Deirdre Saoirse Moen

Sounds Like Weird

My September Experiment: Coconut-Free Living

31 August 2015

Coconut-Free: the red washi tape of doom
For many years, I’ve struggled with a coconut-free existence without really being aware coconut itself was the issue. Over the years, I’ve felt sad for people who’ve had to live both gluten-free and corn-free, as that’s quite difficult. However, it may actually be more difficult to avoid coconut in our modern age.
Part of that’s the fault of people like my first husband, so funny story down at the end.
Coconut’s in:

  • Almost all shampoos, face washes (especially the foaming ones), body washes, and toothpastes;
  • Many conditioners;
  • Many deodorants and anti-perspirants;
  • Some cough syrups;
  • Many makeup products; and
  • Some dishwashing detergents (and probably laundry detergents, though they’re cagier about actual identification of ingredients).

Now, I’ve eliminated all the coconut ingredients that I knew bothered me over the years. However, coconut’s in so many, many things that I had no idea for sure if I wasn’t generally feeling worse because of additive exposure. I have a friend who was miserable for two years and got so sick she consulted a cardiologist before it was figured out she was allergic to wheat. I don’t want to be that person because I was being silly.

The Great September Experiment (and the Red Washi Tape of Doom)

I decided, naturally after I’d just ordered some items with coconut (grin), that September was a great time for me to run an experiment: no coconut internally or externally. If I feel better, then I have to eliminate all coconut. I’ve kept track of how I’ve felt during August. If I consider September insufficiently conclusive, then my plan is to extend the experiment through October. At that point, I’ll know whether I can start re-introducing coconut ingredients or not.
If I can, then my plan is to introduce one specific coconut ingredient at a time. Like: Stearic Acid for two weeks (that will probably actually be first because I love Wintergreen Life Savers and they have Stearic Acid in them, as do many hard candies).
I know how I get when I’m tired: I forget things, and make some stupid mistakes. I’m often showering or washing my face at the beginning or ending of my day when I’m at my worst. So, I thought, a simple trip to Staples and less than five bucks should help solve this problem.
To mark the no-coconut things, I got small holographic stars. To mark the coconut things, I got red washi tape. (Not all things in the pic below have been marked yet, and not everything’s turned so you can see the star or tape.)
Coconut-Free: the red washi tape of doom

A Korean and Japanese Skin Care Routine That’s Coconut-Free

Here are the ones I’ve used (except where otherwise noted):

  1. Oil cleanser. Many oil cleansers are coconut-free (probably about a third of the ones at your nearest Sephora, for example). Kosé Softymo Deep Cleansing Oil (gold, not the pink Speedy, which is *not* coconut-free) runs around $11 for 230ml. I missed a coconut ingredient. 🙁 Please hold.
  2. Second cleanser. So far, I’ve only found one, and I stopped looking when I found it: Innisfree Jeju Bija Anti-Trouble Cleansing Gel. This is more like a pool cleanser, so it can be both a first and a second cleanser. More about pool cleansers in this piece on fanserviced-b.
    You can basically assume that anything foaming is not coconut free, which will save you a ton of label disappointment and time. I’ll create a list after a while, but this category’s lower priority than some others.
  3. Exfoliater. Cure Natural Aqua Gel, the most commonly-used exfoliator in Japan, is coconut-free, but many products in this category may be. (Note: I’ve not used any products in this category.)
  4. Toner. I use a toner every 2-3 nights, and use CosRX’s AHA/BHA Clarifying Treatment Toner. For a hydrating toner, I still have a bottle of Elemis’s Apricot toner (Elemis is a British brand and quite pricey, but I’ve got a mostly full bottle, so it’s a sunk cost).
  5. Serum, Emulsion, Ampoule. I use CosRX’s Advanced Snail 96 Mucin Power Essence alternated with CosRX’s Propolis Light Ampule. I hadn’t intended to be all animal product at this stage, nor is that a given. It’s just the way it happened.
  6. Sheet Masks. Many much-loved sheet masks aren’t coconut free. Here are some I’ve happened upon that are.

    • Some Skinfood “Beauty in a Food Mask”: Strawberry, Jeju Tangerine, and Ginseng for sure.
    • Some Skinfood Everyday: Olive, Lentil, Beauty Berry, and Green Tea definitely are.
    • Whamisa Organic Seeds & Rice Fermented Hydrogel Mask with Lactobacillus, so thankfully one company gifted two with an order because I hadn’t thought to buy one. I haven’t tried it yet.
    • Benton Snail Bee High Content Mask Pack, also a gift. I haven’t tried it yet.
    • Some Sexylook masks, which thankfully have their ingredients printed in English on the back. The (purple) Intensive Firming Duo 3D Lifting Facial Mask has a first ingredient of rose water. The (pink) Super Hydrating Duo 3D Lifting Facial Mask has a first ingredient of rhodochrosite extract.
    • Dr. Jart+ hydrogels like the Water-full Hydrogel Mask and Wrinkless Solution, are coconut free and available at Sephora for mind-boggling prices.
    • Some Dermal masks, including Q10 Collagen Essence Mask and Acerola Collagen Essence Mask.
  7. Eye Creams. I haven’t found any yet. This is my next project.
  8. Moisturizer. After loving a non-coconut-free Hada Labo product, I went to a local Japanese grocery (Mitsuwa in San Jose) and picked up Hada Labo 3D Anti-Aging Perfect Gel which Mentholatum imports. Mentholatum’s parent company, Rohto, makes Hada Labo. Nature Republic’s Aqua Super Aqua Max Combination Watery Cream is another. Most Asian beauty moisturizers aren’t coconut free, but it was fairly easy to find one.
  9. Sunscreen. I’m going to recommend this, but it may be a mistake, so let me know if it doesn’t work for you. Laur- often translates to coconut or palm origin because they lead to production of long carbon chains. The Biore UV AQUA Rich Watery Essence SPF 50+ PA++++ contains Lauryl Methacrylate/Sodium Methacrylate crosspolymer. Yet, I see nothing in that linked document that indicates specific origin, let alone coconut. In this case, the further removed from the nut, the better as far as I’m concerned. Also available on Amazon as an import.
    If you need alcohol free and that’s a bigger problem for you than coconut is, Mentholatum Sunplay Super Block Sunscreen SPF 50+ PA++++ is the only thing I’ve found so far. This is a Japanese import. It has two laur- ingredients that are not listed on other coconut lists (lauryl PEG-9 polydimethylsiloxyethyl dimethicone and vinyl dimethicone/lauryl dimethicone crosspolymer). Amazon link. Currently $9.48 for 30g (a hair over an ounce).
  10. Sleeping Pack. I really love the Too Cool For School Pumpkin Sleeping Pack. Here are some others I haven’t tried:

    • Etude House Collagen Moistfull Sleeping Pack
    • Etude House Play Therapy SLEEPING PACK #Moist Up
    • Imselene Birds Nest Aqua Sleeping Mask Pack
    • Innisfree Aloe Revital Sleeping Pack
    • Innisfree Green Tea Sleeping Pack
    • Lioele Bee My Honey Sleeping Pack
    • Lioele Waterdrop Sleeping Pack (I’d incorrectly marked a sample of this with red washi tape in the photo above, which I’ve since corrected)
    • Nature Republic Super Aqua Max Deep Moist Sleeping Pack
    • Shara Shara The Veiled Beauty Sleeping Mask
    • SNP Diamond Water Moisturizing Sleeping Pack

Other Things


Most commercial toothpastes have sodium laurel/eth sulfate, which is coconut derived. Even if you’re not avoiding coconut, if you get canker sores, these are correlated with SLS, so you might want to try some SLS-free toothpaste.
I know of two without coconut ingredients that have fluoride: Closys (shown above) and Tom’s of Maine Clean & Easy Gentle Care.


Many of these have some coconut ingredients. I’ve been using the Mennen stick ones for years, and the non-gel ones all have coconut where the gel ones don’t. However, when I happened to be in a small pharmacy in Oregon, they didn’t have the gel ones, so I picked up an Old Spice stick instead.


Shampoo is the problem child. I’m convinced that shampoo uses higher amounts of (coconut-derived) surfactants, but I haven’t performed the experiment yet.
The only shampoo I know of that’s shampoo like and coconut-free is from Gabriel Cosmetics:
Coconut-Free Gluten-Free Tropical Burst Shampoo
I just got a bottle and it’s nice. Not super lathery, but that’s to be expected. The detangler and hand soap are also coconut free, as is the bath foam. Gabriel Cosmetics is carried by most health food stores that stock personal care, and Whole Foods. If they don’t stock it, as my local store doesn’t, they can probably order it for you.
A number of lines designed for the anti-shampoo movement (no-poo, low-poo, or co-washing) are coconut free. Four of the five shampoos from Morocco Method are coconut free (the exception being the Earth Essence). I’ve only tried a sample of the Heavenly Essence. The Floating Lotus Conditioner and Pearl Essence Creme Rinse are also coconut-free.

A Funny Story and a Book Coming Out

I mentioned in my How I Discovered My Coconut Allergy post, my first husband, Richard Savino, was a soap chemist for Lever Bros (which was what the US division of Unilever was still called until the 90s).
So when I got the shampoo, I obviously couldn’t talk to my late husband about it, so I wrote his ex-wife, Beth Kanell, who also was a chemist and is now a mystery writer. She pointed out that Unilever really got its start with importing palm and coconut oils from afar, investing heavily in overseas plantations. In 1930, British soapmaker Lever Brothers merged with Dutch margarine maker Margarine Unie to form Unilever. The merger made sense because importing palm oil was easier on a larger scale.
So one of my questions had been how coconut became so entrentched in detergents and personal care products, and there I was married to a chemist who’d previously been making that future a reality.
Beth also mentioned that coming out soon—coincidentally on the day my experiment was planned to start—is James R. Benn’s novel The White Ghost, a historical mystery involving the Pacific theatre of WWII and Unilever machinations.
The Solomon Islands, where the book is set, currently produces in excess of 600 million coconuts a year. Just typing that sentence made me itch all over.

In Closing

Coconut allergies (and contact dermatitis) are pretty rare. Unless you know you’re reacting to something that’s a coconut ingredient, there’s no specific reason to avoid coconut. However, if you’re one of the unlucky few, I hope this post helps.
For those of you who suspect a coconut allergy, the last time I checked, there were no specific antigens that allergists had where they could actually test for a coconut allergy. Here is a partial list of coconut ingredients.

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Ellora's Cave: Ann Jacobs's Author Counterclaim

20 August 2015

Ellora’s Cave author Ann Jacobs has filed an Intervening Counterclaim in the Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author case. (Here, as with other similar situations, I’ll refer to her by her pseudonym.) From page 1 of the counterclaim:

The future value of the specific performance and declaratory judgment is unknown, but the damages incurred from Ellora’s Cave’s breaches are at least $193,000.

For. One. Author. (Ellora’s Cave had, last I checked, over 900.)
From pp. 4-5:

By way of example, §10 of the Mutual Favor Publishing Agreement provides that “In regard to all of Publisher’s royalty provisions as specified below, Publisher shall pay royalties based on cover price.”
Under § 10.1 of the Mutual Favor Publishing Agreement, the applicable royalty rate for digital formats of A Mutual Favor is 37.5% of cover price.
Under § 10.2 of the Mutual Favor Publishing Agreement, the royalty rate for print books of A Mutual Favor is 7.5% of cover price.
Notwithstanding the language in the contracts, Ellora’s Cave has stated that it believes it is entitled to calculate and pay (and has in fact calculated and paid) royalties to Jacobs—and, upon information and belief, other similarly situated authors—based not on cover price, but on the actual sales price of the works. […]
Ellora’s Cave has made similar underpayments for most or all of Jacobs’s works, and upon information and belief has made similar underpayments for many other authors.
After complaints about the improper royalty payments, Ellora’s Cave attempted to modify its publishing contracts with its authors, including Jacobs, by unilaterally informing the authors that Ellora’s Cave would begin paying an increased royalty rate (45% or 40%) but pay the royalty rate based on the sales price, which was often substantially lower than the cover price. The net result was that even with a supposedly higher royalty rate, the royalty payments were below those provided for in the contracts.
Ellora’s Cave’s attempts to change the royalty payment structure by unilateral notice is not permitted under any of the Publishing Agreements, all of which contain provisions requiring any modifications to be made in a writing signed by both Jacobs and Ellora’s Cave. The attempts at modification are, however, indicative of Ellora’s Cave’s knowledge that its prior royalty payments were not consistent with the Publishing Agreements.

Taking the claims as true, I think essentially this would prove the Dear Author claims about authors owed “several thousands, perhaps approaching six figures”. As I joked once, some people could say Dear Author’s statements were untrue with a straight face if seven figures were owed.
There’s also a Motion to Intervene as Counterclaim Defendant filed by Ms. Jacobs.

In the main action the plaintiffs, including Ellora’s Cave, have alleged that the defendants defamed the plaintiffs by stating that the plaintiffs have failed to timely pay royalties to Ellora’s Cave authors. See Complaint at ¶ 12, dkt. 1-1, PAGEID # 8. The intervenor’s claims therefore have not only common questions of fact and law with the main action, but actually substantially identical questions of fact and law with the main action. To put it more simply, if the intervenor prevails on her intervening counterclaims, the claims in the complaint (or at least a portion of them) fail as a matter of law, because the allegedly defamatory statements will have been shown to be true.

So, there you go.

Courtney Milan’s blog post is here. She’s actually been to law school and been a clerk for some Very Important Judges and was a law professor. So.

Filing this claim as a motion to intervene was probably not the way to maximize the chances of success. If I had to guess, and this is purely a guess, I would say that this is an exercise in saber rattling. This is the saber I hear being rattled: Revert my titles, now, or you’ll spend well into the six figure mark defending your existence.

My commentary: I didn’t want to say this until I saw Courtney’s take on it, but I agree with her that this is some badass sabre rattling. I also find it really interesting that nothing was filed far earlier, say in December or January at the very latest.
Why? I think she’s seeing the writing on the wall, and she believes this is the best strategy to get paid, in full or in part, and get her rights reverted. Because if they pay her and revert her work, she doesn’t have a cause of action any more.
It’s a way of jumping the queue in front of other authors, and I think we may see more queue jumping coming up.

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Ellora's Cave: A Whole Bunch of Biz Emails

15 August 2015

This post includes the bodies of several emails from Tina Engler to Ellora’s Cave’s business list (hosted on yahoogroups). Note that where there are email addresses listed in the body, I’ve reduced it to the part in the front of the domain name (e.g., website@) to not be a source of spam.

Aug 12: Website & New EC Active Author Group

Date: Wed, Aug 12, 2015 at 7:26 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] a new group for active EC authors & site update
After the past couple days I’m starting to feel like the town crier so (hopefully!) this will be my last post for at least a week 🙂


  1. search engine done
  2. author pages done
  3. made “coming soon” section our current priority as of today
  4. new front page after that
  5. series search is next
  6. adjusting book pages so the cover isn’t stretched out

*any errors for points 1 & 2 should be sent to website@ as they are completed

New Group Loop

This week I’m going to be sending out invitations to a private, closed group for active EC authors! The new group is voluntary and participatory; it’s not an announcements-only loop. The group’s main foci are: brainstorming, blurb help, strategizing, maximizing sales, and maintaining communication. If you are an active EC author with a professional reputation (i.e. no history of making private business matters public fodder) then you will receive an invite so long as you meet one of the following criteria:

  1. Had an EC book release within the past 3 months
  2. Have an EC book that hasn’t yet released, but has a scheduled release date
  3. Signed a contract with EC within the past 3 months and are in good standing with your editor by turning in your revisions/edits on or before the agreed upon due date
  4. Are a full time EC employee.

*Please remember this is NOT mandatory. If you receive an invitation but feel you’ve already got too much on your plate to deal with, simply decline it. You will NOT be frowned upon for doing so!! Alternately, you can accept the invite then opt out of individual emails so you can check the loop when time, energy, and desire allows. It’s totally up to you.
And finally, inactive authors who still have books under contract at EC will continue to receive all announcements that pertain to them here on the biz loop. You are not removed from our biz loop (unless you choose to unsubscribe) so long as your books are contracted at EC.
Tina, whose typing fingers are getting sore 🙂
(end email)
Except, of course, quite a few people were silently shoved off of (or never added to) the ec_biz list, so this blog is the place they get those emails. Call it a public service.

August 12th Addendum to Email Contact List

Sent: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 3:38 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] Addendum to Email Contacts
Per Raelene:

  1. The main email for authors to use for anything you hadn’t listed, and actually for anything if they don’t remember the other addresses, is AuthorInfo@. Anything they send there (including stuff for contracts, royalties, whatever) will be routed to the right place for them. So if they can only remember one EC email address, that’s the one to use.
  2. And for rights buybacks, authors should cc contracts@ when emailing patty@.

August 12th A Final Post for Now

Sent: Wednesday, August 12, 2015 4:22 AM
Subject: [ec_biz] a final post (for now) with a thank you
First of all, I want to thank you for your patience and understanding as we get over this hump. I am humbled and sincerely warmed by the outpouring of positivity and graciousness the overwhelming majority of you have sent our way. You make all the hard work and long nights very much worth it 🙂
Secondly, after speaking with an EC author who’s been with us for a while but who I hadn’t met until recently, I realized that we’ve been far too silent this past year. This person pointed out that the majority of EC’s authors are good, professional people and therefore shouldn’t be punished because of a few bad apples. While it was never our intention to punish anyone, we have come to realize that we have indeed been far too silent over the course of the last year. The bad apples are going to do what bad apples do regardless to whether or not we maintain transparency or cloak ourselves under a veil of silence. Gun shy though we may be, s/he is correct. Therefore we will do our very best to be more communicative on a regular basis.
I often wax nostalgic for the old days when I was able to be 100% transparent with our authors and never once have to worry someone would leak private business information onto public forums and social media. While I realize those days can’t be relived due to sheer growth, I would remind those of you who have been with EC for over a decade that I am the same person now who I was back then. What you see is what you get. I have no hidden agendas and rate 0% in the “poker face” arena. I have always kept my life an open book and that will never change. My goal both then and now is to maximize your profits and make you proud to be an EC author. While the current market has turned the publishing world on its heels, we will continue to reinvent ourselves as we’ve done a plethora of times before. We got through the Borders debacle and bounced back stronger than ever thanks to the business acumen of our CEO, Patty Marks, during a time when many publishers went under. Amazon is merely another bump in the road and, as always, we can and will endure and end up stronger because of it.
Those of you who know me are aware of the fact that I (a) don’t bullshit people and (b) never, ever give up. Because of our small but mighty team at EC, we WILL put you back on the map and make sure you rule over it. THAT IS A PROMISE!!
Again, thank you for your kindness, generosity, and belief in EC. I allowed myself to behave reactively toward the negativity for a year, but that is over. I love EC and I love the vast majority of our authors both new and old. Here’s to reclaiming our stronghold.
(end email)
A few bad apples? That’s how you’re choosing to characterize authors making you money who are upset about (purported) slow/no pay and/or underpayment?

August 11th Contact List

Sent: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 9:41 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] EC emails
I apologize in advance for inundating you with an uncharacteristic amount of notices! I want to make various issues easy to find by having their own subject lines rather than grouping them together in one large email. I’m trying to become more conscientious where that’s concerned, though sometimes I do forget. But I’m digressing…
When you need to email EC please email ONLY the appropriate address and nobody else. Otherwise everyone included in the email occasionally assumes someone else addressed the issue. This happened recently which is why I’m addressing it now.
contracts@ – new contracts, new contract questions, and rights reversion requests that meet the criteria (sold less than 100 copies in time frame specified in contract)
royalties@ – royalty questions that can only be answered by the accounting department, missing statements (you should ALWAYS receive a statement with each check,) and discrepancies between statements and monies received (this is rare, but it does occasionally happen.) For the next couple of months please only email royalties@ for missing statements and discrepancies between statements & monies received. This kindness on your behalf is greatly appreciated as Courtney is working 7 days a week (literally) to catch up.
patty@ – questions pertaining to rights reversion requests wherein the author knows they don’t meet the criteria for free reversions and are asking for a buy-back price. As an FYI, the prices are straightforward and are based on anticipated loss of income over a 3-year period. (I’m pretty sure it’s 3 years, but I’m not 100% on that and I don’t want to wake her up to confirm!) Point being, we don’t hijack the prices. Each and every request is calculated the same way.
website@ – issues with the new site.
jaid@ – when you have exhausted yourself of all proper channels and feel that your question and/or issue hasn’t been sufficiently addressed then I’m the one to contact. (It doesn’t matter which department this pertains to.) I’m also the person to contact for anything that has to do with marketing, creative PR, or just project ideas you have that would require me to give the green light before proceeding. Example: authors X, Y, & Z would like to put together a niche anthology (which we don’t typically do anymore) bc they think it has sales potential based on (insert reason.)
josem@ – social media issues/questions/ideas.
It’s important we work together; emailing only the proper address is a vital part of that. It’s especially crucial for general email addresses (contracts, royalties, website) because multiple people access those boxes so never assume you’re reaching one specific staff member.
Thanks in advance!
(end email)
“We don’t hijack the prices.” I disagree. So does Victoria Strauss:

One last thing: a publisher should not put a price on rights reversion. Charging a fee for reversion or contract termination is a nasty way for a publisher to make a quick buck as a writer goes out the door. A termination fee in a publishing contract is a red flag (for more on why, see my blog post). And attempting to levy a fee that’s not included in the contract is truly disgraceful.

August 11th Updates

Subject: [ec_biz] updates
We’re extremely and genuinely sorry for the delays you’re experiencing. I understand and empathize with your needs and worries, but I promise it’s getting better. Please hang in there while we catch back up, which we will and always do.
As an FYI: the fewer emails sent to accounting, the faster we can get royalties processed and mailed. Courtney recently had a family emergency and went to [visit a family member with a hospital emergency], but she is back in Ohio and working feverishly to catch up. I understand this is not your problem, but I hope you can lend your understanding.
(end email)
Note that I edited out the specifics of what Courtney’s family emergency was to protect the privacy of that family member.
You know what? Rick and I have both worked as temps for Accountemps. There are plenty of temp/contract agencies that could have covered this.

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Tonight, Mountain View: Rick Talking on OpenSprinkler Systems

05 August 2015

Rick’s talking at SVLUG (the Silicon Valley User’s Group) tonight on a topic that’s useful for pretty much everyone in California right now who has a garden: OpenSprinkler and Arduino-based systems.
Rick’s done a ton of work on reducing water usage for our garden. (Here’s a super-old post on what we were growing in 2009.)
The talk begins at 7 pm and is at Symantec in Mountain View. Directions in link.

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Ellora's Cave: Headquarters for Sale and Lawsuit Update

01 August 2015

I got word about a week ago that Ellora’s Cave’s headquarters were for sale. This building isn’t owned by EC, but by sister company Brannon-Engler Properties, Ltd. Per Dear Author’s Curious post, one of the things alleged in the Brashear case was that the property was rented to Ellora’s Cave at inflated prices.
I had other things going on, so I’m a little late in reporting on it, but I think you’ll agree it was worth the wait. The other day, I got an anon tip containing Tina Engler’s latest missive:

For the past year we’ve only been releasing information on a need-to-know basis because it feels pointless to make announcements when we know that anything we say will be twisted, redistributed, and broadcast in a false light by a select minority of authors who (a) don’t know what they’re talking about and (b) have agendas. That said, here are my responses to the latest rumors:

  1. Yes, the building EC currently inhabits is up for sale. As we no longer print books and have downsized to boot, it makes no sense to keep such a large facility with 3/4 of it being unused space. When the building sells we will be moving into a commercial area that is zoned for retail; the offices will be in the back and our (upcoming) bookstore will be in the front. We’re actually very excited about this and have been working toward the goal of getting the Home Ave building up for sale for months; it is now (finally) on the market.
  2. No, we did not spend “tons of money” on our new website. It was created in-house by Darrell King who is already on payroll.
  3. We are not filing for bankruptcy. (This rumor is really getting old.) We are further downsizing where we need to, upsizing where we need to, and getting EC back to where we were before… and then some. This process takes time, but it’s definitely happening. We’ve got several irons in the fire and look forward to furthering the careers of our loyal, professional authors. (More to come on that later.)

I think that’s it for now. Have a wonderful week.

Additionally, there was another followup from Tina:

EC should have informed you that the old links to your books do not work on the new site. I didn’t realize this either until a week ago after spending two hours updating my links. I am truly sorry for the oversight.

So I’m going to respond point-by-point:

  1. First, all authors have agendas. All businesses do too. This is a very us vs. them kind of statement that has no constructive purpose.
  2. On the building sale: good for the most part. Tina basically echoed what I said a few days ago on Twitter: they don’t print their own physical books any more, and thus the building is too large a space for their current needs. My only criticism is that this feels like it’s happening significantly later than it should have. My understanding, which may be in error, is that they stopped printing their own physical books around the time of the POD printer lawsuit, which dates to 2011.
    Note that this doesn’t mean EC will stop having print versions of books, just that they will no longer be printing and stocking them in house. Switching to a just-in-time POD production company (e.g., CreateSpace) makes sense. (I’m actually a big fan of just-in-time manufacturing. More on that in a later post.)
    On the other hand, a bookstore? When so many are closing? So, they’re selling off their book storage space so they can move into a smaller space where they’ll need book storage space?
    Ellora’s Cave is not going to get significant foot traffic unless they’re somewhere with really high retail rents. After all, the space they have right now has a front office space that could be a bookstore. It has window space, though too many divided lights to make it a display window. Also, anywhere with a lot of window space will be expensive to heat in winter.
    Also, having worked in a bookstore, I’m pretty sure this will be a huge rude awakening for EC. The US lost ~20% of its indie bookstores between 2002 and 2011. In addition, a bookstore requires continual staffing, and Ellora’s Cave doesn’t have that kind of staffing level right now.
    But, you know, romantic ideals about bookstores. Whatevs.
  3. Despite other criticisms about the new website, I think moving to WordPress with WooCommerce on WPEngine is a huge improvement. And, thank God, no more blinding red. Also, they’re using WooCommerce for their shopping cart, and that is what I would have suggested had they asked.
    That said, I’ve given it a few weeks to settle in, so I think I can make some real criticisms now.

    • The way the migration was done killed Ellora’s Cave’s existing SEO (search engine optimization). All the inbound links from everywhere are now broken. When those links bring up 404 errors (page not found), what happens is they then lose the inbound link as adding to the value of that site. They might as well have bought a brand new domain and started there.
      The right solution is to add a bunch of redirects, one for each author and each book. Unfortunately, the tools for doing so on WPEngine aren’t super great because it doesn’t use Apache’s .htaccess format for it.
      There is exactly zero reason that this should be on authors (or reviewers), though.
    • Not migrating customers and their libraries is amateur hour. I can understand libraries taking a while, but then you’d have to shut off e-commerce until you worked the old libraries into the new table structure.
      Here’s my constructive suggestion: if EC can’t migrate people except by hand, migrate people’s libraries in the order they sign up for an account on the new site. It would also be nice if there were some time frame given for when customers’ libraries would be migrated. (And totally unprofessional for them not to be migrated.)
      Over time, that will reduce customer service requests, and it will also give EC a goodwill boost it desperately needs. Plus, many of us—myself included—have bought books off of EC’s website and we’re basically cut off from our libraries. Apparently, this is not the first time EC’s done this; I’m told they also did so when they upgraded to the red site from the previous incarnation.
      Not only that, but Tina was encouraging authors to encourage their readers to buy books directly off EC’s site, so now EC’s throwing those authors and customers under the bus?
      Can you just imagine the outcry if Amazon did this for Kindle books?
      If you want Amazon’s business, Tina, you have to be at least as good as Amazon. Not amateur hour.
    • I know default WordPress search isn’t the world’s best, but visit the new EC site and search on, say, Paris. One of the many titles found has Paris in the title, but not all of those books have the search term even in the description. I don’t know how they managed that, but my WordPress searches don’t work that badly. Logic suggests that author matches and/or title matches should be ranked first, though, and they’re not.
    • There is no information on the site about how to submit to the publisher. That’s probably a good thing, though.
    • Others have noted that there is no physical address. Given that their building is for sale, that may well be temporary, but I’m more likely to do business with a site that actually lists their physical address.
  4. While I’m glad Ellora’s Cave isn’t filing for bankruptcy, part of me wonders how much of this is sheer stubbornness. Several people have reported that they haven’t received a check since May, which paid for royalties due up through January.

Ellora’s Cave v. Dear Author Lawsuit Update

It’s been a quiet few months, and the only thing to happen in the last six weeks is another status update (docket item 39) from the defense. Status reports are supposed to be filed every 45 days by both parties. Only two things happened since the last status report:

  1. On June 15, 2015, Plaintiffs served responses to written discovery.
  2. On July 15, 2015, Plaintiffs and Defendants served their witness lists.

What’s interesting, though is that there’s only been one plaintiff status report (on April 28th, docket item 35) and there have been four defense status reports. Normally, things filed with the court by the parties are a matter of public record, so I’d expect to see them on the docket.
Now, granted, the discovery period is a time when the parties are incredibly busy, but there may not be a lot of court filings. So, from an outsider’s perspective, this can appear to be a very “quiet” period, even though it’s anything but.

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Hugo Awards: Voting Closes July 31!

30 July 2015

The Hugo Awards
Just a reminder that Hugo Awards voting closes tomorrow night (July 31st) at 11:59 pm Pacific Daylight Time. You can submit or change your vote before then by visiting this page on the Sasquan site.
Note: You will need your Hugo PIN to submit or change your ballot. Please request your PIN as early as possible if you don’t have it handy.
Even if you and I have nothing in common on which we’d vote for, if you’re a member of Sasquan, please vote. Here is my Puppy-free Hugo Award Voter’s Guide if that helps you.
I want to say this about the Best Fan Writer category. I’m not voting for Laura J. Mixon as best fan writer for the following reasons:

  1. She has lobbied for the award, which I consider an automatic disqualification. Cool is letting someone know what you have that you believe is eligible. Not cool: “A vote for me sends a clear signal…” Yes, she later edited that out of her post, but that’s emotional blackmail.
  2. I consider a pro author criticizing a reviewer’s history as a pro activity, not a fan activity, and thus not fan writing.
  3. Benjanun Sriduangkaew has since been doxxed, and I believe that the vaunting of Laura J. Mixon helped that happen.

Getting back to the Hugo Awards more generally, I liked this pep talk from Cheryl Morgan.
Comments are off on this piece. Please comment elsewhere if you’re so inclined.

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Ellora's Cave: New Kindle Contract and Forthcoming Website

01 July 2015

Two things: Ellora’s Cave has a new contract with Amazon for Kindle sales. Also, Ellora’s Cave’s website is currently down, but apparently a new site’s forthcoming. Emails from EC follow, along with minimal commentary from me.
Yesterday, EC’s site was completely offline. Today, they’ve got a placeholder page up, which is an improvement.

Ellora’s Cave Has a New Amazon Kindle Contract

(edited slightly only for formatting reasons)
Sent: Monday, June 29, 2015 2:25 PM
Subject: [ec_biz] New EC Kindle contract
Dear authors,
You hear about it when huge publishers like Simon & Schuster or Penguin Random House are renegotiating their expired Amazon contracts. But that happens to the rest of us too, although it doesn’t make the news. EC’s Kindle contract recently expired, and we had notified Amazon we did not want to renew at the old terms, wanted to negotiate a better deal for EC and our authors.
EC now has a new contract for ebook sales with Kindle, one that we feel will bring more royalty income! [The negotiations are why I have so many more silver hairs and have been mainlining chocolate for weeks. 😉 ] Amazon has a very stringent confidentiality clause, so we cannot disclose the exact details of the terms. This new contract will go into effect early July.
Royalties will be based on both list price of the ebook and the location of the purchaser. Royalty rates will be significantly higher for sales within the US and in our other primary customer bases, and when ebook list price is $2.99 and higher. Almost 90% of EC Kindle sales meet these criteria! For ebooks priced less than $2.99 or sold in other areas of the world, per-unit royalties will be reduced by about 25%–but those are only about 10% of our Kindle royalty income, so this was an acceptable negotiation trade-off.
In light of the above royalty rate changes, EC has reevaluated our ebook pricing structure and is making adjustments to take best advantage of the algorithms.

  • Ebooks with a current list price of $2.00 to $2.98 will be repriced to $2.99, so that they get the improved royalty rate. Almost all these books are the older backlist titles whose prices were halved; even with the very slight upward adjustment, they will still cost significantly less than their original list price.
  • We will no longer release new books priced less than $2.99. We are making appropriate adjustments in minimum word count and multi-short-story packaging.
  • We have calculated that with the new royalty rates, EC can lower list prices a bit and still bring in more income. Lower prices will hopefully encourage more sales, especially since we are strategically dropping each price point into the next lower dollar bracket. For example, ebooks with a current list price of $5.60 will become $4.99, those at $6.50 will become $5.99, and so on. These changes will occur in early July, and apply across the board—all etailers.

The new contract does eliminate EC’s previous exemption to have a cover price on its own webstore that was lower than what we provide to vendors. So the EC webstore is being revamped, will show just the standard new List Price.
The royalty and pricing changes will show up starting with your July royalties statement.
(end email)
Assuming there’s no spin on this, this sounds like a very good deal for Ellora’s Cave and its authors.

New Ellora’s Cave Website Forthcoming

Sent: Wednesday, July 1, 2015 9:35 AM
Subject: [EC newsletter] New EC webstore
From Darrell King, Chief Creative Officer, Ellora’s Cave Publishing Inc.:
Ellora’s Cave is in the process of switching to a new and improved website. It’s streamlined, cleaner, easier to use and tablet/smartphone friendly!
As par for the course, we expect some minor bumps in the road during the changeover. Unfortunately, the restructuring of the store means that the old bookshelf system will not transfer to the new site, but our customer service staff will be standing by to assist you along the way as we transition.
We appreciate your patience as we work to improve your experience with Ellora’s Cave. In order to avoid overloading customer service with web-related issues during the next few days, please send your questions or comments about the website to We will answer all queries as quickly as possible. Thanks for your understanding and we hope you enjoy our wonderful new online shopping experience!
Darrell King
Chief Creative Officer
Ellora’s Cave Publishing, Inc.
Deirdre’s comment: I hope it’s less red.
Update: the new website is up, at least in its early form, and there is no red to be seen.

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Mom Update: She's Home! \o/

29 June 2015

Plum Blossoms
So, after over two months in the hospital, ICU, and rehab (skilled nursing facility), mom just arrived home. We’re waiting for the cat to figure out she’s here.
She still hasn’t had any of her surgery, but she’s recovered really well.

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Dubrovnik's Old City

26 June 2015

Dubrovnik, Old City, photo by Rick Moen
You can usually tell the difference between Rick photos and Deirdre photos: mine only rarely have people in them. In fact, it’s hard for me to remember to actually take photos of Rick or myself. Or anyone.
I’m just so conditioned to waiting for that people-free shot, which means I usually don’t have photos of the whole of a tourist monument; my shots typically start above peoples’ heads.
Why? Partly for the reason in this photo: a lot of the photos of people in touristy locations wind up being very meta. I’m quite charmed with the meta nature of this one, though.
Despite the fact that it was a brutally hot day, magnified by the stones soaking up the hot sun, it was super-great to finally have the chance to walk around Dubrovnik. In the early 80s, I had a French teacher from Yugoslavia who waxed poetic about the place (she herself was from Belgrade, which is now in Serbia). I’ve wanted to go ever since, so more than thirty years.
At the time Rick took this photo, I was sitting in a shady spot behind on the right. It was still a billion degrees out.

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Scrivener Tips for Book Marketing

14 June 2015

A while ago, I was about to change a cover for a book, and wanted to re-examine the Amazon keywords and the blurb to see if I could strengthen them.
I realized that, off the top of my head, I couldn’t remember exactly where I’d put that info for this particular book.
Then I realized: this stuff should go in Scrivener. You know, right along with the manuscript itself.

Add a Marketing Folder to Your Scrivener Project

Next to the Research folder, I created a Marketing folder.
What goes inside?

  • Blurbs
  • Amazon keywords (relevant only if you’re self publishing)
  • Any other marketing copy used
  • Relevant URLs (for where to buy the book)
  • Excerpts (for longer work)

Note that, apart from Amazon keywords, these work for traditionally published authors too. If you are publishing in multiple languages, it may make more sense to break out these files by language.
Speaking of which, other languages may also have substantially different covers. I wouldn’t keep these in the main language’s Scrivener document; instead, I have a directory on my hard drive for all the original image files (i.e., the Photoshop PSDs). I only put the current, final JPEG in Scrivener. Otherwise, the Scrivener documents become unmanageably large. Since I work on a MacBook Air with an SSD drive, it also allows me to store rarely-used resources on an external hard drive.
Also, it may make more sense to create a separate Scrivener project for each language if you’re self publishing.


This file’s not just for current versions of blurbs, but also for previous versions.
If you have A/B testing data for whether one blurb is more successful than another, you can also keep notes about that in the blurb file. (Personally, I use a spreadsheet for this, and I don’t keep the spreadsheet in the Scrivener project.)

Amazon Keywords

Amazon keywords are a dark art: without them, your book isn’t discoverable through organic search. I talk about KDSPY, an Amazon keyword research tool, here.
Once you’ve done your research, you’ll need a place to save your notes about that research as well as what your current keyword string is. And why.
Also, over time, market conditions change, and it’ll be easier to revisit how you might want to tweak your Amazon keywords if you can easily re-review why you made the choices you did before.

Other Marketing Copy

Long description, descriptions you’ve used on blog tours, etc. Anything that mixes it up and offers fresh takes.

Relevant URLs

Perhaps you’ve got a blog tour.
Perhaps your book’s available on 27 (or more!) different sites.
Sometimes it’s useful to have all that information handy. If I asked you what your Powell’s link was, how long would it take you to find that?


Especially if you’re doing a blog tour, you’ll want to have different excerpts for different sites. That way, people won’t be seeing the same old same old every time they go to read a different post about your new book.

Don’t Have Scrivener?

Scrivener’s regular price is $45, and it’s available for Mac and Windows. If you use both platforms, it’s worth noting that the Mac version is usually significantly ahead of the Windows version feature-wise.

Got Other Ideas?

What else would you put in your marketing folder for your writing projects?

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