(To read Part Two, click here.)
The first person to speak to me post-conference was an intense, tiny woman who fired off a number of equally intense questions, “How does that work for you? Do you put your ebook on your site? People come and download it? How do you collect payment? How do you price your product? How do you get people to know about your book? And—”
I interrupted, reaching out my hand, “Hello. And you are…?”
She shook my hand briskly and told me she was an MEP, for the Greens, and her a rapid-fire name got shot out there too but I did not catch it (I rarely catch names in the best of times).
Since she wasn’t screaming nasty words at me I began explaining about that little known phenomenon called the Kindle .
And Amazon. Combined, an author needed no one or nothing else to publishing an ebook.
While hardly into the first steps of explaing these amazing Kindle-Amazon concepts, an older MEP guy with dyed yellow hair and a wobbly under-chin spoke from my left side. “But it is only famous writers who have success on the internet!”
I turned my attention to this, how can I put this gently, this rude creep, and began, equally gently, supplying some information he obviously had not encountered. “No, there are plenty of examples of unknowns attracting a large audience over time, such as….” But I could not get any further so click here for what he wasn’t interested in hearing.
Feeling his inner Alpha MEP, he raised his voice over mine and continued proclaiming his truth over my facts. It was fairly clear he hadn’t come for a conversation, let alone gathering information, but to hear himself say things he knew and not take on any information that might mean rethinking his thoughts. Quickly enough, he turned his face to that of the Green Party lady MEP, making his point to her, and she began nodding, and that circle slammed shut. I turned to the three other people had come up on my right. I smiled. Friend, or foe?
“I liked what you said.”
They were a literary agent, a trainee, and an assistant to another MEP from the Netherlands. Something refreshing happened. We exchanged ideas. One of them said, “They know nothing here.”
My attitude to most institutions is fraught with distrust, based on a lifetime of experience and observations. I had found that, after attaining a certain size over a period of time, an institutions primary activity was simply to conserve their existence after they ceased to be relevant. Sure, they had power but little influence on the street. For digital publishing, which was basically an online world with energetic communities, you needed to log on and stay logged on and dig around and dig in. The opposite of hanging with colleagues and lunching with lobbyists.
And the conference didn’t even touch on Social Media which powers all this vibrant online publishing.
We spoke of copyright, one of the subjects needing addressing in these circumstances, because what now is the meaning and purpose of copyright online? Right now anyone can upload their ebook to Kindle for free, and without an ISBN number that tracks and controls publications, or any copyright claim posted in the book. Online it’s all about good Metadata. Plus a title and your author’s name and a rather good book. Writers don’t need protection, they need distribution. And that’s where Social Media steps back in…. There’s circles within circles here, and hardly any of them are closed.
And, it seemed, perhaps, my dance card to these institutes and their conferences isn’t utterly blackened. The assistant to the Dutch MEP told me they were organizing another conference on the digital world at the end of this year, and would I be interested in speaking at it?
I said, “May I say what I want?”
Then to be continued, sort of.
Before ending this Three Part Monster, here’s some For Further Reading bits.
The author Barry Eisler refused 500,000 dollars from a mainstream publisher and has gone ebook and Amazon instead.
Readers and writers said No to offline Power and Kindle and Nook readers staged an online ebook pricing protest with angry one-star reviews of Michael Connelly.
Something on VAT & and UK which the Big Guy was so adamant about.
And even Forbes weighs in on Publishing without publishers digitally
Last cliché: He who dares wins. And what I heard at this European Parliament conference on digital publishing was the exact opposite of daring.
Now, completed, worn-out from gabbing, I return happily to the stories I make up.
TO READ PART ONE, CLICK HERE.
Posts Tagged ‘ebook’
Tags:Amazon, Author-Publisher, Barry Eisler, digital publishing, ebook, ebook pricing protest, European Parliament, indie digital publishing, ISBN, Kindle, lobbying at the EU, MEPs, Metadata, Michael Connelly, Publishing without publishers digitally, social media
Posted in Musings | 2 Comments »
Click here to read PART ONE.
As I opened my mouth over the microphone, I thought, Trouble’s my name, danger’s my game. First things first. I was about to say No to Power. All while surrounded by powerful people who could legislate. I figured what I was about to say would be a sort of conference suicide and that I’d be burning up any future dance cards to the EU. But I had squirmed enough, and those fidgety movements had corkscrewed right up into my brain. Listening to people with one quarter of the story speak as though they knew knew the whole story pushed me to open my mouth.
I began saying there seemed, unkindly, to be a lot of 19th thinking, but to be generous changed this to 20th century thinking going on in the room. I hadn’t heard a single positive comment or view on who these people, these thieves, these consumers, who these ungrateful readers were. Or any ideas on why this was thieving was going on. I trotted out the obvious. That a lot of the internet was about manuevering around institutional power and multinational breakwaters. In fact, much indie digital publishing was going around what was going on in that room.
I continued. Saying that that while they were setting up conferences to discuss and figure out what to do about This Digital Publishing thing, whole online societies and communities had formed and were forming that were not and would not pay attention to much of what they did or had to say. That as soon as MEPs instituted any control, those in the online world would find ways around it.
Mention by the Head Guy had been made of the music industry that had suffered a financial “catastrophe” when illegal downloading began, and that that Must Not Happen to the Publishing Industry. I explained in my most mild, vaguely rabble-rousing mode (where no rabble existed to be roused) that these folks, these citizens, were busy demanding from publishers How They Wanted The Books They Wanted to Read to be Delivered. Stale news that needed repeating here: The Internet was not top down management of product, services and customers, but bottom up: people told manufacturers how they wanted their books (music, whatever).
An official photographer who had been lazily snapping photos of one and all, got excited and pointed his lens in my face. Snap, whirl, snap, whirl. One by one, big wide faces turned from their pens and paper and toward me. Who’s This? expressions hijacking their shiny faces. The most gratifying sight I witnessed, I willingly confess, was when I saw the Head Guy up there on the dais with his head in hands, rubbing his bald patch over and over while I continued speaking. (That’s your lesson here, Big Guy. Never call on someone who’s not a MEP and whose cheek you have not kissed.)
I had a lot more to say, but did not want security men to come tap me on the shoulder and whisper, “Come with us quietly, please.” So I ended replying to the “sharing” question that had gathered such nodding support. Said most publishers simply weren’t engaging with the readers (while acknowledging that yes, there are thieves out there—gasp, horror—as there were everywhere for everything). Gave them a personal example. I “share” all the time. I give away stories, videos, book chapters, and what happens? Some people out there in Internet Land who liked them would blog about my writing, review some of it, and in turn their readers seek and purchase some my books. I “shared” and they shared right back at me. (Here’s an author who has sold 100 million books and is sharing big time.) It was all about engagement with real live people not benighted with the term consumers on a one to one basis. Not mass media. This is not something multinational publishing organizations are built for. Large companies and institutions aren’t constructed for listening to those outside the building Then you get surprised when they take matters into their own hands.
I had three other subjects in my mind, but finished with, “What I have heard here reminds me of what Marshall McLuhan said, ‘We go into the future looking in a rear view mirror.” (Actually, got it wrong. It’s: We look at the present through a rear-view mirror. We march backwards into the future.) I sat back and let the rest of my thoughts fade gently into my gray matter. There was so much more to address but the Head Guy had rubbed his head raw.
Hearing my sudden silence, he looked up, this Head Guy, the man of “Let’s debate, let’s dialogue” and said, “Well we won’t re-open that debate and yes, sir, you wanted to say something?” He pointed out the lone guy from Google in the room, and the Google Guy and Head Guy and the Author-Publisher and MEP people bantered, power-to-power, and the circle re-closed.
While the final French Author-Publisher team had their speaking moments, quickly moving minions came round to each and every MEP, and only to the MEPs, to place free books from each author before these vote possessing people, sealing the deal on the lobby party masquerading as a digital environment dialogue.
The Head Guy had left before the French began speaking, saying he had to catch a train to Paris because he was on the Board of Something Really Important and He Had a Busy Schedule. I shuffled my few papers together while the French spoke. When they finished, no further question session occurred, an MEP wound up the conference and people applauded. I was ready to stand and go, leper-like, through the dispersing crowd. When one person approached.
Then another person.
Then a third.
They came to where I sat and looked at me, and I looked at them.
(Click her to read Part Three)
Tags:Author-Publisher, digital publishing, ebook, European Parliament, indie digital publishing, legislators and publishing laws, lobbying at the EU, Marshall McLuhan, MEPs, Paul Coelho
Posted in Musings | 1 Comment »
I don’t particularly enjoy writing about book publishing, its production and the shake, rattle and roll of what’s going on in digital media. I’d rather write another book, make another video, edit my on-going audio books. But I do know publishing, live it, work it, study it, know it. Same with social media. There’s just not much teacher type in me, so Explaining Things in essay form is like kicking hard dirt.
But. That word that makes me go back on personal inclinations. So. Recently I attended a conference at the local European Parliament called “Publishing in the Digital Environment: First Dialogues “Author-Publisher.” I knew a lot about this; I wanted to see whether they knew something new.
After arriving at the European Parliament and being lead, with others, up escalators, across interior bridges, into elevators that didn’t work because there was an unknown emergency and so up some stairs and down some corridors, then landing us in The Location where free sandwiches and drinks waited for mouths. Also, the conference room where “Author-Publisher” event was to occur had been double-booked. So we needed to wait while the conference group inside finished a presentation, after which they were hustled out and our group was then allowed in. We took our places in an expensive, imposing conference-happening type structure. Some of the panel took their slightly more fancy seats up front. We were then informed that the European Commissioner who was supposed to be there and moderate this conference wasn’t going to because he had to be somewhere else in another country. Good scheduling skills. So far so not so good.
Some other male who would be the Head Guy would moderate. I didn’t retain his name because I was there for the publishers and the authors and not the bureaucrats. His opening remarks briefly mentioned the theme of the conference before he launched into higher pitched oratory concerning VAT and income tax and how it was imperative to make certain this “new” digital world needed to be legislated into obedience on this. People were making a living in the digital world without contributing to paying his salary and the upkeep of this conference hall (VAT is what keeps this EU universe functioning). Then a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) made some introductory comments that left little impact on my brain as the thoughts were rather generic and dusty. She did state that this was to be the first of many dialogues and debates on this matter. I was going to find that “dialogues and debates” was going to be an intention rather than a reality.
Val McDermid, who, according to the hand-out material I was given, has sold over ten million books and is thus a millionaire, spent a little time on the Author-Publisher relationship, basically saying her books were only so good and she needed a trusted editor to make them better. Only twice in her publishing life did her novels not need heavy editing and rewriting. So after confessing that she could not write her books without help, she launched into pointed remarks about digital theft. “Thieves take my ebooks without any payment and say they are sharing them as they make them available for free, but they don’t share anything with me in return.” I began my first squirming in my seat. Her Little-Brown publisher earnestly spoke of the need of putting protections in place for established publishers in this undisciplined digital world.
After that, the Head Guy—an older guy nearing retirement, slicked back hair, jowly—sitting up there on the dais with the speakers then opened the floor to the first “dialogue” part of the conference. He pointed to a member of the audience seated a row or two before me. She proceeded to thank the author and the publisher for their comments. Especially on the matter of “sharing”, which they, the MEPs, would keep front of mind. The Head Guy then pointed at another woman, next to the one who had spoken. She said more or less the same thing. A third one, a little to the left of me, was called upon. She repeated the thankful mantra that had been established. I got it. Those being called upon for “dialogue” were MEPs, and they all agreed with one another.
My butt squirmed some more. I have friends and acquaintances who work, or have worked, in or with the various European Institutions. Know some writers for various publications covering the European Institutions, even some lobbyists. I also know a number of non-EU connected people who gossip and moan about how the EU Institutes have too much money, too much power, just generally too much. Others believe the EC and the Parliament have simply turned into Institutional Power speaking primarily to Commercial Power. I was now wondering, sitting there, whether this dreaded scenario was being acted out right before my eyes and ears.
Then the German Author-Publisher tag team began to have their similar say. I turned and looked around. One after another of the audience members were taking notes. Without exception, from my vantage point, each and every one was putting pen to paper. I’ve been to enough trade fairs, digital and otherwise, such as the London Book Fair and I’d say at these conferences over 70% of the audience made their notes using mobile phones, iPads, portables devices generally. They actively twittered to online audiences from these conferences. Yet here we were, supposedly discussing the budding digital environment, and everyone was functioning in a pen and paper era. Not awful, just indicative.
Talk went on of saving the world from the bad writing and bad books the unregulated digital world was creating (as we all know, commercial multinational publishers never allow bad writing/books out into the world). Further urgent words were spoken on the controls needed for digital publishing.
So far this author-publisher dialogue was mainly concerned with profit protection, taxes and a legislative control of the digital publishing landscape. What was weirdly missing was any hint of enthusiasm for the rich spread of ideas digital media now allowed, or the power digital publishing opened to individuals. Sure, the corporate publishers said that the digital world opened many challenges and revenue opportunities … but only if the correct protections were in place. Now I was wondering if this conference was orchestrated by publishers so MEPs would hear their legislative concerns. Was this just one big lobbying effort?
Meanwhile, something odd happened. While the Germans were speaking, our moderator, the leader of the conference, the Head Guy, left his chair at the front, and came down to the audience. He made for the front rows right before me. He had a big smile on. He began greeting and cheek kissing the MEPs he knew and had just called upon for remarks.. A hello, a cheek kiss, a few murmured words, kissing the hand, then on to the next MEP, all women. He worked the room while the conference continued with his back turned to it.
Once returned to the dais just as the Germans completed their comments, he asked for more questions, to “continue the dialogue”. Again, he selected one of the MEPs he had just cheek kissed. She began by agreeing with everything that had just been said.
As yet, I could detect no debate or any dissent. Statements were being made by corporate publishers and MEPs agreed with them. My squirming increased. So, when the MEP before me concluded, and the Head Guy in front warmly smiled at her, I popped up my hand, which he could not fail to miss, since from his point of view my arm probably seemed to come out of her head.
He smiled, less sweetly, and indicated I could go ahead. I leaned forward and bent the microphone toward my lips.
(Part Two will be posted tomorrow.)
Tags:Author-Publisher, digital publishing, ebook, European Parliament, International London Book Fair, legislators and publishing laws, lobbying at the EU, MEPs, taxing ebooks, VAT on ebooks
Posted in Musings | 2 Comments »
It’s taken a while but I have my two books up and running as Kindle eboooks, via Amazon, of course.
You can find the “link to Self-Portrait of Someone Else” here.
You can find the link “How to Find Yourself (or a reasonable facsimile)” here.
Pricing is $2.99 from Amazon.com.
(Should insert “What a deal!” and other exclamation marks here.)
Purchasing these outside the USA will be higher than my stated price, as Amazon adds some suspect transfer fees, and as we know, it’s oh so much more expensive to download files in the USA compared to, say, Canada or Belgium. There’s little I can do about it currently, because at this point, it’s Amazon’s way or the highway. It will no doubt remain this way until Amazon, slowly but surely, gets its act together as Kindle distribution centers are established in the rest of world. *see below
Note: my base price stays of $2.99 is the same, no matter what you are charged.
Anyway, if you have a Kindle, you can get my books and have a happier summer, a more expansive life and all in all general all-purpose beatific experiences….
Thanks for reading.
* (Update Aug.6, 2010) I believe I was wrong when I first posted this. I just ran into this:
“…in most EU countries, taxes on e-books are double the taxes on p-books, thanks to a rather bizarre ruling of the European Commission, which decided that the supply of a “book on any physical support comes under supply of goods, whereas the downloading of an e-book is defined as a supply of services. Therefore different VAT rates apply.” This quite clearly means that according to EU bureaucrats, taxation on books should be lower, because they are printed on paper or stored on a DVD, and not because the book is a repository of culture and knowledge. Or to go one step further in this line of reasoning, for European bureaucrats the novels read on paper are culture, but the ones read on Kindle are not. I’m sure Marshall McLuhan would love this way of reasoning as it shows that European bureaucrats are true believers of his dictum that “the medium is the message”. However, in the context of the e-book trade, this puts European e-booksellers in a more difficult position than their American counterparts as they are burdened with higher taxes. “
Link to this article.
Tags:ebook, ebooks announcement, How to Find Yourself (or a reasonable facsimile)", Humor Kindle books, Kindle, novels available on Kindle, Self-Portrait of Someone Else, Vincent Eaton, Vincent Eaton on Kindle
Posted in Publishing | No Comments »