Thursday, July 24, 2014

E-books and DRM

I have avoided this debate for a while now, but with several books on the way to being published this year and next, I have to face this question soon enough.  What should I do with my e-book and should I use a DRM for this one?

When I published my first book, in 2011, I decided to use the DRM (Digital Rights Management) that Kindle suggested I use.  I was worried that my name wouldn't get out there if I didn't use it.  I admit I made an error in judgement, but this was a long time in coming.  It's not a big error, but it is one I will not be repeating again.

Thanks to Alexander von Ness for the link to one of the many posts I've come across that has made me change my mind about what I will do with my next self-published books.  I write non-fiction, and it could be assumed that these would have a better chance at sales as opposed to a fiction book.  However, my book is in a niche market and this is where I agree with the article found here.  I have to agree that obscurity is a much bigger problem, and although I am on many social networking sites, the corresponding sales are not as high as I would like.

On that note, I looked into the sales of my paperback and my e-book- for the past three years.  I'm not the greatest at math, and I would make an educated guess that at 99 cents, my book would be doing better without the DRM, but it is something I can't change unless I re-publish the book.

The question I asked myself before I really got into the next e-book and the DRM was: what does it hurt if I don't use it or use it with my next books?

My editor and my co-authors have weighed in on this debate and have said for them they would most likely purchase a book that has no DRM as opposed to one which does. If it's a good book they won't mind either way, but for a new author they might think twice about buying a book. For them, as readers, they like to share books with friends for a time, but also want book sales.  To them, the DRM stands in their way of doing this. It's not true, but it is a perception many readers have. KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) themselves state in the choice box about DRM being this: DRM (Digital Rights Management) is intended to inhibit unauthorized distribution of the Kindle file of your book. Some authors want to encourage readers to share their work, and choose not to have DRM applied to their book. If you choose DRM, customers will still be able to lend the book to another user for a short period, and can also purchase the book as a gift for another user from the Kindle store.

What this bit of article is saying is that it protects against unauthorized distribution, not about lending.  However, the more articles I read, the more I lean towards not having the DRM as an option on my next e-book.  I understand there will be piracy and work can be stolen, but most readers purchase their books from Amazon.  Some of the other numbers which are tipping my views in the direction that I might not need a DRM- hardcover book sales (you can read the article here written at the end of 2013) are growing and doing better than e-books.  In this way publishers are still earning money, and writers are getting their names out there.  

The choice is not about publishing a book in an e-book format, but if there should be a DRM on the books I publish.  I can see better sales with a second book, but based on growth and numbers, the more accessible my book is to my readers the more chance I have of selling my book.  It's about encouraging readers to read a book, and that means making sure it gets into the hands of readers. Not only this, but it can encourage new readers to your book, and encourage new writers that there are a host of options out there if they want to learn about them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Encouraging New Writers

"Don't give up just yet" I had been writing for a few years, and I had finally joined a writing class.  I felt I would do anything and I felt that my writing was good.

I had paid for my online course, since at that time I was living in a fairly "out of the way" city in Canada. It is a large city, but because it's not close to the major literary centres it's out  of the way.  Most writing courses that you could take were in New York, and I certainly couldn't fly out there and take a few courses for a month or so no matter how much I would want to. Whatever my delusions of grandeur were before I began this course- they were broken within the first session.

I'm not a person who buries their head in the sand, so I could tell right away that most of the writers who were in the class were far better professionally than I was.  I also had a teacher who knew her thing.  She was no nonsense, and would offer advice to anyone who would ask.  Most of the time, I would try to be little miss ball of sunshine, and be very positive towards my other classmates.  The problem was- as I can see it clearly now- was that I was ready to quit.  I was that amateur among professionals.

I was done, I didn't want to submit anything.  I did because I had paid for the course, and by gosh or by golly I was too proud not to give up.  It must have been obvious to my fellow writers, and more importantly to my teacher.  Many of the comments soon began with "This is a good start- but you have to work on your... because it's only been getting worse."  or, "I know you want to write, but... and you'd be better."  There was nothing wrong with these comments, it was just the fact that it added more salt to the wounds I had.

I wanted to have a book published, and I wanted to be praised.  At that point that was all I wanted.  I was debating not handing in my last assignment to the group when I saw a small note from the teacher herself.  

It went something like this "I know you can do better, and I know you have it in you to do better.  Don't give up just yet."  I only vividly remember the last words- the don't give up just yet.  

Somehow that comment stuck with me. More than three years later, my own book was published.  I didn't give up, and thanks to some very fortuitous events I found a wonderful editor, and another great blogging partner along the way.  When I was ready to give up as a new writer, one great teacher told me get up, keep going and improve.  That' a gift- the encouraging when it's needed but also the push to keep improving, and Sheri Szeman had that gift.

I had the wonderful experience a few years later to re-connect with her on twitter. She wasn't going by "Sheri" but by her given name- Alexandria, so I didn't think much of it when I followed her.  That was a blessing because otherwise I am sure I would have been too nervous to even tweet with her. She's still the same no nonsense lady I had the pleasure of working under, and she's still mentoring others and being herself.  I had the idea that one day I would re-pay her mentoring to me.

Two days ago I was out and about and this one person I have a casual acquaintance with was talking about his writing. He was brave about telling people his dreams of publishing a book- far better than I was at that stage of my writing.  He was poised to take a writing class, and he suffered a bit of grand delusions.  He had printed off some of the things he wrote, and I had to laugh- not as him but at the memories.  His writing is good- but not great like he'd want it to be... and he asked me what I thought.  My honest view (and here comes the 'oh boy').

I told him what I saw, and what could be improved.  I'm not perfect, but I could see it in his eyes, that same sort of look I must have had almost seven years ago.  I thought some more and then I took a breath and said: "A wise woman once told me don't give up just yet."

That made him smile, and I knew then  that it's important to encourage new writers and bloggers any way I can.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Blogs and Writers

An author platform is a must in today's world, and if you are like me, you have faced some highs and lows.  You've probably wondered why you would want to write a blog, when you don't have as much time as you'd want.  You've heard about the millions of options out there from social networking sites and online writing sites.

If it were up to me,  I would focus on my blog, and I love writing here and just being able to communicate about my own book, is something very special for me.  There are a lot of choices out there beyond just a platform.  There is one question I ask myself: Why should I publish a blog?

 1) I'm not technologically inclined but to write a blog post takes about 20 minutes a day once you are good at it. It is easy to form a good habit, and one such blogger- Michael N. Marcus, is very good at pointing out this is a need and not a want. I find that for me, writing and publishing a post is important, and I usually do this in the evening, but I will have to take into consideration some other blogger's ideas that it would be best to publish a post in the morning.

 2) Blogging can be fun: The fun part is writing a new blog post and adding another voice to the writing world. You can add links to each post on social networking sites that will make it more easy to find on the Internet. The technology to do this is there, and platforms such as wordpress or blogger makes it easy to share your work with others.  Just don't spam.  I know it can happen innocently enough but if people don't like it, don't do it.

 3) By writing a blog there is another avenue open for me to make some extra income. Unlike other online writing sites, my blog is my blog and it's a part of me as much as it is a part of my readers lives. It is up for me to decide how I can work and write, but also how I connect with my readers- you. Part of writing is learning what works for you- and how to sell yourself a bit better without being a spammer.

 4) I can add almost anything to my blog, and it is still mine: From what I write to amazon, to Google AdSense, there are many things I can put on my blog, and then find out what my readers want. The more choice a reader has, the more I have to work at building a good blog, but the choices are there for me to work with and have fun with the writing.

 5) I can always go back and re-edit things over time, just based on what I've learned or what needs to be improved.  I don't do this often, but this is a great opportunity to go and do this very thing.  I've learned that editing is done in stages, and usually my editor sees things very differently.  This blog can be the way for us to work on something that isn't a book.

 6) The stats are easy to understand: I use Google Analytics, but since my main platform is blogger, I have access to each post and the stats that it has.  I have found this helpful when numbers don't match up or I want to know how to fix something.  It's all about pride in what I do.

7) Google likes older blogs, and most of the time, it's a good thing I'm not looking back at Google.  This doesn't mean you don't need a blog, it means that my numbers are good only because I've been around a while.

 8) The technical things are easy for a blog: It doesn't take much effort for my when I'm writing a blog post to sit back and find a photo or a link to a past post.  I'm happy for this since it allows me more time to work on more important things- for example, my book.

 9) It's beyond a hobby: Part of what makes my love for blogging so important is that I have improved.  I am a proud writer, but I've only fallen enough to know I have to pull myself back up and becomes an even better writer for my readers.

 10) Why wouldn't you write a blog? It is easy and simple and allows me to communicate with more people than if I only had a social networking platform.  Blogs and writers are important, and need to be praised- especially if they have been at the game as long as I have.  I have found a bit of success writing on a blog.

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