Saturday, January 31, 2009

"Talk to the wrist," and other ends and odds

The world is changing so fast, it's almost caught up with where we were forty-odd years ago.

I grew up with the original Thunderbirds -- not the Jonathan Frakes kid-flick that apparently laid an egg a couple of years ago: don't know nuthin' about that, didn't see it. No, no, the Thunderbirds I'm talking about was the dream come true of every six year old, and I was about six at the time myself.

People wore their phones on their wrists ... you talked to your wrist instead of sticking one hand on the side of your head, like you have an agonizing earache. And whaddaya know? It's happening. Right now, right here, for $399 a pop:

Just when it was almost fashionable to wear a ridiculous Bluetooth headpiece and talk loudly to yourself in shopping centres, now we'll have people talking into their wrists. Or will we?

Adelaide-based NV Mobile today launched a range of mobile phone watches complete with a sampling of the bells and whistles we see in the mobile phones in market already, including Bluetooth, touchscreens, and audio and video players. NV Mobile's CEO Anthony Cook describes the mobile phone watch as the "evolution of communications".

"In 10 to 20 years [watch phones] will take over the large screen phones," said Cook.
The range includes 10 models starting with the entry-level Motch all the way through to the top-of-the-line NV Sapphire, with sports watches and watches for tradesmen in between. Prices range from the basic model at AU$399 through to AU$999. The phones are currently available through the
NV Mobile website.,239025953,339294659,00.htm

Hey, man -- "Calling Thunderbird One!"

It worked like this: you got yourself into all kinds of trouble, till nobody could figure out how to pull your hopeless little fanny out again and save your worthless life, and then you yelled blue murder for International Rescue, and the next thing you knew, this tall, dark, blue-eyed hunk arrived in an ultrasonic rocketship, and uh, rescued you.

Six year olds, the world over, were delirious. A few of us grew up; a lot of others never did.

But seriously -- wristwatch phones. It's only taken forty bloody years, and we have them now. Yes, I know Dick Tracy did it back in the Days of Yore, but to this day I have only a nodding acquaintance with Dick. Couldn't pick him out of a police lineup. Was he the one that wore the hat? Then again, they all wore hats back then ... like that alter ego of Picard's, Dixon Hill. For me, the whole "talk to the wrist" thing was about being a little kid whose eyes were still starry, and this adventure show that was on the telly on a Saturday arvo.

Put it this way: the world was a simpler place.

And as you've already guessed, the Mel-o-Sphere is a vacuum that is still sitting at something like 109F. There's little to blog about save odds and ends...

I want to thank Aricia for the really nice review of Aquamarine she uploaded earlier today. As she mentioned, I did go over to Amazon, and searched for the DreamCraft version of the book -- twice. Get this: the first time, it was absent from the Keegan search results list. The second time, it showed up. Go figure. I have no idea what's going on there, but doubtlessly the pundits at the Big A do: Amazon moves in mysterious ways.

Saying "thanks" to AG, then, I'll give her other blog a little plug here -- because, frankly, it deserves it. It's turning out to be the proverbial load of fun. What was it today? David Beckham in underwear, everyone else in kilts, Ewan McGregor in -- what the hell is that he's half-wearing?! And Orlando Bloom looking like a cherub in need of rescuing. I also like the line in humor AG has going there. This blog, Aricia's Album, it top-notch and only getting better:

I've braved the heat long enough to make a swag of uploads to the photoblog, too -- this also has turned out to be a great deal more fun that I'd imagined:

Broad Pass, Alaska, in winter
An aviation icon of the north
Koalas really are too cute!
Heavenly shades of evening

And the rest of the gang hasn't been idle. There's a rare collection of images online now, that weren't there the last time I looked.

Good news on the Blogger bustup, Template tantrum front: I do believe it's been fixed. The LEGENDS template has been rewritten to suit Blogger, and I owe Jade massive thanks for this. God knows what she does. I don't even want to ask, because she might explain, and I don't speak cascading style gibberish. Hopefully, The Fall of the Atlantean Empire will be online next week.

And that really is the size and shape of the Mel-o-Sphere right now! It's HOT. It's damned hot. And it's another week before the weather breaks. So --

Ciao for now,

Friday, January 30, 2009

Australian Internet Filtering ... almost upon us

Internet filtering is about to descend upon us ... and Keegan might be in limbo very soon. What to do about this is a good question. We'd originally thought that only the X-rated sites would vanish. Then it was the R-rated sites too. Then...

Well, here's the news on All News Web:

Australia: North Korea style internet censorship plan moves ahead.
Australians can’t deal with free access to the internet as far as Australia’s Minister of Communications Stephen Conroy is concerned. This month his office announced that live trials of a far reaching internet filter will begin.

Australians will have to get used to an internet devoid of X-rated, R-rated and even M-rated websites and ultimately possibly have to get used to no internet at all, according to some observers. The plan is supposedly about protecting Australians from the ‘evils of the net’ and cracking down on child pornography but evidence suggests that the censorship program will go much further than that according to many observers.
‘Sadly the kids will end up suffering for this….and vulnerable women’ noted one psychologist we spoke to.’ Borderline abusers are currently fulfilling their fantasies vicariously through the kind of porn legal in most countries (not Australia). Once this stops the action will shift to shady file-sharing groups and go offline altogether. They will get of the net and hit the streets’

IT experts fear that the plan will interfere with the internet so much that it will effectively take Australia out of the information age. ‘Yep Australia will be going offline’ one IT professional active on the online group ‘No internet censorship’ told us. ‘The filter will slow down speeds to the point that the net will be rendered completely useless’

On the other side of the coin many Christian activists are applauding the move. ‘The net is a receptacle of filth and it’s going to get a good scrubbing behind the ear’ commented Dorothy, a middle aged Mum affiliated with the Australia's Evangelical community.

Australia's few free speech activists are horrified by the plans ‘This is the end of free speech in Australia if it ever existed at all. In the end the filter will be used to cut out any websites that don’t conform to the likings of any lobby group that is seen as having voting power. When this plan comes to its logical conclusion you will be lucky if you can get on and read the daily news.’ Commented one well known free speech activist.’ Australians will lose on all fronts, abuse will be up and the net will be down’ she concluded.

Is this a far-fetched, extreme case scenario? We don't think so. This appeared on Crikey!:

So Conroy's Internet filter won't block political speech, eh?
"Freedom of speech is fundamentally important in a democratic society and there has never been any suggestion that the Australian Government would seek to block political content," intoned Senator Stephen Conroy on Tuesday.

Yet the very next day, ACMA
added a page from what's arguably a political website to its secret blacklist of Internet nasties.

The page is part of an anti-abortion website which claims to include "everything schools, government, and abortion clinics are afraid to tell or show you". Yes, photos of dismembered fetuses designed to scare women out of having an abortion. Before you click through, be warned: it is confronting.
Here's the blacklisted page.
Mandatory Internet filtering, says Senator Conroy, is only about blocking the ACMA blacklist. The blacklist, he repeatedly insists, is "mainly" child-abuse and ultra-violent material. He's protecting us from ped-philes, stopping terrorists, that sort of thing. It's like the regulation we have for TV, films and books. Except it's not. It's not even close.

As always, Irene Graham's meticulously-researched explains how Internet censorship actually works
now and what the Rudd government has been planning.

It's not the blockage/filtering/censorship of the x-rated stuff and the r-rated stuff that bothers most ordinary folks (like self). It's the blockage of everything down to the M-rated material ... because after that, all that's left is G and PG. This is kiddie stuff. Even Lord of the Rings is rated M and MA15+. There's not a lot of the big movies out there that are PG. The Dark Knight is MA15+, for example ... Batman is about to vanish from Australia's web; Wolverine will never even appear upon computer screens here. The filtering will be in before it's released.

We can expect to lose YouTube, Wikipedia, Flickr, Photobucket, MySpace, FaceBook, Amazon, and a whole lot more; because you can see M-rated stuff on all of these sites; and you can buy it from Amazon in the form of DVDs and --

Books. Which is where Keegan stands to turn into the invisible gay novelist very soon. When the government's blacklist is completed, rounded out to include everything except G and PG material, well ... this blog will still be there at Blogger -- you'll be able to see it! -- but I won't -- meaning, I can't update it, post to it, edit it, or even check back to see what I wrote a few months ago! It'll have vanished because I'm a political and gay rights activist, and I cover topics which are in the M rated bracket. I run artwork that's as "revealing as underwear commercials --

You realize that Victoria's Secret and so forth will be vanishing? The automatic, robotized photo filters are fine-tuned to detect skin. Any skin, anywhere. Not genitalia: they're not that smart. SKIN. (How do you think Google Safe Search works?) The text filters are set to detect four letter words ... but it gets worse: "damn" and "blast" and "hell" and "bugger" and "death" and "kill" will get you rated R. This blog IS rated R, because I keep saying heinous things like, "This heat wave will be the death of me yet," and "Somebody kill the power before this computer melts down," and "There was a blast of cold air from the a/c," and ... so on.

So, given that the only things left on the Internet will be Disney oriented, kiddie entertainment and shopping at stores that do NOT sell books and DVDs, who in the is in favor of the Internet filtering?

This is also running on Crikey!:

Who supports compulsory Internet filtering, exactly?
Senator Conroy tries to portray the filter-fighters as "extreme libertarians". But with GetUp!'s "Save The Net" campaign having already gathered 95,000 signatures and $50,000, it's starting to look pretty mainstream. That, plus a new survey by middle-rank ISP Netspace, starts to paint the supporters of compulsory filtering as the minority.

Netspace isn't taking part in the trials because the Expression of Interest contained "insufficient detail, unrealistic timeframes and unclear funding arrangements".

Uh...huh. Well, Senator Conroy would probably contest that less than 100,000 Internet users are not a big enough group to compromise the security of the legions of children whose parents are allowed by law to practise criminal negligence.

Put it like this: you have a stash of porn magazines, tapes and books in the house. The kids know where the stash is. Do you leave them alone with it? The answer is -- no, you don't. The same applies to the computer and Internet connection ... no more, no less. The responsibility is on the shoulders of the PARENTS to filter their own damned Internet and protect their own damned children.

Meanwhile, some ISPs are so disgusted, they won't even be involved in the trials. I'm with Telstra-Big Pond, and this is fortunate, because this is one of the disgusted ISPs. Another is the giant Netspace.

In fact, Netspace officially has this to say:

Netspace customers rail against ISP filtering
Netspace has released the results of its customer survey on ISP level filtering, which shows strong opposition to the federal government's plan.

The survey found that 78.9% of the "almost 10,000" respondents disagreed with the federal government's plan to mandate ISP level filtering for all Australians, with 61.8% of those "strongly" disagreeing.

Over 70% of Netspace customers also showed strong opposition to the potential for increased broadband prices and a reduction in Internet performance as a result of filtering.

Netspace also asked customers if they would "opt-in" to a clean-feed service if it were made available. 64.9% of respondents said they would not sign up, while 26.1% said "maybe". It's worth noting however that some comments by the government have suggested the clean-feed service would be opt-out rather than opt-in.
In related news, iiNet says it is "unsure" when the filtering trials may start, and is not yet sure if it will be asked to participate. iiNet told customers in its newsletter that its "belief is that these trials will only highlight filtering as ineffective in addressing the issue".

"We're also more than a little concerned with the Government's failure to clearly outline the level and types of censorship that will apply to subjects other than child pornography, in addition to the impact this filtering could have on internet performance", it said.

O...kay. As you can see, at this moment's it's chaos, with only one thing being certain: a minority of people (like the Aussie Christian Evangelical Mum above) are in agreement with making the web a G and PG environment. But --

When you lose Amazon, and Wiki, YouTube and Flickr, sites that sell swimwear and lingerie, sites giving information about AIDS prevention, safe sex and the right way to use condoms; sites that argue the political environment, and contend with matters of human rights...

Do the evangelists have the right to dictate terms to the community as a whole? Isn't this the gateway to the Sharya system of law?? Why can't these religious enthusiasts just protect their own children, and leave the rest of us be? Take a leaf out of the Gospel According to Ned Flanders, and look after your own damned kids, don't wait for the country to do it for you! And then --

Why do these religious bods assume that their kids WANT to see porn on the web? If they've raised them in their own pure and holy image, wouldn't the kids turn off, switch channels, run back to something nice and safe?

Here is where it gets interesting, because --

Children's groups Save the Children, and the National Children's and Youth Law Centre, said they were yet to be convinced of the effectiveness of a mandatory filter but would wait until children were properly consulted before making a judgement.

"We're agnostic about the mandatory filtering trials," Save the Children Australia child rights adviser Holly Doel-Mackaway said.

"If it's an opt-in filter we would agree," she said.

She also called on the Government to take children's input seriously when forming policy.
The Government has established a youth advisory group based on 15 schools to guide it on cyber-safety matters.

"We've been advised by the department that the consultation process with the children will start in March," Ms Doel-Mackaway said.

"We want the children's comments to be documented and made public.",25197,24967191-15306,00.html

This is where it starts to get a leeeetle bit idiotic. In March, they're going to start talking to "children" to get their take on the situation. In context, "children" means anything under 18. They'll be talking to a six foot, hungover, beard-shadowed guy who lost his virginity five years ago, and whose girlfriend is expecting his baby while he finishes out his matriculation, ready to go to TAFE or whatever. Question: are you frightened, troubled or offended by nudity and sex education pages on the Internet? We couldn't think of a sillier bloody question if we held a national competition. Or, they could be talking to the girlfriend, same age, same situation, except that she's at home, six months pregnant. And oh, does she wish she'd looked at the condom advisory service page seven months ago!

Except that page won't be there if she behaves like a Good Little Girl, and tells the bastar--nice people from the government, "Oh yes, I think the Internet should be "scrubbed behind its ears."

Or will they talk the the 13 year olds whose piles of Playboy and Hustler magazines are in the old breadmaker box behind the bike, under the dripsheets, in the back of the garage? Which kid in his or her right mind will admit to having a stash of porn at home? They KNOW what to say, to make the adults happy -- "adults" being a collective term which includes their parents, who don't know about the stash under the dripsheets, and who do control the purse-strings!

The situation is getting to the point of utter absurdity, and there is not one thing the ordinary voting Australian can do to stop it happening.

There's a lot more to this story, but I'll have to leave it there for today ... it's too hot to think much less write, and we're expecting rolling power outages in the afternoon, hitting random locations, as the local power station practises "load sharing" to meet demand. The forecast is for 109F today ... the problem is, it's already that hot in the yard here, and it's only lunch time!

If you found this post interesting or useful, PLEASE EMAIL THE URL to your friends! Remember that Google still has my page rankings set to zero, for no good reason. It is impossible for people to find this page with any kind of Google search. Help Keegan be heard -- especially because this is an important subject! Thanks in advance for emailing this url, and perhaps bookmarking it on your favorite sites.


Thursday, January 29, 2009

Sizzling in South Aus

If you're wondering about the weather in Adelaide, you can check the forecast here:

And we're making headlines:,25197,24975111-12377,00.html,27574,24975204-2682,00.html

This is a choice quote:
Commuters were warned last night that the city's public transport system is "not out of the woods yet" after it literally buckled under the strain of extraordinary 45C heat yesterday.The closing of the Noarlunga train line and tram services sparked confusion on North Terrace during the afternoon city peak hour.

A section of the line at Clarence Park buckled in the extreme heat and repair crews were last night trying to straighten the line for the first service this morning.

Acting Transport Minister Paul Holloway said "similar issues may occur on rail services over the continuing unprecedented heatwave over the coming days".,27574,24975204-2682,00.html

They're not kidding. Check out the tracks:

Now, that's just begging to have a train derail. And the authorities have closed the national parks:

...and we're dreaming of winter. Or New Zealand.

Ciao for now,

The Adelaide Heat, the Icelandic MP, and the Gay Oracle of 1996

The Adelaide heat is making headlines -- as well it should. We had the hottest day since 1939 yesterday ... 45.5C, which is something in the order of 115F, and remember, that's a shade temperature. In the sun it was ... much hotter.

The forecast for today? The same. They forecast 44 yesterday, and we're going to the same again, and there's little in the way of relief for the next week. Click this to get a version large enough to read:

It's a question of survival ... and trying to get some work done on the side. For this reason (!) you'll forgive me if I'm a bit brief!

Two items landed on my desk late yesterday, and one gives cause to rejoice while the other has that sepulchral sound ... like the thuddd you hear when the door closes on a tomb.

The good news is that Iceland is, by all accounts, about to elect an openly gay PM, who's a woman to boot. Fantastic. See the story on Huffington:

I could wax rhapsodic about this, but -- today? I'll just give you think link and defer the celebrations!

The second item is a strangely oracular feature article dating back about 12 years now:

It's an old article, and permission is granted on it to forward, copy, and so on, so I'll save you the trip over to the above url, and will paste the whole thing in below. Remember: this was 1996! And every word the article said has come true in spades. The feature was a call-to-arms for readers in the GLBTI community to "support your local," and I fear, too few of us heeded it. At the same time -- late 1990s -- along came Amazon, and suddenly we had access to used (gay) books for .70c, and the rest ... is history.

Fact: used books and remainder stock hurt publishers. Publishers and writers only earn their grocery money and rent money when a brand, spanking new copy is sold. Used book stores (of which Amazon is the King) don't do the traditional publishers, and their contract writers, any favors. Amazon is great for used book vendors, and utterly indispensable for POD publishers! This is the way of the future ... and part of the process of evolution is the gradual, unavoidable atrophy of the deadwood: the traditional publishers who brought the rot on themselves by seeking ever-greater profits via the business model of Mergers and Conglomeration.

In fact, I was just saying all this yesterday, in my response to a wonderful comment from Mark Coker of Smashwords, on a previous post of mine. If you're undecided about POD -- and particularly if you're a fresh, (largely) unpublished writer hoping to break into the market today, you owe it to yourself to read Mark's comment, and my response:

(Also, if you're just happening upon this post, it might be useful to read this -- On any Saturday ... except this one -- my post for January 24, in which I fielded a reader's question, "How difficult is it to sell books on Amazon.")

And now, that oracular feature article ... read this and shiver. It all came true:

Gay and Lesbian Words Are In Danger Today

Please consider this before you make your next book purchasing decision. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered bookstores exist in a fragile ecosystem made up of the members of our community who support them with their purchases, the small gay, feminist, and lesbian publishing houses which supply them, the authors who write the books, and the stores themselves. This living web is very fragile and easily disrupted. It could possibly even be destroyed if we let the large "discount" chain stores influence us into "discounting" the efforts of all these people and saving a few cents on the purchase of a book, even the latest Times bestseller, at the expense of our sisters and brothers and friends.

Make no mistake, our bookstores are under attack, as are all independent bookstores. The large chains (and there are only a very few) want to control all our book-buying decisions and are deliberately targeting areas where large independent stores have a loyal customer base. You'll pardon me, I'm sure, if I say that I believe feminist, lesbian, and gay stores are under particular assault. A recent issue of Ms. Magazine (May/June, 1995, Volume V, Number 6) had a graphic illustration of this in the form of a photograph of the new Borders Bookstore which "just happened" to open up directly across the street from Sisterhood Bookstore in West Los Angeles, California. Look it up if you haven't seen it. It's scary.

Fight back! If you're browsing in a big chain store and see an interesting title your local store might not carry, jot down the name and author and have your local gay and lesbian bookstore order it for you. They need the business and you need them. Many of these stores,and the publishing houses and authors who depend on them to sell their books, may not be there when you want and need them unless you continue to support them with your purchasing power and with your time.

If you can't buy a book today, do something! Volunteer to help out with publicity, help with a book table at a local Pride Festival, or any other needed task; at least tell another woman or man about our stores and ask them to buy their next book from one of our stores and keep our stories being told.

Community Losses
Old Wives' Tales in San Francisco, CA
Judith's Room in New York, NY
31st Street Street Bookstore Cooperative in Baltimore, MD
ClaireLight in Santa Rosa, CA

All these stores share in our common problem, in spite of large and active gay and lesbian communities in their immediate neighborhoods they have closed their doors and can no longer serve us. There are others whose names do not appear on this short list who are also gone or are in serious trouble. The people who run these stores share a common dedication to making it possible to find gay and lesbian books, to support our common community, to furnish a forum for those who want to publish works that might not find a ready market outside our community. There's not much money in it.

The large chains don't care whether gay and lesbian publishing of our thoughts and issues continues or not. They're really only in it for the money. They're glad to skim the "cream" off the top of our literature, the most popular titles, but won't be there to support us when it counts. The gay and lesbian publishing houses cannot survive if the only titles they sell are the one or two most "mainstream" every year. Think of what our world of books would look like with no Seal Press, no Knights Press, no Cleis, no Firebrand, no Naiad, to name only a few of the small presses dedicated to publishing gay and/or lesbian words.

Our words make a difference. They count. Please make your money and effort count by putting it where it can do us all some good, into the gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered community.

Hopeful Note
I didn't want to end this in a completely gloomy vein. There are still people opening new gay and lesbian bookstores and I don't know about all the gay and lesbian bookstores there are. I'm sure I've missed a few, maybe yours. If you know a store I've missed that carries a large selection of books that empower lesbians and gay men (and doesn't carry books that oppress them), please tell me so I can share it through this list. These new stores are part of our common hope for the future.

Most of the books sold in this country are purchased by women; doesn't it make sense that we could support any kind of publishing business we really wanted, if only we all worked together?
These stores, and the many other stores already on my list, are here to serve us now. Please help keep them open and make them a success.

Return to Canada/USA Bookstore List.
Return to
Worldwide Bookstore List.
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...Chilling, isn't it?


Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Later that same day (in other words, a second post) -- Happy, happy, joy joy! The postman just rode by (and you gotta tip your hat to a guy who's riding a roasting-hot motorcycle at 5km per hour, on a day when it's 113F in the shade ... and he's NOT in anything remotely like shade). Postmen deserve medals.

This one just delivered a parcel, and whaddaya know? Check this out:

We just went through the whole thing, making sure the proof is perfect:

The whole printing job is beautiful; the covers are absolutely glorious...

(This is the best cover we've ever done yet; I'm absolutely thrilled with the whole thing, and the book has already started its 14-working-day journey into the Amazon engine. Cheers to CreateSpace for the quality of the print job. Beautiful.)

There's one tiny flaw in the whole thing -- you might not even notice it (we certaintly didn't till about five minutes ago), so we're putting the book on "hold" while we correct this. It'll be flawless when it goes to Amazon...

Now -- we'll be having the book launch for Harbendane when the book shows up in the Amazon engine, but as I just said, it'll take 14 working days -- means closer to three weeks -- to get there. Be on the mailing list, and we'll keep you posted!

Ciao for now,

Grilled gay novelist with ketchup and onions

The sounds you hear issuing from the hills area of Adelaide right now are squidging, squodging noises ... the kind of sound a piece of cheese makes when it MELTS as it sits on its cracker, and slips off the plate and slithers onto the floor and goes ... squodge. It's a technical term from the Latin, meaning "to be reduced, by inescapable outside influences, to a goo-like consistency which has little or no potential for life functions to continue within."

It's not just Keegan making these sounds. It's most of the city.

The weather forecast for yesterday was 41C, and we actually suffered 43.2C.

The forecast for today is 44C. If the Bureau of Meteorolololology misses its collective guess by the same margin, we shall be stewing in 46.2C degrees. Let me do the math for you, using the rough old rule of thumb calculation to convert Celsius (or Centigrade) into Fahrenheit (or Real Temperatures.) You double the number, subtract the first digit, and add 32. Therefore, 44C is 112F. And 46C is 115F.

And just to make quite sure US and Canadian readers are in no doubts, the sadistic morons the the B of M measure temperatures down here IN THE SHADE. Whenever you see a weather forecast for Australia, those are SHADE temperatures. You can add anything from 30F to 50F to that, to get the sun temperatures.

And the news is, this "hot spell" continues for the foreseeable future.

Hence the squidging, squodging noises. We went out for groceries at eight in the a.m., and the parking lots were already fairly full; by the time we walked out of the mall, they were full. The problem was, the overnight "minimum" temp was 95F, so it was like an oven outside at dawn.

Fortunately, this doesn't happen more than a couple of times in the year, and if it's going to happen, bet your bottom dollar it'll be in January and/or February. The rest of the year is more or less fine and dandy --

Hold that thought! Now I'm going to give you a link back to a post I, uh, posted, on Tuesday, August 5, not much under six months ago: On strike for a shorter winter. Click back to that. Go on, I dare you.

Right now, it's long COLD, RAINY GRAY DAYS I'm dreaming about, while the country bakes like a potato on the grill. The garden is getting charcoal broiled.

This is what we want, and keep it coming:

Well, you can dream. This particular dream will come true in something like May -- possibly even April. There's an annual horse race meeting locally, at a place called Oakbank. It takes place as a family camping event on the Easter long weekend, and there's such a tradition of the weather breaking with a monster storm at Easter, the Oakbank Races are affectionately known as Croakbank, because it's paradise for, uh, frogs.

Roll on Easter.


Tuesday, January 27, 2009

POD Publishing: the writer's dilemma

With the start of a new working week ... and an a/c unit that makes it possible to actually get something done! -- well, I guess work is on my mind. Right now, that other four-letter word that ends in K means, to me, 1) marketing books, 2) sorting out whatever is going haywire in the LEGENDS template, and 3) continuing to work on the text of the digital novel.

Since I can't quite bring myself to get to grips just yet with the template (being, the guts behind Blogger ... the css gibberish that makes it go, and sometimes doesn't make it go; and right now it ain't goin' nowhere) I thought I'd do a little book marketing.

And ran into some interesting things before I'd even had the chance to open a file.

I start my book marketing by looking at who my recent visitors are, and how they found me. And several of these readers have been on Google around the world (India, Thailand, France...) searching on a term which took me by surprise -- and would give a gentleman by the name of Mark Coker headaches and/or nightmares! The search parameter is, and I quote, "smashwords writers beware."

The antennas went up, obviously, because I'll soon be intimately involved with Smashwords, to take advantage of their document conversion to the Stanza format (makes ebooks readable on the iPhone, and soon the Samsung Omnia, all being well).

The good news appears to be that these searches are writers around the world doing their "due diligence" -- which we all do; or should, if we had out brains wired properly. I followed the search results and found nothing that would stand as a point against Smashwords. I breathed a sigh of relief there, obviously.

And along the way some other interesting things (for a writer, at least) popped up. Have you ever heard of the IDPF? No, neither had I, till I saw this:

Turns out, it's the acronym for International Digital Publishing Forum. Since digital publishing is -- increasingly -- where I live and work, I clicked through with half a mind to join, you know, participate, make my ten cents' worth heard ... until I saw that the membership dues. They want A$1,000 for a year's membership for an individual.

I clicked out again without even touching the ground. That's idiotic. Digital publishing is where the future is going, it'll affect every writer, reader, publisher, distributor, so -- what's the first thing the the high mucky-mucks do? Form themselves into a forum and organize themselves a hierarchy, an infrastructure, that costs so much to run, their membership dues look like this:

...and you notice that their dues are "only" US$1000 for companies with revenues over (!) $5m per year, and go down to US$650/A$1,000 for non-profit organizations!!

A literal translation of this is, "If you're a publisher earning less than $5 million p.a. you fall off our radar ... and "non-profit organizations" are obviously the high-power info honchos who give out free info ... digitally.

And the 99.999% of writers who sell their books on Payloadz and Smashwordsm, Lulu and so on? We would no doubt suffocate in the rarefied atmosphere breathed by the aforementioned mucky-mucks, whose forum activities must take place at five-star resorts over six-course meals ... otherwise, where in hell are the astronomical membership dues being spent?!

It gets worse before it gets better. Amidst their rarefied air, they've already gone ahead and instituted the Epub Standard: Let me illuminate you:

What is EPUB, .epub, OPS/OCF & OEB?".epub" is the file extension of an XML format for reflowable digital books and publications. ".epub" is composed of three open standards, the Open Publication Structure (OPS), Open Packaging Format (OPF) and Open Container Format (OCF), produced by the IDPF. "EPUB" allows publishers to produce and send a single digital publication file through distribution and offers consumers interoperability between software/hardware for unencrypted reflowable digital books and other publications. The Open eBook Publication Structure or "OEB", originally produced in 1999, is the precursor to OPS.
For the latest on IDPF standards, sample files and companies who have implemented our specifications, please visit our
public forums. Getting started? Visit our FAQ's.

So far, so good ... but if all the writers, artists, garage publishers and editors, "cowboy" distributors and so on-- who are the life's blood of the growing electronic publishing industry, its meat and potatoes -- are shut out of the forum unless they pay big (and unaffordable) bucks ... what use is a standard? How appropriate is it, to try to force this standard on writers, editors, publishers, who were locked out of the forum? How can you police a standard when it was decided arbitrarily by the high-powered honchos in the stratosphere? Why would the rest of us want to abide by regulations instituted in such a draconian system?!

Having said all that ... welcome to the wonderful world of DRM. Digital Rights Management. I brushed shoulders with this about eight months ago, when I was working long, extra hours to get my novels ready for Microsoft Reader ... only to discover in the nick of time that you might as well paste the text of your novels to web pages and give them away! The LIT file format is fine and dandy, and I actually like the Microsoft Reader interface a lot. But it's the ebook equivalent of "open source." Anyone, anywhere, can do absolutely anything they want to the text -- there are no controls, no safeguards...

Aha! Unless you lay down a few hundred more dollars to buy a DRM system for the Reader program. This was -- months ago -- wrangled by an online company called OverDrive. I looked into it, and it was going to get expensive, with the fee and then registration to pay on lots and lots of individual projects (I have a long backlist), all to have their rights "managed."

Once again, the system was set up to facilitate DRM for big, big publishers whose revenues are more than high enough to rationalize the fact that there's a digital monster with its pseudopod in your pocket, and it's insinuating a tentacle into your wallet while chatting with you.

And ... the rest of us, the cowboy operators, whose sales are too modest to pay and pay again? Those of us who just want to use our time and talent to earn an honest living? Well, in a word, we're screwed -- and that's two words.

So I ditched the idea of issuing my novels in the LIT format, and went with Adobe PDFs which were formatted two ways -- large screens, and keyhole screens for the ebook viewers. So far it's worked out quite well. A lot of readers have a use for ebooks; a lot don't. And those that don't won't buy an ebook no matter how you format the little buggers. (There's also a disturbingly large percentage of customers who don't know how to open a ZIP file, and I still don't know what to do about the question they raise. I'm working on it.)

Right now, DRM is back in the mixmaster: a new system is out, and OverDrive is being left behind. Urk. Something called Libre Digital is flying the flag of the new technology ... and without even looking at it, I can tell you, manging your digital rights via these guys will be expensive. It's not for self-marketing writers. It's for publishers. Big publishers.

Which leaves the rest of us right back where we started! In the coming months, I'll be experimenting with Smashwords, and the reason I'm going that way is because they can get me onto the iPhone and the Omnia ... and the sales of these smart little gadgets are so vast (running into the tens of millions in a year) that the sales of ebooks have to rise accordingly.

The one reservation I have about Smashwords at this point is that there's no file encryption on the product served to readers -- and how can there possibly be?? You have to be reasonable here -- even I have to be reasonable! -- and admit that a lot (a majority?) of ebook customers are reading on Very Cheap Devices which can read TXT files, or HTML or RFT at a stretch of the imagination. These machines, you can buy for $150 or so; therefore there are a lot of them out there. However, these cheap devices don't, can't read PDFs; fancy-shmantsy files, with formatting and encryption/protection and all, are off the list for these customers.

Here's the dilemma -- and it's a beauty. To get sales, you have to make your work available literally on a platter. You have to hand your work out in a format that anyone and his dog can copy, manipulate, resell. If you try to protect your work, you cost yourself sales ... but how many sales? Would you sell 1000 copies at $5 each, for an HTML file? If so, the income would be high enough to make it not so damaging if/when your work is pirated and other potential sales fly away like smoke.

It's an experiment, and I'm going to run with Smashwords for a couple of extremely good reasons. One: they're high profile, high visibility, and industry recognized. What this means is, if I put THE SWORDSMAN on Stanza for the smart phones, and LIT for Microsquash Reader, and so on, and three months later the book is available as a torrent on 10 different pirate download sites, I have the proverbial leg to stand on! I can go to the torrent site owner and show they my Smashwords agreement, which is dated and reliable, and would actually hold up in court. I can have them kill the torrent, fast. The second reason I'll run with Smashwords is that they're high visibility, and can only get higher: sales should be there ... and it's all an experiment. Lots of sales and no torrents? This is what we're hoping for! Moderate sales and controllable torrents? This is okay too. Poor sales and too many torrents to handle ...?

You're never going to know unless you try -- like anything else in life. But at the very least, Smashwords gives you something to go to bat with. You can come out fighting, knowing you have a high profile Internet presence as your platform.

At this time, I routinely have readers swinging by my websites after having searched on "mel keegan torrent." Meaning, the little darlings were hoping to find somewhere where they could just download me without even offering a dollar to help pay rent and bills. (A lot of readers also also searching on "josh lanyon torrent" and landing on my blog, because Josh and I are cross-linked, and a search for one will sometimes pop up the other! Nice, that.)

However, Smashwords is growing, and as the profile gets higher there will almost certainly be oversight here: an automatic system that pops up an alert when the names of their writers appear on the torrent sites -- this is the most obvious place to start. (Obviously there are many more ways for pirate copies to be circulating, but you gotta start somewhere.)

I'm impressed by the way founder Mark Coker is proactively marketing Smashwords ... to the point where he's on writers' forums. This doesn't always work out as intended and expected -- I've been very leery, myself, about getting involved in forums, because they're all different, with the tendency to be cliquish; they all have their own graven-in-granite rules, and you can put your foot right in it without ever even realizing you're doing it. This is both interesting from a writer's perspective, and a perfect illustration of what I mean: ... to get in dutch on a forum without knowing you've done anything ... and then investing hours and sweat and maybe even a few tears of utter frustration, trying to ameliorate the situation, only to discover that when "they've got their hooks into you," nothing in this world will make them let go ... and the thread will go on and on, as long as you continue to try to do the amelioration thing! (Now you know why you don't see Mel Keegan on forums (yet). You can trip and fall into the swamp sooooo easily, and you'll come up smelling weedy, no matter what you do or say. Not good news.)

The other side to this is that "any publicity is good publicity," and I take my hat off to Mark Coker for the way this was handled. He might not have known it at the time, but he was in a no-win situation from the get-go, and one can only applaud both his restraint and his eloquence. Personally, I've been in and around the publishing industry for almost 30 years, have been pro-published for 20 ... and User Groups scare the willies out of me. If there's a "writer beware" caution in any of this, it would have to be along the lines of, "Writers, beware of forum rules and regs, because no two are alike, all turn into cliques sooner or later, and you shouldn't really say anything that could be in any way construed as promotion or honest debate to the local paradigm, much less a rational argument based on "Research Not Currently Known to This User Group" until or unless you've become a qualified insider in the clique ... which can take weeks or months, and a whole lot of posts. Urk. I don't have the time to go there.

On my travels around the book-marketers' web this morning I stumbled over this:

National novel writing month: ... looks interesting, and I must investigate further! Now, if there was a similar site where two hundred POD publishers with tip-top lists got together, pooled resources and ingenuity to market books ... I could get excited. Because the marketing part of this is far harder than writing the books.

Still, at least I am the Master of my Fate and Captain of my Destiny -- in other words, I'm out there working for myself. Get a load of this: Reading in an Age of Depression

And on that chill-inspiring note ... back to work!


Monday, January 26, 2009

Template tantrums and Blogger bustups

Keegan's having a rant today -- bear with me. Little puffs of steam are coming out of both ears, it's been One of Those Days, and alas, it ain't over yet.

There are times when Blogger makes it easy. There are times when it's so impossible to make the engine do what you want it to do, you want to turn off the computer and walk away.

I just spent a couple of fascinating, joyful, bliss-filled hours bashing my head against Blogger's walls, and at the end of it I'm no closer to uploading LEGENDS than I was this morning.

Now, as you know, the template was designed like this: remember the one. Sure. We've sweat blood on it for weeks to get it perfect. And on the other blog, which is nothing more than a "test bed," it works 100%. I figured we'd copy it over, set up the gadgets, and it would be good to go. Right?

Well, it was a nice idea! It was copied over, and it ... exploded. It's currently doing things I've never seen Blogger do. Things I had no idea Blogger could do. Like -- you edit one "widget" in your sidebar, but the results execute, and appear on-screen, in the footer section of the page. You add a widget to the sidebar, but it appears in the footer ... so you delete some of the accumulating dross from the footer section, and in its infinite wisdom the engine deletes elements from a sidebar!

I have no no idea what's going on with it. I imagine Jade will have to get in there and rewrite it at the code level -- which won't be happening for a couple of days because DreamCraft is flat out right now with another job.

So ... I wait a little longer, just as I'm still waiting on the proof for The Lords of Harbendane, which should have been here over two weeks ago; and I'll continue to wait for Google to show a little courtesy, if not actually compassion, and eventually take a look at this blog and deign to say why its page rankings were zeroed out and the Googlebot ceased to index it, over two months ago.

Y'know, of all the things in this life I think I dislike the most, it's the waiting. Being utterly dependent upon a third party to do his, her or its bit to make the machine go, and having them do nothing, or do it wrong, or otherwise stuff things up to the point where several centuries' worth of hard work are back in the desk drawer, languishing.

Today has a bright spot: have you seen AG's Album today?! Check this out, throw up your hands and surrender: Brendan's back! But I doubt he'll be looking quite like this in his new movie... someone out there has got one hell of a lasso around Photoshop! Fantastic work.

Actually, the day has two bright spots. It's about 102 degrees in the shade outside. It's so cold where I'm sitting, I need a seater. And you gotta like that. The a/c ... works.

Thank gods something does!

Let me go grab a cup of tea, take five, and then I'll have another go at Blogger. They also serve who sit under the a/c beating their brains out.

Ciao for now,

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Rumblings from Keegan Country

Sunday afternoon in the lull between heat waves: it'll be 107 degrees again in a couple of days, but -- I look up and there above me, mounted on the wall, is nothing less than a 2.7 HP a/c unit. Oh, yes. Hit the remote control switch, and in three minutes I'll want a sweater. I'd say cool -- and it is! The a/c will make it much easier to keep up with projects; in the past, it's been a struggle to keep up during the summer months, but those problems seem to be solved.

"Projects" to me, right now, means the Legends digital novel. My next job, as soon as I finish this post and upload it, is to run home to Blogger and set up a new one using the template that has been meticulously designed and destruction tested while I've been working on the first 20,000 words or so of the text. I've got a nice buffer in hand now, and we're about ready to start uploading. Time to set up the blog/novel itself. The great experiment.

This is all very exciting. This coming week, we'll be doing a newsletter to launch the serial, and the plan is, if even 25% of the people on the the MK mailing list are interested in a professional quality free read ... and if they'd be good enough to tell just TWO other people the URL and give it a recommendation ... and if just 50% of those people would do the same -- well, a Very Large Circulation is achievable in a rather short time. You know the way exponential numbers start small and slow, and then get very big very fast? Same principle.

I'll let you know how the experiment goes.

Meanwhile, the photography blog continues to be a load of fun. I can't believe there are already over 60 images there already. It's only been "up" for a couple of weeks.

Then again, have you looked at Aricia's Album of Deicious Decadence today? My mind is in the process of boggling. David Beckham stark naked with a strategically placed soccer ball, and a label on him that reads what?! Wolverine's day at the beach? David Tennant as a ravishing highland lassie tending bar in a Scottish pub?! Where does AG find this stuff?

I'm just not trying. As I said, my mind is in boggle mode while I laugh my ass off at the same time.

Anyway -- back to work. It might be Sunday, but if I want a day off on Tuesday, I have to work today. I thought I'd go see The Day The Earth Stood Still on one of the monster screens down at the megaplex.

Ciao for now,

Saturday, January 24, 2009

On any Saturday ... except this one

My kingdom for something meaningful to blog about! However, the wait continues for any response to be offered by Google, and as per the proof of The Lords of Harbendane ... it's Saturday. The mail doesn't deliver on Saturday or Sunday -- and this is the Australia Day long weekend, which means they won't be delivering on Monday, either.

The big news -- and I guess it's meaningful! -- is that Dangerous Moonlight has made it into the Amazon engine at long last:

That's pretty darned good news from where I'm sitting. This just popped up in the last couple of hours -- wasn't there this morning. I know. I looked. I've been looking for days while ... waiting.

I should also give a little plug to a new blog here, too. Aricia is at it again. Where does she find this stuff?

It's Aricia's Album, and the gist of it is (and I quote), "Aricia's album of delicious decadence, hot goss and hotter bods, gay goodies, celebs being silly, sweet treats and candy for your senses! Adult Content: you'll see some hot bods on this page, and very occasionally it'll get explicit. I'd rate this page MA 15+, but you make up your own mind." Unquote.

I have no idea where AG gets this stuff, but most people would pay money for it if it wasn't free! How about Brad Pitt in drag? John Barrowman on skates. Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom canoodling. Antonio Banderas and Sean Bean in underwear. And ... so on. I'll hand it to you, kiddo: this one takes the cake.

And if you have the slightest doubt that I'm not telling you the pure, pristine truth, click on over there and see for yourself! Here it is, in all its, uh, digital glory:

Which leaves me answering a reader's questions, before I repair to the kitchen to make guacamole!

I was asked a couple of days ago, how hard is it to sell books via Amazon? And this is a difficult question to answer, because it's all about how hard you want to work on marketing. I can't stress enough that Amazon is your marketplace, not your sales team! Yes, your books will appear there, but it's like the "catch 22" of Google, or any other search engine: if people don't know what to search for, they won't find you. They have to know your name, or the title of your book, before you will suddenly pop out of the zillions of titles in the Amazon engine!

A few readers might be willing to go to Amazon and search on, for example, "gay historical novels," but the results that show up here are impossible. 978 titles appeared. I'm sure Mel Keegan is listed in there somewhere, but who's got the time, much less the inclination, to sift through the lot -- and then read scores of reader reviews --

And that's another thing. The reviews. They're all over the spectrum, with any ten readers/reviewers contradicting each other so massively that in the end it's as if the book wasn't reviewed at all.  To see what I mean, scan just a little bit of this: Customer Reviews - Shadows Return (Nightrunner)

You'll see what I mean in short order. I've heard about the Nightrunner books but haven't read them. The first two apparently went down well and earned a lot of praise; the third was heavily into torture (with about half the book devoted to it), and would also have profited from a good editing. However, readers are thoroughly divided on whether it's a two-star or five-star book. In the end, you'll have to make up your own mind!

So, how hard is it to sell books on Amazon? Depends what you call hard! You need to be blogging and have webpages, and doing press releases, giving away review copies, doing interviews, and basically getting your name in front of people everywhere. About 1 in 1000 will be interested to chase up what you've written, and you might just get a sale out of it. But if you get your books into the Amazon engine and wait for them to sell themselves via the "Amazon recommendations" or something ... uh, no. You'll have a long wait. Which is a very different thing from saying you can't sell books! You can. The little buggers just don't sell themselves. 

And now, the guacamole awaits, so --


Friday, January 23, 2009

Not quite the perfect vacuum

Just flotsam and jetsam today: the vacuum goes on! The wait continues for any action on any front whatever, save that involving air conditioning. The split system is INSTALLED. And what's more, it WORKS. In fact, it's so bloody cold, I keep turning it off because otherwise I'll have to go put on a sweater. In summer. Woah.

Allow me to pause for one moment, pop a photo and paste it in here:

...just what you needed, right? A closeup look at the two square meters from which all of the Mel Keegan extravaganzas are launched. You were expecting a suave, sophisticated office? You were expecting, maybe, neat and tidy?! Where there's Keegan, there's usually kaos, as any reader of this blog over the last seven months or so will attest!

The ongoing vacuum makes me look beyond the norm and seek other items of interest to inject a spark into the day. This one's good -- in fact, it's utterly priceless. Apparently it's been doing the rounds in the last week or so, and I caught up with it on an Alaskan blog (I'll give you the link in a moment):

Dear World,

The United States of America, your quality supplier of ideals of liberty and democracy, would like to apologize for its 2001-2008 service outage. The technical fault that led to this eight-year service interruption has been located, and the parts responsible for it were replaced Tuesday night, November 4th.

Early tests of the newly-installed equipment indicate that it is functioning correctly, and we expect it to be fully functional by January 20th. We apologize for any inconvenience caused by the outage, and we look forward to resuming full service --- and hopefully even to improving it in the years to come.

Thank you for your patience and understanding,
*The USA*

And here's the blog where I caught up with it: Attention: Service Has Been Restored, on the Esther Republic. That is so cool.

Another item of exceeding great coolness is this interview with Ewan MacGregor and Jim Carrey at Sundance:

Some idiot, somewhere, in a ridiculous comment on one of the news stories (LA Times??) said something about "Jim Carrey looks too old." Excuse me? Where is it written that you have to look juvenile to be attractive? You track down the place where that snippet of "wisdom" is inscribed, and I shall personally go around there with a bucket of industrial grade ammonia and erase it.

Incidentally, I Love You, Phillip Morris is being downloaded by the torrent already. No, I don't have a copy, but I've no doubt some of you do! You can see the trailer on YouTube, and a clip. Looks like a great time was had by all while they were making it, and I expect to enjoy the movie muchly.

What is massively refreshing is that neither McGregor nor Carrey is carping and whining about how hard it was to smooch another guy for the movie -- unlike both numerous other actors who couldn't wait to do just that. Far from it: both Ewan and Jim have (!) only good things to say about doing the romantic scenes. Like I said, refreshing.

Digital Kosmos continues to grow, with over 50 photos online now, of which I think about 15 or so are mine. My latest contributions have been goodies like...

Colors blaze on Stampede Trail
Storm light
Noon on the dunes
Tribute to the pioneers in Fairbanks, Alaska
Still life, with wine casks
Windows onto pure color

...I have to admit, it's a lot of fun. We could have been doing this for months.

Still waiting for a response from Google; still waiting for the proof of The Lords of Harbendane ... getting very tired of waiting for both. Working on LEGENDS -- getting the new blog in place and stockpiling posts/chapters so that real life can shove its nose in, as it always does, everything can go haywire, and the book will continue to appear on time ... there's nothing worse than a serial that keeps putting itself on hiatus.


Thursday, January 22, 2009

...and then the power came back on, and --

Just an eleventh-hour post right now -- on the fly, literally. The power has been turned off all day for (drum roll: ta-da!!) the installation of the new air conditioning. No power = no computer. No computer = no blogging. Or ... a quick post squeezed in between the new split system being installed, the power being turned back on here, and Keegan saying, "Feed me before I do a face plant!"

Beyond the new a/c, the rest of the Mel-o-sphere has been in close-to-perfect vacuum. We are STILL waiting for the proof of The Lords of Harbendane I am STILL waiting for Google to have a quick peek at this blog and see that it violates none of their rules, and doesn't deserve to have zeroed out page rankings. Getting tired of waiting, and making plans...

A swift business meet took place late in the afternoon and (though I shiver to say this, because I've said it so often before, and this particular vine has never borne flower, let alone fruit!) we came up with an advertising package that includes Wikipedia, Smashwords, Kindle, press releases, review copies being shipped in ten directions -- plus, this blog having a complete facelift and overhaul. And a lot more.

Work begins on the above, uh, tomorrow. I'll keep you posted on our progress!

Work continues on LEGENDS, but in the last week it's been slooooow because of the heat, and today ...? Absent. No power. I even discovered that the laptop's battery was flat. Hunh.

So here I am on the fly, and you could call this "the post you write when you're not writing a post." Well, it's a post all right ... explaining why there isn't a proper post! Joy.

Keegan will return, more like the proverbial bad penny than like 007.

Ciao for now,

Above: This is not Mel Keegan.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Going gay at Sundance -- again!

If there's a story breaking in the zone of gay fiction, film, writing and whatnot right now ... this would have to be it.

The new movie, I Love You, Philip Morris, has made its premier at Sundance, and the Internet going public is split neatly down the middle, as you'd expect...

It goes like this:

"I like the actors but don't get off on gay movies." "I like gay movies but I don't like these specific actors." "Jim Carrey looks too old." "I don't like Ewan MacGregor playing an American." "Why is Hollywood going gay?" "Gay movies are being overdone now." "How can 3 gay films be overdoing it, when there are thousands of straight ones?" "Ewww, how can people watch this stuff, it's disgusting." "You're all sick puppies and God will punish you." "Gay bashers should shut up." "I'm not bashing gays, it's my right to say what I think." "Well, everybody else here thinks you're a prejudiced, bean-brained little twerp, so shut up and go away." "Momma, momma, they're picking on me!"

Good, isn't it? You notice how fast the discussion degenerates from a reasonably intelligent, critical comment on the movie itself (albeit subjective: *I* don't like gay movies, *I* don't like the actors) to an all out, knock-down, drag-out fight.

I'll look forward to seeing this, because I like both the actors AND I like "dark comedy, and it'll make one hell of a change for a really good movie to have a gay spin and be neither a tragedy nor erotica to top it off. I'll blog about it when I've seen it -- and in this neck of the woods, it might have to be on DVD before I see it. I shouldn't think it'll play the local movie houses. Not enough bucks in it. If it's not Hugh Jackman with claws sticking out of both fists, and/or the cast are not wading up to the kneecaps in blood -- forget it.

There's a rumble on the Internet in some weird places: are Ewan and Jim really gay?!! O...kay. That's a whole 'nother question. Who knows? I guess they do -- and what's more, it's their business!

I have one more picture for you today, and then I am going to go and get WET and cool off after a long day working in idiotic temperatures:

Hey, kilts are cool. Kilts are sexy. Kilts are well, they're kilts.

Well, check this out: ... Gratuitous Official International Kilt Day. Barrowman, Tennant, Connery, Neeson, Tom Baker, and a whooooole lot more. Kilts. Right. Great.

Ciao for now,

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

POD Publishing ramps up for a smash-and-grab future

Publishing has been an industry in turmoil for some time now, and the dichotomy between Camp A ("You gotta get a real publisher who prints and sells five figures of more, or you're not a real writer") and Camp B ("I've got a top-notch book that no one will look at, so I'm going to fly solo") is getting wider. Rapidly.

Here's a quote from the press release headlining today at Author Solutions, Inc.:
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. – Author Solutions, Inc. (ASI), the world leader in the fastest-growing segment of book publishing, announced Thursday the acquisition of Xlibris – a pioneering leader in print-on-demand self publishing services. Kevin Weiss, ASI president and chief executive officer, made the announcement to Xlibris employees.“ASI is pleased to add Xlibris to our industry-leading portfolio of self publishing brands,” said Weiss. “This acquisition solidifies our leadership position and strengthens our ongoing commitment to offer the world’s most comprehensive set of publishing, promotion and book-selling services to authors.” Xlibris joins AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Wordclay and Inkubook in ASI’s expanding family of self publishing brands.

There's more to the story, obviously -- click through and see the whole thing -- but the most important thing to grasp is the pearl of wisdom in the first line: the fastest-growing segment of book publishing.

Sit quietly. Close your eyes. Repeat that line to yourself several times over. Grasp the gist of it.

And then think a while on this:

From The Smashwords Book Marketing Guide by Mark Coker:
Book marketing is a tough uphill battle. Even most authors published by big mainstream print publishers complain they get little or no marketing support from their publishers. Bottom line, most authors, whether they’re traditionally published or self-published, have to do their own

At Smashwords, we don’t make promises we can’t keep, so we cannot promise you your book will sell well here. In fact, most books, whether they’re traditionally published or self-published, don’t sell well. Whether your book is intended to inspire, inform or entertain, millions of other books and media forms are competing against you for your prospective reader’s ever-shirking pie of attention.

Ebooks represent the fastest growing segment of the book publishing industry. Ebook sales have been increasing around 50% per year for the last five years or so, according to the latest industry research, while traditional print book sales have stagnated or declined. If you’re an author, you’d be silly not to start exposing your work to the digital realm.

Despite the rapid growth of ebook sales, ebooks still represent less than one percent of overall book industry sales. But this is changing. You’re smart to publish your book in ebook form, and even smarter to publish with Smashwords, because no other indie publisher is so singularly focused on helping you leverage the power of digital publishing to reach your readers.

POD is the fastest growing growing segment of the paper-based book publishing industry, and ebook sales are growing exponentially -- a trend which can only get more powerful with the sheer volume of sales expected in 2009-10 for the iPhone and its competitor, the Samsung Omnia. (I blogged about this a little while ago: Ebooks in your pocket, along with your music, vids and pics, camera and phone. Get a load of that gadget! I, uh, want one.)

There's the data -- raw and wriggling. Conclusions anyone?

Well, I can see numerous conclusions, and as many probable outcomes....
  • The publishing industry has ignored and rejected new writers for decades, and would go on ignoring them, if only it could;
  • The reason for this is purely economic: you make more money off a handful of bestselling authors, for a fraction the editing/printing work; but...
  • Technology has caught up with them, and the newbies, wannabies, and those like myself who're stranded without recourse to "proper" or "traditional" publishing can fly solo; so...
  • We're doing it. In ever-increasing numbers ... most of us trusting to the Internet to be a viable marketplace; meaning...
  • Traditional publishers have got to be feeling the squeeze! The POD revolution has to be contributing to their downward spiral; and...
  • Very few people will mourn their passing, because the big publishing houses brought it on themselves by chasing the big bucks at the expense of the raw new talent and the burning passion to write.
This, more or less, is the framework the future of publishing and writing is likely to be built around. The traditional publishers slooooowly go belly-up; huge chain stores and remainder stockists thrive ... for a while, before there's no more leftovers to sell through at 90% discounts. Then, what?

Well, the bestsellers will always be there. Wilbur Smith and Maeve Binchy, Eric van Lustbader and Daniele Steele, Clive Cussler and J.K. Rowling. There's probably about 100, maybe 200 writers in the bestseller bracket, who'll churn out a book per year. That's (gosh, wow) a whole 150 or so new books for the bookstores, every year!

In fact, the big publishers will very likely rejoice, because the charade is over. Here's a fact the rest of us might not like, but need to get to grips with: publishers make about 90% of their money from about 10% of the world's writing stable. Less. The rest of us are allowed to tag along because we feed niche markets, worth small amounts of income which aggregate fairly nicely over time and distance. But it's nothing by comparison with the top-end writers who are properly marketed, shelved, aired on TV, and so forth.

In the next few years, chain bookstores are likely to contract both in size and number: some will go online and cast off the physical presence entirely. However, book exchanges and used book stores are likely to thrive, because so few new books will be coming along in print, on paper. A majority of readers still have absolutely no use for an ebook. Books are paper. Period. So, these readers will trade, swap, sell and buy and resell the paper treasure trove of yesteryear.

They'll also -- sooner or later -- land on sites like and, and are sure to find themselves reading a POD book, possibly without even realizing they're reading one!

And it's here, on this one point, where dedicated writers pin their hopes for the future.

The drawback is that POD books are damned expensive, and postage is getting expensive too. But it's also true that as an industry settles in, matures, the technology gets cheaper -- the machines pay for themselves and so forth. Prices might not actually lower, but perhaps the race of inflation in the general marketplace will rush ahead as per usual, while the price of POD books stays put for long enough to make them seem cheaper.

So, dedicated writers can live in genuine hopes that in the next -- what? say, five years? -- the technology will settle in, the price of POD books will seem less horrific, and dedicated readers will find themselves reading a POD book without even knowing it's POD.

Because the latest products from CreateSpace and Lulu and so forth are virtually indistinguishable from a mass market book: it would take an industry professional to tell the difference, and it comes down to this: "What difference does an indiscernible difference make?" I'll tell you how much difference it makes: so little, it's indiscernible.

In`dis*cern"i*ble\, a. [Pref. in- not + discernible: cf. F. indiscernable.] Not to be discerned; imperceptible; not discoverable or visible.
Secret and indiscernible ways. --Jer. Taylor. -- In`dis*cern"i*ble*ness, n. -- In`dis*cern"i*bly, adv.
Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary, © 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.

That's good enough for me.

In five years -- by 2014 -- the loooong list of books I need to get off my hands and onto Amazon will be complete. There'll be something like 40, maybe 50 Keegans on the list, and with a good, solid advertising campaign -- excellent reason to be optimistic. Devoted readers will find themselves in a position of having to buy POD books, because if you want to stay the hell away from the bestsellers (some of which start to sound like echoes and re-echoes after a while, since they're formulaic, ie. based on the Proven Winning Formula), well, there's no further choice.

And here, the process hits the rocky shoals. Because devoted readers want good books. Not lash-ups. Not self-published books which are clunkers beyond description that would be best consigned to the bottom of the budgie cage. I read on some site or blog, in the last week or so, that few readers have a problem buying a POD book; the problem is, finding one that's worth buying!

There are some really, disgustingly bad books out there. Companies like Lulu and CreateSpace and iUniverse and so forth, don't give the proverbial toss what's printed on the page. You pay them, they print it, they list it in their e-store, and if you pay them some more money, it'll be listed on Amazon.

I've actually said this before, somewhere in the hundreds of posts I've made in the seven months I've been on line: the onus is on the reader, the buyer, the customer, to find the good books and just not to buy the bad ones.

The problem with this is that as the DIY publishing field blows out bigger and bigger, the really good POD books will be outnumbered by their scabrous cousins, about 1000:1. How in the heck is a reader supposed to sort through that much chaff to get at a few grains of precious wheat?

Well, it's not actually that difficult! Leave it to the book review sites. You want to buy something good, something new? Read the reviews. There are numerous book review sites already, and they're also growing -- perhaps not exponentially, but they're certainly proliferating! You might have seen Rainbow Reviews, Squashduck, Bitten by Books, Speak Its Name, Rain on the Roof, Oasis Journals, Off Tha Shelf, Aricia's Gay Book Blog, and ... on and on and on. If you haven't -- check out a few. If you have: cheers! (These sites are almost all on the links lists here and/or on Aricia's blog. Good hunting.)

Nostrakeeganus, he guessing along these lines: by 2015 (and Nostrakeeganus, he going to be finished and done writing and working hard in bookselling business by that date!) the major publishers will have merged into just a few big, big, biiiiig combines; the bookstore chains will have pared down to minimums -- almost showrooms; the online used book stores will be going gangbusters; everyone and his uncle who thinks he/she/they have a story to tell will have published it to Smashwords or Lulu or wherever; everyone in the world will have a website or a blog, and maybe both; the amount of dross on the market will out-mass the Pacific Ocean ... good books will fight to be noticed ... online book review sites will be the new meccas for writers and readers alike.

Now, it's not quite as rosy as it sounds, because there are a hell of a lot of good, and great, writers out there. When we're ALL going the DIY road, there will be a positive embarrassment of riches available to readers. Statistically, it turns out that the number of people reading is imploding every year, so --

Our market is shrinking even though more writers than ever before are about to be published (whether they're worth publication or not). Fundamentally, it's all about market share. 1% of a huge market is still a lot. But .0001% of a dwindling market is ... not too much.

So, the competition will be fierce. Good writers and great writers will be competing for attention and bucks, and readers -- not publishers and editors! -- will be the deciding force. This is how the Law of the Jungle works -- survival of the fittest, the best. Evolution used this same process to create everything from the pygmy shrew to the T-Rex, and it works.

Out of the whole jungle, mind you, one new group of power brokers might emerge. It's already being said out there in the forums and blogosphere of the POD world, what book reviews are the only thing that moves books at this time.

This is going to be even more true in the future, as the market tightens even further. The new power brokers could easily be the leading reviewers -- the online critics whose recommendations are taken as solid gold tips (Sure Fire at 90:1, running in the two-thirty at Morphetville...) by devoted readers.

Sad to say, even very good writers will be fighting for a sadly small market share ... in other words, no one's going to get rich at this. And then agan, that's not strictly true! There's an incredible fortune to be made ... but not by writers. Remember this: "Xlibris joins AuthorHouse, iUniverse, Wordclay and Inkubook in ASI’s expanding family of self publishing brands." In fact, Author Solutions, Inc. is likely to be the next trillion dollar company, because they're in at the beginning, a big fish already consuming all the smaller ones. Uh huh.

Food for thought!

I'm going to leave the subject there for now, because it's hot, I'm tired, and I'm out of time. More tomorrow -- albeit probably on less challenging subjects. For now --