Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

Ellora's Cave: Double Entry Divas

24 February 2015

I love the Internet.
Two days ago, I asked if anyone saved this Ellora’s Cave video that was tweeted by @CaveChaos on July 30th.
As with many “disappeared” videos from YouTube, it has found its way onto the Russian site Rutube. However, you needn’t know any Russian to understand the meaning of this video….

  • A riding crop.
  • Fanning themselves with Monopoly money.
  • Deciding to pay the electric bill.
  • Mocking the electric bill.
  • Crying when the books don’t balance.

It’s pretty clear that Courtney is Courtney Thomas, Ellora’s Cave’s CFO.
However, it’s not clear if “Sammy” is Sherry Herchek, the Assistant Controller? Or someone else?

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Ellora's Cave: The Sunken Queen

24 February 2015

Well, New York Magazine published an article about Ellora’s Cave founder Tina Engler (aka Jaid Black), titled “Did Amazon Sink the Queen of Online Erotica?” A copy of that article can be found here.
The article made me laugh out loud—and not always in ways the article’s author, Phoebe Reilly, intended. Though there were some intentional laugh-worthy lines in there. Tina says, in a blog post about the article, “I’m Done with the Media.” (I was startled at one claim that Tina says is untrue.)

The Real Sinking of Ellora’s Cave’s Amazon Revenue

First, I realized I used a buzzword a couple of times, and I want to define it: “organic” search means search results based solely and only on relevancy rankings. The opposite is “paid” search, e.g., the right side of Google pages.
One of the things that determines organic search at Amazon is keywords. These keywords aren’t shown to buyers, but they drive the search box. This is something the indie crowd has taken to heart and excelled at, but it’s alleged that EC doesn’t do anything with keywords at Amazon.
Rick and I were talking about this last night, and he’s a smart guy. He’d just read the following in the article:

It wasn’t until late 2013 that she noticed a plummet in sales via Amazon, the company’s biggest distributor. It had been pulling in roughly half a million dollars a month, but suddenly that figure dropped 60 percent.

He said, “You know, a sudden shift implies a technology change. If it were gradual, over a period of six months, it would be a market change.”
He’s right.
If your competitors gradually got better than you, it would be a change over time, but if Amazon suddenly figured out that keywords should be weighted more heavily, those using them poorly—or not at all—would have their organic search visibility tank at Amazon.
And, btw, only at Amazon, as they are the the only book vendor who drive search via keywords.
If one’s writing erotica, keywords can (and should be) what real people would use to describe what they want to read, not code phrases writers use. Given what sells from indies on Kindle, I’m guessing there’s a lot of fucking going on in those keywords of successful authors.
That said, I’m not sure organic search and technology shifts explain the phenomenon (mentioned in the article) where the top hits for a search on “Jaid Black” are different authors (and not even ones published by Ellora’s Cave).
There is a prohibited keyword practice of using other authors’ names in keywords. Several authors have been banned for that, and some books have just been taken off the market.
Which I’m not saying is a factor, just that it’s theoretically possible.

On the Bright Side, There May Be Buoyancy

If my hypothesis about keywords is correct, then it’s relatively easy to fix. It takes a whole lot of time, because keyword research is not simple. It’s not a fast skill to acquire, and insight into Amazon keywords takes practice.
Obviously, a house with as many books as Ellora’s Cave has would have to triage the project into phases and stages, and it’d make the biggest difference to authors who were selling well before but who lost more market share relative to other EC authors.

I Also Can’t Let This Slide

Queen of Online Erotica my ass.
Did she help break through the market? Absolutely. Queen? NFW.

Need to Do Keywords Yourself, But Feel Overwhelmed?

I know a lot of people reading here are writers, and many of you indie publish, too. Your ears may have perked up at the mention of keywords.
Stay tuned, it’ll be a day or two yet.

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Ellora's Cave: Defense Objection to Quash Motion

23 February 2015

Today’s Ellora’s Cave legal update includes the defense’s objections to @pubnt’s Motion to Quash the Twitter subpoena.
To recap where we are: in their initial disclosures, defense in the Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author case filed their witness list, listing Twitter account @pubnt as one of the witnesses:

The Pub Net Twitter account has made a series of statements on Twitter since the outset of this case, that are with obvious knowledge of the case at hand. The author behind this Twitter account will have additional information as to the operations of Ellora’s Cave.

@pubnt filed a response with the court, which the Court interpreted as a Motion to Quash. My blog post and Courtney Milan’s blog post on the subject.
Perhaps the most amusing of @pubnt’s reasons in her letter to the court is this (note: I substituted Jane Litte’s pseudonym for her legal name):

The Defendant, (Jane Litte), calling us as a witness for the Defense is perverse. If you peruse our Twitter account you will be able to verify every legal argument and statement we have put forward is against the Defendant’s case. You will see clearly that there is nothing we have stated that will support the Defense’s case and everything we have said defeats the Defendant’s case. Thus the Defendant has no right to call us as a defense witness and her attempt is perverse. Thus you further have proof that the Defendant’s only ulterior motive in calling us as a witness is to use your court to seek out our identities in order to victimize, harass, stalk, defame, and libel us as she has done many times before, purely for daring to say positive things about her target, the Claimant.

I can’t even begin to tease apart all the false assumptions here, but let’s start with why I believe @pubnt’s testimony is of interest to defense:
As I see it, @pubnt breaks down to at least one of four classes of people:

  1. An Ellora’s Cave insider using @pubnt to conduct an asymmetric information propaganda campaign.
  2. A close confidante of an Ellora’s Cave insider using @pubnt to conduct an asymmetric information propaganda campaign.
  3. An internet troll simply being provocative for attention. (Initially, I believed @pubnt was solely in this class.)
  4. Someone who needs mental health help.

To be clear, my belief is that, in fact, all four are strong possibilities, though I think it’s mostly # 1. #3 and #4 would not lead to discoverable information, so I think that’s part of why @pubnt tried so heavily to look like #4 in her letter to the court.
It is in fact the “asymmetric information” part that makes @pubnt an interesting witness for the defense.

Defense’s Filings Today

While I was hoping for some glittering Randazza prose like the glorious letter he wrote for 8chan vs. Julien Blanc’s takedown letter, sadly our esteemed esquire was busy with a trial last week and so the task fell to Victoria Serrani, the local (Ohio) counsel for defense.

Also, in paragraph 2 of the Motion @pubnt claim that “[i]f you peruse our Twitter account you will be able to verify every legal argument and statement we have put forward is against the Defendant’s case. You will see clearly that there is nothing we have stated that will support the Defense’s case and everything we have said defeats the Defendants’ case.” See ¶2 of Motion. Again, these anonymous authors are not mere spectators. Either @pubnt are insiders at Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc. or have received inside, nonprivileged, information.

The filings also included a copy of the Twitter subpoena, dated January 27th, with a response due by February 6th, and a selection of @pubnt’s tweets.
Note that @pubnt’s letter to the court was dated February 7th, the day after Twitter’s response was due.

What I Think Will Happen

I’d been saving this information from another case I ran into recently. Two Twitter accounts, @FakeUli and @NotUliBeringer, were Does (as in John Doe) in a case filed by MUSIC Group, who wanted to uncover their identities.
Like the Ellora’s Cave case, the primary subject matter is defamation.
The Music Group v. Does case was brought in Washington state, which is still in the same appeals circuit (9th) as Twitter’s home turf. Yet, Twitter insisted that their local district court (California’s Northern District, based in San Francisco) rule on the subpoena.
Here are the three most relevant documents:

  1. Motion to Transfer (Nov 26, 2014)
  2. Declaration in Support of Motion to Transfer (Nov 26, 2014)
  3. Order Enforcing Subpoena (Jan 16, 2015)

So, six weeks beginning-to-end.
The last document is worth reading because it talks about the right to anonymity vs. the right to serve defendants in a lawsuit. One of the reasons the motion succeeded was the narrowness of the request (the identity needed to be known to serve the defendants in a lawsuit).
I’m not sure DA’s Opposition Motion needed to be drafted that narrowly, given the @pubnt’s claims of knowledge about EC’s inner workings, though.
I’d personally have picked different tweets to highlight:
Apparent inside knowledge of the alleged accounting system crash, e.g.:

@ataglanceRMC ..catching up with the backlog from the accouting system crash now recovered… #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) February 16, 2015

Discussion of EC’s current cash situation (search @pubnt’s tweets on surplus), e.g.:

@ataglanceRMC ..and paying royalties close to monthly when contractually it is due quarterly, with its surplus of cash. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) February 16, 2015

Discussion of merger (search @pubnt’s tweets on merger), e.g.:

@tejasjulia @CatGrant2009 @ataglanceRMC EC wouldn’t want a sale. Only a merger. #notchiiled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 17, 2015

@ataglanceRMC A merger is not a sale. JB & PM will be running EC as an imprint of the big pub. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 16, 2015

Discussion of when certain people would be paid and when certain lawsuits would be filed, e.g.:

@trista_michaels You will be when the commenters’/tweeters’ case commences at the end of the DA case. #notchilled

— Pub Net (@pubnt) January 31, 2015

Also, I’ve added an updated PDF of @pubnt’s tweets through Feb 19th.

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Ellora's Cave: Double Entry Divas • Did Anyone Save This Video?

23 February 2015

Did anyone save this video?
Here’s the description I have: Courtney Thomas (Ellora’s Cave’s CFO) and Sherry Herchek (Assistant Controller) made a video making fun of Ellora’s Cave’s accounting system. They play Monopoly to decide what bills to pay. At the end, they cry because they can’t get the books to balance.
The original video was at this YouTube URL but is not there now.
However, there is a screencap and link here on ShowYou, which validates the tail part of the original YouTube URL.
double-entry-divas

Even More Interesting: When This Was Posted

Apparently, this was posted shortly before, like a handful of days before correction: less than three weeks before, the big August layoffs at Ellora’s Cave. For further context, the layoffs took place about a month before Jane Litte’s The Curious Case of Ellora’s Cave blog post, and about six weeks before Ellora’s Cave sued Dear Author and Jane Litte over the contents of that blog post.
Yet, I just heard about this video’s existence. Apparently it was taken down when people objected to it. I wonder why.
(Edited to add: per commenter below, this was believed posted to Jaid’s YouTube channel with fake news and skits. Regardless: appalling lack of sense of how this would be received by EC’s community.)

Rick’s Reaction When I Told Him About This

Context: Rick passed the CPA exam and was working on his audit hours when he decided to leave accounting instead.
His head tilted. A lot.

If You Have a Saved Copy of this Video

Or if you can find it on, say, rutube.
Please email me: deirdre@deirdre.net

Correction Note

This July 30th tweet links to the video, far earlier than my source became aware of the video. Hence I’ve corrected the text above, striking out the original phrase. Hat tip to Anonymouse in comments.

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Ellora's Cave: IT Infrastructure Statement

22 February 2015

Recently, on the #notchilled hashtag, we heard about Ellora’s Cave’s IT system in the days of yore. Then Ellora’s Cave sent an internal email on the subject. I have some commentary after that.
First, the tweets that started it all:

@pubnt @Format_Me You’d think they would have learned. Back in ‘03-04 then COO and my husband tried 2rantically save only copy #notchilled

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 14, 2015

@pubnt @Format_Me of publishing AND royalty data on sick laptop. I was there, you weren’t, Pubby #notchilled

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 14, 2015

@pubnt @Format_Me At the time, husband strongly suggested offsite redundant backups (IT security professional). #notchilled

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 14, 2015

@pubnt @Format_Me Funny, now that I recall JB and PM were in the bar. Partying. #notchilled

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 14, 2015

Note: this happened in the 2003-2004 time period. Okay, now that we’ve got that cleared up, let’s read the rest of BJ’s tweets on this topic…then Ellora’s Cave has an official response.

@Format_Me DH actually offered his services but the price was…um not right.

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 14, 2015

@Format_Me @pubnt Any company living and dying by their data should have redundant offsite backups.

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 15, 2015

Spoke with hubby to make sure I was correct He said that yes, everything regarding the company infrastructure was on that one dying laptop.

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 15, 2015

On 1 EC company PC was only copy of manuscripts, financial dox, royalties, tax dox, payroll. The works. #notchilled

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 15, 2015

@JetGibbs Wait. EC had their entire company files on a LAPTOP????? What idiot made THAT decision? #notchilled

— tejas (@tejasjulia) February 15, 2015

And there were NO backups. Just that one EC laptop with keys to kingdom @tejasjulia #notchilled

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 15, 2015

@ShoshannaEvers Its for real. I worked as an editor for them for 12 yrs. This was at RT in Kansas City (03? 04?)

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 15, 2015

@ShoshannaEvers Crissy had been in IT and she and my husband connected on that level, so she brought him in when the laptop was sick after

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 15, 2015

@ShoshannaEvers one of the events–Jen Martin (then an editor) Crissy, I think there were a couple other folks in the hotel room.

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 15, 2015

@julainestone The RV was about the same time as the single laptop. Maybe the year later? There was much rejoicing and fanfare.

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 15, 2015

@ShoshannaEvers And yes, they did have a HQ, but this was at an RT convention. They had several (the warehouse in Akron, and previous

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 15, 2015

@ShoshannaEvers a business complex in maybe Kent or thereabouts. They ended up splitting editorial to a complex across the st.

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 15, 2015

@ShoshannaEvers I hope so :/ I never worked in office (freelancer) and only went to one RCon so I haven’t any idea how things had been run

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 15, 2015

@ShoshannaEvers in the last however many years 😉 But I did consider once (circa mid 00s) working in office and spent a week out there

— BJ (@JetGibbs) February 15, 2015

So, to recap what I understand as the essential elements from the above:

  1. At the time (2003-2004?), all critical business infrastructure data was on one laptop;
  2. …and it was dying while at an RT convention, so Jet called in her husband’s help.
  3. Jet did not work at the EC HQ, but this was stated (to her) to be the only copy of EC’s data for various critical systems.

Ellora’s Cave Decides to Respond

So Ellora’s Cave’s CEO, Patty Marks, sends a puff piece to their biz group. Which, by the way, happens to be hosted on yahoogroups, exactly where I’d (not) expect a company with a competent IT infrastructure to host critical infrastructure mail groups….
Letter follows.
Sent: Monday, February 16, 2015 2:36 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] Gossip regarding our systems
I don’t like to address gossip, because it lends to the possibility that someone may find it credible, but I think this is important.Apparently there is someone out there saying that we don’t back up your information and that we run our systems on single computers without backup.This so ludicrous that it shouldn’t need addressed, but just in case…
All of our data, including but not limited to Financial, Manuscripts, Graphics, Spreadsheets, programs and any resources used in the daily business of the company past or present is currently stored in a multi-server network.Each server is raided in the event of a hard drive failure and run we run redundant power supplies as an extra precaution.All data stored on the network is then backed up to another location using automatic backup software.The entire room is on its own electrical panel with commercial grade surge protection and battery backup.Our server network and all computers that access it are protected by the latest in antivirus and firewall technology.We have and still do employ a full-time IT department since 2005 – not to mention three outside consulting and hosting companies, one for the website, one for our computers and servers and one for our accounting programs.
Before that, we were a company consisting of six people or less and had no server network at that time.IT services were subcontracted on an as needed basis.Computers were backed up individually to external storage devices and no one computer contained all of the company information – at least not since I have been with Ellora’s Cave.As the company has progressed so has our hardware and software that we use every day to run things.
As for the confusion in the data loss with the Amazon cloud crash, there was no royalty data lost.The information erased were certain formulas that were built into the back end of the old EC site.We had the consultants who designed the original formulas fix the broken code – using the backups – and install it on our servers as a standalone program.All financial spreadsheets, imported or exported, royalty programs hosted offsite or onsite, have always been stored on our server network as well.Again we run like seven server environments for redundancy.
Our email system and our website all run on multiple cloud based servers for backup redundancy.Our own network has its own backup redundancy as described above.All user passwords and master passwords have to meet strict password requirements and are changed on a regular basis.All internal users require a domain credentials to access the files they have been give permissions to view and remote users need their domain credentials as well as firewall credentials to gain access to the internal network.No one person has access to the entire system except the IT department.All other permissions are locked down by department and department level basis.
AND – on top of it all – we carry business insurance in case of hardware or software failure and data loss.
Can I say with certainty that our systems are absolutely impenetrable?Well, considering people have hacked banks, giant retailers, SONY and managed to crash the Amazon cloud, I would guess not.But to imply that all of our information is on one “dying laptop” is laughable and simply untrue.

My Commentary on the Above

  1. It’s generally a convention of the English language to put spaces after periods and before new sentences. I’d expect a publisher to know that.
  2. It wasn’t actually gossip. That’s awfully dismissive.
  3. Anyone who thought it might be a statement about Ellora’s Cave’s current business practices needs better reading comprehension skills.
  4. Methinks EC doth protest too much.
  5. “We have and still do employ a full-time IT department since 2005 […}.” Conveniently, none of these people appear on Ellora’s Cave’s staff list.
  6. “Each server is raided in the event of a hard drive failure[…].” Okay, I actually LOLed at that. I assume Patty means: “Each server has RAID arrays to prevent loss of data from hard drive failure” and not what it says, which is: “We cannibalize servers when hard drives fail.”

My Own Recent Oops

I’ve lost data, and it’s not pretty. In fact, I’ve been considering writing two separate pieces about preventing data loss: one about several simple things you can do to ensure you don’t lose your data on your hard drive, and the other would be ways to ensure you have a full backup of a WordPress site. The latter involves some harder problems, though.
I have what I consider a paranoid level of backups. The other day, I had to wipe my server (that no longer hosts deirdre.net but still hosts several other domains I run).
I bought another domain the other night and was wondering where I was going to put it—my VPS (virtual private server) was out of space. Then I remembered I’d paid for more space, so I should just use that. Except that meant re-partitioning the drive, which meant wiping it, and then I decided I wanted to switch Linux distributions while I was at it. So…been at that for a few days.
I use the utility rsync to push my sites to my VPS. This is an old habit of mine.
Each site is kept in its own git repository. For those unfamiliar with git, it manages source code control. So, essentially, I can get back any revision at any point. Git leaves an invisible directory, .git, at the top of the repository.
Unfortunately, when I pushed one site up, I forgot to exclude the .git directory, and I canceled the transfer in the middle. Remember, I was space-constrained and git repositories aren’t particularly small.
Then I forgot to remove the partial .git directory.
So I’m in a hurry to back up my domains before wiping my VPS and resizing the partition and reinstalling and yada yada yada, and what I meant to do was to copy the images/ directory from the server back to my own hard drive, so I didn’t lose any photos. As Jenny Trout did. Disclosure: I have made the exact same mistake Jenny did, and that’s why chair-in-the-sky.com doesn’t have any of its old posts. I’ve removed them until I can dig up the photos. Sigh. Like Jenny, I lost them in a site transfer. Of all the steps in moving WordPress installs across sites, the media library is the most fragile part.
Rewinding a bit: I’m in a hurry. Instead of that one directory, I rsync back to my hard drive the whole domain, including the partial .git directory.
Clobbering my repository.
Sad panda.
But!
I have always pushed my git repository to another site! It’s all good, because my backup’s only a few minutes old. I can re-init a git repository and pull from the remote site.
However, the quicker option? I restored a thirty-minutes-ago backup of that directory with Apple’s Time Machine. Then I correctly pull the uploads directory only and add the new contents to my git repository. And push it upstream.
::phew::
To many of you, what I just wrote sounds completely unintelligible, but I do have a point in writing it (apart from personal embarrassment).
I’m a one-person shop, and this is the skill and expertise I have to ensure my own data doesn’t get lost, even when I screw up when I do something I’m too tired and/or rushed to do correctly.
Ellora’s Cave would need that much more skill on the ground, and their staff list doesn’t reflect that.

Look on the Bright Side…

I suppose they can just pay for all that IT infrastructure out of the bank account with $15 million in it, right?
And @pubnt wonders why Dear Author and Jane Litte want to subpoena her.

As Always, Linkage

The Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread helps support EC authors who’ve spoken out by linking to their sites and books.

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Ellora's Cave: @pubnt Faxes Judge

17 February 2015

On February 7th, @pubnt faxed a letter to the judge in the Ellora’s Cave vs. Dear Author case. Courtney Milan has a long blog post about it, so I thought I’d take a different tack on the issue.

Ellora’s Cave Thanked STGRB

On October 4, 2014, Tina Engler, writing as Jaid Black, posted a blog entry titled _To the Silenced Victims_, about how Ellora’s Cave’s authors and supporters were purportedly afraid to speak up.
On October 8, Ellora’s Cave tweeted a thank you to STGRB:
elloras-cave-thanking-stgrb-dick-move-indeed
(Thank you to azteclady, and several others, for screencaps.)
Before those two tweets, Ellora’s Cave hadn’t tweeted at all since August 11—nearly two months—not even promotional tweets for its new titles. I called out Jaid Black/Tina Engler on this:

@jaidblack @ReeCroteau Some of the concerns have been: 1) No promotion on @ellorascave for authors since 8/11 & 2) promoting STGRB instead.

— Deirdre Saoirse Moen (@deirdresm) October 9, 2014

For those who don’t know, the short version of StGRB is that it is not an anti-bullying group, but is a group of authors who bullied reviewers because of reviews the authors didn’t like. In other words, it’s ironically named.
Giving a one-star review to a book you genuinely didn’t like isn’t bullying.
I stated that the biggest problem with Ellora’s Cave’s tweets wasn’t so much the STGRB mention as failing to promote EC’s authors and books. I mean, it’s a Twitter account for a publisher that had new books published during those two months of radio silence. EC fixed that promotional shortcoming, and has remained focused on prompt tweeting of new releases, pretty much (I noticed a short blip, but didn’t record when, and I’m not interested in looking it up).
Oh, and also, Ellora’s Cave deleted one of those two tweets, the one that invoked STGRB. Why bother with this digression? Please hold….

@pubnt Invokes STGRB

What’s interesting about @pubnt’s tweets from the October 4th creation of the account until February 1 is that there are zero tweets for: “STGRB”, “goodreads”, “bully”, or “bullies”.
And yet, in her letter to the court, @pubnt relies heavily on STGRB rhetoric. Also, STGRB are in fact the only links in @pubnt’s letter.
What amuses me the most of all about @pubnt’s letter is the assertion that @pubnt is presenting evidence. STGRB isn’t evidence, it’s hearsay. Of course, if that’s how strongly TE feels about STGRB, she could have seen to it that the principal STGRBers were on EC’s witness list. But Ellora’s Cave didn’t choose to add said writers to their initial disclosures.
As a general rule, anything said by anyone outside the list of people who make formal statements admitted into evidence or who are witnesses in the case—that’s hearsay as far as the case is concerned.
Remember the pocket universe episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation? Legal cases are kind of like that. Apart from the witnesses and people giving testimony (and the law including case law, of course), the world outside is invisible. Or, more accurately, hearsay, with some notable exceptions.
Invoking some random blog, even this one, is neither evidence nor proof.

Things @pubnt Says About #notchilled Regulars and My Statement About Who I Am

I’d like to refute the generalizations @pubnt makes about #notchilled regulars, at least as they pertain to me.

  1. I have never met Jane Litte. I have followed the Dear Author twitter accounts because Jane Litte and others recommend books I’d like to read. I often disagree with JL’s ratings. As a specific example, one of my favorite books last year was Laurelin Paige’s Fixed Trilogy. JL gave the first book a C- rating. I agree that the first is the weakest of the three, but the plot twists in volumes two and three made it one of my favorites, and book one was strong enough for me to continue reading. Apparently not for JL, and that is her choice.
  2. I make a horrible minion. I will only do what I think is right, and, even then, I don’t have time (or energy) to do all of that. In Gretchen Rubin’s four tendencies, I’m a rebel with questioner tendencies, so I’m perfectly fine with not fitting in and not going along with a crowd.
  3. I have made far more money from being traditionally published than being self published. I have books published by Que, Sams, Baen, and BenBella, plus others under pseudonyms. (If you follow the purchase/sale trail of the first three, you’ll see that means I’ve been Big5 published by two different routes: Sams and Que became part of Simon & Schuster, and some of the work I did for Macmillan Computer Publishing meant I’ve been published by Holtzbrinck.) I’ve never been published in the romance genre, and I’ve only been rejected once in that genre—more than twenty years ago. Frankly, it was a horrible proposal for a category book, but I was still too green to know that. I am working on a romance novel, and I have an agent who’s already been promised first look.
  4. That said, of course I’ve been rejected, too. It’s a part of being an author. Though sometimes rejections sting (and I do whine about those privately), I also get over them. As a friend of mine says, the right attitude to take to these if they’re getting to you: “That’s one more time an editor tried to stop me and failed.” (Neither of us believe this viewpoint, btw, it’s just that it’s one that happens to work for both of us to help get us back to the salt mines of writing new stuff.) I don’t dislike anyone who’s rejected my work—except perhaps MZB, but that’s for reasons unrelated to her authorial or editorial work, at least as it relates to me.
  5. I am not “jealous” of any successful writers, nor am I envious of them. I also understand the difference between these two words.
  6. I don’t accept advertising on deirdre.net, and never have. That said, I make a small amount of money every now and then from Amazon’s Associate program. How small? I haven’t received anything since 2011, and they’ve owed me $16.28 since 2005. Which I didn’t know until I logged in for this screencap.
    amazon-associates
    Essentially, I removed all the Amazon links I had after LGBT fail and have never really managed to build up the associate income stream I used to have, small though it was.
    That said, I have been considering what kinds of banner ads I might have, but generally those would not be paid ads. Like: I’d make a banner ad for my own new book, which makes sense, right? But how about if a close friend releases one that I liked? How about if my writing group did one? Should I promote Clarion (a workshop I did) via ad? If so, what are my guidelines about where I’d put those vs. where/why I wouldn’t? I don’t have those answers yet. Until I do: only inline contextual links.
  7. I have a few other kinds of promotional links here and there, but none are specifically targeting indie authors unless it happens to be a book I’ve enjoyed.
  8. One of the reasons I don’t generally review books is that I would feel compelled to be honest about books I didn’t like, and I feel that’s a problem as an author. Sometimes my reasons for disliking books have to do with various artistic goals I’ve got as a writer. For example, I stopped reading Neal Stephenson because his endings didn’t satisfy me. As a plot structure person, that’s a killer for a book for me. Clearly, many readers don’t share this perspective, and I’m glad he writes books they can enjoy.
    The guideline I’ve decided to follow is that I’ll promote books I genuinely love. Period.

Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread

The Ellora’s Cave Author Exodus Support Thread is located here. Many EC authors have books out from other publishers. The purpose of the support thread is to help give those authors willing to speak out some visibility.

Note:

An earlier version of this post was supposed to be published over the weekend. Apparently several posts I thought I’d scheduled didn’t post. Oops.

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Author Marketing: Features vs. Benefits

09 February 2015

Author Marketing: Features vs. Benefits
If you’re anything like me, you’ve politely sat on your hands in some talk about author marketing because the techniques discussed clearly were aimed at non-fiction writers. Using your book to upsell readers onto a course (as an example) isn’t something that will (usually) work for a novelist unless you’re an academic.
I can’t remember the exact context I saw this post by Samuel Hulick in, but I first saw it a month or two ago linked from something technical I read. It’s about user onboarding, which is the process of getting a new user able to be up and running with some software in question.
It’s short. It’s brilliant. Go read it.
Except that novels (and short stories, and really any writing) also has an onboarding process. For me, I call it the point where the book “catches” for me. That’s where I’m on board for the first time.
Look at the image he’s got there. That flower? That’s your book. It’s not what you’re selling. That is just a feature of what you provide.
Much like the setting sun in the picture above is a feature. The benefit is its beauty that draws people out to watch.

How to Dovetail this into Author Marketing

When you’re looking at your book in terms of wanting to sell it to someone, whether that be an agent, editor, or reader—think in terms of benefits, not features.
A space opera: that’s a feature. A shifter romance: that’s a feature. Sure, the market has created that so that each catchphrase does create certain expectations of benefits to the reader.
Picking a book somewhat at random (on my to-read pile), Kameron Hurley’s The Mirror Empire:

On the eve of a recurring catastrophic event known to extinguish nations and reshape continents, a troubled orphan evades death and slavery to uncover her own bloody past… while a world goes to war with itself.
In the frozen kingdom of Saiduan, invaders from another realm are decimating whole cities, leaving behind nothing but ash and ruin. At the heart of this war lie the pacifistic Dhai people, once enslaved by the Saiduan and now courted by their former masters to provide aid against the encroaching enemy. As the dark star of the cataclysm rises, an illegitimate ruler is tasked uniting a country fractured by civil war; a precocious young fighter is asked to betray his family to save his skin; and a half-Dhai general must choose between the eradication of her father’s people or loyalty to her alien Empress.
Now the Dhai and their allies must hold against a seemingly unstoppable force as enemy nations prepare for a coming together of worlds as old as the universe itself.

The themes in the second paragraph are mostly about loyalty. That’s what this book provides: an exploration of an important theme in our lives. It’s not just a book, it’s a conversation.

But What if You’re Just Providing Entertainment?

Then that is your benefit in author marketing terms. To some extent, all fiction is entertainment in some form or another. That’s okay. But you can be more intelligent about your work than just “my writing amuses people.” To the extent that you can be more articulate about it, you can create an online marketing strategy that’s actually useful.
The point is to know what your benefit is.
Photo by Gabriel Santiago

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Vaccination: Just Do It

08 February 2015

vintage poster encouraging polio vaccination for children
I’m going to talk about vaccinations from the point of view of a person who’s older than most of the current vaccines, and what the changes have been like in my life.

My Age, In Practical Terms

If you read up on all of those, a handful of vaccination shots mean we miss the opportunity to suffer a whole lot of misery, and a bunch of truly smart and amazing people have been working hard ensuring that you, me, and that other person over there have the best chances at health possible.
I still remember spending a week absolutely miserable with chicken pox. A few years ago, I had a reoccurrence in the form of shingles. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.

One of My Earliest Childhood Memories

I remember going to CalTech’s park areas where I got my Salk vaccination for polio around about 1963. I was three or four years old.
You don’t see a lot of people with polio any more, for two good reasons: 1) thanks to Salk, it was eradicated in 1968, 2) the people who did have visible polio symptoms are less numerous as a percentage of the population.
Polio’s a horrific disease that not only killed and crippled people in droves, it has the unfortunate habit of cropping up again decades later. It was not uncommon to see people limping with canes or crutches due to polio back when I was a kid. (Granted, it was also not uncommon to see people limping with canes or crutches due to injuries in WW2, the Korean War, or Vietnam. Or even WW1.)

I Hated Shots As a Child

Despite being a child of scientists, I absolutely hated getting shots. They terrified me.
I remember hiding under my doctor’s desk in his office, and there were many tears associated with getting shots. But you know what? My parents had not only my best interests at heart, but those of the rest of society, too. Apart from fear, there was no good reason not to get my vaccinations.
When I was in early adulthood, it changed. I was okay getting shots if I saw the shot. Now I can look or not look, it doesn’t bother me either way, because I know the purpose of a shot is to kick the ass of something.
I’ve generally stayed on top of my boosters since then.

Have There Been Problems?

There is in fact a rather horrifying article about the Salk vaccine and SV40 over on SFGate.
Some of the early attempts at vaccines were like trying to tune a car engine with a plastic fork. There wasn’t any real way to ensure non-contamination until we got modern tools for sequencing, replicating, and analyzing DNA.

Penn and Teller on Vaccinations

Short but to the point, this is an awesome pro-vaccination video that neatly addresses the “vaccines cause autism” hype.

Vaccination Schedules

Here is a list of vaccination schedules by country.
Note that there are vaccines other than the flu vaccine that you should get, or get a booster of, as an adult.
If it’s helpful, the CDC has some tips on keeping (and locating) adult vaccination records.

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What I Learned from Google Analytics Today

04 February 2015

I’ve been trying to be smarter about marketing, and part of that means understanding who finds your pages and how they find them.
Hence I’ve delved into the dark art of SEO, specifically landing pages: when people search and find/visit my site, what pages do they land on?
And…I was surprised! Who knew that 1,000 (~2%) people would visit my spork page?
deirdre.net-landing-pages

What Surprised Me

I only looked at the top 25 landing pages. Here’s what surprised me from those results.

  1. I’m unsurprised that Marion Zimmer Bradley brought in the largest chunk of hits, especially given that one post was linked to from The Guardian. What I am surprised is that, SEO-wise, it’s a smaller number than I expected. Then again, she’s been dead over fifteen years, so maybe I shouldn’t be surprised.
  2. Similarly, I get a lot of hits on Ellora’s Cave posts, but it’s only 7% of my incoming search traffic despite having a high Google ranking for the search term Ellora’s Cave. Which…should say something about EC: relatively obscure.
  3. 20% of my incoming search traffic leads to my various art projects, mostly t-shirts. Given that I’ve been posting them for less than a year, this is very interesting to me. I was in the middle of a quandary: given that I want desamo.graphics to focus mostly on graphic elements for sale, is it more off-brand to put those projects on deirdre.net or on desamo.graphics? The results say to me that I should keep these on deirdre.net.
    Also a surprise was that this was my most-frequently-found art-related post.
  4. 9% of my incoming search traffic leads to two posts about fountain pens. I should do more of these. Did you know there are relatively recent patents about cool fountain pen technologies? It’s true!

Finding Your Own Landing Pages

You can find your top pages by doing the following in Google Analytics:

  1. Log into google.com/analytics. If you haven’t set up tracking on your site, now’s a good time to do so.
  2. Click on Reporting.
  3. Click on Acquisition.
  4. Click on Search Engine Optimization.
  5. Click on Landing Pages.

You can see more about how to do that in this moz.com blog post.

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SFWA Active and Associate Membership Will Be Available to Indies

03 February 2015

sfwa-indies-bphSFWA, the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America, has just changed their membership rules. There will be some speedbumps, as this is a major structural change.
Effective March 1, both indie and small press authors will be eligible for SFWA’s Active and Associate memberships.
For Active (full) membership:

  • One novel-length work for which the author’s earned at least $3,000; or
  • At least 10,000 words of shorter work for which the author’s earned at least 6 cents/word.

For Associate membership:

  • At least 1,000 words of shorter fiction for which the author’s earned at least 6 cents/word.

And then there are those of us bound to break the system because we’re already associates, but before the 6 cents a word went into effect.

Not Just for Gearheads

SF/F is a bigger tent than you might think. If you write a number of romance genres (e.g., paranormal romance), you’re also arguably writing SF/F.
I look forward to our Amish science fiction writer members.
More details here.

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