Wednesday, December 07, 2011

How to get a cover for your ebook for less than $200

Have a friend do it. Oh wait. You don't know any artists with alot of free time, who do exactly the kind of thing you'd like to see as a cover? Me neither, so I had to improvise.

When I decided I was going to self publish my novel Rock of Aeons on the Kindle, I had no idea how to get a cover made. I knew that my skills with photoshop were probably not up to the job. I didn't know how the pros did it. The closest I'd gotten to that was a friend a friend who commissioned cover art for a dead tree game back in the nineties. From a friend of his.

We keep circling around to the subject of friends, personal contacts. So the first thing I tried was personal recommendations. I remembered that Tim Pratt recommended a design group awhile back, but search as I might on his blog, I couldn't find the link. So I asked a friend who had self published a great novel on Kindle, and done it with a pretty good cover. She kindly passed me the contact information for her guy, and I surfed over to their page only to find that they were no longer taking new clients. Hmmm.

The next logical thing was to try the net. A couple of Google searches later, I found four companies that were advertising their services as creators of ebook covers.

eCover Makers
Author Support
Absolute Covers
99 Designs

The first three sites all had fairly straightforward deals going on: you work with them to develop a cover for a price.

eCover Makers charges $97. After you place your order, they will contact you by email or phone to discuss your design.

Absolute Covers starts at $47 and goes to well over that, depending on the on the number of drafts you order and what additional work you require. For instance, if you wanted a back cover for a possible print edition? That's extra.

They sounded fine, but looking at their sample covers didn't stir me. They looked like grocery store packaging, and skewed towards non-fiction.

Author Support charges a whopping $400 for the bare minimum work, and you supply the art. For what I wanted, a full design where they chose the art, they charge $750. Their covers looked better, but by no means 7 times better.

99 Designs had something else going on. Apparently, there's a whole niche of websites that offer design "competitions." On 99 designs, you offer a fee, ranging from 150 to 600, and designers compete to win a portion of it. They're probably art school students, but when I looked at some of their winning designs, they looked very good, comparable to the cover the propelled Amanda Hocking's Trylle to a million sales. When I was originally looking around the site, it looked like the contest I wanted would run about $200. The contest I ended up running cost $150.

Crowdspring, which is linked to Amazon's create space, looks like it offers a similar service.

That $200 set the ceiling for my expenses, in my head. I decided to look around for other designers, and see if I could find a good one that would do it for less, but if I didn't find one in a couple of days, I would go back and launch a contest.

There are probably other shops than the first three. I'm a very lazy librarian, and didn't search very far. But $200 seemed reasonable, and the other searches I had done hadn't turned up great options. So I decided to try to go local.

I put an ad on Craigslist.

I am looking for an ebook cover for an Urban Fantasy novel. I would like quotes for service. I need price, turnaround time, and links to a website with examples of your designs. I will send more specific details after I receive a quote.

I recieved 13 replies within two weeks, 7 in the first three days, the rest starting about six days after. Of the first 7, I really liked three, would have looked at two, and didn't like two. However, none of them quoted me a price less than the 99designs contest I was looking at.

I gave it three days, and launched my contest on 99 designs. The process was pretty easy, much like joining any other site, with, of course, the $145 fee for the contest required up front. The standard length for a contest is 7 days, so they seemed confident of a quick turnaround.

This was my contest spec:

I need a design for a book cover, titled Rock of Aeons. The book is loosely taglined: "It’s the angels versus genies in the fight to determine who controls the future of mankind, with one apathetic bounty hunter who can’t keep a boyfriend deciding who wins."

The main character is female and a redhead the angels look like angles, the genies do not look like I Dream of Genie or Mr. Clean. I know alot of Urban Fantasies with female protagonists show alot of skin, but I don't think that would be right for this title.

It should be 500 pixels wide by 800 pixels tall, and RGB, and .JPG

I got nothing for a day, and kind of forgot about it. I received email from the 99 designs site on the second day. It told me that I had 10 entries, and when I went to look at them, a couple were suitable. It was very gratifying. I felt like a pretty pretty princess, with everybody courting me.

After talking to one of the designers, who asked a lot of good questions, I added a comment to the contest.

It's an ebook. I use a lot of white and gold when describing things in the book, but I'm not really a designer and am interested in anything. I tend to prefer more rounded font styles. Abstract or contemporary would be fine. The story takes place in an modern, urban environment. I would probably prefer illustration to photos. I don't think genies photograph well. But anything exciting is... exciting.

I'm aware that there are probably limitations to a contest like this, especially at the level I'm participating, so I'm hesitant to ask for specific images. I know Trylle did quite well on Amazon with an abstract cover, so I don't think I'm too anxious about non-representational art. In fact, a really good non-representational cover would probably trump okay illustration.

That said, If I had my pick, I though it would be cool to have an illustration of a baboon in mortal combat with a naked angel holding a laser gun that shoots lightning bolts. :) That's probably too ambitious. I've also thought gold magic circles, the kind you use to summon demons, would look nice on a white background, or spatters of white and gold blood intermixed.

(Also, as a note, I am liking the photos I am seeing very well).

After that, I got a lot of more interesting entries, including the two I ended up choosing between. I ended up with 55 entries from 17 designers. A lot to choose from!

All in all, I found 99 designs very satisfying. There were some drawbacks: I'm not sure how fair it is to force designers to compete for a prize. But, they did. Also, I failed to ask them to show the design at large and thumbnail size, so although I got a great cover design, I am unsure how it will look as a thumbnail on Amazon.

It was a really exciting process, and pretty inexpensive. The cover was the biggest out of pocket expense for the entire process.

Monday, December 05, 2011

I just published a book titled Rock of Aeons

I just published a book titled Rock of Aeons on Kindle and Smashwords, making an indy-publisher of myself. Ah, the power. For anybody who has read and commented on any of my work before, I am happy to set you up with a coupon code to get a free copy from Smashwords, which should mean you can read it on any device. I have yet to set it up as a print-on-demand.

For everybody else, the tag line is "It's angels versus djinn in a fight to determine who controls the future of mankind, with one apathetic skip tracer deciding who wins." It's about 200 pp long and I put it up for $.99, because it's short and I'm nobody. You can follow the links to buy copies for your Kindle, Nook, iPad, whatever electronic device you prefer to read on.

A longer description runs something like:

"Ozzie (Ozma) Jones, licensed bail bondswoman, is following Hank, the oiliest skip she’s ever had, to what she thinks might be a dropoff of stolen goods in a Midwestern junkyard.

Hank and the Seraph begin to fight. Hank turns into a dog to run away, and Ozzie is wounded. When she wakes up in the hospital, Ozzie finds out Hank has ended up in the pound.

She rescues Hank from the pound, but is interrupted when Astaris, a Seraph who was injured in the junkyard fight, appears and attacks her. As they flee, Hank explains that he is a Djinn, and that when Ozzie bled on Astaris he became a fallen Seraph, and is now addicted to her.

Drawn into a secret war between shape shifting Djin and government infiltrating Seraph (both of whom think they know what is best for humanity) Ozzie is compelled to make hard decisions about how far she will extend herself to interfere."

It is rated V minus for teh Violence without gore and P minus for occasional teh Seks

The very lovely cover you see next to these paragraphs is by Prosenjit Bhattacharya (maxpro), contracted through I should be publishing an article soon that describes my little adventure in design.

This is the acnowledgements page at the end of the manuscript:

This is my book, and self published or not, I need to thank a bunch of people for its being here. First, my Moms, for telling me I could be anything I wanted. She was wrong, and my interpretation of that horrendous lie continues to get me in trouble to this day, but I wouldn't have written or posted this without her benign admonition to try shit. I want to thank Ruby Kapture, always my first reader. I want to thank Margaret Yang and Cathy Srygly, who took the time to read this and offer excellent suggestions to a sad, poor hack without the support of a publishing house. I want to thank Catherine Haluska Shaffer and Jim Hines for running those crit groups at Conclave and showing me what I was missing - the fellowship of writers. Lastly, I want to thank both fellowships who critted sections of Rock of Aeons: Excelsior!, especially Merrie Haskell for being kind and brilliant, and Sarah Zettel for being precise and pushy, and the Kazoo Books Group: John Wenger, Tim Webster, Becky Cooper, Jonathan Rock, William Kuehl, Dave Klecha, and Caroline Miller, who kept my sloppiness in line, put up with me, and are easily some of the best human beings in the universe.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New 52: For Nerds Only

I buy my comics once every couple of months. I have mostly given up the hobby, but I have a complete run of Hellblazer, so every few months I clean out my pull list. I just love the mutant Archetype that is John Constantine, and title generally has good writers.

But I was in the nerd shop looking at 4e Dungeons and Dragons stuff the weekend before last, and got sucked into looking at DC's new 52, their reboot of all their titles. I wasn't interested in all of the titles. I'd seen the list, and all I was really interested in were the titles I thought of as "non-standard" super hero titles, the supernatural/mythology based ones: Swamp Thing, Frankenstein: Agent of Shade, Justice League Dark. I loved Swamp Thing when I was in college, when Alan Moore was writing it. JLD has Constantine as a character, and Frankenstein has a picture of Frankenstein's Monster carrying a Gatling gun on the cover of one of the issues. Also, the Bride has four arm. It seemed like a calculated risk tilted in the direction of awesome. So I picked up the first two titles of each, and the three issues that led up to the re-launch of Swamp Thing, and with my regular Hellblazer issues, that was 40 bucks of comics.

I must say, I was pretty universally unimpressed. My first major complaint is fan boy haggis: They guys who wrote Constantine's dialog in Search for Swamp Thing and JLD made him sound like a peevish Oliver Twist as played by a sulky Ron Weasly. He was not a convincing John Constantine.

Beyond that, the stories were pretty blase. They all seemed to be reaching for Grant Morrison territory, piling crazy on top of crazy. Frankenstein's secret hideout is a 3 inch sphere designed by The Atom: EVEN KEWLER than the JLA's satelite, right? Eh. When the villain is as urgent and faceless as a venereal disease, the context becomes a little facile. And every villain in the three series I picked up were WORLD THREATENING, with a capital WORLD. Frankenstein was facing an army of elder gods kept at bay by children of the corn hicks. JLD was an insane, disembodied ex-super villain, whose name is the closest you get to a personality or goal. Swamp Thing was facing a knockoff of the end-game boss from Alan Moore's run. Pretty much pure insecty evil.

Meh. Meh. Meh. No personality, straightforward plot, poor writing in general. JLD was full of emo wheezing about how "broken" all the characters were. Swamp Thing was closest to good, but I was put off by the fact that they totally turned Alan Moore's brilliant run inside out: Instead of Alec Holland being the basis for the rather tender character that Swamp Thing became, he really is the necessary component, and the original Swamp Thing was a kind of mistake. That immediately lessened my interest in the story, and actually made me want to go back and re-read Moore's run.

In contrast, the current Hellblazer story-lines are just great, pitting the character of Constantine's niece, psychologically damaged when his lifetime of dabbling in the arcane arts finally bites her in the ass, against Constantine's wife: a much younger alchemist, daughter of a mob boss, who somehow thinks that a Middle Aged, scarred, half talented wizard is the cat's meow because he's tough as nails and has a heart of gold. Well... gold plated anyway. There's gold in there somewheres. Maybe his fillings. Oh, yeah, I think the story has some demons or ghost in there somewhere. But who needs monsters when you got characters?

So, luckily, I was saved from entanglement in an expensive habit by the poor quality of the product. And I still have my first comic book love, John. *sigh* He's so dreamy. I want to be him when I grow up. Except not in JLA Dark.

Thursday, November 03, 2011

11 PM Book Review: Fate's Mirror

Fate’s Mirror by M.H. Mead is about Morris, a mercenary hacker who never leaves his home. Who would want to? If you have all the bounty of the intertubes spread out before you, and crippling agoraphobia. Then his home gets blown up. Morris barely makes it to the home of a client, and possibly his only friend, Adria the detective chick.

As she tries to get him on his feet, avoiding legitimate authorities because of his hacker background, it becomes obvious that his home blowing up is the tip of the iceberg. Morris is being hunted, and he’s not sure by whom: the immensely powerful NSA, or a trio of rogue artificial intelligences that escaped from the NSA, and now pattern themselves after the Greek Goddesses of fate.

I would loosely describe Fate’s Mirror as “Urban Cyberpunk” or maybe “Romantic Cyberpunk.” Action keeps the pace moving forward, the romantic interest between Adria and Morris is delicate and funny, and I was really liking how the authors built tension with Morris’ tendency to have a puking-sick panic attack in a crunch. Morris is funny, sarcastic and defensive, and really vulnerable because of his panic attacks. The plot is full of twists that you wouldn’t expect from either Urban Fantasy or a Romance. And Morris accesses his version of the internet with a virtual pirate ship, which means all his cyberattacks take the form of sea battles, which gives a weight to the intertubes action.

I think this is a good pick for most Urban Fantasy readers, possibly romance readers who like a lot action with their romance, and fans of cyberpunk who don’t take themselves too seriously.

Fate's Mirror

Monday, September 12, 2011

11 PM Book Review: Servant of the Underworld

Servant of the Underworld, by Aliette de Bodard, is a noir murder mystery set in Aztec governed Central America. Acatl, a priest of the god of the dead, is tasked to investigate the abduction of a priestess whom his brother might have been having an affair with. The abduction was performed with bloody magic. So is the investigation: every time Acatl casts a spell, he must fuel it with the blood of whatever or whomever is nearby, often his own. The investigation leads to a plot amongst the priests of out of favor gods, who hope to end the current world and bring a new one into place. Bloodily, of course.

I liked the strong voice of Acatl. He is level headed, an-histrionic in the extreme, yet his personality really comes through in the conflicts with his family, who have problems with his deciding to be a low status priest instead of a high status warrior, and his desire to avoid the politics that are a part of his job. I also liked the fact that Servant of the Underworld used an uncommon set of myths for its background. The competing temples of the Aztec gods, and the various supernatural entities associated with, make for some tasty fantasy. Despite the ancient setting, the noir sensibility gives it a very modern feeling. My one problem is that Aztec names are a mouthful with a capital M, slowing down my already slow reading speed a bunch.

Monday, September 05, 2011

11 PM Book Review: Bob Moore: No Hero

Good take on a "realistic" superhero world, as seen through the eyes of a depressive detective, a non-superhero, who specializes in cases dealing with superheros. He takes the case when a superhero thinks their sidekick is jailing bad guys with somebody else.

Dark, sarcastic, and funny, though not lighthearted, Bob Moore: No Hero describes a world in which the antics of superheros regularly endanger and impoverish regular citizens. Bob is hired to find out why a superhero doctor's patients are disappearing. This would be almost impossible to review without spoilers, but I will say that I found the resolution satisfying. You will probably get a kick out of this if you like grim and gritty comics, or any dystopian stuff. I picked this novella up for free on Kindle, but there is a paperback edition.

Monday, May 09, 2011

11 PM Book Review: Midnight Riot

Midnight Riot is by Ben Aaronovitch. It's fun boy crime fiction with an urban fantasy spin.

Peter Grant is a rookie cop who's facing a posting as a paper pusher when he sees a ghost near the scene of a crime. While trying to figure out what's going on, he's recruited to be the other member of the London police who investigates supernatural crime by Inspector Nightengale. In doing so, he also become Nightengale's apprentice. Yes, Nightengale is a wizard cop. The ghost he investigates leads to a series of horrific crimes where seemingly normal people commit outrageously brutal acts. The only common link is that the perpetrator's faces collapse immediately afterwards. The plot take a detour to negotiate a gang war between the water gods of the upper and lower Thames, and ends in psychic surgery on the ghostly archeological strata of London history after Peter learns who is causing the attacks.

The elements and world building of this supernatural London are cool and feel nicely multicultural: London's spirits are immigrants as much as London's inhabitants. Peter is engagingly hapless as a sceptically minded rookie plunged into a supernatural landscape, and the secondary characters, Nightengale, Molly: Nightengale's carnivorous maid, Leslie May: Peter's first crush and fellow rookie, Mama Thames, and Beverly Brook: the sexy river sprite whom he also becomes involved with, are all sharp and well realized and fun to watch. The eventual identity of the ghost-murderer is a weird but entertaining twist on the theme of "elemental evil," but the ending got a little muddled and hard to follow, with a few too many scenes. I will pick up the sequel, Moon Over Soho, just for the characters.

Monday, March 21, 2011

11 PM Book Review: No Doors, No Windows

No Doors, No Windows is by Joe Schreiber, who writes short, smooth little horror thrillers with a really crawly creep factor.

No Doors, No Windows finds Scott Mast back home in small town America for his father's funeral. His alcoholic brother can barely take care of his precocious nephew, but Scott's about to go back to his succesful job writing greeting cards on the coast when he finds pages from a novel manuscript written by his assumedly unimaginative father. The manuscript leads Scott to a haunted house mentioned in it, which leads to our protagonist renting the haunted house and trying to finish his dad's haunted novel. He's stopped taking his meds, and his research on the house's history seems to indicate that his whole family has a history of mental instability that goes back generations.

I liked how the scenario starts sleightly off, with the funeral and the dysfunctional family. Each detail the author adds: the house in the manuscript turning out to be real, the dead girl in the blue dress, the ex suddenly showing up, the revelation that she dumped him cold without an explanation when they were set to leave town together, the once beautiful town matriarch addicted to plastic surgery... each bit just adds tension and an element of creepy, until the weird is rattling around in the story like a loose bolt in a dune buggy. I also really relished that the house showes up in many generations of his family's art, like a bad thought they are trying to exorcise.

I felt like you couldn't tell if the protagonist was haunted or nuts until close to the end, and I'm not going to tell you which. I do think Joe mines interesting territory, setting a presumably modern illness in the remote past. The ending seemed like it got wrapped up a little too neatly. Perhaps that was because over the course of the story your feelings about the protagonist are muddied: should you be afraid for him, or of him? That's often par for the course in horror, but I wanted a little more emotional certainty about the outcome. Otherwise, it was a creepy, fun, quick read.

Monday, March 14, 2011

11 PM Book Review: White Cat

White Cat, by Holly Black, opens with a Cassel Sharpe sleep walking onto the roof of his dorm. You find out fairly quickly that he murdered his girlfriend three years ago, which doesn't make him a very sympathetic character. But he doesn't seem like the murdering type.

The setting for White Cat is an alternate world in which "curse workers," people who do magic, are an acknowledged minority in the world. Because curse work is legal in the US, several large crime families regulate the black market. If you are a curse worker, you are almost by definition a criminal. Cassel's whole family are curse workers. His Mom is in Jail for manipulating the emotions of rich men. His Grandfather is missing the fingers of his left hand, the hand that he kills people with. One older brother breaks bones with a touch. The other is a lawyer. As far as he knows, he's the only member of his family who isn't a worker of some kind.

From early in White Cat, you get the feeling that something weird is going on, and as Holly Black lays out the parameters of curse work, you begin to realize that there's lots of reasons why. Workers can control your luck, your emotions, your dreams, your memory, and even, in very rare cases, your shape. When Casse is kicked out of school for being a liability risk (almost walking off roofs will do that), he goes home to his family. Their weird indifference to his plight means he must ferret out what is going on by himself. And those dreams about a white cat.

Cassel isn't an unreliable narrator in that he can't be trusted... it's just that with so many stone cold manipulators around him, he can't trust himself. White Cat builds up into a great plot, smart but no so convoluted you lose track of it. A huge part of the tension comes from the fact that Cassel can't trust anyone, and a large part of the satisfaction is watching him have to take the risk of trusting.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Thought experiment on limiting the lifespan of ebooks

So HarperCollins, a book publisher, has announced a new policy whereby they will sell ebooks to libraries with a limited number of loans built in. They have fixed the number at 26 loans. This is effectively a pay per circ model, levied only on libraries.

There are two reasons why this is a bad idea. The first is that HarperCollins will sell fewer, not more copies this way.

The second is that it will shorten the shelf life of older titles. This will hurt authors and publishers by removing them from a venue that sells their books for them.

The rational for a pay per circ ebook model is that, because ebooks last forever, a public library that buys an ebook, like a child who buys an Everlasting Gobstopper (TM), will never have to buy another. Therefore, libraries won't buy the theoretically endless copies of tree-books that they might have bought in order to replace worn out books. Publishers are losing sales. Alas.

I believe that HarperCollins thinks that it has a cash cow here. The thinking might go something along the lines of "somebody will always be reading X title by Clive Cussler, ergo, libraries will need to repurchase X title in perpetuity." From long experience building and weeding collections of tree books, here's what I think might actually happen:

I’m going to use as an example The DaVinci Code. I currently have 11 tree-copies. The oldest three have 64, 48, and 47 circs respectively. The first 3 titles, the oldest, were bought in 2003. I would have had to buy 7 e-copies to satisfy those tree-circs. HarperCollins has just magnified my initial costs by 2.3.

The remaining 8 copies are all from 2006 and later. We were still buying copies in 2006, because the DaVinci Code was a freakishly popular book. The remaining titles have circulations of 2, 6, 6, 7, 9, 12, 16, and 19. They have a total of 77 circs between them. Huh. I would only have needed three e-copies to satisfy all those circs. Now, 8 users couldn't simultaneously read 3 copies... but all those uses weren't simultaneous. I obviously didn't need anywhere near all 8 copies later on.

Now, if I needed 7 copies to start and only 3 copies later on, I should just buy 10 copies and be done with it, right? Very tidy.  This is, I will point out, one less than the tree copies I actually bought. What I know, from weeding my own libraries' collections, is that books have a kind of life cycle. We needed way more than 10 copies of The DaVinci Code in 2003. We need way less now. Use plummets so that, over time, you need far fewer copies to satisfy the same number of circs.

Obviously, ebooks and tree-books are not the same animal. They don't act the same way in the wild. Ebooks spines don't break, so libraries don't have to worry about their usefulness being cut off early. But print books don't cost 3 times as much to get 3 times the circ.

In fact ebooks are still supplementary to my collection. Where the library market is concerned, they are gravy to the publisher. But let's assume HarperCollins is looking forward to a brave new world where libraries circulate ebooks alone. Are they preserving a portion of the market they would lose by attempting to build obsolescence into an otherwise obsolescence proof format?

Here’s what I ask myself: If I know that the number of uses of a book will go down over time, does it matter if some of my patrons wait an extra 2 weeks to read that popular title because I bought 8 copies instead of 10?  Because fewer copies will eventually satisfy the same number of circs, I am dis-incentivized to buy more copies.

It looks to me that what Harper Collins has done is inflated the value of the circ, and deflated the value of the copy. This might have lots of consequences. How many books do even as well as The DaVinci Code? Less popular books don't even get 26 circs. Should I even bother to buy them? I certainly won't get my full use out of them. That question kind of deflates the value of HarperCollins’ midlist.

Then at the end of a book’s life cycle, instead of keeping one copy on the shelf to satisfy newer fans of an author, I am faced with the decision of whether or not to buy another 26 circs of an older title (where a gently used book or an unlimited use ebook would have stayed on the shelf forever) or an extra 26 circs of the next passing literary fad. That kind of forced choice is unsustainable for libraries. HarperCollins is asking for libraries to pay for ebooks in perpetuity. How would that serve the needs of our patrons? In reality, it's an active limit to a book's shelf life.

HarperCollins is trying to create an artificial scarcity or obsolescence, inflating operating costs for libraries and forcing libraries to buy more copies of books than they ultimately need. But I think it will backfire. Librarians are conservative buyers. In reality, we have limited budgets. In the end, a library would buy fewer copies of ebooks than tree-books as replacements for worn out copies... but they will be buying fewer copies over all, and many will not be renewed after they become less popular.

Which brings us to our second point. By moving to a pay per circ model, HarperCollins is devaluing their own role as a publisher of books.

One thing the pay per circ model points up is that HarperCollins is in the business of selling widgets in the form of  units of use. Libraries are not in the business of selling units of use. We are in the business of selling access to stuff that the tax paying public wouldn’t normally get access to.

Unfortunately, we have limits. In the case of tree books, our hard limit is shelf space, which forces us to remove books that aren’t getting used heavily.* We don't have the same kind of issue with e-books, but as I pointed out above, we have limited budgets. That means in a pay per circ model we can't buy unlimited circs for a given title.

This is where I may sound cranky. In "business land" libraries have been characterized as leeches that take the efforts of publishers and devalue them by spreading those efforts around too far. What 12 people should have bought, one person bought and 11 read for free. That's like socialism. Icky, Icky, literary socialism.

But libraries don’t work the same way as the open market. We sell access, not units. For books, access is often better. Libraries introduce readers to new authors, encouraging them to buy copies of books they loved just to keep one. Those books would not have been bought if the library hadn't lent them in the first place.

Libraries also extend the life of an author’s career. We not only sell copies of an author's current book, we sell copies of a author's next book by keeping out-of-print titles on the shelf for readers to find by browsing. We do this long past the efforts of a publisher to market the author or book. Libraries allow readers more chances for exposure to an author than a publisher ever does.**

If a pay per circ model succeeds, libraries will be forced to choose between buying another 26 circs of a once popular title, or 26 circs of a currently hot title. Which doesn’t do authors any favors.

Ebook or tree books, each time a consumer buys a book they take a risk. Will I like it? Won't I? I dunno. Maybe I shouldn't risk it right now. Libraries socialize that risk, exposing readers to new authors and creating new customers. HarperCollins will effectively kill an author’s visibility by actively limiting their lifespan on the shelf. Libraries offer greater word of mouth advertising than publishers, over time. Taking authors out of libraries just penalizes them further, and really just steps on the author's and publishers's bottom line.

It's harder for ebooks to generate word of mouth than tree-books. Ebooks aren't easy to browse. You can't loan them effectively, or resell them. None of these things will prevent the adoption of ebooks, though, because in the end the consumer doesn't care about other people's uses of the item they pay for. And it's just going to get worse over time. The durability, portability, and ease of use of ebooks mean that each title is competing with more and more titles on the electronic shelf over time.

And, of course, selling books by circ may also eliminate the number of venue an author’s book can be found in. Selling by circ vastly inflates the cost for libraries, and is going to cause libraries to struggle harder to provide good service, making them less useful to taxpayers. If  libraries close, they leave people without service. That, by the way, leaves authors without readers.

*In fact, you could say that HarperCollins is doing libraries a favor by selling us self=weeding books: we won't raise the ire of Nicholson Baker for throwing away copies that we don't have room for any more. They will just disappear…

**There is another problem in that many publishers don't allow their ebooks to be lent by libraries, cutting off a venue for that title by disallowing access to the format. It more of a problem for ebook only publications. But I digress.

Monday, March 07, 2011

11 PM Book Review: Hold me Closer Necromancer

Hold me Closer Necromancer is about Sam LaCroix, slacker extrordinaire, who is confronted at the Burger Joint where he works by a seemingly mild but terrifying man who calmly threatens him with bodily harm. In rapid succesion, Sam is attacked by a werewolf in the parking lot and his best friend's head is sent to him in a box, to verbally deliver an ultimatum. Sam finds out he's a necromancer, which his witch mother tried to hide from him. But really, there's only supposed to be one necromancer in Seattle. Sam is not it.

When Douglas, who is it, finds out about Sam, he begins to stalk him. Laura, my Bro-Worker, who is the Greatest Living Young Adult Librarian Alive (TM), was talking to me over lunch. She's all, "Like, I'm reading this great book, about this kid who finds out he's a Necromancer (Meh, I think), and who's being hunted by this crazy, more powerful necromancer (Meh, I think), so, GET THIS, the older Necromancer sends the kid his best friend's head in a box, still talking to him, as a warning." And I was like, "HOLY CRAP! DUDE, you had me a talking head in a box."

I did not hurt that the title is a play on an Elton John song title.

A big part of the fun of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer is not that there'a crazy bad guy (TM). It's that he's so brutally, practically dismissive of other people's right to remain intact and alive. His only option is the nuclear option, but he does it so calmly. I really liked Sam's voice. He's casual, sharp, and self effacing, very Gen X, as filtered through Buffy The Vampire Slayer. I also liked that the setting is kitchen sink urban fantasy world, with vampires, faeries, and satyrs living under the noses of their irritating human neighbors. Anubis makes an appearance. It's always good to see Anubis. I personally like kitchen sink urban fantasy. Vampire urban fantasy always feels a little like the whole world is populated by loafer wearing Emo supermodels.

I felt that the story moved pretty well despite having an oddly static plot. Sam spends the first half of the book trying to find out what the hell is going on, asking his mom, his absentee dad's new family (necromancy is passed down in families, you see, like hair color or liking Paul Anka), really anyone he can reach who might have any kind of handle on what's going on. Then he gets kidnapped and spends the rest of the novel in a cage with a sexy werewolf chick.

There were a bunch of plot elements that didn't make a ton of sense, and some lazy plotting: after dealing with the Necromancer, by supernatural law Sam get's all the old Necromancer's Stuff. That was kind of Mary Sue. However, the personalities carried the book: His Mom, a witch afraid of her son's power to control the dead, enough to stick his power in a magical straight jacket. The sexy half werewolf half fey, born to lead her pack and now a crazy Necromaner's guinea pig, who needs to get Sam to butch up and find his Necromancer in time to save both of them. And Sam's loyal slacker buddies. Or the various parts of them. The cast of Hold Me Closer, Necromancer rocked the plot like a small press publisher rocks an orange zoot suit, which is to say, with more panache and heart than any vampire. Those loafer wearing bastards.