Blog Stuff, Opinion, Real Life, Writing

The privilege of blogging

Three years ago, I never would have dreamed that I would publish 500 blog posts, but as of today, I have. Readers come and go. I doubt anyone, but me, has read all of those posts. If you have, you deserve a reward. (For being subjected to my attempts at humor and poetry, you deserve diamonds and gold.)

This blog dresses in comfy clothes and bare feet, and often I worry that it reveals too much, but several of you have told me you appreciate the honesty. I’ve never been able to predict which of my posts will resonate and inspire many of you to respond, but I’m thrilled when that happens.

To me, blogging is an invitation to discuss. I’ve never understood bloggers who don’t reply to comments. (Sorry, if I just stepped on your toes.) I feel that anyone who takes the time to read my blog and comment, deserves a moment of my time in response.

As a blogger, I could voice my beliefs on aliens (earthly or otherwise); the paranormal; Congress; Big Business; gods, devils, and angels; the death penalty; or Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups vs. Junior Mints. I have that freedom. Yet I choose to leave those worthy topics to other bloggers. (Though you never know what I might say in comments.)

About three times a week, I type out 300-400 words to post here. I rarely choose a trending topic. I forget to observe holidays. I just write what’s on my mind, which is usually something connected to writing fiction.

I’ve also been known to write about books I’ve read, movies I’ve seen, food I like, games I play, places I’ve visited, crazy thoughts I have … whatever. Sometimes you catch me with the glass half empty, but usually it’s full, and occasionally it runneth over.

No matter what I blog about, I know it’s a privilege to have a voice. And it’s a delight to have you lend an ear to it—or an eye, I guess. Thank you. Stick around for the next 500. By then, I should have this blogging thing down pat.

Opinion, Real Life, Television

I’m not ashamed to admit it

As long as I’m in this drop the pretenses mood, I might as well confess to something else. I watch television. Yes, I know some circles consider television to be for low-brows. I’ve picked up this disdain from some writers—serious literary sorts. Ah well. I never claimed to be an intellectual.

Okay, okay. I’ve been known to watch a few documentaries. And I might have caught a PBS and/or BBC mini-series or two.

Really, in the grand scheme of things, I don’t watch a lot of television. I spend a lot more time in front of this computer. A lot. But there are a few shows I try to catch.

I’ve mentioned The Sopranos, The Wire, Big Love and Lost as some of my past faves. I also enjoyed Men of a Certain Age, before they cancelled it. I can’t wait for the next seasons of the top-notch series Treme and Mad Men.

Currently, I’m watching Boardwalk Empire, but this season it’s become too fascinated with the bloody and gruesome, and that’s annoying me. Two new shows I’m watching this season are Person of Interest and American Horror Story. Those two, The Mentalist and Harry’s Law I’ll classify as guilty pleasures.

I’ve learned aspects of story structure and characterization from the excellent writing of some programs. They teach while they entertain. The others mostly just entertain, but what’s wrong with that? Say what you will. My forehead is still pretty high.

So. I have to ask. Do you watch television?

Author, Books, Opinion, Read, Reader, Reading

Should authors have concerns about e-book lending?

Part One of this article received so little response I’m doubtful there’s reason to post the second, but for the one or two people who might be interested, here you go. As promised, I’ll tell you why I had doubts about two of the e-book lending sites I found. In a word … money.

I won’t name these two sites, or link to them, because I don’t want to publicize sites I have reservations about. If you search out e-book lending sites, I suggest you read their policies carefully and make up your own mind.

One site uses a credit system: each book you lend entitles you to borrow one book. BUT, if you don’t want to lend your e-books, you can buy a credit for $2.99. Wait! Isn’t that an illegal resale? What about the licensing agreement you make with Amazon and Barnes & Noble when you purchase an e-book? Well, you see, the site owners didn’t buy the book, they didn’t “sign” that agreement. They’re just acting as the middleman.

And never mind that thousands of authors, myself included, have e-books priced at $2.99, and by the reader paying the owners of the site for the book instead of Amazon or B&N, the author gets cheated out of a royalty. Hush, silly author. Quit being petty. Just consider the word of mouth potential.

The other site I have bigger doubts about. I’m not concerned about the way they operate the actual book loan, which uses the lending features of the Kindle and Nook, but I have questions about their policy of asking the lender to request the borrower pay for this loan—not pay the lender, but the site owners. The borrower has the option to pay the requested amount, or more, or less, or nothing at all.

The homepage blurb states that “100% of profits in 2011 go to charities promoting childhood literacy” and in one section of their Guide it tells the lender to enter “the amount you’d like to see a borrower contribute to charity for this book.” However, I could find no statement of what percentage of the money they collect is considered profit. What if you pay $3 for the book and only 3 cents of that goes to charity? Would you feel deceived?

Sprinkled throughout this site’s user guide and FAQ are statements that are somewhat misleading, such as these (emphasis mine): “We hope that you’ll be willing to pay something to support our cause, support the authors who bring us such great books, and do some social good!” And, in answer to the question why they don’t set a price for borrowing, they say, “Because it would likely lead to market fragmentation as other markets arose to compete on price, decreasing the benefit of secondary markets to consumers searching for a specific book and authors who deserve compensation for the content they create.

Am I wrong, or does that sound like they are sending the deceptive subliminal message that authors receive a portion of the fees borrowers pay?

If you read their FAQ, you’ll see that their aim is to see Amazon and B&N change their policies to allow reselling of Kindle and Nook books. They say (emphasis mine): “By contributing to eBook Exchange when you borrow a book, you’re helping us work to change that.” My question—how? How would my paying eBook Exchange any amount of money to borrow a book change the licensing agreements?

Again in their FAQ, they state: “Ultimately, by opening up the ebook licensing restrictions that publishers currently impose, we’ll be able to make ebooks available to an expanded number of markets. We’ll be able to reduce ebook prices to many while helping authors earn more.” Truly, helping authors earn more sounds good to me, but I find it hard to believe a third party is interested in helping me earn more. Helping themselves earn money off my work … yeah, I believe that.

Am I missing something? Please, if I’m too dense to see how this is in my best interests as an author, help me understand.

To be clear, I am NOT identifying the above sites as bit torrent piracy sites. For now, they only exchange books through the authorized lending features at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. But the whole issue of e-book lending or selling makes me nervous for one good reason—abuse. How so?

E-books are intangible.

If you buy a print book, you have the right to loan it out. You buy one book, you loan one book. Of course, assuming it’s returned, you can loan it out more than once, but look at the most popular print book you own and tell me how many times you’ve loaned it out over the years. Three, four, ten times? Fair enough. An author would consider that word of mouth.

Now, consider the forums where, via email attachments, people trade files copied directly from their e-readers. Disregarding the licensing statement they agreed to when they purchased those e-books, they say, “I have the right to loan out my print books to as many people as I want, so what’s the difference?”

Let me tell you the difference. If you share your “e-book shelf” on one of these unscrupulous trade sites, how many times do you think you’ll be “loaning” each of those books? Not three or four. Not even thirty, forty. A hundred times? A thousand? Where’s the limit?

Bit torrent (peer-to-peer) sites essentially force e-books into public domain—meaning the authors receive not another penny for their hard work after that initial sale. And yes, people do that with music files too, but most musicians make the bulk of their income from live performances and merchandising. Only the big-time authors make real money from public speaking engagements.

As for reselling books, that’s a bit different. Reselling a print book is still within the realm of word of mouth. Books deteriorate after awhile, so its resale can continue for only a limited time. BUT e-books don’t deteriorate. If sites spring up to resell ebooks with no licensing limits, they could duplicate and sell as many copies as they want.

How is that fair to the author? That goes beyond “word of mouth”. That’s theft.

I perused one of these bit torrent book sites once and read an author’s plea after finding her e-book available for unlimited free download. She asked that it be removed and tried to explain that writing was her career and unlimited “sharing” deprived her of income. The response? They told her to go f**k herself!

What say ye?

Author, Books, My Books, Opinion, Read, Reader, Reading

E-book lending libraries—the good?

This is the first of a two-part article on e-book lending. Today I’ll state my opinion of the good side, so I guess you can figure what part two will cover. I’ve known for a while about the Overdrive lending system, which works through the brick and mortar library systems throughout the country. My book is not available through that system—at least, not yet—but I recently discovered that it is available through at least some online e-libraries.

For all the time I spend online, somehow I missed hearing about e-book lending libraries. Yesterday, I signed in to Twitter briefly and checked my “lists” to see what’s been going on in my absence. One of the columns I watch in Tweetdeck is a search for any mention of my novel The Brevity of Roses, and when I checked, I saw the following had been tweeted by @BLFeed a few days ago:

REQUEST: The Brevity of Roses by Linda Cassidy Lewis

I clicked the link and found myself at Booklending.com an e-book lending site for Kindle owners. Some member had agreed to lend their copy of my book in exchange for the privilege of borrowing a different book from another member. Naturally, my next step was to google “e-book lending” to see if there were other sites like that one. Indeed there are. I found eight.

Half of those eight allow you to search their database without being a member. I found my book available on three of the four that do. Seven of the eight lend Kindlebooks, but only four of them also lend Nookbooks. One lends only Nookbooks. Most of them require you to be a lender in order to borrow.

Today, I’m listing only six of the eight lending sites I checked out because I have reservations about the policies of the other two. I’ll tell you about those two in my next post.

How is e-book lending a good thing? For a moment, when I saw my book listed on these lending sites, my inner cop frowned. As I read the lending policies on the sites listed above, I relaxed. They use the lending feature of the Kindle and Nook, so each person who buys a book for their own reader can only lend it once—legally. (More on that in Part Two). So you buy my book, you read it, and then you share it with someone else. Maybe I’ve made two fans of my work. That’s good.

If my books were in physical libraries, either as print or e-book downloads, any number of people would have access to them. As one who’s made great use of libraries my whole life, I can hardly criticize that process. In the seven months Brevity’s been published, I’ve given away nearly as many copies as I’ve sold. Just last month, I gave away fifty Brevity e-books at LibraryThing. Yet, I’ll confess, it makes me nervous to know people are freely trading my book at these sites. Why is that?

I want as many people as possible to read my writing. Yes, I lose money every time someone borrows rather than buys my book, but eventually I’ll have more books out there and if they liked the first, maybe they’ll buy the second. (Gosh, does that sounds like I’m a drug dealer, handing out freebies to get you hooked?)

Maybe it’s just the perceived loss of control. Perceived, I say because for all I know, someone might have bought Brevity in e-format and already given copies to ten thousand people. And I have to be honest, there are books I’d like to read that I can’t afford to buy and my library system doesn’t have, so I’m tempted to see if they’re in any of these online libraries. But if I wanted to borrow, I’d have to lend, and that means I’d be lending some of your books.

Your turn: What say ye about these e-book lending sites? Do you use them? Do you want your books available there?

Read Part Two of this article.

Book Reviews, Books, Doubt, Movies, Opinion, Reader, Real Life, Time, Writing

Hell is being sick … and not being able to read!

By a strange coincidence, a virus felled me the day after I saw the movie Contagion. That was bad enough, but the topper was that for a couple days, I was too sick to even read. You can only sleep so much, and with my need for glasses, it’s not easy watching television lying down. And writing—even to just think the words—fuhgeddaboutit!

So, as much as I hate the word bored, I have to say I was. I kept thinking about that Twilight Zone episode where the man who wants only to be left alone with his books, gets his wish, but then isn’t able to read because he breaks his glasses. Hell, indeed. Today, I’m about 90% back to normal.

When I could read again, I finished The Help, which I’d started before I got sick, and read a little more of another one, Joy for Beginners, which I’d started over a month ago, but set aside.

For the record, I loved The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, which I mentioned in a previous post. I was astounded to learn the degree to which one woman’s cells have been instrumental in worldwide medical and biological research for over fifty years. My only reserve is discomfort over the way the author chose to portray Henrietta’s family.

I also loved The Help. It’s been a long time since I read a book of that length so quickly. I hope to see the movie soon, though I’ve heard it’s not as good as the book. Typical. I try not to read reviews before I read a book, so afterward I was surprised to read negative remarks written as though the reader expected The Help to be more history than fiction.

Despite what the cover says, Joy for Beginners is not constructed as a traditional novel, and eventually I found it less frustrating to read it as a collection of connected short stories. The writing is pretty. The reason I’m taking so long to finish the book is that I don’t care enough about the characters.

As for Contagion, it was a disappointment. The acting was good, the story premise good, the execution of that premise, not good. It started out well, developed a bit, but then waned, and finally, fizzled out. Gee. I seem to be doing nothing but blogging reviews lately, or rather opinions—which is exactly how you should view them.

I don’t really have much to say about writing because I’m sort of stumbling around again. This is a list of the writing problems I encountered this month:

  1. I kept changing my mind on which book to work on first. (Solved … I think.)
  2. I lost sight of writing for myself and started wondering what readers would think.
  3. I started worrying about who I’ll get to beta read and how I can pay an editor.

In short, I’ve been fussing and fighting with writing, but not doing much of it. I have one more novel to read, and then I’m hanging up my library card for a while, so I can do what I’m supposed to do. Write. Right?