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Posts Tagged ‘matthew’

Legal Censorship of Books – where do you stand?

In Thoughts on Publishing on March 6, 2012 at 3:30 pm

In case you haven’t heard, online payment servicing giant PayPal recently sent ultimatums to many ebooksellers. I’ll summarize with my words, not theirs: ”Remove all books containing rape, incest, underage sex and bestiality from your store. We will not service your payments if you do not comply. Resistance is futile.”

If you feel like some light reading on the topic: Go here.

Heavier reading: Go here.

Indie distributors like Bookstrand and Smashwords have been scrambling to comply and this has led to some fireworks in (mostly) the indie ebook world. Some people (bloggers, authors, internet blowhards) are criticizing sites like Smashwords for moving so fast to comply with PayPal’s demands. I think that’s misguided, and here’s why.

While the word “censorship” is being flung around over this matter (umm… don’t look at my blog title), I think the reasons behind the PayPal mandate are money-related rather than morality-based. I’m just not convinced the decision came from some moral crusade within PayPal. You see, it looks like a business decision to me. Credit card returns/challenges are vastly higher in the porn/erotica and gambling industry, and that costs the industry money. Since PayPal is a middleman for the credit card companies, they shoulder much of that risk to allow smaller web companies to use their service instead of working directly with the credit card industry (at much higher buy-in and service charges).

Since PayPal only allowed 30 days for compliance, distributors had a choice to make: go out of business or comply and see what could be done on the back-end (though stay away from that cow’s back-end — no bestiality, mister!). It’s not as easy as flipping a switch for someone like a Smashwords. Truth is: it takes longer to change to another provider and PayPal offers a unique service.

I believe it’s wholly unreasonable for anyone to expect a small, online ebook retailer to raise arms in rebellion against the credit card industry. Do you know what would happen? I do. They would lose. Tragically. And that would be a decisive blow against writers, publishers and readers everywhere. I fully support efforts bySmashwords and others to remove the non-compliant material while they continue to engage PayPal to get some definition around the mandate. Nobody needs to be a martyr in this and perhaps an agreeable solution can be met down the road.

Matt, you’re a pig-fucker. Wait. Sorry CC Industry: I’m just a “plain” fucker. (I’d likely never fuck a pig… though everything from that glorious animal is so tasty… if there ever were an animal… *slap* Right, bestiality.)

So what do I say to the writers who had their content unceremoniously removed? Or to the other writers (like me) out there wondering if big business will someday attack our stories of murder, ghosts, wizards, unicorns, corrupt politicians, secret agents, angels and demons? Well, to the erotica writers, the unfortunate truth is many cultures view your work as “borderline” or “offensive” in some cases. Just like I’d have a more difficult time opening a 1-room casino in my hometown than if I wanted to open a store selling spatulas — you too will have a harder road ahead of you if you want to make money off your bestiality, incest or rape fiction. Until the views of the cultures you service change, this is just a truth.

To a lesser extent, some of the fiction removed as a result of this enforcement of PayPal’s policy was freely distributed anyway. There’s always sites like Wattpad which don’t sell the fiction — so, no “control” from the CC industry. I know it’s not a perfect solution for some erotica writers, but it may allow the free, creative expression you are looking for.

Free expression. Putting my “douchebag” hat on again, let’s remember that nobody is being told they cannot write and distribute what they want. But if they want to distribute it through certain channels, in partnership with a private corporation, then that private corporation has every right to act within the laws which mutually govern them, us and the distributor. While there’s nothing “illegal” about rape, incest and bestiality fiction – that’s a moot point. We’re not discussing criminal or constitutional law. The censorship isn’t at that level.

So, in the final analysis, where does Matt stand? I do understand the business case on PayPal’s side. They have rights too – rights to keep their own business viable. The reality exists that money is lost when credit card users challenge a charge or makes a return – and these two activities happen more for porn/erotica and casino-related activities (hence why you can’t “charge” a scratch ticket – same deal there, folks). Yes, I’m saddened by this because it means less books available. But I’m not going to expect a small business to go to war over this. We also can’t expect an industry (credit card, CC) to make bad business decisions just because some of us feel strongly about a certain topic. Their vision of this morality may be different than ours, and at the end of the day – it’s their business.

I will end by saying there is hope. From my rudimentary understanding, PayPal has been refining the language. For example, they clarified bestiality as involving “naturally occurring” animals. Yes, your stories about a human woman falling in love with a were-octupus are totally still viable. They also clarified some of the requirements around incest.  Some of the links above contain links to petitions and such – feel free to check them out if you are so inclined. However, I’m not sure your time won’t be wasted. The CC industry has successfully limited how consumers and partners can use their service in the past, and I don’t see this changing anytime soon. If you want to benefit from the services they offer, you gotta play by their rules. If you don’t like those rules, you can crusade to change them or look for other outlets to provide the services you require.

(as a closing note, I’m curious to see all the new traffic to this site with all the instances of bestiality, rape and incest in this post. gotta love the internets!)

Matthew C. Plourde is not only an official member of LitU, but an author, blogger, and an absolute writing machine! You can find his personal blog HERE.

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The Story Behind Eden

In Book of The Month on February 1, 2012 at 11:44 pm

In keeping with the tradition started by the esteemed Mary Ann Bernal, I’ll take this time to talk a bit about how Eden came to life. What path did I take and why the hell did I do it?

Everyone’s first book seems to have a checkered past – a history complete with stops, starts, frustration, tears, wonk and (hopefully) joy. Eden was no different. I actually started the book on an Apple IIc computer, back in the days before hard drives. I rarely talk about the book’s *actual* beginnings because it’s embarrassing: I lost the disks long, long ago. Those first, few brain droppings are forever gone.

But the nuggets survived. They survived high school, college, cancer, marriage and my kids. They survived to make it onto one of my first PC’s. Then, those notes and chapters were migrated to an ancient, portable HP device. Then, the mangled bits made it back to a newer PC and I learned my lesson: I began to backup my work online.

So, the story survived, or rather: the bits of Eden’s story made it through the fire & rain. You see – there wasn’t a full story there. I had an “idea,” but it wasn’t complete. I knew in my heart it wasn’t ready to be told. It was missing something crucial – and that last puzzle piece came into place after hearing a song on the radio. At once, the story assembled itself into a complete “whole” for the first time.

After that immaculate realization, I re-wrote the beginning and started work in earnest. I woke up every morning 1-2 hours before work for ~8 years. (okay, maybe not *every* morning) I scrapped and rewrote major sections. Writing a novel-length manuscript was a new and scary process for me, so the going was rough. Perseverance is a quality I learned from my battle with cancer, so I wasn’t going to surrender despite the difficult journey. In the end, I competed the story that occupied my mind & heart for almost 2 decades.

Each writer blazes their own unique path from idea to completion, and I’m convinced there is no “right” or “wrong” in any of it.

Matthew C. Plourde is not only an official member of LitU, but an author, blogger, and an absolute writing machine! You can find his personal blog HERE.

Borders Closing – For Real This Time

In Thoughts on Publishing on July 22, 2011 at 3:29 pm

Everyone’s writing about this. But I can almost guarantee nobody else’s article will be full of monkey-math and unbased hypotheses!

So, what happened? According to the news stories I’ve read, Borders declared bankruptcy earlier this year. They closed a bunch of stores but kept some open in hopes an investor would come along to save them. All the while, they didn’t pay all their contracts for their inventory sold (they couldn’t) and this caused some publishers to stop sending them shit. That was the final spiral that spelled their doom.

At the 13th hour, nobody came to save them. They were forced to announce total liquidation and the loss of ~10,000 jobs and ~400 storefronts (I just saw a tweet about Books-A-Million maybe buying up a few dozen stores, so maybe it won’t be complete destruction).

Why the total failure by such a longstanding idol of book-buying and browsing?

Well, I can’t say for certain, but my gut tells me they held on to the brick-and-mortar life-raft for far too long. Also, others have researched and written about it far better than I could. Like it or hate it, the market has changed with the evolution of mobile devices, social media, the interwebs and publishing industry revolution. I blogged about Borders’ bankruptcy earlier this year, and many of those feelings still ring true in my heart. If you want to read about my feelings on the social change aspect of this whole mess, that post is better.

The loss of in-person browsing will certainly have an impact upon all book sales, not just paperback. I’ve read posts and responses from people who would enter a Borders to find a book, and then go buy it online. Without a physical location to camp, these people may purchase less books. Of course, that act of browsing at the store and buying online speaks to the retail reality around us – there are better deals online. Heck, when you don’t need to maintain hundreds of physical locations along with rent, utilities, insurance, maintenance, sales force, theft, etc., etc. — of course you can offer something a brick-and-mortar cannot.

Following the liquidation announcement, the Alliance for Main Street Fairness (AMSF) fired a shot into the media slipstream:

“Special treatment for Amazon.com is decimating job providers like Borders and countless small businesses across the country. It is simply not fair that one business is able to operate with a government-sanctioned advantage that allows it to undercut its competitors forcing lost jobs and business closures. Lawmakers need to level the playing field and end the special deal that gives Amazon a competitive advantage over Main Street,” said Danny Diaz, spokesperson for the Alliance for Main Street Fairness (AMSF).

They claim the ability of Amazon to sidestep sales tax gives them an unfair advantage in the book-selling game. I wasn’t so sure, so I conducted a Matt-Monkey-Math survey yesterday! I asked my peeps what would most make them NOT purchase a book that catches their eye. Here’s the results:

Iffy on the “blurb”: 6

High Price: 5

The format they prefer is not available: 4

The quality is “suspect”: 1

Yeah, I know 16 responses isn’t actually a viable sample size, but I’m not exactly being paid for my research skillz. :) So backdafuckup.

Maybe AMSF has the kernel of an argument here (many of my responders cited “price” as a deciding factor). I’d go as far as supporting them in the sales-tax thing if I knew more about it. I have no freakin’ clue how it works (Amazon must pay some sort of tax, right?), but I would argue the addition of sales tax to Amazon sales wouldn’t change my purchasing methods. Amazon can still set a better price because of all the things mentioned before – they have leveraged technology and business acumen (“people who bought this also bought this” is killer) to achieve superior results. *Shrug* They beat Borders (maybe), good for them. Isn’t that what our free market is about? (minus the sales tax thing – even it out if it’s not fair, makes no diff to me) I just don’t believe the sales tax issue is majorly responsible for Amazon’s success and Borders fall, that’s all.

One interesting fact from my lame survey was nobody picked this option: “Publisher you don’t know.” I’ve actually heard some opponents to self-publishing froth about readers “trusting” publishers and caring about that NYC print on the title page.

Yeah… riiiiight. I’m still not buying that argument; try again, fuckers.

We’re moving into a book-buying age where some books can succeed based upon social support and peer review. Imagine that! Your book can sell on its own merits, rather than wallow in obscurity because it didn’t fit some publishing house’s plans for the year. I don’t know about other self-published authors, but this fact excites me. I’m nobody and I’ve sold (with the help of my underpaid, awesome team) just under 2,000 copies of my books to complete strangers in less than a year. So far, I’ve yet to get a negative review – yeah, I count the “sacrilegious” Eden review as a positive. While those numbers are quite laughable to successful writers, I’m proud of them. The online age has allowed me to reach readers who enjoy my fiction. Sharing my work with even just 1 other person is all I ever wanted in my storyteller’s heart. 2,000 (and growing) is just a bonus.

I am quite transparent in all my research & self-pubbing numbers. If you have a question, please contact me. I love helping others and sharing useful data!

All the “data” aside, I still feel the online marketplace has much more to offer (including price) than a traditional bookstore, and that’s why Amazon rules the school. When you are about to make a purchase, isn’t more information better than less info? Online, you can see what other readers have said about the book, author info/links and (in Amazon’s case) similar purchases which may be in-line (or not) with your likes/dislikes. Heck, who wants to waste their money these days? While I think it’s noble to support “Main Street USA,” I like to have all the info I can before spending my entertainment dollars. Amazon just delivers on that front better than a bookshelf at a physical store can.

I dunno. At its most basic parts (less bookstores), I don’t like it. But, I’m also not one to fear social change. I actually despise those chain emails that talk about how the next generation is fucked/different/deprived, and our days of youth were full of nostalgic perfection. Times change. The world changes. Bookstore closings are just another symptom of this social flow.

You can express your gratitude and support for the Borders employees on Twitter:#ThankUBorders

Matthew C. Plourde is not only an official member of LitU, but a heck of a guy to boot. His blog can be found here.

Consolidated Self-Publishing Tips, Stats & Wild Accusations

In Thoughts on Publishing on June 20, 2011 at 3:04 pm

2011 version
By Matthew C. Plourde

I’ve crafted some various blog posts throughout the last year to assist my fellow self-publishing writers (and to also document what I’ve learnt so I can recreate the process when needed). Well, it’s been some time since I’ve gone through these, and I certainly have more commentary and such to divulge to my peeps here. Also, it’s always helpful to consolidate information/links. So, let’s start a dialog!

iBooks

Little known fact: Eden was published to iBooks before anywhere else. When I’m a household name, remember that! It will no doubt be a Trivial Pursuit question in the 2010 edition. No doubt.

All fancy aside, I foolishly thought the arrival of the iPad spelled doom for the Kindle & Nook. What a silly man-animal I am. While sales were still better than I could have hoped for (~30 Eden sales on the iBookstore during its first month), I rarely sell a book on the iBookstore these days. I’m not convinced Apple has done even a serviceable job on their marketplace. The whole “people who bought this also bought this” section on Amazon is killer. Hey, other online bookstores – you should have that. Far as I can tell, iBooks takes money to “spotlight/feature” certain major releases and that’s what sells. Of course, that data is based on completely zero research… so, take that as you will.

I created the ePub for Eden “manually” using these tips: Working With iworkspages To Create an epub

While that post is full of invaluable info for ePubbers, I’m not sure all of that work is even necessary. Instead of using Lulu to publish to iBooks, I recommend using Smashwords to get on the iBookstore. They will take your “generic” M$ Word file (formatted for e-readers) and convert it to an iBookstore ePub for you. No muss, no fuss. Also, Lulu doesn’t remove your title from the iBookstore when you ask them to. Lazy wankers. All I use Lulu for these days is the hardcover versions of my books. My experience with them has been absolutely terrible. They offer no support and rarely respond to your inquiries. Once Amazon’s Createspace allows me to make a hardcover, I’ll likely say farewell to Lulu.

Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes

Here’s the “big one”: Self-Publishing Tips & Tricks (print/ebook)

This is my master guide for self-publishing. I wrote it after Eden and used it for The Antaran Legacy. My advice in there will save the noob publisher many hours of frustration. Believe it!

Much of what I outline in there holds true. I can now say with confidence that Amazon is the ruler of all. (duh, I know) Publish there first, and publish there hard. Hard? Target reviewers who also review on Amazon. Fill out your author page. Get your sample going early. Maybe engage on the forums. Hit Amazon like you hit your wife (whoops – that last comment is only applicable in the South).

Here’s a little thing I recently learned about Amazon: Don’t lower and then try to raise your price. Amazon claims they only change yer price if they discover yer book being offered for less $ elsewhere. Well, I ASSumed this would take longer, but it was immediate. As soon as I re-raised the price on the Antaran Legacy (I’m messing with the price as part of several experiments), Amazon kept it at the lower price. I plan to message them once my new price filters everywhere and tell them what’s what. Good to know, though!

XinXii

I have some tips on XinXii here: Self-publishing On Xinxii

Someone mentioned I should check it out, so I did. The site claims to be “Europe’s leading online marketplace for all kinds of written works.” (their words, not mine) While I cannot refute that claim, my books have been on there for ~3 months and I have yet to net a single sale. Of course, I haven’t done any advertising in Europe, so who am I to complain? I can say that I average 3-10 monthly Eden sales on Amazon UK, so my previous assertion holds true: treat Amazon as your #1 market.

XinXii now also accepts the MOBI format (same as Kindle), but that’s really up to you if you want to provide it. Again, yer gonna do MOBI for Kindle and that’s really where your focus should be. If you get around to formatting another MOBI for XinXii, then more power to ya.

The Next Frontier?

I truly believe Amazon is the best vehicle to get your work noticed. You’re prolly sick of hearing it by now, but I’ll beat you over the head with it one more time: focus on Amazon, all the rest can come afterwards.

If anyone knows of any other self-publishing distro sites who offer something tangible, please post in the comments section! I will likely try it out, screenshot the hell out of it and then post my thoughts as I go through their process.

However, I am quite pleased with the holy trinity: Amazon, Smashwords and Barnes/Noble. If you publish to these 3 places, you have some amazing coverage which actually nets sales. Well, you will sell if you put in the effort to get the word out there.

Happy hunting! 🙂

Matthew C. Plourde is not only an official member of LitU, but a heck of a guy to boot. His blog can be found here.