Archive: Input

Go Read: “Personal Effects: Dark Art”

Tuesday, June 9th, 2009

Today is officially the US release of J.C Hutchins and Jordan Weisman’s “Personal Effects: Dark Art”.  I don’t read a lot of non-comic style print books, preferring audio or electronic mediums, but I’m pumped for this one.  It’s more than just a novel, it’s (part of) an ARG.1



Victor Miller, creator of Jason Voorhees and writer of the original Friday the 13th has read the book, and shares his opinion in one of the many video blubs.

I can’t begin to explain all the cool things going on in relation to this book, but Hutch can, so head on over to JCHutchins.net and watch the Personal Effects 101 video on the front page. He’ll also be liveblogging about the release throughout the day today, so be sure and check it out.

  1. You know how you’re watching LOST, and you see a strange commercial for something, and you’ll check the site out, and it’s somehow related to the show? It’s sort of like that. []

End of the Amazon Rush?

Friday, September 26th, 2008
The Amazon rush is dead. I don’t think we’ll see authors getting the same kind of lift from it going forward.

Chris Miller1 shared his thoughts on the Amazon Rush2 , and how they’re getting to be old hat.

I’m glad this discussion is happening, because it’s been on my mind, but I haven’t really taken the time to form any coherent thoughts. Other people have, so be sure to go and read the comments, even if you don’t care to read what I have to say.

I think folks who listen to podiobooks may be approaching a saturation point for this type of thing. Amongst the subset of those folks who are on twitter and follow their favorite podcast authors it’s even more likely. If that’s as far as the message is getting, then I think authors have to beware of fan burnout.

As a consumer who primarily listens to audiobooks, the product that I want has already been delivered to me for free. Now I’m exceptionally appreciative of that fact, which has led me to buy many of these book (which I have no intention of reading in print form) to support the authors. In the perfect world I’d be able to buy the audiobook versions, but so far that’s only been possible for Scott Sigler’s Infected3 .

But really I bought the books for selfish reasons. I want to see these authors succeed because I want them to keep producing content4 . I want to know what happens to Perry Dawsey and Keepsie Branson next. So while I can support these authors by spreading the word, writing reviews, or even just giving them money, I want to support their careers as writers, so they’ll keep writing. While I’m sure the love and adoration of their readers keep some of these folks going, I’m not sure it’s sustainable in the long term.

I have more to say about this, but I never intended to go on this long, so I’m going to let my thoughts roll around a bit more.

  1. Didn’t I just say he was everywhere? And note that his post was spawned by a comment from Kris Johnson. I’ve seen this before. These two may be working together in some capacity []
  2. “Amazon Rush” refers to a concerted effort by an author with an established fan-base to get into the Amazon charts by mobilizing said fan-base into purchasing their latest book all on the same day. []
  3. which is finally available from audible.com, although I was impatient and bought the CD version and converted it. []
  4. And being brutally honest there’s an even more selfish (and perhaps self-delusional) reason: If they can make it, maybe I can too. []

Available August 25th: Mur Lafferty’s Playing for Keeps in Print

Friday, August 22nd, 2008

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Next Monday, August 25, Mur Lafferty‘s Playing for Keeps will be available in print1 from Swarm Press. I’m really psyched about this one.

Welcome to Seventh City, the birthplace of super powers. The First Wave heroes are jerks, but they have the best gifts: flight, super strength, telepathy, genius, fire. The Third Wavers, like bar-owner Keepsie Branson and her friends, are stuck with the leftovers: the ability to instantly make someone sober, the power to smell the past, absolute control… over elevators. They just aren’t powerful enough to make a difference… at least that’s what they’ve always been told. But when the villain Doodad slips Keepsie a mysterious metal sphere, the Third Wavers become caught in the middle of a battle between egotistical heroes and manipulative villains.

Playing for Keeps does a great job of showing what it might really be like to live it a world where some people have super powers. It does this not by focusing on the heroes and villains, but on the folks with lesser powers. But it’s not all “I wish I had a cooler power and people liked me” angst (although there is some of that). It’s about friendship, about the dangers of seeing things as black and white. It’s also an action packed romp that’s a whole lot of fun.

But wait, there’s more!

The Podcast

Playing for Keeps was first release as a serialized podcast (in both audio and PDF form). The unabridged audio version is available from Podiobooks.com where it currently has five star ratings across the boards. This is how I consumed the book, and I recommend you check it out.

The Theme Song (now with video)

The audio version also featured the books theme song, written and performed by Beatnik Turtle. Mur recently held a contest where fans sent in video clips of themselves dancing, or lip syncing, or acting out a scene, or whatever to make a music video for the song. The results can be seen here.

Stories of the Third Wave

One of the most interesting thing that was done to promote the original podcast, was Stories of the Third Wave, a companion podcast featuring fan created content2 . For the print release Mur has started a new season of Stories of the Third Wave featuring short fiction and in-universe radio programs. You can get them all by subscribing to the feed at PlayingForKeepsNovel.com. So far it’s quite the line up:

  1. Easter Egg Commentary 1 — featuring the Easter Eggs originally hidden in the PDF version of the podcast
  2. Manic Mondays #169 — a PfK themed episode of Tom Rockwell’s Manic Mondays
  3. Super 107! — featuring Casey Shultz of SciFi Surplus and Natalie Metzger of Radio Isopod
  4. Geek Survival Guide — a PfK themed episode of Zach Ricks’ Geek Survival Guide
  5. Political Heroes — from Christopher Lester and Bryan Watson
  6. The News from Bewilder Pond — from Matthew Wayne Selznick
  7. Faith Matters — from Dr. John Cmar
  8. The Cockroach’s Bite — fiction from DK Thompson
  9. Conversations About Things With Wheels — from Joe Mieczkowski of On The Podcast
  10. LoveLines — a full cast program, produced by Kimi Alexandre
  11. Knit Spirit — a PfK themed episode of Ivy Reisner’s Knit Sprit
  12. Gestalt — fiction from JC Hutchins
  13. Block Party! — a PfK themed episode of Jason Block’s Block Party
  14. This Seventh City Life — from Christiana Ellis
  15. A Klamath Home Companion — from Grant Baciocco

The PDF

Want to give the book a read right now? Then head on over and download the entire book in PDF, including a all new short story Parasite Awakens, not currently available anywhere else3 .

Still Not Convinced?

Look, Playing for Keeps is an awesome book. You should buy it, next Monday, August 25th, from Amazon.com. But you don’t have to take my word for it…

  1. Technically the book is available right now due to the fact that Amazon listed the books when they arrived, but just ignore that. You can also ignore it if Amazon says “Out of Stock” because it’s practically meaningless. []
  2. I contributed to Episode 6 []
  3. This story is intended to bridge Playing for Keeps with it’s planned sequel []

Double Trouble: Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris Rush Amazon.com

Friday, August 8th, 2008

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Double Trouble

Authors Philippa Ballantine and Tee Morris are attempting to make a splash on Amazon.com with their new novels, both sequels to award nominated novel. You can help by buying their new books today (08/08/08) at 8am PDT1 . An event they are referring to as Double Trouble.

Digital Magic by Phillipa Ballentine

The Fey are gone… and with them, magic. At least, that is how things seem at the conclusion of the award-nominated novel Chasing the Bard. ~ Lord what fools these mortals be. ~ Penherem is a quaint, sleepy English village where people go to escape the 21st Century. Hiding from the world of laptop computers, the Internet, and wireless communication, is Ella. A writer, now barren of ideas and drive, she resigns herself to a quiet life of solitude. Everything changes with the arrival of a shapeshifting thief. Suddenly, everyone begins to change–from the local librarian to the lady of the manor–revealing their true natures and dangerous secrets. Something in this sleepy English village is awakening… something that might be better left alone.

Digital Magic is the sequel to Chasing the Bard, which is available in paperback, or as a free audiobook.

The Case of the Pitcher’s Pendant by Tee Morris

Chicago, 1930, and following the financial calamity of Black Thursday, Billi is doing everything he can to keep his business afloat. The change in seasons, though, brings him a case that appears to be a true blessing from The Fates. Chicago Cubs Manager Joe McCarthy suspects something fishy with the Baltimore Mariners, a new team in the league, and he’s hiring Billi to look into it.

What appears to be the dream job – being paid to research and attend baseball games – turns out to be a nightmare as he discovers one of the Nine Talismans of Acryonis somewhere in play at Wrigley.

And wouldn’t you know it – with two outs and bases loaded, the heavy hitter of the Underworld “Big Al” gets early parole from The Big Dugout and is swinging two in the Batter’s Circle.

The Case of the Pitcher’s Pendant is the sequel to Billibub Baddings and the Case of the Singing Sword available in paperback and as a free audiobook.

  1. I checked with Tee and no matter what’s been said, he meant Pacific Daylight Time []

“Brave Men Run” Web-a-Thon Followup

Tuesday, July 22nd, 2008

In case you’re curious, Matthew Wayne Selznick posted a two part followup to his Sovereign Summer Sunday Event: Part 1, Part 2.

Is the Audiobook Industry Broken?

Thursday, July 17th, 2008

Evo Terra over at Podiobooks.com feels that the audiobook industry is broken. It’s not the first time I’ve seen him mention it, and I’m sure it won’t be the last.

NOTE: Before going on I feel I should mention that I am an affiliate for Audible.com as well as a long time customer. That is in no way my motivation for posting this1 , but I figured I should mention it. The opinions are mine, as always.

Overdrive and the MP3 Audiobook Bait and Switch

Evo starts off pointing to points to Borders offering downloadable DRM2 free MP3 audiobooks. The problem is they aren’t offering downloadable MP3s at all. All Borders is doing is putting yet another new front on Overdrive3 . Overdrive is everywhere4 . If your library offers free audiobook downloads, chances are they’re Overdrive.

Overdrive very carefully words things to say their product works with most MP3 players. Until recently they didn’t technically work with any MP3 players. They were all DRM protected WMA, and if your device doesn’t play WMA 5 then you are out of luck.

What really left a bad taste in my mouth was the slimy marketing they used to defend this. They used to have literature all over their sites decrying Apple for only supporting DRM on proprietary formats, all the while using Microsoft’s DRM laden proprietary format, which cut non-Windows users out of the loop all together. This lead to my local library posting information that was practically correct, but technically bogus as to why you couldn’t use your iPod to hear the MP3 audiobooks they offered. In reality they didn’t offer MP3s at all.

More recently they’ve started offering files in MP3, or so they claim. They still package the files in some container format, and you need to use their software to get the “DRM free” MP3s out. The software only runs on Windows, so Mac users are out in the cold. I can not comprehend how an action that seems to have been taken primarily to support the Apple iPod doesn’t support users of Apple computers.

Evo’s Four Reasons

Evo offered four reasons for why he thinks the audibook industry is broken, and I’m going to respond point by point.

Availability

Publishers aren’t willing to make the additional investment required to turn every book into an audiobook.

This is generally true. Not every book receives an audiobook release. How I wish this weren’t so. Audible.com , at least in the realms of Science Fiction and Fantasy, is doing their best to rectify this6 .

[Podiobooks.com's] goal is to leverage something the other audio houses haven’t thought of or are only experimenting with — letting the authors do much of the heavy lifting.

Author’s reading their own books was common practice for some time. I have many audiobooks on cassette read by the authors. These are more rare today, because audiobook consumers voted with their wallets and pro-narration won out.

I realize Evo is referring to authors recording and editing their own readings their own works for the publisher if the publisher would just take and release the files, but I’m almost certain it’s not that simple7 . I’m sure many authors would have no problems, but just as many wouldn’t bother because they wouldn’t know where to begin. Also some authors are openly hostile to the idea of audiobooks, and don’t think people who have listened to them have “read” their books8 .

Usability

The act of listening to an audiobook is, well, difficult.

No huge argument there from me. In fact Random House’s recent split with Audible.com is a great example. To listen to Scott Sigler’s Infected on my iPod I had to rip the CDs and merge them into an audiobook file. It’s not something I’m willing to do again. I don’t really care who is at fault in this one. The fact that the parties involved can’t suck it up and come to some agreement is childish. It’s costing them both money (Audible.com because they can’t sell me the books I want, and Random House because they don’t offer a viable alternative).

DRM is a huge part of the inconvenience, but not all of it. Audible.com uses DRM, and I wish they didn’t, but the way they deliver their books, and how the work on devices is damn close to my idea of audiobook nirvana. I only have one or two files to stick on my device, and it’s broken up into chapters for navigation, has cover art9 , bookmarks where I left off 10 , and just generally works for me. Basically the other conveniences, for me, outweigh the DRM issue (for now) 11 .

Most of the DRM free options are not so convenient a listening experience. I have to jump through hoops to make the books work for me. It’s a pain.

Low bit rates are the norm in the download space, and it’s really unnecessary in a world where bandwidth and storage space are anything but scarce

I couldn’t more strongly disagree on this one. You can ask anyone who knows me, I’m very picky about audio quality, but I cringe when I see audiobook files at high bitrates. Last time I checked my audible library was about 25GB for just under 11 weeks of audio, all of which sounds better than my cassette based audiobooks ever did12 .

Accessibility

It’s not uncommon for audiobooks to cost more than twice their hardcover counterparts and be an order of magnitude higher in price than the paperback version. [...] Things are different for disc-distribution. It may cost more to stamp out 20 discs than it does to print 400 pages. But when looking at a digital download, the cost to distribute approaches zero.

I was used to audiobooks costing a lot, but you have to look at the length of the content. I have audiobooks that are 24+ hours and cost less than a DVD Season Box Set from HBO. I value books higher than I value TV, so I pay for it13 . My understanding is that CDs are cheap as dirt, so if you think you’re paying for the physical medium you’re being ripped off just the same.

Profitability14

It seems downloadable audiobook companies apparently don’t pay out great royalties. I assume this comes down to the fact that most non-casual purchasers buy books with membership credits, so while the cover price may be $80+, the customer only ended up paying around $1015 . I believe it was Orson Scott Card who mentioned that by recording some extra audio content for all his books he gets paid twice (book royalty and performance royalty). I don’t know how solvable this is for traditional publishing.

So Is it Broken?

All the numbers I’ve seen point to the audibook industry booming like it never has before. Sales were estimated at $923 million in 2006. While all the issues mentioned above are real, they don’t seem to be slowing things down enough that I expect any big changes any time soon. Maybe I’m missing something obvious, or I’m living in a bubble.

From where I’m sitting this is the Audiobook Golden Age. Most pro-audiobooks are unabridged, and there are more audibooks available than ever before. There are some really great places like Podiobooks.com and Librivox offering free content.

Do I wish things were different? Sure. I wish Audible would drop DRM, at least at the publisher’s request. I wish Overdrive would go jump in a lake and get out of my library, or change their tactics to be less slimy. I wish Podiobooks.com offered convenient audiobook-listener friendly formatted files16 . So, from where I sit it’s a bit broken, but it’s better than it’s ever been before.

  1. In the years I’ve been an affiliate I don’t think I’ve hit three digits yet, total, so honestly the money doesn’t enter into it here []
  2. What’s DRM? TIME magazine’s The Battle Over Music Piracy may help you understand. []
  3. aka SimplyAudiobooks. []
  4. Like Starbucks or Dunkin’ Donuts, but without any hot beverages. []
  5. like that iPod thing []
  6. As are folks like Scott Brick who is independently producing Stephen R. Donaldson’s Thomas Covenant Books []
  7. Although Scott Sigler’s Infected shows that it is at least allowable. []
  8. more on this lunacy here []
  9. although it really needs a resolution face lift []
  10. some devices offer a way to drop in your own bookmarks as well, but the iPod does not []
  11. Audible’s management software has CD burning support so if you can get DRM free access to your purchases, it’s just a bit of a pain. []
  12. Audible.com does offer BBC Radio Dramas, which I will not buy because of the bitrate, and lack of stereo support []
  13. Truth is I end up paying ~$10 per audiobook currently, but I used to pay the cover price. []
  14. Couldn’t find a good pullquote, you should have read Evo’s article anyhow. []
  15. actual transaction []
  16. which I would be happy to pay for []

“Brave Men Run” Web-a-Thon Tomorrow

Saturday, July 12th, 2008

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Sovereign Summer Sunday, July 13, 2008

Tomorrow, Sunday July 13th, Matthew Wayne Selznick‘s Novel Brave Men Run — A Novel of the Sovereign Era is being released in a all new paperback from Swarm Press, and he’s asking everyone who can to buy the book this Sunday from Amazon.com. To promote the occasion Matthew will be streaming live video throughout the day tracking the books progress on the Amazon.com charts.

A Teen Movie / Comic Book Mash-up

Brave Men Run is the story of Nate Charters. Born different, unsure of his origins, he’s an outcast at Abbeque Valley High School, a self-proclaimed “boy freak” with few friends and low self-esteem. When the Sovereign Era dramatically dawns, Nate finds himself in a quest to discover the truth: is he more than he seems, a misfit in a miraculous and powerful new minority… or something else entirely?

All New, All Free Sovereign Era Content

Every hour on the hour from 10am Eastern until 5pm Eastern Matthew will be reading brand new short stories set in the universe of Brave Men Run by J.C. Hutchins, Mur Lafferty, Nathan Lowell, Matt Wallace, J.R. Blackwell, P.G. Holyfield, and Jared Axelrod.

You can find more information about the the web-a-thon and what Matthew hopes to achieve here. I will be there! Will you?

Amazon vs. Print-on-Demand

Friday, March 28th, 2008

Apparently Amazon is making moves to drop any POD books not printed by their own BookSurge service. I’m not sure how long this was brewing, but stories are popping up all over.

I can see how this makes sense, from a certain point of view. Asking Amazon, who is now in the POD business, to sell POD books from LuLu (for example) could be seen as similar to asking Wendy’s to sell you a Whopper.

Unintended Consequences

To me this sends a message to all other book sellers that it’s ok to not consider POD books as real products, and refuse to carry them. I can envision all the major chains having their own in-house POD setups at some point, and they’ll follow suit by refusing to carry anything “not printed here”. This will include those books printed by Amazon’s BookSurge service.

Maybe I’m missing something more obvious, but it really seems that Amazon has set back the legitimacy of a certain class of books based solely on how they were printed and bound. I’m fully aware that there’s a lot of junk out there, because with POD anyone can “publish” their own book, but at the same time there are some wonderful works that perhaps would not be available in print any other way.

As a consumer, books in this situation might as well be mythical creatures. If I like to shop at a big chain, and they tell me “We don’t have a listing for that. We can’t order it,” then that’s it. Anything more requires jumping through hoops, meanwhile there are thousands of other books I can walk home with right now. Online it’s even worse. If a book isn’t up for order at your preferred online book seller it might as well not exist at all. And to many consumers, it won’t.

A Business Opportunity?

I foresee a lot of gloom and doom while this shakes out. There’s a change it will come to nothing in the end. It’s also possible Amazon is hoping to use this to get more favorable agreements out of POD houses before letting them back in. As such I’m just speculating here.

What if things play out like I suggested earlier, with each book seller having their own POD house, and not taking books from other POD houses. Assuming that the different POD services don’t have exclusivity agreements, the best option would be to offer you book through all of them. It’s obvious. Then wherever folks are they can get your book.

Simple, right?

No, not really. Having put together one book for LuLu I know it can take a great deal of time to prep the book to look good when they print and bind it. I’m sure other services have their own pitfalls. The idea of learning them all fills me with dread. Who has time for that?

But what if a someone started up some sort of aggregated POD service, where you get them your manuscript and they go through the process of getting it up on all the POD services for you? Could such a thing work? If you’re a POD author, would you use such a thing?

I’d be interested to hear other folks thoughts, so please comment.

Download Scott Sigler’s “Infected”

Thursday, March 27th, 2008

Your first hit is free

On April 1 Scott Sigler‘s thriller novel Infected will be released in hardcover to bookstores. But why wait? Thanks to a special arrangement with Scott and his publisher you can download the entire novel in PDF right now, but only until March 31.

Click here to download the PDF
Infected is the first major print release from Internet phenom Scott Sigler, whose podcast-only audiobooks have drawn an immense cult following, with more than three million individual episodes downloaded. Now Sigler storms the bookstore shelves with this cinematic, relentlessly paced novel that mixes and matches genres, combining horror, technothriller, and suspense in a heady mix that is equal parts Chuck Palahniuk, Michael Crichton, and Stephen King.

Does that sound at all interesting? Go on, give it a try. Just this one time. Download it already, and tell your friends to do the same. There’s no risk here, unless you’re afraid you’ll like it so much you’ll feel compelled to purchase the book. Go on, risk it.

But wait there’s more

Want to learn more about Scott Sigler? You’re in luck. J.C. Hutchins just released the latest episode of his UltraCreatives interview series with Scott as his guest. Yeah, that’s free too. Old One-eye Jack knows how to treat you.

Go Listen: Lafferty, Sigler, and a Barrel of Monkeys

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

Mur Lafferty’s Playing for Keeps

Playing for Keeps [...] tells the story of Keepsie Branson, a bar owner in the shining metropolis of Seventh City: birthplace of super powers. Keepsie and her friends live among egotistical heroes and manipulative villains, and manage to fall directly in the middle as people with powers, but who just aren’t strong enough to make a difference. Or that’s what they’ve been told. As the city begins to melt down, it’s hard to tell who are the good guys and who are the bad.

Mur Lafferty’s latest podiobook officially launches tomorrow (although you can hear the first chapter right now). If you’ve ever listened to I Should be Writing you’ve probably heard of it (although perhaps under the title Keppsie’s Bar). It looks like Mur is trying out some new things with the Playing for Keeps Experience feed which will feature a host of additional content, including PDFs of the chapters and Stories of the Third Wave, a supplemental podcast.

Listen to the Promo and subscribe.

Scott Sigler’s Nocturnal

Something lives deep beneath the streets of San Francsico. Something that has been there for centuries, something that comes out at night … to feed on the dregs of society. A sub-culture, with its own myths, its own legends of leader named The King that will lead them out of bondage, and their own demon, a hunting shadow known only as Savior.

But the legends of Savior’s brutality have faded, the fear passed into stories told to frighten the young ones. When The King finally appears, just as foretold, the Nocturnals know their time has time — the time to come out from under the streets and hunt humanity in the open.

Scott Sigler’s newest podiobook thriller launches tonight at midnight EST. As usual it sounds like quite the ride. If you’ve heard Scott’s stuff you already know what to expect, if you haven’t you can head on over to Podiobooks.com and grab Earthcore and Ancestor at any time.

The print version of Nocturnal is currently scheduled for 2010, but the podcast launches tonight, so why not listen to the promo and subscribe.

The NanoMonkeys

NanoMonkeys Coverart

Hosted by PG Holyfield, Chris Miller, and Kris Johnson, the NanoMonkeys aim to help get you through the madness that is NaNoWriMo.

For those of you, like me, that are participating in NaNoWriMo, and thinking “Gah! Who has time for new podcast novels?”, I’ve got just the thing for you. The NanoMonkeys is a daily podcast (approximately five minutes per episode) that runs throughout November offering writing advice and encouragement. This year the line up features a number of guest authors (including me on November 3rd). I made listening to this part of my daily routine last year, and I recommend you do the same.

This year’s welcome episode is available now. What are you waiting for, subscribe?