Posted by Greg Field on May 13, 2013 in The N00bz
An author slaves for countless hours on a manuscript for the same reason a bookseller slaves for countless hours in their shop. The author hones their text in an attempt to write something both entertaining and meaningful. The bookseller wants to hand sell the fruit of that writer’s work to a reader of schlock fiction. There is a sense of higher purpose that I feel is absent in the current self-publishing/digital publishing milieu.
Being a likely (n00b) self-published digital author myself in the near future I will inevitably have to sell my product on Amazon. As a recently retired independent bookseller I’m not entirely comfortable with the paradox that presents.
Closing my bookshop hurt like hell and it was sad to leave without another owner taking over – but who’s buying bookshops these days? When I closed, customers were shocked. People expressed grief, they bemoaned the internet as the purveyor of death and destruction. It’s not really like that. Traditional publishing was riding for a fall.
Here are three business strategies – which one is more effective?
‘Sell ’em what they want for as much as you can charge.’ – Standard model
‘Sell ’em what they want as cheap as you can till you own the game. Then charge what you like.’ – Amazon model
‘Sell ’em enough of what they want to stay in business but try and publish something “good” while you’re at it.’ – Publishing model
Darth Bezos saw this fatal weakness in publishing and exploited it. Digital disruption of retail is a fact of life and traditional publishers were ripe for disruption.
The skills required to own and run a bookshop become more demanding as the digital disruption increases. Successful independent booksellers have to be masterful sales people and great at marketing and PR. More and more they are relying on their skills as event managers too. Booksellers also have to be hard-headed business people with the ability to project cash flows, manage tax issues, negotiate leases and get the best possible deal from suppliers. They have to be HR managers as well. Given the nature of the organised and ruthless competition, is it any wonder we are losing our local bookshops?
Posted by Simon Groth on Apr 22, 2013 in The N00bz
I fed the paper through the roller, flicked the bar down and sat, staring at it. It flashed its metallic grin back at me. Starting has always been the hardest part. A blank screen and the rhythmic blink of the cursor has long been a kind of nemesis of mine: …come…on…come…on. But this was different. The page was just as blank as the screen, but there was no cursor. No prompt.
I sat before a 1969 Underwood 310 manual typewriter. Made in Spain by Olivetti, these portable devices were once ubiquitous: the notebook computers of their age. This one was a donation to the Queensland Writers Centre, courtesy of a member who wanted to be rid of it. It was the first one I had seen in a while. My parents had a similar model at home when I was a kid; they even dug it out of a shed and brought over for me to try, dried out ribbon and all. So, though I suddenly had access to two machines, only the Underwood was up to the task.
A moment passed between the machine and me and I was given to wonder why I had volunteered for this in the first place. Why would anyone willingly eschew their still new MacBook Air and commence writing on this antiquated piece of kit in 2013?
Posted by Carmel Bird on Apr 2, 2013 in The N00bz
For my seventeenth birthday I got a typewriter. It was an Olivetti letter-writer, bright red. I planned to be a novelist. So in the university vacation, when I was not working in the ice-cream factory, or as a waitress, I taught myself to type. I still have the Pitman’s guide to typing, with its thick grey cardboard cover and lovely round pastel-coloured typewriter keys. Today I am typing on a MacBook Pro, and between this and the Olivetti there have been many other machines. I am learning to make an ebook.
One day in 1987 I had lunch in Fitzroy with Diana Gribble, my publisher at McPhee Gribble. As we crossed busy Brunswick Street on our way back to the McPhee Gribble office, Diana said she thought it would be a good idea if I were to write a book on how to write fiction. This moment has remained with me, vivid in my memory, an illumination in heavy traffic. Diana died in 2011, and at her funeral the thought of that instant in Brunswick Street kept flashing into my mind.
This happened in the days before writing courses had come into being in Australian universities; there were no such things as writers’ centres. However there were some initiatives from state governments in the area of the arts, and I was involved in a program of manuscript assessment. I was Assessor Number Eight. I was anonymous and so were the writers whose work I assessed. I had been writing letters to the authors – yes, I typed them out and put them in the mail. I wonder now which designs were on the postage stamps. The letters went to people I referred to as ‘Dear Writer’. I kept copies of these letters – possibly some of them still exist in my files – and I realised I already had the core of my book on writing.
So in 1988, Dear Writer was published. I licensed it to McPhee Gribble, which in 1989 became an imprint of Penguin. The book was published by Virago in London. By the time the licence came up for renewal in 1995 my publisher was Random House and so I licensed it to them, and wrote a revised version of the text. Between the end of the Penguin licence and the beginning of the Random one, I had a request from a university for fifty copies. There were not fifty copies in existence so I printed a limited edition of a hundred copies in a plain cover with Wild and Woolley, a Sydney publisher who specialised in producing small fast print runs. In 2010, Random decided not to renew the licence and the book went out of print. Since then I have had many requests from universities for copies of Dear Writer. It occurred to me that perhaps the time had come to see it as an ebook.
Literary historian and new if:book contributor, Kylie Mirmohamadi explores a recent ebook offering from a major Australian newspaper and discovers a place where past and future collide…
In a post on the Meanland blog earlier this year, Simon Groth reflected on the deceptively simple but really very complex issue of what constitutes a book. Changing patterns of publishing and reading tend to provoke questions that go to the heart of literary experience and practice – what are the relationships between content and form, text and print, the page and the screen? The corollary to the question ‘what is a book?’, is the related, and equally fraught, ‘what is an ebook?’
The Australian newspaper inadvertently explored these issues when it launched a special promotion in October 2012 of ‘The Australian Selection’ of ebooks [The Australian, 13-14 October 2012]. Over the twelve days of the exercise, titles from Harper Collins Australia and Collins booksellers were available for download from the Kobo website via a keyword from the day’s newspaper. While ostensibly promoting the form to readers (‘the e-book, like the electronic newspaper, is available instantly, affordably and democratically’), Nick Cater’s introductory column on electronic reading revealed some thorny questions about the nature of the ebook, and its place in the present, past and future of thebook.
“There were days when the Red Crescent was begging for volunteers to help in taking the bodies of dead people off the city street and bury them properly. The hospital grounds have been turned to burial grounds [sic]…”
It was in 2003 that a fascination with the possibilities of a new contribution to journalism was born for me out of the words of Salam al-Janabi, known to all his readers at the time as Salem Pax. Salam was an English speaking blogger whose blog Where is Raed? became a testament to the limitations of traditional ways of reporting and revealed the possibilities that online publishing tools brought to journalism. Each day, I couldn’t log on to the internet fast enough, dial-up screeching my impatience, to see what had happened overnight. I was fixated. And excited.
Disquiet had begun settling on reports coming out of Iraq; questions were emerging on online forums about US government motives and the information being fed to audiences by The New York Times. And then there was Salam writing a blog for his friend Raed about what was going on during the invasion of Iraq: sometimes eloquent, sometimes observational, sometimes clumsily written, but always compelling. It was an insight into a situation that might have reached a limited audience months later, but online it reached a mass audience as it happened.
Consequently, it was later revealed that reports filed by Judith Miller for The New York Times about Iraqi weapons of mass destruction, often quoting unnamed US officials as sources, appeared to be fabricated. Whether this was deliberate or not has not yet been fully established. It was a front page article of Miller’s that reported Iraq had “stepped up its quest for nuclear weapons and…embarked on a worldwide hunt for materials to make an atomic bomb,” that was cited by Condoleezza Rice, Colin Powell and Donald Rumsfeld as reasons to go to war. It was a report later proven to be false.
In a poetic full-circle Salam eventually landed up writing for The Guardian, which also published a book based on “Where is Raed?” under the title The Baghdad Blog. That’s not to say that his posts were not to be viewed without question; there were many at the time, as there should have been. In the beginning, Salam was writing under a pseudonym and it wasn’t until May 2003 that The Guardian tracked him down and verified his identity.
But this isn’t a story about the death of traditional news organisations or even their perceived political biases, but rather the moment where the impact of a single blogger made a lot of people sit up and notice a powerful shift in news distribution.
I can’t draw. There was a time when this would have been something of an impediment to the DIY production of a comic book. I’m also not rich, famous, connected, a creative team, a publishing house or a marketing department. I do, however, have a camera, a computer, a graphics tablet, an internet connection and the Adobe Creative Suite. Burger Force comics are brought to you by the democratisation of technology in the digital age.
Burger Force is the story of a pop culture detective agency located beneath a fast food takeaway. To avoid drawing it, I have combined film and photography techniques with sequential art storytelling to bring you the world’s first professionally cast comic.