Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Glory Road: Free Weights and Free Speech

   So I did it. The days of dine and dozes will shortly be over because I bought myself a walking treadmill. Soon, I will be strutting and writing my way to glory and a return to fitness.
   I've been a gym nut for years, off and on. It's nothing new for me to spend as much as six hours exercising.  I've been a workaholic for years, too, so at least I'm consistent. What will be different (and what I'm most excited about) is the notion of working and playing at the same time. Really, if you look it at this the right way, it's almost as good as doubling your life expectancy! (And joking aside, this really will improve my quality of life. After years of being fit, I feel uncomfortable with excess poundage.)
   I will no longer feel guilty about not exercising enough. Writing for hours and then spending more hours online with social media and such will no longer be the tradeoff for being out of shape.
     I've always been a fan of free weights and relatively simple exercises. To begin with, I'm not a big person and the quick-fix machines in a gym tend to be sized for Schwarzenegger men (which I've always found odd, considering they are the ones most likely to rely almost exclusively on free weights). One size does not fit all. Machines not sized to fit you force you into unnatural paths of movement. And that leads to injuries. The great thing about free weights is that you yourself control the movement.
   Why I was thinking I needed something that plugs into a wall I don't know. Possibly, it's because I'm used to seeing expensive treadmills in a gym. Perhaps it's because we've been trained by consumerism to assume the most expensive thing is the best, though quite often it's not. I didn't think I'd be in the position to buy a treadmill for months yet since the cheaper electric ones are $2,000 and up. And a desk treadmill is even pricier. So I'd put it out of my mind and steeled myself to stand up while I wrote.
   It wasn't until I caught sight of the hamster wheel for people (what a great concept!) that I realized how flawed my thinking was--why not make this or buy an inexpensive manual treadmill? While I love the hamster treadmill (there are free plans on the internet if you're interested), it would be too big for my house. It would also look decidedly strange with all my antique furniture, though I suppose it could be passed off as a dystopian look.
   I found the walking treadmill I wanted on eBay. It will be an easy conversion to a writing/walking desk and for extra oomph all I'll need is ankle weights. Then I took a gander at Amazon. The same manual treadmill was almost half the price! Free shipping, too. (No wonder retailers are shaking in their boots.) If I lived in a larger place, I might have felt honor-bound to shop locally. But I live in a tiny rural place where a treadmill is as uncommon as city arrogance. We go for country sly in this neck of the woods, uh huh.
   Things had reached breaking point. Looking down at my growing shadow every day (was that the way the sun was hitting it or was I even fatter?) was wrecking my concentration for writing. The last straw was a recent internet story: doctors now think sitting down all day is worse for you than smoking!
   Considering I quit smoking six months ago (and then sat down, for the first time in years, to write fiction) this really, really pissed me off. I mean, what kind of karma is that? I couldn't be smug about quitting smoking anymore (which is really the only fun thing about it) because sitting down is even WORSE? It was then that I spotted the hamster treadmill story.
   So many would-be writers are prepared to hang on for years, even decades, to achieve their publication goals. And they do. But they won't exercise. Inactivity becomes a reward for chaining themselves to desks. I wonder if this latest story about the evils of desk-sitting will change some minds. We'll see, I guess.
   But for me, that  treadmill can't get here fast enough. Free speech AND free weights? It's heaven--the best of both worlds for any writer wanting to stay alive long enough to enjoy the fruits of his or her labors. Use It Or Lose It. No Pain No Gain. These adages work just fine for writing, too. In a world hellbent on making things complicated, why not go against the flow and doubly simplify your life?

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Kindle Scout Program Not For Non-U.S. Indies

    English-based Indies who are not American have a harder time in life. New possibilities for publishing come and go for everyone, all the time, but non-U.S. authors deal with continual annoyances that have nothing to do with their writing per se, but their nationality.
     If nothing else, one must do more with paperwork, internet bank accounts and so on to be part of the Indie scene (which is dominated by the U.S. in the English-speaking world). But the real disadvantage is that we non-Americans are never in on the ground floor. For example, the Scout program below just came on tap today:
     Thanks for your interest in Amazon's new publishing program. We want you to be the first to know it's called Kindle Scout and we're now open for submissions in select genres!
Kindle Scout is reader-powered publishing for new, never-before-published books. It's a place where readers help decide if a book receives a publishing contract. Selected books will be published by Kindle Press and receive 5-year renewable terms, a $1,500 advance, 50% eBook royalty rate, easy rights reversions, and featured Amazon marketing.
We will be inviting readers to join and nominate books in a couple of weeks. Submit your book today! 

     This latest effort by Amazon is limited to those with a U.S. bank account and a U.S. tax identification number. (In other words, you have to be American with a U.S. bank account and no, Payoneer and its ilk are not acceptable. Sorry about that.)
      I'd been examining the edges of this program and growing increasingly excited. One book, I've kept thinking, could be sacrificed on the altar of lower returns in order to increase readers for my other books. I was more than a little dismayed to learn such a move is currently impossible for non-U.S. authors. I wanted to phone Amazon and say hey, I do have American cousins. And they live in Seattle! (Does that give me an in?)
     There is a bright side to being rejected. (I'll bet most of you don't believe me, though.) Back in olden times, when our newspaper chain was switching from hoary linotypes to spanking new computers as a means of producing newspapers, the smaller daily newspapers got the new system first.
      The reasoning, I imagine, was that a big screw-up at a small newspaper would be less embarrassing than a big screw-up at a newspaper in metro Toronto or Vancouver.
      One Brit noted that she made it a habit to think of the U.S. as a 'testing ground' for Amazon programs. By the time all the kinks were worked out of the Scout program, she said, it would be next introduced in Britain.
     While she contends this places the Brits in an enviable position it does nothing for the rest of us. Both the Brits and the Germans already have Kindle Unlimited. Canadians don't even have their own author pages (we're rolled into the U.S. ones.) I suppose I should be grateful I'm Canadian and a stone's throw from the U.S. Due to the vast distances, I think the ones hardest hit in the English-speaking world are the Aussies and New Zealanders. Amazon and everyone else is after urban markets with population concentration since they are the most profitable and cost-effective. Countries contained within relatively small areas that boast large populations are inevitably going to have the advantage in this marketplace.
     Nuts. I would ordinarily console myself with the usual Canadian fallback ("well, at least we have health care"), but that's not good enough in a matter of the heart (and writing is a matter of the heart).
     Non-U.S. indie authors who write in English have simply got to bite the bullet and accept it:  thanks to the Internet, we are all free to publish anywhere, but U.S. authors currently have a definite advantage in selling their stuff.
      The one thing that cheers me about the whole situation is the potentially large number of would-be authors who will be 'drawn' off by this new program. And perhaps their reception by readers will be so dismal that some will give up writing altogether. Few authors are stubborn enough to continue when no one likes their stuff. So the program should help clear out a bit of the dead wood.
      If you are a non-U.S. author, keep telling yourself that adversity breeds success. I know I focus more strongly on a goal when I figure it's not going to be an easy win. And I always do a better job under those circumstances, too.
     Better to be last and best, eh?
    Give It Back, my medical horror thriller about organ transplantation goes on sale tomorrow (Sept. 15) in the U.S. You can grab a Kindle edition for 99 cents. Reviews are heavily appreciated, too.  

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

BookLinker Back To Normal

It was pleasant to log on this morning to realize BookLinker.net has reversed its position.

This is the email those who ordinarily use the service are receiving:

"This is just a quick email to let you know that we at BookLinker have reversed our decision to use advertising as a means to fund our service.

This means that all BookLinker links are now completely back to the way they were a few days ago - i.e. no advertising whatsoever. After having reviewed the situation, we are now uninanmously committed to an ad-free BookLinker forever.

Many thanks to those of you who provided us with feedback, and we have already refunded everyone who had already signed up for the premium plan. It was at least encouraging to realise just how much our service is appreciated! Best regards Richard @ BookLinker www.booklinker.net"

Richard, while you may be a whiz at the tech stuff, you and yours should put some effort into your public relations in future (as well, on your spelling and punctuation: this time 'unanimously' is spelled wrong). It makes me shiver sometimes to think of the wars poor language skills are going to cause in the future.

Enough said.

Monday, October 6, 2014

This is a stickup! BookLinker wants your cash!

   I blogged Saturday about a change that took me and numerous other Amazon associate authors by surprise. Without warning, BookLinker.net has begun inserting spot advertisements between your book link and the potential customer who has clicked on your book.
   While I understand that everyone has to make a living, the lack of warning was unacceptable. And the new cost of using their service turns out to be unnecessarily high, particularly when there are alternatives out there that are still free.
   For those not in the know, short links are essentially short cuts to your books. When someone from another country spots your book on the internet, tapping on the link will take them directly to their country's Amazon site where your book is listed for sale. They can immediately buy your book without any jerking around. Read my earlier blog for more information. There are THREE alternative FREE short link services other writers have generously supplied for you in their comments.
   As you can imagine, I have run into no author who likes the idea of ads inserted between their book and the potential reader. I'm fairly new to such techie stuff, so I haven't yet bothered to insert universal links at the backs of all my books as more experienced indie writers have done. I'm nothing but grateful for that now. Think of all the authors with ten or more paperbacks as well as eBook editions who will have to republish their books to get rid of the link! (BookLinker.net is likely counting on this. No one's going to want to take on a time-intensive chore like that.) Boy, is this dirty.
   But as I said yesterday, even if authors bite the bullet and pay BookLinker.net the fee they are requesting, the service is no longer so useful. Fewer potential readers will tap on a link if they suspect an ad lurking behind it, even if there's not.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Squeeze Play? Amazon Authors Asked To Pay For BookLinker.

   I received an e-mail from BookLinker this AM. It annoyed me so much that I've gone off-schedule to blog about it.
This was the e-mail:

"Marilyn Storie, You may have noticed that BookLinker short-links are currently displaying brief rich-media advertisments before redirecting to your content. This is because Amazon Associates are withholding affiliate income from us; effectively forcing us to display these ads in order to meet our ongoing costs. Sales are unlikely to be affected, but if you would like to continue using our service *completely ad-free*, we are offering a new premium plan, costing 10 GBP per month. Please respond to this email if you would like to upgrade to this plan, and we will respond with instructions. Best regards Richard @ BookLinker www.booklinker.net"

   My first thought, of course, was that Richard had unnecessarily capitalized 'You', misspelled 'advertisements', and misused a semi-colon and a hyphen; my second was that he could take a hike.
   I tweeted my distress and then remembered SmartURL. This was a similar site, somewhat more complicated for an author to use, but also superior in some ways to BookLinker. I say 'was' because I quickly discovered the site(quelle surprise) no longer provides a service for books. They've narrowed their niche market down to music. One would have to wonder if the same party has a finger in both url services. One would also have to wonder if Hachette has an indirect interest in either outfit.
   I suppose $15.30 U.S. or so isn't a huge sum for well-established authors. But for new authors or those who make a limited amount, the annual cost of $185 is steep. It would be naive to think cash-poor Amazon will suddenly shower BookLinker with gold. But it could be that the new fee is solely to force Amazon to pay them what they want.
   It's odd, though. And those who do meekly pay for the non-advertisement service will gain a reduced benefit. Once the public anticipates an unwanted ad at the end of a link, they are not going to open the door to discover there isn't one.
   I was going to end by observing that the change in service will hurt all authors, traditional or Indie. But now I'm rethinking things. Are only authors who are also Amazon affiliates being penalized?
   If so, it sure sounds like a squeeze play to me.