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1. Free Kids Books to Download by David Chuka

It’s the season of Giving and I have two special gifts for you today.

You can download Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost and Billy and Monster’s Golden Christmas to your kindle or kindle app today, tomorrow and Thursday.Sea Life Books

Just in case you’re wondering what in store for when you download a copy, feast your eyes on the short blurb below

Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost – this is a fun, illustrated picture book about a one-eyed, buck toothed and multi-tailed sea dragon called Kojo who lives in the Zakari River. While playing a game of hide and seek with his friend, Kofi – the sea turtle – he wanders towards the South side, a part of the River his Mum has told him never to venture to. Kojo is sick and tired of losing to Kofi and just this once, wants to win. Discover what happens when a powerful force pulls Kojo towards a dark hole. Young children will learn the importance of following instructions and the love of a community. I wrote this book many years ago while on a train journey. The intention was never to get it published. It was more an exercise in doing something creative on a journey where I had nothing to read. I only discovered it last year and I’m really proud of the reviews from fans, readers and bloggers about the book.

Billy and Monster’s Golden Christmas – this is the fifth and latest book in the Billy and Monster series. In this episode, Billy finds out what really makes Christmas special. Fans of this series will be delighted to know that I reveal the origins of Monster in this episode.Billy and Monster's Golden Christmas I think the springboard to writing this book was trying to address that awkward situation at Christmas time when you get a present you really don’t like or want. What do you do? You know, when I wrote that first book, I never knew I would write another, much less Number 5.

You don’t need a Kindle tablet to enjoy these books. If you have a tablet, PC or smartphone, then all you have to do is download the Kindle app, set up an account and begin enjoying a world of books including David Chuka’s funny, colourful and insightful tales.

Grab your copy at the links below

Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost – US

Kojo the Sea Dragon Gets Lost – UK

Billy and Monster’s Golden Christmas – US

Billy and Monster’s Golden Christmas – UK

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2. Self-Published Kindle Book Removed For Hyphen Misuse

51C7oL0cU0L._SL160_Self-published author Graeme Reynolds had his book High Moor 2: Moonstruck removed from the Kindle store after a reader complained about the book’s use of hyphens.

The book had been out for 18 months now and had about 123 reviews at the time it was removed. Here is more from Reynolds’ blog:

Apparently Amazon had received a complaint from a reader about the fact that some of the words in the book were hyphenated. And when they ran an automated spell check against the manuscript they found that over 100 words in the 90,000 word novel contained that dreaded little line. This, apparently “significantly impacts the readability of your book” and, as a result “We have suppressed the book because of the combined impact to customers.”

The problem has since been resolved and his book is now back in the store.

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3. Jeff Bezos Feels That Books Should Be Less Expensive

jeffbezos304Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos sat for an interview Business Insider.

Throughout the conversation, some of the topics that came up included the Fire phone, how his role at Amazon has changed over the years, and his personal vision for bookselling. He revealed that the aim of the Kindle team is to make books as accessible as possible. For him, part of that means reducing the current $30.00 price point that is typically assigned to hardcover books. Bezos explained:

“Books are the competitive set for leisure time. It takes many hours to read a book. It’s a big commitment. If you narrow your field of view and only think about books competing against books, you make really bad decisions. What we really have to do, if we want a healthy culture of long-form reading, is to make books more accessible. It takes many hours to read a book. It’s a big commitment. If you only think about books competing against books, you make really bad decisions. You’re competing against Candy Crush and everything else. If we want a healthy culture of long-form reading, you have to make books more accessible. Thirty dollars for a book is too expensive. Part of that is making them less expensive. Books, in my view, are too expensive.”

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4. Amazon’s Bestselling Books of the Year

amazon130The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd is the best selling book of the year on Amazon, according to the e-comemrce company.

Amazon has revealed its list of bestselling books for the year, as well as the top selling kids & teens books and the most gifted books. The Heroes of Olympus Book Five: The Blood of Olympus by Rick Riordan is the bestselling Kids & Teens book. The Long Haul was also the Most Gifted book this year. These lists were complied by looking at the sales of first editions that were published in 2014. We’ve got the list of Amazon’s Top 20 Bestsellers after the jump.

“This year’s best seller lists include a lot of familiar authors and characters–over half of the books on the lists are part of a series,” stated Sara Nelson, Editorial Director of Books and Kindle at Amazon.com.  (more…)

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5. Art and commerce - by Cecilia Busby

Like most published writers, I spend much of my time wondering why I'm not paid more than I am. I'm not sure I signed up for this, I think, as I contemplate my meagre royalty cheques. Of course, it's wonderful to have your books out there, but 'out there' is a bit of a vague designation, encompassing as it does a range from the cramming of multiple copies into every branch of Waterstones to the presence of one lonely copy in an independent bookshop in your home town. And if the surveys are to be believed, more of us find ourselves in the latter position than the former.

Among many blogs and comments on making a living from writing, I found one recently from Emma Darwin which gave me pause for thought. The median income from professional writing - that is, for those who spend the majority of their time writing - is down, according to the ALCS, from £15,450 in 2005 to £11,000 a year in 2013.

That's people who spend the majority of their time writing. Even if they spent only half their working hours writing, that's the equivalent of an annual wage of £22,000, and the likelihood is that they spend less than half not writing, so their annual wage is likely to be nearer £15-20,000. Currently, the UK median wage for full-time workers is £27,000. Advances, as Darwin notes, have steadily fallen over the last ten years, and royalties are squeezed by the sheer number of published and self-published books competing in the marketplace, as well as discounters like Amazon, whose sales result in mere pennies per book for the writer.

So what made it easier to make a living from writing ten or twenty years ago? In trying to fathom out the economics of publishing, I have been haunted by a quote from Andrew Wylie - the jackal of literary agents - who once said that if one of his writers got paid royalties, he hadn't done his job properly. The implication was that he aimed to get such a high advance from the publishers that the book couldn't possibly earn out. Ever.

What makes that an attractive proposition for publishers? It can surely only be the prestige of publishing a well-known and highly respected literary writer. Well, I imagine the commissioning editor saying as he joins his fellow publishing mates for a drink, we've got the latest Martin Amis. And they all turn green with envy while rapidly increasing their offer to Ian McEwan.

Is that how it works? Or worked?

It implies a goal, for publishers, that is not necessarily that of making a profit. Rather it's something to do with having a part in producing the most respected art. (I leave aside whether you think Amis or McEwan represent the highest pinnacles of writing - but undeniably there are literary critics who would claim this to be so...) Certainly, however inflated the big-names' advances got, there was a willingness to support the middle tier of good but less commercially successful writers that argues a focus on quality writing rather than solely on profit.

At some point in the recent past, Amazon (and perhaps Harper-Collins) changed all that. A recent book (One Click: The Rise of Jeff Bezos) on Amazon had some fascinating things to say about Bezos's attitude to the publishing industry. Basically, as the slick young tech-geeks of Amazon started to investigate publishing they realised that the industry was run by editors, who were primarily interested in the writing and didn't pay a great deal of attention to the money. Art trumped commerce.

As a consequence, Amazon started to take them down - and lo and behold, ten or fifteen years later, publishers have had to respond. Now, generally, commerce is starting to trump art - something Ursula le Guin has criticised fiercely in this wonderful recent speech at the National Book Awards.

As le Guin points out, "the profit motive is often in conflict with the aims of art", and when profit (sales and marketing) starts to rule what will and will not be published, then literature suffers. But how to counter this? Can what le Guin calls "responsible book publishing" exist any more in an era where market profit appears to have triumphed over every other measure of worth?

I think it still does, in little niches here and there and in the efforts of editors to circumvent sales and marketing and still get great books published. I think there are still stupendous works of art being produced out there.  But undeniably this is at the expense of authors, who are holding fast to their principles but being paid less and less for what they do.

So what can we do, as writers, in a society that does not value the art of writing?

We can give up writing - and some of us will simply have to, because we can't pay the bills. Or we can try and play the game, and aim our writing closer and closer to what le Guin calls "the production of a market commodity". Or we can carry on being artists, knowing that what we do, interrogating received truths, challenging people's beliefs, encouraging the imagination, has immense value for many people. But not for enough people to pay us a living wage.

There is, however, another kind of perspective on what is happening in publishing.

Some would dispute that the sort of distinction between art and commerce that le Guin posits is valid. Notions of art, in this view, are not universal, they are culture-bound and generally elitist. The upper strata supports 'art' that it enjoys and appreciates (opera) while denigrating commercial art (soap opera), yet commercial art exists precisely because it is the favoured art of the majority. Thus it would be fundamentally wrong and undemocratic to claim elite art as somehow of greater worth or value. From this perspective the actions of sales and marketing teams who refuse to cross-subsidise experimental or literary fiction with the profits from mass-market romance are fundamentally democratic. Money is the arbiter of worth. "Currency", as Lord Cutler Beckett says in the second Pirates of the Caribbean film, "is the currency of the realm."

It's an argument with merits. For the French sociologist Bourdieu, the upper echelons prefer 'high' to 'low' art because of the way class acts as a 'learned' practice, rather than because of any universally valid aesthetics. There is certainly something very elitist about the state subsidising opera when 90% of the population would consider it nothing but caterwauling in costumes. Equally, should the government fund grants for small touring theatre companies whose audiences are in their hundreds?

The debate is not dissimilar to the one we recently had on ABBA about children's reading. Is it right to censure children for reading commercial pap, to see the mere act of reading as not in itself enough, or is this elitist? Should we instead respect the idea that many children prefer undemanding commercial fiction and that it has as great a worth as more carefully crafted children's books? In the money world of Amazon, popular commercial books clearly have inherently greater worth than that those that sell less well, regardless of any judgements of the quality of the writing.


Well, to continue the Pirates of the Caribbean theme, let me nail my colours to the mast.

I believe some writing has more merit than others. Writing as art aims to interrogate the status quo, to provoke questions, to encourage readers to think about the world they live in. It draws on carefully honed craft and on a deep and wide imagination. I believe the more people that are encouraged to read or have access to this kind of writing, the better for society as a whole. I believe commercial considerations do not always favour writing as art, because it is often challenging, unsettling, difficult and it takes time to get right - but it changes readers, and inspires them, and once they 'get' it they will seek out more of that kind of art in all areas. They will be more questioning in their daily lives, more open, more imaginative, and they are more likely to challenge received wisdoms. This is a good thing.

Let me just make it clear though - when I say writing as art, I am not upholding the 'high'/'low' art distinction, which would see le Guin's science fiction/fantasy novels as a poor second to literary fiction. I am not condemning you all to reading Kafka or Joyce! (Excellent as both authors are). What I would consider 'art' in writing is intelligent, thoughtful, honed writing, aiming to be the best it can be, whether that's the best sort of comic book story or the best fantasy or the best romance. Writing that aims to make its readers engage completely in the world it presents and hence inevitably reflect on the world they live in. Malorie Blackman's Noughts and Crosses is a good example; but also less overtly political books that just give free reign to the imagination - Philip Reeve's Mortal Engines, or Diana Wynne Jones's Hexwood. Luckily, in children's fiction there are some great examples that are both commercially successful and works of art - but it's still the case that the rewards for that great writing are not as high as they were.

So, in the end, maybe we writers have to accept that we are not going to be top earners under the conditions of global financial capitalism. But we can contribute to sowing the seeds of imagination, thoughtfulness, empathy and a questioning intelligence in our readers that will hopefully one day contribute to undermining the dominance of that economic system.

As le Guin points out in her speech,  market-driven capitalism seems triumphant and unassailable. But so did the Divine Right of Kings, once.



Cecilia Busby writes humorous fantasy for children of 7 upwards. Her latest book, Dragon Amber, was published in September by Templar.



www.cjbusby.co.uk

@ceciliabusby

"Great fun - made me chortle!" (Diana Wynne Jones on Frogspell)

"A rift-hoping romp with great wit, charm and pace" (Frances Hardinge on Deep Amber)







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6. Amazon Christmas Boycott Gains Steam

Amazon-Free-holding-banner-4An anonymous group of activists are calling on consumers to boycott Amazon this holiday shopping season, and take their money elsewhere.

The campaign is in response to complaints about how Amazon treats their workers. Here is more from the website: “They don’t pay their workers a Living Wage. They dodge their tax. They take money away from our local shops. So this year, let’s take our money away from them.”

Shoppers can sign up to take the “Amazon Free Challenge” and promise not to shop Amazon for this year’s gifts. Shoppers are asked to mark just how much they would normally spend this holiday. So far, the website reports that shoppers have pledged that £3,069,320 (almost $5 million) will not to be spent onAmazon.

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7. Amazon Kindle Sales Up 4x on Black Friday

amazon304Kindle sales were up this Black Friday, as compared to sales of the devices last year, Amazon revealed this week.

According to the Seattle-based giant, sales of Amazon’s Kindle Fire tablet were up 3x this Black Friday as compared to last year and Kindle eReader sales were up almost 4x that of comparable sales from last year.

“This holiday there are going to be a lot of customers opening up new Amazon devices,” stated Dave Limp, Senior Vice President, Amazon Devices. “We’re energized by the year over year growth of tablet and e-reader Black Friday sales on Amazon.com, plus the success of the new product categories we’ve launched this year.”

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8. Amazon vs. Hachette: It's over



It's over.

Long story short, Hachette won the ability to set its own prices, and the deal roughly aligns with the one Amazon negotiated with Simon & Schuster.

Here are some of the reactions around the Internet:

NY Times
Mike Shatzkin
GigaOM
Publishers Lunch (subscription required)
Vox

My sources tell me that we haven't read the last blog post about how traditional publishers are the guardians of truth and Amazon is the root of all evil or that traditional publishers are antiquarian luddites and Amazon is saving the world for readers.

Stand by...

Art: Club Night by George Bellows

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9. Hachette & Amazon Establish a New Multi-Year Contract

HachetteHachette Book Group and Amazon have established a new multi-year agreement. The two companies have been locked in a dispute since April 2014.

This contract will dictate the terms and conditions for eBook and print sales within the United States starting in early 2015. Henceforth, Hachette will oversee and manage the consumer pricing for its eBooks.

Hachette Book Group CEO Michael Pietsch had this statement in the press release: “This is great news for writers. The agreement will benefit Hachette authors for years to come. It gives Hachette enormous marketing capability with one of our most important bookselling partners.”

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10. Amazon Editors Choose Their Best Books of 2014

amazon130Amazon has revealed their picks for Best Books of 2014, a list led by Celeste Ng, Stephen King, and Liane MoriartyFollow this link to see the full list of 100 titles.

According to the press release, the editorial team chose the top 10 from a pool of 480 books. We’ve reprinted the top 10 books below.
(more…)

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11. Andrew Wylie Speaks Out Against Amazon

amazon304Amazon and Hachette have been locked in a feud over eBook pricing since May 2014. Many members of the publishing community have spoken out about this situation and some have even mobilized to form the Authors United group.

Earlier this year, several high profile authors including Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, and Ursula Le Guin agreed to join in Authors United’s fight against Amazon. Who convinced this illustrious group to take part? None other than Andrew Wylie.

In an interview with Vanity Fair, the veteran literary agent shared his opinion on this dispute. For Wylie, “the issues at the heart of the conflict are both margin and price…Losing the fight over margins would be an immediate blow to the publishers’ profits, but losing control over pricing could be fatal.” Do you agree with Wylie?

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12. Brave Little Monster Returns

Over the past few years a lot of people have asked me where they could get a hold of my bedtime picture book Brave Little Monster. I would tell them that sometimes Scholastic makes it available through their book club in October, but that was hit and miss. Now I'm happy to say that you can purchase the paperback version of Brave Little Monster on Amazon. Yay!!!!

 To top it off, an ebook version should be available in a few days as well. Enjoy!

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13. Amazon Has Established a New Contract With Simon & Schuster

SimonSchusterAmazon and Simon & Schuster have established a new multi-year print and digital agreement. The previous contract was scheduled to expire in two months.

Here’s more from The Wall Street Journal: “Simon & Schuster, whose recently published works include Walter Isaacson’s The Innovators and Colm Toibin’s Nora Webster, will set the consumer prices of its digital books, and Amazon will be able to discount titles in certain situations, according to one person familiar with the agreement. Simon & Schuster titles also will be well promoted on Amazon’s website, the person said.”

Many speculate that this development will put more pressure on Hachette to wrap up the ongoing dispute. Several writers have publicly spoken about the situation including Stephen Colbert, John Green, and Malcolm Gladwell. Earlier this week, economist Paul Krugman wrote New York Times article criticizing Amazon’s business practices. How do you predict this will affect the conflict between Amazon and Hachette?

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14. Paul Krugman Speaks Out Against Amazon

NYT_Twitter_KrugmanNobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman has written a New York Times op-ed criticizing Amazon. For book selling, he goes so far as to say that it has a “robber-baron-type market power.”

In his piece, Krugman (pictured, via) compares Amazon with Standard Oil and talks about the consequences that may ensue should the online retail giant continue its current standard of operations. He feels that Amazon has abused its powers to retaliate against Hachette throughout the dispute between the two companies. Here’s an excerpt from the article:

“So far Amazon has not tried to exploit consumers. In fact, it has systematically kept prices low, to reinforce its dominance. What it has done, instead, is use its market power to put a squeeze on publishers, in effect driving down the prices it pays for books — hence the fight with Hachette. In economics jargon, Amazon is not, at least so far, acting like a monopolist, a dominant seller with the power to raise prices. Instead, it is acting as a monopsonist, a dominant buyer with the power to push prices down.”

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15. iVerse to relaunch ComicsPLUS in November with uView, import and more

comics plus logo iVerse to relaunch ComicsPLUS in November with uView, import and more

We all know that Amazon’s acquisition of Comixology changed the digital comics landscape. While the benefits that Amazon can bring for Comixology are evident, and still developing, it wasn’t without some steps backwards. When Comixology stopped making in-app purchases due to Amazon/Apple tensions, many publishers saw a drop in digital comics sales.

As we’ve noted before, other players are stepping in to promote their services.

So it should come as no surprise that ComicsPLUS, the digital comics app from iVerse that has long been the second player in the digital comics world, is getting a big makeover starting in November. iVerse CEO and owner Michael Murphey gave us a peek at the new app at New York Comic Con, and it has several shiny new features, including a new uView enhanced reading experience; enhanced search functions; a streamlined interface that offers comics series not only in chronological order but also a “Storyline” view that offers all the books in a given storyline. And the new app will also offer the ability to import any drm-free PDf, ebook or iTunes file into the service where it can be streamlined via uView and be searchable under its name.

uView is the ComicsPLUS version of “Guided View” and I’m told it does not conflict with the patent that Disney holds on that version of “enhanced viewing experience,” to give the non trademarked name for panels that zoom and flow on a tap. It’s entirely user controlled, and based on the preview Murphey gave me, it’s dead simple to use – you basically pinch and zoom to get panels moving in your preferred way. I’m not sure now many comics readers will want to go through all their comics and “uView them up” – but publishers or creators can also use this system themselves. In other words, yet another job for the intern.

I asked Murphey if this would lead to an iVerse version of Comixology’s “Submit” program and he pointed out that “we don’t turn people away.” Although they occasionally reject material that has problematic content, anyone can sell their comics via ComicsPLUS, and uView will offer a way for creators to take control over the viewing experience.

The “Storyline” feature is perfect for people who follow mainstream comics events. The revamped iVerse interface offers a very streamlines view of issues in a series, with the newest one on top. You can also see all the issues that tie in to a storyline—in reading order. Like I said, this is very useful if you’re catching up on Final Crisis or any Big Two event from the last 15 years. It would also be useful for something like Love and Rockets which has a twisting storylines that even experts have a hard time following. (Note, Fantagraphics books aren’t available on iVerse, I’m just spitballing here.)

The search function is basically a smoother application, and the goal is eventually to have a more “Netflix-like” interface. So if you read Punisher, for instance, you could be offered “more comics featuring amoral hitmen.”

Finally, there’s the import function, which for a digital hoarder such as myself could be useful. Basically any legally purchased book you own in epub or pdf format (possibly others, my notes are a bit hazy here) can be imported into the ComicsPLUS app and indexed along with your purchases in the app.

iVerse is definitely putting some muscle into this update, which will roll out starting in November. Some of the features will go live in early 2015. Of course, there is still the matter of publishers: iVerse offers Dynamite, Valiant, Marvel trades and many other publishers. But not DC at this point. Valiant has the biggest parnership with iVerse thus far, having put their entire library on the platform.

Is there room for another digital comics platform? I’m told that Apple would be thrilled to have their piece of the digital comics pie again: Comixology was frequently the top grossing app for iPad, and it firmly put digital comics on Apple’s radar. It was Amazon’s dislike of giving Apple their 30% cut of in-app purchases that led to them being removed from Comixology’s app. (You can still buy comics directly on the CX website, however.) So yeah, there are some pennies to be made there. If digital comics become some kind of status symbol in a tug of war between Apple and Amazon, it means more money thrown into the pot.

I’m also told several publishers are considering being available on multiple platforms for obvious reasons. Amazon’s feuds, price wars and heavy handed tactics are all well and good when you want to buy cheap pants, but you don’t want to get caught on the wrong side of the equation.

iVerse has developed into a player in the library market so it will be interesting to see where this goes.

 

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16. Amazon to Open Pop-Up Retail Shops in California

amazon304Amazon plans to open a pop-up retail shop in two California cities, San Francisco and Sacramento, on October 22nd. Visitors will be able to test out the latest Kindle projects.

Here’s more from GeekWire: “While Amazon gets a lot of credit for dominating e-commerce sales, the store openings show that it can’t ignore that a vast majority of retail revenues today still occur in the offline world. The struggle between the two is often depicted as a war between online and offline, and if that’s true, then Amazon’s move into stores is the highest compliment the e-commerce giant can pay to physical retail.”

The San Francisco location will be inside the Westfield San Francisco Centre. At this time, Amazon has not revealed the whereabouts of the Sacramento location. If this brick-and-mortar venture proves successful, the company may install more storefronts in the future.

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17. Authors United Plans Next Move Against Amazon

authorsunitedLast month more than 900 authors including Stephen KingMalcolm Gladwell and Suzanne Collins signed a letter  which ran as a full page ad in The New York Times, calling readers to email Amazon chief Jeff Bezos and ask him to end the company’s dispute with Hachette. Now the group is planning its next move.

Author Doug Preston, who is leading the group, sent out an email this week to authors that signed the petition letting them know that the group is planning their next move. In the email, he also warns that  Simon & Schuster authors could suffer the same fate as Hachette authors, as the publisher is reportedly in negotiations with Amazon.

Publishers Weekly has republished the email. Here is an excerpt: (more…)

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18. Ron Perazza joins Amazon as Creative Director for Amazon Publishing

ron perazza Ron Perazza joins Amazon as Creative Director for Amazon Publishing


Via tweets last night, industry veteran Ron Perazza announced that he’s left Marvel, where he served most recently as Director of Digital Publishing starting last year, and joined Amazon to as Creative Director of all of their digital publishing efforts. Perazza’s multi faceted career includes stints at Fleer, Marvel, DC (where he ran creative services and then rose to VP of Online and oversaw the Zuda webcomics launch), Marvel again and now Amazon. Perazza has relocated to Seattle for the position.

Amazon’s publishing includes a multitude of imprints, which cover mystery, SF, self-help, teens, and comics, under the Jet City Imprint, which has thus far concentrated on adaptations and extensions of best selling authors like Hugh Howey, George RR Martin and Neal Stephenson. Of course, one would expect Perazza to leave his mark on this area, but he has a wide portfolio where his expertise with digital formats and distribution will doubtless come in handy.

And we haven’t even mentioned Comixology, which comes is still in the process of adapting to Amazon’s systems.

All of this reminds me, what ever happened to Amazon’s licensed fanfic program, Kindle Worlds? Valiant signed up for this, but other comics publishers haven’t raced to allow approved fan fiction through the program, despite the obvious mountain of material.

While Amazon’s battle with Hachette and other publishers over pricing show no sign of being solved anytime soon, original publishing is also an important part of their product mix. Obviously, Perazza is going to be a busy guy. Congrats!

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19. Peter Carey Refused to Ghostwrite Assange Memoir

careyassangePeter Carey did not mince words in a rather juicy interview to Bookseller today where the two-time Booker-winning novelist discussed his forthcoming novel Amnesia, along with an alliterative list of other topics currently on his mind: Amazon, Assange and Americans up for Bookers.

On Julian Assange, Carey said that he was approached by his American editor Sonny Mehta and asked if he would like to co-write the book. “But I thought, no. Two control freaks? It wouldn’t work.”

Probably a wise move since we all know what happened to the unlucky fellow who did take up the offer, novelist Andrew O’Hagan.

Instead, Carey tapped his fellow Aussie for his own inspiration (more…)

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20. Authors United Calls on Amazon Board Members to Take a Stand

authorsunitedAuthors United, a group of more than 900 authors including Stephen KingMalcolm Gladwell and Suzanne Collins, which has been pushing Amazon to end its dispute with Hachette, has sent a letter to Amazon board of directors asking them: “Do you as an Amazon director approve of this policy of sanctioning books?”

The letter, which is published on the group’s site, calls on these 10 board members to take a side in the Amazon/Hachette dispute. Here is an excerpt:

We are confident that you, as an Amazon board member, prize books and freedom of expression as much as we do. Since its founding, Amazon has been a highly regarded and progressive brand. But if this is how Amazon continues to treat the literary community, how long will the company’s fine reputation last? We appeal to you, with hope and goodwill, to exercise your governance and put an end to the sanctioning of books, which are the very foundation of our culture and democracy.

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21. "Cry to Me": Fatherhood and Domestic Violence


The prevalence of violence, especially domestic violence with Caribbean families, has been one of the themes in my two short story collections, Uncle Obadiah and the Alien and Who's Your Daddy? 

In the short story, "Cry to Me," from Who's Your Daddy, which I've republished as an eBook, I've combined domestic violence with fatherhood in the story of David Hamilton, a respected professor, whose life is disrupted when his daughter become a victim of domestic violence.




I think "Cry to Me" is a precursor to a darker story that I am currently working on in which fatherhood turns ugly. Stay tuned.

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22. Is Bezos’ Super-Secret Campfire Cooling?

6629205_563906a381_zDid they stay or did they go? You might never know if your fave authors were feted at Jeff Bezos’ annual super-secret Campfire this past weekend. Word is the elite attendees are cautioned that what plays at Campfire, stays at Campfire.

In 2011, Bezos “flew in Margaret Atwood, Michael Chabon, Alice Walker, Neil Gaiman, and Khaled Hosseini, among others, to a think tanky event he called ‘Amazon Campfire,’” Dennis Johnson noted in his Melville House blog. Since then, radio silence.

The Renaissance Weekend-like event of fabulous meals, fascinating formal talks led by folks like Neil Armstrong, horseback riding and skeet shooting, and sweet swag (down vests, fleeces) continued for the most part under the radar, until The New York Times reported Sunday on the fifth autumn weekend soiree under the headline, “A Writerly Chill at Bezos’ Fire.”

Seems a bit of the bonhomie has been siphoned off the warm, cozy atmosphere by the it’s-not-personal-it’s-business Amazon/Hachette dispute. The Times’ David Streitfeld wrote: “Some repeat Campfire attendees who have supported Hachette in the dispute say they were not invited this year…The event has become as divisive as the fight.” (more…)

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23. How We Feel About Amazon

Jason LowIn this post, Publisher Jason Low shares his feelings on the Amazon vs. Hachette battle, the future of publishing, and the view from here as a small publisher.

Since the great Amazon-Hachette feud of 2014 started this summer, many people have asked where we stand. It is no secret that we do business with Amazon—almost every publisher does. At the same time, what I see from Amazon, and where I see the book industry heading as a result, worries me.

To me, Amazon is a different animal. It is unlike any other corporation out there because of the way it treats the bottom line. The problem is, Amazon’s bottom line is growth, not profits. In sacrificing profits they have made a conscious decision to sell books at unsustainable prices, undercutting any and all competitors who are still operating under the profit model, which is everyone.

The consequences of this are twofold. First, it puts other companies out of business, straight and simple. We have seen the continual decrease in the number of independent and even chain bookstores over the last several years as Amazon increases its market share.

Second, selling books cheaply exacts a considerable price from the entire publishing industry. Books still require substantial capital to create, print, and ship. While the cost of doing business goes up, any price increases to help offset these costs are compromised by a major player who is not concerned with making money. Publishers are being squeezed for all they are worth, in a business that already operates with a great deal of risk and razor-thin margins.

Before Amazon, publishers and distributors had a symbiotic relationship. The distributors needed the books to sell and publishers relied on distributors to sell the books. Amazon is looking to upend this entire system.

Here is where I see the publishing industry in the next couple of years: Amazon will control the majority of retail bookselling. Currently, Amazon has 65% of all online book orders, which includes print and digital. As a result, they will have a say as to what gets published and will dictate book pricing. Can you tell me another industry where a distributor has this kind of control over content creators?

The Amazon-Hachette battle is a pivotal moment in our industry. If you are not familiar with this issue you should bring yourselves up to speed because this concerns everyone who cares about books. You should consider carefully the impact that rock bottom prices and free shipping will have on the publishing ecosystem in the near and long term. Here are a few good articles to start, which offer arguments on both sides:

As Publishers Fight Amazon, Books Vanish (NY Times)

Plot Thickens as 900 Writers Battle Amazon (NY Times)

Amazon vs. Hachette: What Would Orwell Think? (New Yorker)

In Defense of Amazon: An Author’s Dissent (Salon)

My Week as an Amazon Insider (The Guardian)

In Defense of Amazon (The New Republic)

Agree? Disagree? We’d love to hear your thoughts.


Filed under: Publishing 101 Tagged: Amazon, ebooks, Jason Low

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24. Malcolm Gladwell Speaks Out Against Amazon

amazon304Many members of the literary community have shown great concern about the Amazon vs. Hachette dispute. In an interview with the Financial Times weekend magazine, Malcolm Gladwell spoke out in disapproval of the online retail giant’s retaliatory actions.

While Gladwell did not voice an opinion about the actual feud, he objects to Amazon’s practice of making Hachette’s books unavailable for purchase and delaying order shipments. Gladwell “thought Amazon wanted to be nice to me. I thought their endgame was to woo authors. So, then why are they sabotaging us?”

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25. High Profile Writers Set to Join Authors United

amazonlogoSeveral high profile writers have agreed to join in Authors United’s fight against Amazon. The new members include Philip Roth, Orhan Pamuk, Salman Rushdie, V. S. Naipaul, Milan Kundera, and Ursula Le Guin.

The organization aims to convince the online retail conglomerate to end its dispute with Hachette Book Group USA. Last month, Authors United publicly posted a letter addressed to Amazon’s board members asking them to take a stand on this issue.

When asked about her participation in the group, Le Guin submitted this statement to The New York Times: “We’re talking about censorship: deliberately making a book hard or impossible to get, ‘disappearing’ an author. Governments use censorship for moral and political ends, justifiable or not. Amazon is using censorship to gain total market control so they can dictate to publishers what they can publish, to authors what they can write, to readers what they can buy. This is more than unjustifiable, it is intolerable.”

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