Tag Archives: books


Stopped in at an independent bookstore today (yes! There is one within 20 miles of me!).

Since I had loved Austin Kleon’s “Steal Like An Artist” so much, I immediately wandered over to the display of his work, including this one: “Show Your Work”. After leafing through a couple of pages I knew I wanted it. So while I have the other one in Kindle edition, I have this one as a paperback.

“The Tenth of December” has been on my list for a while because, hey, short stories! And it has been winning prizes and every one is raving about it. that’s not always a big selling point for me, but I like the things people have been saying about it, so we’ll see.

The third one I picked up on a whim. It looks very literary and is set in Paris. 1 I don’t have anything very literary on the go at the moment2, and I am going to Paris in July, I thought I’d give it a try.

So that’s what’s on the new reading list.

I have already started “Show Your Work”, which is, in part, why I’m posting this. At one point he advocates sending out “a daily dispatch” from your creative life: if you’re in the planning stages, share what’s inspiring you; if you’re working, share excepts etc.

So this is what’s inspiring me today, among other things.

  1. “Paris: The Novel”, by Edward Rutherfurd. Now that I think about it, that definite article sounds a bit arrogant. And his last name is spelled unexpectedly, which seems pretentious, but probably isn’t his fault. I shall try to overlook these things.
  2. I always have multiple books on the go at one time. Do you? I like to have different books for different moods…

Loan Kindle Books? Yes You Can!

So, One of the frustrations about the Kindle has been that you can’t share books with your friends and family.

Now, Amazon has at last announced that you can lend Kindle editions of ebooks

Usual caveat: Publishers have to allow this feature and most of the big ones won’t. Yet. 1

Loan Your Kindle Books : Details

  • The recipient does not have to own a Kindle or even have any Kindle apps installed. They will be prompted to download one of the free apps.
  • The recipient has a week to collect the book after you lend it to them, or the offer is cancelled
  • Your loaned book will be unavailable for 14 days
  • After 14 days, your book comes back to you automatically

So, you could be without access to your book for 3 weeks at most.

How To Lend Books From Your Kindle

Currently you have to do this from the Amazon website (though I wouldn’t be surprised if we see an in-Kindle option later)

From the Book’s Product Detail Page

Go to the product page and you’ll see a yellow bar above the title saying that yes, you did buy this and yes, you can loan it. Click the link.

Product Detail Page for Lending Kindle Ebooks

From The Manage Your Kindle Page

  • Log in to your account at Amazon.
  • To to Manage Your Kindle
  • Scroll down to “Your Orders”
  • Click the + next to the title you want to lend. If the publisher has enabled the ‘lend’ feature, you will see a “Loan this book” button.Loan a Kindle eBook from Manage Your Kindle Page at Amazon

The book will disappear from your available Kindle titles for a while.

What Happens After I Lend The Book?

You are taken to a page where you can fill in any email address.

Lending a Kindle eBook- Email Page image

Then you’ll see this confirmation page:

At this point, the book will still be in your library but you won’t be able to access it from your Kindle or Kindle apps.

Can I Lend To Someone Who Doesn’t Have A Kindle?

Yes. Anyone with a computer or other electronic device can receive the book and read it. There are Kindle apps for desktop, mac, iPhone, iPad, Blackberry, Windows Phone 7 and Mac.

(But no, they won’t be able to read it on their Nook or their Kobo or Sony eReader or other competing eReader device, as far as I can tell).

What About My Note and Highlights?

This is an extremely cool feature, I think:

  • The person who borrows the book won’t be able to see your notes (protecting your privacy).
  • They can make notes in the book and when it comes back to you, you won’t see their notes either.
  • BUT (and this is the cool part) if they then buy their own copy of the book, their notes magically appear in their edition.

(I know, I’m a geek, but this makes me smile)

What About International Loans?

This one is subject to international rights rules. You might try to lend a book to someone in another country and find it’s not going through because of licensing and rights rules. Sigh. There’s not much Amazon can do about this one.

More Cool Kindle Features You Might Have Missed

You can also give Kindle books as gifts and earn commissions on Kindle titles if you’re an Amazon Associate (see my Kindle store for examples).

So, what do you think of this feature? Will you use it? What books will you lend? And how long do you think it will take publishers to sort out this global rights thing (hint: it’s taken them this long to allow their titles to be in ebook format. It’s only in the past five years or so that editors have started using email. Seriously!)

  1. Currently NOTHING that I have bought from a major publisher has ‘loan this book’ available. A short story, some self-published stuff and, interestingly, some Christian titles are all I can lend. Smart move, proselytizers! ;)

iPad vs Kindle

So, iPad vs. Kindle. It was the first thing a lot of people mentioned and I’m not sure why.

It’s a bit like comparing a greetings card to a smart phone. Or my beloved blank notebook to my desktop computer.

One is designed to do one thing, and do it well, with all the limitations that implies (i.e. it can’t do anything other than the thing it was designed for, and must be used pretty much in the way the designer specified.) The other does lots and lots of things, with a few compromises that are usually made up for by the convenience factor.

My blank book is pretty much pants when it comes to helping me retrieve information or store photographs or connect with other people. But when I want to jot down an idea, or draw a diagram or entertain a cranky toddler on a train, or make an impromptu origami model, that notebook is my best friend.

Similarly, I LOVE my iPhone and I carry it with me everywhere (yes, everywhere. Don’t think too hard about that). I even read ebooks on it. It is good on the treadmill that lives in a dark and spidery corner of my basement. It’s great in bed, oh yes.

My iPhone ereader (and so, by extension, the iPad ereader) lets me look stuff up, dog-ear pages (not really) and make notes. The iPad will usher in the Apple eBook store.


I still love my Kindle.

When I want to settle down and read a book for hours (as if I get the chance!) I reach for my pencil-slim, un-backlit, black-on-grey eInk screened, phenomenally long-lived, free Internet access, zippy download, fingerprint-free screened, no-glare Kindle that looks better in daylight than the printed page with none of the ‘holding the book open’ inconvenience.

I love its little cotton socks. I really do.

Just as an email birthday greeting, while more convenient, lacks the appeal of a through-the-post physical card, and the Kindle itself lacks the paper-and-ink-smell tactile experience of reading a dead-tree edition, the iPad ebook reader will come with compromises. The convenience may outweigh those compromises for many people, but I really, really hope that Amazon and the publishers continue to support this device.

The Kindle was designed for people like me, who buy and read books voraciously. We are the ones who will read a book a week, or more. (I have two small children and last year I logged 40 books as ‘read’ in my WeRead profile. In one year! Most of them were bought and read on the Kindle. It’s the most I have read in years. Because it was always easy to find my book, find my place, and grab a new book. Only once did I pick up my Kindle and discover I had let the battery run down, and that was after a particularly busy couple of weeks when I had tossed it in the corner, wireless still connected.)

Dedicated readers appreciate a dedicated device. Casual readers would never have bought a Kindle anyway.

So I’m still not sure why everyone focused on the iPad as a Kindle killer. It might be, but there is so much more to the iPad than ebooks.

My hopes are that

a, the publishers realise that Amazon is trying to sell more books, and respond to their customers’ price sensitivities, not hurt publishers.

b, Amazon starts to support the ePub format so that books I buy from the Apple store will also be readable on my Kindle. I’m grateful to Amazon for the Kindle, but not so grateful that I’m going to forgo reading a book if it is published in the ‘wrong’ format.

And yeah, I still want an iPad…

Other People’s Opinions:
This one talks about iPad vs Kindle very differently

Bookcrossing Success!

Hey, I just got an email informing me that a book I released into the wild (i.e. gave away) has turned up on the other side of the US, five years after I set it free!

So thanks to the anonymous finder who posted the find at Bookcrossing

Now the questions are: where has it been for the past years and what has it seen on its travels across the US. (Also: why haven’t I tagged every other book I’ve given away since?! Must get back to doing that!)

What's In A Publishing Agreement?

When publishing with a POD company you should look beyond the marketing materials and read the Author Agreement/Publishing Contract, to find out what exactly the deal is. While some companies, like Booklocker, have managed to keep the language simple and direct…

We don’t work with Jerks
We’ll bend over backwards to help authors get published…but we don’t like working with jerks. Life’s too short…So if you are a jerk please go work with one of our competitors

…most companies have let their lawyers go to town on the agreement:

Rights and Guarantees
Whereas, the AUTHOR wishes to publish his/her works (hereinafter to be refferred to…

Having had to revise one of these a couple of times, to try to make it more user friendly, I thought I’d share my the fruits of my translation effort with you.

Please remember I am not a lawyer and that this article is intended to educate you but not replace the advice of a legal professional.
end disclaimer

A publishing agreement from a POD firm normally contains information on four or five things:

  • Rights and exclusivity
  • Pricing and royalties
  • Warranties and Indemnities
  • Termination clause
  • The actual services they will provide.

Rights & Exclusivity

Most POD companies take only a non-exclusive right to produce and distribute your book. This means you grant them the right to make and sell your book but you can also produce the book any way you want at the same time. You can list it with two POD companies, you can do your own printing, sell subsidiary rights to a bookclub and keep all the money yourself, or declaim it from the roof of your house.

This is quite revolutionary and not all POD companies follow this model. Traditionally, publishers invested a lot of time in editing, book production, printing and marketing, so they expected the author to allow them the exclusive right to produce the book. POD firms, however, are more like book packagers or printers – you are buying services from them. Why should they get your rights? It’s a good question and I’m glad some of the POD pioneers thought of it.

You are unlikely to see a deal like this from a traditional publisher – at least, not yet.

If a POD publisher is taking an exclusive right be sure you know

  • How long the term lasts,
  • How and when it renews

How much notice they need to give the rights back to you.

This is important because if Simon & Schuster comes knocking, looking to pick up your book and you still have a year left on your contract with the POD firm, you might have to share the money with the POD company, or risk the publisher getting bored and moving on to the next project.

Pricing and Royalties

Probably dearest to your heart of any matters in the publishing agreement is the question of money – how much will they pay you?

The agreement should spell this out clearly. Now ‘clearly’ doesn’t mean ‘simply’ because royalties are a complicated topic, but it should be there.

Firstly, you should be able to see how much they are going to charge for your book, whether or not you have any say in that pricing, and whether or not they have to ask your permission before changing the prices. Because POD books are supposed to stay in print forever, and because there are so many authors to deal with, many agreements will reserve the right to change the price as production costs and other factors change.

This isn’t outrageous when you consider that your book should still be available long after you’ve shuffled off, as Shakespeare put it. Industry standard prices and the costs of production are bound to change over time and the company doesn’t want to have to poll each of it’s 10,000 authors every time they adjust the prices to meet current standards.

If they offer you the chance to set your own price, be sure you understand their minimums and how your decision to raise or lower the price will affect your receipts.

Ah yes, the receipts.

Some POD companies offer a percentage of the list price. This is nice and easy, because you always know what the list price is and you can know exactly how much you will make on any sale, regardless of bookstore discounts or production costs. The problem with expressing it this way is that the percentage sounds lower than if the company offered a percentage of net receipts, or purchase price.

If a company offers a percentage of list price, that percentage is probably in the region of 25-40%. (Remember that traditional publishing royalties are around 6-10% of list price). If they offer a percentage of the net-receipts or the purchase price, that figure could be anywhere from 40-70%. As exciting as that sounds, it is important to remember that this means you get 40-70% of the POD company’s receipts, after they’ve given the bookstore their 40% discount. A sale of a $12 book could result in a $2.88 royalty even if the agreement says ‘40%’, which seems like it should come out to a lot more. This is because you get 40% of the profit the POD company receives, not 40% of the price of the book.


There should be some description of the services you are buying – either as part of the contract or as an attached document/schedule. Make sure you read these carefully to know what exactly you are and aren’t getting.

Warranties & Indemnities

Possibly the most brain-frying portions of any agreement, these sections tell you what you are responsible for (everything) and what the company will take responsibility for (nothing). Language like “Author represents and warrants the following…” is usually followed by any number of clauses saying you promise that you are the real author, you own the copyright, that you haven’t promised anyone else an exclusive license to the work; that you haven’t included anything illegal, defamatory or that would infringe someone else’s copyright or trademark.

If you an honest operator, this section contains nothing very scary. However it does mean that if you accidentally defame someone and they take you and the POD company to court, the POD company can hold up its hands and say ‘not our fault, the author promised it was OK’.

Likewise the indemnity portion is full of clauses saying you won’t hold the company responsible for anything: basically, if you get sued for any reason, you’re on your own.

Knowing this, you may wish to purchase publisher’s liability insurance from a third party if you are writing about real people or events.


The agreement should give the terms under which you or the company can end your relationship. It should include timelines, if appropriate; the procedure for notifying each other and, ideally, some indication of what they will do with any extra copies of your book that they may happen to have lying around.

Usually, if you don’t give up any rights, you can terminate the agreement at any time. If you’re giving up rights and want to break the agreement, the company will probably retain the right to produce and distribute the book for some time after you notify them.


POD contracts tend to be a lot more generous in terms of rights and royalties than traditional publishing contracts … but that’s just how it should be, since the POD company makes non of the investments made by a traditional publisher.

If your agreement seems too legalistic for you to understand, take it to an intellectual property lawyer for their advice. It is important to know exactly what you are getting into. There is no one model for POD, there is not, as yet, any gold standard.

Is POD Right For Me – Sales Goals

Print On-Demand publishing offers relief from handling all the orders and sales transactions that you would have to handle if you printed 5000 copies of your book, stored them in your garage and handled all the order fulfillment yourself. Print on-demand companies usually arrange for the book to be listed with bookstores and databases under their name. When someone orders the book, the order goes to the POD company. The company processes the check or credit card, prints the book and fulfills it.


Many marketing books suggest that each ad or promotional piece you do should contain a code somewhere, that allows you to track which campaign your customer responded to. This helps you to track your marketing efforts, select the most effective, and build on it. This only works, however, if you are taking every order for your product. If your POD company is receiving orders it is unlikely that they will collect this kind of information for you. This means that your ability to track the effectiveness of your marketing is limited. You can, of course, still check the dates of a sale and, in some cases, the geographical location. This helps you to see that the talk you gave in Poughkeepsie in January, was probably the reason that 12 people from Upstate New York ordered your book at the start of the year.


One of the most powerful ways to encourage people to buy a product is to offer them a discount and to put a time limit on it. (‘Save 20%, this weekend only!’). Self-publishers often offer discounts at book signings and events, or if someone buys more than one copy. It is important to remember that, with books printed on-demand, the profit margin is usually smaller than with volume-printed books. This means that you have less room for offering discounts. You may be buying author copies at a 20-40% discount off the retail price. If you sell the book at even a 10% discount, you will cut into your earnings significantly.

In addition, any discounts you offer will be valid only for books the reader buys directly from you. Just as you cannot force a bookseller to offer the book at a lower price, you cannot force your POD company to keep track of this month’s promotional offer on your book and the 10,000 other titles they produce. (With technological advances this may be possible in time, but for now the POD companies are simply not sophisticated enough to do this).

You may add value by inviting people to come to a web-page with more information about the book – free to purchasers. You may invite them to request a free booklet or workbook associated with your book.


Do you long to see your book on the shelves in bookstores? Why?

Print on-demand book, by their very nature, are not printed in large quantities, warehoused or displayed in bookstores. They are printed when they are ordered. You are unlikely to ship large quantities of a print on-demand book to bookstores for display. It is important to remember, however, that bookstores are not a promotional vehicle for books, they are simply somewhere people go to buy books. Most readers buy books that they have read something about or have had recommended to them, or that seem to be on a subject they are interested in. It is also important to remember that most books do not stay on bookstore shelves for more than 6-18 months, unless they are consistently good sellers.

It is certainly a nice boost to the ego to see your book on a bookstore shelf, but it does not necessarily boost sales. In addition, bookstores take a 40% discount, cutting into your profits, dramatically.

It may help to think of your book as a mail-order product and market it accordingly. Identify your audience and ways that you can communicate with them. Direct targeted mailings at them. Encourage them to order your book directly from the POD provider (and yes, they can do that by mail, with a check).

Placing a book on a bookstore shelf is a very passive, very ineffective method of marketing your book. With the advent of online stores, readers are increasingly accustomed to ordering a book and waiting a few days for it to arrive. Take advantage of this.


You must be willing to promote your book everywhere you go. Without the power of a publishing house behind you, you are responsible for all the marketing and promotion. If you hope to sell any books you must be willing to tell people about your book. You must also – and here’s the hard part – be willing to tell people how good the book is. If you can use other people’s comments, so much the better, but you will have to swallow your modesty at some point and stand behind your product.

Are you willing to:

  • Carry business cards with information about your book?
  • Talk about your book with the stranger sitting next to you on the plane?
  • Carry order forms for your book?
  • Tell people that you have created a great product which they would really enjoy?
  • Think about where to find your audience?
  • Invest time and money promoting the book – possibly forever?
  • Learn about the Internet?
  • Learn about marketing and promotion techniques?

If not, do not expect to sell many self-published books.


It is important to have realistic sales goals. Do not expect to earn money from this venture. Expect to break even, at best.

This statement holds true for almost all kinds of publishing, traditional, self-publishing, vanity, or print on-demand. Most books in traditional publishing do not earn out their advance. This means that the publisher has calculated how many copies it thinks the book can sell, and paid the author an advance equal to the royalties on that number of books. Most books do not reach their projected goals, do not go into a second print-run and do not earn the author any further royalties. And these are books with the power of a major publishing house behind them.

But this is not all bad news. Chances are you are not writing to get rich – if you were, you’d be writing dull financial documentation for a bank. You are writing because you have to, because you want to be read, or because you want to build a reputation as an expert in your field. In this case, the more books you can get out into the world, the better, whether or not you make a profit in the long run. Remember this when deciding how much money to invest in setting up your POD book and promoting it.

If you are wildly successful you may make a profit, but remember: only an estimated 6% of all writers earn their living solely from their writings. Writing, especially fiction writing, is an avocation, not an occupation. Print on-demand offers an inexpensive way for you to share those writings, in book form, with a wider audience. If this is your main goal, print on-demand may offer the best solution and the least risk, and a safe way to test the waters of self-publishing.

In this article I have attempted to cover a lot of ground, quickly, and have not tried to give all the answers thoroughly. If I have raised questions and you want a more thorough answer, leave a comment and I’ll be happy to clarify, expand on any point in this article, or address new questions.