Sunday, April 25, 2010

My writing week 3 (16)

Hi all,

I just counted up my words for last week and the number fell between that of the previous two weeks. I need to up it. I am getting near the end of the novella I am writing, a science fiction fantasy story set in Broadmeadows in the not too distant future, so I will soon be back to editing the novel.

On Kerry Schafer's blog I have been debating author Graham Storrs and others on whether ebooks will destroy the Australian and then the US publishing industries. No one has yet convinced me that the cheap ebook revolution will not cause a book price race to the bottom that will eventually turn authors into free content providers for Amazon, but I am open to the persuasion of facts or a good argument.

I think ebooks might have a benefit for speculative fiction magazines. I find the few published in Australia impossible to locate in stores and I am loath to subscribe to them online due to not being a great fan of the predominance of fantasy in most of them. When I have ordered, I have had to wait for their delivery, sometimes having to send emails asking where it is. There is a real risk the magazine would have closed down. Ebook versions could change this.

If I had an ebook reader and these magazines were available for download, I would be more likely to purchase them. I wouldn't have to wait for them in the mail or risk them having gone out of business. To make it easier, individual stories could be made available for download from the magazine on a gradually increasing scale according to word count, say 20c for something under 2,000 words, 50c for 5000 words and $1.00 - $2.00 for a novella. I could then pick out all the science fiction novellas. Australian magazines would be able to print more novellas, one of the strengths of Analog and Asimov, because there would be no printing constraints.

A survey on the price members would pay for ebooks has $7.99 as the average price for a new novel and $2.30 for a short piece. Considering there is usually substantially more work in writing a novel than a short story, I think the price difference between them is nowhere near what it should be. If I paid $2.30 for a 2,000 word short story, I would think I should pay $115 for a 100,000 word novel. Ridiculous of course. I think the price difference occurs because most critters are writing short stories and they want their efforts to be worth something if they get published.


Sunday, April 18, 2010

My writing week 3 (15)

Hi all,

Despite a concerted effort over the weekend I failed to increase my word count from that of the week before, discontinuing a rise in words that had been occurring over the past few weeks. Alas, life continues to intervene.

I wasted a lot of time trying to figure out the effect the ipad and kindle might have on the Australian book market. UK Amazon doesn't have its own kindle bookstore, they are directed to Amazon USA, so we won't be getting our own store in Australia. With their titles sprinkled among tonnes of cheap US ebooks, Australian publishers will have little choice but to charge the same.

With dirt cheap ebooks, the Australian paperback/hardcover market will be decimated. But at least we will have cheap ebooks. Instead of buying a $35 new release paperback written by a new Aussie author I will be able to buy the complete ebooks collections of Dan Brown or Stephenie Meyers.

I have been trying to like the concept of ebooks and ebook readers, thinking that it might make it easier for an new author to get published, but I don't think it will. Cheaper (e)books mean lower profit margins and thus less money to splurge on new authors. There will also be a flood of free ebooks from wannabee authors and a massively increased number of vanity publishers.

Technology is to be used, not worshiped.
Ebooks readers are just crappy little electronic devices that add nothing of value to the reading experience.


Thursday, April 15, 2010

Price of ebooks

Hi all, have been running a survey on what a fair price for an ebook is. The average price respondents have suggested is US$7.78 for a new release and $4.60 for a back list book. Seeing as though most of the people who join critters would one day hope to be published authors, a lot of them obviously don't want to make any money out of it. Or perhaps they think the whole of the $7.78 will end up in their pockets.

I put down US$20 for a new release and $15 for back list ebooks. So that's about $22 and $17 Australian, which sounds fair when there are no printing, transporting and storage costs. There should be less retail costs, but let's wait until Amazon and Apple have established their monopoly and see how much their retail costs rise too, while they squeeze the publishers and authors.

If a reader purchases an ebook for $7.78, there would be less of a compulsion to read it, a bit like all the books I have collected from garage sales. If I spend $35 on a book, I always get around to reading it. Reading the cheaper books depends partly on whether they are written by a favoured author, so cheap ebooks might be bad news for new or lesser known authors, they might get bought, but not read.

If an ebook is not read, there could be great disappointment when, on the basis of its high sales, the publishers bring out a paper version which then fails to sell, partly due to lack of word of mouth sales and partly due to it being much more expensive. It could also lead to great disappointment for an author when their better written next ebook, with the not so engaging title, fails to sell. So publishers will probably wait for a new author to have a number of good selling ebooks before they risk putting them out on paper.

If a lot of ebooks are being bought but not read, sales of ebooks would come down to the title, blurb and advertising, and not their content. A bit like all the delicious looking food that is bought and thrown out uneaten in the western world.


Sunday, April 11, 2010

My writing week 3 (14)

Hi all,

It has turned cold in Wangaratta, hopefully that keeps me inside writing. I won't have to water and weed the garden as much, YAAAAA. I was getting sick of mowing the lawns every week or so too.

My word count increased for the third week running last week. Most words I have written for a year, but considering my eyesight wasn't great over the past twelve months and I spent most of my writing time editing a novel, the largest word count in a year is no big achievement. The word count better improve again this week.

The short story/novella I am writing is soft science fiction/fantasy a bit of a change from the hard science fiction I have written previously, where nearly every speculative element of the story has to be a plausible reality in the future.

I read a few interesting articles for writers in The Age. Patrick Carman has written a young adult novel called Ghost in the Machine, which requires the reader to view a video on the web after reading each chapter. I am not sure how often this sort of interactivity has been done before, probably a bit with textbooks. Greg Egan could have made Incandescence easier to understand if he had included links to short videos of the physics concepts he was describing, complete with alien terminology.
I think this kind of interactivity will really increase with ebooks, especially those on an ipad - once they fix up its display.

According to Jason Steger's Bookmarks column, the ipad bookstore has 60,000 paid titles and 30,000 free ones. "Nine of the 15 New York Times bestsellers were on offer at $US9.99, one at $US10.99, two at $11.99 and three at $12.99." Apple look like they are going to charge the same price as Amazon for ebooks.

I mentioned a few posts ago of Robert Silverberg's 20,000 words a day and Georges Simenon's 80 *pages* a day. Jane Sullivan in her Turning Pages column mentioned that Prentiss Ingraham "occasionally wrote 35,000 words overnight". He wrote 600 books.

Stephenie Meyer's vampire novels seem to have finally disappeared from the Australian top ten bestsellers lists. They will probably return with the release of the next movie in the series.

I watched the repeat of the recent Tuesday Night Book Club last night on ABC2 and I now want to read both Solar by Ian McEwen and
the Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde. Solar is a satire about global warming and, as it would seem humanity is not going to do anything about it, I might as well have a laugh.


Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Review of Greg Egan's Incandescence

Incandescence is a science-fiction novel set millions of years in the future. Humans have evolved into immortal data streams that can travel through the galaxy on cosmic rays and reconfigure themselves in any shape they desire. They are know as the Almalgam.

At the core of the galaxy live the mysterious Aloof, who have rejected any attempts by the Amalgan to expand into their territory. The Aloof allow the Almalgam to travel through their territory, but not to stop.

Rakesh is a bored member of the Amalgan who has spent decades looking for something exciting and challenging to do that has not already been done. He is approached by a traveller who was woken during a journey through Aloof territory and told about a meteor that contained traces of DNA. The Aloof want a child of DNA, an Amalgan, to examine it. Rakesh accepts the challenge and sets off with a friend to travel for thousands of years into Aloof territory.

Roi and Zak are bug like creatures living inside a translucent rock world called the Splinter that orbits in a sea of light called the Incandescence. Roi and Zak's scientific curiosity make them outcasts in a subsistence, duty bound society, as they try to work out the true nature of the Splinter. When the Splinter is shunted out of orbit and begins to experience intervals of darkness, Roi and Zak start recruiting others to find out what happened.

Incandescence is hard science-fiction, in both concept and content. Roi and Zak discover many scientific qualities of the Splinter, which are described to the reader in words when diagrams might have been more appropriate. Egan does include a couple of diagrams but I think he could have attached an appendix with more. At the least, a glossary would have been welcomed, as his scientists made up names for a lot of their discoveries.

This reviewer has only year 12 physics and found it hard to understand Incandescence in places. Without a desire to find out how the two separate stories would interlink, the novel might not have been read to the end. This would have been a shame because Egan does some interesting exploring of why society's stagnant.

The Splinter society is one of unquestioning duty, where everything has been done the same way for eons and people haven't the energy to question the world they live in. They are emotionally inert, which is why I found some of the scenes where concerns where shown for their offspring to have a tacked on quality. It felt like Egan needed a reason for the Splinter's stagnating, uncreative society to want to survive the looming catastrophe.

The ending is both satisfying, in theme, and unsatisfying, in plot. Incandescence is not as good as the high concept Quarantine or as well written as the character driven Teranesia. A reader who has a physics degree or perhaps the patience to continually re-read sections, might rate the novel higher.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

My writing week 3 (13)

Hi all,

I felt like a writer last week. I wrote more, concentrating on a short story that is turning into a novella, and I wrote my first critique of the year, which was also the first for a writing group I joined last year. I even wrote a few well thought out comments on other writer's blogs.

I finished reading Greg Egan's Incandescence, which I found a very difficult read, but it had some interesting thoughts on society. I will post a review of it later this week.

I have also been reading the huge Pen Macquarie Anthology of Australian Literature and I discovered, not to my surprise, that most of Australia's early poets finished their lives as destitute drunks. I don't think there was much of a market for poetry among convicts and those escaping the poverty of England, and many of the poems were deriding authority figures, thus destroying the one potential paying market.

Studio, the revamped Ovation on Foxtel has a few shows on writers tonight (Monday). Writers on Writers is back on and there is a doco on William Gibson. I will either watch or record them.

And now it is time for my weekly look at the Kindle ebook top 100 bestseller list. The mixture of cheap books remains similar to the past three weeks with 21 selling for $2, 11 for $2.25 to $3.50 and one for free.

The ipad was released in America a couple of days ago and it has received very mixed reviews, with complaints about the quality of its display (how could they get that wrong?) and a lack of ebooks to purchase, so I won't be rushing out to buy it when it finally gets to Australia. I will stick to the free Kindle for PC, which I actually used last week.