followed by “10 Steps to Avoid Overwriting.” Right?

Umm, not quite.

Instead, I’m going to claim that, in its proper place, your tendency to do all the things I listed above (and more?) is a strength!

So: X Reasons to Love Your Curse.

Actually, there’s one real reason you should value your overwriting impulses: unlike your more verbally impoverished colleagues, you overwriters generate a lot of text! You never have to sit and try to “come up with” an image or a detail. You’ve already poured out a grand effusion of writerly stuff.

This means:

Experimentation! You know you’ll cut four-fifths of what you generate. So you can let the words wander. See where they lead. Mixed metaphor? No problem. It’ll get put to rights—or in its place—in the final cut.

Choice! Somewhere among all those words and sentences and images, there’s one that really produces that scintillating “this is it!” shiver. You just have to clear away the litter that keeps it from doing its job. And don’t throw out all the efforts that didn’t answer this particular need. They aren’t necessarily substandard or failed. They may work perfectly in the scene you’re writing next.

And although all that introspection may not work for your harried readers, it’s your way into your characters. You end up knowing them intimately, as you must if you and your readers are to willingly share their worlds for 99,000 words.

Same with world-building. Too many details? Even if you cut that street-by-street description, you still live in those alleyways and cul-de-sacs in your mind.

And who knows? Maybe you, more than your verbally limited colleagues, actually will one day produce a literary masterpiece. After all, it’s from the piling up of words, images, sentences, that the “voice” that commonly defines “literary” emerges.

The key, of course, is to actually do the CUTTING that converts your curse to a strength. I know how hard it is to hack out those lovely lines that flowed from that sacred font. I’ve found that I finally have to be told, indisputably, that X words have to go. Then it actually starts to become fun to watch how paragraphs firm up, cohere, how fast the lines race by and how hard they slice.

One painful but potentially useful exercise: take a particularly long, detail-and-event laden chapter, and vow to reduce it by one-half. Can’t do it? Try for one-third. Just to see what you get.

(Hmmm. Maybe I should do that with this post. . . . :D)

Do you have strategies that make your overwriting indulgences work for you?

 

 

 

 

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The ‘under-arrest’ test – how to see the holes in your story’s ending

I like this discussion from Roz Morris (via Chris the Story Reading Ape) at Nail Your Novel. I’m struggling with revisions to endings and this post gives me some useful questions to ask.

Exposition! Eeek! In my case, not so much a sign that I didn’t “explain” earlier as that I worry that I didn’t explain clearly or explicitly enough. I’m converting an expository section to a scene between two of the characters left standing. Not sure yet if it’s working, but it’s better than what I had.

So make use of Roz’s advice if it pertains to you!

Nail Your Novel

It’s hard to see the flaws in our own work, and the ending is especially a problem.  We know ourselves how it’s supposed to pack its punch, or we hope we do, but will the reader?

Here’s a handy test.

You’ve seen arrests in movies. And you know, don’t you, that a person may harm their defence if they don’t mention any evidence they later rely on in court.

This is like story endings.

A good ending

First of all, what’s a good ending? It has a feeling of ‘rightness’, even if it has surprises, leaves questions or unresolved issues. It must be fair (to the reader, not necessarily to the characters). It mustn’t look arbitrary.

When an ending fails, it’s usually because it wasn’t sufficiently set up.

It fails the arrest test.

Which is this:

It may harm your story’s effectiveness if you fail to mention any evidence (about events…

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Counterintuitive Advice from Jane Friedman

Big word "book" in "lettepress."

If you don’t know about Jane Friedman, learn. Her site is full of excellent advice and links. Today, in my email, this article that contradicts what we might all think: that it’s always better to get lots of feedback. Not on this issue, Jane says. All over social-media sites for writers, you find people posting their book covers and asking for advice. But Jane says no: Don’t crowdsource your book cover! Who’d’a thunk it?

I admit I’ve been guilty of asking a couple of friends for feedback. Some of their responses have been telling, but they haven’t really told me how to improve my own “designs.” Since book covers, in my view, are the one component of self-publishing where you can’t avoid spending money, I’ve ended up looking for affordable professionals rather than trying to make sense of all the conflicting opinions myself. While I do think my current covers could be improved, that improvement will be part of an eventual complete revamping of my whole publishing enterprise, not to be undertaken until my infinite revisions of new books are finished.

So if you have advice for me about my book covers, save it for that day. Though I thank you all the same.

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The #1 Mistake New Self-Publishers Make That Leaves Them Vulnerable to Publishing Scams – by Anne R. Allen…

Another extremely useful post from Anne R. Allen, via Chris the Story Reading Ape. A reminder to us all to DO OUR HOMEWORK if we want to publish and sell our books.

Chris The Story Reading Ape's Blog

Publishing scams target babes in the woods

I hear about new publishing scams all the time. Sometimes scammers approach me personally, but more often I hear a sad tale of woe from some newbie who has fallen for the latest con.

This week I realized that almost all the victims of publishing scams have one thing in common: they don’t understand the most important part of the digital self-publishing revolution that started in 2009.

This is the thing you MUST understand in order to be a successful indie author:

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