Writer's Bloc
My SFWA Bulletin Column

The Rocket Returns

from The SFWA Bulletin #165, Spring 2005


Blast from the [Recent] Past

    The Rocket eBook reader was one of the more grandly hyped fiascos of the death of print campaign. Too expensive, too awkward, too everything. And the dedicated reader market was seemingly destroyed by multi-function PDAs.

    Imagine my surprise when I came across Sally Hawke's note in the January 2005 NINK that Fictionwise has released a new model of the Rocket called eBookwise. New is relative – it's actually a rebranded Gemstar model 1150 – but they're putting major marketing behind it, including an eBookwise web site at http://www.ebookwise.com overflowing with f&sf titles. The reader weighs only 18 ounces and has a 5.5 inch backlit diagonal viewing area, about as much as a paperback and more than a PDA. The price of the new reader is $129.95 (plus $9.95 shipping and handling). There may or may not still be a "content bonus" (free books) still available by the time you read this. About 6500 titles should be available in this format.

    Fictionwise also supports a multitude of other formats including Palm, WinCE and Symbian eBook Readers, Microsoft Reader, Adobe Reader 7.0, Adobe Acrobat PDF, Franklin eBookman (FUB, Palm Doc), hiebook (KML), and more.

    An interesting if tendentious site touting everything related to the concept of ebooks and with an amazing amount of news on new products is TeleRead at http://www.teleread.org/. Articles on TeleRead also note problems with Sony's Librie, mentioned in last issue's column, and touts the dedicated ebook readers as a more viable alternative for the present.

A Novel Idea?

    Links lead to links. Along the way I found the American Authors Association (AAA) and the Military Writers Society of America. Both appear to be the creation of Director/President Bill McDonald and have the purpose of promoting self-published authors. That's a niche that none of the established writers organizations currently provide for, and a group clamoring for recognition in all genres. Including SF writers. The AAA presented its 2004 Gold Book Award for Science Fiction to The Everborn, by Nicholas Grabowsky.

    The information on the AAA web site is too sketchy to tell if this group is going to become viable, or even if it makes the necessary fine distinctions between self-published authors and those who opt to pay at vanity presses that present themselves as traditional publishers. However, if you think the AAA can be of help, you can join at: http://www.lzangel.com/AAA/join.htm or by sending an email to Bill McDonald at anglelink@citilink.net.

    Or try another route to self-promotion, stunning in its audacity. McDonald's LZ Angel Newsletter, issue 7, June 7, 2004, tells of a working partnership that the AAA has established with entrepreneur Jack Ferm. Ferm opened a bookstore in Las Vegas (and possibly a second in California) exclusively for self-published books. Called "A Novel Idea," the bookstore is the print equivalent of a consignment shop. There's a twist, of course. You may be able to find a local consignment shop that takes just a percentage of the sale price. A Novel Idea charges the author what amounts to rent for displaying the book. The current contract calls for a $5 per month fee to display five books, with a twelve-month commitment, payable upfront. The author gets paid monthly for any books sold.

    Will you ever see one in a mall near you? Hard to say. The Novel Idea website (http://www.anovelideabookstores.com/) is strangely barren of content, although a listing for a store at 6680 W Flamingo Rd #10 can be found in a Yellow Pages search.

    The notion of self-published authors banding together to promote books that the chain stores won't stock is a solid one in a world in which getting noticed is 90% of the problem. As always, though, check thoroughly before sending your money off to anyone, including Mr. Ferm.

    [2006 Update: No sign of "A Novel Idea" or Jack Ferm as a bookseller on the web.]

More Promotional News

    What, you say you have a lot more than $60 burning a hole in your wallet? Connie Epstein's "In Publisher's Corner" column in the January-February 2005 SCBWI Bulletin tosses our the announcement from Kirkus Reviews that those not being reviewed in its magazine can stop being so unjustly ignored. That's correct: you can now pay for bad reviews.

    The Kirkus Discoveries website (http://www.kirkusreviews.com/kirkusreviews/discoveries/index.jsp) carries this description of its new service:

      Kirkus Discoveries is a paid review service that allows authors and publishers of overlooked titles to receive authoritative, careful assessment of their books, which can then be used to gain or regain. attention. A review is commissioned (for $350 per title) from the Discoveries team, and our pool of professional reviewers, which will provide an honest, caveat emptor evaluation. The review, written in the same format and style as a Kirkus review, is sent to the author or publisher as a PDF and then posted at kirkusdiscoveries.com.

      Reviews will be eligible for inclusion in a monthly eNewsletter highlighting the best submissions to the program. That HTML newsletter will go to subscribers who are looking for the rights to books, including both print and film.

Markets Outside the Box

    Wizards of the Coast has named its new young readers imprint Mirrorstone, according to the July-August 2004 SCBWI Bulletin. Mirrorstone is offering a slew of mass-market paperback fantasy series for young readers. Dragonlance: The New Adventures is meant for those 10 and up, while Knights of the Silver Dragon slews a bit younger, 8 and up. Star Sisterz, based on the STAR SISTERZ collectable charm game, is for tween girls 8-12. Press releases can be found on the WotC site at: http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=books/main/mirrorstoneintro and http://www.wizards.com/default.asp?x=company/pr/20050201a.

    Are enough young people being excited about careers in science? Maybe they could use some real-life examples. The November-December 2004 issue of the SCBWI Bulletin says that the Scobre Press Corporation, which had been exclusively a publisher of sports fiction aimed at the middle-school level, is planning to add a career series. It's looking for writers to do stories based on real-life experiences about young people pursuing a wide variety of careers. No advances, but royalties are stated to be "double the industry standard." The books should be about 40,000 words. Writing samples with a resume should be sent to Scott Blumenthal, President, Scobre Press Corporation, 2255 Calle Clara, La Jolla, CA 92037.

    One addition to the paranormal markets from last issue, out of the March 2005 TTD. Silhouette Bombshell wants 80,000 – 90,000 word futuristic romances featuring "strong, savvy, sexy, heroines in precarious and high-stakes situations." J. D. Robb is a model for these works. Send a detailed synopsis and three sample chapters or a complete manuscript to Natashya Wilson, Associate Senior Editor, Silhouette Bombshell, 233 Broadway, Suite 1001, New York, NY 10279.

The Book Standard Newsletters

    Sally Hawke also gave an alert about the free e-mail newsletters that industry website The Book Standard will send out. There are three:

    The Book Standard Bestsellers Chart Alert – sent every Thursday, it uses Nielsen BookScan to list top sellers overall, and in fiction, nonfiction, children's books, and regional sales.

    The Book Standard Retail Report – gives bookselling news, industry profiles, and sales-trend analysis from VNU Business Media retail reporters and industry experts.

    The Book Standard Books-to-Film Newsletter - The Book Standard and The Hollywood Reporter combine to give up-to-the-minute reporting on rights and deals, updates on film adaptations in all stages of production, and background scoop on the people involved: directors, producers, screenwriters, and actors.

    Sign up at: http://www.thebookstandard.com/bookstandard/newsletters/index.jsp.


Organization, Publication, Address, Web Address

Mystery Writers of America, The 3rd Degree, 17 E 47th St, 6th floor, New York, NY 10017, www.mysterywriters.org/

Novelists, Inc., NINK, P.O. Box 1166, Mission KS 66222-0166, www.ninc.com/

Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators, Bulletin, 8271 Beverly Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90048, www.scbwi.org/

Copyright 2005 by Steve Carper

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