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some days (and nights) should be cancelled

Feb. 21st, 2010 | 05:58 pm

I'm a bit flu-ey coldy and definately not firing on all cylinders...


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Feb. 20th, 2010 | 04:31 pm

The Undead Entrepreneur
Dave Freer

"It isn't easy being a teenage vampire, you know," she said, bellowing in my ear above the music at the Cellar Goth club.
Huh. At least she got to wear white pancake makeup. If she thought she had it tough... Being undead is the pits, and not just socially. Do you how itchy grave-dirt is, not to mention the fact that it gets on all your designer labels? "I know, and my parents just don't understand," I bellowed back. She filled that corset-bustier very well.
"You've got a zit on your nose," she said, reaching for it with claw-like hands.
I transformed on the spot, fluttered off into the night, cringing. Trust me. Don't cringe and fly. I ended up crashlanding in a vodka and cranberry cooler. I couldn't stop blushing (and you know how bad that looks on a young vamp?) for a week.
Anyway, after a while of sitting outside a chapel, and wondering if I should go and find a stake to hammer through my own heart, I kind of focussed on the basic problem. There are a lot of teen vampires. I guess there's always some older Drac hitting on a bit of soft white throat, infecting them. And like, being undead, you don't age. So... Zits are with you forever.
But there is something of a problem as seeing yourself in a mirror before you go out... isn't an option.
And neither is going out clubbing with a blackhead on your nose. I'd rather be non-descrypt than do that again.
So gentlevamps: that's how rent-a-doppelganger was born. You got see the gap, even if you can't see yourself in the mirror... you can at least see yourself in the mirror image.

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Missing the targets, shooting bystanders and paramedics

Feb. 12th, 2010 | 06:46 pm


"you greedy, greedy author.”

and author Douglas Preston's response “The sense of entitlement of the American consumer is absolutely astonishing,”... “It’s the Wal-Mart mentality, which in my view is very unhealthy for our country. It’s this notion of not wanting to pay the real price of something.”

both miss the target by a country mile and do a substantial amount of collateral damage en route. They're both completely wrong, in my opinion.

Greedy author? - authors might have come out in support of Macmillan - because Amazon cheerfully ripped their means of making a living out from under them -- for something they had nothing to do with. Let's be clear here. 1)Authors get the SMALLEST share of the price of a book. In most cases 90% or more percent goes to another part of the chain. Most of the rest of that chain will tell you sanctimoniously that they make very small profits. Most authours - like most musos... run at a _loss_. Need their writing supported by a second job or their partner's income or healthcare. If greed was a motivation they'd be flipping burgers or something, because the hours and the pay per hour are better than for 95% of writers. I'm a well-established author with 11 books in print, and not at the bottom of the midlist pile - and I work out that I earn about $7 an hour. And I work 14 hour days, weekends too. 'Barely surviving' is closer than greedy - and I am principally published by one of the best (if not the best) publishers for an author to work with - a company who have consistantly priced e-books at around $5-6 and paid better royalties than the big 6. 2)Authors have ABSOLUTELY NO control over pricing. Not one microscopic bit. We don't even have much control over what we get paid. Most of us accept whatever we get, because that's really all the choice we have.

As for Douglas Preston 'sense of entitlement of the American consumer' (rolls eyes in despair) - Is he Balinese? from Mars? Firstly, there is a recession on. Has this passed him by? Secondly, insulting his possible buyers is just so clever? Thirdly consumers are not quite that stupid - How does he reach the bizarre conclusion that Hard-Cover prices for electrons are a 'real price'? Yes, the company may need to earn more from e-books to make a profit (or stay in business) - but that's not a 'real price' is it? 'real price' is what it actually costs + a % profit. By all means IF making an e-book means it has cost $14.95 - show us why? Show us why there are no savings on the paper, on the distribution, and on the returns. Show the consumer what they're paying for and who gets what. But that's not going to happen, is it? Readers do not have a Walmart mentality or a sense of entitlement - what they DO have is a complete ignorance of who gets what from that expensive e-book. Most of them think that most of the money goes to the writer. I wish! That's the problem, not what Mr Preston perceives it to be. Readers might say 'greedy publisher', or 'greedy distributor', or 'greedy retailer' or even 'books are worth more than we pay for them' - if we could all see what cost what, and who got what, but they wouldn't be saying 'greedy greedy author'.

Readers are what keep writers alive. If you as a writer have disdain for your readers - then go and become a junior government official. You're not fit to write books and try to sell them to people that don't think fit to read them.

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Who needs you?

Feb. 9th, 2010 | 06:25 pm

I see I am not the only one wary about the Macmillan 'victory'.


On yet another blog I write on (instead of writing novels, which is what I have done most of today, at least) http://madgeniusclub.blogspot.com/ Matapam made a statement I consider to be near fundamental about the entire writing business:

"There are two kinds of people who are indispensible to the fiction industry.

Writers and readers."

She's dead right. And here to add my 2 cents worth (as publishers and retailers often play this game in their wars with each other) As an author anyone - publisher, distributor, retailer, who stands in the way of the good relationship between the reader and the writer is the enemy of both readers and writers. Readers are not unwilling in my (savethedragons.nu) experience to support writers whose work they enjoy. Yep, there are always parasites, and those who steal because they can. But -- shouting the odds about my own work here -- they're not likely to enjoy my heroes or their values much. Be as likely as a Fundamentalist stealing Dawkins to read for pleasure.

What worries me about this lot is Macmillan turned authordom loose on Amazon. And Amazon was discounting books (cheaper books for readers) - Yes, Amazon's behaviour was stupid and beyond the pale, and punished authors for the deeds of their publisher. But it remains a fight about setting book prices. I heard a good few of my peers saying 'We deserve to earn a living from our work'. Well, maybe. If you are good and popular enough with readers, definitely. But it's not readers who are claiming over 90% of that paperback price. It's not readers who are claiming (outside of Baen) between 85%-90% of a hardcover (or at least one of those fancy big paperbacks) price for an e-book which has no paper, no distro and no returns costs).

Bottom line is writers do need to earn a living. Readers need easily affordable books. The difference needs to come out of the area between these two essential partners - not from writers or readers. We need each other.

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e-books and the amazon saga

Feb. 5th, 2010 | 12:53 am

A great deal has been said about the battle between Amazon and Macmillan and the role of Apple's new reader and agency model (which BTW generally leaves authors poorer - and is superficially not good for publishers either.) What hasn't really been said is WHY it's such a big fight. The nearest some people have come is 'it's about control' and 'e-books are growing'. Both of these are true. Both in fact rest on the real reason why this is such a bitter fight which has so much potential effect on books, writers and the entire industry is the fixed cost/variable cost equation, and the effect e-books have on this. Traditional publishing - the interface between the writer and reader - or at least the retailer is a little unusual compared to most producer to user middlemen, in that a substantial part of the cost was not affected by volume - the fixed costs - if a book is to sell 5000 copies or 500 000 copies - it makes no difference to these costs. The editor and proof-reader still get paid the same. They still need an office, and it still takes much the same time to do the job, and the same equipment. On the other hand for paper-books, the costs per book (variable costs) are quite substantial (paper, shipping, returns, ink, warehousing, and royalty payments), and while there are bulk savings these costs get added up with every book printed. In one very elderly eg. I have for 5000 books - the fixed and variable costs are much the same (excluding the royalty payment to the author). Now let's put some totally hypothetical figures to all of this to see why it is all a big deal. Twoman publishers fixed costs are $15000 per book. The print run is 5000 books and for the purposes of this we assume zero returns (returns just makes everything more expensive) - the fixed cost is $3 per book, the varible is $3 per book, the retailer wants 40% off the cover price and for ease of calculation the author gets 10% royalty (can be as little as 6% and as much as 15% for over certain volume). Basically Twoman Publishers cannot really sell for less than about $12 and make a profit. Hence publishers often say that newbies cost them money (which is true, but fails to consider capacity - without newbies bestsellers could lose money).

Now let's assume that Twoman publishes a book which sells 500 000 copies. It still costs 15000 in fixed costs. Which means that fixed cost per book is now 3 cents. The variable costs have also dropped with volume - and now come in at $2.50 a book. Twoman's costs before royalties are now down to $2.53 as opposed to $6.00. The book comes out in paperback at $7.00 (or first in hardback and then in paperback making more) Costs are $3.23. Twoman is getting $4.20, and making 97 cents on the book, or $485 000 for the same amount of work as they lost money on the 5000 copy book. You understand now why bestsellers are worth investing money for publicity and distribution and yes, vast advances, and why newbies and midlisters aren't. It's not that their books are very much -1000% worse. That's just not where the money is.

Now lets get to really scary part, and what all midlisters should be quaking in their boots about. Let's do the same for an e-book. Twoman do an e-book which sells 5000 copies. It still has fixed costs of $15000 - same process, same costs, same staff. The fixed costs are $3 per book. They offer a royalty of 20% (it varies, but with creative phrasology some companies have this as low as 10%) The e-tailer wants 40%. Like that sensible company, Baen, Twoman sell their e-books at paperback prices - call it $7 so we can compare with the figures above. Their costs are per book $4.40 -- BECAUSE VARIABLE COSTS ARE SO SMALL AS TO BE NEGLIGIBLE. They're only losing 20 cents - good compared to 5000 in paperback but still a loss.

Then they do an e-book which sells 500 000 copies. Fixed Costs per book are 3 cents. The author gets $1.40 in royalties. The publisher gets $4.20. And makes 1.385 million in profit for the same amount of work as they lost money on the 5000 seller. So the newbies and midlisters might not be as expensive in e format - but bestsellers are nearly 3 times as profitable as in paper.
So e-books are NOT going to free up the midlist and offer a myriad new opportunities to the newbies. They're going to INCREASE the spend on bestsellers (which has a bad effect on the business and reading - but that's where the money is)

Which loops back to fight between Amazon and Publishers. It IS about control - but it's not about control of authors. Just the cash cows with low fixed cost per book ratios. Amazon was - under draconian terms - offering to let them break free of publishers - cover their own fixed costs and smile all the way to the bank (yes, Amazon will let anyone do it. But for most of the unknown, it's a losing proposition, and costs Amazon nothing). And if that happens publishers are dead. So: it's not about prices, or (helpless laughter) looking after creative artists, or cheaper books for readers -all claims that have been made about this, but about who 'owns' the bestsellers who have low fixed costs and large audiences.

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Return of the prodigal

Jan. 23rd, 2010 | 01:47 am

Life is beginning to show some distant, hesitant signs that it may become normal one day in the not too distant future. We're in our house-for-the-year even if the furniture hasn't arrived (it's in Launceston - and we have ferry epics, and as Ian pointed out we're mere mortals in ferry realms. The saga is here http://flindersfreer.blogspot.com/

Anyway, Sorceress of Karres is out, and got to no 9 in sf/fantasy lists on the Wall Street Journal. Writing continues with some difficulty on the little eee. Amazon's kindle is setting some new benchmarks with the 70% royalty offer to authors (nad publishers) and times remain interesting.

On the good news front, Save the dragons ( http://savethedragons.nu/ )has reached it's $10K minimum target - 2/5 of the cost of moving the animals - and a testament to the honesty and goodness of enough of the human race, as well as to Walt and Francis.

My older son goes back to uni on monday, and then James flies out on friday. Hopefully our stuff will have arrived by then, so J can help me re-assemble my computer (hard drive and fans removed for transit -I can do it but it would be nice to have a geek on tap)

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writing moving and the world in general

Dec. 20th, 2009 | 07:41 pm

It''s been a busy, trying, interesting few weeks. Writing has been exceptionally difficult - i do need a 'run' - still we have structured and fleshed a lot so it is coming on.

Save the Dragons site has had a few hiccups - my hosting provider had a major disk drive fail we recovered from that but there still some to be issues.

I've learned to make cheese and kill chickens... http://flindersfreer.blogspot.com/

South Africa continues down its interesting path. I really long to be out - but I know I will still care.

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move along

Dec. 3rd, 2009 | 09:59 am

Ok it's been a hectic couple of weeks since I posted (as anyone following http://flindersfreer.blogspot.com/ knows. But I am managing to write again. The beasties are apparently settled in their kennels ( http://flindersfreer.blogspot.com/2009/12/our-animals.html) and we're wading through the finale to leaving.

SA continues down its path- I see the young communist league are now calling for ex-Pes Thabo Mbeki to be prosecuted for his AIDS denialism (which - as he refused to acknowledge that HIV caused AIDS and accused anyone who said this was the case of being racists, and accusing black people of indiscriminate sexual promiscuity and belittling their culture, as well as preventing the ARV programme and the sponsored neonatal treatment means 300 000 preventable deaths can be laid at his door just from the latter. The ARV debacle is now accepted. The real damage which will far more - that promiscious, unprotected sex is something that has to be curbed hasn't yet. Um. A polygamous culture that believes that proof of fertility is good and out of wedlock kids with scant male responsibility acceptable IS a hotbed for spreading sexual disease, as is the migrant labour sy stem that still continues. Yet our new president has mutiple wives and had unprotected sex with a HIV positive 'girlfriend' and then had a shower to protect himself... But the local politicos and papers would rather take aim at the WHO than deal with our problem here. I am glad we are leaving, sad for SA

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Update on the move, dogs and cats

Nov. 14th, 2009 | 07:34 pm

(cross posted from the Bar for anyone who doesn't go there and doesnt follow Flinders family Freer)

Writing is at what I hope will be a very temporary standstill. The movers
arrive on Monday to pack our goods and chattels and of course the family
rock ( http://flindersfreer.blogspot.com/2009/11/rock-part-1.html )

Also on monday the people from Pets-en-transit are due to collect Roly (the
Old English Sheepdog, with the infamous black nose) Pugsley and Wednesday
(the Lab x dubious travelling salesman - Puggles is big, blond, thick,
good-natured, and Wensie is the evil over-lady) and 3 of the cats en route to Quarantine and then Australia. James has decided he wants his cat, Legolas (big tabby, possible problem with AQIS as he looks suspiciously like an African Wildcat) to stay here with the friends he will spend his short holidays with. They're good people, it's a similar environment and he will be spoiled, but it is still sad for us. The other three, Batman, his sister Robin (brave, brave Sir Robin) and La Duchesse also go to quarantine, to fly out later. I am forever grateful to Walt who helped me to make the decision to do this, and Francis who put together the site and has run things at http://www.savethedragons.nu/ - which has made the difference between an impossible ask and a mere steep hill. Thank you so much to everyone who has helped and supported us (when we get to the end of Save the Dragons I'll send off thank you letters and a status report on the beasties and selling the book). We're still a bit short, but I now believe we'll make it, somehow. We haven't come this far to give up, and some of the money is only due later...(better sell more books ;-)). I am of course worried about them in quarantine, but they are going to be in together in SA (the long part) and then it's just the last bit... We'll miss them, but the alternative was putting them down, as they are difficult to re-home. Anyway... net access will be erratic , but we'll try and keep posting on the family blog.

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An interesting graph

Nov. 13th, 2009 | 03:23 pm


I have often wondered just who the copyright protectors were trying to protect. After all the creators of the original material do recieve the smallest share. If the other sectors were really looking after our interests, not theirs, wouldn't the easy answer be just to give a bigger share to the creators?

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