Petrona’s choice from the Internet (12 May)

One important post on the Internet is that of my daughters, who are running the “race for life” next month for a worthy charity close to our family’s heart. Please support them if you can – the three of them range from a regular marathon runner, through a tennis player, to someone who has never run a long(ish) distance before. They and I would very much appreciate your support. Please go here to their (international) donation page. Thank you so much.

Onto topics more usual for this blog. Bookish, to launch this summer, is the latest publishers’ initiative to encourage readers to buy books from their websites, which very few do currently (probably because most publishers’ websites are hopeless and their prices and/or e-commerce do not compare with sites such as Amazon). According to the New York Times, the one-stop site will be a mix of recommendations, reviews (by visitors) and features. I have already participated in several similar initiatives which have withered mainly due to lack of sufficient users or content, so it isn’t clear to me how Bookish will be better than those, or better than what one can do currently on a well-used, focused site like Amazon or Goodreads.

A Swedish newspaper has bucked the trend and boosted its circulation by being more ambitious editorially! (As well as various cost-cutting and efficiency initiatives.) Not only is this great news but the description of Svenska Dagbladet, described as an “upmarket tabloid”, reminds me strongly of the Annika Bengzton novels by Liza Marklund. One can almost imagine Annika as one of those journalists. Story in The Guardian.

There’s a nice post from Nicola Morgan who is preparing a booklet called How to Tweet right, about how and why to use Twitter. She is offering to list Twitter users in her index of recommended people to follow – instructions in the post at the link if you want to be included.

Unsurprisingly, publishers are now finding that e-books are contributing a significant amount to their total sales. (See also: Publishing’s paper problem and how to future-proof the industry.) What they need to do sooner rather than later is to sort out a more rational sales method, one that does not discriminate for or against readers from particular geographical regions. If they can do anything about pricing that would also be great, but those who rail against the high price of new e-books compared to the equivalent hardback need to acknowledge that cost is not only about distribution.

For those readers like me who are getting increasingly annoyed by the “noise” of self-published e-books when trying to look through Amazon listings, here’s a slightly unwelcome post about how tough it is to be an author of such a book. Amazon have told me that it cannot “kitemark” its e-books on the listing page as to whether the title is independently (professionally)- or self-published. The customer has to click through and look at each book’s product page (and even there, one cannot tell from the stated “publisher”, one has to check the blurb to be sure-ish). Given the plethora of these books, together with the large amount of “mini” books by established authors cashing in on the format’s flexibility to provide us with short stories, chapters or spin-offs, I’m pretty much at the point of deciding not to buy an e-book unless I know in advance which title I want to look at, as it is all too time-consuming and overwhelming.

Links in brief.

A book editor asks: what is suspense?

On the internet, nobody knows you’re a backlist book.

The four kinds of newspaper headline – and the health story.

Operation sandwich: the secret of the new Kindle.

Bad news, as a publisher outsources its subediting for two of Australia’s largest newspapers.

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11 thoughts on “Petrona’s choice from the Internet (12 May)

  1. 1. Done. Happily.

    2. Bookish sounds pointless. Publisher’s appear to still not get it. As you say they would be much better off becoming more involved with Good Reads or Library Thing (if they want to stay away from a retailer like Amazon) given that these are already established, have a good number of users already and have a lot of goodwill from readers (something publishers don’t have)

    3. I have had it with the self-publishers. Well and Truly (such nasty e-mailers they can be too) (I have a rant half-written but need to calm down a bit before submitting myself to the wrath of those who think they can write and have a lot of time on their hands)

    4. newspaper headlines – not sure whether to laugh or cry

    5 things are tough for newspapers all over I am sure – Australian ones suffer a bit more in some ways because as much is expected of them as the major world papers but we are a relatively small population AND there is a lot of news in English available (i.e. US and UK papers online or web apps) . I’m afraid I haven’t paid for a paper here in 5 years or so because I find them full of crap I’m not interested in and I’m one of a growing number of people in the same category. So I am not surprised that Fairfax (and the Murdoch press too) are losing jobs all over the place. I do pay for my news but I have chosen other sources than traditional media (e.g. I subscribe to http://www.crikey.com.au/ which still does investigative reporting and all the things a paper used to do but does it all online and has never relied on the classified ads business model). While I’ll fight and take action to protect some things (like bookstores) even if it means paying more for things than I need to, I’m not going to prop up the newspapers – they’re of no use to me.

  2. Thanks for all those thoughts, Bernadette, and for your insight on the Australian newspaper industry. As an ex-subeditor myself I constantly despair at the UK newspapers (et al) and their lack of intelligently constructed writing/grammar/misleading headlines/typos, etc, as that is one thing I do think worth paying for, edited content.
    I am looking forward to reading your rant re self-pubilshed on your blog in due course! I have been a few similar rounds myself.
    Thank you very much also for (1)! Much appreciated by all concerned.

  3. Maxine – Thanks, as always, for this serving of the best stuff out there. As far as your daughters’ charity goes, what a terrific idea, and you can count on my support.

    You’ve raised such a good point about E-publishing and self-publishing. Some such authors really do excellent work. Others…. do not. It’s very hard, as you say, to tell which is which. That means that readers may miss out on fine books, but it also means there’s a lot out there that is very far from fine. So I don’t blame you for being reluctant to buy an E-book. For an author, trying to make sense of it all and make decent choices about how and with whom to try to get one’s work published is getting harder, too, because of the points you make.

    Oh, and about your comments about UK newspapers? It’s no better here. At all. It’s one reason that I’m really careful about the news stories I read, and even more about those I actually believe. In a way, it’s a bit similar to your comments about E-books and the self-publishing trend in the sense that you speak (and rightly so, I think) about the need for quality control and careful editing.

  4. Thanks for your comments, Margot. It is hard, as I am sure you are right in that some self-published books are fine, and carefully produced, but sadly many (more) are not. It is hard for the reader eager to find new authors to try! I’m afraid you are right that the editing standards in US newspapers have gone the way of “economies”, too, as the websites themselves get cluttered up and clunky with more and more ads, etc, and fewer and fewer pieces of content.
    And thank you for your kind support which is very very much appreciated! It is very encouraging for the girls to receive the support, they are very grateful.

  5. Maxine, You mention the Stockholm daily paper Svenska Dagbladet.
    Of the two main daily papers .Dagens Nyheter is fairly middle of the road
    politically -whilst Svenska Dagbladet is more right wing.
    Aftonbladet and Expressen are two popular evening tabloids -
    that give scandal and gossip.It is one of these evening papers that
    the fictional Annika Bengzton newspaper career is based.

  6. So glad to see your daughters running for cancer research. That is an issue close to my family, too. My sister — a classical singer — just gave a recital on Mother’s Day for a brain tumor research group and did one two years ago for the Alice Hoffman breast cancer wing of a hospital in New England. She is committed to this on a regular basis, and is donating all she raises.
    On self-publishing, this is a dilemma. Friends are self-publishing novels. They are well-edited and proofread, but suggestions could be made by publishers in content which friends can’t make, or can try humorously. But with so few manuscripts actually published, and with publishers more and more publishing big name authors pushing for best-sellers, it leaves many authors, out in the cold.

  7. I was going to make the same point as Simon. Annika’s paper, Kvällspressen, is similar to Expressen, which is like the UK Sun or Mirror, but with more crime, brighter colours and bigger headlines – it’s masthead features a cartoon wasp.

    You sometimes get the impression that Annika is crafting beautifully worded, insightful essays, but the big spreads she gets will be short on words and plastered with huge grainy pictures of crime scenes and snatched photos of people with pixellated faces!

  8. Thanks, Simon and Philip, for the insights into the Swedish newspaper industry! And thanks, Kathy, for your kind words re my daughters.

  9. By the way, Kathy, I take your point about your friends who are authors. These are very hard times for good authors in that it is much harder for them to be taken up by a publisher in the current economies (and without protections such as the UK National Net Book Agreement, long abolished). My main point here is that as there are so very, very many authors self-publishing (mostly horror, sci fi and p**n dross) that it would help the reader tremendously if there could be a “kitemark” so that we know whether a book is self-published or not, at a glance. Of course, if you look in “crime thriller and mystery” category in Amazon, it is clear that many of these authors are assigning their books to as many categories as possible, rather than to the one or two that are appropriate for their books, which only adds to the confusing and irritating effect.

  10. Although I wouldn’t necessarily read Annika’s Kvällspressen it is worth pointing out that Skåne’s morning paper, Sydsvenskan, is excellent. My impression that it is in sufficiently robust shape to continue to invest in its journalists in a way that is so sadly lost to most UK regionals – it even has a daily culture supplement.

  11. Noir Nation, a new international e-journal of crime/noir fiction in English, is looking for submissions from writers in Europe. For more information see Noir Nation on Facebook, or our promotional video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I0MlSe6zU-k, or http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/1925429247/noir-nation-international-journal-of-crime-fiction?ref=live or contact the editor Alan Thomas at alan@noirnation.com. Noir Nation pays a flat fee per piece and rights revert to the author.

    Looking for short stories, graphic novels, and short films, in English. We are particularly looking for work that reflects 21st century concerns and technologically induced noir.

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