ebook readers, can I get your feedback, please?

The controversy over ebook pricing is not going to resolve itself anytime soon, and here’s the reason why: publishers are confounded.

A hardcover novel is on the market for a year before they release a softcover edition, specifically because they count on recouping a big part of the investment through hardcover sales. The higher the hardcover sales, the longer it takes to put out the softcover. This approach has been set on its ear by ebooks, because people expect (quite reasonably) to pay less for a product that has so much less overhead (no paper, printing, transportation costs).

So if the publisher releases the hardcover ($25) and the ebook ($12) at the same time it’s pretty clear that the traditional sales strategy is no longer going to work. The are two obvious solutions to this: (1) charge as much for the ebook as the hardcover; (2) don’t release the ebook until the softcover version is released (thereby protecting hardcover sales).

Readers don’t like either of these options. So publishers came up with an alternate approach. For example:

Publishers seem to indulge in a lot of magical thinking.

Assume for a moment this is a book you really want to read, and your first choice is the Kindle ebook. What do you do?

Faulkner, pajamas, progress

I’m reading at Village Books here in Bellingham tomorrow night. Last week I sent out my usual email to friends asking them to try to stop by, and announcing my intention to wear pajamas to the reading. Thus far I have got promises from seven other people who will be showing up in jammies. So if you’re within striking distance, come on down. Treats for all those brave enough to dress up. Or, actually, down.

Yesterday our neighbor Bob (of X-Files fame) called me to read me an excerpt from an interview with William Faulkner. It’s the famous 1956 interview Faulkner did for the Paris Review. ((You can see the full archive listing on the Paris Review website, here but there’s only an excerpt from Faulkner’s.))

This was the bit that made Bob call me:

Q: Is there any possible formula to follow in order to be a good novelist?
Faulkner: Ninety-nine percent talent … Ninety-nine percent discipline … Ninety-nine percent work ….

And then this really made him laugh:

Q: Do you mean the writer should be completely ruthless?
Faulkner: …If a writer has to rob his mother, he will not hesitate; the “ode on a Grecian Urn” is worth any number of old ladies.”

[asa left]0312361750[/asa] They are publishing all the Paris Review author interviews, which are interesting reading. With a proviso: remember that these are critically successful writers, but each one of them struggled his or her way through every sentence ever put down. They had an approach that worked for them, and that’s all they can share. Though it may sound as if you’re being told how it must be done, please remember: there is no such thing. No absolutes, no secrets, no magic formulas. And probably not a good idea to rob your mother, either.

And all of this reminds me that I put in a revolving quote box in the far right hand column. I’ll be adding the 99% one of Faulkner’s to it asap.

I’m writing pretty well, and now I’ll go back to that.

PS don’t forget to vote in the caption-me poll!

writing workshops

Bunny woke me up at two-thirty in the morning because he was in need of a belly rub and, no connection whatsoever, a stroll around the garden to make sure there were no lurking beasts from which he had to protect us. That is the nature of our relationship: the dogs provide me with unconditional love, and I rub their bellies. Sometimes at an ungodly hour. Seems like I’ve got the better end of the deal.

Sometimes though I find it hard to get back to sleep, so I read or I go wandering around the internet. I just got back from that little jaunt around the webby world, and here’s what I stumbled across, an interesting opportunity.

Once in a while I have posted about Cary Tennis’s work. He’s an advice columnist at Salon.com who has been answering questions from the public for years now. If I remember correctly, he’s a writer, and not a psychologist or psychiatrist or therapist of any school. He’s just a writer with a gentle approach that appeals to a lot of people.

He has written columns that I loved, and some that I really, really disliked. I often disagree with him completely on how to approach a problem, but then that’s okay; he doesn’t need my approval and nobody asked my opinion, anyway. And there are dozens — if not hundreds — of regular Salon readers who are quick to comment on his columns. A few of them are sure to make the points I would have made, and many are not afraid to tell him that he’s got the wrong end of the stick. So really, it’s not about an advice column so much as it is a discussion set off by his answer to a letter from a stranger.

At any rate, Cary has a website, a collection of his columns in a new book, and also if you live in the San Francisco Bay area, you could take a writing class from him. In his home. His description:

If you write, if you want to write, if you dream of writing, this workshop can help you discover ideas, dreams, emotions, images and stories of profound significance, and recall them in tranquility, in their original voice, with all their original brilliance and luminosity. And it can give you the structure and support you need to make those stories, poems and memories as good and true as they can be.

I invite you to join us. The workshop will take place at my house in San Francisco on Tuesday nights from 7 to 10 p.m. The price is $380 for 10 weeks. Enrollment is limited to 12 writers. E-mail me at workshops@carytennis.com,

I suggest that you read about his approach and philosophy of writing, and then if you live in his area, have the time, interest and money, you go on ahead and take his course. And then let us know how it went, okay? Because I’m dead curious.

Writers are always looking for ways to make a living that cuts out the publisher. A great many serious writers end up teaching — not because they like it, or are good at it — but because it’s one way to pay the rent that doesn’t involve contracts and marketing and all that other awful business that goes along with publishing a book. My guess is that if you polled everybody who writes seriously and who also teaches writing, you’d find that the vast majority would give up teaching immediately — if such a thing were financially feasible. This doesn’t mean the individual is a bad teacher. There are some excellent teachers out there who would simply rather be doing something else with their time.

I have to assume that Cary Tennis likes teaching and wants to do more of it, because there he is offering the opportunity to work with him, in his home, on your writing. This is not a get-rich-quick scheme. If my arithmetic is right (and that’s an iffy proposition right there), you’d bring in an annual salary of about 20k if you ran these workshops back to back for fifty-two weeks, and had an average of ten people in each class. Certainly taking a class at a college would cost you more.

So there you are: somebody who is teaching writing because he wants to.

trouble posting comments?

I’ve heard from two people now that when they tried to post a comment, they got a strange error message about ‘inadmissible content’. Which is very odd, as I have no filters installed that I know about. Before I try to track down the source of the problem, it would be good to know exactly how many people have run into this bug. There’s a small poll near the top of the right hand column; please take a minute to vote.

Update: I believe the problem has been solved. If you tried to post a comment and got this message:

Your comment could not be submitted due to
questionable content: ss

…it’s because blacklist was being overly diligent. This has been corrected. I hope.